Copyright © 2006 Frank Lynch.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
Good morning. I'm proud to announce my
nomination of Commissioner Bernard Kerik as the Secretary of
Homeland Security. Yeah, that's what Bush said. Read more at that link, if you like, for
even more plaudits: "I'm grateful he's agreed to bring his
lifetime of security experience and skill to one of the most
important positions in the federal government," and so on and so
on. Or, if you prefer, you could
read this item from today's New York Times, about how Kerik
seems to be close to copping a plea that will skirt him from jail
time for accepting infusions of mucho money from mob-affiliated
sources while serving as the head of corrections in NYC. Before
Kerik flamed out, he also, of course, boonswoggled Rudy Giuliani,
another politician with aspirations that shouldn't go further
than Onan's seed. I don't think we can put this all to Kerik's
credit, though: there is a certain hubris in Bush with his rush
to judgment after looking Putin in the eye and finding a good
man. I don't want to do the leg work, but I can't help but wonder
if in his younger years, prior to a phalanx of handlers, if the
President didn't have a rep as an easy lay.
Do our hopes rest with the judiciary? Today, you may already know, the Supreme Court rebuked the Executive Branch (that would be, uh, Bush) for its tribunals at Guantanamo. The court found that they violated the Geneva Convention, an international agreement which the Administration has been saying it couldn't be held to because it unconstitutionally limited its executive powers. (Yeah, well, I am an angel, and Newton's Law of Gravity wasn't anything I signed, so pardon me while I find the window.) In an earlier edition of the story (apparently no longer online), the New York Times quoted the plaintiff's military attorney, putting it in plain language that we were not to be ruled by fear, and this "was a victory, folks."
If you haven't yet read Glenn Greenwald's book, you really should, because it's relevant to this point. On other occasions, the Bush Administration has had to go before the Supreme Court on related matters surrounding the "Global War on Terror," and not only have they lost, but their pleas have been shot down in scathing terms, by some of the most conservative justices on the bench; Scalia, for instance, delved into the Federalist Papers, and in no uncertain terms, basically said, "Are you crazy to suggest you have such an ability to gather these powers in such a tyranny, a tyranny which the Founding Fathers not only recognized, but warned against?"
And I don't know if you think to other spheres on this balance of powers issue, but you may have forgotten the name Stanley F. Birch Jr., although you may remember his actions. Birch is the Federal judge who heard an appeal from those trying to maintain fluids for Terri Schiavo's body — I can't comment on her soul, but later examinations would reveal her brain had atrophied way beyond "brain dead" — and did a major smackdown on Congress and the President for their charades in this sad case: "the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution."
Yeah, that's right: the Constitution. Don't Tread on Me, you
jerks. Fourth of July is coming up, and everyone had best
remember what tyranny is, and the fancy clothes it might
Sixteen ways of looking at a flag desecration. Well, in an odd but fathomable move, portions of the United States Senate thought it might be fun to divert their attention from crushing issues like health care and continuing carnage in Iraq to try and persuade their constituents that they care about something, even if it's an issue like making an explicit, broad daylight assault on the Bill of Rights: through a flag protection amendment to the Constitution. Yeah, the Constitution, perhaps the finest bit of writing post-Shakespeare. But I guess I quibble. I don't know about you, but this could be a helluva slippery slope: who determines desecration? Will this be one of those characterizations like pornography — I know it when I see it, local standards, etc. — isn't this a genuine "Don't go there, Bob" issue?
I mean, isn't this the absolute height of hypocrisy over the Founding Fathers' intentions? America was born in an era where political cartoonists in the small British presses spared no barbs in their portrayal of the abuses they saw: surely the FF had some sense of the ills which could be brought on by an unbridled press, yet still Freedom of Expression was let into the Bill of Rights.
Thankfully, the Senate's assault on one of our most-treasured freedoms fell short of proceeding to the bonus round, but not by much, just one vote. (Yo: need another reason to vote in your primaries and November?!?!) But let's say it had passed... As I mentioned above, what kind of a world are we slippery- sloping towards? Must it be an actual piece of cloth of specific design which could conceivably flap in the breeze to provoke prosecution? For instance, would the very sensitive draw a distinction between your fabric of 15 stripes and theirs of 13? And what if the stars on your kindling were seven-pointed, instead of five?
