Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One last look at 2008

1) I was writing this prolonged, poorly researched rant about the fall of the Republican Party this past November, but as time wore on and as I bore witness to more GOP crazy, I realized my take wasn't really going to cover as much as I wanted. So... I'm thinking different thoughts about the matter, and will hopefully get something pounded off my keyboard by oh the 2010 midterms. :)

2) I cannot understand why Karl Rove is still out there saying such unbelievable crap about George W. Bush being a voracious reader. He apparently hopes we all forgot how George already tried to impress us by reading Camus... which turned out not so well. Why Rove thinks that painting Dubya as some intellectual bookworm will help Bush's legacy is beyond me: Bush's selling points has always been his 'salt of the earth' beer in a bar kinda guy. Bush's legacy as of right now is utter trash, and not even 50 years of attempts at hagiography is going to help.

3) I look back at 8 Bush years, and back at 8 Clinton years, and realize that's 16 years of political partisanship bullsh-t that won't go away. Regrets, I've had a few...

4) Buy my book. No, seriously, I'm unemployed and need the income.

5) Of my New Year's Resolutions, I kept a couple: I found a reform advocacy group (FairVote) that I can see about joining, and I did write a book... albeit during the 3-day Novel contest, massively unfinished but at least 115 pages and pretty much covers beginning and end (everything else needs massive editing and inserted plot points to make things read better). Now, for next year's...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blago scandal goes DefCon 1 on the Crazy Scale

I think I mentioned earlier that this scandal would be fun to watch in a train-wreck-for-a-guy-who-deserves-it kinda way. Just as long as no one else got hurt in the process.

Looks like someone else is gonna get hurt.

Blagojevich, under 20 different kinds of scrutiny, caught on audiotape screaming stuff like "what's in it for me?" regarding his attempt to sell off Obama's opening Senate seat, fully aware that anyone he now taps to fill Obama's spot is gonna get the hairy eyeball from here on out... still went out and tapped former state AG Roland Burris - by all early accounts a swell guy and kind to animals - for the Senate seat.

This is gonna cause all kinds of crap.

The U.S. Senate is now in a bind: they swore they wouldn't accept anyone that Blago tapped: the ball is now in their court and if there's one thing wrong with the Senate Dems is that their leadership has no spine. Push 'em and they bend however you want. How can they say no to an African American pol with relatively decent creds?

Blagojevich has probably figured out something: for all the crap he's being investigated for, he's still a sitting governor and there's not much anyone can do about it until the actual day of impeachment (which can't come fast enough). The guys at Balloon Juice are noting that even if the Senate blocks Burris, all Blago has to do is call a press conference once a day with a new pick and keep forcing the Senate to block and block and block. And in the process p-ss off a handful of up-and-coming or otherwise solid Dems from a key state.

Which begs the next question: JUST WHAT THE HELL IS BURRIS THINKING??? Burris' excuse is that Illinois deserves full representation, that the Senate shouldn't be short-handed at a time like this, yadda yadda. Oh really? The 2008 primary season showed full damn well the Senate operated just fine with 10-20 Senators off busy campaigning for the White House! A few more weeks of a vacancy on Obama's chair wasn't going to kill anyone!!! You know damn well ANYONE taking a job from Blagojevich with this whole pile of sh-t under investigation is going to be looked at sideways and scrutinized for the rest of his/her relatively short political career. Already people have to be looking at you and thinking "Hey, maybe he's not so clean and respectable after all. He's CERTAINLY NOT THAT DAMN BRIGHT TAKING A TAINTED JOB LIKE THAT!!!"

You could have f-cking waited until after Blago got impeached to take the job offer if it came your way, Burris. This was selfish and short-sighted on your part. For about two seconds I had sympathy for you, but now, having thought it over, you deserve the sh-tstorm that will come your way on this. You're gonna have hundreds of thousands of people asking you day in and day out "How much did you pay for your seat, Mr. Senator?" Right now I expect Jesse Jackson Jr. is on Burris' cell phone screaming "You're dumber than I am!" I have no sympathy for you at all, Mr. Burris. None.

How many other people did Blago talk to before tapping Burris for this? I wonder if anyone's checking on that. I wonder how many other people said "Are you nuts? I'm not taking a Life Savers pep-o-mint from you!" before Burris had a brain-freeze over this.

Just when everyone's just sitting here waiting for Bush to make a few more screwups on the abuse of Presidential pardons... I'm gonna go watch the Philly/Dallas game from the past Sunday and watch the Cowboys pull off a more professional and competent gameplan than what Blago and Burris just did.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The passing of Deep Throat

Mark Felt just died.

