Monthly Archives: March 2007

Chocolate Jesus Angers Religious Right

Can’t say I’m surprised.  Background on the giant chocolate Jesus in my earlier post from yesterday.

The Catholic League is upset, not only because Jesus is chocolate, but also because he has chocolate genetalia.  From their press release:

NAKED JESUS—GENITALS EXPOSED—CRUCIFIED

From April 1 to April 7, the Roger Smith Lab Gallery at the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City will display a 6-foot tall anatomically correct sculpture of Jesus in milk chocolate; the figure is depicted as crucified.  Artist Cosimo Cavallaro titles his work “My Sweet Lord.”  A picture is available on the Internet.  (Click here.)

“As I’ve said many times before, Lent is the season for non-believers to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus."

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Lent is the season for non-believers to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus?  Really?

“All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don’t react the way extremist Muslims do when they’re offended—otherwise they may have more than their heads cut off. James Knowles, President and CEO of the Roger Smith Hotel (interestingly, he also calls himself Artist-in-Residence), should be especially grateful. And if he tries to spin this as reverential, then he should substitute Muhammad for Jesus and display him during Ramadan."

Is it me or does it seem that the Catholic League president William Donahue is a little, er, jealous of extremist Muslims and their head-chopping behavior?

It just strikes me as a little odd:  "Be grateful we won’t cut off your heads like them Muslims.  We WANT to, but our decency prevents us from doing that."

And, now that Donohue says that the Chocolate Jesus artist (Cosimo Cavallaro) wants people to show up and take a bite of His Chocolatey Goodness, his eyes have actually popped out of his head:

"The Roger Smith Hotel will rue the day it sought to declare war on Christian sensibilities"

Gee, what was it the Bible says about pride?

UPDATE:  The eating festival has been "postponed".

More Brownies, Anyone?

It’s really amazing who the Bush people got to fill government positions.  Horse show judges as head of FEMA?  That was just the tip of the iceburg:

The Washington Post reports today on another loyal Bushie: Julie MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks. The Interior Department’s inspector general has been looking into her actions for a few months and issued his report yesterday:

The IG noted that MacDonald "admitted that her degree is in civil engineering and that she has no formal educational background in natural sciences" but repeatedly instructed Fish and Wildlife scientists to change their recommendations on identifying "critical habitats," despite her lack of expertise.

At one point, according to Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall, MacDonald tangled with field personnel over designating habitat for the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher, a bird whose range is from Arizona to New Mexico and Southern California. When scientists wrote that the bird had a "nesting range" of 2.1 miles, MacDonald told field personnel to change the number to 1.8 miles. Hall, a wildlife biologist who told the IG he had had a "running battle" with MacDonald, said she did not want the range to extend to California because her husband had a family ranch there.

Thanks For Nothing, TJ Maxx

It’s hard to sort the techno-economic gobbledygook, but the bottom line is this: If you used your credit card at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, changes are pretty good that hackers have your credit/debit card number:

At least 45.7 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen by hackers who accessed the computer systems at the TJX Cos. [parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls] at its headquarters in Framingham and in the United Kingdom over a period of several years, making it the biggest breach of personal data ever reported, according to security specialists.

While details are still sketchy, TJX said unauthorized software placed on its computer systems stole at least 100 files containing data on millions of accounts from systems that process and store transaction information in Framingham and Watford, United Kingdom. Moreover, TJX believes the hackers last year had the capability to steal payment card data from its Framingham system as transactions were being approved. Even the files TJX tried to protect through encryption may have been compromised because the company believes the hackers had access to the decryption tool.

"It’s the biggest card heist ever," said Avivah Litan of technology consulting firm Gartner Inc. " It’s done considerable damage."

***

TJX believes its systems were first accessed in July 2005 and on subsequent dates in 2005 and from mid-May 2006 to mid-January 2007. No customer data was stolen after Dec. 18, 2006.

Book-A-Minute

Yesterday was Movie-A-Minute; today is Book-A-Minute.  Some examples:

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Ebenezer Scrooge

Bah, humbug. You’ll work thirty-eight hours on Christmas Day, keep the heat at five degrees, and like it.

Ghost of Jacob Marley

Ebenezer Scrooge, three ghosts of Christmas will come and tell you you’re mean.

Three Ghosts of Christmas

You’re mean.

Ebenezer Scrooge

At last, I have seen the light. Let’s dance in the streets. Have some money.

THE END

TAMING OF THE SHREW

Katharina

Spit. Hiss.

Petruchio

Shut your mouth before I hit you.

Katharina

I can be civilized now that a man has bossed me around. I love you madly, Petruchio.

THE END

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

(Charlie gets a TON of Willy Wonka chocolate bars.)

Charlie

Hooray. I’m an instant winner.

Willy Wonka

Hi kids. Four of you will undergo severe physiological distress that in the real world would get me sued, and one will be picked to be the Special One.

(Charlie gets picked.)

THE END

ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN

Someone

Alas. Something is wrong.

Encyclopedia Brown

Never fear. I will solve the mystery by employing my repertoire of obscure facts as a thinly disguised device for teaching kids educational information.

(He does.)

THE END

Sampson Is Screwing Gonzales

I can’t watch it live (here’s a nice rundown from US News), but the updates I get are pretty cool:

11:37 Update: Schumer’s up now for questioning. He wants to know about Gonzales’ statements about the process.

Sampson says that there were repeated discussions about the firings, starting in January 2005 through the firings. "I spoke with him every day," Sampson said.

Asked about the November 27 meeting about the firings, Sampson said that Gonzales was present and that he did speak, but that "I don’t remember the meeting clearly."

Now we’re on to Gonzales’ statement that Sampson did not share information about the firing process with senior DoJ officials who subsequently testified to Congress. " I was very open and collaborative in the process," Sampson said. When asked specifically whether Sampson had shared information with the two DoJ officials who testified falsely to Congress about the process, Will Moschella and Paul McNulty, Sampson said that he had.

Schumer: "So the Attorney General’s statement is false. How can it not be?" It sounds like that Sampson was about to repeat his line that it was something that wasn’t deemed important (the White House involvement in the firing plan), but Schumer cuts him off.

11:44 Update: Schumer’s on to the next inaccurate statement, by DoJ spokesperson Tasia Scolinos on March 24 that the AG "did not participate" in the process to select the U.S. attorneyys to be fired. Sampson admits that wasn’t an accurate statement.

From E&P:

Specter asked about Attorney General Gonzales’ "candor" in saying earlier this month that he was not a part of any discussions on the firings. He asked about the November 27, 2006 meeting "where there were discussions" and Gonzales allegedly attended. Was Gonzales’ statement about taking part in no discussions accurate?

"I don’t think it’s accurate," Sampson said. "He recently clarified it. But he was present at the November 27 meeting."

"So he was involved in discussions in contrast to his statement" this month? Specter asked.

"Yes." Sampson replied.

Sen. Charles Schumer then asked about Gonzales also claiming that he saw no documents on this matter.

Sampson replied: "I don’t think it’s entirely accurate."

Schumer: "There was repeated discussions??

Sampson: "Yes…at least five."

Schumer then asked if Gonzales was truthful in saying Sampson’s information on the firings was not shared within the depaartment.

Sampson: "I shared information with whoever asked."

Schumer: "So the Attorney General’s statement is false?"

Sampson: "I don’t think it is accurate."

UPDATE:

Stg_hz_prioritieslive_903a

Google Maps Tells Me To Jump In The Ocean

So, check it out. I asked directions from Google Maps — how to get from Winston-Salem, NC to London, England.

I’m told to drive up the East Coast and take the Mass Turnpike into Boston.  Then:

23.  Take exit 24 A-B-C on the left toward I-93 N/Concord NH/S Station/I-93 S/Quuncy [0.4 mi]

24.  Merge onto Atlantic Ave. [0.8 mi]

25.  Turn right at Central St [0.1 mi]

26.  Turn right at Long Wharf [0.1 mi]

27.  Swim across the Atlantic Ocean [3,462 mi]

Yup.  Apparently Google thinks I’m going to swim it!

And not only are they having me swim the Atlantic, but do they plop me off on the western side of England, which is closer to the US?  Hell, no.  They’re making swim to north of France (Amiens, I believe), adding a couple hundred more miles to my tired arms.  From there, I ttake the Chunnel.

It’s even funnier when you look at the map.

P.S.:  And apparently, Google Maps thinks I can swim across the ocean in 29 days.

My Sweet Lord

Actually, it makes more sense than chocolate easter bunnies:

Man cannot live on bread alone, but if he were to consume Cosimo Cavallaro’s newest creation he could live off of Jesus — for approximately eight months. An oddball artist known for his "eclectic" forms of expression, Cavallaro’s latest contribution to culture is a six-foot tall, anatomically-correct milk-chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ. His confectionary Christ is made with more than 200 pounds of chocolate, containing approximately 480,000 calories.

Chocolatejesuslg

Movie-In-A-Minute

Selections from the Movie-A-Minute website:

THE SIXTH SENSE

Haley Joel Osment

I see dead people.

Bruce Willis

Try talking to them.

Haley Joel Osment

It worked.

THE END

BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

Sessue Hayakawa

Build a bridge.

Alec Guinness

Only if you ask nicely.

(Alec Guinness helps the BRITISH by building a BRIDGE for the JAPANESE.)

Alec Guinness

What have I done?

(Everything blows UP, and everyone DIES.)

James Donald

Madness madness madness.

(War is bad.)

THE END

TITANIC

Leonardo DiCaprio

Your social class is stuffy. Let’s dance with the ship’s rats and have fun.

Kate Winslet

You have captured my heart. Let’s run around the ship and giggle.

(The ship SINKS.)

Leonardo DiCaprio

Never let go.

Kate Winslet

I promise. (lets go)

THE END

TWELVE ANGRY MEN

Jurors

He’s guilty.

Henry Fonda

Wait, let’s discuss this.

