Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Steny Hoyer needs a brain transplant

Steny Hoyer (D-ATT) needs to make sure the guests at his wedding sign their gift cards, because he won't know who to thank if they don't:

On Monday, AT&T threw an exclusive party for the Blue Dogs, the House's moderate and conservative Democrats, at the historic Mile High Station in downtown Denver. Among the guests was House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who in June led Blue Dogs in crafting a compromise bill that shielded telecommunications companies from lawsuits arising from the government's terrorism-era warrantless eavesdropping.

Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Bernards said Hoyer was not aware of any connection between the party and his work on the legislation.

"I'm sure Mr. Hoyer didn't even know who the sponsor was," she said.

This had nothing to do with the telecom amnesty he made sure was in the FISA amendment act just passed, of course.

"Hey, there's a party in the Boosters' Room over at the Hotel DeLuxe, Steny! Let's go tank up for free!" "Duh, OK, I'm on my way...."

If Hoyer really is so stoopid he doesn't know whose party he is attending, he ought not be in Congress, much less on sensitive defence or intelligence committees.

(h/t to ThinkProgress)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Above my pay grade"

Obama, presented with a fallacy of bifurcation cum equivocation fallacy type "gotcha question":

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama side-stepped a pointed query about abortion on Saturday by “mega-pastor” Rick Warren during a televised forum.

Asked at what point a baby gets “human rights,” Obama, who strongly supports abortion rights, said: “… whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity … is above my pay grade.”

The RW foamers went wacky over that like it was some kind of major flub.

But is it? What is meant by "human rights", to begin with? Isn't the question presuming something (i.e., "begging the question")? And why is there a specific point?

And science has nothing to say with respect to when something should be given "human rights". That's a different branch of study. Furthermore, one thing that science teaches you is that human development is a continuum -- a process, not a transubstantiation. Not to mention that Obama's running for president, not vying for a Nobel prize in physiology.

And most importantly, isn't the "theological perspective" here indeed "above [the] pay grade" of any mere non-deities? Wouldn't it be "presumptuous" to say "Yes, I know what God thinks about this?"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Okay, I'm being unfair to McSame

He's letting some of his middle-class money trickle down:
The McCains increased their budget for household employees from $184,000 in 2006 to $273,000 in 2007, according to John McCain’s tax returns.
So he spends a quarter of a million to keep his house(s) clean. If we just had 10 million McSames in the country, we'd be able to keep our 100 million proletarian households up near the poverty level at $25K a year each. We need more "almost rich" like McSame, that's the problem, yeah....

Being there....

If your income is less that $5 million a year, you're just not "getting there". If you're the boy-toy of some rich bleach-blond, and have seven (or more, who can count?) houses, maybe you can qualify for the status of "Being There"...:
MCCAIN: I still believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong.
(h/t Think Progress)

Which brings to mind this erudite colloquy:
(The President paces, is worried about what Rand is telling him. Chance smiles through it all.)

RAND: …There is no longer any margin for inflation, it has gone as far as it can. You’ve reached your limits on taxation, dependence on foreign energy is at a point of crisis, and, from where I see it, Mr. President, the so-called Free Enterprise System could be at the breaking point.

PRESIDENT: You don’t think I should take that chance, huh?

RAND: Absolutely not.

(Chance has reacted to his name, but doesn’t know what to say. The President sits, turns, to Chance.)

PRESIDENT: Do you agree with Ben, Mr. Gardiner? Or do you think we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?

CHANCE: (a beat) As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well in the garden.

PRESIDENT: (a pause) …In the garden?

CHANCE: That is correct. In a garden, growth has its season. There is spring and summer, but there is also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again…

PRESIDENT: (staring at Chance) …Spring and summer… (confused) Yes, I see… Fall and winter. (smiles at Chance) Yes, indeed.

RAND: (interrupts) I think what my most insightful friend is building up to, Mr. President, is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, yet we are upset by the seasons of our economy.

CHANCE: Yes. That is correct. There will be growth in the spring.

