Showing posts with label Government Amok. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Government Amok. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is marriage a right or just a rite?

A major argument for same-sex marriage is that it is a family value that conservatives ought to be happy to encourage.  But that argument is as silly as opposition based on what the Bible says. Face it: LGBT people want the same rights as other people, and opponents of same-sex marriage think that homosexuality is immoral. It seems to me that both views ought to be respected. But why on earth is marriage the arena in which notions of equality and morality are fought?

A long time ago, many progressive people scoffed at the notion of marriage. They asked how can either a civil or religious ceremony bind two people who should be able to live together as long as they both shall love? Now, many of these people say the marriage act is essential for two people in love, as long as both are gay. The argument seems to be that everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law, which now favors married couples at the expense of singles. It makes sense to me, but why on earth are married people getting breaks in the first place? The only reason I can figure is that the state, for whatever reasons, believes marriage is important.  But what I can’t figure out is why the legal framework for marriage is up to the 50 states (or any level of government, anyway).

I don’t care how two people (or three or four; or gerbils or hamsters) choose to amuse themselves in private. Why should the state care? If there is a social good behind the institution of marriage, it seems to me it is because children thrive when their parents are married, and historically the more children a marital unit has, the more hands there are to work and to make up for infant mortality (neither of which is a big problem right now.)

If one is to argue that the purpose of marriage is to procreate, the question arises regarding couples who are infertile, those who choose not to repopulate and those who marry past the age of fertility. Should they be prevented from marrying? Of course not. Nor should anyone else. But, again, I ask, why should they marry in the first place? And, more important, why is it any of the state’s business to approve or disapprove of historically notorious promises of love and fidelity.
As the old gag goes about why marriage is important: "Why fight with strangers?"

Monday, January 02, 2012

Killer Congressmen

The following current, retired, defeated or dead members of the U.S. Congress voted in 2009 to kill a U.S. Park Service ranger. The murder, by a brave wounded warrior of our heroic wonderful armed forces, didn't happen until Jan. 1, 2012 in a national park -- which had been opened up to loaded weapons by the following defenders of freedom.

I wonder if Gabby Giffords would change her shameful vote now.


Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Byrd (D-WV)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Ensign (R-NV)

Enzi (R-WY)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagan (D-NC)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murkowski (R-AK)

Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sanders (I-VT)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (D-PA)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Udall (D-CO)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Wyden (D-OR)


Adler (NJ)
Barton (TX)
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (UT)
Bono Mack
Brady (TX)
Broun (GA)
Brown (SC)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Burton (IN)
Coffman (CO)
Davis (AL)
Davis (KY)
Davis (TN)
Deal (GA)
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Donnelly (IN)
Edwards (TX)
Franks (AZ)

Garrett (NJ)
Gingrey (GA)
Gordon (TN)
Green, Gene
Hall (TX)
Hastings (WA)
Herseth Sandlin
Johnson (GA)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson, Sam
Jordan (OH)
King (IA)
King (NY)
Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Kline (MN)
Lee (NY)
Lewis (CA)
Lungren, Daniel E.
Markey (CO)
McCarthy (CA)
McMorris Rodgers
Meek (FL)
Meeks (NY)
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Moran (KS)
Murphy (NY)

Murphy, Patrick
Murphy, Tim
Poe (TX)
Price (GA)
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Ryan (OH)
Ryan (WI)
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Smith (WA)
Thompson (MS)
Thompson (PA)
Wilson (OH)
Wilson (SC)
Young (AK)
Young (FL)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Chicago Code

When my public affairs career at FDA came to an abrupt end, I blamed the Chicago machine politics of Barack Obama for putting in place incompetent kids who had no clue as to media relations, personnel management or general qualities of being human.

More evidence comes from this account earlier this week by a reputable suburban Chicago newspaper of new Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s press secretary. The Rahm administration was inaugurated just as the one TV drama that captured Chicago corruption so well ("The Chicago Code") was canceled, even though it was on Fox.

It is no longer clear to me whether Emanuel was a creation of Obama or vice versa. In any event, here is one more example of Obamachine contempt for transparency -- and here is one less Democratic vote for president.

The questions that Emanuel's press secretary won't answer
Once Rahm Emanuel takes the oath and becomes Chicago' s mayor today, you will be hearing and seeing a lot more of a young woman named Tarrah Cooper. She is beginning the job of a lifetime, even though she doesn't have much life time behind her.

Ms. Cooper (who pronounces her first name as Tair-uh, not Tahr-uh) is going to be the “face” of the Chicago mayor's office, as Mr. Emanuel's newly anointed press secretary. At the tender age of 25, she is certainly a fresh face.

Never having heard of Cooper before Emanuel returned to the Chicago political scene last fall, I was curious to find out about this person who would be responsible for espousing the positions and platforms of Chicago's first new administration in two decades; would be the go-to contact for information about important daily news stories; or, heaven forbid, be the public source in the office if there was a calamity of some kind.

Never having heard of Cooper before Emanuel returned to the Chicago political scene last fall, I was curious to find out about this person who would be responsible for espousing the positions and platforms of Chicago's first new administration in two decades; would be the go-to contact for information about important daily news stories; or, heaven forbid, be the public source in the office if there was a calamity of some kind.

Last month, after learning that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had issued a scathing report against Mr. Emanuel's school superintendent to-be, I contacted Ms. Cooper for a response. The EEOC in Rochester, N.Y., where Jean-Claude Brizard had been running the public schools, determined that he had an age, race and gender bias when firing a top administrator.

I asked Cooper whether this had been known to Rahm Emanuel and why he nevertheless selected Brizard? Had Emanuel not known? Was Brizard's job offer being revoked?

In our very first conversation, rather than simply answer the questions, Ms. Cooper stated that she wished to speak “off the record.” I informed her that I wouldn't have such a conversation, especially not with someone who is in the business of providing public information. Seemingly frustrated by that, she said that she'd have to call back.

During a series of subsequent calls and emails, Ms. Cooper waged a relentless, several-hour campaign to convince me that such a finding by a federal panel against their choice to run the Chicago schools was not a news story. Sounding like a robocall, she persisted in the theme that “this isn't a story.”

As we prepared the report for broadcast, Cooper also sent two emails containing misleading and false information. First she stated that “an independent investigation found that Mr. Brizard did nothing wrong.” But that report was prepared by a firm hired by Brizard's school board and hardly independent.

Next she wrote that “a court of law has proved that he did not do anything wrong.”

That was completely false. A civil suit is still in the early stages. Ms. Cooper, who did not respond to several requests for comment on this column, just graduated from the famous University of Missouri journalism school in 2008, so what she learned should still be fresh.

She worked as a reporter on Mizzou's TV station and interned at MTV in New York.

Before joining the Emanuel for Mayor campaign, she worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., where her bio states “she helped to manage the Department's messaging, priorities and actions for numerous national incidents including the H1N1 epidemic, the December 25th and Times Square attempted bombings, the Haitian earthquake and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.” Based on DHS alerts, it seems she spent considerable time processing forms submitted by reporters to attend agency events.

At city hall, she succeeds longtime mayoral press secretary Jackie Heard, who was paid a salary of nearly $180,000 per year. On April 23, I sent Ms. Cooper a number of questions for this column. They included:

• Is there a set of written guidelines or protocols that you are working from in dealing with reporters and news organizations?
• How involved is Mr. Emanuel in setting the tone for dealing with the press and in what manner? Does each story inquiry get run by him?
• Which of these best describes your view as press secretary in dealing with Chicago's major newspapers and TV and why: Tools for getting out message as we see it; aimed at embarrassing or uncovering negative aspects of the administration; a necessary evil that has to be controlled.
• How will your cooperation with news organizations be based on the nature and tone of their day-to-day coverage?
• Does your youthfulness and lack of experience symbolize what seems to be administration focused on hiring managers under 35?
• What qualifies you to be press secretary for the mayor of the third-largest city?
• How much will you be paid?
• What are your career aspirations?