I mean, seriously, are we talking about ideas or "flags"? Bruce Springsteen's famous album from 1984 (hmmm, there's a year for you, all you Orwell fans): you and I both know that we can imagine some crackpot demanding that the K-Mart not sell it, and those demands would be strengthened by a Constitutional amendment. I mean, look, we all know that "Born In The USA" was not exactly a tune shrieking country-love from the rafters, so much as expressing how being born here doesn't always mean you're so G-D blessed. You just know that rankles some who carefully read the lyrics.
And think about other occasions: Windsor Terrace is a Brooklyn neighborhood where flags drape the streets. And where Windsor Place creeps into Park Slope (uh oh, people with, shall we say, alternative lifestyles?), there's a fire hydrant decorated in colors shared by the French flag. Now, look, many of those people have dogs, and, uh, anyone seen how dogs react to fire hydrants? I'm just asking. Hmmm, sounds like flag desecration to me. It doesn't have to be a Shar-Pei, I kind of think ol' Barn might have a similar reaction. I just relish the trial over his desecration against the local standards, don't you? Would the President go on the stand as a character witness?
Of course, were Bush to testify on Barney's behalf, we would all know that Bush understands how one paw scratches the other, and we'd understand that Bush might hope that Barney would testify on his behalf in his own Flag desecration trial. Now, Barney's got an active life, and I'm sure that high in his considerations is whether testifying on Bush's behalf would hurt his own chances in a court of law. I mean, lots of politicians are wiping their web sites of all references to Bush. And Barney is no guinea pig, he has to carefully consider the consequences of his character witnesses, and face it, Mother Teresa is dead.
OK, silliness aside, I think I've done a good job of gently
suggesting some serious implications of the horrible process
which the majority of the U.S. Senate argued for today. Let's
just drop the silliness, and think seriously: why do these
Senators hate the Bill of Rights? Are they so damned cheap that
they would sell this great structure — America
— down the tubes for a six year job? At last, have they no
conscience? Have they no shame?
It's an interesting view of government, of course, that once you're reelected Preznit you're free to continue abusing power, because you only get one review. Bush's comfort is a sterling example of how little he understood/understands about government: everything else he wanted to accomplish besides invading Iraq has been threatened, because in spite of his arguments to the contrary, America is paying attention to that man behind the curtain, and his numbers are odiferous. But I have digressed; fun as it was, let's get back on topic.
Bush has long avoided a time table for withdrawal in Iraq by saying that such a time table would only give the terrorists a goal for outlasting us. Kind of fair enough a year ago, but not really, because no one was asking for time table for withdrawal: America only wanted to know how we would know we could come home. But Bush refused to acknowledge that. Since then, it's become of course apparent that whatever goals there are (a stable government, and independent, capable security forces) aren't supported by a plan. So I think it's fair that Bush has inadvertently upped the ante through his incompetence: thanks to prevarication, delays, and belief that he had a singular accountability moment, the fire to which his feet are being held has grown more intense: America now wants more than goals, America wants a plan.
But here's the rub: while I think it's garbage to suggest the New York Times committed treason over it's
articles on the NSA wiretapping and financial transaction
tracking, there's a lot of reason to say that specifics of the
plans to achieve the goals shouldn't be revealed. This
kind of information is exactly what the enemy would like:
wiretapping and surveillance is easily imagined, and thus I see
no foul in confirming the terrorists' fears. But telling them how
we intend to get from point A to point B? Nuh uh. Unfortunately,
Bush and Co. have lost their credibility with the American
people. The old rules may still apply, but America isn't buying
any longer. We just can't trust them: no WMDs, too many troops
have died, too little progress has been made, we're not convinced
that we're safer, and that's all there is. The croupier is
collecting the chips. See, Mr. President? There's more than one
accountability moment: until you get this right, it's like
there's a fetid, bloated corpse rising to the surface of the
lake, and it ain't pretty.