PRESIDENT: (pleased) …Well, Mr. Gardiner, I must admit, that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time. (he rises) …I envy your good, solid sense, Mr. Gardiner - that is precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.
If you don't recognise the scene, go see the freakin' movie!!!!

Why is this guy McInane polling anything above 5%?!?!?

Are YOU rich???

It's so hard to tell when one has finally "made it" nowadays. There's some people that think that you need to be raking in $5 million a year (and not just have that net worth) to really be rich:
On almost every issue, the two presidential candidates have staked out opposing positions. Their contrasting views on wealth surfaced during their back-to-back appearances in Southern California on Saturday night when each was asked to define "rich."

Obama didn't hesitate. "I would argue that if you are making more than $250,000, then you are in the top 3, 4 percent of this country," he said. "You are doing well."

McCain took a far more discursive approach to answering the question but ultimately settled on a dramatically higher figure: "I think if you're just talking about income, how about $5 million?"
But McSame shouldn't be taken at his word (after all, we never would do such a thing with someone who aspires to be president). And McSame has been known to change his views on just about anything overnight (or even in mid-sentence).

What does McSame really think (when he's thinking, that is, which does happen on rare occasion)? Certainly not anything that silly and elitist. How about this, instead, just to bring things down to a more realistic level:

In his interview with Politico yesterday, McCain again refused to give a number, saying that he defines rich “in other ways beside income.” He added that some people “are poor if they’re billionaires“:

He still did not give a number.

“I define rich in other ways besides income,” he said. “Some people are wealthy and rich in their lives and their children and their ability to educate them. Others are poor if they’re billionaires.”

Despite McCain’s professed desire to “define rich in other ways besides income,” distinctions between income levels are a centerpiece of his tax proposals that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy.
So why is McSame polling anything above 5%?!?!?

McSame doesn't know how many houses he has

How many houses does McSame have? Only his hairdresser knows for sure:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.

"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."
Oh. Waiddaminnit. Even his hairdresser doesn't know:
McCain's staff did get back as promised, saying the number was "at least four."
Maybe this understandable knowledge lapse explains why he didn't pay the taxes on them all:

Newsweek is set to publish a highly embarrassing report on Sen. John McCain, revealing that the McCains have failed to pay taxes on their beach-front condo in La Jolla, California, for the last four years and are currently in default, The Huffington Post has learned.

Under California law, once a residential property is in default for five years, it can be sold at a tax sale to recover the unpaid taxes for the taxpayers.

The McCains own at least seven homes through a variety of trusts and corporations controlled by Cindy McCain.

UPDATE: Newsweek's story is now online. The report notes that the McCains paid the bulk of their back taxes yesterday, but continue to owe additional taxes...

So why is this guy polling anything above 5%?!?!?

Oh, yeah, right.....:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said yesterday in an interview with Politico that he did not know how many houses he and his wife Cindy own. “I think — I’ll have my staff get to you,” McCain said. “It’s condominiums where — I’ll have them get to you.” His staff has since said “the correct answer is at least four,” but the McCains actually own 7 houses.

Some in the media are leaping to defend McCain, either by justifying or downplaying his comment. The Washington Post’s Paul Kane called it a “manufactured flap,” and not “a huge deal” because “at this point in his national political career McCain is not going to be transformed into a super rich elitist. He’s just not, the voters won’t buy it.” Others downplayed McCain’s gaffe:

Marc Ambider, The Atlantic: “[T]he word ‘John McCain’ means a lot of different things, but rich isn’t one of them.”

Howard Kurtz, Washington Post: The “assumption” that “McCain’s personal wealth makes him insensitive to the struggling economy…is highly debatable.”

And today on Fox News, host Martha MacCallum justified McCain’s comments, saying the reason he couldn’t answer was simply because the McCains “have real estate investments and he wanted to make sure he got that right.”
Thanks, "liberal media"....

Short and sweet

This is worth reprinting in its entirety, just because it leaves you, as the late, great Molly Ivins would say, whomp-jawed with the audacity:
The McCain campaign is road-testing a new argument in responding to Obama's criticism of his number-of-houses gaffe, an approach the McCain camp has never tried before: The houses gaffe doesn't matter because ... he was a POW!

