Ramblings From the Ragged Crumbling Edge Of The Reality-Based Community

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Folding When You're Holding A Royal Flush 

...we probably won't ever really know the truth about Bushco's phone surveillance without some sort of federal-level version of a courthouse fire, but there are some things we suspect that are probably pretty close to the mark.

1) Gee Dub directed phone companies to cooperate with federal wiretapping of phones inside the United States.

2) He didn't have the authority to do this under either federal law or the terms of the US Constitution without complying with the terms of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act.

3) He did it anyway, claiming some heretofore undiscovered authority as the Commander-in-Chief in a time of war.

4) As far as is known, all of the telecommunication companies except Qwest (whose CEO at the time has been hammered with an insider-trading conviction that just happens to be remarkably congruent with the company's refusal) complied with the request.

We now find ourselves trapped in an odd, confusing permutation of reality of the sort that would make Lewis Carroll clap his hands gleefully and chortle "See; there IS a looking glass!"
According to Reuters, an agreement has been reached between congressional Democrats and the White House, as a part of a freshening up of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to grant immunity from lawsuits for the telecom companies who went along with Chimpy's insistence that he did, too, have the authority to spy on American telephones. What we have is a president who claimed authority - one that there is some question that he had the authority to claim - to direct telecom companies to cooperate in wiretapping phones in the United States in a manner that numerous highly-respected legal scholars (the sort of people who seem to be prominent in their absence in either this administration or the legal offices of most major telecom corporations) have said he didn't have the authority to do, in a manner that was so ham-handed that this president is now left to conduct a desperate fighting retreat in insisting that those cooperating telecom companies be immunized in the FISA ver. 2.0 bill to shield them from legal challenges, even though such an immunization wouldn't actually be necessary if that president actually had that authority under law and the companies in question wouldn't be threatened by devastating money judgements because they were, in fact, operating under the terms of a lawful request...

Even though Karl Rove is no longer in the West Wing, his influence is still clearly felt and Democrats in Congress apparently still feel the once-powerful influence of the "all fear all the time" message that Bushco wielded so forcefully and successfully in the 2002 and 2004 elections. That's seems to be the only readily available explanation for the willingness of Democratic 'leadership' to be apparently ready to agree to something that very few other than the strange band of legal hucksters that infested the White House for far too long thought was defensible in the first place. There is objectively no good reason to bow to petulant veto threats by a guy who will leave office as perhaps the least popular second-term president who didn't actually resign before completing his term...

The Democratic 'leadership' seems ready to do just that, though, and the timing couldn't be worse. Given the importance of the moment and the incredible energy and activism of Democratic voters that could be squandered by this compromise, thereby denying the opportunity to retake the White House and increase majorities in both Congressional chambers, this reported acheivement of a "deal" that gives everything to a failed, floundering administration that history will recall as only having succeeded in doing exactly the wrong thing at exactly wrong time in every instance looks like little more that folding in a tight game of Texas Hold'em with the best hand you can have....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What Is The DEAL With Wingnuts And Sex?!? 

...the lead in this story (or 'lede' for those who didn't actually take college-level journalism classes over 30 years ago when people didn't write funny) says it all:

A federal judge overseeing a case exploring the extreme fringe of pornography suspended the obscenity trial after a newspaper reported he had posted sexually explicit photos and videos on his own Web site.

It's getting to the point where these kind of stories aren't even interesting enough to creep near the front page on America's virtual newspaper. The on-going repetition of stories has long since begun to take on an almost boring sameness, as we keep discovering episode after tawdry episode of inappropriate public restroom behavior, 'family values' polygamy, racy NAMBLA-worthy e-mails, cheap commercial sexual adventures that would make your average porn flick mogul slap his forehead and mutter "damn, that woulda been great", and enough closeted gay action by supposedly stout-hearted gay-haters to last a couple of life-times. It's true that there is, every once in a while, a prominent lefty that gets flung into this maelstrom, but the preponderance of the evidence suggests that there are...well...urges coursing through a lot of American veins that can't be adequately addressed in the hearts and minds of social conservatives because of the public constraints imposed by their professed moral values, leading to the sorts of bizarre public blow-outs that have become so oddly common that a sane person has to eventually start to ask "and Bill Clinton was impeached for...what?"

In this most recent episode, the judge's web site contains, among other things, scenes of - and I am merely quoting the story here - "video of a "half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal..."

". The learned jurist's response?

"Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you.....I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life."