Tell the investors: you're setting the
company up like a garage band. In the 60's, inexperienced
garage bands put out a lot of incredible music, but in retrospect
wasn't a lot of it like the occasional monkey which typed out a
phrase of Shakespeare? MSNBC has taken the bold (bold!)
step of making its legal analyst, Dan Abrams — who has no
managerial experience — the big fish, the general manager,
the kingfish! This could be good: maybe, with some luck, we'll
get something as good as the Standells' "Dirty Water."
Grand Fenwick zeroes in on the Sears Tower. Wow: bad enough that we are a nation in constant fear; bad enough that there are people who want to reinforce those fears; bad enough that a group of whackos in Miami would imagine taking on Chicago's Sears Tower; maybe the worst part is that the group that most wants to reinforce our fears is the Department of Justice. Amidst an environment where the President is under fire for wire tapping without the required warrants, Attorney General Albert Gonzales, longtime Bush reportee, held a press conference today to announce the arrests of seven lowlifes in Miami who are alleged to have had designs on blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago. In a twist from a fanfarious press conference his predecessor John Ashcroft held in announcing the arrest of "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla, Gonzales was a bit more muted, referring to the Miami plotters as more aspirational than operational. I should think so: these guys' requests to their contact who was masquerading as a member of al Qaeda included items like uniforms. (That would have been an interesting way to attract attention on Michigan Avenue...) Well, OK, maybe they imagined themselves as making videos after the fact, or wearing them in action to strike fear into their victims before they died.
But seriously, while it's always a good thing to have the guilty put away, it's nice to see them get a trial first, and if this troupe really had designs on the Chicago landmark, I hope they'll get put away.
But you really have to wonder about the sequence of events here: Bush's poll numbers don't show much evidence of resuscitation, even after the death of al Zarqawi and the completion of the Iraqi cabinet; a surprise visit to Iraq has little or no impact; the legitimacy of Bush's wiretapping program is in the courts (and the government's argument seems to be "we'd tell you our argument, but if we did we'd be revealing national secrets"); and next week (I think?) Specter is holding hearings over the wiretapping program.
So, why else would Gonzales be holding such a high-
profile press conference over such a bush-league plot? Especially
after the DOJ was burned so badly by its initial trumpeting of
the Padilla case; the Pentagon's blown prosecution of the Muslim
chaplain at Gitmo; smites by the judiciary which forced the
Administration to make its pursuits moot rather than fully
scrutinized... Gonzales' efforts today seem, at first glance, a
laughable PR exercise. But in seriousness, on closer review, they
threaten the integrity of his position: the Attorney General is
supposed to be the highest law enforcement official in the land,
but today he came off like a flack. Someone else should have held
that press conference today, not him.
Blame and Credit where it's due. Some time ago I signed up for the daily email from GOPUSA.com, a Texas outfit which has a political agenda different than mine; I think I did it out of a diversity thing, and it was long before the scandal about one of their correspondents with a shady past getting into the White House on shaky credentials. I was very surprised, though, by what Rick Eberle sent over the transom this morning: a complaint that the "MSM" (uh, you know, allegedly it stands for "mainstream media" but it really means "people we wish would shut up") wasn't giving adequate coverage to Senator Rick Santorum's outrageous claim that WMDs had been found in Iraq. Clearly, Eberle's reading list isn't as diverse as mine is, because if he were on Think Progess's email list he'd have recieved early word that the Pentagon disavowed Santorum's claims.
Now, that's the blame part. On to the credit part: if you read
Eberle's post and move to
the comments, you'll read that a number of people have a
broader perspective than Eberle does, registering awareness that
the Pentagon has said "no, sorry" to Santorum's claim. Now, I'll
admit, it's possible that some of these commenters are nice Dems
like me being civil while bringing in the broader perspective,
but if so, isn't this a refreshing difference from how such Dems
are normally described in these situations ("you gap-toothed
Oilers fan, don't you know yet that your brother was your Daddy"
and so on). Secondly, even those who subscribe to Eberle's
broader point, accepting that this specific is baseless, are a
lot more civil than what you'd see in the comments at LGF,
or even in the posts at Horsefeathers, where they seem to have
bought in to that Woody Allen character's complaint that every
slurred "Did you" is "Jew" at its heart...