Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary

It was four years ago Tuesday that our El Presidente made a choreographed landing on the U.S.S. Lincoln, took off his flight suit like a regular James Bond and, with a huge banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished" behind him, declared the Iraq War over.

This was the GOP wet dream. Ah, how the media fawned.

Four years later to the day, with the War declared unwinnable by as stalwart a Conservative Republican as William F. Buckley, with the cost rising towards half a trillion dollars before our very eyes, Congress will deliver the stinging War wind-down bill to the White House.

And none too soon.

Just today there is more than a hint by former C.I.A. Analyst Ray McGovern that Vice President Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney was actually behind the forging of fake evidence that led us to the War. McGovern says he has proof but is waiting to release it -- one can only hope he is not just playing a hunch. He posits a "Watergate plumber" type scenario where Cheney authorized or directed the dirty work, leaving the execution to the type of scum that has been doing GOP dirty work since well before Nixon. Bay of Pigs, anyone?

Imagining that this is the case makes the motivation for Cheney to have personally directed the smear against Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in which his wife was outed and for lying about which Scooter Libby was convicted. What perfect sense it all makes -- this was Cheney's baby all along.

Defrauding the American people to lead us into a disastrously ill-advised war that benefits only the Halliburton Corporation in which he owns massive amounts of stock, and those of his syndicated buddies...would that not be grounds for impeachment, if not charges of treason?

Maybe McGovern is stretching the proof. Maybe that appearance on Tucker Carlson's show is where it all ends.

Or maybe we'll be hearing more about it.

Happy Anniversary. Dick.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Great Fair

A friend of mine who happens to have a vested interest suggested that I blog tonight about the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Since I'm getting as sick of writing about Bush/Cheney/Rove Co. malfeasance, maladministration and criminal acts as I am of living through them, I thought I'd jot a few thoughts about this welcome annual event.

I grew up on the East Coast with a staunch prejudice against Los Angeles. Sure, I loved the movies, but back in the 70's and 80's we thought California was an alternately glistening and seedy cultural vacuum, populated solely by airheads and egotists. While some of this can't be denied, it's events like the Book Festival that gainsay all that nonsense.

Sure, L.A. culture has grown by leaps and bound in the 15 years since I arrived, but it's attracted some of the best and the brightest minds in art, music and literature since the 1920's when the film industry was first being solidified, and certainly the 1930's when so many European emigres came running from the rising fascist tide and fell in love with America here.

I took my two boys today to see a panel featuring authors Brett Paesel (Mommies Who Drink), Christopher Noxon (Rejuvenile) and my close friend, Erika Schickel (You're Not the Boss of Me). I had a chance to chat with all three at the post-panel signing, and later got the story from Erika of her conversation with James Ellroy, one of my top faves, who sounded just as charming and manic as I'd have imagined.

The Festival is held every year on the UCLA campus, rows of book tents big and small pitched along the concrete and brick walkways of the school, with various stages including a huge kids stage. (I'll admit to having been to the Barney "concert" on that stage several years ago. Like the Stones, for three-year olds.) The variety is infinite, the panels and one-on-ones highly desirable, it's a great place to get lost.

While I didn't have that option with the kids in tow and wished we could have stayed longer, the event is a testament not only to the organizers and current Los Angeles Times Book Editor David Ulin, it's all part of the strange and wondrous high-meets-low culture of our town, this sprawling, diverse, niche-filled city of the future that those of us who have been born or, especially, drawn here can be proud to call home.





Friday, April 27, 2007

Family Values

Is there any fruit as sweet at that of the GOP sex scandal?

Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.

Tobias, 65, director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), had previously served as the ambassador for the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.

A State Department press release late Friday afternoon said only he was leaving for "personal reasons."

On Thursday, Tobias told ABC News he had several times called the "Pamela Martin and Associates" escort service "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage." Tobias, who is married, said there had been "no sex," and that recently he had been using another service "with Central Americans" to provide massages.

Because we all know, Central Americans give the best massages.

Funniest of all:

As the Bush administration's so-called "AIDS czar," Tobias was criticized for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Look, it's common knowledge that horny does make you stupid, but this looks like maybe the other way around.

Again, one has to ask, is there any limit to the Republican party's capacity for shameless hypocrisy?

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Anyone recall seeing Condoleezza Rice around the United States lately?

Maybe she's dodging a pending subpoena? Thursday, she got one from Congress:

The subpoena issued to Rice seeks to force her testimony about the claim that Iraq sought to import uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons program. President Bush offered that as a key rationale for the war in his 2003 State of the Union address.

When asked about the subpoena, Rice responded that "she was not inclined to appear before the committee"...from Oslo.

"I addressed these questions, almost the same questions, during my confirmation hearing," she said. "This is an issue that has been answered and answered and answered...I am more than happy to answer them again in a letter."

Yet again, Condi proves herself a lying scoundrel. Congress has repeatedly asked for a written response, which she has repeated not delivered. Hence, eat me:

"A subpoena is not a request; it's a demand for information," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House oversight committee that issued the bulk of yesterday's subpoenas. "They ought to understand it's no longer a request, it's no longer an option."

She's on the run, as they all are now. Bush is hunkered in the bunker, sending out his shiny new emissary to lie about his "Mission Accomplished" speech in some sort of panicked rearguard action against history ruling it the worst Commander-in-Chief moment in the history of our great nation, and having her also propagate non-committal language intended to absolve El Presidente from having be aware that Pat Tillman had been killed by our own troops. This one reeks of guilt by non-denial:

"There's no indication that the president got any word that there was questions surrounding his death, other than what has been reported in the paper," Perino said.

Of course, "there's no indication". He doesn't use email, he's protected by human kneepads like Alberto Gonzales and Scooter Libby, it more of the John Gotti Presidency. They meet at the club and know when they're being tapped.

Fugitive from justice, hiding out in the White House. Cheney had to have known, if not directed it. Rove had to have known. This was big, minting a campaign commercial in the middle of the war out of a real American hero's tragic death and family suffering. And if Bush didn't know, why hasn't he made a show of firing everyone who kept the information from him and perpetrated the lie?

Because, of course, he knew.

Bush is a fugitive from Congress, from the American people. Tonight, in what was certainly a well-thought out, well-planned, graphics-ready moment in the first Democratic Presidential candidates debate, Barack Obama said a line which might even go down in history:

We are one signature away from ending the Iraq War.

For those who have the desire (and a little patience) to understand the bill, Marty Lederman has an excellent breakdown of the main codicils in "Why the President Would Deny Our Troops the Resources They Need". Cliff Note conclusion (embolden his):

In other words, and just so we're clear: The President will veto this bill -- which provides the troops, and returning veterans, with much greater funding and support than the President himself proposed -- simply because the bill would also, quite modestly, establish a presumption that redeployment is to begin by this July, if the Iraqis are not meeting the President's benchmarks, and if the President is unable to make the case to delay the beginning of redeployment to a later date.

So he's threatened, nay, promised a veto and will make a great show of "steadfastness" with his following through on his murderous act. No one's taking this war away from him, not daddy's friends, not a Democratic Congress, not the American People.

I repeat my claim that Bush will someday be shunned, and that day may be now.

Go ahead and carry out your veto.

Run, Bush, run.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two Lists

The first one is more devastating, the second is good choir preaching.
(click on the link for details):

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law

Then there's this spine-straightener.