...ok, so, look......I grew up in a small Idaho town; I'm not a farm boy per se, but I spent a good deal of time on my grandpa's farm with it's wealth of "farm animals". I never engaged in or even saw a single episode of half-dressed men cavorting with farm animals, sexually aroused or not, although there was one epic moment involving a ten-year-old me, Grandpa's rooster, and a short length of old rotten garden hose snatched up in a moment of desperation, but that was a fight to the death over turf rather than any sort of sexual exploration (and, in retrospect, Grandma did do a mean fried chicken). Many of my child-hood friends did live on farms and ranches; none of them ever even obliquely hinted at dark nasty action going down out back behind the loafing pens of the sort that this man of the law suggests is "a part of life"...

It is the stark irony of this particular situation that is so captivating. A trial exploring the limits of constitutional protection of porn, with beastiality as one of the main themes; a website run by the conservative lead trial judge hosting sexually explicit material that includes animals. It may all be just an innocent misunderstanding, but even at that remove one still has to wonder why on earth those sorts of subfolders even existed in the first place. This whole thing simply reinforces the blunt question "what is the deal with these people and sex?"...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Election 2008: McCain v. Carter 

...the new hot theme for the Republican effort to hold onto the White House came bursting out in full force today: Barack Hussein Obama is the return of Jimmy Carter!!!

I'm sure that you are, like I am, stunned and shocked - simply shocked - at the politically astute, simple, and yet elegant viciousness of this rapier-like thrust at the heart of the Obama campaign. To see that the McCain campaign would link Obama to a President whose term of office went down at a time when a good portion of at least half of the current voting-age population of the United States was hoping for nothing more than a "Dukes Of Hazzard" lunchbox in order to increase their "coolness" quotent at school is to witness a pure stroke of genius. Most of today's voters only know of Jimmy Carter as an honest, honorable man of peace who has spent his years after government service striving to bring affordable housing to the United States and peace, mutual acceptance, and democracy to the world through means other than at the point of an assault rifle. But that's what makes McCain's new line of attack so clever and devastating (even though Carter was a fellow Naval officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate); Jimmy Carter served as President during the ultimate demise of a national economy and Iranian meltdown that were both products of external forces beyond his control and decisions made during the Nixon/Ford years...

The Carter administration ended twenty eight years ago. Even though I hadn't even met the woman who would become my wife and the mother of a college sophmore and high school sophmore on the day he left office, former one-term President Jimmy Carter is clearly the man that elder statesman John McCain wants to run against by trying to link him up with Barack Obama. It's pure genuis, I tell ya...

The killing blow will come next week, when fresh McCain attacks are launched against Obama for trying to get elected to the second term of Franklin Pierce. That will clearly spell the end for Barack Obama....

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Big Iron On His Hip 

...I am not an anti-gun person. I own firearms and have been known to actually put ammunition in them and pull the trigger. This sort of thing, however, leads me to certain reservations, particularly when the person in question makes this kind of statement:
"I'm not going to hide in the corner of a school and mall and wait for the shooting to stop..."

OK, so I know I've made this point before, but it bears repeating, so let's get with it: Life isn't the movies. Carrying a handgun doesn't begin to offer a guarantee that you are going to be the Crime-Fighting American Hero that pops the bad guy in the mall. If you aren't the only Crime-Fighting American Hero packing heat in the mall when the bad guy opens up and you have come riding to the sounds of battle rather than having been standing right there looking at him from the first moment, carrying a handgun doesn't even guarantee that you will even shoot the right person. That dirty frickin' hippie with the Ruger P-85 may actually be another 'open-carry' advocate looking to pop the bad guy and the clean-cut young fellow over yonder with the Glock may be the person who slipped over the edge and decided to go out and kill a bunch of people in the Food Court...

More to the point of the article, 'open-carry' advocates only have the right to expect one thing from the public and that is continued skepticism about who that clown is with the Big Iron on his hip and what movie does he think he's starring in. This type of 'only-child' ego-centric obsession with a right to carry a weapon whenever and whereever they want to tends to cloud their ability to understand that some of us get just a bit ansy when in the disadvantaged presence of armed people we don't know. Obviously I'm not going to challenge somebody in the grocery store who's wearing a side arm; in the first place, that's not the sort of thing one does in polite society and, in the second place, that person has a gun. I suppose the fact that those living in such fear that they feel that they have to carry a firearm to protect themselves can't be helped - and it is a useful vehicle for those agents advocating virtually unrestricted ownership of all sorts of firearms and ammunition -but they will still be strangers with guns when I meet them on the street. I don't know their mental or emotional state, their background, or anything else; all I know is that they are armed. Foregive me or not as you wish, but I will maintain that healthy skepticism...

...and as wide a berth as circumstances allow...

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