In more than three weeks she has yet to answer any of the questions. After asking a few times to meet me “off the record,” which I declined, Tarrah Cooper has stopped replying.
It is interesting that the mayor's new press secretary felt no inhibition about displaying hundreds of personal photos on her public Facebook page, showing her partying with friends, in beach attire and at a slot machine.

When you are 25, apparently some things are OK to be put on the record.

Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by email at and followed at ChuckGoudie.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Transparent Vindication

As loyal readers may recall, I was suddenly defederalized last October a few weeks short of being legally immune from employer abuse of the kind administered to at least four older workers in the FDA public affairs shop.

Everyone knew the that new boss was not only not the same as the old boss but actually was parachuted in from a planet where “communication” meant silence, “transparency” meant hiding information and “public service” meant “no we can’t.”

Now, however, it seems that either her ability as a manager was exposed to her bosses or she failed to toady enough to the Obama hacks. (I can’t prove anything, but I suspect the former.) She is, I am reliably told, leaving government to join an advocacy/lobbying group run by the state politician whom she worked for before arriving in DC to wreak her damage here. In Washington, departing a high profile job in only one year is not a sign of success.

Anyway, this is not the story of one guy having a problem with one bad boss. I have moved on happily from other ones and survived. This is a story about how what happened in front of my naive eyes seems emblematic of what is going on elsewhere in government -- the wreckage of Obama's pretense of bringing a fresh way of doing things to Washington.

Many of my own observations are confirmed by an op-ed in today’s Washington Post detailing how this administration is more secret and contemptuous of public information than the Bush administration.

In the meantime, I remain one of the uncounted unemployed. Vindication doesn’t put food on the table, but it does taste sweet to announce, “Boss, thy name is ‘Payback.’”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Issa That a Pistol in Your Pocket?

The science that has given America the best health care in the world – at least according to myopic Republican politicians – is grounded in the unique system by which the federal government awards research grants for the independent study of important medical issues. Most of the grants are issued by the unassailable National Institutes of Health (unassailable because I work for it as a contractor), and the value of those grants are decided upon by panels of experts in the field. Partisan politics does not play a role.

But since this is taxpayers’ money, every once in a while a cretinous Congressman thinks he can make political hay by arousing the public over grants that have to do with one subject and one subject only. Sex.

Several years ago, the House came within one vote of canceling grants because the eponymous Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona didn’t like studying the prostitutes who are largely responsible for the African AIDS epidemic that has killed millions of black people and ruined the economies of half a continent.

Now, another yahoo who should know better got the House to pass, without debate and without a vote, cancellation of several other AIDS studies.

This living example of the need to for further brain research is Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. His amendment – which one hopes will be quietly dispatched by the Senate or a conference committee – high-handedly would cancel behavioral research studies on 1) the factors that put Thai prostitutes at special risk of HIV; (2) decreasing high-risk HIV behaviors among Russian alcoholics; and (3) an intervention program targeting HIV risk and alcohol use among Chinese prostitutes.

Why does Issa care? He cares because these three grants were brought to his attention by a news organization that was rooting around the tens of thousands of grants the NIH awards to find those having to do with sex. The news organization? The reputable Christian Broadcast Network, founded by the always reputable Pat Robertson.

I sure hope Issa or anyone in his family never gets AIDS, never has sex outside of marriage and never needs their lives saved by discoveries made through scientific inquiry.

Mr. Issa is the guy who made a fortune with the Viper car alarm system, and is literally the voice behind “Please step away from the car.”

While convicted only once, he has a very interesting history regarding the use of cars, as explained on Wikipedia.

In 1971, Issa allegedly stole a Dodge sedan from an Army post near Pittsburgh. The allegation was made by a retired Army sergeant, and published in a 1998 newspaper article. Issa denied the allegation. No charges were filed.

In 1972, Issa and his brother allegedly stole a red Maserati sports car from a car dealership in Cleveland. He and his brother were indicted for car theft, but the case was dropped.

Also in 1972, Issa was convicted in Michigan for possession of an unregistered gun. He received three months probation and paid a $204 fine.

On December 28, 1979, Issa and his brother allegedly faked the theft of Issa's Mercedes Benz sedan. Issa and his brother were charged for felony auto theft, but the case was dropped by prosecutors for lack of evidence. Later, Issa and his brother were charged for misdemeanors, but that case was not pursued by prosecutors. Issa accused his brother of stealing the car, and said that the experience with his brother was the reason he went into the car alarm business.

A day after a court order was issued, giving Issa control of automotive alarm company A.C. Custom over an unpaid $60,000 debt, Issa allegedly carried a cardboard box containing a handgun into the office of A.C. Custom executive, Jack Frantz, and told Frantz he was fired. In a 1998 newspaper article, Frantz said Issa had invited him to hold the gun and claimed extensive knowledge of guns and explosives from his Army service. In response, Issa said, "Shots were never fired. ... I don't recall having a gun. I really don't. I don't think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.”

The views expressed in this post are mine and not those of the National Institutes of Health or any other component of the U.S. government.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Every president since Kennedy has tried to manipulate the news media. It is what they are supposed to do. And it is the job of the news media to resist, however futilely, and to bring to public attention the attempts.

As many readers know, I used to cover the White House and was an active, sometimes abrasive, participant in the daily briefings by the press secretary. But as in the production of sausages and of legislation, the process by which news is created ought not to be viewed by the weak-stomached. When the daily interchange between journalists and the White House press secretary went on TV some years ago, things went to hell, and it diminishes everyone.

The function of the White House press is not to dig up dirt or investigate government programs. It is to report what the president and his administration are doing on a short-term basis and, most important, to hold the president accountable by asking and receiving on-the-record answers from his spokespeople.

President Obama, however, is taking news management to a new level by selecting reporters and advising them they will be called upon at a press conference, staging town meetings the way Richard Nixon did at the behest of media adviser Roger Ailes and even arranging for a particular question to be asked.

It is his right to do so and it may advance his policies, which I am generally in favor of. But thanks to my mentor Helen Thomas and CBS’ Chip Reid, the public now knows how this manipulation of public opinion is being conducted.

The following Is from the July 1 White House briefing:

Q At today's town hall meeting, questions coming in on YouTube
and Twitter and such -- who decides what questions will be asked?

MR. GIBBS: I think a group over at New Media is shuffling through
questions. I think if you go on -- I did not do this today, but I think if
you go on our Web site you'll see some of those questions. And I think,
Chip, at the end of the day, when you -- I think the questions that will be read
to the President -- obviously he'll take some questions from the audience there
-- I think will be a representative sample of the issues in this debate that
we're dealing with.

Q And the audience is all preselected, right?

MR. GIBBS: No, we usually just generally hand out tickets on a
first come, first serve basis.

Q Well, I think in this case, the people were invited either by the White House or by the university -- I mean, invited by this community college, as it was explained to us.
MR. GIBBS: Well, if the university is --

Q It just feels very tightly controlled. It feels -- I mean, the concept of a town hall I
think is to have a open public forum, and this sounds like a very tightly
controlled audience and a list of questions. Why do it that why? Why
not open it up to the public?