From high school on, I studied journalism, thinking to get in a career as a writer/reporter somewhere down the road. Of course, my life path went in a different direction, and even that's been recently derailed, but still I graduated from University of Florida with a Bachelor's in Journalism, so it's a field I know well.

The Watergate scandal was and remains the high watermark of the journalism profession. It justified the need for the freedom of the press and the invaluable service an independent investigatory power could bring to justice and to effective governing. Half the classes we were taught brought up Watergate and the role of the Washington Post (and the lesser roles of CBS and the New York Times), the History Of Journalism, Reporting 101, and also Journalism Ethics that covered the topics of 'public need to know vs. privacy rights of individuals,' potential government censorship and interference, and the use of 'anonymous' or unnamed sources.

We all read "All the President's Men," written about the Washington Post's investigation of the Watergate burglary and the whole viper's nest of slush funds, illegal break-ins, and ultimately bribery and obstruction charges. Meeting the colorful characters like Segretti, Hunt, Liddy. Tortured guys like Hugh Sloan, the one honest man in the whole affair. And the mystery man, Deep Throat.

Woodward's deep cover source was the one who admonished "Follow the money." He provided vital tips and pointed the Post reporters to where they needed to go. And because Woodward and Bernstein wouldn't reveal his name or his job title, the aura of mystery heightened everything about the guy (that link is to Thomas Mann's Atlantic article published in the 1990s. IT'S A MUST-READ). Even in a book with crazy-ass guys like Liddy, Deep Throat's character bio on pg. 131 was snarky cool:

Aware of his own weaknesses, he readily conceded his flaws. He was, incongruously, an incurable gossip, careful to label rumor for what it was, but fascinated by it. He knew too much literature too well and let the allurements of the past turn him away from his instincts. He could be rowdy, drink too much, overreach. He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in his position...

Trying to figure out who Deep Throat became a guessing game to those in poli sci, journalism, history, and those of general curiosity. Names like Ben Stein and Pat Buchanan, totally unthinkable when you consider these guys still carry Nixon's water. People like Al Haig and Diane Sawyer kept getting fingered. Mann in 1992 was the first to make a persuasive argument that DT had to be someone from the FBI, an organization that would have key information on the break-in and the cover-up, and also an investigation that was fighting the politicization that the Nixon administration had been enforcing on the Executive branch. Under J. Edgar, the FBI may have been bastards, but they answered to their jobs and not their politics: however, Hoover's recent death just made the FBI vulnerable to a White House takeover, and Mann noted that career guys like Mark Felt (and a few other possible sources) were getting passed over for the Directorship by guys like L. Patrick Gray, a political appointee.

This was one of the reasons why people were trying to figure out who Deep Throat was: why? Why did a career bureaucrat provide information to Woodward about Watergate: what was in it for him? Sheer patriotism couldn't have been it: those guys don't like to hide in the shadows, they announce their pride and duty from the rooftops. It couldn't have been out of honesty: that was Sloan, and while his identity was kept quiet during the paper's investigation that was due to legal reasons (Sloan was investigated for his roles in CReeP, and was having problems finding employment - there's a sad track record of honest whistleblowers getting screwed over in life). Once Watergate was effectively over and the book was written, it was safe to reveal his ID. Only Deep Throat didn't come clean, not for another 30 years.

Mann figured Deep Throat didn't come clean because he himself was covered in dirt. And Felt did have dirt: while a top man at the FBI, he was involved in some illegal break-ins of his own. Felt went to trial and grand jury investigations on some of those (and one grand jury in 1979 saw him freeze up when the prosecutor asked if he was Deep Throat, under oath! The judge let him off the hook and said he didn't have to answer, but that was the Real first time his identity was revealed...) And Felt, in his own biographies, admitted he coveted the top dog job at the FBI, and when he didn't get the job (Gray first as a temp appointment, then when Gray couldn't secure the Senate nomination because of the troubles with Watergate it went to Ruckelshaus) he retired.

Some people wanted to know so they'd know who to blame. Nixon loyalists like Buchanan and Liddy, for example. Guys still in the public arena. Read their quotes about Deep Throat. Buchanan: "...I think Deep Throat is a dishonorable man...William Mark Felt was a traitor to Nixon and America! What he did caused 53,000 American soldiers to die for nothing in Vietnam!" G. Gordon Liddy: "...This, that if Mark Felt was Deep Throat, he is no hero. He is someone who behaved unethically..." To them, Felt was a betrayer, a backstabber, and a villain.

