Monday, October 31, 2005


Bush picks conservative for Supreme Court - The Changing Court

No time to comment--Halloween is a serious time at work--but I agree with Pat Leahy. This pick is "needlessly provocative"--which, after the bruising he took from his base for picking Harriet Miers, is probably exactly why Bush made it. Samuel Alito may be more congenial than Scalia, but congenial doesn't change the vote count. I smell a filibuster...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Top Notch

US Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel

My respect for Patrick Fitzgerald is at an all-time high today. I watched his press conference over lunch, and as he explained Libby's actions, and how he allegedly lied about them, Fitz laid out his case in a manner that was understandable. He made clear what a serious set of crimes (obstruction, false statement, and perjury) the indictments represent. And he threw cold water on the talking point that any indictments that did not include breaking the 1982 law that protects covert agents would be a technicality, using the words, "That talking point won't fly" and explaining the importance of truth to our justice system. He was serious, humble, judicious, and fair. I hope they pick up big clips of his statement on the network news tonight and over the weekend. It will help persuade the American people of the importance of this investigation and the seriousness of the misdeeds committed by Libby--and by other players to be named later...

Stolen Thunder

'Star Trek' Actor George Takei Comes Out

Here I thought the most exciting news of the day would be the frog-march of Scooter Libby. But Sulu being gay? That's blockbuster-level stuff!

It is a bit insulting, though, that AP chose this photo as the one to run with the coming out story:

The rose-colored glasses, the fey expression--it's all just a bit too "gay" for a man coming out at age 68. Sort of says, "Duh--why didn't people figure this out on their own?"

[UPDATE: Here's a link to the full interview in which George Takei comes out and discusses his childhood, his partner, and his family. It's a good read.]

Sing a New Song

Leak probe details to be released at noon ET

I think Patrick Fitzgerald has let having a holiday named after him get to his head. Rumor has it he's going to indict Scooter Libby today and continue investigating Karl Rove. This is, of course, a wonderful development, if true: Bad news for Bush today with the promise of more bad news in the future. But it begs the question: Is today really Fitzmas?

I hereby propose that today be declared the "First Day of Fitzmas." As in, "On the first day of Fitzmas, my lawyer gave to me, a Scooter and further scrutiny." We can only hope there will be eleven more days of torture for a White House so willing to inflict it on others.

This sing-song approach to the whole thing also raises a new question: What if Fitzgerald's goal in going bird by bird rather than indicting the whole flock at once is to get one of the birds to sing? Would Libby squawk on Cheney, Rove, and others to save his own feathers?

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Flak Magazine: Harriet Miers's Original Intent, 10.27.05

The link above leads to the alleged first draft of the letter Harriet Miers gave to President Bush today. It's quite probably the funniest thing you'll read all day!

Another Possibility

Answered Prayers - How Bush lost the Miers fight. By John Dickerson

John Dickerson offers a good analysis of how the Miers nomination went down in flames, but what's most interesting is something that makes me reconsider my earlier prediction:
Is there any good news in this for the White House? Inside the West Wing, the fever might break: Aides have suffered day after day as Miers' chances diminished; now they can fight for a new, presumably more defensible, pick. Also, a replacement nomination—which officials say may be announced as soon as tomorrow—gives Bush an opportunity to change the story line of conflict inside the GOP. A new choice the right applauds may bring the fractured party back into line. "If he chooses a solid conservative, this is the opportunity he needs to shore up the base on the one issue that unites all," says a senior Republican strategist. "It wont just shore them up—they will be excited because they will think, rightly, they got it done."
Announcing a nominee on the same day his staff is eviscerated by indictments? Sounds like typical Bush to me. In that case, though, it can't be Mahoney...unless he's met with her in secret and determined that he knows her heart and her character. Clement? Jones? Heaven forbid, Brown? We might find out tomorrow...

Reluctant Prediction

Miers withdraws Supreme Court nomination - The Changing Court

I predicted this wouldn't happen until next Wednesday, but here we are. So I'm reluctantly predicting that Wednesday will still be a big day--the day Bush appoints Maureen Mahoney to the Supreme Court. Read her brief bio and you'll see that she's basically John Roberts without the penis--appointed by Bush I to a circuit court, but never given a vote; an impressive record of litigating before the Supreme Court; law clerk to Rehnquist. No one would argue that she's unqualified. Her name has been bandied about on both sides, winning mentions on the mostly left-leaning Slate and the obviously right-wing as a strong contender with a good background.

Please note, I'm not saying I would support Mahoney, but she'd be a pick Bush could trot out and compare with Roberts without being laughed out of the room. She'd be confirmed, probably without too much trouble after Miers softened the ground for her.

