Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sticking my toe in the "Adult Swim" pool...

I've never watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and it's likely I'll never see the movie, but clips like this might convince me otherwise...Check out the opener to the movie. It's brilliant.

"Hold" On a Second...

Last week (below) I vented on the ability of Republicans to control the agenda in the Senate through "filibustering without filibustering." Republicans are forcing legislation off the table before a vote because Reid knows he cannot guarantee cloture without 60 votes in his pocket. And he cannot overtun a Bush veto without the 2/3 majority of 67 votes.

Thus, things like the stem cell bill last week fade away without a vote because Bush promises to veto it, and Reid cut his losses early. I think this is bad politics and bad policy, but later in the week there was an even more egregious example...
Bill aims to solve racial killings

The House passed a bill Wednesday to establish a new division of federal prosecutors and FBI agents focused strictly on cracking unsolved murders from the civil rights era.

The bill, which is also moving swiftly through the Senate, would authorize $10 million a year over the next decade to create the unit in the Justice Department. It also would earmark $2 million per year in grants for state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate cases in which federal prosecution isn’t practical, and $1.5 million more to improve coordination among investigating agencies.

The bill, passed 422-2, is named in honor of Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old from Chicago who was beaten and murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. His killers were never convicted.

[...] State and federal prosecutors have had a string of successes recently in reopening racially motivated slayings from the 1950s and 1960s, including the 1963 Birmingham, Ala., church bombing and the 1964 slayings of three civil rights volunteers in Mississippi.

Sounds like a goood idea to me, it sailed through the House, actually has Bush's endorsement ahead of time, and seemed poised to cruise through the Senate...so, what happened?

One single Senator ground the whole thing to a halt. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) put a "hold" on the bill and threatened to block it permanently.

Wait a sec...everybody (seemingly) wants this thing, and one guy in the minority can stop the whole thing?

The first thing I thought, even before considering the actual merits of the legislation, was "can one guy really stop legislation (good or bad) with a procedural hold? And if that's true, why the fuck weren't the Democrats doing that the last six years?"

And, get this, you don't even need to put your name on a hold! In May, bipartisan legislation expanding the Freedom of Information Act was cruising along in he Senate until "the vote was blocked by 'Senator Anonymous.' Some Republican senator called the Minority Leader’s office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the hold." [link

As I read these stories I was flabbergasted. I heard about "holds" and "unanimous consent" and other esoteric Senate procedural terms, but I didn't realize exactly how this could work. So I looked it up. From the Senate website's glossary [emphasis mine]:
hold - An informal practice by which a Senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration. The Majority Leader need not follow the Senator’s wishes, but is on notice that the opposing Senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.

This again? Fucking outrageous bullshit! Make Coburn stand up there by himself and filibuster the goddamn thing. That he is holding the Senate and this legislation hostage with what amounts to a thinly-veiled bluff is pathetic. Now it's possible that the support from the GOP side of the aisle is posturing because Coburn has agreed to wear this one by himself, but I don't fucking care if he votes are there or not. MAKE THEM (OR HIM) STAND UP AND TAKE THE HEAT AND ACTUALLY FILIBUSTER!

The fact that this is worthy legislation, just like the stem cell funding and the OPEN Govenment Act (the FOIA bill defeated by a mystery Senator) is almost beside the point to me now. Why the hell is Reid running things this way? They should have brought that FOIA bill to the floor just to find out who put the hold on it.

The more I learn about how things work (or don’t work) in the Senate the less enamored I am with our caucus and its leadership.

UPDATE: They're at it again this week. The "Ethics and Lobbying Reform Bill" and the "9/11 Commission Recommendations." More at Kos here and here. Why the hell doesn't Harry Reid want to make the Republicans stand up and filibuster Ethics Reform and 9/11-related security measures?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Votes and Vetoes and Filibusters, Oh My"

It was just yesterday when I read about the impending veto of another stem-cell bill that I wondered to myself "why aren't the Dems sending something "good" up to the White House for a veto on a weekly basis?" It would give the impression that they are trying to get shit done, and would make Bush veto something that, in all liklihood, is supported by the majority of the country... Everybody already hates the guy, I say continue kicking him while's down. Who cares if we don't have the votes to overturn a veto? Make Congressional Republicans go on record twice voting against it.

