Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jefferson Digs In

I've been pretty hard on Nancy Pelosi for not taking a harder line on William Jefferson. It appears she has been getting quite a bit of internal fire for trying to do just that. From The Hill:
Pelosi move triggers revolt

Furious black lawmakers, rallying behind Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), were pulled back from the brink of open revolt against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in an emergency meeting with her Wednesday evening.

[...] Earlier this week, Pelosi approached Jefferson and told him that she thought he should resign, according to a Democratic aide. Later, at the Democratic caucus meeting yesterday morning, she took him into a side room and told him that she had prepared a letter calling on him to resign the committee seat and that she would allow him one hour to withdraw gracefully before she sent it, according to the aide. In both instances, Jefferson remained defiant.

Pelosi’s one-sentence missive to Jefferson called on him to vacate his committee seat “in the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus.”

Jefferson promptly refused, calling her request “discriminatory” and “unprecedented,” and suggested that she was employing a double standard by failing to ask other lawmakers facing ethics questions to relinquish their committee assignments. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) has come under fire for earmarks he secured through his seat on the Appropriations Committee.

“I will not give up a committee assignment that is so vital to New Orleans at this crucial time for any uncertain political strategy,” Jefferson said.

If Jefferson really wanted to helped the people of New Orleans, he would have used his tremendous balls to shield the city from Katrina.

Oh, and no word yet on whether Mollohan was caught on video accepting $100,000 in marked bills that were later found in his freezer...

I won't be surprised one bit if its discovered that Jefferson rode an Army convoy through the post-hurricane flood to get to his house in an attempt to retrieve/destroy evidence.

Jefferson is fucking dirty. Period. The CBC had better get used to that idea. I can understand some conciliatory remarks from them looking out for one of their own such as "we're witholding comment until charges are filed." Even, "Rep. Jefferson is innocent until proven otherwise." But they sould not be going after the knees of Pelosi for doing what she has to to defend the Party.

UPDATE: It should be noted that Mollohan no longer sits on the Appropriations Committee either. Jefferson should follow suit.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hang Him Out to Dry. Now.

There were a few threads floating around a couple weeks ago about Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA). At the time he had not yet been named in the investigation, but the people who bribed "Congressman A" had...

Here was my comment at the time:
From commenter Paul at Balloon Juice:

The smart move by the Democrats would be to call a heavily televised public gathering. At said gathering, they would drag out William Jefferson and publicly demand his resignation from a) the Democratic Party and b) the congressional seat he’s in. Conclude with an open statement that the Democratic Party will not tolerate such corruption and that the Republican Party should learn by example. Once you see the popularity polls for the Democratic Party shoot up 5 points watch the GOP sweat.

[I added]: Don’t sweep dirt under the rug, take it out in the front yard and shake it out. Or even beat it with a stick. Let the Repubs try and Febreze out the stench and see where that gets them.

The Republican party is steeping in corruption right now, but people still have the old “they’re all dirty” soundtrack running in their minds. If the Dems publicly toss the dirty members of the own party to the curb now, it is not only the right thing to do, it looks good for them in the fall too.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did a fairly reasonable job of calling Jefferson out. Reminding folks that there was a due process to occur, but if Jefferson had done anything wrong he should resign. She then called for a House Ethics investigation of a member of her own party.

Another (apparently psychic) commenter added this in response to Pelosi:
Pelosi is right. We're a nation of laws, and even if there are videotapes of Jefferson accepting bags of money with "BRIBE" written on them, he's still entitled to due process.

Well get ready for the due process to start. From an affidavit released yesterday
[Rep. William] Jefferson was videotaped accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from a Northern Virginia investor who was wearing an FBI wire [...] A few days later, on Aug. 3, 2005*, FBI agents raided Jefferson's home in Northeast Washington and found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers.

No mention as to whether the bags were labelled or not. Presumably that affidavit was part of the process of obtaining a warrant to raid Jefferson's Congressional office over the weekend.
An unusual FBI raid of a Democratic congressman's office over the weekend prompted complaints yesterday from leaders in both parties, who said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Interestingly, Congressional members of both parties are up at arms over this raid, the first one ever of a sitting Congressman.

It seems this poses serious questions about separation of powers (the FBI works for the Executive Branch).
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), in an e-mail to colleagues with the subject line "on the edge of a constitutional confrontation," called the Saturday night raid "the most blatant violation of the Constitutional Separation of Powers in my lifetime." He urged President Bush to discipline or fire "whoever exhibited this extraordinary violation."

I guess ole Newt hasn't been payin' attention. Bush has never had any regard for any supposed "Separation of Powers", nor does he ever fire anyone...

As for Jefferson? He insists he's being railroaded. I say bullshit. The party needs to cut his ass loose and do it loudly. Zero tolerance for this nonsense.

