Sunday, November 18, 2007

I am tired, hear me snore

Brothers, Part II

State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard has now asked Congress for a pass on testifying about "discrepancies" between his statements and those of his Blackwater brother. His lawyer, in a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the government oversight panel, wrote: "There is no legitimate purpose to be gained by publicly pitting two brothers against each other." I have this teensy weensy little suspicion that Mr. Waxman may differ about that. But ain't it fun to watch?

Rights, Shmights

It seems that several of the giant firms that control much of the internet--MSN, AOL, Yahoo (though apparently not Google)--have lately taken to flat-out censorship, severely throttling back and/or labelling as "junk" or "spam" or "bulk" emails from, well, places they don't like (one complainant referred to "antiwar organizations"), even when the recipients have explicitly told the service that the mail is wanted. The chief exhibit is, which has posted a sampling of the reader responses they have received alerting them to the situation. Reading them is a horrifying experience. The water is boiling.

Not Simmering, Boiling

From ABC News: "Boston police will ask parents in high-crime areas to let detectives search their children's bedrooms for guns without warrants in a new anti-crime program. . . . [T]eams of three plainclothes officers assigned to schools will go to homes where they believe teens have guns and ask their parents or legal guardians for permission to search."

Ask? Right, like most parents in "high-crime areas" are likely to tell three cops on their doorstep where to go with it. Thomas Nolan, himself a former Boston police lieutenant who is now teaching criminology at Boston University, called it simply "an end run around the Constitution." I'd say he's wrong: it looks more like right up the middle.

Certify the Check, Please, Mr. Pickens?

Another from ABC: On November 6th, T. Boone Pickens, in a public appearance, apparently offered to pay a million dollars to anyone who can disprove even a single charge made by the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." (Pickens can afford it: he bankrolled that gang to the tune of three million bucks). Well, he has a taker.

A fellow by the name of John Kerry--remember him? (not everyone does)--has written a letter to Mr. Pickens, saying in part "While I am prepared to show they lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false. I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt. . . . I trust that you are a man of your word, having made a very public challenge at a major Washington dinner, and look forward to taking you up on this challenge."

Pickens, of course, is trying to backpedal without seeming to, saying that he wouldn't consider giving Kerry the reward unless Kerry surrenders copies of his wartime journals, as well as movies he shot while on patrol and his complete military records for 1971 to 1978. Pickens said such documentation--which, he claims, the group has previously sought--would be needed to disprove its ads. "When you have done so, if you can then prove anything in the ads was materially untrue, I will gladly award $1 million. As you know, I have been a long and proud supporter of the American military and veterans' causes," he wrote Kerry back. Love that materially untrue? As decided by whom? Can you see this going to court on a breach of oral contract? With the evidence dissected in public by real experts? Ooohh, baby.

There's no doubt whatever that the brain-damage cases handling the Democratic campaign back then erred about as badly as one car err by not counter-punching, hard and often, over such scurrilous lies. But the Republicans counted, as they typically do, on all the delicate flowers wilting at the very idea of tough infighting. Truly, however cliche it is to say, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. So it would be nice, even though meaningless today (except to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, who would receive the million from Kerry), to finally stomp on those cockroaches.

I'm Feeling Rather . . . Steady

In The New York Times, Jim Holt ponders on "panpsychism", which holds that mind, in some form or degree, inheres in everything in the cosmos. The piece is entitled "Mind of a Rock", despite having no references whatever in it to George Bush.

Howdy, Mitch. Howdy, Harry. Bye, Mitch. Bye, Harry.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid has invoked a neat parliamentary sleight by which the United States Senate will not adjourn over the usual year-end holiday gap, but will have "pro forma" sessions.

Congressional rules allow for the Senate to be adjourned for three full days without being considered in recess; Reid set a schedule of pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday next week, and then on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29. (The Senate will then return Dec. 3 for full legislative sessions, after which it is expected to adjourn a few days before Christmas until mid-January--but Reid is threatening to hold further pro forma sessions throughout the holiday season.)

So what is a "pro forma" session, and why? What is amusing: a few senators--perhaps even just a Democrat and a Republican, briefly open the chamber "for debate"--after, say, 10 minutes of which, if that, doubtless everyone goes back home. Why is less amusing. So long as the Senate is even nominally in session, King George cannot make any more of his notorious "recess appointments", the placing of a nominee with the proverbial snowball's chance of getting approved by the Senate into office without any approval process, the appointee then getting to sit in office for the remainder of King George's reign--as with the placing of Charles W. Pickering, Sr. on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in early 2004 despite his having been bounced, with cause, twice before by the Senate.

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