As John Judis in TNR points out; in the late 80s, the Dems sent Bush 41 plenty of popular items to veto:
...Mitchell and Foley sent Bush 36 pieces of legislation that he vetoed. These included the Family and Medical Leave Act, tax relief and urban aid (in the wake of the Los Angeles riots), extended jobless benefits (during a recession), a crime bill, the removal of a Bush administration ban on federal funding of fetal tissue research (which had been instrumental to discovering a polio vaccine), a bill removing the gag rule that forbade federally funded family planning counselors from discussing abortion, a bill regulating cable rates, and a campaign finance measure.

Sounds like a plan, right? Kevin Drum (the source of the above Judis quote) and Steve Benen point out the difference between the late 80s and now.
Unfortunately, all of these votes, as Judis acknowledges, required support from Republican moderates in order to pass. But that strategy pretty clearly won't work in today's Senate, which contains no more than half a dozen Republicans who could truly be called moderate. And even those half dozen are rarely willing to join Democrats in passing moderate legislation. The Gingrichization of the Republican Party has made moderate insubordination too costly to seriously consider.

The result is that Senate Republicans can filibuster anything they want to keep off Bush's desk, allowing through only those bills that he's willing to sign — or those in which a veto is actually helpful to the cause. Democrats simply don't have the ability to force moderate legislation to the Oval Office as veto bait.


Benen adds:
Consider what we’ve seen the last few months when it comes to GOP obstructionism. Senate Republicans have filibustered a non-binding resolution criticizing Gonzales, a minimum-wage increase, a debate over a non-binding resolution on the war (twice), and a bill that would have led to lower prices on prescription medication. And that doesn’t even include procedural hurdles in committees. (All from the party that whined about non-existent obstructionism for six years.)

Why has Reid failed to garner moderate GOP support the way Mitchell did? Because the numbers just aren’t there. Reid has 51 members in his caucus. One of them is Joe Lieberman. Another is Tim Johnson, who has been physically unable to work. So, to break a filibuster, Reid starts with 49 votes and looks around for Republican moderates.

If we want more progress, we’ll need to give Reid more Democrats.

Let me first say that these are two bloggers I like alot especially Benen—The Carpetbagger Report is indispensible reading to me—but this is crap.

"Give Reid more Democrats?" Well, that ain't happening the rest of the time Bush is President, so that's not really a plan. And besides, it's a cop-out. The whole fucking thing is a cop-out. Drum says the Republicans "filibuster anything they want to keep off Bush's desk"? Really? I don't remember reading about any "filibusters" do you? We heard plenty about it—and how bad it was for the country—when the Democrats were in the minority, but I don't really hear much about it now. Why is that?

Because Reid isn't making the Republicans "filibuster" anything. He counts heads and has a cloture vote, which brings debate to an end artificially, and they move on to the next item. Bullshit. MAKE. THEM. ACTUALLY. FILIBUSTER. Make these assholes actually go to the podium and speak. I don't care if they argue their positions or read the phone book, make them earn it. Reid is letting them off easy with an "implied" filibuster. Fuck that.

The Republicans invested heavily in painting the filibuster as the last resort of desperate obstructionists. Make them fucking wear it. It highlights their hypocrisy, it won't win them any fans (or at least will confound and confuse) their moronic base, and puts them—and here's the important part—visibly on the wrong side of issues popular with everybody else.

The Democrats swept back into power by promising a bold new direction. Reid (and Pelosi) are ceding too much to the Republicans in Congress and Bush if they continue to let them stall and run out the clock until 2008. They may not actually be able pass any bold new initiatives with their slim majorities, but they sure as hell should look like they're trying.

"More Democrats?" Great. But first lets outfit the ones we have with some testicles.

Monday, June 18, 2007

No Apex Tech Lawyers for Bush

Spinning off of the previous post, the lawyers that actually do work for the President got reinforced last week...
Besieged White House Reinforces Counsel's Office
[WaPo] President Bush has authorized another surge -- this time in the White House counsel's office. Facing a blizzard of congressional investigations, hearings and subpoenas, the White House has hired a new crop of lawyers to do battle with the Democratic Congress.

[...] "Obviously, there's been an increase in requests from the Hill, and we want to make sure we have the appropriate level of staff in place," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore.

Yeah, ya don't say? "Congressional investigators are looking into the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, the disappearance of White House e-mail, internal disputes over warrantless surveillance, partisan activities in federal agencies, various aspects of the Iraq war and other issues."