Top Ten Lies about Liberals
(click for detail):

10. Liberals destroy American culture and traditions.
9. Liberals have no backbone - don't stand for anything - they're "soft" on principles.
8. Liberals promote World Government.
7. Liberals are soft on crime.
6. Liberals subsidize laziness.
5. Liberals are socialists, extremists, marginal, never mainstream.
4. Liberals tax & spend, promoting Big Government.
3. Liberals are unpatriotic.
2. Liberals are bad for business.
1. Liberals are soft on defense, and weaken America's superiority and stature in the world.

Just remember this is all in the context of El President hitting a new low of 28% approval in the Harris poll just released tonight. Oh, and America is on the side of a firm timetable for withdrawal. They agree with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who's driven the rightwingers batshit crazy by saying the War cannot be won, at least in any conventional sense.

The Democratic House just passed the bill, which I'm guess is the most popular piece of legislation from Congress since 1999 and maybe 1993, and could only get more popular if it strengthened or shortened the "suggested" exit date.

Comparing the Bush/Cheney/Rove Administration to a term Rumsfeld once used for the Iraqi insurgency, Ronald Brownstein in the L.A. Times calls it the dead-ender presidency:

Forget "the decider." Bush has become the dead-ender.

There's nothing to be afraid of.

Time to remake reality -- in reality's own image.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Festival of Lies

Is it wrong to think of our government as a cheap sham?

Ask the brave Americans who testified today in Congress.

Try Private Jessica Lynch, who got railroaded into fake marine hero-dom, in order to bolster support for the liars' war. She's so shockingly eloquent. The wounded soldier girl next door, patriot, truth-teller. Which these days feels like a rebel.

They staged everything, exploiting her pain and dignity.

Then check out Pat Tillman's family. They destroyed his uniform, for God's sake, to cover up the friendly fire tragedy with a b.s. story, straight to his family's face.

Brother Kevin: Fraud–deliberate and calculated lies.” Calls out for Congress to investigate. Wildly compelling, justice.

And his poor mother. Institutionally lied to about her very own son for White House political advantage, and then told she isn't Christian enough to do so. Told her son is "worm dirt".

Smells like treason.

Eye into the army: Specialist Bryan O'Neal, U.S. Army. Another brave guy who will have a clear conscience tonight. Didn't make the changes in his reports, must have been done higher up. His climactic description of Pat's killing...this is what really happened, from the guy who could have been hit in Pat's place.

As one regular reader wrote to me this evening, incensed to obscenity over what this says about the officers in our military bureaucracy:

What the officer class acceded to w/ Tillman & Lynch is f*cking disgraceful. Besides the obvious examples, here are 3 more:

1) they delayed a rescue attempt on Lynch for over a day because they didn't have the right equipment to videotape it; they knew that their "rescue"would be a success since they knew she was being treated in an unguarded Iraqi hospital, not shackled and tortured in some fortified structure

2) they ordered Tillman's closest army pals to LIE to his brother -- ANOTHER US ARMY RANGER -- about the circumstances of his death

3) Everyone understands now that all of the docs regarding Tillman's death were fabricated, yet none of these "men of honor" will stand up and say "I did it," or "I ordered it."

Fuck them.

So how high up does this go? From The NY Times:

Democratic members of the committee devoted much time to an urgent memorandum sent by a top special operations commander, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to other high-ranking commanders a week after Corporal Tillman’s death. General McChrystal is now a lieutenant general.

The memorandum said a preliminary investigation was likely to find that American fire caused the death. The message urged them to pass on the information to President Bush, the secretary of the army and others.

The Tillmans said they believed that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld must have known the truth early, a contention that Army investigators said they had failed to establish. “It’s a bit disingenuous to think that the administration did not know about what was going on, something so politically sensitive,” Kevin Tillman said. “So that’s, kind of, what we were hoping you guys could get involved with and take a look.”

Bush knew.

Which means he had to have approved of it.

Isn't that the story here?


From The New York Times:

Congressional Democrats agreed Monday to ignore President Bush’s veto threat and send him a $124 billion war spending bill that orders the administration to begin pulling troops out of Iraq by Oct. 1.

Sweet Lord, can you imagine troops starting to come home from that civil war in October? What relief that will be, should this bill pass, and should that petulant bully Bush be forced to sign it.

There's some non-binding final March 31, 20087 language in there, but the fact that Bush/Cheney Co. are so incensed by it means it is the right move. This is a flipping of the rationale for military policy in Iraq, the false rationals of the GOP led by those two corporate criminals falling to the will of America, as expressed overwhelmingly last November and in current polls.

When Harry Reid said he had told a very cross Presidente in the White House that the war had been lost and even some mainstream Washingtonian journalists said he had made some sort of colossal error, it was Reid who was right. Truth to power. What everyone knows. He later amended it to the "we won already, Saddam is gone, no WMDs, now let's go" argument, but everyone knows what's really going on here.

Bush isn't being a statesman regarding Iraq. Paul Krugman argues he's holding our troops hostage:

There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.

If this were a normal political dispute, Democrats in Congress would clearly hold the upper hand: by a huge margin, Americans say they want a timetable for withdrawal, and by a large margin they also say they trust Congress, not Mr. Bush, to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq.

But this isn’t a normal political dispute. Mr. Bush isn’t really trying to win the argument on the merits. He’s just betting that the people outside the barricade care more than he does about the fate of those innocent bystanders.

Only a self-centered moron or a calculating gangster could have reacted to the Alberto Gonzales hearings like this.

Give the President some dates not of his own choosing. Because the only one he's really concerned about is January 20, 2009.

Because that's the day he's planning to walk away scot free.

Monday, April 23, 2007


So the U.S. starts building a wall in Baghdad and Iraq's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, tells us to stop.

It got me thinking about the other walls springing up, like the Israeli West Bank wall, about which I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's a scar across the country. On the other hand, less homicide/suicide bombings. At least Banksy had some fun with it.

And it certainly makes me think of our new wall, the U.S./Mexico border wall grande. I don't personally feel affected by the tide of illegal immigration, but I understand that there are American citizens living close to the border who do, so I don't know if it's a good or bad idea. I do know that the first $1.2 billion is only the down payment on what is currently expected to cost as much as $7 billion, and you know how those Bush cronies tend to lowball.

I'm wondering if this is a trend America favors as the extreme expression of property protection. After all, gated communities are on the rise, as yet another consumer commodity previous available only to the wealthy, now being marketed successfully to the American middle class.

Maybe it's all about population growth and having to fence ourselves in and everyone else out, like some sort of Soylent Green riot in the making. But no matter the reasons, it's an eerie trend, and one can imagine it leading to a death spiral of cross-cultural community.

Funny that this is the same day I read about my favorite 60-year old, indescribably young and breaking down walls just like he did in 1969.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


If you haven't seen this, do yourself a favor, in honor of the one-year anniversary of Stephen Colbert blowing apart the White House Press Correspondents dinner, which I believe was the beginning of the end for any Bush Administration public legitimacy, and the beginning of ignition of Colbert's ascendancy.

Here Colbert goes up against Sean Penn in a game show format "Meta-Free-Phor-All, including a poet laureate and a particular George Bush's undergarment. Penn hasn't been this funny since Fast Times at Ridgemont High...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Roast Gonzo

The appearance of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee will go down as the most humiliating such testimony by an appointee to that office in the history of our United States.