Justice Served?

Well, it looks like the indictments may wait until tomorrow, meaning this won't be Fitzmas. But we can spend the day celebrating anyhow. Not only are the White Sox champions, but every news agency is reporting that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her name from nomination to the Supreme Court...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Day of Deliverance?

The next 24 hours are shaping up to be great ones for the city of Chicago. Tonight, our White Sox are set to deliver the city from an 88-year curse by winning the World Series--in a sweep, no less. And tomorrow, if some of the rumors flying around are correct, Chicagoan Patrick Fitzgerald is set to deliver the nation from evil, indicting Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. If these two events come to pass, these will be two days long remembered in the city's, and the nation's, history.

Merry Fitzmas Eve!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Paying Attention

Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Falls

I don't understand how this news is unexpected; even the article refutes its own headline:
"The unexpected decline means optimism is under more pressure than we thought," said Patrick Fearon, senior economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. Fearon believes all the political uncertainty is also weighing on consumers' confidence.

"There is certainly more going on than just hurricanes and a resulting spike in gasoline prices," said Fearon. He noted President Bush's drop in approval ratings, political unrest in the Middle East and concerns about the Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers "could weigh on people's attitudes."
Three major hurricanes have reminded us we're at the mercy of nature just as home heating prices have risen. Gas prices have dropped, but they're still very high by recent standards. Oh, and people are starting to realize, with Bush's nomination of a crony to the highest court in the land and the rumblings of criminal activity within his White House, that the country, already dangerously off course, is being steered by a bozo. Yeah, that might take a toll on consumer confidence, mightn't it?

I'm Not the Only One

- First Read -

I'm not the only one who sees the impasse over documents as the Krauthammer strategy at work:
With Bush making it clear on Monday that he won't turn over documents about the decision-making process, Strickland says, some Capitol Hill insiders are privately questioning whether the White House and the Senate are playing out a strategy suggested in a Washington Post column to withdraw Miers' nomination in a manner designed to let all involved save face. Last Friday, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who called Miers' nomination a mistake, laid out the exit strategy that centered on "irreconcilable differences over documents." He wrote of her "honorable" withdrawal, "The Senate cannot confirm her unless is has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege."
Any predictions regarding what day this will all come to an end? I'm hesitant to pick a date, as Patrick Fitzgerald can blow any and all Washington plans to hell on a day of his choosing this week, but I think next Wednesday or so is seeming reasonable. Bush can hardly afford to let the nation see Miers at her Senate hearings if she's performed as badly as reported in her private meetings. Better to lose on "principle" than to lose because your nominee is flat-out unqualified.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Document dispute snags Miers nomination - The Changing Court

Last week I wrote about the Charles Krauthammer strategy for bringing the Miers debacle to an end. And guess what? It looks like I wasn't the only one to notice.

Yesterday on the Sunday talkers Senators from both parties called for documents from Harriet's time as White House counsel, a request that they just know the Bushies will deny. Besides making hypocrites of the Republicans who wouldn't release memos from the Reagan years but now have no problem requesting documents that could reveal the inner workings of the current administration, this request puts the nomination in an interesting position, as Tom Curry notes:
Bush's statement [refusing to release the requested documents] sets up a standoff that could sink the Miers nomination — because senators won't be able to determine on what issues Miers worked and thus won't be able to figure out on what future cases Miers would need to disqualify herself, if she wins confirmation to the high court.
How far will Bush let this go? And who will he nominate next if he and Harriet finally have the quiet conversation they should have had weeks ago? Senator George Allen mentioned yesterday that he'd have preferred Janice Rogers Brown, Harvie Wilkinson, Michael Luttig, or Karen Williams--and his fellow Republicans likely have plenty more suggestions. Will Bush feel compelled to find another woman, or will he give his base the finger for hurting the feelings of his work wife and nominate Gonzales? We could find out sooner rather than later; Miers looks about as doomed as Scooter Libby right now...[update: Mickey Kaus points out that the rationale being used to scuttle the Miers nomination, executive privilege, will extend to Gonzales as well, meaning he won't be her replacement. Meanwhile, Slate's newly-inaugurated Miers-o-Meter gives her nomination a 75% chance of success. I beg to differ...]

A Wink and a Nod

‘Housewives’: Is prisoner a murderer? - Desperate Housewives

Did anyone else notice that Felicity Huffman danced on top of a bar last night to the same song she once danced to on Sports Night? My boogie shoes, indeed.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Even in Kansas

Kan. Court Nixes Illegal Gay Sex Ruling

No wonder social conservatives hate judges. Even in Kansas--where social issues are a surefire electoral winner--judges refuse to cave in to those who would let the law treat homosexual behavior differently than heterosexual.

