Thursday, December 29, 2005

Epithets Extended

After review from the booth of a previous venture in home-brewed invective, it is clear that several more figures about whom we will be hearing in the next year needed to have their Homeric epithets firmly affixed, some by means of railroad spikes under the repeated blows of nine-pound hammers.

The Ugly
The Whitehogwash House
King George the Certifiably Insane
The Despicably Verminous Karl Rove
The Defiant but Desolate Scooter Libby
The Pustulent and Multi-Tentacled Jack Abramoff
The Smarmy and Larcenous Ken Lay
The Facile, Flagitious Jeff Skilling
The Insincere Demon-Spawn Ralph Reed
The Duplicitous and Avaricious Grover Norquist
The Readily-Beguiled Steno Sue Schmidt
The Corpulent and Coprophiliac Robert Novak

The Good

The Relentlessly Meticulous Patrick Fitzgerald
The Incontestably Fantastic Molly Ivins

Over at Wonkette, Ana Marie Cox' capacity to either produce or commission exactly the proper tone of totally outraged amusement continues to astonish an otherwise jaded world. Thursday's The Year in Accidental Tourism ruthlessly deflates Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei's front page Washington Post piece that ingenuously looks forward to a rejuvenation at the Bush White House. Wonkette says they "...perfect the art of the pulled punch." And then it gets nasty. Well worth the risk to your wrist to follow the link.

Perhaps to bolster their rapidly dwindling credit -- though possibly inadvertently -- Baker and VandeHei do land a few haymakers, viz, to wit, and id est [commentary unresisted by the Slangwhanger-in-Chief appears in brackets]:

Now [the Preznit’s] team is rethinking its approach to his second term in hopes of salvaging it. [Salvage always calls up such wonderfully strong images of shipwreck, disaster, calamity, catastrophe, and other really apocalyptic stuff. And history shows that in the formation of fixed Homeric epithets some of the adjectives that always seem to precede hopes are vain, or sad, or useless, or empty, or doomed.]

"I don't think they realized that Iraq is the totality of their legacy until fairly recently," said former congressman Vin Weber (R-Minn.), an outside adviser to the White House. "There is not much of a market for other issues." [O cruel fate, to be dismissed in coldly capitalist terms when your highly-polished ideological constructs can't be moved off the lot any more -- even with mega-advertising and deep, deep discounts -- while, out in front of God and everybody, the main product you have to offer is throwing smoke, rattling uncontrollably, and may become an immobile menace to navigation at any moment.]

Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University specialist on wartime public opinion who now works at the White House, helped draft a 35-page public plan for victory in Iraq, a paper principally designed to prove that Bush had one. [Some proofs, like some puddings, do not survive examination, much less ingestion.]

[Many Whitehogwash House advisors] are concerned that although Bush has changed his approach, he has not changed himself. He has been reluctant to look outside his inner circle for advice, and even some closest to Bush call that a mistake because aides have given up trying to get him to do things they know he would reject. [That truth stuff. It's a bear, ain't it? Even a spoonful o'...sugar... ain't enough to git none of it down the Preznitial gullet.]

"President ... not king or potentate," proclaimed Sen. Robert C. Byrd in a ramrod-straight Senate floor recital of BushCo's "renegade assaults on the constitution." The Slangwhanger-in-Chief blushes to admit Byrd's speech has been out there for ten whole days without his jumping all over it like a bird on a June bug. Eventual impeachment articles in 2007 doubtless will be drawn from the severe, almost Spartan prose of Byrd's masterful summation.

In the spirit of the ecumenical liturgical season, Ratziclaus is comin’ ta gitcha, according to this AP copyright photo by Domenico Stinellis from the St. Peter Square audience Wednesday. Benno is wearing a hat called a "camauro," said to have last been worn by the scandalously-still-un-sainted Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII. But the first time the Slangwhanger-in-Chief saw this kind of hat was in the Shadwell Hall office of the Ol' Perfesser. He had boldly annexed a copy of the Raphael portrait of G. della Rovere sporting a similar toque as Pope Julius II, always apostrophised as "Julie Baby." The other wonderful thing about this photograph is, of course, that Il Papa is indubitably wearing a double-breasted cassock. Now, that's style! However recondite his bent for headgear, may his taste in clothing not be the most, or indeed the only, modern thing about him...

With a glorious graphic of “Ethics Cleanup Ahead” the estimable ceremoniously slow-roasts Washington Post stenographer Sue Schmidt for her front-page whitewash implying distance between Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff when there emphatically never was any...

Finally, presented for your pre-calendrical-rollover delectation are: 1) and 2) two priceless blog links, 3) a returned-vet short story rescusitated from the Big One, plus 4) a great Forward Hanukkah editorial, all found and packaged with a nice bit of his own prose by the remarkable Jonathan Alterman from the belly of the beast at MSNBC. Alterman's first priceless blog link is to a Larry David rumination. Here's a sample passage:

I like how if you criticize the war you don’t support the troops. You’re the ones sending them over to die, so how is it I don’t support them? If the army was made up of child molesters, then I’d support them. If we went to an all child molester army, I would be their biggest supporter. “Please don’t bring the troops home. Stay the course. Keep them there a long time.” But they’re not child molesters.
His second link is to a classic posting. Representative remark:
William Safire: Why are liberals so obsessed by Dick Cheney's poker hand? The pot has been taken, the deal is done. If liberals are upset that we are no longer playing by the Marquis of Queensbury patty-cake poker rules, they clearly lack the stomach to play poker in the post-September 11th environment. And why do they never complain about Saddam Hussein's poker playing, which was a thousand times worse?

Of all these linked stories, it is as John LeCarre wrote of a spy's photographs in his undersung end-of-Vietnam-War novel The Honourable Schoolboy, “every frame is a bold and disturbing masterpiece.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Electoral Tsunami, Name of Wiretapping

Meandered across to the DarkSide™ just to see what flavor Kool-Ade™ they were regaling themselves with this Holiday™ winterim week. Wore some brand-spank-new Christmas™ Asbestos Underwear™ just for safety. Over at the level of discussion, overflowing as it was with a ripe expectoration compounded equally of froth, snottiness and spittle, was nonetheless refreshingly naïve. Without undue injustice to their rhetorical sophistication and logical prowess, their dominant theme appeared to be,

"The Dear Leader™ Preznit™ CAN SO do anything he chooses, and only those lying unprincipled ignorant treasonous Democrat self-hating media lesbo-liberal faggot unpatriotic hippie Commie bedwetter dopefiend pinko limp-membered dry-pudenda’d Osama-lovers™ think anything that is even slightly deviant, and we do mean deviant, from this warm, comforting, indispensible truth."

Almost immediately in reaction came the reminder that Katrina has eviscerated any black-vote inroads by the Republicans for a generation, just as the Tex-Mexi-Cali-Zona border-sealing crazies are determined to do to the Hispanic vote next year. And the Republicans are not going to have anything in 2006 to turn out the Newt Reichgt Crypto-Christian Taliban™ with, whereas black folks won’t be forgetting Katrina by then, if ever.

Up against the coming year's worth of daily reminders of the Administration's default policies of Lying, Spying, Torture and Corruption, the Mighty Wurlitzer™ Republican Noise Machine's flaccid, detumescent standbys of God, guts, gays, and guns are going to fail – not with a bang, but with a whimper.

It’s as if these folks have been living on a barrier island for a generation, and they have barely even begun to process the fact that the tide has just receded from the beaches. They’re still blithely sipping piña coladas in the bright sunlight. The inevitable “WTF, MF?” has still not yet formed in their addled and agitated brains, much less on their immaculately unknowing lips.

But the tsunami is coming, O ye children of the Republicans, the tsunami is coming. After it, everything in your precariously built environment is going to be stove in, blown away, sunk, shattered, battered, flattened, crushed, pulverised, macerated, and otherwise utterly devastated. For this electoral tsunami’s name is Warrantless Wiretapping.

Except for those increasingly few agonized souls who are galvanically stimulated by Faux News' electrical attachment to their gonads, Support Our Troops By Continuing to Kill Them was pretty much inert and torpid as a rallying cry by about the second week of Cindy Sheehan's Crawford TX sit-in this summer. Then the Hon. John Murtha drove a stake through its wretched heart in November. Sure, the House and Senate majorities haven't gotten the memo, nor have those bright, brainlocked sparks over at the DLC. And yeah, the Preznit's numbers are up for a while. But not by much, not for long, and not for real.

The amount of energy, capital, attention and focus that they are now going to have to put into the It Wasn't Illegal, It Was Just Convenient position (including sliming the opposition as favoring terrorists) is formidable. But these are real good grounds for progressives to fight the wingnuts on. In addition to being right on the Constitutional issue of legislative superiority over the executive even in wartime, for once we happen to be on the popular side as well.

The moment for getting public and Congressional approval of warrantless wiretaps was about 4 years ago – say, 9/12. However, if you're the Preznit and you didn't get it done then – but acted for more than 1,500 days like you had – your exposed, flapping cojones tremble between a rock and a hard place.

The Preznit might just barely get Congressional approval yet, if he could bring himself to ask for it. Mercifully, his stubborn and unbending dedication to his own will precludes such an easy answer. And it might not even be that easy, as the one-month-only extension vote on the Patriot Act showed. However, it is arduous to conceive of the successful PR and scare operation, four years later, that would result in public approval. Not to say they won't try, with all the kazoos and clowns at their disposal.

