Friday, May 26, 2006

Maria Cantwell votes no on Hayden

Sen. Maria Cantwell was one of the 14 Democratics to vote Nay along with sole Republican, Arlen Spector on the confirmation of Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA. Sen. Barbara Boxer of CA didn't vote. Maybe this will help warm up Washington progressives to get behind her campaign. Details and a good sermon over at the Northwest Progressive Institute.

Here's the roll of Nay votes.
Bayh (D-IN)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Obama (D-IL)
Specter (R-PA)
Wyden (D-OR)

"I was wr... wr... wr... wr..."

Bush, whose inability to admit error exceeds Fonzie's, stunned the world by coughing up a short list of Iraq war missteps at his news conference with Blair, yesterday. I hope it's a trend. On the other hand, the list is meager, misleading, and one item was not a mistake at all. It was a deception. And still is.

Bush regretted saying, "Bring it on." On that, I'm in agreement. It was a foolish, childish and false bit of cowboy bravado that did nothing but endanger our troops. Guys in the movies can say, "bring it on," because the outcome is rigged, that is, scripted. But the U.S. has misunderestimated what we would face inside Iraq from the get go. (Except that we misoverestimated Saddam's ability to project a threat beyond his borders--which was the rationale given or the war.)

He also regretted saying he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive." Why? The pledge to get bin Laden was a good thing. My regret about that pledge is that Bush lacked the ability, the will, or the desire, to deliver. Turns out that bin Laden at large has been an invaluable ally of the Bush-Rove fear-mongering. It can be argued credibly that bin Laden's election eve comments provided Bush with the margin of victory in a tight race.

As for the third Bush admission, that abu Ghraib prisoner abuse hurt us, he's right. But as for his claim that the perpetrators have been punished, well, only the lowest-level perpetrators... and most of them were punished minimally. The real perpetrators of the abu Grhaib abuse are as much at large as bin Laden.

Now playing on Huff Post: Glenn on Sec'y State

A couple of posts bacl, I plugged Glenn Lambert's post on the California Secretary of State race the other day. It's been picked up by the Huffington Post. At stake in the race is protection of California voter's rights (against frivolous technical challenges to registration, against porous Diebold voting machines, etc.) Glenn has covered the issue well in his post. It's good to see it finding a broader audience. Cali folks, if you haven't read Glenn's post yet, please do. And please vote for Debra Bowen in the primary on June 6.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I'm sticking to my wording. Or Germaine's

A colleague today told me that he saw a quote on Google from Dave Barry, "You can only be young once. But you can always be immature."

This is very close to something I have been quipping for years. (I don't know how many. And I don't know when Barry coined his version.)

But I think my version is punchier: "You're only young once. But you can be immature forever."

But, yikes, I find that version attributed to Germaine Greer. I'll cite her the next time I quip.

Germaine is older than Dave. (How immature of me to mention it.) But I don't know if her quote is older than his.

California voters rights under seige

In California, The guv's guy, McPherson is recertifying Diebold voting machines and bouncing new voter registrations on flimsy technicalities.

State Senator Debra Bowen has made voters' rights her top issue. If you're a Californian, she deserves your vote in the primary, June 6.

I was alerted to this issue by my bud, woid who has an excellent post on this on on Howie Klein's DownWithTyranny blog.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bless you, Jane Hamersher

Just go read it on Firedoglake. It's a perfect post. Anything I said here would make it less perfect. See for yourself.

Got my Monday nights back

The following post is written between 7:00 A.M and 8:00 A.M

(It contains spoilers for those haven't seen the conclusion of this season's 24.)

Whew! 24 wrapped up. Now there's only one evil weaselly president in my life.

Add my non-member-in-the-Academy votes for Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin for Emmies. What richly nuanced and powerful performances. Totally captivating. Very gratifying for the writers to give Martha the key role in bringing down Charles.

On the other hand, not gratifying to let Miles slink away without a comeuppance.

My, those Chinese work fast... whisking Jack away, getting him into that nasty beat-up pulpy-face makeup, stashing him in the cargo hold of a slow boat to China, and getting the boat out on the high seas all in the space of a couple of minutes. (Maybe they helicoptered out to the boat?). If they can move that fast, we could have next season done in 12.