"This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison," spokesman Brian Rogers told the Washington Post.

For those of you who haven't kept track, the McCain campaign just recently cited McCain's POW years in explaining away the Miss Buffalo Chip gaffe, and in dealing with the allegation that he broke the rules and listened in on Barack Obama during the Rick Warren forum.

Also, Rogers made sure to play the anti-intellectual card: "In terms of who's an elitist, I think people have made a judgment that John McCain is not an arugula-eating, pointy headed professor-type based on his life story."

Well, the McSame campaign doesn't have much to work with, I'll grant you that....

Can someone tell me why McSame is polling anything over 5%?!?!?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Don't piss on me and tell me it's raining

In the realm of political advertising, there's a hierarchy.

Ads placed by the campaigns of the candidates are subject to the most severe scrutiny. They must be reported, and counted against the campaign limits (if such apply). Campaign donations that are used for such must be reported, and are limited in amount.

PACs ("political action committees" were originally intended to circumvent the restrictions on direct campaign activity, but are even now regulated, as the wiser solons saw through this 'loop-hole'.

Then there's "issue" advertising, where the people wanting to put out an ad say that they're just trying to inform people about an "issue", and they really have no axe to grind about any political candidate.

A group has recently tried to insist in court that they're just trying to put out their First Amendment-protected right to speak on "issues". They're not part of any candidate's campaign, they're not for or against any candidate, they just want to "inform" people about "issues".

The name of the group? Glad you asked:
The Real Truth About Obama Inc.
Thence the post title. Clear now?

What we're dealing with

On the way to the heartland from the People's Republic of California, I went through Denver. Usually I get compliments on my T-shirts (I wear the politically oriented ones while traveling). In fact, I've had quite a few "nice T-shirt" comments from the TSA people even. But finally I got someone who was not thrilled by my apparel. I was wearing my T-shirt that said "1-20-2009: The End of an Error". This guy comes up to me and says, "I saw someone else wearing that T-shirt. He was a long-haired piece-of-crap too."

That's what we have to deal with. Make a note of it. Outvote them!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday fishblogging

There's "ugly" ... and then there's stuff so strange that it defies an appellation ... which might apply to the anti-Obama campaign ads and slime jobs.

And yes, it does have fins that look like hands and feet...

For reference, 2 views of a giant frogfish, Mabul island, Malaysia, July 2, 2008, Nikon D70s with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes, 105mm F/2.8 D Nikkor macro lens, 1/25th @ F/16 [click pictures for larger image]

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Federalist Society star David Sentelle piles on....

Adopting the Mukasey School of Law jurisprudence I noted in the post below, David Sentelle, proud Federalist Society luminary, continues the assault on the rule of law:
Government employees who engage in questionable acts, such as abusing prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility or engaging in defamatory speech, cannot be held individually liable if they are carrying out official duties, the court said.

"The conduct, then, was in the defendants' scope of employment regardless of whether it was unlawful or contrary to the national security of the United States," Appeals Court Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the opinion
Actually, breaking the law is almost a job requirement if you want to work in the Dubya maladministration. Why that should make anyone immune from being held accountable for their illegal activities is beyond me.

So, I guess the question I have for Sentelle, then, is: Who is responsible?

(h/t to Think Progress)


Here's links (here and here and here) to the Michael Mukasey School of Law syllabus.

Update 2

Scott Horton confirms that not only is it part of the "scope of employment" to break the law for the Dubya maladministration, it was also explicitly part of the "scope of employment" for Mukasey to provide cover and to help shovel the sh*te out of sight:
Prior to his confirmation, Michael Mukasey fessed up, in a written response to Senator Dick Durbin, to a meeting the White House arranged with a group of movement conservatives. The team he met with had a simple agenda: They wanted his assurance that he would not appoint special prosecutors to go after administration figures involved in serious scandals at the Justice Department, including the U.S. attorneys scandal and the introduction of torture with formal Justice Department cover, and they wanted his assurance that Justice would continue to provide legal cover to “the Program.” The team who met Mukasey included figures on the periphery of the scandal who may have had personal reasons to fear an investigation. But Mukasey is clearly keeping the understanding that brought him to the cherished post of attorney general. And that’s bad news for the Justice Department and its reputation.
Scott Horton has his own name for it:
Today he addressed the annual convention of the American Bar Association, and expanded upon what may be known to future generations as the “Mukasey Doctrine.” This doctrine holds that political appointees in the Justice Department who breach the public trust by using their positions for partisan political purposes face no punishment for their crimes. In the Mukasey view, this is all simple political gamesmanship—“boys will be boys”—and sufficient accountability is provided by exposing their games to the public limelight.
I've been calling it the Michael Mukasey School of Law "curriculum". Emeritus professors include John Yoo. Calling it a "doctrine" is way too generous.