The cultural cold-warriors delude themselves that the people are already convinced of the rightness of Vietnam and the wrongness of the anti-war opposition, then and now. Well, here be dragons at the corner of their cultural map. People haven't forgotten Nixon's spying on domestic political opponents under the guise of national security. In fact, it's what he's famous for. A certain readiness to believe that it's happening again can already be detected, not just among the professionally progressive paranoid but out in regular America too. And no amount of soothing national security noises is going to work this time.

Once the inevitable hearings get underway and the breadth of the breathtaking Preznitial usurpation of power becomes clearer – together with the popular revulsion at both their tactics and their supposed justifications – the streets are going to be full of running Republicans headed for the hills. However, the coming electoral tsunami is a hundred-year event, with all the destruction to the status quo entailed therein. Ain't no mountain high enough for the pathetic denizens of the Republican barrier island.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Clouds No Bigger than a Man’s Hand

The leading edges of some future storms are becoming visible over the Potomac basin as the year draws in. A few are outright political. Some are economic, with political overtones. And the most fascinating is purely scientific, concerning the edges of reality itself.

Post-Christmas, the Whitehogwash House has been mumphing valiantly about how it will get its domestic agenda on track in 2006 with the State of the Union Address. Oh, and it will also milk successes on the ground in Iraq for political capital and popularity.

What that means is, Preznit W. will continue to address, with hype and advertising, a few straw-men erected for him in focus groups, in the hopes that the Mighty Wurlitzer™ Republican Noise Machine will drown out any competing sounds. Unfortunately for BushCo, as for Faust, reality is ultimately intractable -- even with the help of the Devil.

As in 2005, events will continue to run against them. The free media, in a post-Tet mood, will be unable to ignore the steady toll of the dead and the irreducible flimsiness of civilian structures in Iraq. BushCo would indeed need to pay hard but hidden cash to generate domestic headlines as favorable as those imagined by Bruce McCall in the New Yorker [original no longer online and hence uncited]:
-26 million Iraqis Unhurt in Latest Terror Blast
-Few Changes Needed to Turn Abu Ghraib Into an Applebee's
-Voting Machines in Elections Donated by Florida
-New Automatic Citizenship Law Turns U.S. Forces into Crack Iraqi Army Overnight

According to the AP,

Absent from [the Preznit’s] to-do list is a plan to overhaul the tax code. [Whitehogwash] House advisers say there may be some efforts to simplify it, but a sweeping restructuring would need more discussion. Also off the list is revamping Social Security, the one-time centerpiece of Bush's domestic agenda that failed to gain traction even though he crisscrossed the country to win support for it.
So there go the corporate Republicans, who don’t care about anything but these issues. And speaking of the corporate world, here’s one of the approaching stormclouds: revelation of the failure of advertising to regenerate brands that continue doing the same-old same-old while the world changes. This is an even more advertising-driven administration than were the previous two that worked from the Nixon playbook: Reagan and Bush I. The Social Security failure, coupled with the example of Coca-Cola, ought to have Karl Rove shivering in his bunker.

Emphasis on Healthy Living Beats Coke's Fizz Focus in Battle of the Colas, writes David Teather in Tuesday’s Guardian. It seems that in December Pepsi ($98.4bn) finally passed Coke ($97.9bn) in market valuation for the first time ever. (In early 2000, Coke's outstanding stock was worth four times Pepsi's.) Why? Coke just kept selling burpwater while Pepsi diversified into “healthier” choices such as Tropicana juices, Aquafina water, Gator-Ade, and snacks. Analysts do not expect Coke to be able to recover any time soon, even with the formidable assistance of $400m of additional advertising.

Even on his own terms,the year 2005 was the least successful year of Preznit W’s occupancy. And he evidently intends to follow up the expanding litany of failures with a meagre diet of:

-pressing for tax cuts
-seeking immigration reform with guest workers
-touting good economic news
-mumbling optimistically about Iraq
-indolently interfering with the nuclear aspirations of Iran and North Korea
-defending warrantless domestic spying as well as the Patriot Act
-stirring up Pakistani paranoia by visiting India
-pushing the Senate to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court
This is pretty thin gruel. And at least one of these ingredients will split the Republican party (immigration) while another two offer Democrats a way up off the floor (Alito and spying) and a third (bad economic news) seems poised to descend like the wolf on the fold.

As related in Tuesday’s Financial Times,
[...]yields on 10-year US Treasuries briefly fell below those on two-year notes, a rare event that in the past has often heralded a recession. [...]

According to analysts at Bank of America, the past six US recessions have been preceded by an inversion of the yield curve, which plots the yields on Treasury bonds against their maturities. The most recent inversion, in late 2000, came just ahead of the recession that began in March 2001.

Twice in the past 40 years, however, an inversion of the yield curve has not been followed by a recession. Many economists and Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, do not think this inversion is the prelude to a major slowdown.
However, an earlier FT Philip Coggan story [now unavailable in the free archives] predicted that even if there were no 2006 recession as a result of the inversion of the yield curve, there would certainly be a 2006 stock market buying opportunity, er, correction, er, downward revaluation, er, crash. When this li'l cloudlet gets to market, the "stalwart stewardship of the economy" meme is conclusively reaped by the whirlwind.

Bush is recklessly betting again, this time on Greenspan being correct instead of the market as a whole. That’s pretty short-sighted in a supposed free-market champion for whom one of the sacred rules ought to be, “The market is never wrong.” The last six times the market gave this signal, there was a recession. The two times before that, there wasn’t. So BushCo is betting on a return to the way things used to be, instead of staying the way they usually are. Better they should bet on the way things used to be as to the Constitutional limitations on presidential war powers.

Also for 2006 there’s Libby (probably leading to a Rove, and possibly to a Cheney, indictment), Abramoff (bribery involving at least two Republican Senators and seven Republican Congressmen) DeLay (campaign financing irregularities, abuse of power in the Marianas, connection to Abramoff) and Katrina. As with the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami a year ago, relief efforts are inherently slow, intrinsically inefficient, and agonizingly piecemeal. But even a Democratic city cannot be obliterated and then successfully ignored. For another thing, the damage across Mississippi and Alabama may well have anti-Republican aftershocks in 2006 as well.

The building firestorm over the Preznit’s claim of unfettered war powers has already started to draw Republican participation. Over Christmas weekend Barron’s Magazine, to whose true, pure reactionary note the Republican Street Journal is as a clanging cymbal and sounding brass, issued an editorial fatwa against the Preznit’s overreaching, and used the "I" word. [Subscription only site; no link possible.] Republican Senators such as McCain, Hagel and Graham are beginning to stir restlessly, and Judiciary Chairman Specter seemed to indicate that hearings on wiretapping may precede hearings on Alito.

What we have here, folks, is a failure to communicate. BushCo thought advertising was the same as getting through to people. But in times of lying and spying, torture and corruption, even advertising loses its kick, no matter how big the budget or frenetic the Mighty Wurlitzer™. Probable result: Impeachment: It’s Not Just for Fellatio Any More. No, no articles will pass in 2006, or even reach committee. But they won’t have to. We must never forget the historical record showing these guys are personally bullies and cowards, and once they get whacked over the nose by the respectabilist media and a few scared Republican Senators and Congressmen, they will doubtless whine their way into a corner and stay there until the Great Castration of 2007.

All predictions come with a grain of salt, of course. Or a bushel. It is comforting to discover that such savor is an inseparable portion of scientific reality. Quoth the New York Times' Dennis Overbye on Tuesday,
Dr. Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna said that he thought, "The world is not as real as we think. My personal opinion is that the world is even weirder than what quantum physics tells us," he added. […]

"The discovery that individual events are irreducibly random is probably one of the most significant findings of the 20th century," Dr. Zeilinger wrote. […]

He suggested that reality and information are, in a deep sense, indistinguishable[…]

As a result of the finiteness of information, he explained, the universe is fundamentally unpredictable.
True in general. Still, in its particulars the year 2006 is more likely to resemble the forty miles of bad road described here than the rose-strewn, smooth thoroughfare BushCo advertises.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

New Life Amid Old Darkness

In the Slangwhanger-in-Chief's lexicon, this is the Holiday Season, which contains individual days some of which are called Hannukah, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In his estimation as a hardened media-sifter, the Irish Times does Christmas Eve the best. They always print an actual poem. On the front page, of all places. Quaint old custom, really, to go straight to the heart of matters in that way, reaching for the oldest form of language to convey solemnity.
by W R Rodgers
Poems, 1993 (The Gallery Press, Dublin)

Deep in the fading leaves of night
There lay the flower that darkness knows,
Till winter stripped and brought to light
The most incomparable Rose
That blows, that blows.

The flashing mirrors of the snow
Keep turning and returning still:
To see the lovely child below
And hold him is their only will;
Keep still, keep still.

And to let go his very cry
The clinging echoes are so slow
That still his wail they multiply
Though he lies singing now below,
So low, so low.

Even the doves forget to grieve
And gravely to his greeting fly
And the lone places that they leave
All follow and are standing by
On high, on high.

Friday, December 23, 2005

He Own'd the Soft Impeachment

This is so delicious, the Slangwhanger-in-Chief can hardly stand it. Like the Brothers Grimm's Rumplestiltskin giving away knowledge of his name in an ecstacy of gloating, the echt-neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer today reveals that the White House fears impeachment enough that it has to have an anti-impeachment strategy.