While not the ideal case for proclaiming equality, this case, which involved sex between two developmentally-challenged boys, ages 14 and 18, did showcase how far the other side is willing to go. Punishing the 18-year-old with a 17-year sentence rather than a 15-month one because the "victim" of his crime was of the same sex cannot possibly be constitutional. It may be wrong to have sex with anyone that young, but it doesn't suddenly become 13 times more wrong when the two parties have the same genitalia.

Fortunately, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed unanimously, saying, "Moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate state interest." Can we just accept that those words are an appropriate interpretation of every constitution, state or federal, in the nation? It would save us a lot of time.


Miers: The Only Exit Strategy

I'm not a fan of Charles Krauthammer, but he has a good idea today for bringing an end to the farce that has been the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Basically, he suggests that because she has no paper trail, the documents she produced during her time at the White House are the only way for Senators to fairly judge her qualifications. Yet letting the Senate see these documents would violate executive privilege and chill the ability of future staffers to offer candid advice to the president. Thus, we're in a separation-of-powers dilemma: Which branch's needs supersede? Saith Charles:
Hence the perfectly honorable way to solve the conundrum: Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives, the Senate expresses appreciation for this gracious acknowledgment of its needs and responsibilities, and the White House accepts her decision with the deepest regret and with gratitude for Miers's putting preservation of executive prerogative above personal ambition.

Faces saved. And we start again.
Sounds like a plan to me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Total Control

Russell Shaw: Law Profs. Debate: What Would Happen if O'Connor Takes Back her Resignation? | The Huffington Post

The post above reflects a question I've been asking myself lately: Couldn't Sandra Day O'Connor just stop this whole Miers charade by taking back her resignation?

Leaving aside the fact that O'Connor wants to retire and has valid (family) reasons for doing so, this raises a constitutional question, and in these contentious times, we're going to need an answer eventually: Is it possible for a justice to make his or her retirement conditional not just on the selection of a successor, but an appropriate successor?

Think of it: Poor John Stevens, rather than trying to hold out for a possible Democrat in 2009, could rest his 85-year-old bones AND effectively decide who would replace him. If Bush nominated Michael Luttig, Stevens could withdraw his resignation. Hell, he could send the President a letter that reads, "I hereby submit my resignation, effective upon the confirmation of [insert name of liberal judge or lawyer here] as my successor." Why not? Who can stop him--the Supreme Court? He's on it!

You can see why this could be problematic. Yet most of the experts Russell Shaw polled seem to think O'Connor could pull back her resignation, and that if Bush tried to nominate someone new anyhow, his approval rating would take a dive. Now, I know I wouldn't approve of most of Bush's potential nominees--especially those chosen out of anger that his best gal pal was rejected by the Senate--but still, I can't follow down the dangerous road that allowing a justice to rescind a retirement would represent. Because let's face it, there are worse things than letting Bush pick O'Connor's replacement. Like letting Scalia and Thomas choose theirs.

No Roll

Miers Says She'll Give Senators More Info

I've got to hand it to Arlen Specter and Pat Leahy--they're refusing to roll over for Harriet Miers, and that's a good thing. In essentially handing a student back a paper and telling her to do it over, they've also told her that her answers to many questions are simply unacceptable. Her B.S. response to the question of how she'd deal with cases involving the Bush Administration--considering her current position as its lawyer--was met with a bipartisan "Hell No!" and a demand for more clarity about when she would recuse herself from cases. Asking how someone would rule may be off limits, but asking her when she would acknowledge herself to have a conflict of interest is a good way to ensure that, even when it's up to her to decide whether to recuse herself, she's made public statements to which she'd be wise to adhere. Considering that she's proven wily enough that Specter says he's looking forward to the hearings, where a stenographer will write down Miers' responses so she can't deny them later, we'll need this kind of clarity if we're to shame her into recusing herself from the inevitable Bush-related cases that will come before her as a justice.

That, of course, assumes that Miers doesn't suddenly realize that she not only forgot to pay her bar dues, she hasn't quite paid her dues to get a seat on the Supreme Court. Considering that she thought Bush was the best governor EVER, though, I have a feeling she'll be raising her right hand and promising to tell the truth soon enough.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New Digital Divide

Subsidize analog TV conversion: senator
Blu-Ray winner in DVD war: industry group

We're moving toward a new digital divide in this country, between people who care about the developments chronicled in the two articles above--and can afford to buy fancy new TVs to take advantage of them--and people who view TV as a mere link to the outside world, essential to have but not worth spending extra for quality.