* You might have heard of this guy before. He's the same clown that shanghai'd an Army convoy to take him to his house in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. He apparently had some evidence to destroy or "frozen food" to retrieve.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Freedom Fries 2: Electric Boogaloo

An increasingly desperate Republican Congress has decided to rejuvenate its fortunes by buckling down and tackling the country's biggest problem—national healthcare, a potentially illegal surveillance program, an out of contol deficit...No, our lack of an official language...

Yes, hot on the heels of the War on Christmas and the gay assault on the sancticty of marriage, is the very real and terrifying threat to the English language in America.
"After an emotional debate fraught with symbolism, the Senate yesterday voted to make English the "national language" of the United States, declaring that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except for those already guaranteed by law.

The measure, approved 63 to 34, directs the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English, without altering current laws that require some government documents and services be provided in other languages. Opponents, however, said it could negate executive orders, regulations, civil service guidances and other multilingual ordinances not officially sanctioned by acts of Congress."

Apparently, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who pushed this idea yesterday, wanted to make English the "official" language, but couldn't muster enough votes to pass it. Instead, English has been designated the "national" language as a powerful symbolic statement of America's … English-speaking ways. Or something. It's not entirely clear.

The Inhofe proposal was a hit with Republicans, who seem anxious to prove to their conservative base that they may not be able to pass an immigration bill, but they can show how unilingual they are. Of the 34 opposing votes, there were 32 Dems, one independent who votes with the Dems (Jeffords), and one Republican who represents a state with a large Hispanic population (New Mexico's Pete Domenici). I guess the GOP didn't want to compete for Hispanic votes in the future anyway.

That's from the always excellent Carpetbagger

This is such a craven appeal to the mouthbreathing, jingo-paranoid base I'm not even sure this is a net gain for Republicans, never mind supposedly big-tent Democrats! Why any Dem would support this defies logic.

Republicans had made headway with the Latino base under Bush, and he had made appeals to that bloc with his nominees. They were even supposed to be aggressively courting the Latino vote, using pro-life and religious rhetoric to help, hoping to peel the fastest growing segment of the population away from Democrats. I even think Bush set out to propose a immigration policy palatable to Latinos...but this immigration thing is off its axis now, and the Republicans are careening out of control with it.

The wedge has been turned around on them and their own party is split. This kind of thing comes from the portion of the party that is stuck in the past and fears anything new and not white. This will cost them way more Latino votes than Alberto gonzales will gain them, and hopefully peels off embarrassed moderates as well, all to placate the 30% that they already, and will always, have locked up.

While I think it is a sad display, and I do not want to see such paranoid and basically racist stuff debated on the floor of the Senate, if it hastens the demise of this Republican majority, it's a setback I can live with.

What I can't live with is this:
Baucus (D-MT)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)

Those are the Dems that voted "Yea."

Even if you are of the opinion that English should be the official or national language, at this point it serves no purpose to lend these Republican antics any legitimacy. These dumb symbolic votes should be reflexive "no" votes for Dems, so when they are pointed out for the bullshit that they are, there is no veil of "bipartisan."

In my opinion, for a Dem to go along with this is even worse than a Republican proposing it. Nice job, you fucking clowns.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Snow's Sticky Situation

New White House mouthpiece Tony Snow had his first briefing yesterday. He was rolling along fine with the usual spin (ie: good polls matter, bad ones don't) when Snow stepped in it...

A reporter asked Snow about why the White House was reluctant to talk about the NSA's phone-record database program. Snow said:

SNOW: Having said that, I don’t want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program, the alleged program, the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.

Um, excuse me, Tony?

We all know what Snow meant, and there was no racist intent or context going on there. But, you would think any seasoned journalist and TV personality would, in effect, have scrubbed that phrase from their vocabulary…

Maybe Tony should consider having this play in the background during his briefings from now on if he's going to be busting out the folklore...

It might just be because I first heard the phrase tarbaby in its derogatory context, but I always find it jarring when I hear it used like this.

It also makes me question the mindset of a person who would use the phrase. Clearly Snow is technically correct in his usage, but when experienced speakers like Snow choose to use a touchy phrase like that, there is a reason—even if subconscious—in my opinion. Especially when you consider he's fresh from FOX.

This usage strikes me as a deliberate use of a politically incorrect phrase in a situation where the speaker can then defend himself for being correct, innocent, and beyond reproach, while accusing his attackers of being "overly politically correct." It's not really about race, it's about scoring points on "sensitive" liberals and others that will be tweaked by this. Limbaugh has made a nice living doing exactly this.

Unless you are telling the story of Brer Rabbit, one should avoid "hugging the tar baby" of hugging the tar baby, but no tough FOX manly-man is going to follow those rules... Can't you just picture Hannity or O'Reilly getting all indignant and try to project over something like this? "I used the term correctly. Maybe you have a problem and that's why you heard it a different way..."

Problem is, Snow doesn't work at FOX anymore.

Good. His blood is already in the water as far as I'm concerned…

[h/t The Carpetbagger Report]

UPDATE: It hasn't been that long since a much less-public figure than the White House Spokesman used this phrase and had to apologize for it [link]. How 'bout it Brer Tony?