Strategy summary: "Fraudulently inducing a war and performing warrantless US surveillance aren't really crimes and, anyway, even if they were, you can't do anything about them, nyah,yah, nyah." That's their story and they're sticking to it. Thank God. Because it isn't going to work. Anyway, the Slangwhanger-in-Chief could not forbear replying:

Mr Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post Company
via e-mail

Dear Mr Krauthammer-

Happy to have your blessing on the growing presidential investigation/ censure/ impeachment movement. Once again your December 23rd column illustrates the law of counter-intuition that you have so capably sustained throughout your interminable, though intellectually undistinguished, career. Anything you denigrate must be admirable, just as anything you praise must be execrable. Never seen it fail, really.

"Demagoguery" in defense of unfettered presidential power was, naturally, far more prevalent in 2005 than the pitifully few, though totally correct, assertions by elected officials that the president lied us into war. The two emotive, plentifully-evidenced presidential lies were, of course, that 9/11=Saddam, and WMD=nukes.

Possibly even you have ceased promulgating these contemptible deceptions. Certainly the American people no longer draw their corollary that the war was either justified or properly sold to us by the administration. You’ll just have to get over that. No number of speeches and PR campaigns is going to change the public’s reluctantly arrived-at view that this president is egomaniacal, untrustworthy and well-nigh incompetent, or the growing suspicion that he may well be trembling on the brink of a psychotic episode every time somebody disagrees with him.

Aside from the original lies, the impeachment deal is this. Surveillance in the United States is permitted only when FISA is complied with. If, as the Hamdi v. Rumsfeld court ruled, the president's actions are subject to Congressional acts and judicial review, it is unfathomable that his violations of FISA somehow escape these checks. Being commander-in-chief doesn’t overrule being under the constitution and therefore, in matters great and small, under the legislature and the judiciary. It definitely takes a “superior mix of partisanship, animus and ignorance” on your part to deny that.

See, the president isn’t the one who gets to decide what’s constitutional and what’s not. The courts do that. It is part of the poison of Johnson-Nixonism that presidents feel able to avow their position as being above the law. But the assertion does not make the fact, either as to the propriety of lying, spying and torture nor as to the invisible, evanescent, and delusional “progress” in Iraq. The real “nonsense” is pretending that impeachment is improper, ludicrous, or disproportionate to Bush’s defiantly-proclaimed US surveillance crimes.

His dilemma is that he outed himself on national TV for doing something that it says right there in words duly passed by Congress that he can’t do. He can’t just declare the law inoperative. If he’s impeached and gets off, well, that’s a decision that commander-in-chief trumps Congress. But he can’t just act like it’s going to come out that way, because he can’t know how it’s going to come out.

All in all, that was a pretty good final sentence of yours, except you had two extra words and left one out. It should have read, “And only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is [not] a high crime and misdemeanor.”

Faithfully yours,
The Slangwhanger-in-Chief

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Legalism Beyond the Bounds of Reason

Upon first perusing this expression of some nameless, but highly-to-be-praised, Osgoode Hall law student's jeu d’esprit on a bulletin board in Toronto in about 1970, the Slangwhanger-in-Chief instantly concluded that it is one of the finer demonstrations of professional deformation ever seen. From this opinion he has not since seen any cause to recede.

It is firmly in the tradition of the great early 20th century Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock, whose most famous coinage is, "He leaped on his horse and rode madly off in all directions." And it shows just how far beyond reality a fixed ideological, or in this case rigidly logical, view can take you.

We, the reading public, sort of knew about that problem already, of course. One of the earlier explorations was that of my fictive-fairy-godparent Lawrence Sterne in Tristram Shandy Vol. 1 Ch. xliv (1759):
"It is the nature of an hypothesis, when once a man has conceived it, that it assimilates every thing to itself, as proper nourishment; and, from the first moment of your begetting it, it generally grows the stronger by every thing you see, hear, read, or understand. This is of great use."

And in 2006 we, the people, shall avidly await the decisions of various members of our judiciary on assorted questions such as Roe v. Wade, presidential warrantless spying, and Rep. Tom DeLay’s extortionate election financing habits. So it is just as well to see an example of judicial thinking at its most blinkered, while hoping for a much more reality-based result in the cases just cited.

With that preface, I give you this report of the decision of Mr. Justice Blue of the Ontario Supreme Court as rendered below:

Canadian Law.

Subject: Is a pony, fortuitously saddled with a feather pillow, a "small bird" within the meaning of the Ontario Small Birds Act?

Blue, J. August, 1965

This is an appeal by the Crown by way of a stated case from a decision of the magistrate acquitting the accused of a charge under the Small Birds Act, R.S.O., 1960, c. 724, s. 2. The facts are not in dispute. Fred Ojibway, an Indian, was riding his pony through Queen's Park on January 2, 1965. Being impoverished, and having been forced to pledge his saddle, he substituted a downy pillow in lieu of the said saddle. On this particular day the accused's misfortune was further heightened by the circumstance of his pony breaking its foreleg. In accord with Indian custom, the accused then shot the pony to relieve it of its awkwardness. The accused was then charged with having breached the Small Birds Act, s. 2 of which states: "2. Anyone maiming, injuring or killing small birds is guilty of an offence and subject to a fine not in excess of two hundred dollars." The learned magistrate acquitted the accused holding, in fact, that he had killed his horse and not a small bird. With respect, I cannot agree.

In light of the definition section my course is quite clear. Section 1 defines "bird" as "a two legged animal covered with feathers." There can be no doubt that this case is covered by this section.

Counsel for the accused made several ingenious arguments to which, in fairness, I must address myself. He submitted that the evidence of the expert clearly concluded that the animal in question was a pony and not a bird, but this is not the issue. We are not interested in whether the animal in question is a bird or not in fact, but whether it is one in law. Statutory interpretation has forced many a horse to eat birdseed for the rest of its life.

Counsel also contended that the neighing noise emitted by the animal could not possibly be produced by a bird. With respect, the sounds emitted by an animal are irrelevant to its nature, for a bird is no less a bird because it is silent.

Counsel for the accused also argued that since there was evidence to show accused had ridden the animal, this pointed to the fact that it could not be a bird but was actually a pony. Obviously, this avoids the issue. The issue is not whether the animal was ridden or not, but whether it was shot or not, for to ride a pony or a bird is of no offence at all. I believe counsel now sees his mistake.

Counsel contends that the iron shoes found on the animal decisively disqualify it from being a bird. I must inform counsel, however, that how an animal dresses is of no consequence to this court.

Counsel relied on the decision in Re Chicadee, where he contends that in similar circumstances the accused was aquitted. However, this is a horse of a different colour. A close reading of that case indicates that the animal in question there was not a small bird, but, in fact, a midget of a much larger species. Therefore, that case is inapplicable to our facts.

Counsel finally submits that the word "small" in the title Small Birds Act refers not to "Birds" but to "Act", making it The Small Act relating to Birds. With respect, counsel did not do his homework very well, for the Large Birds Act, R.S.O. 1960, c. 725 is just as small. If pressed, I need only refer to the Small Loans Act, R.S.O. 1960, c. 727 which is twice as large as the Large Birds Act.

It remains then to state my reason for judgment which, simply, is as follows: Different things may take on the same meaning for different purposes. For the purpose of the Small Birds Act, all two-legged, feather-covered animals are birds. This, of course, does not imply that only two-legged animals qualify, for the legislative intent is to make two legs merely the minimum requirement. The statute therefore contemplated multi-legged animals with feathers as well. Counsel submits that having regard to the purpose of the statute only small animals "naturally covered" with feathers could have been contemplated. However, had this been the intention of the legislature, I am certain that the phrase "naturally covered" would have been expressly inserted just as the word "Long" was inserted in the Longshoreman's Act.

Therefore, a horse with feathers on its back must be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be a bird, and a fortiori, a pony with feathers on its back is a small bird.

Counsel posed the following rhetorical question: If the pillow had been removed prior to the shooting, would the animal still be a bird? To this let me answer rhetorically: Is a bird any less of a bird without its feathers?

Appeal allowed.
Restoration of the Old Order

The Financial Times is, like the Economist and the Republican Street Journal, a Tory paper. But the FT seems to remember the roots of Toryism better than the pure free market theoreticians, red in tooth and claw, who constantly fulminate against government, any government, in the pages of the latter publications. The original Tories of 1678 were those who resisted a fundamental change in the British constitution that would have excluded James II from becoming King when Charles II died. In other words, they were formed to protect the constitution as it was, not as it might become.

Faster than a televangelist stripping down in a whorehouse, the defenders of (unlimited but Republican-only) presidential power at the Economist and the Republican Street Journal have cheerfully abandoned "strict constructionism" in their interpretation of presidential prerogative. But the FT keeps the old faith, as shown in its Wednesday leader, Extraordinary Claim of Executive Power, whose subhead reads, "Congress must reassert its authority over war on terror."

This is not a question of what powers US law enforcement and intelligence agencies may need to combat the threat from terrorism. It is a question of who should authorise any necessary curtailment of liberties established in the constitution and elaborated by legislation and precedent.

The problem with renewing the Patriot Act is that the administration has not vindicated the trust legislators placed in it. Mr Bush can hardly demand expansion of state powers as necessary in the war on terror, while reserving the right to operate beyond them.

[Congress] must reassert its sole right to frame the rules that govern the relationship between government and citizen or risk sliding into constitutional irrelevance.

The FT is a lot sterner in defense of liberty than any of the alleged liberal media in the US have dared to be. The wingnut cablesphere cannot be expected to understand that they really don't want a President Hillary Clinton exercising the uninspected powers Bush is claiming. But it's nice to see a conservative institution taking a stance based on principle rather than on convenience, or lockstep presidential defensiveness.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Supporting the Censure Inquiry Resolutions

The unmuzzleable Hon. John Conyers has just introduced H.Res.635, which will create a select committee to investigate the Administration's:
  • intent to go to war before congressional authorization
  • manipulation of pre-war intelligence
  • encouraging and countenancing torture
  • retaliating against critics
and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.