Is it overblown to call this a dictatorship?
  • Put in power by his cronies [on the Supreme Court] in a blatantly corrupt "decision"? Check.
  • Filling the gummint with his party hacks and sycophants, and making it the tool of his party (and nothing else)? Check.
  • Openly defying both the laws and the other branches of gummint [ala Pervez Musharraf] and saying, "you gonna make me, you and whose army?" Check.
  • Rigging elections. Check.
  • Imprisoning people without charges and snooping without warrants? Check.
What else is there? Aren't we "there" yet?

The sad state of education in civics

Talking to the American Bar Association, Dubya consigliere-cum-"Attorney General" Mukasey explains his take on the way the law should work:
In a speech today before the American Bar Association (ABA), Mukasey was more explicit in his rejection of any sort of review or prosecution, saying that the “negative publicity” they faced was enough:

That does not mean, as some people have suggested, that those officials who were found by the joint reports to have committed misconduct have suffered no consequences. Far from it. The officials most directly implicated in the misconduct left the Department to the accompaniment of substantial negative publicity. … To put it in concrete terms, I doubt that anyone in this room would want to trade places with any of those people.

Mukasey also reiterated that these former employees were not found to be in violation of any criminal laws. They did, however, violate civil service laws. A joint report by the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility found that in particular, Michael Elston, formerly the chief of staff to the Deputy Attorney General, “violated federal law and Department policy” by selecting candidates based on their political affiliations.

Mukasey is of the opinion that anyone working for Dubya should be free from prosecution or other punishment as a matter of course, as I recounted previously here and here.

Commenter Osage over at Think Progress remembers what should be obvious and says what shouldn't need to be said (and good on 'em for doing it):
It IS his job to prosecute those who violate the law without expressing his personal beliefs or moral judgments. It is NOT his job to determine what is or isn’t sufficient punishment. That is for a judge and a jury to decide!
Like d'oh!... And Mukasey is a former judge; you'd think he would know these things. But shouldn't there be some lawyer in the audience that might pipe up and point this out to Mukasey?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday fishblogging bonus!

Another cutie!

For reference, longspine lionfish, Sipadan island, Malaysia, July 2, 2008, Nikon D70s with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes, 28-80mm F/3.3-5.6 G Nikkor lens, Focal Length: 75mm, 1/25th @ F/16 [click picture for larger image]

Not so cute.

For reference, mantis shrimp, Kapalai island, Malaysia, July 3, 2008, Nikon D70s with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes, 28-80mm F/3.3-5.6 G Nikkor lens, Focal Length: 80mm, 1/25th @ F/16 [click picture for larger image]

And a face only a mother could love.

For reference, spadefish, Kapalai island, Malaysia, July 3, 2008, Nikon D70s with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes, 28-80mm F/3.3-5.6 G Nikkor lens, Focal Length: 80mm, 1/25th @ F/16 [click picture for larger image]

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Help needed: perspective on the Republican mind

I just don't have the proper mindset of a potential McCain voter, so can anyone tell me:

Will this help or hurt the McCain campaign:

We're trying to find out a bit more about the Bikini Beauty Pageant at the Buffalo Chip, where John McCain showed up and offered up wife Cindy as a contestant. ESPN says the event is topless and "occasionally bottomless". Actually their description is worth quoting in full ...