Jurors

Thank you, Henry Fonda, for teaching us the value of rational thought.

THE END

Not Buying It

It’s a great story….

Debbieandtoby[Debbie Parkhurst, 45] said she was home alone with the dogs Friday afternoon when she decided to snack on an apple. Suddenly, she said, a chunk of the fruit became wedged in her windpipe. "It was lodged pretty tight because I couldn’t breathe," she said. "I tried to do the thing where you lean over a chair and give yourself the Heimlich, but it didn’t work."

Parkhurst said she then began beating her chest, an action that might have attracted [2-year-old golden retriever] Toby’s attention. "The next thing I know, Toby’s up on his hind feet and he’s got his front paws on my shoulders," she recalled. "He pushed me to the ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and down on my chest."

Toby’s jumping apparently managed to dislodge the apple from Parkhurst’s windpipe.

…"I, literally, have pawprint-shaped bruises on my chest," Parkhurst said. "I’m still a little hoarse, but otherwise, I’m OK. … I know it sounds a little weird, but I think he had a sense of what was happening. Of all the dogs in the world, I never would have expected this goofy one here to know the Heimlich."

…but I don’t buy it.

Does anyone really believe that a dog would "jump up and down" on its owner with such force that it could dislodge an apple?

Now I am fortunate to be daddy to two rather smart dogs.  But if I collapsed to the ground with an apple stuck in my throat, Bo (the big one) would lick my face, and Arrow (the little one) would fall to the ground beside me, belly-up, in a respectful homage to his (gasping, choking, soon-to-be-ex) owner.

There’s something about this story which just doesn’t ring true.  And of course, all we have is the woman’s word that this happened (Toby, her dog, is not corroborating the story). 

I suspect that what happened was — she was asked by friends, husband, kids or co-workers how she got paw prints on her neck.  Rather than give the real answer, which is far more embarrassing, she concocted a story about her dog performing the Heimlich.

And now she’s stuck with it.

Cna Yuo Raed Tihs?

Max saepk, you lositn:

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too.

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

Malkin’s Manifesto

Iphobe_2So wingnut Michell Malkin has written a "mini-Turner Diaries of batshit post-9/11 anti-Muslim paranoia", which she calls a "John Doe Manifesto".  Big on bravada and even bigger on prejudice, it is a how-to guide to justify every bigot’s anti-Muslim fear.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Dear Muslim Terrorist Plotter/Planner/Funder/Enabler/Apologist,

Oh, why so formal, Michelle?

You do not know me. But I am on the lookout for you. You are my enemy. And I am yours.

Cue soundtrack from "Lord Of The Rings".  Or maybe the Darth Vader theme.

I am John Doe.

I am John Galt.  Nice to meet you.

I am traveling on your plane. I am riding on your train. I am at your bus stop. I am on your street. I am in your subway car. I am on your lift.

What are you?  Following people?  Or are you just omnipresent?  You know, like God?

I am your neighbor. I am your customer. I am your classmate. I am your boss.

You can tell the Michelle wants to write "I am your worst nightmare", but it’s probably too cliched, even for her.

I am John Doe.

I am Spartacus.  Nice to meet you.

I will never forget the example of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who refused to sit back on 9/11 and let themselves be murdered in the name of Islam without a fight.

"I will never use contractions either.  All the bad asses in the movies and on TV don’t use contractions."

I will never forget the passengers and crew members who tackled al Qaeda shoe-bomber Richard Reid on American Airlines Flight 63 before he had a chance to blow up the plane over the Atlantic Ocean.

Like an elephant, she.

I will never forget the alertness of actor James Woods, who notified a stewardess that several Arab men sitting in his first-class cabin on an August 2001 flight were behaving strangely. The men turned out to be 9/11 hijackers on a test run.

I will never forget actor James Woods in The Onion Fields.  I mean, did you see that?  That guy can really act.

I will act when homeland security officials ask me to "report suspicious activity."

"Like when I see two or three olive-skinned men boarding a plane, or — hell! — just walking down the street, I press 911 and tell somebody.  (They tell me to stop bothering them, but crusadors like me — I have my duty)."

I will embrace my local police department’s admonition: "If you see something, say something."

I spy with my little eye….

I am John Doe.

You know, Michelle — "John Doe" doesn’t quite have that fear-striking impact that you apparently think it does.  It’s like saying that you’re "Wally Cox" or "Percy Dovetonsils" 

If you’re going to keep repeating your name, maybe what you need is a really badass nickname — like "The Eradicator" or something.

I will protest your Jew-hating, America-bashing "scholars."

"Which, for convenience sake, I define as anyone on the left"

I will petition against your hate-mongering mosque leaders.

"As opposed to your NON-hate-mongering mosque leaders, of which there are none in my view."

I will raise my voice against your subjugation of women and religious minorities.

This from the woman who wrote In Defense of Internment, a book which said it was a good idea to round up innocent Japanese-Americans during WWII and put them into camps.

I will challenge your attempts to indoctrinate my children in our schools.

Muslim terrorists are teaching evolution now, apparently.

I will combat your violent propaganda on the Internet.

"Starting with Daily Kos."

I am John Doe.

Of the Springfield "Does"?  My, it’s a small world.

I will support law enforcement initiatives to spy on your operatives, cut off your funding and disrupt your murderous conspiracies.

And if they violate the civil rights of peace-loving Americans, so be it.  Remember, we have to give up freedom in order to preserve it.

I will oppose all attempts to undermine our borders and immigration laws.

You go, girl.

I will resist the imposition of sharia principles and sharia law in my taxi cab, my restaurant, my community pool, the halls of Congress, our national monuments, the radio and television airwaves, and all public spaces.

Right.  Only Christian fundamentalists can oppose things like homosexuality, etc.

I will not be censored in the name of tolerance.

"Because I am intolerant.  It’s the American way."

I will not be cowed by your Beltway lobbying groups in moderates’ clothing. I will not cringe when you shriek about "profiling" or "Islamophobia."

What?  Islamophobe?  Moi?

I will put my family’s safety above sensitivity. I will put my country above multiculturalism.

"Because my country has nothing to do with multiculturalism!  And I say that as an asian woman, the daughter of immigrants to this country!"

I will not submit to your will. I will not be intimidated.

"I will not pay a lot for this muffler"

I am John Doe.

Please to meet you.  Won’t you guess my name?

Too Clever By Half

JMM:

If the president’s aides were using RNC emails or emails from other Republican political committees, they can’t have even the vaguest claim to shielding those communications behind executive privilege.

Yeah.  I don’t see anyway around that.

UPDATE:  The Carpetbagger raises two other issues regarding the White House staffs use of RNC emails:

There’s still the Presidential Records Act to consider. The PRA mandates thorough record-keeping, which Rove & Co. apparently hope to avoid. The law isn’t supposed to be optional.

and also:

As Laura Rozen explained, there are security concerns to consider. Rozen noted earlier this week, that the White House is a huge electronic surveillance target and by announcing that they’re not using their official email accounts anymore, foreign intelligence agencies might “become curious about the 95% of the government’s business that Karl is lobbing outside the system.” Rozen added today:

A reader who has a security role at a federal agency writes, “On the issue of using outside/unofficial e-mail address from official sites, the CIO at [redacted] has expressly forbade the practice for security reasons as it is all too easy to put sensitive information in an e-mail. … Needless to say, hearing that the WH does not mandate that practice and lets [Rove] do 95% of his e-mailing from a blackberry, presumably with access to an unofficial address, is quite shocking. Still find it absolutely amazing that his clearance has not been revoked.”

Good points.

How Bad Is Sanjaya?

Very bad:

Simon Cowell went so far as to say if Malakar wins, he’ll quit.

One YouTube contributor in New York has launched a hunger strike and vows not to eat until the 17-year-old is ousted from the show.

Words cannot express the monumental badness of this guy.  He’s not even bad in an entertaining way (like the dubious singing skills of William Hung, or the acting skills of Subway spokesman Jerrod WhatsHisName).  He’s just plain bad.

He’s so bad, that I actually feel bad for him.  Unless he’s completely delusional (which, I suppose, is possible), it must be heart-wrenching to perform every week when you know that you are, by far, the worst singer that will hit the stage that night, and that millions of Americans will be sitting in their homes trying to out-top each other in finding the right words to explain your precise level of suckitude.

Hopefully tonight, America will put Sanjaya out of his misery.  And ours.

For those of you who missed Sanjaya’s hair this week, I recommend:

    Sanjaya Malakar Picks Challenging Song and Hairstyle

    See Sanjaya’s Ponyhawk in Action – Watch the Videos!

    "American Idol" Is More of a Popularity Contest

    SANJAYA videos including his ponyhawk on American Idol

    Sanjaya Attempts to Pull a King Leonidas from "300"

    LOLROTFLMAO

    A Recap of Gwen Stefani Night

    "He Looks Ridiculous, But I Love His Spirit"

    Did Not Know Hairstyle Was Even Possible

That’ll Teach Them A Lesson!

Supermodel Vida Guerra (who I never heard of, but never mind) was upset that nude photos of her were making their way around the Internet.  She insisted that they weren’t real.

And to prove her point, she’s agreed to pose nude in Playboy.

Smaaaaaaart.

A Shoutout To My Peeps

With Easter approaching, it’s time to celebrate Peeps and their fans.  Specifically, the history of rock & roll as performed by Peeps

Here are some Peeps re-enacting the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (aka "the day the music died"):

Mfthedaythepeepsx

Flash forward to 1967, and the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Peeper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band:

Stpeepers

And who can forget the disco era as exemplified by the movie Saturday Night Fever Peeper?

Saturdaynightpeepers

And, of course, one of the greatest rock & roll movies ever made — Purple Peeple Rain:

Peeplerain1

More here.

The Republican War On Science: White House Tries To Muzzle Global Warming Research

ABC:

Bush administration officials throughout the government have engaged in White House-directed efforts to stifle, delay or dampen the release of climate change research that casts the White House or its policies in a bad light, says a new report that purports to be the most comprehensive assessment to date of the subject.