Here's John Nichols' explanation in the Nation. And here's Conyers' statement in his blog. And here's the new Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff that set him off, The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War.

It's time to energize your local Congresscritter to get him/her to support the Conyers resolutions. Confirm your zipcode at Progressive Democrats of America and they will automate the process of finding, and sending a Conyers-supportive email to, your representative in your name. Here's the one the Slangwhanger-in-Chief sent (not their boilerplate but of his own fell feciture.)

Wednesday 21 December 2005

Hon. Chris Van Hollen
Maryland 8th District
United States House of Representatives
Via email

I was a Montgomery County Democratic Precinct Chair for twenty years, and am no stranger to activism. Here is an issue requiring instant attention.

It is most urgent that you join the Hon. John Conyers in cosponsoring H.Res. Nos. 635, 636, and 637 to inquire into censuring our malfeasant President and Vice President. Their war policies of lying, spying and torture must be repudiated and the constitutional balance with the legislative branch restored.

Sir, you need to get out in front on this. If I had wanted a representative who lay back in the tall weeds until it was safe to come out, and never cast a tough vote nor cosponsored a controversial measure, I would have voted for Connie Morella. (Not that I ever did, mind you. But I used a comparison sufficiently odious to you that it could spur you to action.)

As a concerned constituent, I have written you via email on several issues before and, aside from a robo-acknowledgement, have never received a reply. However this matter is too important to leave to the sclerotic procedures of your back office in sitting on, if not ignoring, email.

Kindly indicate to me by email or postally whether you will be able to join the Conyers effort or, if not, please explain why dilatory behavior seems to you appropriate at this time.

The very fabric of the nation is at risk from the unconstitutional and otherwise illegal depredations of Bush and Cheney. They must be challenged legislatively. You have a safe enough district to do it. We look to you for leadership, and not to the Hon. Steney Hoyer's lobbyist-based, DLC-inspired detumescent timidity.

Faithfully yours,
The Slangwhanger-in-Chief

Monday, December 19, 2005

Naming Names, Epithetically

The Slangwhanger-in-Chief's sainted mother told him never to call names. Yet she was wrong, at least insofar as the naming function is an important part of politics. Think of the soon- to- be- defeated Rep. Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH).

It is, after all, an ancient human practice to characterize the names of prominent figures with revealing modifiers. One such tradition is revealed in the Homeric fixed epithet, most creatively translated for Odysseus:
The many-wiled Odysseus
The myriad-minded Odysseus
The schemeful Odysseus
The cool tactician Odysseus
The resourceful Odysseus
The nimble-witted Odysseus
and also well-known through the forms of the rosy-fingered dawn, the wine-dark sea and the grey-eyed Athena.

As we approach what some consider the Year of Our Lord 2006 [now there's an epithet for you], it is time for this blog to settle upon a few Homeric epithets to use for those who appear frequently in public discourse. The list is, of course, suggestive rather than exhaustive.

The Execrable
Administration Division
The Lying, Spying and Torture Administration
The Untreated Alcoholic Preznit W.
The Mendacious Sack of Excrement Dick Cheney
The Unbelievable Condi Rice
The Imperially-Impelled Don Rumsfeld
The Worn-out and Useless Karen Hughes
The Discredited Scott McClellan

Bipartisan Congressional Leadership Division
The Acutely Ignoble Bill Frist
The Inert Puppet Dennis Hastert
The Obnoxious-Repulsive Tom DeLay
The Vastly Overinflated Ted Stevens
The Batshit-Crazy Dan Burton
The Oleaginous Rahm Emmanuel
The Too-Clever-By-Half Steney Hoyer

Bipartisan Presidential Timber Division
The Doomed Hillary Clinton
The Flaccid Joe Biden
The Irredeemable John Kerry
The Hapless Al Gore
The Hypocritical John McCain

Weird Outliers Division
The Serial Fabulist Ahmed Chalabi
The Invertebrate Bud Selig
The Utterly Shameless Judith Miller

Washington Post Division
The Administration Shill Bob Woodward
The Deeply Evil Fred Hiatt
The Coyly Defensive Deborah Howell
The Oblivious John F. Harris
The Easily-Deceived Chris Cillizza
The Dim and Distant Howard Kurtz
The Invariably Half-Right David Broder
The Dyspeptic and Condescending George Will
The Notoriously Drunken Jim Hoagland
The Wildly Skewed Charles Krauthammer

Broadcast Division
The Supine Tim Russert
The Fat, Dumb and Harpy Rush Limbaugh
The Increasingly Irrelevant Bill O’Reilly
The Always-Ignorable Hannity & Colmes

The Kudo-Worthy
Print Division
The Always-Indispensible Nation
The Operose and Farraginous Mark Morford
The Texas Observer's Indefagitable Lou Dubose
The Indomitable Robert Scheer
The Stalwart Daniel Schorr
The Must-Be-Read Murray Waas
The Relentless Sydney Schamberg
The Irrepressible Molly Ivins
The Never-Unsurprising Guardian

Blogosphere Division
DailyKos' Expert Skewermeister ‘Hunter’
The Pert Blogista ‘Wonkette’

Broadcast Division
The Irreplaceable Keith Olbermann
Defeat, Irreversible, Continues

The sanguinary and intractable logic of the situation in Iraq persists in trumping any relentless Administration PR to the contrary. The woeful appearance of a somber, but unrepentant, Preznit on Sunday TV prolonged the attempt to sell continued violence as if it were soap flakes. Keep repeating the message and the people will buy! Well, not if the clothes stay dirty.

Salim Lone is a former spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq. Writing “The Nadir of Occupation” in today’s Guardian, Lone argues (from a Sunni perspective) that the occupation itself is the source of the continuing violence in Iraq. “Last week's election does little to heal the wounds that are splitting Iraq up into violent fiefdoms,” he states.

The consequence is that no durable reconstruction can even begin until the US leaves. When even a 20% minority population (newly exposed to the vengeful depredations of the 60% that are Shia and the other 20% that are Kurd) wants you to cease protecting them, possibly your “protection” is part of the problem.

Here are some of Lone’s observations:
In American proconsul Paul Bremer's 2003 master plan, last week's election was meant to be the culminating act in entrenching democratic rule in Iraq. Instead it marks the nadir of the American enterprise there.

The US introduced sectarianism in Iraq as one of its very first acts of occupation, by reorganising this secular nation's politics along explicitly religious and ethnic lines. This was purportedly done to crush the Ba'ath party, but the larger target was Arab nationalism, as was the case when Israel encouraged Hamas as a counterpoint to the PLO.

This election, apart from the fact that it is taking place under occupation, was held amid such insecurity and violence that few candidates dared to campaign in public. In addition, all three main presidential candidates are long-term exiles, and two of them, Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi, are known to have been in the pay of US security services. This election will not enhance Iraqi sovereignty or the new government's legitimacy, nor would it be recognised as free and fair in any democratic country.
It looks more and more like the three immiscible segments of the Iraqi population are going to have to settle their future themselves. The US having exhausted its influence in a misdirected military adventure unaccompanied by a plan for peace, this may well mean they do so under Iranian and Turkish tutelage. But clearly we’ve shot our bolt. This isn't defeatist, in the pejorative sense of "trying to induce or cause defeat." It's just the brick wall we're engaged in hitting our heads against...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More McCarthy, Positive and Double-Plus Un-Positive

Editorialist Keith C. Burris at the Manchester (CT) Journal-Inquirer has won, hands down, the Eugene J. McCarthy Best Obituary sweepstakes, for which the munificent prize is a virtual full-fidelity audio CD of one hand clapping, existentially. Burris also wrote a just and thorough appreciation of him as the preface to McCarthy's last major book, No-Fault Politics: Modern Presidents, the Press, and Reformers. (Crown: 1998. ISBN: 0812930169)

George F. ("Triumph Of The") Will, however, receives a lump of coal. Preferably slingshotted from about 20 feet at the back of his vegetable-marrow head. In order to keep his hands busy instead of performing such a salient, if indictable, public service, the Slangwhanger-in-Chief took Gus Flaubert's hearteningly vicious advice, "When you write a friend's biography, do it as if you were taking revenge for him." Same with defending a man against bad obits. While the counterblast is doubtless incapable of penetrating Will's accustomed carapace of invincible ignorance, the effort seemed worth it. McCarthy deserves this defense and many another honor far beyond our present reach to give him...

Mr. George F. Will:

Given your mastery of Tory flouts and jeers, normally I would not risk breaking a lance with you. But your column today concerned something I actually happen to know about, so I will take the chance. In the manner of that precise exegesis to which you no doubt subject your own work, I will query your use of certain terms and phrases. Possibly I shall have the temerity to suggest emendations.

You assert that Gene McCarthy “craved” the Vice-Presidency in 1964. He told me that President Johnson was certainly worth supporting in 1964, running, as Johnson did, against Barry Goldwater’s expressed intentions of widening the war in Vietnam and of resisting civil rights legislation. But let me ask you this: if it were true, as you imply, that McCarthy only diffidently sought the Presidency in 1968, how can it be that he had inordinately desired the Vice-Presidency only four years earlier? You can properly hold one of these positions or the other, but unless you have been trained in the Alice in Wonderland school of “believ[ing] six impossible things before breakfast,” surely you cannot do both.

You state that “probably” the ills of the Nixon presidency, which you ardently defended, would have been avoided had McCarthy campaigned sooner, or more strongly, for Humphrey. This is one of the hardy canards that decades of determined psephology have been unable to uproot from the public mind.