While I'm on the former side of this divide, I do have sympathy for the latter: The government is planning to make it impossible for you and your old TVs to receive a signal without buying an adapter. If you cared enough about TV to get yourself a digital adapter, and could afford one, you'd just get a new TV!

Of course, government could have solved this problem. It could have told TV makers that they could not sell analog-only TVs after a certain date--a date that should have been set a few years ago. It could have made it clearer to consumers that the cheap analog TVs they were buying in the last few years would become useless without an adapter soon. In exchange for deregulation, it could have required cable companies to offer a low-cost basic package that would ensure that even those on fixed incomes could receive what's currently available over the air, or mandated a special rate for people on Social Security who purchase the lowest tier cable package. (Clearly, if you can afford HBO, you can afford to pay what the cable companies are charging.)

But government, knowing full well that this deadline was looming, did nothing. And a lot of people bought a lot of TVs that will require adapters as a result. Which, apparently, the government will provide. Even I don't like this kind of big government.

At least it looks like the DVD format war will be won by the better competitor. Apparently--much as it pains me to admit this--there are some situations where market forces can work without getting government involved.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bringing the Funny

The Many Faces of Harriet - Miers supports, opposes, and is neutral on Roe, all within 24 hours! By Dahlia Lithwick

It's been fun--well, not fun, more like amusing in a sad way--to watch the White House and Ms. Miers dance around the matter of her views on abortion, which have been the subject of so many winks and nods these last days and weeks that several eyes and heads in Washington (and in Colorado, and in Texas) are in need of medical care. But at this point, it looks increasingly as if there is no one in any of those three places who has the "political capital" to shepherd this nominee to the Senate floor and get her confirmed. And so, Dahlia calls out the big guns:
So I am begging now. This is embarrassing. End it. Karl Rove: Either plant the 500 pounds of cocaine you keep for such occasions in Miers' car, or trot out some actress to play her bitter, gay ex-lover. You have the power to end this. So do whatever it is you do. But end the unnecessary pain and suffering now, before someone really gets hurt.
I'm for the second option (bitter, gay ex-lover), as it would throw the gay movement, the anti-gay groups, and all of Washington into a simultaneous tizzy. But either way, Lithwick appears to be correct: Even if Miers, cipher though she may be, is the best we can hope for from Bush, her elevation to the Supreme Court is simply inexcuseable, no matter what the rationale. She's not qualified for the job. It doesn't matter if she supports Roe or opposes it or even if she performs back-alley abortions in her spare time. There are plenty of people, and plenty of women, with the legal chops to do the job. Bush should find one and ask his pal to kindly step aside for the good of the country.

Book 'Em, Danno

DeLay Offered Deal Before Indictment

This whole affair is tawdry and pathetic, but it does have its rewards:
DeLay will likely be booked in a Texas county jail this week despite attempts by his attorneys to bypass the fingerprinting and mug shot process.
There's a picture I can't wait to see. It won't quite match the Nick Nolte mug shot, but a picture of Tom DeLay with numbers under his chin will certainly drive home the point that he's a crook, won't it?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Odd Request

Contadina Product Nutrition - Contadina Recipe Ready Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Red Peppers

This is probably the most off-topic post of my blogging career. (Is there a topic, really? How can one be off it?)

I'm looking for stores that carry the product linked above. It's a can of diced tomatoes with roasted red peppers mixed in. I used to be able to buy it at Jewel, but a few months ago it was on clearance. I bought a bunch, but now it's off the store shelves and I'm down to my last can.

This is my secret soup ingredient. It brings out the flavor of the broth and adds a sweet hint to offset both the spiciness of the potatoes and carrots (which I saute with chili and cumin) and the acidity of the other tomatoes I add. And now I'm about to run out!

If you see this at your local supermarket, dollar store, or even (gasp!) Wal-Mart, please let me know--or buy it and let me reimburse you. Winter just won't be the same without it.


Last night's new installment of The West Wing featured self-parody, which is a good thing. C.J. started addressing Toby at a breakneck pace, and Toby's response, "You're talking VERY fast," was a nice wink to the old days, when rapid-fire dialogue was both a hallmark of the show AND worth parsing out for meaning. Not so much anymore...

It was nice to see Santos find a sensible position on intelligent design that will wrong-foot Vinick, whose candidacy is looking more and more doomed as his lack of religion (and lack of tact, lately) hurt him among the Republican base.

But this "ripped from the headlines" style that seems to be penetrating the show--reporters in jail, leaks in the White House, Israeli-Palestinian troubles--is getting old. And the anticipation of Toby's perp walk is not what it could have been, as it's been obvious for weeks what was coming.