Researchers for the non-profit watchdog Government Accountability Project reviewed thousands of e-mails, memos and other documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and from government whistle-blowers and conducted dozens of interviews with public affairs staff, scientists, reporters and others.

The group says it has identified hundreds of instances where White House-appointed officials interfered with government scientists’ efforts to convey their research findings to the public, at the behest of top administration officials.

The report is slated to be released tomorrow at a hearing before the House Science Committee, which is investigating the issue.

It’s Not A Scandal Unless There’s A ‘Monica’ Involved

And now we have one.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’s senior counselor, Monica Goodling, yesterday refused to testify in the Senate about her involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The letter sent by Monica’s attorneys explains the reasons why.  But here’s the thing: none of the reasons pertain to self-incrimination

You can’t invoke the privilege because you think the investigation is being conducted in a "partisan" fashion (yet this is one of the "reasons" given). 

You can’t invoke the privilege because it may lead to criminal charges against someone else (yet this is one of the "reasons" given). 

The real reason that Monica’s lawyer want her to avoid testifying is spelled out thusly:

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real. One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby."

The only problem with that sentence is that Lewis Libby was convicted of NOT giving truthful and accurate testimony.  And he was found guilty — not by a panel of partisan Democrat congressmen — but by a jury of ordinary American citizens. 

Now, it may be true that a witness innocent of wrongdoing may well refuse to answer a question not because he fears conviction, but because he fears unfounded prosecution.  (UPDATE: Orin Kerr disagrees).  However, since the risk of "unfounded prosecution" one runs at all times (theoretically at least) the 5th Amendment invocation must be asserted in good faith.  I suggest that this is not made in good faith, since the attorneys invoke Scooter Libby — a man who was NOT unfoundly unprosecuted according to a jury of his peers.

I suspect what is really going on is that she is afraid to testify, in part because there’s hardly a consensus in the White House and DOJ as to what the cover story is for the attorney firings.  Nice of her to want to be a part of the loyal team, but she’s toast now anyway.  She might as well save her soul and talk.  It’s her only key to salvation.

RELATED:  It’s worth noting that the deputy AG testified truthfully last month, and that’s how this scandal started.  Of course, he testified about the TRUTH, something which the White House urged him not to do.  For the people in the White House, telling the truth is secondary to preserving their power.

Remains Of 9-11 Victims Used To Fill Potholes

I’m speechless:

The pulverized remains of bodies from the World Trade Center disaster site were used by city workers to fill ruts and potholes, a city contractor says in a sworn affidavit filed Friday in Manhattan Federal Court.

Eric Beck says debris powders – known as fines – were put in a pothole-fill mixture by crews at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, N.Y., where more than 1.65 million tons of World Trade Center debris were deposited after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I observed the New York City Department of Sanitation taking these fines from the conveyor belts of our machines, loading it onto tractors and using it to pave roads and fill in potholes, dips and ruts," Eric Beck said.

Beck was the senior supervisor for Taylor Recycling, a private contractor hired to sift through debris trucked to Fresh Kills after the trade center attacks. Before the arrival of Taylor’s equipment at Fresh Kills in October 2001, the debris was sifted manually by workers using rakes and shovels.

Beck’s affidavit was filed by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims who are suing the city in hopes of creating a formal burial place for debris that they say contains human remains.

"It’s devastating," Norman Siegel, an attorney representing the families, said of Beck’s statement. "When the 9/11 families found about this, they were wiped out."

Dinner In The Sky

Dinner_hmp

When I went to Belgium, I thought it was nice.  But something was missing.

Yup.  Nowhere in that entire country was there a place for 22 people to enjoy dinner while sitting at a table suspended high over the world below.

Thank God they’ve fixed that.

Multi-tasking: Not All That Great

For those of you who think you’re all that because you can do three things at once, the latest studies are here to tell you that you’re not doing anything better:

Think you can juggle phone calls, e-mail, instant messages and computer work to get more done in a time-starved world? Read on, preferably shutting out the cacophony of digital devices for a while.

Several research reports, both recently published and not yet published, provide evidence of the limits of multitasking. The findings, according to neuroscientists, psychologists and management professors, suggest that many people would be wise to curb their multitasking behavior when working in an office, studying or driving a car.

These experts have some basic advice. Check e-mail messages once an hour, at most. Listening to soothing background music while studying may improve concentration. But other distractions — most songs with lyrics, instant messaging, television shows — hamper performance. Driving while talking on a cellphone, even with a hands-free headset, is a bad idea.

In short, the answer appears to lie in managing the technology, instead of merely yielding to its incessant tug.

Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” said David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”

The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is a cognitive powerhouse in many ways. “But a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once,” said René Marois, a neuroscientist and director of the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University.

Human-Animal Hybrids

Bush State of The Union, 2006:

Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms; creating or implanting embryos for experiments; creating human-animal hybrids; and buying, selling or patenting human embryos.

Like many, when I heard Bush talk about human-animal hybrids, I was preplexed.  Great, I thought.  Now he believes in werewolves.

But apparently, it’s not science fiction.  Scientists have created a sheep which is 15% human:

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells – and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5m  ($A12m) perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep’s foetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.

The process would involve extracting stem cells from the donor’s bone marrow and injecting them into the peritoneum of a sheep’s foetus.

When the lamb is born, two months later, it would have a liver, heart, lungs and brain that are partly human and available for transplant.

Ethically, I don’t have a problem with this, although I suppose developments of this sort will bring together an odd alliance between PETA and the religious right.  Still, it’s interesting.  Brave new world and all that.

Tale As Old As Time…

A big shout-out to Gray (the Beast) and Emily (Belle) who play the title roles in the production of Beauty and the Beast, opening tonight at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem.  I send my fondest "break-a-leg" wishes to them, as well as Craig (Gaston) and the Barnhardt sisters.

Emily reports that opening night is all but sold out, and tickets for the rest of the run are going fast.  Not surprising.  I hear good things, I hear good things….

Pictured below:  Because I don’t have a picture of Emily and Gray in this particular show, you’ll have to settle for a picture of Emily and Gray in "Bat Boy" — another musical where Emily falls for a beast played by Gray…

Emily_044

RELATED:  Attention casting directors!  I’ve got yer gal for the "Valerie Plame" movie.

Valerie Plame:

Valerie_plame

Heather Hamby:

Redhs

So please contact me, Valerie Plame biopic casting directors, via this website. I’m only demanding a paltry 6%.  I’ll work out an arrangement with Heather…

Who’s Left In The GOP?

PartyidNot many:

Public allegiance to the Republican Party has plunged during George W. Bush’s presidency, as attitudes have edged away from some of the conservative values that fueled GOP political victories, a major survey has found.

The survey, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found a "dramatic shift" in political party identification since 2002, when Republicans and Democrats were at rough parity. Now, 50% of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward Democrats, whereas 35% aligned with Republicans.

What’s more, the survey found, public attitudes are drifting toward Democrats’ values: Support for government aid to the disadvantaged has grown since the mid-1990s, skepticism about the use of military force has increased and support for traditional family values has decreased.

The findings suggest that the challenges for the GOP reach beyond the unpopularity of the war in Iraq and Bush.

***

"There are cycles in history where one party or one movement ascends for a while and then it sows the seeds of its own self-destruction," said Bruce Bartlett, a conservative analyst and author of the 2006 book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

Bartlett added, "It’s clear we have come to an end of a Republican conservative era."

It should be noted that this is more than just a shift in party affiliation.  The Pew Survey shows a shift in voter values.  The Republican’s hot button social issues ("old fashioned-values about family and marriage") are not as hot as they used to be and a majority simply disagree with Republicans on safety nets for those in need.

The Sympathy Surge

Leave to the vile right-wing radio morons to suggest that John Edwards is using his wife’s battle with cancer for political ends and to garnish votes.

Rush Limbaugh, who suggested a few months ago that Michael J. Fox was exaggerated his disease for political effect, said yesterday about the Edwards press conference:

Now, this suggests to me that, look, let’s just see how much sympathy or attention the press conference and the news today evokes and what it does to the campaign, if this jump-starts the Edwards campaign. …Edwards is going to get much, much more than that out of this.

That fat blowhard needs to be sodomized with his EIB microphone.

NOTE:  Fortunately, not all conservative pundits are reacting this way.  Even the folks at The Corner, for instance, can set aside their bias and make the following comment about the Edwards press conference::

The most endearing moment of this Edwards press conference: As Elizabeth Edwards was describing how she managed to break a rib — the cause of the pain that lead her to get medical treatment which ultimately revealed the cancer — Mrs. Edwards recounted her husband hugging her, the point at which she noticed something wrong with her..

After she went through the details, John Edwards jumped in and said, "actually, I was beating her," as he made a ridiculous arm and hand motion, looking clearly like a guy who wouldn’t even know how to hit his wife. It was a playful, endearing moment, the kind that one imagines helps a couple that has some real love between them get through yet another painful family time. The Edwards family has had more than their share of those hard times.

Snowjob

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, 10/6/06:

Members of Congress have their own oversight obligations. They may proceed as they wish. They’re a separate and co-equal branch of government and I’m not going to tell them what they can and can’t do.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, yesterday:

There’s another principle, which is Congress doesn’t have the legislative — I mean oversight authority over the White House. [CNN, 3/22/07]

First, the White House is under no compulsion to do anything. The legislative branch doesn’t have oversight. [MSNBC, 3/22/07]

Congress doesn’t have any legitimate oversight and responsibilities to the White House. [Fox, 3/22/07]

“Feminism Destroying America”

Chuck2So says Chuck Baldwin, Founder-Pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida and vice presidential nominee for the Constitution Party in 2004:

When one searches to find the causes for America’s rapid deterioration, there is no shortage of suspects. However, my thirty-plus years experience as a pastor, counselor, and researcher has convinced me that there is no greater threat to America’s future survival than the overall negative effect that modern-day feminism has had, and is having, upon our homes and churches.