Don't take my word for it -- there's plenty of clips collected on TPMmuckraker where, under damning questioning by both Democratic and Republican Senators, Gonzales makes a fool of himself and a mockery of the great office he holds. Personal favorites:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) coolly takes Gonzales apart over his inability to say who drew up the list of Federal Prosecutors to fire.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) throws Gonzales under a bus.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) takes Gonzales apart over he so-called reasons for firing Carol Lam, who was following up on convicted GOP Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham's corruption connections.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) tells Gonzales to resign.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) tells Gonzales to resign.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) tells Gonzales to consider resigning, and if he chooses to stay for his boss to consider firing him.

There were protesters in the hearing as well, one actually keeping track of the number of times Gonzales responded to a question with, "I don't recall." At the end of the hearing, "protesters began singing 'Hey, hey, goodbye' from the 1970s hit song by Steam."

Per The New York Times editorial on Friday, "Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch."

There's the rub. As an apparatchik, a political hack, he serves one master, a guy who is more likely to keep him the more he is told to let him go. Per Glenn Greenwald in Salon:

This President does not fire people under pressure. When political pressures are exerted on Bush, he does the opposite of what is demanded of him -- for no reason except to defy the requests of others...

...Bush fires those who are disloyal. Those who are subservient and loyal are never fired, no matter their level of incompetence or corruption...

...That is how Bush works. If someone demands that Bush take action, he will petulantly refuse simply to demonstrate that he does not comply with anyone else's will. He is The Decider, nobody else, and nothing is more important than for him to demonstrate that.

As a reminder of the level of quality in this boss of bosses who holds Alberto's pink slip in his hands, here's your President speaking today, stumbling in front of a hand-picked audience while Gonzo fried. Best quote from his disconcertingly disconnected ramble:

"There are jobs Americans aren't doing. ... If you've got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I'm talking about."

There's an old saying about hiring people for a job. It goes, "A's hire A's and B's hire C's," meaning that the best people are smart enough to know they should hire the best people, while the mediocre, either mistakenly or by fear of being overshadowed, hire worse workers.

So who do C's hire?

Crossposted to The Daily Reel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


This has to be the weirdest, most disconcerting week in America in years. And that's saying a lot.

- Shithead crazy Virginia Tech killer has time between massacres to videotape himself and send the evil images to NBC. And guess what, there were ample early warning signs.

- On a day when our nation grieves for the 32 students, 171 Iraqi citizens are massacred by suicide bombs.

- The George W. Bush Supreme Court delivers their first great gift to the Religious Right constituency and reverses lower courts' well-written opinions to ban, 5-4, a form of abortion previously between a woman and her doctor. Props to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for immediately explaining in very clear terms why this decision is a dangerous disgrace.

- Back to the big issue, the most human beings being slaughtered on a daily basis that we actually have the ability to affect, has anyone seen a recent photo of Nancy Pelosi as distraught as this, albeit with an admirable resolve, the resolve of someone who knows how hard this unfortunate man who is our President will make the road ahead.

And Harry, such resolve.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Keeping it short tonight, just a few links, starting with a primo Tom Tomorrow strip in Salon, impeachable White House scandals then and now (hat tip to Phase).

Then there's this version of Clippy, the animated Microsoft help assistant, vs. Karl Rove's cursor.

Finally, unrelated directly to the "missing" emails but somehow a perfect metaphor for the gang that couldn't shoot straight, a story more jarring due to yesterday's tragedy and one that might not have been so buried in the news on another day:

Two Secret Service officers were injured on Tuesday after a gun held by another Secret Service officer accidentally fired inside the White House gate, according to a spokesman, Darrin Blackford.

Their injuries are non-life threatening, the spokesman said.

One officer suffered a shrapnel wound to the face, and the other was wounded in the leg.

As far as I know the Secret Service is a non-partisan, independent security force...but are we about to find out that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove purged this department as well and installed their hacks?

Tell me you'd be surprised.

32 x 1

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is truly staggering. Imagine the pain the families of the murdered are feeling tonight. Imagine the surviving students and professors, the horror so fresh all across the campus. Not a lot of good sleep for a while, for a long long time.

There's pretty rigorous coverage in the NY Times with the main story here, eyewitness here, and a map exploring slide show here.

Next we're going to want to know the story behind the killer, why the school didn't warn the campus after the first attack (2), two hours before the second attack (30).

Politics is already expected to intrude but you'd think with this, reportedly the largest such civilian gun slaughter in U.S. history, at least the White House would put out a message of pure shock and mourning, and not cheapen the tragedy with factional rhetoric, not in the very few hours after the incident:

Q Dana, going back to Virginia Tech, what more does this White House think needs to be done as it relates to gun issues? The President says current laws need to be strengthened, anything beyond that -- you had a conference on school violence with guns -- what more needs to be done?

MS. PERINO: I would point you back to the fact that President, along with Secretary Spellings, hosted last October -- October 10, 2006 -- a conference on school gun violence after the Amish school shooting and the other shootings that had happened, because the tragedies are the ones that just collectively break America's heart and are ones that we deeply feel, because all of us can imagine what it would be like to have been at your own school, your own college, and to have something happen. And those of us who are parents, or brothers or sisters of people at the schools have to take that into consideration.

As far as policy, the President believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting -- I don't want to say numbers because I know that they're still trying to figure out many people were wounded and possibly killed, but obviously that would be against the law and something that someone should be held accountable for.

A conference and the right to bear arms.

On a personal note, aside from my sympathies as an American and a father to so unfairly bereft families of the victims, I had two feelings about today's tragedy that were new to me, in the sense that they were different that just the same feelings of revulsion and sadness I had back with Columbine back on April 20, 1999.

On one hand, my sense of what those students must have experienced is vivified by having seen Elephant, the Gus Van Sant movie. His conceit was to tell a Columbine-reflective story with long real-time tracking shots through the corridors of the school and then rearranging the order to give a somewhat impressionistic puzzle of life and death that day, in those moments.

I do think that in a unique way, that film makes one feel closer to those students, their personalities, their lights extinguished by a soul-hunter, a demon in human dress, bodies until satiated, consuming, without empathy. On some sort of ultimate, revolting sadomasochistic trip -- kill them, then kill myself. Not soon enough.

There is also something very weird about reading of daily death tolls in Iraq, due to our invasion, both days this weekend being twice and four times larger than the toll in Virginia, college deans and policemen, the far coming near. It wasn't some terrorist who followed us home, but I don't think I'm the only one who finds it different than during a time of peace (as in 1999)?

Is there some way in which this sudden massacre is maybe too much for a country weary of its war, maybe too close to home?

I don't for a second believe that we would ever be able to legislate violence completely out of American life. You shouldn't have to go through a metal detector to get into every building on campus. But we do need to start an honest national dialog on hate and violence.

Already identified internationally with violence, today we as a nation, in a lacerating experience, became domestically identified with violence as well.