As for Jack taking the call from "Kim"from a land line in a deserted building ... it's of a piece with neglecting hour after hour to upload the incriminating evidence to some other device. These guys whip files around from device-to-device as a matter of routine. Except, of course, when it will further the plot not to. Get over it.

I was using Moxi to skip most of the commercials, but I'm glad to have caught the undead President Palmer selling me insurance before he got back into the coffin ahead of the sunrise for the last act.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

An old chestnut, done well

As long as there are elevator speeches to be written, memorized, and recited, there will be a need for tools like this.

Mac-head unhappy with Apple's Current Ads

Apple's current "I'm a Mac" campaign is getting a lot of praise (including from me). Mac fan Derek Powazek, on the other hand, has a complaint.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reich's Four Narratives

This is important. Maybe I'll get to commenting later. I was eferred to Reich by Jeffrey Feldman on The Thom Hartmann Program on Air America this morning.

"Just when I thought I was out..."

It was back in the first season of The Sopranos (episode two) when we first heard Silvio Dante (Steve Van Zandt) do his impression of Michael's emblematic line from Godfather III "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." (For comparison, here's Pacino's even hammier original version.)

This season, the theme is back. But with a much darker twist. Now there's no "they" there. Now when you try to get out, you simply hang a youie and head back in. On your own.

We see the old pattern in the opener of the current season, Eugene Pontecorvo requests early retirement. Tony pulls him back in. Gene manages to get his family out at an extremely high personal cost. And I'll leave it dangling there to avoid spoilers.

But that was before Tony's come-to-Buddha coma. Since his great awakening, Tony has loosened the reins. It doesn't make things any easier.

When Christufuh wants to go to Hollywood to rise above the petty crime of New Jersey, Tony okays it. But Chris falls back into his coke and booze addictions and winds up mugging Lauren Bacall for a goodie bag. No Way Out.

When Vito Spatafore (a great earner, by the way) is discovered dancing in a gay club and flees, Tony lets him go. Other associates want to pull him back in and put him down, but Tony lets him go.

By the happy fate of an auto mishap, Vito finds himself in a gay-friendly New Hampshire town. He falls in love. Becomes a hero in his new community. And can't stand it.

Just when we thought he was out, he pulls himself back in and heads back to Jersey. On the way, by the damning fate of a second auto mishap Vito finds himself doing a gratuitous murder of an innocent, law-abiding citizen. (The staging is reminiscent of Vito's Season Three whacking of Meadow's beau, Jackie Aprile Jr., outside the Boonton Projects.) Love doesn't conquer all.

The moral bookkeeping of David Chase is as relentless and confining as Larry David's. It just grinds more slowly.

(And a tip of the Hatlo Hat to Wikipedia's Sopranos Timeline)

Monday, May 15, 2006

That didn't take long

I posted this morning asking what else the government might do with it's shiny phone database toy.

Here's what: They're using it to catch leakers. (says a source. says ABC News).

Makes the Nixon Plumbers look positively stone age.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

My first spam and the NSA phone database

The first wave of spam to hit my inbox came in the wake of the first dot com bubble.

In good faith, Company A collected my email address, and in good faith, I gave it to them in return for a service.

Times change. In a last, desperate scramble for cash, Company A sold off their email lists.

And before long, I'm getting mail from Companies B, C, D... Z who waste no time sending me offers for sex, drugs, and Nigerian fortunes. (If only the Trustees and Executors of my Nigerian would-be benefactor had bestowed the fortune on Company A, I might have been spared the offers of sex and drugs.)

Digital assets take on an afterlife of their own. Do you think that when he first worked up his light saber routine, the Star Wars Kid had any idea that one day Google would turn up more than 18 million references to him in .18 seconds?

Fast Forward. Now the NSA has the worlds largest database with trillions of records that can trace calling patterns to keep us safe from terrorists. It's anonymized (until someone chooses to do a reverse phone lookup and remove the veil).

Let's say it's all legit. Today. (Although given the Adminstration's track record for telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that's a preposterous and irresponsible premise. But nevertheless, let's say it.)