Indeed, the only blindsiding moment on the show last night was also the most cringe-inducing: Leo and Annabeth discussing the "tension" between them. Until then, I thought it was kind of cute that steady Leo would hold Annabeth's hand during the flight to help her overcome her flight anxiety. But sexual tension? I'm all for people finding love wherever they can, but this smacks of turning the characters into interchangeable parts and having them fall in love with whomever they happen to share scenes with for a few weeks. If you want a romantic subplot, you have one, Mr. Wells! It's called Josh and Donna? You've been planting seeds for seven years? Perhaps it's finally time to reap what you've sown?

One more thing: The four-minute commercial break between the final scene and the preview for next week is out of hand. NBC: nothing you do will make me stick around for Law and Order: Criminal Intent; I'm zipping to Desperate Housewives at 8. Have the grace to finish your previews before DH starts, would you?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cooped Up

The agony of adult nail biters

Apparently Anderson Cooper needs more outlets for his creativity than CNN alone can provide, as this column from the November 2003 issue of Details (posted today on for some reason) demonstrates. And evidently he needs more outlets for his nervous energy, too:
Doctors will tell you that nibbling nails is a sign of anxiety and insecurity, a nasty habit that can lead to infection.

I'm sure they're right. There are certainly plenty of less painful ways to deal with stress, but really, how many times a day can you masturbate?
Now, I'm all for public discussion of masturbation, and the idea of the silver-haired-yet-super-sexy Mr. Cooper engaging in same is not one to which I'm averse. But is this really how CNN wants its "is he or isn't he gay?" anchor-of-the-future talking? He's already taken to crying on camera in response to the strain of reporting on Hurricane Katrina. Is this the next step?

I smell a ploy...imagine the gay audience ratings-challenged CNN would attract if rumors of this sort got started? (Now that's a suggestion for improving CNN that would never occur to Mickey Kaus!)


Canada's Nickelback 'Right' on top of U.S. charts

No, I didn't buy the new Nickelback album. But I did buy three new albums last week that found their way into the top 15 on the charts. Melissa Etheridge's Greatest Hits album, a very listenable retrospective that gives me a new respect for her early career, debuted at number 14. The second album from Franz Ferdinand, which features hook after hook after irresistable hook, started off at number 8. And the third album from Fiona Apple, the much-delayed Extraordinary Machine, debuted at number 7, her highest chart position ever.

Allow me to say this about Fiona: Her last album was my favorite in a year, 1999, that saw the release of many albums I hold dear and consider the pinnacle of work for the artists who released them. This new album, I think, may endear itself even more to my ear and my heart. There are a few albums on the sidebar for this year that I'd advise almost anyone with an interest in hearing new music to buy--the new Sufjan Stevens, Antony and the Johnsons, Martha Wainwright's debut, the aforementioned Etheridge compilation--but so far, Fiona is my can't miss pick. When the 2005 top ten list comes out a few months from now and she's on top, don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Let the Mocking Continue

Wonkette: "I'm Sorry.... You Can't Get an Abortion"

Poor Harriet Miers: Now her greeting cards are being examined for signs of a judicial philosophy. Wonkette imagines a few verses she might use in drafting future opinions:
Hallmark will need to start a whole new line for her Supreme Court decisions: "Penumbra be damned / It just goes to show / You can't be a Christian / And not overturn Roe." Or maybe, "I think gays / Should have the same rights / But sodomy's not one of them / Let them sleep alone nights."
With stuff like that, Miers could give the acerbic Scalia a run for his money as the most colorful of the Supreme Court's scribes!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

School Shooting

Kid Power - Let's use it to fight the flu. By David Dobbs

Today I'm advocating school shootings. No, not that kind! The kind where they shoot a nasal spray into children that vaccinates them against flu. Studies have shown that such a program would reduce the rate of flu infection each winter by a very substantial amount, as children are the perfect conduit for flu. (My personal experience confirms this; every case of flu I've gotten has resulted from either personal contact with an infected child or with that child's flu-infested parents.)

It makes great sense, really. Flu vaccine is a lot cheaper tham all the missed work that results from each year's flu breakout, not to mention the human cost of illness and the tens of thousands of flu deaths each year among the elderly. And besides being the main flu conduit, kids are uniquely situated for state-sponsored vaccination. What other age group spends five of seven days in a government institution?