Terrorism comes in a distant second, apparently.

In just over three decades, the feminist movement has completely uprooted and rewritten the norm for American family life. No longer are women seen as nurturers and helpmeets. The push for "equality" has done much more than move America’s women from the kitchen to the boardroom; it has moved them from under the arm and next to the side of their husbands to, in many cases, a place of independence from, and lordship over, them.

It’s like when we gave them coloreds the right to vote.  All of a sudden, they actually thought they were entitled to be something!

Wives and mothers today seem to take pride in their ability to "control" their husbands. At the same time, however, they seem to be oblivious to the fact that they have absolutely no control over their children. But neither will they allow their husbands (or anyone else) to discipline their children. As a result, today’s kids are growing up mostly undisciplined, unrestrained, and uncontrollable.

Sounds like Pastor Baldwin hates being pussy-whipped.  Trouble at home, Chuck?

Ask any teacher, Sunday School teacher, coach, or youth worker, and they will tell you the same thing: today’s children are out of control!

Exclamation point!

Many people have far more control over their pets than they do their own children.

If only our children would respond to rolled-up newspapers and shock collars….

Sadder still is the fact that the only answer anyone seems inclined to proffer is to put these kids on behavior modification drugs, which, as almost anyone knows, only exacerbates the problem.

I guess he’s a medical expert now.

The problem with most children is not an inability to sit still and learn; it is the inability of parents to make their children sit still and learn. When it comes to making children mind, many parents today seem to be absolutely and totally helpless. I have never seen anything like it.

And he’s spied through the windows of many his neighbors, so he oughta know.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not one who believes that all of our marital and family problems are due to women working outside the home. However, I do believe that any couple that places their personal careers or ambitions above their primary responsibility to raise respectable, honest, obedient children is not only failing their children; they are failing our country.

I see.  So it’s the "couple" who abandon their "primary responsbility", but only the woman who gets the blame.

Selfish, materialistic, egocentric children do not make good citizens. They don’t make good employees, good policemen, good teachers, good judges, good pastors, good congressmen, good physicians, or good role models. In fact, they don’t make good anythings.

At this point, I would be tempted to ask the pastor if children should have been aborted.

Ever since our politically correct society decided that America’s fathers and husbands were no longer qualified to be the heads of their families, our society has fallen into chaos. America’s dads are reduced to being the butt end of every comedian’s joke, the fall guy in every sitcom, and the stupid buffoon in every television commercial.

Being a punchline for a comedian’s joke = society in chaos.  Got that everyone?

However, it does not matter what Gloria Steinem and her feminist friends think about it, there is an established natural order for healthy, productive family life.

And there was once an established order where white people owned black people.  Just because something is "established" doesn’t make it right or moral.

Man has a natural headship responsibility to both his family and his community. When men surrender this responsibility, or when women wrestle it away from them, the entire family and social structures collapse. And that is exactly what is currently happening.

Poor emasculated Chuck Baldwin.  Is he upset at kids being our of control, or women being out of control?

In Which I Demonstrate How I Channel The New York Times Theatre Critics

My review of "Curtains", March 5, 2007:

Much about "Curtains" is familiar and predictable, even stereotypical. 

New York Times review of "Curtains", March 23, 2007:

There’s something soothing, even soporific, about such unaggressive predictability. But I’m assuming — and maybe I’m wrong — that you don’t go to Broadway for lullabies.

My review of "Curtains", March 5, 2007:

But this book was nothing but theatrical cliches and lame jokes (Here’s an example: "Gee, I wanted this show to make a killing, but not like this.")

New York Times review of "Curtains", March 23, 2007:

The script fires out a tireless fusillade of jokes, in the apparent hope that a few of them are bound to hit their targets.

My review of "Curtains", March 5, 2007:

The score by Kander & Ebb was not much better.  There was nothing memorable or catchy.

New York Times review of "Curtains", March 23, 2007:

But here his melodies, especially in the would-be showstoppers, are often repetitious without being rousing.

My review of "Curtains", March 5, 2007:

David Hyde Pierce, who more-or-less carries the show….

New York Times review of "Curtains", March 23, 2007:

David Hyde Pierce,who (this is the good news) steps into full-fledged Broadway stardom with his performance here…

My review of "Curtains", March 5, 2007:

There were nice moments when they rose above the material — for example, a "dream" sequence where Pierce and his co-star imagine they are in a Marge & Gower Champion musical number, complete with smoke and white staircases.

New York Times review of "Curtains", March 23, 2007:

In the second act Mr. Hyde Pierce and Ms. Paice are allowed, for one song, to turn into Fred and Ginger in an RKO dream world. Choreographed as a dexterous blend of sendup and valentine by Mr. Ashford*, the number expresses the sheer, lightheaded love of that silly and sublime form, the musical, that is what “Curtains” is meant to be about. The song is called “A Tough Act to Follow,” and nothing that precedes or follows it is on its level.

My review of "Curtains", March 5, 2007:

I think one line from "Curtains" — a laugh line, presumably — sums it best: "This show is lackluster.  It lacks . . . well, luster."  Yup.

New York Times review of "Curtains", March 23, 2007:

“It’s a perfectly fine life,” he sings, with feeble conviction. “I’d give it” — and here he pauses, for a moment of honest self-assessment — “two cheers.” That’s more or less the feeling inspired by “Curtains.” I sincerely wish I could say otherwise.

My review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 5, 2007:

Hoffman’s character is the richest of the four.

New York Times review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 19, 2007:

But with a wonderful ensemble led by Philip Seymour Hoffman (yes, I know, an Oscar-winning movie star, but never mind), this gentle portrait of pothead losers in love is a reminder of how engrossing uneventful existences can be in the hands of the right actors. You’re likely to leave the theater with a contact high from the ripe pleasure that Mr. Hoffman and his cast mates derive from portraying everyday eccentrics.

My review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 5, 2007:

The play is not deep in terms of meaning, but it would be wrong to dismiss this as a mere "romantic comedy".  All the characters have their own baggage, and their own reasons not to take steps into relationships. 

New York Times review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 19, 2007:

What plot there is hinges on questions classically posed in schlemiel-meets-schlemiel stories. Will Jack and Connie hit it off? Will they make it as a couple? Will they even make it to bed?  You care about the answers because Mr. Glaudini and the cast give such credible life to the people involved, endowing them with quirks and kinks that are a crucial hair’s breadth short of preciousness or cartoonishness.

My review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 5, 2007:

…a nice quiet contemporary comedy/drama that didn’t feel the need to slap you upside the head with zany situations, bizarre characters, or deep messages…

New York Times review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 19, 2007:

“Jack Goes Boating” pushes the same buttons so adroitly manipulated by “Little Miss Sunshine,” last year’s cinematic sleeper hit about a fractious family’s road trip. Like that film “Jack” exudes a wry compassion for the unsung and the life-thwarted that never tips into stickiness…. The entire production — including a set by David Korins that mixes urban realism with redemptive glimpses of lyricism — has an unforced naturalness that keeps shtick at bay.

My review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 5, 2007:

His nervousness is revealed by his almost persistent throat-clearing which starts off so subtle that one might think Hoffman was struggling with a sore throat (well, Cheryl thought that).

New York Times review of "Jack Goes Boating", March 19, 2007:

Character-defining gimmicks that you would expect in a second-tier sitcom, like Jack’s habit of clearing his throat when he’s uncomfortable, seldom feel less than organic here.

* no relation

Death Of Woody Harrelson’s Dad

Normally, this is a news story that I would have ignored, save for the fact that Woody Harrelson’s father may have some connection to the JFK assassination.

Below is a picture of the "three tramps" taken into custody in Dallas on that fateful day. 

Tramps

They were supposedly vagrants hanging around the railyards near Dealey Plaza, yet many have noted their relatively clean attire and hair.  The stories vary, but the three men were interviewed (some say arrested and held for several days) by the Dallas Police.  Unfortunately, their names were never recorded, and nobody can say for sure their identities. 

However, many speculate that the middle "tramp" — the tall one — was Charles Harrelson (Woody’s dad) who passed away yesterday.  Charles Harrelson was a hitman at the time, and was in Texas at the time.  Years later, he reportedly admitted (from his jail cell, where he served a life sentence for the murder of a federal judge) that he was involved in the JFK assassination.  But even if he said that, it may be the product of rumors about his involvement, rather than the genesis of them.

In any event, it’s one of the many threads in that piece of Americana known as "JFK conspiracy theory".

Sorkin’s Latest Venture? A Broadway Musical

Aaron Sorkin came to prominence with the play (followed by the movie) "A Few Good Men".  That lead to some of his best work on TV — the cult fave SportsNight (which sadly never found its audience), the widely acclaimed The West Wing (which foundered after Sorkin moved on to other things), and the recent not-as-good-but-getting-better-until-it-was-axed Studio 60.

What’s his next project?

Turning a record album into a Broadway musical.  And not just any musical, but a musical about… well, pink robots?

Broadway will soon get just a bit battier, as Wayne Coyne revealed in a recent interview with EW.com that the Flaming Lips‘ 2002 LP Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots will be transformed into a Broadway musical.

Described Coyne, "There’s the real world and then there’s this fantastical world. This girl, the Yoshimi character, is dying of something. And these two guys are battling to come visit her in the hospital. And as one of the boyfriends envisions trying to save the girl, he enters this other dimension where Yoshimi is this Japanese warrior and the pink robots are an incarnation of her disease. It’s almost like the disease has to win in order for her soul to survive. Or something like that." On Broad-waaaay!

"The West Wing"/"Sports Night" scribe Aaron Sorkin has signed on to script the Yoshimi musical, while director/producer Des McAnuff will guide the production, according to EW.com. "When Des heard the record," said Coyne, "he heard a lot about death and loss and the triumph of your own optimism…he had an emotional attachment to it."