Let's say the database has a legitimate purpose. Is that its only purpose? In the black ops favored by this administration, how can we know? Back in the day, Elliot Ness was untouchable. But this is the day of the very touchable Kyle "Dusty" Foggo.

What might Nixon have done with such a tool and a penchant for the enemies list?
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration, Stated a bit more bluntly —how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies. (Memo from John Dean to Lawrence Higby, August 16, 1971)
For that matter, what might Cheney, Rove, and Bush do? No wonder we mustn't know. No wonder there's no judicial oversight. No wonder its all done by presidential fiat and not Congressional authorization.

The polls are already shifting on this issue.

Friday, May 12, 2006

C|NET has a FAQ on NSA DataMining

Q: What about Internet communications, such as Internet telephony or e-mail messages?
Much of the Internet traffic that's transmitted in the United States traverses just a handful of switching centers owned by big communications companies, such as Verizon. The busiest are MAE East (Metropolitan Area Exchange), in Vienna, Va., and MAE West, in San Jose, Calif. The NSA has access to those switching centers, Bamford says.

In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has ordered broadband providers to build in back doors for electronic eavesdropping.

What's next?

I watched Keith Olbermann last night with my roommate. Keith spent about half the show on the NSA phone database. Quoth the roomie: "This is probably just a diversion from something even more outrageous." Paranoid much, are we?

Probably just a realist. Think Progress gives us this cheery thought for the weekend:
CongressDaily reports that former NSA staffer Russell Tice will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee next week that not only do employees at the agency believe the activities they are being asked to perform are unlawful, but that what has been disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg.
Any guesses? Hint: Watch the skies. They're probably watching you.

It's okay, we didn't tell them your name

Got some time today? Call your phone company.

In the wake of yesterday's USA Today story. I recommend that everyone who is a customer of AT&T, Verizon, & Bell South engage their customer service representatives in a polite conversation about whether your phone records have been turned over to the NSA. (Jessica Holzer in Forbes considers the legality, noting, "it is striking that the three telcos, AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon, handed the information over sheep-like to the spooks without pressing for warrants or court approval. Only Qwest Communications (nyse: Q - news - people ) balked, in spite of the NSA's arm-twisting.")

My carrier's rep tried to reassure me that it's okay because only the phone numbers have been revealed, but no personal information such as names and Social Security numbers. (What an outrageous answer! Even I can do a reverse phone number lookup over the Web. Surely the scary-looking bald general has that technology.)

I have three questions:

  1. Anyone know whether their violation of the 1934 Communications act is grounds for me to end my contract early without penalty?
  2. Can QWEST, the sole hold-out against the NSA request, possibly have enough capacity to handle the folks who will now want to establish service with them?
  3. Skype, anyone?
(cross-posted and attracting comments in my Kos Diary)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Request for Routine: Lily Tomlin, where are you?

I'd love to hear Ernestine's take on the NSA phone records story.

Maybe for our own protection we'll need to take her up on her original taunt:
"Why don't you try using two Dixie cups with a string. We don't care. We don't have to. (snort) We're the Phone Company."
I remember when they taught me in school that one of the awful things about totalitarian governments like the Soviet Commies was that they spied routinely on their own citizens. That was then. This is now. Reach out and datamine someone.

Zack Exley: Two questions for Dems to ask

Domestic spying is once again in the news, thanks to the confluence of two events:
  1. The revelation that it wasn't just calls with overseas Al Qaeda agents but tens of millions (i.e. between 20,000,000 and 100,000,000) of Americans who's call records were being data-mined
  2. Appointment of Gen. Michael V. Hayden (who oversaw the program at NSA) to run the C.I.A. replacing Porter Goss--requiring, heh, heh, confirmation hearings.
Last time domestic spying popped into the news, Sen. Russ Feingold tried to focus some clear attention on it through a Senate resolution—from which most Democrats ran and hid.

This time, however, Zack Exley at the Huff Post offers some easy tactics to keep the issue clear and crisp—even in the face of the predictable chaff that the White House will throw out and the mainstream media will, in Colbert's phrase, type down.