Nevertheless I shall briefly try. In 1968 George Corley Wallace received 9,901,118 votes or 13.5% of the total, garnering 46 electoral votes. If 5.2% of Wallace’s backers had voted for Humphrey nationally, Humphrey would have won the popular vote. If 38.3% of Wallace’s backers in just four non-segregationist states (Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Missouri) had voted for Humphrey, Nixon would have lost. In plain fact Wallace elected Nixon, just as Ross Perot elected Bill Clinton.

Note that McCarthy received zero votes and thus cannot justly be said to have affected the outcome in any way. He told me, “I have yet to meet a voter who didn’t vote for Humphrey in ’68 based on my delayed endorsement. I don’t think there were any.”

When you state that Johnson was a New Hampshire write-in the implication is that, given the advantage of being on the ballot, McCarthy ought to have lost to him by less than the actual 7.5% Johnson margin. Or perhaps you mean that McCarthy’s moral victory ought not have had the significance it manifestly did. In either case, permit me to observe that it is in vile taste to use a man’s obituary in order to deprecate his accomplishments. I will add in passing that, when you denigrate “the power of the mere passage of time to sanctify the accidental, even the unreasonable,” you savagely undercut every argument in favor of tradition that you have ever made.

Next you proclaim that ideological fervor among Presidential nominating caucus participants is “not what the Democratic Party needs.” Possibly you wish to reserve ideological fervor for the Republicans, thus producing an imbalance to which you would typically be partial. Moreover, it is a matter of some dispute as to whether an inveterate and unrepentant Republican spokesman such as yourself has any proper conception of, non-adversarial interest in, or claim to an opinion on, what the Democrats need.

You appear to be arguing that the Democrats should limit their nominating venues to primaries in states that are “…representative of America’s demographic complexities.” That bears a perilously close resemblance to a statistically-sampled nominating process, the mathematical basis of which you assaulted when it came to the US Census actually finding out how many Americans there are.

With a little more wit, the paragraph assailing the McCain-Feingold campaign spending law could have come from one of McCarthy’s 1976 Independent Presidential campaign speeches in which he caustically remarked that King George III did not give matching funds to the Revolution. He said it was absurd to complain that L. Clement Stone might have had an influence on Richard Nixon in return for his contributions. “Any influence at all on Nixon was bound to be for the better,” he said.

McCarthy had no trouble with limitless personal contributions, properly reported, because he believed in his moral way that pride among politicians, not greed among their supporters, was the real threat to the Republic. But we have unlimited contributions in effect now anyway, given various loopholes. Until we get full and fair instantaneous internet (not quarterly dead-tree) reporting of all contributions, contributors and their associations, the suspicion is going to remain that – hiding behind defenses of McCarthy’s 1968 insurgency – the real agenda is one of allowing corporate contributions, late filings, and stealth groups like the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies.

You proceed to use the phrases “elegant futility” and “liberalism curdled by condescension” in conflating McCarthy with Adlai Stevenson and progressives in general. In a kind of dying fall – evidently in lieu of an actual peroration – you repeat variants of “condescend” twice more over your final paragraphs.

Your charge seems to be that progressives concentrate overmuch on economic justice for American employees of all races and both sexes, exaggerate peace and environmental sustainability as the foundation of prosperity, and insist too strongly on the need for national investment in non-military national needs in health care, education, retirement and urban infrastructure. On your record, you might even object to progressives wanting the US to have what those flaming Founding Revolutionaries, no doubt wimpishly, called “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.”

Yet progressives' attentiveness to social justice is somehow considered patronizing to, or demeaning and belittling of, ordinary voters. Evidently this is by contrast to the conservative absorption with abortion, guns, gays, flag burning, the made-up “war” on Christmas, and supporting our troops by keeping them over there getting killed.

It is in the nature of wit to be a bit acidic, certainly to be pointed. (As for neutral, blunt wit, well, you may as well talk about Tom DeLay’s morals or some other null quantity.) It is hard to see anything particularly “unpleasant” about McCarthy’s putdown of George Romney. After all, Romney’s lightweight status was confirmed not by McCarthy’s “rinse” remark but by the combined gravity of the journalistic mandarinate, which was outraged at the notion that American generals would try to brainwash visiting dignitaries about our "progress" in Vietnam.

McCarthy’s remarks about Democrats were generally even more devastating than those about Republicans, although Nixon’s fake peace candidacy rightfully drew his ire: “We know Nixon's stuff. He's got a slider. And he's thrown a spitter so many years he's got seniority rights on it.”

Your final paragraph, despite transposing the term “lackadasically” to McCarthy’s post-1968 campaigns, cleverly leaves the impression that you include 1968 under that rubric. Yet his role in 1968 would have taken all the energy anybody had. And when I worked on his staff in 1976 he was far less cavalier about his campaigning than certain columnists are about getting facts and conclusions right. You go on to quote with evident approval a line whose metaphor appears to mean you think McCarthy never tried hard after 1968.

I can assure you, sir, from personal observation, that his humor never masked his seriousness; his existentialism never undercut his Catholicism (nor vice-versa); his poetry never distracted him from his duties; and his dedication to the well-being of the country never counted the cost to himself personally.

This 2005 piece suffers from the same vices as the one you wrote circa 1994 about McCarthy and the Texas House delegation. At his eightieth birthday celebration in 1996, McCarthy said, “George had a piece saying that I was unduly friendly to Texas Congressmen. I'd been in the Congress until 1958 when I went to the Senate, so it was roughly 40 years ago. And George found it out. I don't know what the evidence was, but he found this out.

"Sarah [McLendon] knows we never got along with the Texans very well. She almost got fired in Tyler, or Midland, or Odessa – someplace – because of reporting that we were questioning the Texans' use of migrant workers.

"And I challenged the tidelands oil, I remember, in one of my better speeches. The ordinary claim of states was six miles seaward for tidelands oil, but Texas was claiming twelve miles. And the standard for the six miles was how far you could shoot a cannon in 1806, and I said that even in 1806 a Texas cannon could not be shot twice as far as any other cannon. I don't think George picked that up.

"There were one or two other things [I supported that the Texans didn't like], like deregulating natural gas and actually [also opposing] the depletion allowance. So I thought I had a pretty good record.

"But George pointed out that I ate lunch with Texans. There were some good people there. [Congressmen] Albert Thomas, Wright Patman, John Lyle, Homer Thornberry, and Frank Ikard, whose wife [Jane] is here tonight, were great friends of mine.

"The standard for eating at the Texans' table had nothing to do with ideology or politics. It was a question, really, of whether you could eat the red peppers. I had a very good stomach, and they liked an outsider, once in a while, to put them to the test.

"That was the whole thing. And George has oversimplified it, and exposed me as having eaten lunch at the Texas table quite regularly, and supposedly having been corrupted by that.”

It took me a few more words to respond than it originally took you, but you have the twin advantages of long practice with, and a high salary for, your impressionistic compressions. As a workman skilled in innuendo, misdirection, maldeduction, non-germaneness and unverifiability you are to be commended for your unremitting fidelity to your tools. But someone long ago should have taught you that slovenly writing can eventually ruin your reputation. If you can’t get the facts right, you’ve probably also missed the point.

Faithfully yours,
The Slangwhanger-in-Chief

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Remind Me Again Why We're in Iraq

The Bush administration has decisively proved itself unable -- even with the aid of charts, mendacity and persiflage -- to describe what victory in Iraq would look like. Yet with oil remaining, and likely to stay fixed, above $50 a barrel, BushCo might be forgiven for thinking, in its usual muddled way, that it has now won the war after all. If the logic of going into Iraq was to drive up the price of oil for the benefit of US oil multinationals, then it has been completely vindicated.

Carola Hoyos' story beneath the main headline on the front page of today's Financial Times tells the tale: Kuwait May Open Up to Foreign Oil Groups.

Kuwait said on Monday it would not be able to meet its oil production goals without the help of international energy companies, raising the prospect that the oil majors could get access to its oilfields almost 30 years after the industry was nationalized. ...

[Kuwait] has already attracted interest some of the world’s largest energy groups, including the UK’s BP and ExxonMobil and Chevron of the US. ...

If [the Kuwaiti Parliament] agrees to allow foreign oil companies to once again exploit Kuwait’s oilfields, Saudi Arabia will be isolated as the region’s only country to bar international oil companies from its fields. Mexico has also yet to invite foreign companies in, although technical challenges may force the country's next government to follow Kuwait’s lead. ...

The [proposed Kuwaiti] contract would give foreign oil companies only limited control and would not allow them to book the reserves with financial regulators such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Though these are drawbacks, they are outweighed by the possibility of eventually tapping more of Kuwait’s 100bn-barrel oil reserves [the world's fifth largest] at a time when fewer big fields are being found and access to Saudi Arabia and Iraq remains out of the question.

What will happen afterward in Iraq is plain as a pikestaff to all but those in the White House bubble and their henchmen, underlings, and hangers-on. The pithy headline over Martin Woollacott's byline in today's Guardian, The Region Will Wrest Back Control When the US Stumbles Out of Iraq, cannot be bettered as truth, as prophecy, as inevitability.

At a deeper level, the social and political limits to America's raising, maintaining and employment of its military power have been well demonstrated in the past two years. The US will not be throwing its armies around again in the Middle East any time soon. Its reputation has suffered and its diplomacy has been damaged, not only by Iraq, but by its failure to do much more than trail after Ariel Sharon on Israel and Palestine. Its inability to influence Israel can be seen as a special case of its inability to shape events more generally in the region. So the country that has been the most important outside force in the Middle East for the past 50 years, and that has been unchallenged there by any other outside power since the fall of the Soviet Union, could well be less interested, and almost certainly will be less effective, in the region in the future.