The musical, which may well include other songs from across the Lips’ catalogue, is still far from opening night, but the pink robot cogs have been set in motion.

I’m not familiar with the Flaming Lips’ album, but if Aorkin’s name is attached to this project, I’m all ears.

UPDATE:  Sorkin is currently workshopping his latest play, "The Farnsworth invention", at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.  The play, it seems, is about the inventor(s) of television.

Finally Finally Finally, The U.S. Attorney Firing Scandal Has A Sexual Angle

Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was one of the 8 U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush Administration.  The Arizona Republic story raises the question of why he was fired:

Two weeks after Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was ordered to give up his post, he sent an e-mail to a top Justice Department official asking how to handle questions that his ouster was connected to his investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.

Charlton, one of eight federal prosecutors forced to resign last year, never received a written response….

When the first list of U.S. attorneys targeted for ouster was drafted, Charlton’s name was not on it. But his name was on a subsequent list, drafted in September. Although the Renzi inquiry was not yet public, it is likely the Justice Department was aware of the investigation, said a former U.S. attorney who is familiar with the protocol when a sitting lawmaker is involved.

What happened in the interim?  How did Charlton’s name end up on the list of U.S. Attorneys to get fired?

Well, as Max Blumenthal explains, Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) was in a competitive re-election race. When evidence of influence-peddling and land deals emerged in September 2006, just weeks before Election Day, Charlton opened a preliminary investigation against the Republican.

And that’s when, Kyle Sampson — Gonzales’ chief of staff — identified Charlton as someone “we should now consider pushing out.”

But wait — I promised a sex angle.  Just sit tight.

You see, having identified Charlton as someone they wanted to let go, they had to come up with a reason.  They couldn’t fire Charlton on the merits, because:

a model of professionalism, Charlton’s office was honored with the Federal Service Award and hailed by the Justice Department as a ‘Model Program’ for its protection of crime victims…

So instead, the administration relied on a Justice Department official named Brent Ward, who insisted that Charlton was “unwilling to take good cases.”

What were these "good cases"?  Here comes the sex angle:

Ward first came to prominence in Utah, where as US Attorney during the Reagan era he cast himself as a crusader against pornography. His battles made him one of the most fervent and earnest witnesses before Attorney General Edwin Meese’s Commission on Pornography; he urged “testing the endurance” of pornographers by relentless prosecutions. Meese was so impressed that he named Ward a leader of a group of US Attorneys engaged in a federal anti-pornography campaign, which soon disappeared into the back rooms of adult bookshops to ferret out evildoers. Ward returned to government last year as the chief of the Justice Department’s newly created Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, where his main achievement has been the prosecution of the producer of the Girls Gone Wild film series.

The appointment of the obscure Ward was a sop to the Christian right. His accomplishments, such as they are, have been symbolic at best. But when a paper trail to support the charge that US Attorneys were deficient in their performance was required to cover the reality of political dismissals, the Justice Department finally discovered an important use for its top porn cop.

Ward badgered the U.S. Attorneys’ office about bringing more pornography cases, none of which had anything to do with child porn, and everything to do regular ol’ adult porn.

Apparently, these are the “good cases” Charlton was unwilling to take.

Of course, this is just a sideshow amusement.  The real bill of particulars against the White House was best summed up by The Left Coaster‘s Steve Soto:

The truth still remains that a political hit list was drawn up inside the White House to rank these attorneys on their loyalty to Bush and not on their performance; that the rationale for these firings has changed several times as each reason fell apart under scrutiny; that the list of targets changed due to pressure from Republicans around the country on corruption cases and petty personal backbiting inside Justice; that there was an organized effort from the White House to provide misleading testimony to Congress; that the White House wants to avoid at all costs going under oath on this; and that the AG and his senior aides not only mismanaged the department but were willing participants in the White House’s efforts to politicize the federal prosecutors.

Twitter

TwitterI have to confess — I never really understood Twitter.

For those of you who don’t know, Twitter is a website — one growing in popularity — that allows users (no fee, it’s free to join) to post what they are doing right now.  This isn’t like a blog, where the user might write lengthy posts about what they’re doing now generally.  No — this is a site where people write (or text) short sentences with things like:

quiz after lunch, and i have no lunch to eat, o well

and

On my way to the health club

and so on.  And then, anyone who wants to know what you’re doing, just signs on and reads.

Now, my mother, like most mothers, has an interest in how I’m doing and what I’m doing with my life, but even she doesn’t need that much updating.  Isn’t this the height in vanity to think that anyone really gives a crap what you ate for lunch ten minutes ago?

I know what you’re saying.  You’re saying "Dude, what makes you think I give a crap about the things you blog about?  Isn’t that the same thing?"

To that, I respond — listen, "dude".  I blog for me.  Yes, I have in mind that some people read this, and I am equally confused and flattered as to why.  It’s nice (or it will be, I hope) to look back at what was going on 2, 3, 10 years ago.

But this Twitter thing is a little extreme and self-indulgent.

That said, I gotta hand it once again to the Edwards campaign for making use of Twitter.

Maybe sometime I’ll see the need/use/fun of Twitter.  Right now though, I just scratch my head.

Document Diving & Latest On Purgegate

A lot of people following the U.S. Attorney Firing Kerfuffle are doing a lot of document diving — i.e., going through the documents and emails released this week by the DOJ (over 3,000 pages) to look BEHIND what the news will tell you tomorrow.

Time doesn’t permit me to review documents myself, but for those interested, the documents are now searchable, thanks to the fine work of the people here.

Meanwhile, it looks like we’re headed for a showdown, with the House approving the use of subpoenas to get Rove and Miers on the record, and Bush vowing to fight the subpeonas.  The law is on the House’s side, and I hope the Bush people are trying to make an argument regarding executive privileged that failed to carry the day when Nixon tried it in United States v. Nixon.  There, the court was quite clear:

The President’s need for complete candor and objectivity from advisers calls for great deference from the courts. However, when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises. Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets, we find it difficult to accept the argument that even the very important interest in confidentiality of Presidential communications is significantly diminished by production of such material for in camera inspection with all the protection that a district court will be obliged to provide.

Glenn Greenwald has the (very readable) skinny on "executive privilege" — the kind of post I would write if I had the time and considerably better writing skills.

UPDATE:  How Nixonian can you get?  Looks like the DOJ "document dump" has an 18-day gap.  (For those of you under 30, here’s the historical reference)

Rosemarywoods

UPDATE:  CNN’s Ed Henry, via Atrios, makes an excellent point:

I think also, another thing to look at, I followed up a question about executive privilege. You heard Tony Snow at the end there saying the president has no recollection of being involved in this decision to fire the US attorneys. So we asked the question then, well why are you citing executive privilege – or at least suggesting you will, and yesterday the president said the principle at stake here is candid advice from his advisers to the president – if the president was not involved in the decision, then how can you cite executive privilege on something he was really not involved in? And Tony Snow basically said, it’s a good question and I don’t know the answer.

Slammed!

Menatwork_2Ugh.  Too many pots in the fire.  Or cooks in the broth.  Or fans fanning the flames.  Or something.

In any event, there’s a lot of craziness with my job at the moment.  Higher-ups and colleagues are out of the country, which basically means I have keys to the car this week, which basically means that I’m overseeing 25 attorneys and 60 paralegals and various other support staff, which basically means I need to keep focus.

Because God forbid this ship should strike an iceberg on my watch, junowotimean?

So as I become mired in petty personnel issues, organizational meetings, endless conference calls, whiny underlings wanting to "leave early" because it’s just me at the helm, and — oh, yeah — the occasional practice of law, you can expect light blogging for a few days.

And even if I had copious free time today, I probably wouldn’t be blogging.  Instead, I’d probably be out looking for this kid.

Setting The Bar Waaaaay Low

Real Clear Politics, defending Rudy Giuliani from Giuliani’s critics:

Look at this way: Has any credible person or group come forward to claim that Giuliani’s handling of 9/11 and its aftermath on the whole left New York worse off? Setting aside the charges of one aggrieved group (and the firefighters are a big one, admittedly), who is claiming New York suffered more than it benefited from Giuliani’s leadership in the days and weeks after 9/11?

That made me laugh.  Yes, things got better after 9/11 in New York on the whole over the course of time, but then again, how could they have gotten worse?  And more to the point, how much credit can be given to Giuliani for things getting better?

Maybe Rudy should use that as a campaign slogan: "Vote for Rudy, because 9/12 was better than 9/11!"

That said, there ARE specific complaints about Rudy’s action surrounding 9/11 besides those of the firemen.  Talk to someone stricken with "Ground Zero" respoiratory illness, who listened to Rudy’s assurances (echoed by others) at the time that "the air quality is safe and acceptable".  I would suggest that THEY are worse off, even if the whole of New York isn’t.

Or how about the fact that Rudy, prior to 9/11, placed the city’s emergency command center in the World Trade Center complex, against the advice of fire and police officials who realized that the WTC was a target (remember the 1993 bombing) — a decision that ended up costing lives (as critics said it would)?

Sure — Rudy, the mayor of 9/11, didn’t flummux the 9/11 recovery in the same way that Bush flummoxed the Katrina response.  But then again, he didn’t do much either, because the response to 9/11 was national in scale. 

So, yes, Rudy didn’t make New York worse on the whole following 9/11.  But that’s only because its very very difficult to botch up a an entire city simply by attending funerals of the fallen.

Hic Hic Hic

You remember Jennifer Mee, that poor 15-year-old girl in Florida who had the hiccups that wouldn’t go away for five weeks?

And then, one morning two weeks ago, they just suddenly stopped after a visit to a hypnotist’s office?

Well, she returned to school Wednesday, to the cheers and ovations of her fellow students.

And then yesterday, well, they’re baaaa-aaack!

Women Forge Friendships By Talking About Their Fatsnacks

Do20i20look20fat3fWell, that’s what researchers say:

It’s almost inevitable: When women get together, the chatter eventually turns to whose skinny jeans don’t fit anymore and who weighs in heavier on the scale. And participation is socially mandatory, a new study finds.