Is this the America we want to be?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Getting Away With It

Gwen Ifill was slimed by Don Imus ten years ago, and she weighed in on his firing today on Meet the Press. What's striking about Ifill's appearance is that she actually calls out Tim Russert and David Brooks, one being the show's host and the other a fellow guest at Russert's table, and while that actual face-to-face call for responsibility is rare enough in today's media, she goes on to delineate the central political issue of our time:
You know, it’s interesting to me. This has been an interesting week. The people who have spoken, the people who issued statements and the people who haven’t. There has been radio silence from a lot of people who have done this program who could have spoken up and said, I find this offensive or I didn’t know. These people didn’t speak up. Tim, we didn’t hear from you. David, we didn’t hear from you. What was missing in this debate was someone saying, you know, I understand that this is offensive. You know, I have a 7-year-old god daughter. Yesterday she went out shopping with her mom for high-Thetop basketball shoes so she can play basketball. The offense, the slur that Imus directed at me happened more than 10 years ago. I would like to think that 10 years from now, that Asia isn’t going to be deciding that she wants to get recruited for the college basketball team or be a tennis pro or go to medical school and that she is still vulnerable to those kinds of casual slurs and insults that I got 10 years ago, and that people will say, I didn’t know, or people will say, I wasn’t listening. A lot of people did know and a lot of people were listening and they just decided it was okay. They decided this culture of meanness was fine — until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and a lot of the debate in this society is not that people are sorry that they say these things, they are sorry that someone catches them. When Don Imus said this about me when I worked here at NBC, when I found out about it, his producer called because Don said he wants to apologize. Well, now he says he never said it. What was he apologizing for? He was apologizing for getting caught, not apologizing for having said it in the first place.

Ah, Gwen. And on the day when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had published maybe the most qualifier-laden guest pieces ever to appear on The Washington Post editorial page. As one of Josh Marshall's readers reminds us, the heavily-rehearsed Gonzo is headed to Capitol Hill this week to lie, and everybody knows it:

As far as I can tell, this is a universal assumption. The Republicans are rooting for Mr. Gonzales to be successful in his perjury, to tell a coherent story that his enemies cannot break down. The Democrats are rooting the other way, off course. They’re hoping that their ace interrogators will be able to shoot enough holes in Mr. Gonzales’ story that they can destroy his credibility. But nobody seems to find it shocking or tragic that the Attorney General of the United States is going to lie to congress. . .

For all their jibberjabber about personal responsibility, the Republican Party takes absolutely none of it, especially the Bush/Cheney gang and their network of henchmen. Anything to protect the absolute power of three baroquely corrupt men, Richard Bruce Cheney, Karl Christian Rove and, most crucially for their cause, George Walker Bush Jr. They either destroy or conceal evidence of involvement. While Karl Rover burns the email evidence, El Presidente's fingers never touch a keyboard -- he does only verbal. You know, like a mafia boss at the "club."

I've already started beating the drum for dusting off the old Nixon question, a.k.a. "What did the President know and when did he know it?", now look and see, he's right there at the center of the Prosecutor Purge, putting out the hit as deniably as possible, the Don of America, for Sen. Peter Domenici (R-AZ):

In the spring of 2006, Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out.

Gonzales refused. He told Domenici he would fire Iglesias only on orders from the president.

At some point after the election last Nov. 6, Domenici called Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and told him he wanted Iglesias out and asked Rove to take his request directly to the president.

Domenici and Bush subsequently had a telephone conversation about the issue.

The conversation between Bush and Domenici occurred sometime after the election but before the firings of Iglesias and six other U.S. attorneys were announced on Dec. 7.

Iglesias' name first showed up on a Nov. 15 list of federal prosecutors who would be asked to resign. It was not on a similar list prepared in October.

Will W. himself get away with it? Maybe, just maybe, not so fast. As Josh Marshall himself writes:

No one disputes that Domenici's call to Iglesias was at best inappropriate. But there's been a lack of direct evidence that Iglesias's refusal to bow to political pressure led directly to his firing. Now we have that evidence. And it's not Kyle Sampson or even Alberto Gonzales whom Domenici went to to get sign off for Iglesias's ouster. It was right to the president. And the available evidence now points strongly to the conclusion that the final decision to fire David Iglesias came from the President of the United States.

Doesn't it seem, like, the least coincidental programming of all time that The Sopranos' final nine episodes just kicked off?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


When people ask me what I think about the Don Imus firing, I have to say that I don't. So maybe there's the outrage, so maybe there's the hypocrisy, so maybe there's the long time coming. Goodbye, Don, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way to satellite radio. Next I'd like to see the non-Fox networks ban the Glenn Beck's and Ann Coulters from the airwaves, and Sam Seder to get their spots.

But I do think it is part of a wave. If El Presidente, his co-Nixon Cheney at the Iraq War have done anything salutary is to exhaust the majority of the American public in their old, corrupt ways. Whether all justice will be served is unlikely, maybe moot, but last November's total repudiation of them at the polls was just the start, and now I'm expecting the turnovers to start rolling in, all the way to November 2008.

Next up: A.G. Alberto Gonzales and World Bank President/co-architect of the Iraq War Paul Wolfowitz.

Turnover nation.

Friday, April 13, 2007

What did Bush know?

From NPR today -- Karl Rove, enemy of the people:

NPR now has new information about that plan. According to someone who's had conversations with White House officials, the plan to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys originated with political adviser Karl Rove. It was seen as a way to get political cover for firing the small number of U.S. attorneys the White House actually wanted to get rid of. Documents show the plan was eventually dismissed as impractical.

The Justice Department documents released today include a spreadsheet ranking all 93 prosecutors. The chart ranks them on whether they have Hill experience, campaign experience, and — in the last column — whether they're members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

For those who don't know, the Federalist Society includes Bush's appointee to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, and his other appointee, Justice Samuel Alito.

What does this "Society" believe?

Federalist Society publications and panels often feature discussions targeting the foundation of federal civil rights law, finding and exploiting alleged shortcomings, for example,[8] in voting rights laws, gender equity protections, and desegregation orders. In the area of labor rights, contributors to the Society's publications have celebrated the defeat of disparate impact theory as applied in a California age discrimination case and challenged sexual harassment law, Title IX, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and standard "wage gap" statistics.

Another target in Society discourse has been the separation of church and state, one of the cornerstones of American jurisprudence. Reflecting the presence of the religious right in its leadership, membership, and targeted constituencies, the Society's forums and outlets have given prominence to arguments for "school choice" and "charitable choice" (church involvement in state efforts to reform welfare), as well as creationist teachings and the distribution of religious materials in public schools.

By creating an image of itself as a catalyst for principled, high-level discussion of the law, the Federalist Society has been able to avoid sharp scrutiny by the legal profession. This is particularly the case in regard to the significant role that leading members of the Society, such as Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), have played in politicizing the process of judicial selection, and in undercutting the nation's premier organization of attorneys, the American Bar Association, and in particular its Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

Per Bink:

  1. The White House politicized the office of U.S. Attorney
  1. The White House tried to force U.S. Attorneys to create investigations and prosecutions that were politically motivated
  1. These investigations and prosecutions were designed to interfere with the course of the 2006 elections
  1. Biskupic (Wisconsin cast that was later thrown out of court as ridiculous) and perhaps others agreed to do the White House's dirty work
  1. Iglesias (one of the fired prosecutors) and perhaps others refused
  1. The lives on innocent people were damaged or destroyed by this effort
  1. An innocent state worker was sent to prison on fake charges created by this effort
  1. Finally, the careers of those U.S. Attorneys who refused to cooperate were upturned in the cover-up

A tangent to all of this are the efforts by the White House to destroy millions of pages of records that may have had information about this and other matters.

Rove is at the heart of this, everyone knows, and the next step is for him to say, "Yeah you uncovered me, yeah so what?" To which I say, whatever is buried in those "missing" emails, it is much worse than you can imagine.