David Dobbs lays out plenty of other compelling reasons why this is an idea whose time has come. The article is well worth reading.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Burning Up

Banville's 'The Sea' Wins Booker Prize

It really burns me when they do this. I've read six of the last eight Booker winners, and at least two (Life of Pi and Disgrace) I'd call life-changing books. I was rooting for Kazuo Ishiguro to win again for Never Let Me Go, which I highly recommend. But now, I have to wait until this year's winner, The Sea, is released in the United States--and that's currently not scheduled to happen until March!

I'm betting this page on Amazon shows a new release date soon, though...

Flaming Tongues

Miers and Brimstone - Let's stop pretending there's no religious test for nominees. By Christopher Hitchens

Love him or hate him--or, if you're a normal person who doesn't have an opinion of every writer for Slate, simply read him--it's hard to deny that Christopher Hitchens knows how to make a point. And he makes a doozy of a point here regarding Harriet Miers:
Either Miers takes her faith seriously, in which case it must be her life's mission to redeem those who have not accepted Jesus as their savior, or she does not, in which case she is a vapid and posturing hypocrite. And either she is nominated in order to gratify a political constituency, whose leaders such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family seem to have had advance notice, or she is not, in which case the president could see no further than his own kitchen Cabinet in searching for merit. So, the whole exercise is a disgusting insult.
If you have HBO and Comcast, it would be worth watching the episode of Real Time with Bill Maher from two weeks ago, when Hitchens was on the panel, with OnDemand just so you can read this article and hear his snarky British accent in your head.

Speaking of Comcast, did anyone else's HD reception go bonkers this weekend? We had to watch Desperate Housewives in pillar box format, which did not make us happy (though Lynette's trick with the coffee cup was pretty funny despite the poor resolution and missing pieces of the picture). A co-worker tells me Comcast is blaming the problem on solar flares. We'll see what the cable guy who's coming to the house tomorrow has to say...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Buried Lead

Poll: Groups Unhappy With Bush Performance

(Yes, I refuse to spell it "lede." It's a bit pretentious, don't you think?)

The lead of this article on the new AP-Ipsos poll is all about the internal numbers, which show the Bush base finally starting to depart him. And yes, it's interesting that he's shedding supporters on the right without gaining any on the left. But isn't it more interesting than any of that to know that his approval rating now stands at 39%?

That's right. If you got ten people in a room, six of them would tell you they don't approve of Bush's performance in office. Oh, and seven would say they think the country is headed in the wrong direction--only 28% said they think we're on the right course.

These are devastating numbers. And the brou-ha-ha over Harriet Miers being an unqualified Supreme Court candidate can't help Bush--it makes even people who pay little attention sit up and ask, "Why would he appoint his own lawyer, a non-judge, to the Supreme Court?" By setting a precedent of competence with Roberts, Bush appears to have shot himself in the foot.

All this and gas is still under $3.00 and the first home heating bills haven't arrived yet. Can you imagine what these numbers could look like by December? I'm betting Bush goes as low as 33% before rebounding when partisans start to flock back to their standard-bearer in advance of the 2006 election. Any takers?


Sex Toys Target New Market -- Target Shoppers

You know, some days I actually agree with the Christian Right that we're nearing the apocalypse. Sex toys at Target? Why?

Then again, it will save a trip, and in these days of high gas prices, that's got to count for something. So...why not?

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Holiday Shopping Season Outlook Gets Murky

Does this news resonate with you? I know it does with me. We've already cancelled sibling gift-giving in my family this year, partly because it's simply time to do so, but partly because this winter is beginning to look like the economic end-time, with energy prices going through the roof. It's getting expensive to drive anywhere, and it looks like it will be even more expensive to stay home in anything resembling warmth. Bloc Party's "Like Eating Glass" threatens to become the national anthem. (Sample lyric, repeated dozens of times: "It's so cold in this house!")

And I doubt energy prices will be the only ones to rise. Daniel Gross laid out a fairly compelling argument yesterday that inflation, that old bugaboo, will be back in the economic picture, meaning that we'll see prices rise everywhere: at the mall, at grocery stores, and at every other retail outlet. Indeed, Gross notes that the Consumer Price Index rose 3.6 percent over the last 12 months; unless prices start to drop between now and December, that figure will either hold up or rise when the year-over-year number is calculated, making 2005 the worst year for inflation since, ahem, the second year of the first President Bush's term, 1990. (Inflation that year was 6.1 percent following three years of 4 percent-plus inflation, a great recipe for a recession.) Unless companies respond to this inflation by offering employees raises bigger than the average 3.5% of last year, purchasing power will decline. And as the housing boom starts to wane, people will likely grow shy about tapping their equity for cash, realizing housing prices won't keep growing exponentially forever.