Socially "mandatory"?  Who enforces this?

Researchers call this "fat talk", a term coined to describe a behavior common in middle school-aged Caucasian females. But the phenomenon seems to occur in older females as well.

"We have found in our research that both male and female college students know the norm of fat talk — that females are supposed to say negative things about their bodies in a group of females engaging in fat talk," said study co-author Denise Martz of Appalachian State University.

Okay, I’m actually buying this a little.

And here’s the part that really sold me:

"Females like to support one another and fat talk elicits support," Martz said. "An example would be one saying, ‘It’s like, I’m so fat today,’ and another would respond, ‘No, you are not fat, you look great in those pants.’"

Fat talk also allows females to appear modest, a prized quality in a culture that shuns egotism.

"We tend to dislike arrogance and especially dislike it in women (‘bitches’)", Martz explained. "Women are perceived as OK if they fat talk and acknowledge that their bodies are not perfect but they are working on it."

The lesson being (for you clueless guys out there), that when a woman asks "Do these jeans make my ass look fat?", you are supposed to answer "no".  This is called "fishing for support", you see, and it’s socially mandatory.

On the one hand, I can certainly understand the psychological factors behind self-deprication in order to solicit support.  On the other hand, if the phenomenon is so obvious and transparent, how supporting is the "support"?  I mean, don’t women know they’re being, well, lied to?

Take a relook at the scenario above.  Now, when the second women responds "No, you are not fat, you look great in those pants", doesn’t the first women know that the second woman is just saying that, because it’s socially mandatory?  I suspect so.  In fact, the first woman will probably then say, "Oh, you’re just saying that", a social prompt for the second women to offer further support with "No, no. I really mean it."

And so it goes.

I wonder what would happen if the second woman, instead of saying, "you’re not fat in those pants", said "Actually, you do look kind of fat in those.  Why don’t you try on this outfit, because they really accentuates your beauty?"  Now, tell me, social mandatory cops — what’s wrong with that response?  It’s supportive AND honest.  It’s also when you know you have a true friend.

Amanda Marcotte, I notice, isn’t exactly keen on this socially mandatory thing either:

The fact that hating your body is considered basic good manners for a woman makes it all the much harder to get over self-degrading talk, I think. Just as you automatically say, “Excuse me,” if you belch or automatically smile and laugh when someone says something meant to be pleasing, this sort of self hate becomes second nature.

Yup.  It’s understandable why women do this, but it is unfortunate.

Amanda, by the way, goes one step further, and points to research showing that men check out other men more than women do, as a way to size themselves up.  Research which tracks eye movement shows that when given a picture of a baseball player, women’s eyes gaze on the face, but men (yes, straight men) looked at his crotch almost as much as his face:

Image7

I can’t speak for the men in this study.  All I can say is that if I had been a subject in this study, my data point would have been an outlier.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it…..

I’ve Always Kind Of Liked Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY)

He’s a Republican, but a straight-shooter.

In an op-ed yesterday, he declared his opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (after voting for it in 1993) and wrote this:

In World War II, a British mathematician named Alan Turing led the effort to crack the Nazis’ communication code. He mastered the complex German enciphering machine, helping to save the world, and his work laid the basis for modern computer science. Does it matter that Turing was gay? This week, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that homosexuality is “immoral” and that the ban on open service should therefore not be changed. Would Pace call Turing “immoral”?

Advantage, Simpson.

About The Confession

The headlines today are full of stories about how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has now confessed to masterminding 9/11 as well as, well, everything (including the Lindburgh baby kidnapping*).

My first and only reaction?

Is this news?  Didn’t we already know this?

And the answer to both questions, respectively, is: No, it’s not news, — and yes, we already knew this.  Looks like someone is trying to change the national dialogue.

UPDATE:  Josh Marshall apparently agrees:

BREAKING! 9/11 Mastermind who confessed to being mastermind after being captured like five years ago confesses again at Gitmo hearing and now the transcript is released by the Pentagon to get Gonzales off the front pages!

BREAKING!

*No, not really.

More “Purgegate” Fallout

God, I hate myself for using the -gate suffix.  But I don’t know what to call it right now (does anybody?)

Anyway, WaPo has a nice op-ed which stops just shy of calling for Gonzales’s head.  My favorite bits:

"I am fully committed, as the administration’s fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney," Mr. Gonzales assured the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty has also asserted that the administration, in firing the prosecutors, was not trying to abuse its new authority, slipped into the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, to name interim U.S. attorneys who could serve indefinitely without Senate confirmation. "The attorney general’s appointment authority has not and will not be used to circumvent the confirmation process," Mr. McNulty testified. "All accusations in this regard are contrary to the clear factual record."

Mr. Sampson’s e-mail messages to the White House belie those assertions.

And the closing graf:

Mr. Gonzales can make self-serving declarations about his belief in "accountability," as he did at a news conference yesterday; he can proclaim his plans to "ascertain what happened here . . . and take corrective actions." Nothing in his record gives any reason for confidence that anything will change in a department under his leadership.

Indeed.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Senator John Sununu was the first Republican to say that Alberto Gonzales has to go:

Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire on Wednesday became the first Republican in Congress to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ dismissal, hours after President Bush expressed confidence in his embattled Cabinet officer.

"I think the president should replace him," Sununu said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Sununu, whose father served as Chief of Staff to the other President Bush, is running for re-election in 2008.

That said, I think Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is asking the right questions, specifically:

1. In an email to the White House, Mr. Sampson refers to a “problem” with Carol Lam. What was this “problem” and was Lam’s firing motivated by her investigation into former Congressmen Randy Cunningham and Representative Jerry Lewis?

2. What was the involvement of the President and members of the White House staff on the removal of these eight U.S. Attorneys? (White House spokespeople have portrayed the White House as having only limited involvement in the plan to dismiss these U.S. attorneys. Yet the documents released to the Senate Judiciary Committee clearly show that the idea of removing a group of U.S. attorneys originated in early 2005 with Harriet E. Miers, then serving as the President’s Counsel.)

3. Who at the Department of Justice was responsible for inserting a line into the USA PATRIOT Act in March 2006 that allows the appointment of interim U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval? Did the President know of or approve this effort?

4. Was Karl Rove or Ms. Miers involved in lobbying for the appointment of Tim Griffin as U.S. Attorney in Arkansas?

5. When and why did U. S. Attorney David Iglesias become a target for removal? Was President Bush involved in that decision?

TPMMuckraker has the actual wording of the questions.

UPDATE:  Not related to "Purgegate", but certainly bad news for Gonzales, is the story breaking out by Murray Waas.  Last year, there was an internal DOJ investigation.  When Gonzales realized that the investigation might focus on him, he consulted Bush, who put an end to the whole investigation.

UPDATE:  Another "Purgegate" scandal spin-off.  As you may or may not know, the DOJ publicly released e-mails that were sent to and from the DOJ last year, regarding the "purging" of U.S. attorneys.  Some eagle eyes noticed something: the work-related emails of Scott Jennings, Karl Rove’s deputy chief of staff, were to and from a non-White House domain.  Rather, they were to a domain owned by the Republican National Committee.  This is illegal, folks, because it is designed to prevent emails from being discovered through, oh, future investigations and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Remember, the government is OF the people, which is why we encourage an open government.  Sure, sometimes the government can’t be open about EVERYTHING (i.e., matters involving national security).  But the default position is "open".  Just like shredding documents, hiding their emails is a biiiiiiiig no-no.  More details here.

America: “Religious” Or “Religiously Ignorant”?

I had a girlfriend once who (after that was over) became born again.  And we were still in contact, and she tried, in subtle and non-subtle ways, to "bring me into the light" or "save me" or whatever you want to call it.

Her initial assumption was that, because I don’t regularly attend church or read the Bible, I must know nothing about religion or the Bible.  But when we actually started talking about godstuff, she found out that I actually did know a few things about the Good Book, and that’s precisely why I wasn’t able to swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

I would ask very simple questions which would stump her.  She would steadfastly claim that "the Bible is The Truth" (with two capital T’s), but more often than not, the conversations (which were cordial and which I enjoyed) would end with her saying, "Well, look.  I don’t know the all answers.  If you want to know more, I can certainly bring you to someone more knowledgeable than me who can answer what you ask."

Needless to say, she failed to save me.

And this, I’ve found, is typical of many well-meaning "born again" people.  They profess some connection to God/Jesus through an unerring Bible …without knowing very much about the Bible or what it says about God/Jesus.  It’s kind of like me declaring myself to be a military expert by enlisting in the Army, but skipping basic training and never serving a day.

So it comes as little surprise to me that a new book proves Americans are simultaneously the most “religious” and the most religiously ignorant people in the developed world. Despite the fact that most Americans consider themselves to be "christian" and religious, most don’t know anything about the Bible, the teachings of Jesus or even the 10 Commandments they want posted everywhere.   Wonkette snarkily goes through the bill of particulars:

  • 98% of Americans profess belief in a monotheistic God, with 81% claiming to be “Christian.”
  • The USA is the “only developed nation in the survey where a majority of citizens reported that religion plays a ‘very important’ role in their lives.”
  • Other recent surveys show only 58% to 80% of Americans are “certain” there’s a God.
  • 75% of adults believe the famed Benjamin Franklin saying “God helps those who help themselves” is one of the Ten Commandments.
  • On CNN today, the two anchors and the religion reporter and presumably the producers and directors and editors did not know Benjamin Franklin is responsible for “God helps those who help themselves,” with the religion reporter specifically claiming that “nobody” wrote the saying.
  • “A 2005 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly two-thirds of Americans endorse the simultaneous teaching of creationism and evolution in public schools,” despite the former’s insistence that the latter isn’t true and never happened.
  • 10% believe Joan of Arc was the wife of Noah from the Book of Genesis.
  • The decline of religious literacy in America began with the “Second Great Awakening” of the 1800s — a rejection of the Founding Fathers’ Age of Reason and theological knowledge in favor of “personal relationship with God” quackery that led to today’s brain-dead born-agains.
  • George W. Bush, himself a religious illiterate who claims to be a born-again Christian whose “favorite philosopher” is Jesus, excitedly jabbers about a Third Great Awakening, which will surely end with people sitting on toilets in their living rooms watching 24-hour live video feeds of Paris Hilton shooting heroin while pooping on a Koran.
  • 50% of high school seniors believe Sodom and Gomorrah were married. (They were actually just part of an early “sister cities” Chamber of Commerce program.)
  • 17% agree that Ramadan is the “Jewish day of atonement.”
  • Most believe Saint Paul led the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt.
  • Only one in three Americans can name the four Gospels, while less than half can even name one of them.
  • A majority couldn’t identify the preacher of the “Sermon on the Mount.” (Hint: The Bible says it was Jesus.)
  • Religious fundamentalists say all this Christian ignorance is because public schools don’t teach the Bible, but people don’t know anything public schools do teach, either.
  • Besides, “evangelical Christians are only slightly more knowledgeable than their non-evangelical counterparts,” so those megachurches aren’t exactly instructing the faithful.
  • Oy vey.