And while no one is going here yet, the question arises again, if Harriet Miers was part of this whole matter, how is it possible that Bush wouldn't have known?

Who will be the first Senator to ask the question, and when will they ask it:

What did the President know and when did he know it?

I can't wait for someone to get caught in that lie, but I'm guessing that's why Rove et al are fighting against testifying to Congress. Because that is the question they fear the most.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

And so he goes.

Kurt Vonnegut may have had an unfortunate end, dying at age 84 due to an injury a brief time ago, but he certainly lived a full and successful literary life, influencing a couple generations and I'll bet, with the renewed interest in his prime novel period due to his death, one to come. For young'un's I'd recommend Cat's Cradle followed by Slaughterhouse-Five and for those going deeper, The Sirens of Titan and Mother Night. After that there's still loads of good material, including the hard-to-find PBS production version of Between Time & Timbuktu and the great short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House. I'm unfamiliar with his more recent world, but seem to recall Galapagos pleasing a friend or two.

He also chain smoked, so that guy cheated death for quite some time.

When I first moved to NYC after college I had a few occasions to see Vonnegut on the streets of the city, always in his trademark trenchcoat, unmistakable curly mop and Germanic moustache, acting pretty regular but me way too impressed to say hello. I recall him hailing a cab one time, the other just walking quickly, determinedly, towards and past me on the sidewalk, his head bent slightly down, in much deeper thought that I could muster.

In my formative years I read about getting unstuck in time, so it goes, boka maru and the most frightening weapon of all time, Ice-Nine. I grew up in New York State's Tri-City area where he wrote his first novel, Player Piano, and when we read it in high school it was like reading about the factory next door. (There's an excellent obit here -- props to GTS for sending the link.) The sense you got from Vonnegut was, I think, an extremely kind pessimist, forgiving in his larger view all while prophesying our global self-destruction.

From some of his political writing and speaking you got the sense he was never going to completely give up, but if his fiction seems cynical, it's moral by example rather than goading. He asked more questions than he answered, and thanks in part to his early training as a newspaper reporter (crime beat), he wrote in what the Brits sometimes call "The Common English". This means lit without linguistic pretension -- great ideas and, usually, great stories that anybody can read without a degree.

Here's to Kurt, his alter-ego Kilgore Trout, Paul Proteus, Billy Pilgrim, Dwayne Hoover and the rest.

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Acting Like Criminals

Okay, can we all agree now that whatever the GOP, Bush, Rove and Gonzales are covering up, it's going to be a lot more than meets the eye?

Why else would they be claiming to have deleted crucial emails when anyone who's ever worked in an office with a server knows it's a lie that they can't be retrieved?

This couldn't smell more fishy if it had Luca Brasi's name attached to it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The True Story

Americans want our elected representatives to get to the bottom of the Justice Department scandal. They want Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his aides to testify under oath in Congress (74%) and a majority of Americans want him to just resign already (53%).

Today Gonzales got served with more subpoenas for more missing document. The GOP fraud over voter fraud, which will eventually be aired out as Karl Rove's master plan in the Prosecutor Purge, is running deeper and deeper every single day.

The more this Congress goes after the Bush Administration for corruption and tries to put an end date on this criminal war, the more the American people approve of the job their representatives are doing:

Public approval for Congress is at its highest level in a year as Democrats mark 100 days in power and step up their confrontation with President Bush over his handling of the Iraq War, the issue that overshadows all others.

A plurality of voters want the Dems in Congress to hold the line against Bush in his fight to veto the Iraq War appropriations bill because it has suggested end date for the War attached.

So whatever El Presidente is saying, it's just more of his bullshit.

It's beginning to dawn on the GOP that George W. Bush is a black plague on any hope of winning even a House seat in 2008, and one wonders if the deathwatch should be on support for his anti-War ending position.

Oh, wait, they are starting to crack. First moves in trying to get Bush/Cheney, for the first time in their whole sorry Administration, to actually knuckle under and cut a deal with Congress on their horrific disaster.

Keep hanging tough, Harry, and the walls will come tumbling down:

"Things are not OK in Iraq. As the Pope said on Easter Sunday, a slaughter is taking place in Iraq. The Pope further said nothing good is coming from Iraq. The president must realize that. He has to deal with Congress. We are an independent branch of this government, and by our Constitution we have equal say that he has. And he's got to listen to us. Because we are speaking for the American people; he isn't."

Gun battles today in the middle of Baghdad (16 of our soldiers wounded). No takers for Bush/Cheney's "War Czar" job because "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going." GOP front-runner Rudolph Giuliani doesn't know what average Americans pay for groceries or gas, says he wants to go on Imus again, and panders harder than John McCain on the Confederate flag in Alabama.

Meanwhile -- the true story is -- the Democratic Presidential candidates are outdrawing the whole sorryass GOP field. Check out New Hampshire: Obama vs.McCain.

I was wondering today if the Republican Party might actually end up having to be banned from public office, much like they did the Baath Party in Iraq, if only for a generation or two, until the entire corrupt generation dies off. But now I'm wondering if the rumor is true, that they are on the way to being a semi-permanent minority party, maybe a regional party, of the South.

Although now I'm wondering if Obama will win a few states down there, too.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Criminal Conspiracy

As that real estate lawyer from Texas crams day and night for his upcoming Senate exam, desperately trying to find just the right concoction of lies and obfuscations that he fantasizes will save his sorry ass, but even too incompetent for that:

But Gonzales kept contradicting himself and "getting his timeline confused," said one participant who asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting. His advisers finally got "exasperated" with him, the source added. "He's not ready," Tasia Scolinos, Gonzales's public-affairs chief, told the A.G.'s top aides after the session was over, said the source.
While the entire U.S. Department of Justice crumbles under the weight of the Bush/Rove/Gonzales racket:

A half-dozen sitting U.S. attorneys also serve as aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or are assigned other Washington postings, performing tasks that take them away from regular duties in their districts for months or even years at a time, according to officials and department records.

Acting Associate Attorney General William W. Mercer, for example, has been effectively absent from his job as U.S. attorney in Montana for nearly two years -- prompting the chief federal judge in Billings to demand his removal and call Mercer's office "a mess."

We're starting to get a picture of the extent of corruption within the department under this Administration. And it seems the dry rot starting to collapse may be the hiring of dozens of Christianist partisans out of Pat Robertson's recently accredited law school -- yes, that Pat Robertson -- and the entire Human Resources effort led by the former former dean of Regent University Robertson School of Government.

Hey, I have nothing against religion. But I have a lot against theocracy. These so-called are lawyers who are more concerned acts of love between same sex couples than they are will actual law enforcement.

They include Gonzales aide Monica Goodling (life is so ironic), Regent Law and Messiah College graduate, who claims she is Taking the Fifth in not testifying to Congress, which means that she has actually done something illegal. Sen. Chuck Schmumer (D-NY) seems to think she might have been extracting loyalty oaths -- to El Presidente George W. Bush -- in hiring attorneys. A job she was way too young and inexperienced for; she got it because she was just another vicious crony.

The most devastating story is from the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage:

Documents show that Goodling, who has asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress, was one of a handful of officials overseeing the firings. She helped install Timothy Griffin , the Karl Rove aide and her former boss at the Republican National Committee, as a replacement US attorney in Arkansas.