Learn these two questions and ask them relentlessly and repeatedly
  1. "Bush ALREADY HAD the freedom to spy on anyone he wanted - he just had to tell a secret intelligence judge AFTERWARDS, a judge who was sworn to secrecy. So what was he trying to hide from that judge?
  2. "WHO WERE THEY SPYING ON? We need to see a list."
Excley follows those simple "Do's" with the following "Don'ts"
Don't use complicated names of things people have never heard of before like FISA (it sounds like a tax for crying out loud). Don't talk about breaking the law. Don't talk about civil liberties. Don't talk about personal privacy. Don't talk about the Patriot Act. Don't talk about investigations or hearings or special task forces. And for goodness sakes, don't talk about "warrantless wiretaps." Warrants and the bureaucracy that goes with them are what prevent Eddie Murphy from getting the villain in Beverly Hills Cop, or Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, or - should I go on? Do you really want to run in 2006 as that old, depressed, coughing Sergeant who stands in the way of justice for the sake of rules and regulations?
Is that so hard?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

As if that's a bad thing?

Ken Mehlman is trying to energize the base (Arabic: Al Qaeda as we should never tire of remembering) by warning that a Democratic majority in either house of congress will investigate Bush (with subpoena power) or maybe even impeach him. And this must be avoided, why?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

"We'll have to leave it there." Marty Kaplan explicates

Marty Kaplan on the Huffington Post explicates the implications of standard opens and closes for TV and radio interviews.
"We'll have to leave it there," so many of them say, wrapping it up. They mean it to refer to the sad truth that the time alotted for the segment has run out. But what it really communicates is the futility of contemporary journalism. We'll HAVE TO leave it there. There's nothing else we can do -- we can't draw conclusions, we can't figure out which of you screamers is a truth-teller and which a lying nutjob, we can't sort out facts from opinions, all we can do, folks, is just leave it there.
Before leaving it there, myself, I'd like to credit this important insight to its original seer: Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of show Business. Postman focuses on an earlier formulation, "Now... this." The fragmented report, the sudden switch to a new topic have been inherent in television news since the beginning.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Kos: Hillary's Legacy from Bill

Markos Moulitsas has an oped piece in the Sunday Washington Post that reminds us how the Clinton legacy harmed the Democratic Party. (And, no. It wasn't the impeachment or even the blow job).
Despite all his successes -- and eight years of peace and prosperity is nothing to sneeze at -- he never broke the 50-percent mark in his two elections. Regardless of the president's personal popularity, Democrats held fewer congressional seats at the end of his presidency than before it. The Democratic Party atrophied during his two terms, partly because of his fealty to his "third way" of politics, which neglected key parts of the progressive movement and reserved its outreach efforts for corporate and moneyed interests.
He goes on to assert that Clinton's legacy to the party is, "the perpetuation of the muddled Democratic "message," a demoralized and moribund party base, and electoral defeats in 2000, 2002 and 2004.'

Hillary has shown a strong penchant for the calculated triangulation of policy and the netroots blogosphere is not buying it. I'm not buying it. For me, the quintessence of the Hillary dance was her co-sponsorship of an anti-flag-burning bill by Bob Bennett (R-Utah). Note, not an amendment (too far to the right), but a statute (ah, just right). Not even banning all flag burning, but only burning intending to "intimidate any person or group of persons."

Even if Hillary is embraced by the Democratic establishment, she'll have high resistence from the base. Her claim to the 2008 nomination is far from assured.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Apple's ads: funny, brilliant, but what about the beachball?

The best Mac vs. PC ads ever. Simple. Clean. Brilliantly cast. Funny.

Except for the one where the PC keeps freezing while the Mac chugs along. As if no Mac user had ever stared helpless at the spinnning beach ball of suspended animation.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hilarious: Anthem sung in Spanish, when?

At the first Bush Inaugural. That's when.

So, it turns out that Bush was for singing "The Star Spangled Banner" in Spanish before he was against it. Details at Think Progress. But wait! There's more. Bush himself used to sing the anthem in Spanish when he was on the campaign trail.

Of course, my favorite morsel in this whole episode is Bush saying the other day, "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English." Goes for people who want to be a president of this country too, dontcha think?