Do you think George is tapping a fresh crop of Pat Robertson's finest to defend him and his Administration? Not likely. All seven of the added lawyers are from Ivy League law schools. Tom Schaller at TAPPED put it best...
So, when it comes to policy-making over at the so-called Justice Department, a Regent University law degree, like the one held by Monica Goodling and a battalion of other fundies, suffices. But when it comes to protecting the president's backside, apparently a divine legal degree is no substitute for an East Coast elite Ivy School pedigree.

When hiring lawyers to defend the Constitution, the People, the Laws and our system of Justice, Lionel Hutz with a degree from the 700 Club is first in line, but for his own ass? Bush only hires the best.

Law and Orders

A great column at Slate.com that discusses how DOJ lawyers should advise an Administration...
The proper role for presidential lawyers is actually quite clear... The Constitution explicitly commands the president to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," and it is up to the attorney general and, under his direction, DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel to provide the analytical expertise the president needs to ensure the legality of his administration's actions. Presidential lawyers should operate first and foremost as stewards of the rule of law and our constitutional democracy. Their legal advice must reflect an accurate and principled view of the law, not just plausible, ends-driven rationalizations. And in order to do that with any effectiveness, they must be allowed to tell the president "no."

The Constitution? Isn't that one of those "quaint" documents we now ignore? The Bush Administration has so clearly used the DOJ as a resource to seek out and rationalize any justification possible for what it wants to do rather than as a source of objective legal analysis. They have replaced or driven out anyone (even Ashcroft) who ever dared to raise a question, never mind an objection.

The Department of Justice is supposed to work for the People and even moreso, The Constitution. Congress should NEVER have alllowed the President to appoint his personal lawyer to head that Agency. This was all so predictible. Time for Congress to undo it's own mistake and reassert the Rule of Law.

Time to impeach Gonzalez. It might be a little while, I can wait to see how the Miers and Taylor subpoenas play out, and whether they get Rove under oath or not, but the endgame has to be the same. Gonzalez has to go, and it is increasingly clear that impeachment is the only way that will happen.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Fathers Day (to me!)

Went to Father's Day brunch buffet at the incomparable Webers Inn here in Ann Arbor this morning. Ruby the Carnivore and I indulged in an absolute Meat Bonanza—sausage (patties, of course), ham from the carving station, and she enjoyed some steak tips and even fried chicken—but there was NO BACON! I quickly rallied and switched from protein to carbs and started downing those miniature Belgian waffles and pastries to fill the void. Rachel valiantly stayed within the boundaries of normal human consumption, but I made a pig of myself—what the hell, it's my day, right? That, and I reminded myself of the fact that I'm armed with the first season of "The Shield" plus "Casino Royale" on DVD to put in some extra treadmill time.

It was all delicious and a great start to the day, but alas, there is NOTHING more enjoyable than a good slice of bacon.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We're home...

[I'd like to add this as an update to the previous post, but the old browser on this machine isn't allowing me to...]

Everything went very well, the surgeon seemed very upbeat about the results, and Ruby did great. She really is a tremendous bad-ass for a four-year-old, and is a total inspiration. Those of you who know me, know I have kind if a "thing" about eyes and even hypothetical eye injuries (borderline irrational phobia, really—aka, I'm a pussy). Anyway, the way she handles this stuff has challenged me to get over myself.

Here is a basic overview of the procedure if anyone's interested.

Ruby is doing well. The "a little bit bloodshot" description from the doctor post-procedure was not really entirely accurate nor good preparation for Ruby's actual condition—her eyes are a bit more gruesome than that, disturbing in a horror movie kinda way, complete with bloody tears. It's a good thing she's done with school!

Our biggest concern going in was the anesthesia, and we had a great team, particularly the nurse anesthetist who thoroughly explained things (rare) and helped us with our fears. They were able to give Ruby a drug before she went into surgery that was longer lasting than the general anesthesia gas and she had a MUCH better experience in recovery than after her MRI in December.

Ruby is having some discomfort, but Tylenol, lots of My Little Ponies and Disney DVDs seems to be helping. We just need to watch and be sure things are healing. She'll hopefully feel better over the next few days, the redness will last a couple weeks, though I fear some black eyes/bruising might be in the works...and we will have struggle with some ointment applications—bribes could start to add up! Her eyes/vision should acclimate to their new positioning in about 6-8 weeks. For now she has some double vision ("I see two daddies"), but that should lessen as her brain adjusts.