MR. GIBBS: How about we do this -- how about you can ask me that question tomorrow based on what questions were asked rather than preselecting your question based on something that may or may not come through.

Q But why pre-select? Why not just open it up for people and allow any question to come in?

MR. GIBBS: Well, Chip, I think if you get on your computer from your e-mail address
Q I have. I have.

MR. GIBBS: Have you sent in your question?

Q I think that would be inappropriate. This is for the public.

MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, I'm confused -- are you not a member of the public?

Q Well, I think if you were going to allow questions from the press you'd have us in a
prominent position over there and allow us to ask questions -- you haven't done

MR. GIBBS: Let's not get into the notion of where you'd be sitting -- (laughter) -- if I let you ask a question, but
Q Well out of shouting range.

MR. GIBBS: Well, but you could e-mail.

Q Would you put my question in there? I don't think so.

MR. GIBBS: Maybe. Have you e-mailed?

Q I mean, this is a town hall.


GIBBS: It's a little -- if you haven't e-mailed.

Q This is an open forum for the public to ask questions, but it's not really

MR. GIBBS: I couldn't agree more. Q But it's not open.

MR. GIBBS: Based on what?

Q Based on the information that your staff gave us on how the audience and the questions are being selected.

MR. GIBBS: The questions are being selected by people that e-mail on Facebook and Twitter.

Q Well, they're not deciding what questions actually get in.

MR. GIBBS: Well, Chip, I appreciate, again --

Q It just feels completely controlled
MR. GIBBS: I appreciate, again --

Q -- in a way unlike his town meetings all the campaign and --

MR. GIBBS: I appreciate the pre-selected question on your part.

Q Will there be dissenting views --

Q Yes, how about that?

MR. GIBBS: I think that's a very safe bet. But, again, let's -- how about we do this? I promise we will interrupt the AP's tradition of asking the first question. I will let you ask me a question tomorrow as to whether you thought the questions at the town hall meeting that the President conducted at Annandale --

Q I'm perfectly happy to
Q That's not his point. The point is the control
Q Exactly.

Q -- we have never had that in the White House. And we have had some, but not
Q This White House.

MR. GIBBS: Yes, I was going to say, I'll let you amend her question.

Q I'm amazed -- I'm amazed at you people who call for openness and transparency and --

MR. GIBBS: Helen, you haven't even heard the questions.

Q It doesn't matter. It's the process.

Q You have left open --

Q Even if there's a tough question, it's a question coming from somebody who was invited or was screened, or the question was screened.

Q It's shocking. It's really shocking.

MR. GIBBS: Chip, let's have this discussion at the conclusion of the town hall meeting. How about that?

Q Okay.
MR. GIBBS: I think --

Q No, no, no, we're having it now --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I'd be happy to have it

Q It's a pattern.

MR. GIBBS: Which question did you object to at the town hall meeting, Helen?

Q It's a pattern. It isn't the question --

MR. GIBBS: What's a pattern?

Q It's a pattern of controlling the press.

MR. GIBBS: How so? Is there any evidence currently going on that I'm
controlling the press -- poorly, I might add. (Laughter.)

Q Your formal engagements are pre-packaged.

MR. GIBBS: How so?

Q Well, and controlling the public --

Q How so? By calling reporters the night before to tell them they're going to be called on. That is shocking.

MR. GIBBS: We had this discussion ad nauseam and
Q Of course you would because you don't have any answers.
MR. GIBBS: Well, because I didn't know you were going to ask a
question, Helen. Go ahead.

Q Well, you should have.

Q Thank you for your support.
MR. GIBBS: That's good. Have you e-mailed your question today?

Q I don't have to e-mail it. I can tell you right now what I want to
ask. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: I don't doubt that at all, Helen. I don't doubt that at all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Go, MoDo!

As is often the case, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, puts in one paragraph what it takes cable TV weeks to miss:

"The man who never talked is now the man who won’t shut up. The man who wouldn’t list his office in the federal jobs directory, who had the vice president’s residence blocked on Google Earth, who went to the Supreme Court to keep from revealing which energy executives helped him write the nation’s energy policy, is now endlessly yelping about how President Obama is holding back documents that should be made public."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Still in a Purple Haze

I wanted to share the following e-mail exchange I had with the "Presidential Inauguration Committee, which sent me a note asking if I wanted to buy even more merchandising crap.

Where were you when Barack Obama was sworn in as president?

It's a question our kids and grandkids will be asking us for years to come.
You know where I was? I was standing for hours in 15-degree weather freezing my ass off outside the Purple Gate, denied entrance to the Capitol grounds despite a ticket. So this was an event I will always remember -- as the first instance of incompetence, which I now see running through the ranks of the civil service under political hacks who have no sense of how things really work or ought to work.

We Purple Gaters never got so much as an apology or a make-good event with the president. I wish Obama well, but I wish unremitting hell to whomever thought the opening lines of this marketing scam was clever.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stale of Play

"State of play" is one of those buzz words I have always despised, all the more so because an insufferable young stuffed shirt reporter I once worked with used it all the time to ask questions of official spokesmen: "What's the state of play on (whatever)."

This was back in the '80s, and then, as now, the phrase has utterly no meaning except as a catchword, just as "optics" is today ("The optics of Wall Street executives getting bonuses are terrible.)" People in the communications industry -- newspapers, advertising, public relations people and entertainment producers--seem to exist to muddy up the language, which of course, muddies up our thinking, which leads to torture being called "enhanced interrogation."

Anyway, before I wander too far into the ozone, I would like to disrecommend a movie I just got back from seeing.

It is called, naturally, "State of Play," which among its other disattributes has a title that has nothing to do with the plot or the theme. Just three words put together to indicate Washington mumbo jumbo.

I went because it is a "Washington" movie, a thriller mixing politics and journalism, and every time there is such a movie, it sucks. Producers don't realize that you don't have to inject moronic plot twists and impossible locations and details that are utterly false on their face to have a good political/journalistic movie.

"All the President's Men" did pretty well without taking too many liberties. "State of Play" involves a journalist, a newspaper blogger, a corrupt congressman and Blackwater, Inc., all of whom involved in conflicts of interest that would never exist, even in Washington.

This movie has been done much better in 1982 when it starred Sally Field and Paul Newman in "Absence of Malice."

What I just saw was a state of movie-making garbage that is worthwhile only if you like to watch Russell Crowe and/or Ben Affleck. The best part was the visual narrative of how a newspaper is actually printed-- the rolling of the presses--and it ran during the closing credits.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Droppings -- VIII

DiFi Harder

Well, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, its czarina herself, Dianne Feinstein and the U.S. Secret Service are falling all over themselves now to shift the blame for yesterday’s Inaugural seating fiasco – to someone!. They have set up commissions to investigate!

The initial excuses – too many interlopers, equipment malfunctions, people rushing another gate causing police to be diverted from the purple gate, people’s polar clothing being so bulky they could not quickly be screened and especially the lies that too many tickets had been given out and that people showed up too late – are preposterous and refuted by marvelous satellite photography.
What you see here is at the extreme right of the photo, the Capitol steps and the site of the actual Inauguration. At the extreme left, you see brown patches behind sections of seated guests. The brown patches represent bare ground where nobody is standing. It is called the purple section. Another part of the space picture shows me and several thousand of my best friends clumped two blocks away, penned up like sheep. (The long white diagonal image toward the bottom is the Secret Service checkpoint.)

The Money Shot

I didn’t get any pictures yesterday, and the one I really wanted was this. It says it all. Na-na-na-na, goodbye!”