But then, what right do they have to mark him the traitor? Nixon's administration was breaking the law. His re-election campaign was conducting illegal break-ins. That's why Liddy's got a prison record! You want unethical behavior, G. Gordon? LOOK IN THE DAMN MIRROR. And Buchanan, arguing Vietnam over this? Uh, Pat? The persons who caused 53,000 American soldiers to die for nothing were LBJ, McNamara, and the geniuses at the Pentagon and Langley who couldn't figure out how to fight a counter-insurgency. All Mark Felt did was expose a criminal enterprise being operated out of the Oval Office that led to your boss and demigod Nixon fleeing in disgrace. SO SHUT UP.

I've been reading some of the blog forums out there today on Felt's death, and the same argument against what he did comes up: oh, he shouldn't have been sneaking about in dark garages snitching on his White House bosses! Oh, he should have let an official investigation do its job! Oh, this and that and piss on it.
To all those writing those comments: DID ANY OF YOU NOTICE that there WAS an official investigation going on? DID ANY OF YOU NOTICE that there WAS A MASSIVE COVER-UP attempt going on? DID ANY OF YOU NOTICE that when push came to shove, Nixon did his damnest to STOP THE LEGAL INVESTIGATIONS and protect his own ass? Felt didn't have much of a choice, did he? Nixon wasn't promoting him to fill Hoover's spot in the first place, so Felt had no way to guarantee there would be a legal and confirmable investigation! How else was he going to get the word out that something was rotten in Denmark?
This Oh, he shouldn't be snitching excuse is one of the reasons honest whistleblowers still have a difficult time of things. Even with federal laws in place to protect whistleblowers, they still lose jobs, still lose trust with co-workers (why? If a man tells the truth, and abides by his honor, and does the right thing to stop an illegal act, why can't you trust him?), still suffer. Anyone who whistleblows deserves our respect, no matter what. They have my respect. After all, I'M not doing anything illegal.

Still and all, Felt is not as much as a hero as I'd like him to be. He commited crimes of his own accord. With regards to Watergate, he did the right thing, and I respect him for that. I know they're not gonna build statues of him any time soon (not until Liddy dies, then I plan on sneaking in to his gravesite and putting up a statue of Felt pissing on his tombstone, heh).

Do take this moment to respect what Felt did. And above all, what Hugh Sloan did. And what Mark Klein did. And Robert MacLean. And Joseph Wilson. And Colleen Rowley. And the informant tipping off Patrick Fitzgerald about Blagojevich's ethical lapses. And...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Annual Pagan Praying for Saturnalia 2008

Dear Saturn:

Once again, I call upon thee using my Unitarian powers of open-mindedness to see about getting me all the cool fun toys and the wicked cool political reforms that Santa simply won't send my way. That cruel bastard just won't take any letters not done in crayon, which is prolly why he still listens to Dubya and not the rest of the fed-up planet...

Anyhoo: my wish list for 2008 and well into 2009:

1) I WOULD LIKE A thorough and legal accounting for all those in the Bush Administration responsible for condoning and promoting the use of torture during the so-called War on Terror that ended up more a War on Justice. How can the United States claim to be the standard bearer for the Rule of Law when we allow Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Addington, and a handful of others to walk away untouched from their violations of the Geneva Convention treaties, their violations of our own Eighth Amendment, their violations of COMMON HUMAN DECENCY! This Bush the Lesser Administration has been one prolonged effort to avoid accountability for anything and everything they've done, every law broken, every rule violated, every code of conduct mocked covering EVERY aspect of our nation be it from business to health to education to governing to the general welfare of every citizen however humble. They walk on this, no nation will ever respect us. EVER.

2) I WOULD LIKE A constitutional amendment assuring that no copy of anything written by Ayn Rand gets anywhere near an economics college ever again.
2a) And a guarantee that the napkin that hideous Laffer Curve was drawn on gets used as a toilet wipe and flushed down as it so richly deserves.

3) I WOULD LIKE A girlfriend. Oh Lord, O Saturn, ye of the God of Time, you know full well it's been 20 years (!) since I last went out on a real date, back in high school, that Christmas party at the Allens' place, and there was that small bonfire in the backyard with noone sitting there, and Suzie and I sat on a log and looked up at the night sky, all those stars, and she and I talked some pleasant stuff about all the inconsequential stuff, and then I looked down and saw a scorpion crawl up my leg OMFG and then we realized why noone else was sitting on a log covered in scorpions and Suzie and I ran back into the house and that was pretty much that. Thanks, God. Thanks a bunch. Twenty years now, I would very much like a little help here in the dating department. All I ask is, yes someone cute, with a sense of humor, centrist politics, Keynesian, oh and a love of football and comic book movies. And all I ask is you get inside my head and make me less of a bleeping geek spaz, okay? Please and thnkxkbye.