    Why You Don’t Have To Watch American Idol For The Next Two Months

    For Lakisha and Melinda

    RANDY:  "Yo yo yo!  So check it out, yo!  You were da bomb, man!  Am I right?  You brought it, girl.  You rocked the house!"

    PAULA:  "You’re a very special performer and a lovely person and that’s why we love you."

    SIMON:  "Yeah, I agree with Randy and Paula …shockingly.  And I …would …be …surprised …if …you didn’t make it to the final two spots."

    For everybody else

    RANDY:  "Yo yo yo.  So check it out, yo.  Um.  Yeah, man, I don’t knoooooow.  You were a little pitchy in there (*sigh*).  Yeah, it just wasn’t working for me, dawg.  I mean, singing [Stevie, Chaka Khan, Mel Torme, whatever] is hard, man, and you’re inviting the comparison.  So — yeah, man.  Sorry.  Just keepin’ it real, dawg."

    PAULA:  "You’re a very special performer and a lovely person and that’s why we love you.  And you look great.  But it was kind of — you know?  It — it wasn’t — it just wasn’t — let’s just say that it wasn’t your best performance tonight."

    SIMON: "That. Was. Horrific.  [Audience boos].  No, no, it was bad, which is why I’m not exactly jumping out of my chair.  And I kind of understand what Paula and Randy are saying …shockingly.  It was like …it was like bad karaoke performed by someone’s drunken dad during a wedding on a cruise ship.  And if I were to speak honestly, I think you may have cause to worry about being here next week."

    (H/T: Podhoretz at The Corner for the inspiration)

    File Under “Good To Know”

    Health news:

    As little as five minutes of exercise could help smokers quit, says a new study. Research published in the international medical journal Addiction showed that moderate exercise, such as walking, significantly reduced the intensity of smokers’ nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

    "If we found the same effects in a drug, it would immediately be sold as an aid to help people quit smoking," said Dr. Adrian Taylor, the study’s lead author and professor of exercise and health psychology at the University of Exeter.

    Taylor and colleagues reviewed 12 papers looking at the connection between exercise and nicotine deprivation. They focused on exercises that could be done outside a gym, such as walking and isometrics, or the flexing and tensing of muscles. According to their research, just five-minutes of exercise was often enough to help smokers overcome their immediate need for a nicotine fix.

    Nerd Alert!

    Today — 3/14 — is Pi Day.  (And if you can’t figure out why 3/14 is Pi Day, then you’re not the slightest bit nerdy).

    Official Pi Day website here.

    USA Today offers several things you can do to celebrate:

    Here’s what we found when we searched for things you can do to celebrate Pi Day:
    Watch the Pi Song on YouTube. (It’s 3 minutes 14 seconds long.)
    Sing of one of these Pi-related songs. This Old Pi is one of our favorites. Sung to the tune of Give a Dog a Bone, it goes: Number pi, Number pi, It’s irrational and so am I, With a 3.1415926, Pi Day is for lunatics!
    This site begs you to finish the sentence: "I Love Pi Because…"

    If you have a lot of time on your hands, and an unusual desire to impress someone, you can memorize some of the digits in Pi.

    To get you started, here are the first 50 digits:

    3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751
    05820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067
    98214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812
    84811174502841027019385211055596446229489549303819
    64428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909
    14564856692346034861045432664821339360726024914127
    37245870066063155881748815209209628292540917153643
    67892590360011330530548820466521384146951941511609
    43305727036575959195309218611738193261179310511854
    80744623799627495673518857527248912279381830119491

    Or, if you’re like me, you can ignore the day altogether (except perhaps to blog a little about it).

    Gonzales Uses The Passive Deflective Voice

    "Mistakes were made", he says, in reference to the US Attorney firing scandal.

    Weasel words, if I ever heard them.

    Of course, in the same press conference, Gonzales says he stands by the firings.  But he also fired the guy who did the firings, his chief of staff.

    So, all in all, it’s a little hard to parse.  If I had to guess, Gonzales is saying that the way they were fired was a "mistake", but the fact that they were fired (for partisan political reasons) is okay.  Unfortunately, nobody is really complaining about the firing process, but the apparenbt political motivations of the firings themselves.  The most illuminating example was the firing of Carol Lam, the U.S. Attorney in northern California, who received excellent evaluations, but who had successfully prosecuted Republican congressman Randy Cunningham.  Process be damned — why was she fired?

    Further troublesome for Gonzales is that when he testified before Congress in January, he was adamant that the Administration had no intention of invoking the provision of the Patriot Act allowing them to replace U.S. Attorneys absent congressional input:

    And so let me publicly sort of preempt perhaps a question you’re going to ask me, and that is: I am fully committed, as the administration’s fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.

    To mix metaphors, Gonzales’ press conference was an attempt to thread a needle — something that is impossible to do when you’re walking on thin ice.

    I seriously think his days are numbered.

    UPDATE: According to this morning’s Times, The White House is turning on him:

    With Democrats, including the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, insisting that Mr. Gonzales step down, his appearance underscored what two Republicans close to the Bush administration described as a growing rift between the White House and the attorney general. Mr. Gonzales has long been a confidant of the president but has aroused the ire of lawmakers of both parties on several issues, including the administration’s domestic eavesdropping program.

    The two Republicans, who spoke anonymously so they could share private conversations with senior White House officials, said top aides to Mr. Bush, including Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, were concerned that the controversy had so damaged Mr. Gonzales’s credibility that he would be unable to advance the White House agenda on sensitive national security matters, including terrorism prosecutions.

    I really think there’s a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now," one of the Republicans said.

    UPDATE:  Yup, I was right:

    Bush says the problem wasn’t with the sackings, but with the unclear way Justice and Alberto explained them to Congress. The fact that he used the Patriot Act for political rather than national security reasons to get around Congress doesn’t seem to trouble him.

    To Bush, they simply didn’t spin it well enough.

    Prosecutor Firing Scandal Widens

    Background here.  [UPDATE: An even better background — in the form of a timeline]

    And this past week, Attorney General Gonzales denied that there was any political involvement relating to the firings of the U.S. Attorneys.

    But today we learn differently:

    The White House was deeply involved in the decision late last year to dismiss federal prosecutors, including some who had been criticized by Republican lawmakers, administration officials said Monday.

    "Deeply involved"?  What does that mean, New York Times?  Perhaps WaPo can illuminate:

    The White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, a proposal that eventually resulted in the dismissals of eight prosecutors last year, according to e-mails and internal documents that the administration will provide to Congress today

    All 93?!? Wow!

    Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday.

    So, it seems there was political involvement, going right to the top of the White House.

    By the way, "voter fraud" = Democrats voting.  Seriously.  The reason why prosecutors refused to go after "voter fraud" was simply because there was no evidence of it.  Let’s go to Josh Marshall on this one:

    The very short version of this story is that Republicans habitually make claims about voter fraud. But the charges are almost invariably bogus. And in most if not every case the claims are little more than stalking horses for voter suppression efforts. That may sound like a blanket charge. But I’ve reported on and written about this issue at great length. And there’s simply no denying the truth of it. So this becomes a critical backdrop to understanding what happened in some of these cases. Why didn’t the prosecutors pursue indictments when GOP operatives started yakking about voter fraud? Almost certainly because there just wasn’t any evidence for it.

    Yup.

    Okay.  Back to the news coverage:

    Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, was among the politicians who complained directly to the president, according to an administration official.

    The president did not call for the removal of any specific United States attorneys, said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. She said she had “no indication” that the president had been personally aware that a process was already under way to identify prosecutors who would be fired.

    But Ms. Perino disclosed that White House officials had consulted with the Justice Department in preparing the list of United States attorneys who would be removed.

    Hmm.  Who woud that White House official be, I wonder?

    But the documents and interviews indicate that the idea for the firings originated at least two years ago, when then-White House counsel Harriet E. Miers suggested to {Gonzales Chief of Staff Kyle] Sampson in February 2005 that all prosecutors be dismissed and replaced.

    Harriet.  I could have guessed.

    WaPo’s coverage also contains some rather cold-blooded emails between Miers and Sampson:

    Sampson, Sept. 7, 2006: "I am only in favor of executing on a plan to push some USAs out if we really are ready and willing to put in the time necessary to select candidates and get them appointed. It will be counterproductive to DOJ operations if we push USAs out and then don’t have replacements ready to roll immediately. I strongly recommend that as a matter of administration, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments. [By avoiding Senate confirmation], we can give far less deference to home state senators and thereby get 1.) our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House."

    Miers: "Kyle thanks for this. I have not forgotten I need to follow up on the info. But things have been crazy."

    And then:

    On Dec. 7, Miers’s deputy, William Kelley, wrote that Domenici’s chief of staff "is happy as a clam" about Iglesias.