Now I'm the Maddest M*****f*****

Did I mention that Samuel L. Jackson and Vanessa Williams were in the wrong line and, according to the Washington Post, were “rescued” by a policeman and escorted to, you guessed it, the purple section.

Hey, I've Been Shut Out of Better Parties Than This!

Maybe I should get no sympathy for being locked out by the crowds. The same newspaper reported that the crowd at Sunday night’s party at the home of New York Times columnist Maureen Down (MoDo) was so thick that Tom Hanks, Ben Affleck and Bruce Springsteen couldn’t get in.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Droppings -- VII

Purple Rage

I held a valued and hard-to-get ticket to the purple section of the Capitol Inaugural viewing area. Standing room, but still a historic and privileged vantage point. Here is what I saw:

Thousands of purple ticket holders, including me, never got in. Never got close. The security gate was closed long after it was to have opened, it could not handle the number of people who had tickets and who got there in time, even though organizers knew exactly how many people were given tickets and how long it should take them to clear security.

But there were no cops, no volunteers, no signage, no crowd control. Organizers, whom we will get to in a moment, apparently thought everyone would come by getting off the same subway stop and march like ants down one street toward the gate. As a result of poor signage, thousands were in the line who had no tickets but thought it was the place to go to gain general admission to the Mall.

From ground level, even at 6’-2” level, the only markings were huge purple signs that said “Purple Gate.” But they gave no indication of where the line was supposed to start, finish or snake into the equivalent of an airport security station.

No cops, no volunteers, no signage, no crowd control. People had come from all over the country and contrary to the snot nosed replies the police gave, nobody got there late. Friends with tickets in another section on the other side of the mall, maybe three-quarters of a mile away, got to their security checkpoint at 10:20 and were in place in a few minutes.

The frustration was not incompetence but not knowing where to go. From ground level, even at 6’-2” level, the only markings were huge purple signs that said “Purple Gate.” But they gave no indication of where the line was supposed to start, finish or snake into the equivalent of an airport security station. We were stuck at the building of the National Association of Letter Carriers – and some of us were ready to go postal.

People were chanting “let us in” and if this were not a decent crowd of Obama supporters, there would have been a riot. Sure, some, including the infirm and infant, would have been hurt, but thousands of people storming the 12-foot fencing between the street and the security checkpoint could have overtaken either the Secret Service -- or the news.

Now, maybe I was lucky standing for three and a half hours going nowhere in 20-degree weather, because other purple ticket holders were – if you can believe this – told to stand in a tunnel, where like good little Germans stood claustrophobic and freezing for hours.

This was an outrage worthy of local governments. This was an outrage of Bushian proportions. This was an abomination for the Obama nation. I have been to inaugurals and I live nearby. But there were thousands who came from all over the country for this event and got there on time, who did what they were supposed to do but were foiled by the U.S. Secret Service and the real villain of this piece, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Why her? This former San Francisco City supervisor was in charge of the arrangements. The Obama campaign was the most efficient organization I have ever seen. Scary organized! But this was not their doing.

Dianne Feinstein, the Secret Service and God knows who else fucked this up so badly “Purplegate” will make Watergate a fond memory in the annals of government stupidity.

On the way back, I kept thinking that Dan White shot the wrong supervisor.

For new details, including the kind of comment from the Senate sergeant-at-arms that should get him fired by tomorrow, see the Washington Post article.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Inaugural Droppings - I

I have been selected to be an official Inaugural volunteer. I won’t know the details until I am handed a triple-sealed envelope marked “If you do not choose to accept this assignment …” next Monday night.

I do know from a brief conversation with my “handler” that I will be assigned somewhere on the Mall. How I, or anyone else will get there, could be the hardest part of the job. (But I will show up wearing my Obama “44th president” baseball cap I bought yesterday in a government building, no less, for a mere $5. You can guess where it was made.)

The other day, I got an e-mail missive from PIC (“presidential inaugural committee”) declaring:

“We're organizing the most open and accessible inauguration in our nation's history.”


Today, I got the following message from my employer: (It is lengthy, but gives you an idea pretty quickly that since people who live in Virginia, which shockingly voted for Obama, cannot drive into the District of Columbia, and since only the subway and foot traffic will be allowed, no one is getting anywhere quickly or efficiently from Jan. 19-21. Unlike every previous Inaugural I attended where you could wander freely near the parade route and salute with as many fingers as you wished.)

2009 Presidential Inaugural Law Enforcement and Public Safety Public Affairs Subcommittee Announces Joint Transportation Plan
January 7, 2009
Contact: District Department of Transportation, 202-671-3490
Virginia State Police, 804-674-2789
Maryland State Highway Administration, 410-545-0303
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 202- 962-1051
U.S. Capitol Police, 202-224-1677
U.S. Park Police, 202-619-7163
U.S. Secret Service, 202-406-5708
(Washington, D.C.) – Events and activities celebrating the 56th Presidential Inauguration will take place beginning on Saturday, January 17, 2009, through Wednesday, January 21, 2009, with the swearing-in scheduled for Tuesday, January 20.
Security and transportation plans for the Inaugural have been developed by a partnership of local, state and federal law enforcement and public safety agencies, including the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Virginia State Police, the Maryland Department of Transportation, the United States Secret Service, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the United States Capitol Police and the United States Park Police.

This transportation plan provides the general outlines for road closures, vehicular restricted zones, public transportation, charter vehicles and pedestrian routes. Additional information is available online for residents of the District, Virginia and Maryland, as well as charter operators, through the websites listed at the end of this plan. Additions to this plan may be made prior to the Inaugural and will be updated on these websites. Specific questions regarding this transportation plan should be directed to the participating agencies as identified.
Access into Washington, D.C. will be limited on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. The following is a summary of routes and their status that day:

