Friday, April 28, 2006

Separated at Birth?

But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense. —George W. Bush, President of the United States, Rose Garden press briefing, 4/18/06
Wait a minute, I'm the leader! I'm the one that says when it's the end. It's the end. —Napoleon, hound dog, Disney's The Aristocats, 1970

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Must . . . Obey . . . Birthday . . . Meme

Go to Wikipedia and look up your birth day (excluding the year). List three deaths, two to three births, and three neat facts in your journal, including the year.

January 10

1778 - Carolus Linnaeus, Swedish botanist (b. 1707)
1862 - Samuel Colt, American inventor (b. 1814)
1951 - Sinclair Lewis, American writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1885)

1638 - Nicolas Steno, Danish geologist (d. 1686)
1738 - Ethan Allen, American Revolution military leader (d. 1789)
1869 - Grigori Rasputin, Russian monk (d. 1916)

49 BC - Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon, signaling the start of civil war.
1776 - Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense.
1929 - Tintin, a comic book character created by Hergé, makes his debut.

Sit Down and Shut Up

We know that when the White House denies they’re doing something, that probably means they’re doing it. The NSA warrantless wiretap program was well under way when George W. Bush told an audience in Buffalo:
Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so.
(No problem, we were told; the President was referring to roving wiretaps pursuant to the "PATRIOT" Act. The NSA's warrantless wiretaps were something else entirely, being restricted to international calls directly involving known or suspected terrorists.)

So what does it mean when the Attorney General refuses, after all, to rule out warrantless spying on purely domestic communications between American citizens? One strong possibility is that it means such a program is already in place, or at least in the works.

At a time when both Congress and the White House are working to limit the oversight power of the Federal judiciary, and Congress seems to be cooperating in its own emasculation, the signs of an approaching Constitutional crisis are alarming. As Josh Marshall writes,
Peel back all the individual arguments from Al Gonzales and the president and whomever else they put forward, the underlying idea is not so much that the president is above the law as that he is the law. He embodies it, you might say, even embodies the state itself. And thus what he does can't be illegal. What he does is simply the state cogitating and defending itself.

This is a vision that simply incompatible with any idea of separation of powers because in this view the president's prerogative always trumps the other two branches. And that makes it a grave danger to our constitutional system itself.
So what are Democratic strategists talking about these days? Well, at least one of them, Bob Shrum, is telling Hardball viewers that Democrats need to just sit down and shut up:
MATTHEWS: What happens if . . . [people] watch the president going from state to state blasting away at the Democrats saying, "Hey, if you guys get in power, all you guys want to do is censure me or waste our time with some other partisan activity. . . ." What happens if the topic becomes the Democrats?

SHRUM: Well, first of all, I think Democrats are going to go out there and make it clear that we don't want to impeach or censure the president [emphasis mine].
Somebody in Washington needs to grow a spine and stand up to the Executive Branch. If not the Democrats, then who?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Straight Talk Distress

Okay, I admit it. I was suffering from a severe imagination deficit when I wrote on Wednesday: "I'm guessing [John McCain] won't be calling Falwell an 'agent of intolerance' this time around."

That was just four days ago, and already McCain has shown that he's not simply retiring his former opinion of Jerry Falwell; he's actively repudiating it. Clearly he's convinced continuing to be mean to Falwell will hurt him in the 2008 Republican primaries. From this morning's Meet the Press, according to Think Progress:
RUSSERT: Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?
McCAIN: No, I don’t. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain to you his views on this program when you have him on.
Contrast this to what McCain said on Hardball in March, 2000, after he made his original comment about Falwell and Pat Robertson:
I must not and will not retract anything that I said in that speech at Virginia Beach. It was carefully crafted, it was carefully thought out.
Flip-flop much, John? Before you throw your hat officially into the ring, you may want to carefully think through the ramifications of cultivating that reputation.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

News of the Strange

This just boggles the mind. The Associated Press reports:

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- A Swedish court has imposed a 20,000 kronor ($2,600) fine on a woman kennel owner who refused to sell a puppy to a lesbian.

The kennel owner, who was not identified, had initially been willing to sell the woman a puppy but changed her mind when she found out the woman was living with a lesbian partner, according to Sweden's discrimination ombudsman, a government watchdog who filed the lawsuit.
What goes through the brains (I hesitate to say "minds") of people like this? Did this woman fear that the lesbians would molest the dog? Is she convinced that every puppy deserves a mommy owner and a daddy owner? Is she just &#!%*$ nuts?

I should point out that, despite the date displayed above this post, this is apparently not an April Fool's Day joke, as much as one might like it to be. The AP timestamped this story "Mar. 31, 11:14 AM EST" and it's been picked up by a large number of legitimate news organizations.