4) I WOULD LIKE TO see the Tampa Bay Rays make it back to the World Series in 2009. This time against the Cubs. So that I know we'll win. ;-)

5) I WOULD LIKE A rule that makes any media blowhard who makes wishy-washy statements using 'strawmen' to make an argument, and who claims that there's a controversy when the only ones making the controversy are other blowhards, be forced to leave the media echo chamber and work the night shift at the nearest available 24-hour bowling alley. Because it's for their own good: they need to get away from their empty-headed soulless colleagues in the media and actually get out and meet actual people struggling with their lives and maybe just maybe those blowhards will see what's really going on out here outside of those damn studios of theirs.
But I doubt it. There's a reason these idiots worked and backstabbed each other in order to get inside these hermetically sealed media studios in the first place.

That's all I can think of for now, Saturn. Oh, and for the annual sacrifice of the Mithras bull, send the bill to Bill O'Reilly as always.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why Blagojevich will be fun to watch for the next few days...

Because I'm with Christy Hardin Smith on Firedoglake about the sheer brazenness, the sheer cluelessness of Blago and his crew trying to pull this crap EVEN WITH THE KNOWLEDGE HE WAS FACING CRIMINAL CHARGES (the complaints show him openly pondering how putting HIMSELF in as Senator could help him avoid Fitzgerald's investigation). I'm with Christy, and about 100,000 other bloggers (view here, and here, and here): the stupid, it burns...

Because this is the Christmas season, when the year is ending and the winter doldrums set in, of grey skies and long dark nights, when work seems to be more of a drag than ever (if you've still got work). Because Christmas is a time to enjoy some heaping hot cups of SCHADENFREUDE, of watching idiots like Blagojevich and his crew twist in the Chicago winter winds.

Because it's been awhile since we've seen our national hero Patrick Fitzgerald back in the spotlight. Ahhh, Fitzmas. We've got, by the way, all the conservative blowhards who were running around calling Fitzgerald an unbalanced partisan hack back when he was investigating Bush/Cheney/Rove/Libby are now hailing him as a great nonpartisan seeker of justice now that he's nailed a prominent Democrat (especially since they've salivating at the thought of this all damaging Obama).

Because, amazingly enough, this is gonna end up looking great (well okay not great but at least fine) for Obama. For all the yelling and screaming from the far right blowhards that this is BAD NEWS for Obama, all the evidence coming to light shows that Obama WASN'T paying Blago off, that he WAS shaking off the feelers from Blago's crew for favors and money, and that indeed Blagojevich was pissed off about it. Having the crook say "F-ck Obama" prominently and often on all the transcripts makes Obama the victim of Blago's shakedown efforts. The worst that's going to happen is that this will look bad for the Democrats in general, for Illinois politicians (yes, ANOTHER governor going to jail!), and for anyone Blagojevich tries to name as Obama's Senatorial successor (if anyone takes it from Blago, he/she is dumber than Blago!). But there are greater issues at stake, and greater scandals to resolve, and this isn't going to dent Obama at all. All it's going to to is let the far right insult machine putter itself into its own deepening mudhole.

So for now, this is fun to watch. This is like a train wreck where the only people who got hurt were the crooks who ran it off the rails. This could all change, of course, if other people less involved and more innocent of wrongdoing do get hurt, so here's hoping the damage stays on Blago.

By the by, the smart move, the only move for Blago? Resigning. But we know now, he ain't that smart. He's probably even going to try that dumbass gambit of making himself Senator... just to let the Democrats in DC shoot his sorry dumb ass down... man, what a year this has been...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The unwashable stain

Just when you think it was safe to go back into Illinois politics...

Reporting in right now that Ill. Governator Rod "Greedy Dumbass Mofo" Blagojevich has been taken away in handcuffs by the Feds on corruption charges, mostly relating to his attempts to sell off Obama's now-open Senate seat to the highest bidder.

I call this the unwashable stain because we keep seeing this in politics: the greed; the quid pro quos; the unbelievably massive amount of greed; the self-serving ego-driven destructiveness; oh and the GREED of it all. And it's not all Republicans (cough, DeLay/Ted Stevens/Ney/Cunningham) and it's not all Democrats (cough, William Jefferson/Robert Torricelli/now this bozo), and I hate generalizing it like that, but this is where we're at. Politicians not interested in serving the public trust: politicians interested in lining their own pockets and letting their friends do the same.