o 14th Street Bridge – Restricted to Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only
o Roosevelt Bridge – Restricted to Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only
o Memorial Bridge – Restricted to Pedestrians and Emergency Vehicles Only
o Key Bridge – Restricted to Mass Transit Only
o Chain Bridge - Restricted to Authorized Vehicles and Mass Transit Only, no charter buses..
o South Capitol Street Bridge – Restricted to Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only
o Southeast/Southwest Freeway – Restricted to Emergency Vehicles Only
o Rock Creek Parkway – Open to traffic from Beach Drive to Virginia Avenue NW (Holiday traffic schedule in effect throughout the park)
o Clara Barton Parkway operating under Holiday schedule (2 way traffic all day)
o 11th Street Bridges – Restricted to Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only
o Sousa Bridge – Open to all traffic from east of the river to security checkpoint in Capitol Hill; Barney Circle closed to all vehicles
o East Capitol Street – Open to all traffic but roadways around RFK will be filled with tour buses
o Benning Road – Open to all traffic
o New York Avenue – Open to all traffic
o 3rd Street Tunnel – Closed to all vehicular traffic and restricted to pedestrian use only.
Authorized vehicles include taxicabs and limousines with valid licenses.
Washington, D.C. Vehicular Restrictions
Vehicle Restricted Zone: Vehicular road closures in Washington, D.C. will be instituted by the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police. Extensive road closures and vehicle restricted zones will be established in Washington, D.C. Beginning at 3 p.m.. on Monday, January 19, through 7 a.m. on Wednesday, January 21, all of the following areas will be posted as Emergency No Parking. From 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20, many of these areas will be posted by law enforcement personnel and vehicular traffic will be limited to residents with government issued identification (driver’s license) or vehicle registration showing residency inside the restricted area, or to vehicles conducting essential business within the restricted area.
o K Street NW from Washington Circle to 12th Street NW
o Washington Circle from K Street NW to 23rd Street NW
o Pennsylvania Avenue NW from Washington Circle to the U S Capitol
o I Street NW from 23rd Street NW to 11th Street NW
o H Street NW from 23rd Street NW to 3rd Street NW
o G Street NW from 23rd Street NW to 3rd Street NW
o F Street NW from 23rd Street NW to 3rd Street NW
o E Street NW from 23rd Street NW to 3rd Street NW
o Virginia Avenue from 23rd Street NW to 2nd SW
o D Street NW from 23rd Street NW to 1st Street NW
o C Street NW from 23rd Street NW to 3rd Street NW
o Constitution Avenue from 23rd Street NW to 2nd Street NE
o Madison Dr. NW from 15th Street NW to 3rd Street NW
o Jefferson Dr.. SW from 15th Street SW to 3rd Street SW
o Independence Avenue from 23rd Street SW to 2nd Street SE
o C Street SW from 7th Street SW to 2nd Street SW
o D Street SW from 7th Street SW to 2nd Street SW
o E Street SW from 7th Street SW to 2nd Street SW
o Maryland Avenue SW from 7th Street SW to the U S Capitol
o 23rd Street from Washington Circle NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 22nd Street NW from K Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
o 21st Street NW from K Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
o 20th Street NW from K Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
o 19th Street NW from K Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
o 18th Street NW from K Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
o 17th Street from K Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o Connecticut Avenue NW from K Street NW to H Street NW
o 16th Street NW from K Street NW to H Street NW
o Vermont Avenue NW from K Street NW to H Street NW
o 15th Street from K Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 14th Street from K Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o New York Avenue NW from 18th Street NW to 11th Street NW
o 13th Street NW from K Street NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
o 12th Street from K Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 11th Street NW from K Street NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
o 10th Street NW from H Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
o 9th Street from H Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 8th Street NW from H Street NW to D Street NW
o 7th Street from H Street NW to E Street SW
o 6th Street from H Street NW to E Street SW
o 5th Street from H Street NW to D Street NW
o 4th Street from H Street NW to E Street SW
o 3rd Street from Massachusetts Avenue NW to E Street SW
o Henry Bacon Dr. NW from the Lincoln Memorial to Constitution Avenue NW
o Daniel French Dr. SW from the Lincoln Memorial to Independence Avenue SW
o Ohio Drive from Independence Avenue through West Potomac and East Potomac Parks
o Buckeye Drive in East Potomac Park
o West Basin Drive
o East Basin Drive
o Parkway Drive from Rock Creek Parkway to Lincoln Memorial Circle
o Maine Avenue from East Basin Drive to Independence Avenue
Vehicular Road Closures: In addition to above listed Emergency No Parking and vehicle restricted areas, from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20, the following roads will be closed and off limits to vehicles without a law enforcement escort:
o Pennsylvania Avenue NW from 18th Street NW to the U S Capitol
o I Street NW from 18th Street NW to 12th Street NW
o H Street NW from 18th Street NW to 12th Street NW
o G Street NW from 18th Street NW to 12th Street NW
o F Street NW from 18th Street NW to 12th Street NW
o E Street NW from 18th Street NW to 6th Street NW
o D Street NW from 18th Street NW to 6th Street NW
o C Street from 18th Street NW to 2nd Street NE
o Constitution Avenue from 17th Street NW to 2nd Street NE
o Madison Dr. NW from 15th Street NW to 3rd Street NW
o Jefferson Dr. SW from 15th Street SW to 3rd Street SW
o Independence Avenue from 14th Street SW to 2nd Street NE
o Maryland Avenue SW from 6th Street SW to the U S Capitol
o 17th Street from I Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o Connecticut Avenue NW from I Street NW to H Street NW
o 16th Street NW from I Street NW to H Street NW
o Vermont Avenue NW from I Street NW to H Street NW
o 15th Street from I Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 14th Street from I Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o New York Avenue NW from 18th Street NW to 12th Street NW
o 13th Street NW from I Street NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
o 12th Street from F Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 11th Street NW from F Street NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
o 10th Street NW from F Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
o 9th Street from F Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 8th Street NW from F Street NW to D Street NW
o 7th Street from F Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 6th Street from F Street NW to Maryland Avenue SW
o 5th Street from D Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 4th Street from D Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
o 3rd Street from D Street NW to Independence Avenue SW
Capitol Hill: Road closures on Capitol Hill will be instituted by the U.S. Capitol Police in cooperation with the Metropolitan Police Department. Access to the perimeter will be restricted to properly authorized and credentialed personnel only. No public parking will be provided. The following street closures will go into effect starting at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, January 20, 2009:
o Louisiana Avenue between Columbus Circle and Constitution Avenue NW
o Delaware Avenue between Columbus Circle and D Street NE
o First Street between Columbus Circle and D Street NE
o North Capitol Street NW between E Street and Louisiana Avenue
o E Street between New Jersey Avenue and North Capitol Street NW
o New Jersey Avenue NW between E Street and Louisiana Avenue NW
o D Street between Louisiana Avenue NW and Second Street NE
o First Street NW between D Street NW and Louisiana Avenue NW
o C Street NW between First Street and Louisiana Avenue NW
o Second Street NW between C Street and Constitution Avenue NW
o Second Street NE between Massachusetts Avenue NE and C Street SE
o C Street SE between Second Street SE and First Street SE
o First Street SE between C Street and D Street SE
o D Street between First Street SE and Washington Avenue SW
o Washington Avenue SW between D Street SW, and Independence Avenue SW
o Independence Avenue SW between Second Street SW and Third Street NW
o Third Street between SW Freeway and Constitution Avenue NW
o Constitution Avenue NW between Second Street NW and Third Street NW
Streets will reopen once the parade concludes at 5 p.m.
Charter Bus Parking Zones: Tour bus parking is available at RFK Stadium and designated zones within the District. Specific zones and road closures are posted on the District’s Inauguration web site at Streets around the bus parking areas will be closed to private automobile traffic and will be posted as Emergency No Parking zones beginning at 3 p.m. on Monday January, 19, 2009. Generally, these areas include:
o RFK Stadium
o 12th Street NW to 22nd Street and K Street NW to P Street NW
o First Street NE to 6th Street NW and New York Avenue to H Street NW
o Designated areas in Southwest and Southeast
Virginia Vehicular Restrictions
All vehicular road restrictions will be coordinated between the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and local jurisdictions. On January 20, 2009, personal vehicles will not be permitted into Washington, D.C., from Virginia.
o I-395 north will be closed to general traffic. As a result, northbound I-95 traffic will be diverted onto I-495 North (Inner Loop) or I-495/I-95 East (Outer Loop) at the Springfield interchange.
o Eastbound I-66 lanes east of the Capital Beltway/I-495 will be closed to general traffic.. Eastbound traffic on I-66 will also be diverted onto I-495
o Only authorized vehicles – emergency vehicles, buses, taxis and for-hire limos - will be permitted on I-395 North and I-66 East within the Beltway.
o Memorial Bridge will be open to pedestrian traffic only. No motor vehicles will be permitted to cross the bridges.
o Key Bridge is restricted to mass transit only
o Chain Bridge is restricted to authorized vehicles and mass transit only, no charter buses.
o The Woodrow Wilson and the American Legion bridges will have no traffic restrictions.
o North Washington Street at Montgomery Street (City of Alexandria City) to Reagan National Airport will be closed.
U.S. Park Police Closures
The following vehicular road closures will be coordinated by the U.S. Park Police. On January 20, 2009:
o The George Washington Memorial Parkway will be closed in both directions from I-495 to the 14th Street Bridge.
o Buses and authorized vehicles traveling to Washington Reagan National Airport via I-395 may exit onto southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway for the airport only. All other traffic will need to use Route 1 or mass transit to access the airport.
o Buses and authorized vehicles will be allowed to exit Washington Reagan National Airport onto northbound George Washington Memorial Parkway to enter the District of Columbia via the 14th Street Bridge. All other traffic will be allowed to exit the airport via Route 1 or southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Maryland Transportation Information
While there are no anticipated road closures or restrictions in Maryland, officials are discouraging individuals from driving into the District and encouraging the use of mass transit. The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration is supporting Inaugural activities by:
o Conducting extended emergency traffic patrols along interstate and primary highways approaching the National Capital Region
o Providing real time traffic public information by means of Dynamic Message Signs (DMS), Highway Advisory Radios (HAR), and CHART (Coordinated Highways Action Response Team) on the Web
o Assisting motorists and removing abandoned and disabled vehicles from travel lanes and reporting on travel conditions
o Providing traffic control support to conduct ramp closures and other operations warranted to maintain traffic
o Log onto for transit and travel information
Public Transportation