Because Goodling graduated from Regent in 1999 and has scant prosecutorial experience, her qualifications to evaluate the performance of US attorneys have come under fire. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, asked at a hearing: "Should we be concerned with the experience level of the people who are making these highly significant decisions?"

Bush's first Attorney General, John Ashcroft, altered the rules for hiring and then went on to teach at Regent. Revolving door-style. And the part of the Justice Department he most decimated:

Previously, veteran civil servants screened applicants and recommended whom to hire, usually picking top students from elite schools.

In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.

"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section -- the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.

Nice. Civil Rights Upside-Down Cake.

This dovetails to the Prosecutor Purge Scandal through Goodling, hatchet girl supreme, and plays out as a criminal conspiracy with Karl Rove at the center of the web.

I say "criminal conspiracy" because only criminals keep two sets of books:

When Karl Rove and his top deputies arrived at the White House in 2001, the Republican National Committee provided them with laptop computers and other communication devices to be used alongside their government-issued equipment.

The back-channel e-mail and paging system, paid for and maintained by the RNC, was designed to avoid charges that had vexed the Clinton White House — that federal resources were being used inappropriately for political campaign purposes.

Why would they be worried about that?

Waxman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that a separate "e-mail system for high-ranking White House officials would raise serious questions about violations of the Presidential Records Act," which requires the preservation and ultimate disclosure of e-mails about official government business.

Waxman's initial request to the RNC seeks e-mails relating to the presentation of campaign polling and strategy information to Cabinet agency appointees. He is also expected to ask for e-mails relating to Abramoff's activities, which Waxman is also investigating.

and because

In the U.S. attorney case, Rove deputy Jennings used the RNC e-mail system to write to D. Kyle Sampson, then Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, in August 2006 about replacing Arkansas U.S. Atty. H.E. "Bud" Cummins III with former Rove protege Tim Griffin.

Ah, well. It's not like anything's missing:

Among the missing documents the senators mentioned was a chart cited in a Feb. 12, 2007, e-mail message from Monica Goodling, a former aide to Mr. Gonzales, to other department officials.

Here's the true story that will emerge. Rove/Bush/Cheney used the religious loyalty test to get the most malliable cronies in that they could, in order to subvert America's voting system and steal the 2008 election as well as the last two, just more ambitious means. Subverting our Justice infrastructure to do so. Completely cynical, and if not, delusional.

The coordinated attempt to disenfranchise American voters in pursuit of partisan hegemony is simply a crime. And it is surely a conspiracy, with a mastermind and various underlings, henchmen, fixers and bagmen. From Gonzales to Abramhoff to Ashcroft to Rove. And, isn't anyone wondering, what did the President know and when did he know it?

They may never touch Bush, and I don't know if they'll ever catch Rove. I'm not sure all the most damning emails aren't torched, hard drives and RAID systems expunged, Rove having planned his cyber getaway as surely as Blofeld with a hidden helicopter.

My only hope is that someday this malicious little man gets a mark on him.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Your Tax Dollars

The stooge, I mean, surge in Iraq:

One American private in the First Battalion, Fifth Cavalry, who was working the overnight shift at a new garrison in western Baghdad, described the Americans’ fight this way: “The insurgents, they see what we’re doing and we see what they’re doing. Then we get ahead, then they figure out what we’ve done and they get ahead.

“It’s like a game of cat and mouse. It’s just a really, really smart mouse.”

We're still dying:

That has put the Americans in the middle of sectarian battlegrounds, and their death rate in the city has nearly doubled. The number of Americans killed in combat or other violence rose to 53 in Baghdad in the first seven weeks of the push, from Feb. 14 to April 2. That is up from 29 in the seven weeks before then.

They're still dying:

“We used to see sometimes eight bodies a day,” said Sgt. Michael Brosch, of the First Battalion, Fifth Cavalry. “Sometimes they were all beheaded. Then right at the beginning of the security plan, we didn’t see any. Now we’re seeing them again.”

At the same time, deaths and injuries nationwide from vehicle bombs, which are typically associated with Sunni insurgents, particularly Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, have continued at a rapid pace.

January and February were particularly bad months for car bombing deaths; nearly 1,100 were killed in February alone. That number dropped to 783 in March, still high compared with months earlier in the war, according to an American military official. But the overall number of bombings actually increased: there were 108 car bombs that either detonated or were disarmed in March, a record for the war.

No one in the press covering the story believes the surge will save the situation -- they're just discussing backup plans for fleeing when the whole thing comes tumbling down:

The future of the American journalistic presence in Iraq remains a large question mark. Not a single foreign editor or correspondent interviewed for this story felt conditions would get better. Most made bleak predictions of worse to come and talked about contingency plans for their staffs if conditions deteriorate even further. Some already have arranged for housing inside the heavily fortified Green Zone as a safety net.

One news operation plans to flee to safer areas inside Kurdistan, a way of staying in Iraq but farther from the killing zones. Those with bureaus in other parts of the Middle East will go there to retrench. On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, no one was talking about shutting down, at least not yet. "We agonize over this, and we have discussions about at what point we would not cover it," says NPR's Jenkins.

What would it take for NPR to pull out? There was a long pause and a deep sigh on the other end of the telephone. "No one believes there's a victory at the end of this tunnel; it's how long you hold on and pretend. At some point, [the government] is going to have to pull the plug. Until then, we are in for the long haul."

How does your average Iraqi feel about it?:

Thousands of Shi'ites traveled in buses or cars to Najaf in response to Sadr's call. The Baghdad-Najaf road was packed with hundreds of vehicles crammed with passengers waving Iraqi flags and chanting religious and anti-U.S. slogans.

"No, no, no to America ... Moqtada, yes, yes, yes," they chanted as they converged on the holy city.

The only response that comes to mind, the only rational response to all this George Walker Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney, GOP/McCain/Lieberman madness are the immortal words of 2 Live Crew. Something about getting out of someone's house, albeit delivered with less innuendo and more profanity.

I'll leave it to the Crew fans to remember.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

All the Psychopath's Men

Late to the party, yes, and maybe even evacuating theaters in your city by the end of the week, but with my current harried schedule I only managed to see David Fincher's new masterpiece, Zodiac, several night ago, and in the location where the film takes place, San Francisco, no less.

This isn't the usual Hollywood San Francisco of romance in Union Square and by the Golden Gate Bridge, or cars catching air in spectacular chases over impossible hills, or escapes from Alcatraz. The opening shot is of the Bay Bridge, as if for counterpoint.

This is the San Francisco of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, a kind of storied backwater where you can get lost in an obsession and left to your own devices, a place where the fog and chill seems somehow indicative of how poorly you know your neighbors, and that car turning around is coming back to haunt you.

I actually saw the film in a neighborhood where I used to live, or live near, out West on Geary just entering The Richmond at The Bridge theater, a small and comfortingly hip relic heavily touting their Grindhouse opening with midnight showings of actual 1970's grindhouse films. When I walked out of the theater and left the small gangs of audience members behind, I felt the creep of the movie seep out into the desolate street, thankful that I had parked on the next corner, in front of the darkened Abbey Carpet showroom, sparse cars whipping by from under the Masonic Avenue underpass.

I drove quickly back to my hotel.

If you had any interest in the film at all you probably know that it covers the obsessive investigations by press and police into the infamous Zodiac Killer, who sent sometimes coded letters to the city newspapers and threatened even greater levels of terroristic homicide if they weren't printed.