Hmm. I like that. From now on, I think I'll refer to Snow as Brer Tony, and maybe throw that old timey fiddle in as a hotlink too...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Link(s): People make fun of '70s clothing, but that's only because they blocked out the food...

The best thing about the internet is that it serves as a forum to make fun of the most random shit imaginable. Like those 70s recipe cards. You remember, they came with their own attractive file box...

Then there's James Lileks' site.

[The Comics Curmudgeon got this started]

Bush Screws Up Everyone's Night, and His Presidency

I think this speech is going to go down as a watershed moment for this Presidency...

The moment when even his casual base* looked at him and said:

"What is he talking about?"

"Is he serious? National Guard to defend against Mexico?"

"Anything about WMD from Tijuana?"

"Come on, you are really messing up the TiVo for my season finales."

He took a bad plan, and took it public in a big way. And I don't think it fooled anyone.


* By "casual base" I mean those who reflexively support the President, put magnets on the cars, etc, but don't pay close attention to everything. He unmasked himself to those people last night, and I think he is going to pay. Hopefully the Congressional Republicans pay right along with him.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

2006 Word of the Year: Kakistocracy

Every year a few of the big dictionaries and dialect experts determine the "Word of the Year." A couple years back it was "blogs." Somehow, inexplicably, last year Merriam-Webster tapped "Integrity" over runners-up "Tsunami" and "Hurricane" among others—I suppose picking a word meant chopping off the "lack of" to be official...

Anyway, I want to kick off the campaign for this year's word right now.
kakistocracy (kak·is·toc·ra·cy) n.
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

I wonder if you can guess my inspiration?...
Housing Sec. Canceled Contract Because Contractor Criticized Bush, Apparently Violating Law
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson publicly admitted that he canceled a government contract with a business because the CEO was critical of President Bush. From the Dallas Business Journal:

“He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,” Jackson said of the prospective contractor. “He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something … he said, ‘I have a problem with your president.’

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t like President Bush.’ I thought to myself, ‘Brother, you have a disconnect — the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn’t be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don’t tell the secretary.’

“He didn’t get the contract,” Jackson continued. “Why should I reward someone who doesn’t like the president? [...]”

Jackson’s conduct appears to be in violation of federal law. From the Federal Acquisition Regulations, 48 CFR 3.101-1:

Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach and, except as authorized by statute or regulation, with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none. Transactions relating to the expenditure of public funds require the highest degree of public trust and an impeccable standard of conduct.

Jackson has admitted that this particular contract was not awarded with “impartiality.” The business that would have been awarded the contract was excluded because of the contractor’s political views.

The Competition in Contracting Act (41 U.S.C. 253(b)(1)) details the six circumstances in which a particular contractor can be excluded. Needless to say, political views are not on the list.

It is also highly unusual for a cabinet secretary to be involved in the awarding or cancellation of a particular contract. More on this story soon.

Now I am certainly not naive enough to believe that contracts are awarded with "complete impartiality." What gets me is not the cronyism and favoritism—it's the brazen manner in which this Administration conducts it. I mean, the Cabinet Secretary went out and bragged about cancelling a contract—a contract that had already been awarded—because the guy didn't like President Bush. By that standard, I guess that means the government will only be soliciting contacts from 30% of the country from now on...

Seriously though, this was completely wrong and appears to be a violation of the law, as well as this business owner's First Amendment rights. Jackson should be removed. Now.

So it starts here and now. Let's spread it like a dialectic pandemic. Far and wide across the country. I want it on the Daily Show (God, that would be great) Kakistocracy. What makes this even more fun, is that this word is pretty obscure, let's make it known and make it synonymous with the Bush Administration.

[h/t: Otto Man for the story, and IRod (in the comments) for the word.]

UPDATE: The official defense of Jackson has been released — he was lying. Yes. That's really what they are serving up as the cover story, "He made it up."

UPDATE 2: From a commenter at Kos:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kakistocracy is derived from the Greek kakistos, the superlative of kakos (κακός) meaning bad. The word literally means "government by the worst elements of society." It can refer to any system of management controlled by the least competent, least qualified, most unreliable, or the most evil members of a society.
Kakistocracy is not used to describe governments run by persons whose primary motivation is graft---the word for that is kleptocracy. However, the two are not entirely mutually exclusive, as it is possible to be both bad and greedy.

You bet. George W. bush works hard to prove it every day!

UPDATE 3--06/06/07: Last week during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, there was a young girl from Madison, WIwhose profile 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 a kid from the town I grew up in (Avon, CT) still in contention!

Twelve year old, already politically aware, badass rebel girl vs. a bunch of über-nerd boys? No contest. My girls are going to follow in her footsteps...

Welcome to anybone else who clicks over from a Google "kakistocracy" search. Look around a bit, there's a few years worth of me ranting about all sorts of stuff.