Public transportation to all Inaugural events is encouraged as many streets in and around the Capitol and the Mall area and bridges into/out of the city will be closed to private automobiles for much of the day.

Metrorail will operate rush hour service for 17 consecutive hours on January 20, from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will operate on a non-rush hour schedule for two extra hours until 2 a.m. As Metrorail will be operating rush-hour service, it will charge peak fares throughout the day. Due to security measures, the Archives-Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter Metrorail station on Metro's Green and Yellow Lines and the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines, will be closed all day on Inauguration Day, Tuesday, January 20.

Metro’s commemorative One-Day Pass with a special Inauguration design is currently being sold for $10 online or $7.80 at Metro sales offices and fare vending machines. The cost of the passes will be $10 at all sales locations on January 20. People should purchase their farecards, One-Day Passes or SmarTrip cards in advance of Inauguration Day if possible to avoid the lines.

Metro has about 60,000 parking spaces in 29 lots and 22 garages throughout the Washington region for private motorists to park on Inauguration Day. Metro will charge $4 cash only for motorists as they pull in to park in its lots. The Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station parking lot is closed to the public and is only available for Metro employees who will be working on Inauguration Day.
Metrobus will be operating on a modified Saturday schedule from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Inauguration Day.

However, with street closures around the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue for the parade, all Metrobuses will be prepared for detours. Bus riders are encouraged to plan significant extra time to travel through these areas.

MetroAccess will operate identical hours to Metrorail and Metrobus during Inauguration Weekend and through Inauguration Day. MetroAccess customers are encouraged to plan significant extra time to travel due to increased traffic throughout the service area. Street closures around the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue for the Inauguration and parade on Inauguration Day will mean that MetroAccess vehicles will only be able to drop off customers several blocks from the Inauguration and parade route. MetroAccess vehicles will not be permitted access to streets that are closed. All MetroAccess users should be prepared for detours. MetroAccess customers must reserve their trips by 4:30 p.m. the day prior to travel.

People planning to use Metro during the four days of Inaugural activities can sign up for special e-alerts on Metro’s Web site at E-alerts will be issued when Metro has news relating to service for the Inauguration and when there may be service disruptions.

Charter Vehicles
Transportation and security planners anticipate up to 10,000 private buses carrying 500,000 participants to Washington, D.C., for the Inaugural events. DDOT has designated parking zones for buses throughout the metro area. From these areas, riders will be able to walk, take Metro or, in limited cases, take shuttle buses to the Inaugural events. Charter buses will not be able to park and/or drop off passengers at any Metro station in Washington D.C., Virginia, or Maryland.
All those who plan to travel the District of Columbia during Inauguration Week via chartered buses, motor carriers, etc., must obtain a Trip Permit from the District Department of Motor Vehicles and must sign up for a parking pass at designated parking sites. Registration for permit and parking for charter buses must be completed no later than Thursday, January 15, 2009. No registrations will be accepted after this date. Additional information and registration is available at

Pedestrian Routes
The following access points have been identified as pedestrian-only routes to the National Mall:
o E Street NE from Massachusetts Avenue NE to 3rd Street NW
o 7th Street SW from D Street SW to Independence Avenue SW
o 19th Street NW from K Street NW to DuPont Circle NW
o 3rd Street Tunnel (I-395) from New York Avenue NW to SE/SW Freeway
o Arlington Memorial Bridge from Virginia, around Lincoln Circle to Independence Avenue SW
o East Capitol Street NE to North Carolina SE to New Jersey Avenue SE to I Street SE
The following access points have been identified as pedestrian-only routes to the Inaugural Parade:
o 6th Street NW from K Street NW to P Street NW
o 13th Street NW from K Street NW to Logan Circle NW
o East Capitol Street NE to Massachusetts Avenue NE
o Arlington Memorial Bridge from Virginia, around Lincoln Circle to Henry Bacon Drive NW
Bicycle Parking
Free valet bicycle parking will be provided in designated areas north and south of the event perimeter. Additional information may be found at

Inaugural Balls
There will be 10 official Inaugural balls, hosted at the Washington Convention Center, the National Building Museum, Union Station, the D.C. Armory and the Washington Hilton. Emergency No Parking zones and some road closures will be in effect near each of these locations.

Online Information
Additional information is available online for residents of the District, Virginia and Maryland, as well as charter operators, through the following websites:
o DDOT –
o Maryland Department of Transportation –
o Virginia State Police –
o Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority –

In addition, Inaugural information is available on the following sites to help those planning to attend the inaugural events:
o Presidential Inaugural Committee –
o D.C. Presidential Inaugural Committee –
o Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies –
o Armed Forces Inaugural Committee –
o United States Secret Service –

Now don't let this stop you from coming. We will be happy to meet and show you around. In fact, all the scare stories about 4 million people showing up, and all the stories about residents trying to rent their houses for thousands of dollars, could turn D.C. into that famous Italian restaurant that Yogi Berra referred to when he said, "It's so crowded no one goes there anymore."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

M'Aidez - Send Pork!

Back when I was learning about civics in junior high, there was a sentence in the text book about "logrolling" and "pork barrels." Logrolling is basically legis-speak for "you scratch my back, I scratch yours." The "pork barrel," which has since been chopped down to mere "pork," is the mythical repository of taxpayer funds that members of Congress used to secretly tap to provide roads for real estate developers, bridges to nowhere and a Woodstock festival museum for Hillary Clinton.

It used to be you had to suck up to an appropriations committee member and promise your firstborn in order to get goodie bags for your constituents. Now, the process is so open that a member of Congress merely need fill out a form demanding his or her percentage share of earmarks to be placed in an entirely nongermane pieces of legislation that must pass, like funding for troops.

Opponents, including John McCain -- who represents a state that would be a limited-population, desert moonscape without an earmark known as the "Central Arizona (water) Project -- say taxpayers are bilked billions by special interests bribing lawmakers with campaign contributions in return for pork. Supporters say earmarks are "democracy in action," by which the people's will is enacted by elected representatives instead of faceless bureaucrats who know nothing about a particular congressional district.

Back in civics class, we learned that Congress holds hearings on good ideas and through a lengthy committee process and amending process in each house arrives at compromise solution for our nation's problems. Only Congress, not the president, not the bureaucrats, can appropriate money.

OK, let's get real. A certain reporter in Washington, who last year exposed earmarks as devices that rob minority districts of their share, today reports that what's apparently good for the goose makes the gander sick.