Buffalo Chip has a reputation for that sort of thing. It holds a Miss Buffalo Chip contest every night, which is essentially a topless beauty pageant. And occasionally bottomless, too. During a drenching rain Wednesday night, the contest broke up into smaller groups and one woman wound up dancing naked on a bar top. Her boyfriend/husband saw her and angrily dragged her away as she struggled to put her pants back on and muttered something about how, "It's only this one week a year."
If anyone with more familiarity with the thought processes of potential McCain supporters knows, please pass that information on....

What's the matter with the Military Commissions Act: Part 1

The first "military commission" is wrapping up in Guantánamo, with the trial of Salid Ahmed Hamdan.

The trial concluded and went to the "jury". What kind of jury? Well, this kind:
Six military jurors, who were handpicked by the Pentagon, began considering the case Monday after a two-week trial.
Nice to be able to pick your own jury from amongst your own people....

And who was on the jury?:
One Hamdan juror is an Apache helicopter pilot who has been shot at by insurgents during missions over Iraq, Kosovo and Panama. Another, an Air Force colonel, was asked no questions during the vetting process. The Navy captain heading the jury by virtue of seniority was privy to classified briefings about Afghanistan during the period when Hamdan was captured there. The alternate, an Army lieutenant colonel who was excused Friday when the trial concluded, conceded she had "a suspicion" that Hamdan must be guilty of something to have ended up imprisoned here.

Scott Silliman, a Duke University law professor and 25-year veteran of the Air Force Judge Advocate General corps, has criticized aspects of the military commissions but believes the jurors will deliberate without bias.

"They're all senior officers. This is a highly educated, sophisticated jury, very different from what you would find in Miami or anywhere else where they go by voter registration" to summon potential jurors, Silliman said.

As military officers responsive to a chain of command, he said, Hamdan's jurors are "well versed in setting aside raw emotion in determining fact" and will heed instructions from the military judge, Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred.
Yep. Like the alternate that was only recently dismissed. She certainly understood a lot about the criminal trial process.... And -- just wondering... -- what does a military officer "responsive to a chain of command" do in such a trial? Is it the job of subordinate officers to "determine fact" in their general duties? Or just follow orders....

And Silliman's "opinion" of Miami juries contains just a whiff of elitism, if not outright racism.

What about the trial procedure itself? Last week, we learned:
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed Sept. 11 architect, wrote that Salim Ahmed Hamdan was a low-level support staffer who never joined al Qaeda and did not share bin Laden's ideology.


"He did not play any role. He was not a soldier, he was a driver," Mohammed said in answers to written questions from Hamdan's lawyers that were relayed to the six military jurors who will render a verdict. "His nature was more primitive (Bedouin) person and far from civilization. He was not fit to plan or execute."


What effect his written testimony will have on the Hamdan jury is uncertain. Attorneys for Hamdan had wanted Mohammed to testify live in court at the U.S. detention facility. They had told jurors there was "a significant chance" they would hear from the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

But Mohammed, after answering written questions, refused to meet with Hamdan's lawyers and declined to appear in court. His written remarks back up the defense's argument that Hamdan was a mere chauffeur uninvolved in terrorism. But it is uncertain if a military jury will take the word of an accused al Qaeda leader.
One of the reasons for insisting that defendants have means for compelling witnesses, and that they face their accusers (as well as the jury seeing defence witnesses), is that the jury gets to see the demeanour of the witness and decide for themselves as to the credibility of the witness. Here there is no such chance; while Mohammed's written answers back up Hamdan's claims, they are less persuasive than an examination, face-to-face in court, followed by cross-examination, would be.

But the MCA allows for witnesses to decline to appear. Even if they're in the next cell clock over....


Missing link updated above.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Just to clarify usage: "whiny"....

If an Obama ad complains that McSame has taken the low road in McSame's campaign commercials after McSame's minions have gone after Obama with falsehoods, that's "whiny".

If McSame, just being left to suck his thumb while the press cover the trip that McSame dared Obama to take, complains that they're actually covering it and not covering his visits to restaurants in upstate Pennsylvania, that's not "whiny"....

Clear now? Watch your usage ... after all, the NSA is.