Season's Cursings

Courtesy the Chapter Clerk of the Dean and Chapter of Rochester, as translated by Rev. Lawrence Sterne, Prebendary of York Cathedral (1761), here is An Excommunicatory Curse by Bishop Ernulphus of Rochester (floreat 1115-1125), newly and specifically applied to the Preznit of the United States, George W. Bush, whose Ecclesiastical Humours may Predispose him to the Punishments of Everlasting Damnation faster than many another man, though his name is Mentioned sufficiently often to Satisfy the most Finicky of public relations Spinners... (Latin version upon request...)

'By the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and of the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour, and of all the celestial virtues, angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, cherubins and seraphins, and of all the holy patriarchs, prophets, and of all the apostles and evangelists, and of the holy innocents, who in the sight of the Holy Lamb, are found worthy to sing the new song of the holy martyrs and holy confessors, and of the holy virgins, and of all the saints together, with the holy and elect of God,--

‘May George W. Bush be damn'd—

'We excommunicate, and anathematize George W. Bush, and from the thresholds of the holy church of God Almighty we sequester George W. Bush, that George W. Bush may be tormented, disposed, and delivered over with Dathan and Abiram, and with those who say unto the Lord God, Depart from us, we desire none of thy ways. And as fire is quenched with water, so let the light of George W. Bush be put out for evermore, unless it shall repent him and make satisfaction. Amen.

'May the Father who created man, curse George W. Bush.--May the Son who suffered for us curse George W. Bush.--May the Holy Ghost, who was given to us in baptism, curse George W. Bush. May the holy cross which Christ, for our salvation triumphing over His enemies, ascended, curse George W. Bush.

'May the holy and eternal Virgin Mary, mother of God, curse George W. Bush.--May St. Michael, the advocate of holy souls, curse George W. Bush.--May all the angels and archangels, principalities and powers, and all the heavenly armies, curse George W. Bush.

'May St. John, the Praecursor, and St. John the Baptist, and St. Peter and St. Paul, and St. Andrew, and all other Christ's apostles, together curse George W. Bush. And may the rest of His disciples and four evangelists, who by their preaching converted the universal world, and may the holy and wonderful company of martyrs and confessors who by their holy works are found pleasing to God Almighty, curse George W. Bush.

'May the holy choir of the holy virgins, who for the honour of Christ have despised the things of the world, damn George W. Bush--May all the saints, who from the beginning of the world to everlasting ages are found to be beloved of God, damn George W. Bush--May the heavens and earth, and all the holy things remaining therein, damn George W. Bush.

'May George W. Bush be damn'd wherever he be--whether in the house or the stables, the garden or the field, or the highway, or in the path, or in the wood, or in the water, or in the church.—May George W. Bush be cursed in living, in dying. May George W. Bush be cursed in eating and drinking, in being hungry, in being thirsty, in fasting, in sleeping, in slumbering, in walking, in standing, in sitting, in lying, in working, in resting, in pissing, in shitting, and in blood-letting!

'May George W. Bush be cursed in all the faculties of his body!

'May George W. Bush be cursed inwardly and outwardly!—May George W. Bush be cursed in the hair of his head!—May George W. Bush be cursed in George W. Bush’s brains, and in George W. Bush’s vertex, in George W. Bush’s temples, in George W. Bush’s forehead, in George W. Bush’s ears, in George W. Bush’s eye-brows, in George W. Bush’s cheeks, in George W. Bush’s jaw-bones, in George W. Bush’s nostrils, in George W. Bush’s fore-teeth and grinders, in George W. Bush’s lips, in George W. Bush’s throat, in George W. Bush’s shoulders, in George W. Bush’s wrists, in George W. Bush’s arms, in George W. Bush’s hands, in George W. Bush’s fingers!

'May George W. Bush be damn'd in George W. Bush’s mouth, in George W. Bush’s breast, in George W. Bush’s heart and purtenance, down to the very stomach!

'May George W. Bush be cursed in George W. Bush’s reins, and in George W. Bush’s groin, in George W. Bush’s thighs, in George W. Bush’s genitals, and in George W. Bush’s hips, and in George W. Bush’s knees, George W. Bush’s legs, and feet, and toe-nails!

'May George W. Bush be cursed in all the joints and articulations of the members, from the top of George W. Bush’s head to the sole of George W. Bush’s foot! May there be no soundness in George W. Bush!

'May the Son of the living God, with all the glory of His Majesty – curse George W. Bush! -- and may heaven, with all the powers which move therein, rise up against George W. Bush, curse and damn George W. Bush unless George W. Bush repent and make satisfaction! Amen. So be it,--so be it. Amen.'
For those purists who may consider this effort insufficient, and there will doubtless be many of you, here's another curse, this one from the Archbishop of Glasgow in 1525, that can be adapted to current circumstances by the curious, the outraged, the thorough among us.
Guardian Notes Anniversary that US Media Skipped

Quoth the Guardian:

Five years ago today Al Gore phoned George Bush to formally concede the presidency. Since then the United States has suffered its worst ever terrorist attack, become embroiled in a disastrous foreign war and bungled the response to a natural catastrophe. So what is the Bush legacy after half a decade? Is he a ruthless Machiavellian or a bumbling puppet? A devout idealist or a cynical opportunist? A disaster or a mild disappointment? Six top American commentators -- from the left and the right -- deliver their verdicts.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"War on Christmas" Deflated by Laughter

Thanks to the ever-vigilant DailyKos comes a link he trenchantly footnoted, "Remember these conservative blowhards -- the only people who could possibly politicize the joy and happiness of the holiday season." Customarily the Slangwhanger-in-Chief does not quote copyright material in toto but somehow feels that stealing from broadcast media is not as heinous as stealing from print or the internet. Just an amoral quirk, no doubt.
Aired December 12, 2005 - 13:59 ET KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas or happy holidays, a Christmas tree or a holiday tree, which should it be? It depends on whom you ask. We've seen controversy, most notably prompted by the White House. It sent out cards, this card as a matter of fact, wishing a holiday season of hope and happiness. No mention of Christmas.

Some thoughts now on the subject. Sam Seder hosts the show "Majority Report" on Air America Radio. Bob Knight is the director of the Culture and Family Institute, it's affiliated with the Christian conservative organization, Concerned Women for America.

Gentleman, great to have you with me.

SAM SEDER, HOST, "MAJORITY REPORT": Thanks for having us on.

PHILLIPS: Let's start with the holiday card. What do you think, Sam?

SEDER: Listen, as far as the war on Christmas goes, I feel like we should be waging a war on Christmas. I mean, I believe that Christmas, it's almost proven that Christmas has nuclear weapons, can be an imminent threat to this country, that they have operative ties with terrorists and I believe that we should sacrifice thousands of American lives in pursuit of this war on Christmas. And hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

PHILLIPS: Is it a war on Christmas, a war on Christians, a war on over-political correctness or just a lot of people with way too much time on their hands?

SEDER: I would say probably, if I was to be serious about it, too much time on their hands, but I'd like to get back to the operational ties between Santa Claus and al Qaeda.

PHILLIPS: I don't think that exists. Bob? Help me out here.

SEDER: We have intelligence, we have intelligence.

PHILLIPS: You have intel. Where exactly does your intel come from?

SEDER: Well, we have tortured an elf and it's actually how we got the same information from Al Libbi. It's exactly the same way the Bush administration got this info about the operational ties between al Qaeda and Saddam.

PHILLIPS: Okay, Bob Knight, Sam is tying in now the lack of information regarding weapons of mass destruction and somehow moving that into Santa Claus. Help me out here. What's going on? Is this a war on Christians, a war on Christmas? Is this too much political correctness?

BOB KNIGHT, CULTURE AND FAMILY INSTITUTE: Well, first I want to compliment him on his dry humor, but this is actually a very serious subject, because a lot of people are waking up to realize that the war on Christmas is really the culmination of a war on faith and the idea that the public square has to be cleansed of any religious expression, particularly Christian religious expression.

At one time "happy holidays" was a welcome addition to "Merry Christmas," so you wouldn't say the same thing over and over again, but a lot of people now see it as a substitute, and it's very gratuitous at times.

And it's actually insulting when you're talking about Christmas day or a Christmas tree and you can't bring yourself to use the word for fear of offending someone. In the name of diversity we're a less free country when that happens.

PHILLIPS: It's interesting, Sam, because this is a time where, if anything, we want to be even more sensitive to diversity considering everything that's happening with regard to war on terror, we're learning so much more about different religions, different ethnicities and trying to become more of one, versus being segregated.

KNIGHT: Yes, well, Kyra, I mean, listen, I would like Bob to tell me who is the person who has been offended by someone saying Merry Christmas to them? I've never met that person.

I don't celebrate Christmas. But if someone says "Merry Christmas" to me, I either think, well, it's a little bit odd, it's like me saying happy birthday to you on my birthday, but no one cares.

But I will tell you this, as we wage the war on the war on the war on the war on Christmas on our radio show. News Corp., Fox News, those people who have started this entire war on Christmas mean, fake war, they're having a holiday party.

President Bush saying "Happy Holidays." Tokyo Rose, Laura Bush, saying "Happy Holidays" to her dogs in the video, I'm sure you've seen it. I mean, these are the things that we should be talking about when we are waging this war in Iraq, we should be equating it to the war on Christmas.