Barack Obama, who, like McCain, rails against the special interests, has as a campaign manager, David Axelrod, a very well connected Illinois consultant who has a child with epilepsy. Axelrod has worked in the past to elect Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill, a power in the House of Representative and former Bill Clinton adviser. Somehow, an earmark to support an epilepsy research foundation got slipped into a Pentagon spending bill by Emanuel. Axelrod said he never asked his friend for help. It was the head of the foundation who asked. Her name would be Mrs. David Axelrod.

This seems harmless enough, because it is for a good cause, but if you were the steward of public money, woudln't you want medical experts deciding the relative merits of spending on research instead of big city machine pols?

You might answer, "no," it's a public policy decision best left to politicians. But some of you aren't even here because you died of preventable or curable heart disease when for decades the government was spending wildly disproportionate amounts on AIDS, whichs affects relatively few.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

General Disgust

I bring to your attention the following article in the New York Times, which I find noteworthy mostly because I have simply lost my capacity to be amazed by the actions of this administration. It is about the Pentagon placing, scripting and rewarding former generals they send forth on network television to spew administration lies about Iraq under the guise of independent expertise.

I blame not the Pentagon – although Congress may want to investigate the use of public funds for domestic propaganda – but Fox, CNN, MSNBC, NBC and the rest for becoming “television of the stars” – the four-star masters of mendacity.

One of them, Barry McCaffrey, you may recall, led that successful “war on drugs” after his service in Gulf War I, where his actions were reported by Seymour Hersh to be border on war crimes. (photo credit to New York Times)

Following is a reaction to this Times article by an ex-colleague who makes comparisons that I would not make, if only because of differences in degree, not in kind.

  • In the end, sad to say -- whenever that is, there'll be no Nuremburg Tribunal to hold to the fire the feet of those in the White House, the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex (the Halliburtons) responsible for the Iraq debacle.
  • Unless we lose, since it's the winners who get to put the losers on trial. In such a case, I wonder what laws/constitution would be used to give what kind of "process" -- as in "due process" -- to the perps. The Koran, f'rinstance, does not give such as we understand that term to mean. And the so-called World Court lacks the teeth. Since mankind makes whatever "justice" exists in this life on this planet, who will be around to mete out the justice that this Nazi-like adventure of GWB deserves. The parallels between the Third Reich and Amerika are, IMHO, staggering:
  • We have an autocrat in the White House -- one whose thinking is as delusional as Hitler's ever was.
  • We have a politicized military, as much so as the Nazis were ever able to make of the Wehrmacht's Officer Corps and its Waffen SS and SS, etc.
  • We have a propaganda machine the rival of anything Herr Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl wrought.
  • We have a marriage between arms manufacturers (the Halliburtons) and the
    government that is the equal of anything the Krupps and the Thiessen's and A.G. Farben were part of.
  • We have a military within our military (the Blackwaters) that is as exempt from the tenets and text of the Uniform Code of Military Justice as the SS was exempt from ANY law except its own under Herr Himmler.
  • We have the cancellation of domestic privacy via computer circuits the rival of anything the Gestapo did using old-fashioned gum-shoe techniques.
  • We have a gulag of "black-ops" detention and torture facilities and the "rendition" of suspects to them that is, admittedly, not up to the standards of Holocaust death camps or concentration camps. Yet. (Yes, this is egregious hyperbole ... but what the hell!?)
  • We have the ability of the executive -- GWB -- to declare someone to be "an enemy combatant" and have him/her "disappeared" into a Kafka-esque netherworld where NO contact with the outside (not even a lawyer) is permitted. Indefinitely. Similarly, Hitler declared at least 6 million Jews to be "vermin," and ended their existence on Earth. He also summarily ordered countless executions of people he considered his "enemies," such as those Wehrmacht officers who tried to bomb him in his "Wolfschantz."

    In view of this, it would appear that a helluva lot of people in and associated with the Bush Administration are eligible for another Nuremburg. But it couldn't be at the hands of a "victorious" Amerika, since that would mean no trials. Who, then?

Perhaps a Clinton or Obama administration with substantial majorities in both houses and a Supreme Court in the hands of an angry God?

As I say, I do not subscribe to the “egregious hyperbole” of my ex-colleague (e.g., the Nazis were much better at propaganda that Bush is), but it is unleavened food for thought this Passover.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Doubled Down

According to news reports provided by leaks from the administration, the outlook is as grim as feared for federal funding of medical research. Although the Democratic majorities in Congress probably will not allow the figures to stand, President Bush will propose cutting $3 billion from the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, freezing medical research. This is about double the amount he sought, unsuccessfully, to cut last year.

Even a freeze means a further reduction in research because it does not take into account inflation. The budget calls for a zero increase in the National Institutes of Health budget, a 7 percent decrease for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, cuts in funding for teaching hospitals -- and a 25 percent increase for abstinence-only education.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

D.C. Droppings - XVI

National Zoo Attendance Doubles
Well, Congress has finished it work for the year, so wives and daughters have been unlocked in the nation’s capital, and tourists looking for roaring, preening, feces-flinging monkeys now are flocking from Capitol Hill to the National Zoo.

One of the things our lawmakers did is temporarily “patch” the tax code to prevent about 20 million Americans from paying $50 billion in the “alternative minimum tax.” This tax on the superwealthy was instituted in 1969 when it was learned that some of the richest corporations paid zero taxes, but Congress then forgot to index the amount to inflation. For many of us, the result is an average of $2,000 in taxes above what the tax tables command, and most of us do not consider ourselves super-wealthy.

The hypocrisy surrounding this bill is more staggering than Lindsay Lohan and Nick Nolte on “Dancing with the Stars.”

The Democrats, in keeping with their promise to spend no money without offsetting spending cuts or tax increases, demanded the $50 billion loss to the Treasury be made up by taxing these incredibly newly wealthy hedge fund managers whose annual compensation is in the nine figures but who escape taxation at the same rate you and I pay. But Republicans would have none of it. They demanded spending cuts on top of spending cuts they already forced, including reduced research on curing the chronic diseases you and your parents have. (Or research on spine transplants for Democrats.)

The Democrats caved in, as usual, rather than face charges next fall that they are, well, taxers. Well, someone has to pay for the lost $50 billion, the same amount Bush said in 1981 made his first tax cut for the rich affordable.

Another so-called bipartisan triumph was an energy bill that sets new fuel economy standards for cars to be reached by 2020. Immediately upon Bush’s signature, his Environmental Protection Agency rescinded permission it had routinely given 18 states to set their own strict clean-air standards for cars. These states, including Terminator-led California, are going to raise hell and probably win in the courts.

For pure spite, this Bush administration act takes the holiday cake, barely beating out his Federal Communications Commission's award the day before of more power to fewer media companies, including those owned by Fox News, the wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican party.

Terminological Inexactitude

One of the grating clich├ęs about the presidential campaign coverage out of Iowa is the constant reference to a “statistical dead heat” among the Democratic contenders.

This is an absurdity for two reasons. In racing sports of any kind, when two contenders cross the finish line at the astrophysically exact time, the heat – or qualifying race – is declared dead. Thus, polling that falls within the margin of error among two or more candidates is not exact. And by saying an impossible result -- an exact tie in caucus votes -- is "statistical" is to modify something that cannot be modified; i.e., a “dead heat.”

By the way, how many of you know that one of Hillary Clinton’s endorsers is Merle Haggard, who when she was in law school was singing, “When You’re Runnin’ Down Our Country, Hoss, You’re Walkin’ on the Fightin’ Side of Me?”