We are really hoping this is the last stressful medical issue for Ruby. At one point we thought they were having us wait for the doctor in what seemed to Rachel to be the grief room, I pointed out that I didn't think they had enough Kleenex for it to be the grief room—but I couldn't shake the feeling that there might have been a complication. They really shouldn't shut you in a small room to wait for the doctor to come "talk with you" though—that just seems bad. Far too much suspense for one day.

If you polled me tonite, I would say watching Ruby go through this wasn't worth it. We just hope the doctor is right and we just have to get through a few uncomfortable days and it'll all be better in the long run. It's tough to ask a four-year-old to go through something that they can't really understand, but waiting until they are older and able to better handle it renders the operation somewhat moot. Doing it now while she is still developing means her brain can retrain itself to use both eyes properly. Later on it becomes too late for the brain to regain "binocular" vision, and more of a cosmetic procedure (her eyes point in the right diection, but her brain is only using one of them).

That's it for now, we're all tired after the loonnng day. Thanks all for your supportive thoughts and messages.

Matt, Rachel, Ruby & Charlotte

[UPDATE: Got my computer back which allowed me to go back and clean up typos. Two days post-surgery and Ruby is doing better—less discomfort and sensitivity.]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ruby

Tomorrow morning (Thursday) we take our daughter in for eye surgery. Everything should be fine, it's not a particularly difficult procedure, it is being performed by a great doctor in a great hospital—but it is my little girl, it is her eyes, those gorgeous blue eyes, and she has to be out for a couple hours, which is always dicey for little kids.

She has really had a tough year and has seen way too much of the inside of the U-M hospital—but she is so brave and I am so proud of her.

Send your positive energy, in whatever form you choose, towards Ann Arbor and my little girl tomorrow—we'll use some and spread the rest around.

Thanks,
Matt (it just seems dumb to say Mr. Furious...)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It Had to Happen Some Time...

I guess I had it coming since I was just recently talking a bunch of Mac smack in some thread somewhere... After twelve-plus years of owning Macs and using them for even longer than that, I finally had a major breakdown. Never in all that time have my machines at home or work given me a problem I couldn't work out myself. Well, my G5 had to go under the knife, and it's now been a week since it went in for service. Thank God I got Rachel that iBook for Christma— ->POOF!<- the screen went dead the day after my G5 got picked up last week. Such are the risks of buying a used laptop...

At least my G5 is still covered under AppleCare. They came to my house and picked it up, and new processor this, logic board that, it should be back home tomorrow. I had to dust off the old G3 (running system 8), and it's like using one of the shitcan Dells at work compared to the glory that is OSX. Just painful... So pardon the shortage of posts, I can surf around a bit, but half the websites I frequent flip out the ancient Explorer on here, and the whole Blogger thing is a total fiasco.

I'll be back in the swing soon enough.

Friday, June 08, 2007

#!@%@$!


Sully is really coming through with the YouTube clips lately. He points out this funny Bud Light commercial that, as a guy who hardly watches any tv, is new to me. Serious question: Do they really show this on tv?

Of course, there's always the classic...

SLAM!


The Associated Press
Judge Orders Paris Hilton Back to Jail
Jun 8, 6:07 PM EST

LOS ANGELES -- Paris Hilton was sent screaming and crying back to jail Friday after a judge ruled that she must serve out her sentence behind bars rather than in the comfort of her Hollywood Hills home...

[...] Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer was calm but apparently irked by Sheriff Lee Baca's decision to release Hilton three days into her sentence due to an unspecified "medical condition."

"I at no time condoned the actions of the sheriff and at no time told him I approved the actions," Sauer said. "At no time did I approve the defendant being released from custody to her home."


The Superficial:
Some witnesses say they saw a rainbow above the courtroom. And others say they saw a giant man in the clouds with a white beard nodding his head approvingly. And me? Well I saw Judge Michael Sauer grow to be twelve feet tall, with muscles the size of tree trunks. And when he smiled, little cartoon hearts appeared above my head and there was a strange tingling sensation in my pants.

NOTE: I officially nominate Judge Michael Sauer for President of the Entire Universe.