You probably know that the movie runs 2 1/2 hours; that it stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. as the cartoonist-turned-author, police detective, and reporter who's lives were all turned upside down by their obsessions with the case; and you likely know that the actual Zodiac killer was never captured or even unimpeachably identified by the police.

So an almost exclusively male character film about an unsuccessful investigation and maddening lack of closure. Whose idea of a Saturday night date flick?

It doesn't matter, because I found every inch of Zodiac to be riveting.

Director Fincher grew up the Bay Area during the major span of time the story covers, roughly 1969 thru the end of the Seventies. He's got every detail down pat, in such a less showy or false way than most recent period pictures trying to recreate that time (with the notable exception of Paul Shrader's Auto Focus), and as we settle into that assurance it frees up the imaginative space to really feel how these men are trapped both by the Zodiac killer and the resolute progress of time; the danger of disappearing helplessly into history.

I guess '70's moviemaking is back. Scorsese, Nicholson and Sheen forge an Oscar with The Departed, Rodriguez and Tarantino reopen the Grindhouse, Terrence Malick comes out of hiding, and Fincher channels Alan Pakula and Sidney Lumet. The detailed investigations, hair-trigger tense interrogations, and credible newsroom atmosphere are stylistically inspired by my favorite movie from the era, Pakula's All the President's Men. (How eerie that Cheney's shrubbery appearance recalls Pakula's first political paranoia classic, The Parallal View.) The police department scenes are in the Lumet Serpico / Prince of the City cold-eyed groove.

The murders are all more customary Fincher sequences, which is to say really suspenseful while feeling really fresh. All of the action scenes, you know this guy has an idea for each one, and they unfold like waking nightmares, infecting the procedural sequences with a particularly pungent dread, the dread of knowing that whoever did this will get away with it in the movie because they did in real life.

Zodiac is based on Robert Graysmith's (Gyllenhaal) books about the case, having been a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle when the first letters came in and alcoholic counterculture reporter Paul Avery was working on the story

Gyllenhaal has never created a more complete character, and maybe the most discomforting scene in the movie is his first date with Chloe Sevigny, his soon-to-be wife. Fincher reportedly drove him nuts with his endless numbers of takes and decisive erasing of dozens of them in fell swoops off the digital camera hard drives. But it works, a great performance. Ruffalo gets his fullest big movie character to date, so likable and identifiable as Inspector David Toschi. And Downey Jr. comes across like a ringer, never so clearly relaxed in his control while still capturing every wicked color of reporter Avery's self-destruction.

All the way down to the smaller parts, even drawing Dermot Mulroney, Adam Goldberg and James LeGros in for what are essentially gratifyingly persuasive cameos, the un- or lesser known actors as the victims, and especially John Carroll Lynch as Most Likely Suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen (his interrogation is the lynchpin scene), the casting and direction are seamlessly superb, and keep the purposefully complicated story rattling along.

It's a 1970's filmmaking kind of intelligence, a big budget art house epic noir with a Stanley Kubrick-esque shot integrity but laced with that lost '70's California grime and crime. This is the post-Manson Family California of the late 1960's/early 1970's, when the Vietnam War infected the zeitgeist like nicotine stains. This is the pinnacle of the pre-Information Age era of media and detection; the dying apex of the Bureaucratic Age, knowingly sophisticated but cluttered with too much architecture from the past.

So much for "the good old days."

I think the ultimate kick that Zodiac gives off and aches for ensuing days is that it makes time itself the mastervillain, and the Zodiac killer just his demon facilitator.

It's rare to see the passage of time handled so skillfully as the transitions and pacing by Fincher, and as the first decade finally accelerates the text reports at the bottom of the screen of when and where we've arrived become part of the overall obsessive details, the ones Graysmith buries himself in, Fincher's own painstaking cinematic perfection.

These men were doomed by a clever little psychopath with a gun. He directs them -- no matter their minor qualms, they do his own bidding right from the publishing of the first letter. His very existence seizes their lives by the middle, redirects expected flows, the very ambition of exposing this man taken hostage by their lack of success. Their shared, for different reasons, fatal flaw.

It's when the years start piling up that we feel the horror.

Had the killer ever been verified, had he not been allowed to slip away just that one time, were there some sense of justice like we've come to expect, to demand every Saturday night, even if it happen last week, what a relief. And maybe box office.

But Fincher shows true guts in taking on this story, letting event dictate structure rather than imposing some audience-infant bullshit. And he gives us something reminiscent of a 1970's movie ending, albeit with a touch more closure than you usually got in the arty ones back then, trust me.

As the early-murder "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (Donovan) theme reprises you realize you won't think of that song the same way the next time you hear it, now either as dreadeningly banal or as maddeningly pertinent as your Illuminati or Zodiac obsessed ears may hear them. Just another taunting fistful of information that will do nothing to help you capture a serial killer.

Zodiac asks if any cause is worth devoting your life to over that fistful, or is it just taunting you as from the ancient fairgrounds, time hurtling on:

Histories of ages past
Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity

'Tis then when the hurdy gurdy man
Comes singing songs of love
Then when the hurdy gurdy man
Comes singing songs of love

Even this hurdy gurdy man. A siren's call.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Cheney for Prezident

Please God:

Lawrence Kudlow wrote a column a while back saying he hoped President Bush asked Vice President Cheney to run for president in 2008. It was a fine idea then and it still is — not because the current field is particularly weak, but because Mr. Cheney is so much more experienced and shrewd a figure, one who could help settle some of the arguments about the Bush years in favor of Mr. Bush. A White House aiming to get Mr. Cheney elected could also avoid some of the hazards that befall lame-ducks — drift, brain drain, irrelevance. Such a campaign might lift Mr. Cheney 's own standing in the polls.

Cheney's approval rating is running close on either side of 30%, and this is a guy one can only guess at what he does.

He'd be like Bob Dole but on some kind of twisted Viagra.

Here's Charles Rangel, courtesy of Crooks and Liars, providing a refreshing corrective to Cheney's radio re-appearance Thursday with Rush Limbaugh:

"Well, less than 30% of the people have confidence in what the President has to say and less than that have confidence in what the Vice President has to say and it's abundantly clear from his five deferments that he's not too familiar with military fighting."

The fact that they won't talk to anyone is finally just cowardice. He's too much of a wuss, Bush is too much of a wuss to do anything but hide behind other people's bodybags.

When the secret history of this era is written, it will be much, much worse than either you or I imagine.

And what you find out about Richard Bruce Cheney will frighten you at night.

We Know Where You Stand

Well-targeted political ads by Americans United (for Change) specifically in Iraq War policy. Scare those GOP incumbents who are defying the will of the people to support an evil Administration.

Here's the AUFC blog with a few more videos, although the ones in the Kos link above are the cream. Very much in the spirit of the VoteVets ads in last year's election cycle. I haven't found out yet, but its a safe bet they were made by the same filmmakers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

President Pelosi

Yesterday El Presidente excoriated the Dems for taking Spring Break. Funnily enough, he went right on vacation. And even more ironic, it seems the leading Dem in the House is actually working. More effectively than he ever will.

She goes to Syria and the British soldier are released from Iran. Coincidence?

Her message to Syria is both a challenge to Assad's backing of Mideast militants and a move towards Mideast peace.