No doubt some Americans will still do their patriotic duty and plunge themselves into debt this winter to fulfill their holiday dreams and keep the economy strong. Count me out. Our house will be chilly this winter, and there won't be many gifts under the tree. Am I the only grinch?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Harsh Words

Lott: 'Not comfortable' with Miers' nomination

Trent Lott states the obvious this morning: "There are a lot more people - men, women and minorities - that are more qualified in my opinion by their experience than she is," he said, according to MSNBC. He even suggested that Bush has made many good nominations but can also make mistakes, raising the specter that he considers this nomination one of them.

Poor Harriet. She was such a loyal hack for Dubya, and it was serving her well. But this latest promotion he's offered her is starting to look more and more like a train wreck.

Part of the reason, apparently, is that she was a "moderate" on gay rights while answering a 1989 questionnaire in Dallas. "Moderate" means she said gays should have the same civil rights as straights, but didn't believe that a law making gay sex illegal should be repealed. (The Supreme Court finally struck the law down in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas, to the great dismay of Bush's base.) This "moderation"--you can be gay, but you can't act on it--is enough to freak out those on the Right whose deepest fear, for reasons no rational person can explain, is that same-sex marriage will become legal in this country, and their God will become so angry with them for failing to stop it that He'll send them all to Hell.

It's worth noting that in 1989 support for repealing the law was nothing like it is now. Hardly anyone was talking about gay marriage. For a woman in Dallas in 1989, Miers may very well have been a "moderate." The question I'd like answered is whether her version of moderate views has grown and changed along with the rest of the world...


Can This Nomination Be Justified?

George Will, who one expects to defend Republican presidents, lashes out today at Bush's choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, suggesting that members of the Senate should start from the assumption that she is not qualified to be confirmed and force her to prove them wrong. And he unloads this humdinger:
He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.
Got that? She's not in the top 100 most-qualified people for the position, and there isn't anyone who knows anything who would suggest that she is.

Bush is known for his loyalty to his closest confidants. Didn't anyone around him sense that putting Miers up for this job was the equivalent of hanging her out to dry?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Gay Community Still Divided Over 'Outing'

This article is fascinating in its own right, in that it almost directly answers a critique I wrote for a journalism class last term of the fact that the media ignores the topic of outing. But it's also interesting to see an article talk about David Dreier for three paragraphs without ever saying his name:
Not all outing campaigns gain traction. A cadre of activist bloggers and alternative-media journalists have been contending for more than a year that another Republican congressman is gay and yet has often voted against gay-rights legislation. Thus far, the mainstream media — both national outlets and those in the congressman's home region — have declined to report on the campaign, although the effort is common knowledge among political reporters and on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who in 1987 became the first member of Congress to voluntarily make his homosexuality public, said he does not know if the targeted congressman is gay or not. However, Frank contended that the perception that the congressman might be gay had damaged his standing with some fellow Republicans in the House — and Frank said this issue of bias should be aired publicly.

"I think he's wrong to be silent about this," Frank said of the congressman. "You should not cover up this act of prejudice."
I'll say it damaged his standing! He went from interim majority leader to also-ran in the length of time it takes James Dobson to dial Dennis Hastert.

Starting to Learn

Bush Preparing for Greenspan Successor

It appears journalists have learned something from the nomination of Harriet Miers that they hadn't quite mastered before: When Bush is called on to fill an important position, the most important qualification for the job is a personal one. Hence this list of top contenders to fill Alan Greenspan's post:
Drawing frequent mentions for Greenspan's job are:

-Ben Bernanke: A former Fed board member, he recently became Bush's top economist.

-Martin Feldstein. An economics professor at Harvard University and president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, he advised Bush when the Texas governor ran for president in 2000.

-R. Glenn Hubbard. Dean of Columbia University's graduate school of business and an economics professor, he was Bush's chief economic adviser from 2001 to 2003.
See how a connection to Bush is part of each person's one-sentence description? Looks like the press smells a trend...and realizes that picking Roberts, in that he was chosen for his qualifications first and Bush's warm feelings toward him second, was an aberration.

Monday, October 03, 2005


The New Kid - John Roberts' first day at school. By Dahlia Lithwick

Interesting take on the first day for the new Chief, but the best part is the final paragraph, in which Lithwick unloads more poetically than anyone else today:
....The fact that Roberts' umbilical cord was being cut when most of his colleagues were already practicing law is irrelevant. He is absolutely ready to lead them.

To his left sits Sandra Day O'Connor, who may vote and count, vote and not count, or not vote and not count in this case—depending on when Miers is confirmed. How she feels, knowing that her own résumé was more impressive 24 years ago than Miers' is today, is not evident from her questions. She must be wondering, as are the rest of us, whether young Jack Roberts might not have been a better pick to replace her.