What else would Bob Knight have an opportunity to do, how else would he get on television if he wasn't pretending to be attacked.

KINGHT: This would be funny except it is serious to a lot of people who have seen their faith cleansed from the public square systemically.

SEDER: Are you suggesting, Bob, that someone can't celebrate Christmas in America? Tell me about the person who can escape the celebration.

KNIGHT: Can I get a word in here?

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Bob.

KNIGHT: I'm talking about things like in Ridgeway, Wisconsin, where the school children in the public school were told they couldn't sing "Silent Night," so they substituted "Oh, Cold Night." When you take Jesus out of anything it gets pretty cold, so it's apt.

But it's outrageous, they had children actually singing a bastardized version of "Silent Night."


SEDER: This may come as a shock to you, Bob, but I don't consider Jesus the messiah. If you're going to ask me to praise Jesus, I'm going to be a little offended. I don't think the singing of the song, you can find other songs to sing, so what about "Silent Night."

KNIGHT: Because you're offended none of those other kids can celebrate the great heritage of Christmas carols.

SEDER: I'm not the one who said they couldn't do that.

KNIGHT: You're a grinch, sir, that's all you are.

SEDER: Why are you trying to force conversions on people?

KNIGHT: I'm not forcing conversions by singing a Christmas carol.

SEDER: You are, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Let me ask you guys about the pressure that's been put on stores, for example.

American Family Association called for the boycott of Target stores the weekend after Thanksgiving, accusing the chain of banning the phrase "Merry Christmas" from its stores, a charge that Target denies.

Pressure from conservative groups, looks like it has an impact here. Complaints from the Catholic League, Wal-Mart agreed to create a Christmas page on its Web site, rather than a holiday page. Macy's, which is perhaps more closely associated with Christmas than any other retailers, sent activists a letter touting its use of "Merry Christmas" in ads and store windows after it was the target of a small scale boycott last year.

This is pretty amazing, all these boycotts of pressuring all these stores, these businesses, Bob.

KNIGHT: These businesses are taking millions and millions of dollars in from Christians, in particular, and others who celebrate Christmas, giving gifts in the name of the Christmas season, and yet they're so worried about offending people like my opponent here that they don't want to mention the word Christmas. People are sick and tired.

SEDER: Bob, it's the holiday time, I'm not your opponent.

KNIGHT: Yes, you are. Yes, you are.

SEDER: I do agree with Bob. I think what should happen is companies should calculate how much money they're getting from people who are celebrating Christmas and provide exactly that much amount of Merry Christmas, because that is exactly how I would want any type of religious holiday to be celebrated.

KNIGHT: Can I mention something that puts it in perspective?

PHILLIPS: Would we be having the same argument about Hanukkah, I'm curious?

SEDER: Would we have the same argument about Hanukkah?

KNIGHT: Hanukkah is not the same as Christmas. It's not a major holiday, for one thing.


KNIGHT: This is the Christmas season, that's why billions of dollars are really being spent.

SEDER: It's also the winter solstice, too.

PHILLIPS: People might argue that Hanukkah is just as big as Christmas.

SEDER: I'd have to agree with Bob. I would have to agree with Bob on that.

KNIGHT: I have some Jewish friends and none of them say Hanukkah is as big as Christmas.

SEDER: Hannukah is not a high holiday. Our high holidays are Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur, which I'm sure Bob has been protesting why there are not more Yom Kippur sales or Rosh Hashanah sales during those holidays. Why shouldn't there be, right Bob?

KNIGHT: If that was associated with that holiday, then maybe I would join you. But it never has been.

SEDER: Bob, have you ever protested Martin Luther King Day not being celebrated. Do you resent when people don't say "Happy Martin Luther King Day" a month out in advance?

KNIGHT: Let's put this in perspective.

PHILLIPS: Bob, I want you to be able to respond. What's interesting is a CNN U.S.A. Today Gallup poll, the question was "Is it okay for people to say Merry Christmas, 88 percent said yes, 11 percent said no."

KNIGHT: 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Why would we care about offending the four percent that get offended by it?


PHILLIPS: Why do we care? Why are we making all the changes, Bob?

SEDER: Bob's where is the war, where are the battle lines, you can tell me "Silent Night" can't be sung in one school in Wisconsin.

KNIGHT: That's just one example, that's not the totality, so don't create that straw man.

SEDER: What is the totality?

The totality is -- you brought it up. The totality is 88 percent of the American population has no problem with it.

You don't care about the people who don't celebrate Christmas, fine. But I don't celebrate Christmas and I don't care. So, why are we wasting everybody's time? It's so that you can fund raise, that's why Bob. And I think you know that's true.

PHILLIPS: Bob, I'm going to let you have the final thought.

KNIGHT: OK. You know, when the Nazis moved into Austria in 1936...

SEDER: Oh, that's offensive, Bob, to raise Nazis. KNIGHT: They immediately removed from the schools. You can read about it in...

PHILLIPS: Hold on, Sam. Let Bob make his point. Let Bob make his point. Go ahead, Bob.

KNIGHT: You can't even let me speak. Can you? You're so...

Maria Trapp wrote the story of the Trapp singers that's in "The Sound of Music," and she said she sent her kids to school after the Nazis took over. And they came home and said mama, we can't say the word Christmas anymore. It's now winter holiday.

I think that ought to disturb people...

SEDER: Kyra, that's offensive.

KNIGHT: ...that we're moving toward that kind of attitude in this country.

SEDER: The Puritans also outlawed Christmas. The founding fathers of this country would fine you in Massachusetts if you celebrated Christmas in the beginning. So don't talk about Nazis, Bob. I think that's really inappropriate.

Why do you have to bring hate to this Christmas and holiday season? That's so sad, Bob.

KNIGHT: Well, let's go to the Soviet Union then too. They had grandfather frost.

Well, it's the truth. You ought to read the book yourself, and maybe you'll change your mind.

SEDER: It's just sad that you have to raise Nazis when you're talking about Christmas and the holiday season. And we all know that Christmas actually, Tannenbaum, it's a German holiday. Bob, I'm really, really disappointed in you.

KNIGHT: I'm sorry to disappoint you, but if you can't understand the force of history...

SEDER: To bring up Nazis, Bob.

KNIGHT: I'm not calling you a Nazi.

SEDER: Oh, who you calling Nazi? Who are you calling a Nazi, sir?

KNIGHT: I'm not.

PHILLIPS: Gentlemen, we got to let it there. We could probably...

SEDER: You are, sir.

PHILLIPS: Sam Seder...

SEDER: I'm offended.

PHILLIPS: ..."Majority Report."

SEDER: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Bob Knight director of Culture and Family Institute.

Gentlemen, hey it's a discussion. Everyone is talking about it, that is for sure. A lot of people are talking about it I should say. Now, I'm just curious do I say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, which...

KNIGHT: Well, I'd like to say Merry Christmas if I have the opportunity.

SEDER: Don't cut and run from the war on Christmas.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, gentlemen, talk to you later.

KNIGHT: Thank you.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Stop That And Begin Worse

Naomi Klein nails John McCain's neo-revisionist obliviousness on US official use of torture in the always-indispensible Nation. Its current (December 26th) issue showcases a number of fine articles on the prevalance of torture as an implement of US policy. Quoth Klein:

It's not only apologists for torture who ignore this history when they blame abuses on "a few bad apples"--so too do many of torture's most prominent opponents. Apparently forgetting everything they once knew about US cold war misadventures, a startling number have begun to subscribe to an antihistorical narrative in which the idea of torturing prisoners first occurred to US officials on September 11, 2001, at which point the interrogation methods used in Guantánamo apparently emerged, fully formed, from the sadistic recesses of Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's brains. Up until that moment, we are told, America fought its enemies while keeping its humanity intact.

The principal propagator of this narrative (what Garry Wills termed "original sinlessness") is Senator John McCain. Writing recently in Newsweek on the need for a ban on torture, McCain says that when he was a prisoner of war in Hanoi, he held fast to the knowledge "that we were different from our enemies...that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of them." It is a stunning historical distortion. By the time McCain was taken captive, the CIA had already launched the Phoenix program and, as Alfred McCoy writes, "its agents were operating forty interrogation centers in South Vietnam that killed more than twenty thousand suspects and tortured thousands more," a claim he backs up with pages of quotes from press reports as well as Congressional and Senate probes.

Not Close, and No Cigar Either

A corrective review of

Dominic Sandbrook, Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism (Knopf Borzoi: New York) 2004, ISBN 1-4000-4105-8, $25.95
which deliberately contains, exaggerates, and repeats most of the erroneous conventional wisdom about Gene McCarthy that was heaped upon him in revenge for daring to hold the Democratic party responsible for the war in Vietnam.

Using Senator Eugene McCarthy to explain liberal Democrats of the last half of the twentieth century is like using nitroglycerine to explain liquids. Yes, the individual forms part of a class; but in these cases the individual is far too, well, individual -- and the class far too disparate -- for the illustration to provide much insight. By running for president in 1968, McCarthy challenged the country to put an end to a war that was both wrong and unwinnable; doing so, he salvaged a portion of the national soul. Yet such action by him was neither predictable, inevitable, nor a consequence of his being a postwar American liberal.

As Louis Menand noted in his otherwise equivocal review of Sandbrook in the New Yorker, McCarthy's political discourse is founded on "distributive justice" and other Thomistic formulations of social responsibility. It is not that McCarthy "doesn't get" capitalism, as the Weekly Standard weakly charged; it’s that he approaches it from within a larger framework, and sees it as being yet another ideology. From such a perspective, McCarthy's countervailing anticommunism was inherent and, despite Sandbrook, not a matter of convenience.