Don't fuck with that judge! Good. It was an outrage that she was released in the first place. And he reinstated the 45 days instead of the reduced-to-23 days sentence. She still could get time off for good behavior, but she at least has to endure some punishment like the commonfolk.

And with that, I can go right back to pretending that Paris Hilton doesn't even exist.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

"Free Paris!" Oh, They Already Did?

You know, after Sarah Silverman's viscious beatdown the other day, I actually felt bad for Paris. She was forced to endure a level of public humiliation that was downright cruel, unwarranted, and in my opinion, cowardly of Silverman.

Now it seems that will be her only punishment (besides house arrest in a mansion, I mean)...

[/sympathy]

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

K…A…K…I…S…

Last week during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, there was a young finalist from Madison, WI, Isabel Jacobson, who during her brief video bio revealed that her favorite word was "kakistocracy." Needless to say, from that point on, she was the one I wanted to win—even though there was still a kid from the town I grew up in (Avon, CT--and the reason I was even watching) in contention!

A twelve year old, already politically aware, badass rebel girl vs. a bunch of ├╝ber-nerd boys? No contest. Hope my girls'll be following in her footsteps...

Since then, I've gotten some hits and comments at my 2006 Word of the Year: Kakistocracy thread from last year, so "Welcome" to anyone else who clicks over from a Google search. Look around a bit, there's a few years worth of me ranting about all sorts of stuff...

--

Did my own google search, and you know I'll be ordering up some of these...



More here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sullivan Part 2: Electric Boogaloo...

Pearl Jam lyric translation:



Was the best part "Make me fries!" or "Potato wave"?

[h/t Sullivan]

"Great shot, kid, that was one in a million!"

Andrew Sullivan has been a must-read over the last few months...on Iraq, Bush, Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates, and he still throws in the occasional pop culture/humor. This video is pretty funny...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Mr. Furious Sports Machine

Can anybody remember waaay back before there was Sportscenter you had to wait for the weekly (and primitive) "George Michael Sports Machine" or "This Week in Baseball" to catch your higlights? It was like some kind of Dark Ages... Anyway, getting ready to assemble the latest "Links Post" I realized they are all sports-related, so without further ado...

A-HOLE-ROD Twice over the last week Alex Rodriguez has has some "adventurous" trips around the basepaths. Last week it was the totally cheap-ass take-out slide / elbow piledriver to Dusin Pedroia's crotch. This week in Toronto, while running between second and third he called for a pop-up while behind the third baseman, causing him to give up on the play and the ball fell. While I don't think this is the capital offense some have made it out to be, it is a pretty bush move. Couple those with the infamous Arroyo ball play, and the conclusion is that Slappy McLipstick is something of a prick.

BO KNOWS... Last weekend I found myself watching some of "Lethal Weapon 2" and there was a moment in the film where a tv showed one of the old Bo Jackson nike ads, and Danny Glover mutters some comment. I said to myself, "God. Remember Bo Jackson?..." A couple days later I came across this great article about Bo Jackson and what an exciting athlete he was. Little-known fact: Bo was drafted by the Yankees in 1982, but opted to go to Auburn instead.

->SEND<- "Oops! Ah, shit!" Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein apologized Thursday for accidentally e-mailing an explicit sex video to numerous NFL employees, including league commissioner Roger Goodell. [link] Oh, that's gotta suck. Hmm. How would he ole Sports Machine've handled that highlight...?

GREEK GOD OF WALKS BLOGS Sox firstbaseman Kevin "Not Actually Greek" Youkilis started a blog this week. Good timing. His kick-off post is about his inside-the-park home run (the most exciting play in baseball) and he's in the midst of a 23-game hit streak.

BARRY BONDS' HEAD WOULD STILL BE SWOLLEN W/O STEROIDS Barry Bonds has no plans to give the Hall of Fame anything from the game when he break's Aaron's record...
NEW YORK (AP) - [link] As Barry Bonds nears his record 756th home run, he's stockpiling quite a collection of souvenirs — bats, balls, helmets and spikes, pieces of baseball history perfectly suited for the Hall of Fame.

Whether he'll donate any of them to Cooperstown, however, is in doubt.

"I'm not worried about the Hall," the San Francisco slugger said during a recent homer drought. "I take care of me."

Stay classy, Barry. Douche.

As Deadspin reminds us, don't feel bad for the Hall and its Director. He's the dick that banned Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from a recent celebration of "Bull Durham" because they were critical of the War and the President.