A+E Interactive: TV Notes: "The West Wing,'' "Sex, Love and Secrets,'' Red Sox-Yankees and Martha Stewart

Apparently I'm one of the few still watching The West Wing, to judge by the miserable ratings, but even former fans will find this interesting:
Did you happen to notice who wasn't in the opening credits of Sunday's The West Wing? Dule Hill (Charlie Young), Joshua Malina (Will Bailey) and, most interestingly, Janel Moloney (Donna Moss) were all missing, suggesting that they've been downgrading to recurring status. (Stockard Channing never appears in the credits unless she's in the episode as the First Lady.) And if Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler) was right when he said he expects to be in only three episodes this season, next week could be his exit. The old Bartlet gang is definitely breaking up, even if folks like Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman are still around.
It does appear that a lot of old characters will be making only cursory appearances this season, if the first two episodes are anything to go on. Leo wasn't in this week's episode--and he's running for VP! Jed wasn't in it. Donna, Charlie, Will? No, no, no. In a few weeks, watching WW if you've taken a few years off will be like watching E.R.--you won't know who anyone is. You'll be asking yourself, "How did the guy from M.A.S.H. and the girl from Home Improvement and the guy from NYPD Blue take over this show? What happened to Rizzo and the guy from Apocalypse Now?"

If the ratings continue to tank--the show finished fourth this Sunday night, behind Cold Case, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and even the Fox tandem of cartoons--I predict your time to see even these new characters will be limited. Instead of the dignified run-up to a series finale that this old warhorse deserves, NBC may burn off the remaining episodes as quickly as possible and free the timeslot for something else. Sad to watch something so fine fall so far, so fast.

CW Developing...

SCOTUSblog: The burden of proof may be heavy

Six hours in, there appears to be a conventional wisdom developing that the Miers nomination is (A) A poor choice, (B) A political mistake on all sides, and (C) Likely to meet with Democratic dissent because it looks so much like another act of Bush cronyism when we just saw, with Mike Brown's performance during Katrina, how disastrous that cronyism has already proved to be.

For me, the test is this: Would anyone else in Bush's position have chosen Miers? With Roberts, the answer was clear: like him or not, his qualifications and reputation were almost unassailable. Miers, on the other hand, is up for a seat at the big table because she helped Bush get his two jobs, governor and president. She may have a distinguished background, but she's no Roberts. She's not even an O'Connor, and O'Connor could easily have fallen back on the excuse that she was distracted by familial obligations during her early career, an excuse Ms. Miers can't make as a lifelong bacherlorette. (Speaking of which, mustn't it bother the Bush base that Miers never married, never had children? Aren't these the foundations of a properly-lived life according to their value system?)

Speaking of miscalculations, why did Bush make the announcement early this morning, before many in the country were even out of bed--but too late for it to make the morning papers? An odd choice, methinks, and starkly in contrast to his prime-time unveiling of Roberts. Speaking of Roberts, SCOTUSblog notes a bit of impoliteness on Bush's part:
Another unresolved question as of Monday morning is why President Bush felt a need to upstage the ceremony in which Chief Justice Roberts formally joined the Court. There was no apparent need for urgency, and the effect was to overwhelm Roberts' investiture by the news of Miers' nomination. It was not an exhibition of refined manners. And perhaps it served mainly to draw an even more vivid comparison between the two of them, to her disadvantage.
Roberts should ask Katherine Harris about how Bush treats the help once they've done their part for him.


Achenblog: Bush Nominates Totally Random Person for Court

"Mr. President, I've looked everywhere, and I think you should pick me." That must have been the conversation over the weekend between Harriet Miers and George W. Bush.

No one knows anything about her--or at least nothing interesting that has made it to the mainstream media. And conservatives aren't terribly pleased; which can only be good news.

I really thought, after thinking on it over the weekend, that Bush would come out swinging; a vitriol-spewing cultural conservative would get his base riled up again in time for the 2006 elections, even if (especially if?) he or she failed to win confirmation. Instead, he's shown himself to be either afraid of a fight, aware of a conservative streak in Miers that hasn't been publicly acknowledged, or not as committed to the repugnant "values" of his base as his campaigns would lead us to believe. If it's the first, that's great--he's been weakened and he knows it. If it's the second, at least she's 60--she can't last forever. And if it's the third, well, thank goodness.

One more thing: what is it about Bush that attracts successful, older, single women? Condoleeza Rice seems to worship him, and the never-married Miers seems just as loyal. Should Laura be concerned?