She gets criticized by the Right Wing Media for observing the local head-covering custom. Hilarious -- here's why. Oh, and c'mon, CNN!

Her visit is the a direct threat to the Cheney/Bush paranoid efforts to block any diplomatic efforts towards Syria. They criticize her for even going at all, while they secretly backed a GOP Congressional visit happening at the exact same time, a delegation that comes back turned against El Presidente! And the GOP is revealed to have committed near treason against a Democratic President over Syria just ten years ago!

Josh Marshall has it dead right when he says the Administration is up in arms because this is all really about Bush's accelerating irrelevance:

The president has been despised abroad for years. But that's not a bad thing for an American president -- at least judged in domestic political terms. Now, however, he is also wildly unpopular in his own country. And all his initiatives on the world stage are seen at home and abroad as unmitigated disasters.

In response, the president has withdrawn into a cocoon of his fantasies, ignoring most of the stuff that's actually happening in the world, most of the drivers that will be affecting our lives for years into the future...

...Pelosi's trip is an embarrassment for the president because it shows an American actually involving herself in realities on the world stage rather than stuck in denial and fantasy.

Heck, she sure looks more Presidential than he does these days.

Let's see if the rest of the GOP gets with the program and runs from Bush like from radiation. I'll bet they're getting the picture right about now.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Freak Show

Look, I know it's impolite and adolescent to use curse words in a blog entry, but this can only be described as, please forgive me, freaky shit.

Is there any shot more emblematic of what's really been going on ever since he was doing an executive search for GWB's running mate, and then just decided he himself was the best choice for Bush to hire for the spot on the ticket. Yes, remember, Dick Cheney nominated himself Vice President.

Here's a great still of the same shot in the New York Times, spooky, spooky stuff.

Look, the fact that he's out of hiding near the President (they are rarely photographed in the same place at the same time) may indicate fear, a need to bolster against this first real threat to their bloodletting powers. At the very least it indicates a previously unimaginable concern in response to Harry Reid's legislative display of resolve (yesterday's post).

This is the defining fight of our times. If Bush were a real CEO at a real major corporation instead of a play-president c.e.o., he'd have fired by his Board of Directors in 2004. The criminal decision to go to War in Iraq, the wanton selling of the War, the ruinously corrupted administration of the initial Post-War period, the de facto collapse of governing authority in the ensuing (and current) Civil War period, he's only credible to the reptilian part of the human brain, and only a corner of that anymore.

It's not sad, it's dangerous. The surge is a joke, death up another 15% in Baghdad. You just can't be surprised if, on April 6th as some unverified Russian military authority claimed or anytime between and now and the end of this term, Cheney/Bush declare/force war themselves on Iran or Syria -- and blatantly defies Congress to impeach them.

Well, I may not have to remind you of this anymore, but never forget that whenever George W. Bush opens his mouth, a lie comes out.

Oh, and people hate him. He's kryptonite. He can't even go to a baseball game.

Crossposted to The Daily Reel.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Raise You

Pardon my language, but if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who has just signed on as co-sponsor of gutsy Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-WI) even tougher anti-Iraq War bill follows through on his threat to pass it next should El Presidente Decidero veto (as he has sworn to do) the current one on his desk, then the Democratic Party will indeed have developed a brand-spanking new set of testicles.

Says Reid:

“I am pleased to cosponsor Senator Feingold’s important legislation,” Reid said. “I believe it is consistent with the language included in the supplemental appropriations bill passed by a bipartisan majority of the Senate. If the President vetoes the supplemental appropriations bill and continues to resist changing course in Iraq, I will work to ensure this legislation receives a vote in the Senate in the next work period.”

Be still my heart.

The bill would give Bush one year -- until March 31, 2008 -- when the tap turns off, "with three narrow exceptions -- targeted counterterrorism operations, protection of U.S. personnel and infrastructure, and training and equipping Iraqi forces," as Feingold writes in Salon. He finds fairly recent precedent for Congress to do so in the 1993 defunding of our botched military action in Somalia (epitomized by Blackhawk Down), and reminds us that the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of the same thing, a funding cut-off date:

None of those 76 senators, who include the current Republican leader and whip, acted to jeopardize the safety and security of U.S. troops in Somalia. All of them recognized that Congress had the power and the responsibility to bring our military operations in Somalia to a close, by establishing a date after which funds would be terminated.

I love Russ. It's a deep kinda thing. He spends tons of time every year going back and listening to his constituents, and he's working to carry out the will of our nation, at a time when the mainstream media can't even admit to us that Bush, Cheney and Rove are in the minority. And not 51/49 like their elections. From a January poll, right after El Presidente presented his escalation plan to the country:

The poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, with 52 percent saying they strongly oppose the plan. Just 36 percent said they back the president's new proposal.

Meanwhile, what tired hacksaw is Grand Inquisitor Cheney recycling:

“It’s time the self-appointed strategists on Capitol Hill understood a very simple concept: You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy when you’re going to quit,” Mr. Cheney said.

That would actually be true if you weren't you and it wasn't this ill-born war, Dick. Or, a happier spin on it, we've already won. We didn't just remove Saddam as originally intended, we got him hung. And guess what, we learned he had no weapons of mass destruction. Mission Accomplished. What the fuck are we still doing there?

Oh yeah, "you broke it, you own it." Well, the source of that quote, Colin Powell, bailed a long, long time ago. So he must figure our responsibility is over there, too.

My opinion isn't quite that. We do have a responsibility to the Iraqi people for the Pandora's Box we opened. But since we failed under Rumsfeld/Cheney to get the post-Saddam country under control in those first crucial six months and stuck with the failed policies so long that we are obviously past the point of no return, no possible win without supernatural intervention, we're responsible to get out and let the Iraq Civil War wrap itself up. Redeploy, stand ready, don't ever move again unless we get a real international coalition, like 80% of the world's governments.

There's the chance that the Dems will not hold together enough to pass the tougher bill, what with Lieberdouche riding the Karl Rove money train to reelection and standing by his Presidente for whatever misguided reasons and maybe not getting the two GOP defections this time.

But isn't it also likely that a George W. Bush veto would galvanize opposition to the President, like who is he to slap Congress in the face? And instead of having to override his veto with 67 votes, they could still win with 51? And how about the fact that the House Dems have an excellent record for not fracturing since the new Congress in January:

There are those who will scoff that putting “Democrats” and “party discipline” in the same sentence is an oxymoron. And over the first three months of the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, much of the media has tended to focus on issues on which Democratic leaders have had to labor to forge a consensus — especially on how and when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

Yet an early Congressional Quarterly study of House members’ voting records suggests that party unity is far more the rule than the exception for the new Democratic majority in the House.

According to an unofficial analysis of House votes performed by senior reporter Greg Giroux, the average “party unity” score of the 233 House Democrats is 98 percent so far.

So Reid's move is smart politics from a legislative perspective -- don't waste time trying to override a veto -- and from a poker playing perspective. Think of it as a game of five-card stud at the final round of betting.

We haven't seen El Presidente's hole card, but he's been losing with the same betting style all night, so odds are it's as lousy as what's showing. He's threatening to up the ante, he may never blink, but he's worthless.

Meanwhile the Dems have U.S. popular opinion on their side. The hole card will reveal whether or not the GOP, through the media, are able to throttle that connection to reality. Bush raises one veto threat, it only makes sense for Reid to raise him one fixed withdrawal date.

Will El Presidente back down...or go all in?