Bad Timing

Lynne Spears’ mom was writing a book under a Christian publisher’s imprint, called "Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World." The book now has been delayed indefinitely, at least until after her 16-year-old unwed daughter, Jamie Lynn, gives birth and her 26-year-old daughter, Britney Jean, has her infants tested for marijuana.

The Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association may disinvite as a keynote speaker at its Jan. 12 convention Roger Clemens. The title of his talk had been billed as ``My Vigorous Workout, How I Played So Long.''

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving - Day 2,498: America Held Hostage

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, perhaps the best holiday of all because (except for a few stubborn Native Americans), everyone can celebrate the same thing in the same manner no matter their race, religion or party.

Plus, nobody has to "do" anything like go to church, give gifts or dress up. The only negative part is that families, even more so than at Christmas, feel the need to gather together* and pig out, make judgments about one another and give thanks for not having to do this again for another year.

As for me, I am thankful that in only 424 more days, the gang of war criminals who wretchedly seized power on Dec. 12, 2000, will slink out of town with pardons, the blood of hundreds of thousands on their hands and, in one case, protected for life by the Secret Service.

Not a week goes by without some account of constitutional treachery being revealed, these days by former members of the administration. Scott McClellan, whose tantalizing excerpt from a book not due till next April, implicates the president and vice president in a criminal conspiracy.

A new book by former Assistant Attorney General Jack L. Goldsmith, whose job was to make the legal decisions in support of or opposition to the president’s proposed policies on fighting terrorism. Needless to say, after Goldsmith started saying certain things were wrong, he was no longer employed by the administration.

A review of his book by constitutional law professor and former national security adviser to the Just Department Neal Katyal summarizes a situation in which people you have never heard of (John Yoo and David Addington) arrogated to themselves powers in the name of the president that had no basis in law or practice but were the crypto-fascist realizations of their radical right-wing academic theories.

Acting as a five-member “war council,” they issued secret opinions – secret from other administration lawyers, the secretary of state, the president’s national security adviser and even from their boss, the attorney general – “that asserted that the executive could legally ignore a variety of federal laws,” reviewer Katyal writes. “ … (T)hese opinions were essentially a license for the president and his administration to break the law without reprisal. These were cavalier advance pardons, and nobody was supposed to find out about them.”

The other day, the president ceremonially pardoned two turkeys so they would not be destroyed in November. The Lawbreaker-in-Chief must be hoping they return the favor.

* Special lyrics for the Camp David Thanksgiving:

We gather together to ask the Bush blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our Bush with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Bush, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Bush, make us free!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Criminal Enterprise

The fact that the guy who is going to be Bush’s newest attorney general once worked as a journalist for the same company as I, and the fact he is a coreligionist, doesn’t sway me in my belief he that he has already dirtied himself beyond repair by refusing to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture and is a war crime.

Nor am I swayed in my belief that Sens. Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein – also coreligionists -- are wicked sellouts who are providing moral sanctuary for war criminals by making it possible for Michael Mulkasey to be confirmed.

And Adolph Giuliani’s proud boast that without “extensive questioning” – his euphemism for the CIA’s euphemism of “enhanced interrogation” – certain Mafia leaders would still be running around the streets tells me he is the worst of all potential presidents. I would vote for Pat Robertson before I would vote for Giuliani.

But back to waterboarding. Again, I cite my former colleague, Joe Galloway, a respected foreign correspondent for UPI and now a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. Galloway, you may recall, was co-author of “We Were Soldiers Once,” the book Mel Gibson made into a hit movie. Mr. Galloway is the only journalist ever awarded a medal for bravery by the Army.

Following are excerpts from his column this week, which explains what this administration’s real motive is:

Four decades ago in the field in Vietnam, I saw a suspected Viet Cong waterboarded by South Vietnamese Army troops. The American Army advisers who were attached to the Vietnamese unit turned their backs and walked away before the torture began. It was then a Vietnamese affair and something they couldn't be associated with.

The victim was taken to the edge of death. His body was wracked with spasms as he fought for air. The soldier holding the five-gallon kerosene tin filled with muddy water from a nearby stream kept pouring it slowly onto the rag, and the victim desperately sucking for even a little air kept inhaling that water instead.

It seemed to go on forever. Did the suspect talk? I'm sure he did. I'm sure he told his torturers whatever he thought they wanted to hear, whether it was true or not. But I didn't see the end of it because one of the American advisers came to me and told me I had to leave; that I couldn't watch this interrogation, if that's what it was, any longer.

That adviser knew that water torture was torture; he knew that it was outlawed by the Geneva Convention; he knew that he couldn't be a part to it; and he knew that he didn't want me to witness such brutality.

… Every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee knows that waterboarding is torture, even the majority who voted to send Judge Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general, America's chief law enforcement official, to the floor for a vote.

Waterboarding was torture when it was used during the Spanish Inquisition; it was torture when it was used on Filipino rebels during the 1890s; it was torture when the Japanese Army used it on prisoners in World War II; it was torture when it was used by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; and it's torture when CIA officers or others use it on terrorists.

When George W. Bush was the governor of Texas, the state investigated, indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison for 10 years a county sheriff who, with his deputies, had waterboarded a criminal suspect. That sheriff got no pardon from Gov. Bush.

… As they squirm and wriggle and lie and quibble and cut deals with senators, they claim that "harsh interrogation methods" are necessary to prevent another 9/11. But as terrified as they are by terrorists, they also fear that one day they may be treated no better than some fallen South American dictator or Cambodian despot or hapless Texas sheriff; that they might not be able to leave a guarded, gated compounds in Dallas or Crawford, a ranch in New Mexico or
the shores of Chesapeake Bay for fear of arrest and extradition.

… Waterboarding is torture. Decent people have acknowledged that for centuries. We sent Japanese war criminals to the gallows for using it. We sent a Texas sheriff to prison for using it. One day, an ex-president and those who helped him and those he ordered to torture fellow human beings may have to plea bargain for their lives and their freedom.
Last week, in a remarkable story on ABC World News Tonight, which was remarkably unnoted by most of the nation’s news media, the acting Justice Department official in charge of defining torture in 2003 underwent waterboarding himself to see what it was all about. He wrote a memo saying it was torture but that the practice could be modified somewhat and still be legal. He was fired.

Just like Gen. John Shalikashvili, the first truth-teller to be fired for predicting it would take at least 300,000 troops to pacify Iraq, and the legions of Cabinet secretaries, prosecutors and midlevel executives, it is all you need to know about the criminal enterprise known as the Bush administration.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tales of the Dark Side

Once again, I am impelled to link to Joe Galloway's weekly column for McClatchy Newspapers. Galloway, a former colleague at UPI and co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism under fire in Vietnam. He was called by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf “the finest combat correspondent of our generation---a soldier’s reporter and a soldier’s friend.”

Here are his latest views on the commander in chief.

Why is it that the Bush administration, in its dying throes, looks
remarkably more like an organized crime ring than one of the arms of the American government? A poorly organized and run crime ring, truly, but a crime ring nonetheless.

Why do I keep remembering the George Bush that I actually once voted for when he first ran for president — the one who talked of bringing in an administration that would look more like the face of America and of giving us a government whose appointees would be honest, upright, fair and moral.

Yes, that’s the one. What happened to him? Where did that George Bush go?

When did he go over to The Dark Side? What enticements did Vice President Darth Cheney offer him? Was it the vision of unlimited, unchecked power over the world?

Click here
for the whole thing.