Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sunday Reading

  • As you can imagine, the papers and blogs this morning are all over the story that President Bush authorized warrantless spying on American citizens. Some of the reactions are predictable — The New York Times is soberly outraged — and the righties are defending it as the best thing the president can do to protect us (“Wolf! Wolf!”), with one going so far as to demand an investigation into the leak: “The next step is to appoint a prosecutor to investigate who leaked this important classified information, and begin criminal proceedings against those responsible.” (Oh shit; my irony meter just broke.)

    Perhaps the most cogent assessment of the story comes from Ezra Klein:

    This is Bush’s “fuck you” moment. He lost on the PATRIOT Act, lost on Social Security, is losing on the war, leaking popularity, lacking political capital, and finding his second term to be a series of very hard punches to the face. The mounting failures and multiplying blows finally became too much for him and so, finally, he’s dispensed with political strategy and high-polling pretense and finally said what he’d been wanting to say all along.

    Fuck you.

    It’s been the message rumbling beneath his administration for months now. The belligerence on torture, the hysteria on the PATRIOT Act, the McCarthyism against the war critics. But each time, at that last crucial moment, Bush backed down. Right when he seemed ready to let loose a flurry of invective, his handlers would coax him off the roof. He backed down before McCain’s anti-torture legislation, started appending disclaimers affirming the patriotism of his critics too his speeches. He didn’t crack. He kept following the strategists, calling for tactical retreats. Till now.

    As Hilzoy explains, Bush’s domestic espionage is illegal. Not quasi-legal or trapped in the thickets of some technical dispute over constitutional arcana. Illegal. And even Bush, when confronted with law-breaking within his administration, has recoiled from the prospect, promising firings and investigations. But not this time. Don’t like his spying?

    Fuck you.

    Yeah he spies. And he’ll do it some more.

    And fuck the New York Times.

    Media outlets who report the program are traitors to their country and enemies of the war effort. They’re the ones betraying the country, not the guy in the corner shredding the Constitution.

    And fuck the Senate.

    If Arlen Specter thinks he’s getting hearings on this, he’s got another think coming. This is Bush’s war and Bush’s decision. Yes he’s breaking the law. Yes he’s spying with no judicial oversight. Yes, he is. He’s the President, goddamn it, and if you don’t like it, well fuck. you. This is Bush’s country, everyone else is just living in it.

  • The Toledo Blade finds out that patronage pays in Ohio; giving money to politicians gets you big bucks back.

    President Bush’s corporate champions see the spoils of his administration in coal. And timber. And credit-card payments, Afghan electric lines, Japanese bank transfers, and fake crab.

    America’s business leaders supplied more than $75 million to return Mr. Bush to the White House last year – and he has paid dividends.

    Bush Administration policies, grand and obscure, have financially benefited companies or lobbying clients tied to at least 200 of the President’s largest campaign fund-raisers, a Blade investigation has found. Dozens more stand to gain from Bush-backed initiatives that recently passed or await congressional approval.

    The investigation examined targeted tax breaks, regulatory changes, pro-business legislation, high-profile salaried appointments, and federal contracts.

    Mr. Bush’s policies often followed specific requests from his 548 “Pioneers” and “Rangers,” who each raised at least $100,000 or $200,000 for his 2004 re-election. The help to business fund-raisers sometimes came at the expense of consumers or public health concerns.

    The beneficiaries span industries and the nation. Examples include:

    # Timber barons who pay lower tax rates on logging sales and face fewer barriers to harvesting trees in national forests because of administrative changes and laws Mr. Bush signed.

    # Energy producers who dodged potential legal fees and cleanup costs after federal officials revised clean-air standards.

    # Heads of stock brokerages and other multinational firms, which, under a special tax incentive in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, are bringing hundreds of millions of dollars they earned or stored abroad back into the United States this year at reduced rates.

    # Executives of defense contractors United Technologies and the Washington Group, which won contracts potentially totaling more than $6 billion to supply American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and rebuild both countries’ infrastructure. The same contractors won far less government work under President Bill Clinton.

    # Mining executives who tapped new veins of coal, thanks to administrative rule changes that opened swaths of hills and forests to their backhoes and left once-protected streams vulnerable to pollution.

    With rare exception – such as a California Pioneer recently implicated in a congressional bribery scandal – the Bush supporters’ benefits appear to come through legal channels of lobbying, rule-making, and legislation.

    But a federal investigation of Ohio Pioneer Tom Noe, indicted in October on charges he laundered money into the President’s campaign, has focused attention on Mr. Bush’s network of elite fund-raisers, who accounted for at least 28 percent of Mr. Bush’s $271.8 million in individual contributions for the 2004 campaign.

  • Dave Barry helps you with your last-minute Christmas gift shopping.

    This is not your ordinary gift guide, the kind that features gifts that somebody might actually want or use. The gifts in this guide were selected because they meet a very strict criterion, which is that when we saw the item advertised, we said to ourselves: “Are they SERIOUS?” The idea is, if you give one of these items to somebody on your list, that person will be much less likely to want to exchange gifts with you in the future.

    Every item in the Holiday Gift Guide is a real product that is actually for sale. We have purchased all of these items and subjected them to our rigorous field-testing procedure, which consists of giving them to Raul the photographer and sending him out into the field to take funny pictures of them. After that, we don’t know what happens to them, and we frankly don’t care.

    It is because of this rigorous procedure that we are able to offer you our Holiday Gift Guide Pledge of Guaranteed Quality Assurance:

    We hereby pledge that if you buy an item featured in the Holiday Gift Guide, and you are for any reason not 100 percent completely satisfied with it, then don’t say we didn’t warn you. (Click here to go to the gift list.)

  • The award season is picking up, and T. Rex has the list:

    It’s that time of year again, time to vote for various awards at various blogs. Here are three that I like:

    The Practical Press Awards
    (The best literature and poetry from left-wing bloggers)

    The Kippies
    (The worst of the right-wingers)

    The Koufax Awards (Nominations for best of the left-wing blogosphere)

  • The Dolphins take on the Jets today. The game is at 1:00, so all you right-wingers will have time to watch the game and then go out and get fitted for your brown shirt so you’ll be ready to watch Bush on TV tonight.