    A week later, Sampson wrote: "Domenici is going to send over names tomorrow (not even waiting for Iglesias’s body to cool)."

    Sampson has resigned "after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress."  That means what it means — that Justice officials were not telling the truth to Congress, and Sampson is the fall guy.

    [UPDATE:  The NYT has a profile on Sampson, a young ambitious Mormon lawyer who became "the fox in charge of the henhouse".  Key line: "In 2002 Mr. Sampson told the Brigham Young University news service that he admired Mr. Bush because the president recognized that politics and religious beliefs could not be separated."  All in all, he sounds a lot like the character portrayed by Patrick Wilson in "Angels In America"]

    What does this all mean?

    Well, look — it’s true.  U.S. Attorneys, like all government employees, serve at the pleasure of the President.  But that’s not the beginning and end of the analysis.  U.S. attorneys are servants of the people, and must be allowed to do their jobs without political pressure.  This was a situation where competent U.S. Attorneys (many of them Republican, by the way) were relieved of their jobs for failing to prosecute Democrats (and only Democrats).  That, without any question, is an abuse of the legal system for political gain (or more accurately, firing people for refusing to use the legal system for political gain).

    Josh Marshall again puts the final thought down:

    As has happened so many times in the last six years, the maximal version of this story — which seemed logical six weeks ago but which I couldn’t get myself to believe — turns out to be true. Indeed, it’s worse. We now know that Gonzales, McNulty and Moschella each lied to Congress. We know that the purge was a plan that began at the White House — and it was overseen by two of President Bush’s closest lieutenants in Washington — Miers and Gonzales.

    Yup.  Stay tuned. This is shaping up to be a very serious scandal.  Jophn Singer agrees:

    For the first time in the last six years, there is now direct proof, documentary proof, that could implicate George W. Bush in some of the widespread impropriety within his administration. And though the Bush White House may believe in the at best controversial axiom that if the President does it, it’s not illegal, there is more than enough precedent in American history for holding a President accountable for his own actions.

    So although Kyle Sampson, who did command some power as chief of staff in the Department of Justice, has now resigned, this is only the beginning of the bloodletting within the Bush administration over this scandal. Before too long, I would be surprised if higher ups (and I do mean higher ups, not higher up) are not also relieved of their positions in the hopes of salvaging the rest of George W. Bush’s term in office.

    UPDATE:  Moments ago

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has "either forgotten the oath he took to uphold the Constitution or doesn’t understand that his duty to uphold the law is greater than his duty to protect the president," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., just told reporters on Capitol Hill.

    UPDATE:  Gonzales to hold press conference at 2:00.

    UPDATE:  Raw scandal docs (incl. the emails) available here.

    More Spam Subject Line Poetry

    The rules:

    1. You must use the subject line — the entire subject line and only the subject line — from your spam emails.
    2. No more than one subject line per line of the poem (but a long subject line can be broken into two or more lines within the poem)
    3. Punctuation and capitalization changes can be made.

    This installment’s poem:

    Night Table

    Jugingu picked a weed nearby and started chewing it
    And went into a strange trance.
    They sang a medley of gay Christmas song parodies
    From United States
    But no such ban exists.

    I saw this right from the start.
    On afterthought and the verbose yet kindly reprimands of a few good friends,
    I raised my price to a level at which I can make a living.

    Your future?
    I’m bringing it back from the old days.
    We all have a stake.
    What did you decide to do?

    Seashore cappuccino?
    Incongruous.

    PostSecret – Blog Of The Year

    The winners 2007 Bloggies have just been announced and it’s all very interesting.  The Blog of The Year is a site I’ve mentioned before: PostSecret.

    PostSecret is an ad-free community weblog in which anybody, even you, can send in your anonymous secrets by postcard (or, in these days, electronic postcard).  The site has proven so popular, it has inspired a book.

    To give you a taste, here are some submissions to PostSecret from the past few days:

    Costco_1

    Christian

    Racist

    Nicekickboxing

    Sometimes uplifting, sometimes funny, sometimes depressing, but always compelling, site.

    For the complete list of other Bloggie nominees and winners, go here.

    Spoiler Alert!

    Jack dies of hypothermia.
    Jenny dies of AIDS and Momma dies of cancer.
    Jesus dies but then lives again.
    Malcolm was dead all along.
    Norman had his dead mother in his basement.
    They didn’t move the graves, just the grave makers.
    Private Ryan lives.
    Dorothy makes it back to Kansas.
    ET makes it home.
    Marty makes it back to 1985.
    All the passengers on the train did it.
    Elaine doesn’t go through with the wedding and runs off with Benjamin instead.
    Clarence gets his wings.
    James Bond gets the girl.
    Rod Tidwell gets the money.
    Ray Kinsella plays catch with his dad.
    Roy Hobbs plays catch with his son.
    Indiana Jones finds the Ark.
    And the Holy Grail.
    Thelma and Louis drive off a cliff into the Grand Canyon.
    The Von Trapp family escapes to Switzerland.
    Andy escapes, covering the tunnel with a giant pin-up poster.
    The Planet of the Apes is just Earth many years later.
    Aaron just made "Roy" up.
    Ilsa leaves Casablanca with Victor.
    Seabiscuit wins.
    Rockford loses to Racine in the World Series.
    John Nash wins a Nobel Prize.
    Charlie wins the chocolate factory.
    Rocky loses, but he went the distance. Then he wins. Then he wins.  Then Apollo dies and Rocky goes to Russia and wins again. (After that, nobody cares).
    That girl Dil is actually a dude.
    Rudy gets to play for, like, 30 seconds in the last game of the season.
    No, they didn’t cheat, as shown by the fact that test scores kept going up.
    Frodo destroys the ring.
    They find Nemo.
    They shoot Old Yeller.
    The Beast becomes a human.
    Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
    The necklace is in the pocket of the overcoat that Cal put on Rose.
    Verbal Kint is Keyser Söze.
    Teddy Gammel is John G.  Or one of them.  Maybe.  I think.
    Neo is the one.
    Soylent Green is people!
    Rhett leaves Scarlett.
    Rosebud was a sled.

    (H/T to 1 Happy Street, from whom I heavily borrowed, and neglected to credit)

    More Than A Feeling

    Lead singer for Boston, Brad Delp, dead.  As a tribute, here’s a little Delp and Boston trivia.

    • He bought his first guitar after seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
    • Since 1994, he’s been in a Beatles tribute band named Beatlejuice.
    • Before he joined the band, Delp was manufacturing heating coils in a Mr. Coffee plant.
    • Boston’s debut album (Boston) sold 17 million copies.
    • Guitarist/producer/musical genius Tom Scholz was a graduate of M.I.T. working for Polaroid when he started the band. He designed his own equipment after becoming frustrated with the limitations of music technology.
    • Before the death of Delp, there was talk of a new Boston studio album and tour.
    • The band’s last live performance with Delp featured former quarterback Doug Flutie on drums (at a benefit concert last November).

    The Evangelical Crackup

    Time was where "evangelical" evoked names like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell and, by necessary extension, the conservative GOP agenda.

    But Kevin Drum points to a considerable crack-up within the evangelical movement, which casts "old guard" evangelicals (Dobson et al.) on the outside of the National Association of Evangelicals (now headed by Richard Cizik), looking in with noses pressed to windows. 

    The issue that is causing the rift is global warming:

    The latest round is a letter from the dinosaurs asking the National Association of Evangelicals to fire Richard Cizik, ostensibly because he thinks we ought to do something about global warming. When you get to the end of the letter though, you find out what their real problem is:

    Finally, Cizik’s disturbing views seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, "evangelical." As a recent USA Today article notes: "Evangelical was the label of choice of Christians with conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality. Now the word may be losing its moorings, sliding toward the same linguistic demise that "fundamentalist" met decades ago because it has been misunderstood, misappropriated and maligned." We believe some of that misunderstanding about evangelicalism and its "conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality" can be laid at Richard Cizik’s door.

    Well, that’s clear enough, isn’t it?

    It certainly is.  In other words, these Christian Right leaders are accusing Cizik of messing with their brand.  This is a rather audacious complaint.  It’s as if Dobson and company view the "moral agenda" of evangelicals as their exclusive birthright.  But no longer, with young turks like Rev. James Wallis:

    A new generation of pastors has expanded the definition of moral issues to include not only global warming, but an array of causes. Quoting Scripture and invoking Jesus, they’re calling for citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare and caps on carbon emissions.

    The best-known champion of such causes, the Rev. Jim Wallis, this week challenged conservative crusader James C. Dobson, the chairman of Focus on the Family, to a debate on evangelical priorities.

    "Are the only really ‘great moral issues’ those concerning abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence?" Wallis asked in his challenge. "How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? … What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS … [and] disastrous wars like Iraq?"

    Nice to see this shift.  Hope to see more.

    How Overstretched Is The Military?

    It’s so overstrateched that the Army is now sending wounded soldiers back to Iraq:

    "This is not right," said Master Sgt. Ronald Jenkins, who has been ordered to Iraq even though he has a spine problem that doctors say would be damaged further by heavy Army protective gear. "This whole thing is about taking care of soldiers," he said angrily. "If you are fit to fight you are fit to fight. If you are not fit to fight, then you are not fit to fight."

    As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.

    On Feb. 15, Master Sgt. Jenkins and 74 other soldiers with medical conditions from the 3rd Division’s 3rd Brigade were summoned to a meeting with the division surgeon and brigade surgeon. These are the men responsible for handling each soldier’s "physical profile," an Army document that lists for commanders an injured soldier’s physical limitations because of medical problems — from being unable to fire a weapon to the inability to move and dive in three-to-five-second increments to avoid enemy fire. Jenkins and other soldiers claim that the division and brigade surgeons summarily downgraded soldiers’ profiles, without even a medical exam, in order to deploy them to Iraq. It is a claim division officials deny.

    WTF?!?