Those who come from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, as the late Senator Paul Wellstone put it, have traditionally been accused of divisiveness. This is an old trick by the powerful to blame the powerless for resisting what is being done to them. To listen to his enemies, McCarthy should have had no trouble against the combined opposition of the Kennedys, the then-pro-war New York Times and Washington Post, and the entire US government led by President Lyndon Johnson. There was as well as the vast military-industrial right wing to line whose pockets Johnson held that odious Asian war: bellico-socialism for the engineering classes. But no: it is customarily, and in Sandbrook yet again, asserted that some character flaw, or many of them, in McCarthy prevented his winning.

The inherent vice of Sandbrook's book, which was partially funded by the Lyndon Baines Johnson foundation, mirrors that of most journalism about McCarthy; they call McCarthy a "maverick" as if there were a herd to which he should have belonged. If the financing weren't a dead giveaway, Sandbrook had earlier written of "a long tradition of Democratic failures, the Adlai Stevensons and Eugene McCarthys of history: professorial, moralistic, aloof, self-indulgent, unwilling to get their hands dirty in the political arena, and ultimately ineffectual."

Alas, wrong on every count, even if applied to President Woodrow Wilson, for whom the formula was originally fitted up. This anti-liberal boilerplate as applied to Wilson, Stevenson or McCarthy is merely the toxic spewage of the false friend, "the smiler with the knife beneath the cloak" as Chaucer put it, in which position most "moderate" journalists and academics stand in relationship to genuine liberals.

Nobody up until an anonymous Wall Street Journal article in December 1967 had called McCarthy lazy; nobody has stopped since. (Mostly this stemmed from the Journal's influential, if shabby, confusion between "number of votes attended" and "amount of real work done" although neither is, in fact, deducible from the other.) The first man in Congress to debate Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin one-on-one was Rep. Gene McCarthy, and of the two, who do you suppose was the more "moralistic"? LBJ had taught high school, and all his life was far more "professorial" in his demands for abject followership than the intellectually curious McCarthy. If it is "aloofness" to resent journalists who fail to do their homework, then McCarthy is entitled. The "self-indulgence" charge is always connected with McCarthy's poetry, as though poetry detracted from his seriousness or his intensity on public issues. As for "unwilling to get his hands dirty," in the absence of a vast personal fortune you do not get elected seven times to national office and run for president without doing plenty of heavy lifting.

Sandbrook's crabbed version of McCarthy was a History Book Club Main Selection. This just demonstrates how ill-documented the sixties still are. Despite their centrality in determining national consciousness for thirty years thence, the sixties were, and remain, too hot to touch in any form save journalistic controversy. Truly the best of the work on the sixties was done at the time, such as Lewis Chester, Godfrey Hodgson & Bruce Page's 1969 An American Melodrama, while the toll of the rest is sparse. The last good book about McCarthy was Albert Eisele's 1979 Almost to the Presidency, and half of it was about Hubert Humphrey.

In fact, the sixties are like 1848 was in Europe -- the energy from their participants' enforced diaspora repopulated the world, spread throughout society, yet took power nowhere. From such an official defeat, however, arose a thrust toward renewed political change that is not over yet. If McCarthy's helping cause that was being "ineffectual," then I'm a Dutchman.

He Stood Up Alone and Something Happened

Eugene Joseph McCarthy died at 6AM this morning. He laid his career on the line by being the first to challenge the Democratic party to choose peace or war in 1968. When last seen in the old folks home, McCarthy was read a Psalm or two by the Slangwhanger-in-Chief, who then went home and wrote this poem:

The withered poet sits
The weathered poet sits
In his old folks’ oaken chair
Pulling his elderly ear.

Muffled now the reasoned tongue;
The woven similies quietened
As the plow his grandfather wielded.

The weird poet sits
The wearied poet sits
Rooted to his chair
By the weight of his wisdom.

Poet and king, king and poet
He led the parti-colored tribes of the young
Along the stoniest of paths.

The wary poet sits
The war-spent poet sits
His fine mind turning over and over,
Meditating lines he will not say.

After the Fall of Man came the Flood;
After the Promised Land came the Diaspora;
After the Resurrection, Holy Mother Church...

The workaday poet sits
The well-tempered poet sits
Amid the shards of the world he sang
In the ruins of the land he did not lead.

And this his monument shall be:
A sense of time’s full etching
Down the river: a nameless gorge.

The worthy poet sits
The woe-freed poet sits
Awaiting his next exhalation
Whether poem, or power, or prayer.
Link-Hopping Pays Off

Ain't the innernet wunnerful? Go sliding from info to info like a trout dodging rocks in a waterfall. Today's illustration:

Thanks to a link by guest bloggist DCeiver on pert blogista Wonkette's site to the outrageous BoiFromTroi, up came a page called George W. Bush Wears Shoulder Pads, authored with fantastic skill by one Suzanne McNevin.

As a simple factual assertion there would not seem to be anything exciting about these shoulder pads -- unlike the controversies, but still near certainties, over Bush wearing a listening device while debating and having started drinking again. (We won't even get into the undoubted truths that Bush the Small couldn't pour micturation out of a cowboy boot if the directions were printed on the heel and is, moreover, a lying sack of excrement.)

But in the hands of someone who really knows what she's doing, these same shoulder pads are a lethal weapon to their wearer. To whet, tempt, or sharpen your appetites for following the link, here's a sample. Reminds the Slangwhanger-in-Chief of the wonderfully associative free-form indignation of his Sister the Elementary Teacher:
A draft dodging, money-grubbing, warmongering tiny little RUNT who has never seen combat and WEARS SHOULDER PADS. He lets other people fight and die while he hides in the White House and wears his shoulder pads.
The photographs alone are worth the price of admission. Oh, wait, there isn't one... Ain't the innernet wunnerful?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

DeLay's Pollution Spans Pacific Ocean

An oil spill begins with a gash in a tanker's hull, a broken undersea pipeline, a storm-damaged oil rig. There is no off valve. Oil continues to leak until the aperture is sealed, or until the source is empty. While it leaks, the first job is containment, the second is damage repair; once stopped, the third task is remediation.

So it is with the slowly spreading oilslick that is the corruption, both legislative and electoral, of Rep Tom DeLay. Austin DA Ronnie Earle's indictments for criminal money laundering have stripped DeLay of his Republican House Leadership post, a small mercy at best. However, the poisonous ooze from DeLay was not confined to his direction of slightly-laundered corporate money to Texas Legislature races in order to gerrymander Congressional districts. No, DeLay is also mired in the Abramoff bribery scandal up to his ugly and ineffective toupee.

For those who just stepped off the 4:10 from Uranus, Jack Abramoff is a super-lobbyist who used to work for DeLay, traded on his access to DeLay, and forthrightly and mirthfully fleeced certain Indian tribes out of millions of dollars to manipulate the federal legislative process concerning Indian casino gambling. He goes to trial in January in a separate scandal over a Florida casino boat company whose former owner lost interest in the business because he, well, stopped breathing after ingesting too much lead.

About 19 Senators and Representatives, mostly Republican, have been implicated so far by the slimy trail of money. Fearing seat losses in 2006, the Republican National Congressional Campaign Committee is about to start a public relations blast (no doubt amplified across the Republican Street Journal / Faux News / MSNBC campaign machine) implying that since one Democrat is tarnished for every five Republicans, "Everybody does it, it's no big deal."

However, aside from the Indian gusher, just revealed is that another bonanza of illegal money for Abramoff and DeLay was the little-noticed WWII trophy, the Mariana Islands. Now known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, one of which is Tinian, whence the atomic bombers took off for Japan. Unlike Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, (whose status gives them some US benefits despite having no actual Senate, or effective House, representation,) the Marianas don't even get a non-voting Delegate to the House. In practice they are complete, abject and powerless wards of the Congress.

Their peculiar constitutional position made them delectable targets for Abramoff and DeLay's extortion. The Department of Justice was forced into investigating Abramoff and his connection to DeLay and the House leadership and has responded with with unaccustomed and surprising vigor. Most of the attention so far has been focused on the Florida casino boat and Indian gambling material. But now the ways the Marianas compartment of the investigation has turned out not to be a dry hole are discussed at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Stakeholder site in lubricious detail. The Texas Observer's indefagitable Lou Dubose was on the case long ago with his and Jan Reid's The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress (Public Affairs: 2004) and the feds are finally following the trail.

It seems Abramoff would take money from the CNMI government to get Congress to legislate anti-union clauses favorable to CNMI business interests, and then recycle it through DeLay. This is the kind of direct money-for-offical-favors stuff that has sent many a man from marble halls to iron bars. DeLay sat on the peccant conference committee and authorizing committee, while indicted Abramoff aide Michael Scanlon then was a DeLay-patronage appropriations committee staffer involved with the fragrant and oleaginous line items in question.

The stain of DeLay's defilement and dishonor of the public trust has thus reached across both the continent and the ocean. That odious spill is now somewhat contained by public attention, and is undergoing damage repair in the form of the Department of Justice investigation and the Texas indictments. Remediation will require trials on all these matters, so conceivably DeLay will be spending more time in court than he does contaminating the halls of Congress with his presence.

Mercifully, DeLay's massively pickled and sclerotic ego will not allow him to resign his seat (he had tried to rerig the House rules so as to stay in the leadership even if indicted, but a public storm forced the Republicans to back down from that exemption.) Thus with any luck the Democrats will still have DeLay to kick around all through 2006, right up to the elections.