Friday, March 03, 2006

 

When Mastercard & Visa Won't Do...

"Trying to purchase your favorite politician -- but suddenly find yourself low on cash?

Well, don't leave home without...the American Express card.

It's ideal for paying off the (allegedly)
corrupt New York union official/state legislator:
It sounds like an old-time bid-rigging scam: The suggestion is that electrical contractors divvied up neighborhoods, setting "low-bids" in advance, with other
contractors deliberately bidding too high on street light contracts. [Labor Leader/Assemblyman Brian] McLaughlin was allegedly compensated with cash, an
American Express card, and the installation of his alarm system.
PLUS: For the really big-ticket item -- say a leader of Congress -- Amex is there for you too:
When Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and his wife flew from Houston to a golf resort in
Scotland in June 2000, the first-class airfare cost $14,001, a big-ticket item for a public servant. But someone else paid.
The American Express bills of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges in January, show he footed the bill for the tickets, in an apparent violation of House ethics rules.
"The source of the travel expenses may not be ... a registered lobbyist,"
according to the House rules. Abramoff was a registered lobbyist at the time.
"American Express: Don't Leave Home -- or the House -- without it."

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The Award Goes To...

...one final bit of snark that will properly prep you for Hollywood's night of conspicuous consumption!


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Thursday, March 02, 2006

 

Dubai Port Deal Bad For Security...

...GOP political security, that is.:

On the port issue, the new poll finds that 69 percent of Americans oppose allowing the Arab-owned company called Dubai Ports World to manage commercial operations at some U.S. ports — four times as many as support the deal (17
percent).

Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to oppose the deal, however majorities of both major parties are against it. At 81 percent, Democrats overwhelmingly oppose the deal, as do 66 percent of independents and 57 percent of Republicans.
This, of course, helps explain why, even in a poll conducted by Fox News' Opinion Dynamics, the president's decision-making is having serious adverse affects on this party:

The port controversy, along with the situation in Iraq (fully 81 percent of
Americans think it is likely Iraq will end up in a civil war), appears to be
taking a toll on Republicans.

At the beginning of the year the Republican Party held a 13-percentage point advantage over Democrats on being the party trusted to do a better job protecting the country from terrorism. Today Republicans still have the edge, but it has dropped to 5 points.

Furthermore, by a 14-percentage point margin voters think it would be better for the country if Democrats win control of Congress in this year’s election, up from an 8-point edge in early February and 11 points in January.
In RAGGED THOTS' continuing mission to figure out exactly what "Dubai" means, we have moved from it being Arabic for "Harriet Miers" to it possibly being Arabic for "WTF?"

At this point, it looks very precariously like Dubai Ports World might be another way of saying, "1990 budget deal."

You know, the one where Republicans are put in the awkward position of having to go to the polls and conceivably defend a deal that the president of their own party has cut -- but is anathema to their own base. Now, unlike in 1990, where Bush I's deal was both bad policy and bad politics, there are legitimate arguments in favor of the ports deal (indeed, even Bill Clinton supports it).

Yet, fifty-seven percent of Republicans oppose it! So, do GOP members of Congress stick with the man who has helped them keep the majority over the last two election cycles -- in some adverse circumstances -- or do they distance themselves with him on this issue?

The problem is that a primary tactic that the White House has used in pushing back on the Dubai port deal -- aside from "all those opposed to it are bigots" (69 percent of the American public? 57 percent of Republicans? Liberals visiting, hush on this point) -- is that the president didn't know the details until just before it was announced BUT he fully supports it.

In the context of the other major controversies of this administration --
9/11, Iraq, Medicare, and Katrina -- the regular refrain that either the president or his administration didn't/couldn't have known about al Qaeda/postwar Iraq/the levees breaching/the port deal is becoming a bit too familliar.

On a case-by-case basis, such an explanation might work -- but, over and over again?

The Republican Congress had better demonstrate that it is willing to hold the president and his administration accountable on competency grounds -- if nothing else -- or that "better for the country if Democrats win control of Congress" polling number is going to increase.

The Republicans security levee may already have been breached; someone had better alert the president.



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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 

Bigots All Around!!!

Michelle Malkin takes to task those on the Right deploying the race card against critics of the Dubai port deal:

It's one thing for feckless grievance-mongers on the Left to accuse Americans genuinely concerned about national security of Islamophobia. It's quite another for the Right to sink to such a level in accusing all good-faith critics of demagoguery. Reasonable people can disagree on the process pitfalls and security implications of the deal. But the elite Right, has simply lost its marbles:

Here's GOP strategist and Muslim voter outreach architect Grover Norquist in the Los Angeles Times dismissing critics of the deal: 'The only whiners left by next week will be the registered bigots.'

Conservative commentator Larry Kudlow: 'This whole brouhaha surrounding the Bush administration's green-light to a United Arab Emirates company slated to manage six major U.S. ports has nothing to do with protecting homeland security. Allow me to give it its proper name: Islamophobia.'
And on it goes.

My former boss Tony Blankley has
similar thoughts:

In the last few days, several free market and other conservative commentators -- along with various U.S. governmental spokesmen -- have taken to labeling those of us with reservations concerning the Dubai Ports World (DPW) deal as nativist, racist or Islamophobic. With 70 percent of the public in opposition to the port deal, this is as searing a criticism of American tolerance as ever has been hurled from America's cultural or political opponents over the years. No Soviet propagandist or third-world revolutionary has more stingingly libeled the American people.
Tony also adds some important caveats for those who believe that the deal is OK because the Coast Guard will actually be in charge of security.

Not by chance, some months ago -- well before the Dubai port issue had emerged -- I had had extended conversations with senior executives of an American port management company. They had explained the close inter-working of the management team with the Coast Guard, Customs and local law enforcement in
trying to secure the full import process (which starts at foreign ports and continues on board ship, through the terminal and includes local law enforcement -- with management an active agent of that strived-for seamless process) .

Based on that and other research I had carried out last year for my book, I understood that merely repeating the mantra that "security is exclusively run by the Coast Guard, Customs and Homeland Security" -- as we heard late last week -- was somewhere between an incomplete and a deceptive statement. But for those with a limited knowledge of the topic and other policy axes to grind, once they were fed the mantra, it was a short step to the nativist, Islamophobic charge
Exactly. But, again, this is very similar in tone to the "only-sexists-and-elitists-are-really-against-Harriet-Miers" refrain we heard last fall.

The "-ist" ("racist," "sexist," "elitist", etc.) charge is now the opposite side of the old "patriotism" charge: i.e., the first refuge for the scoundrel who fears he is losing a political argument. And the 21st Century Right has absorbed the lesson well from the latter-day 20th Century Left. Which just goes to show that Boomers will be Boomers, regardless of their ideological persuasion.


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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

 

Buck Stops...Where?


My Post colleague Mike Vaccaro hits it perfectly today in taking the Baseball Hall of Fame to task in omitting Buck O'Neill off the list of what "will likely be the final Negro League additions to the Hall."

O'Neill is 95, but has the vitality of someone 25 years younger -- and that's not a joke. As with many baseball debates, it seems to come down to numbers and on-the-field accomplishments -- which apparently didn't reach HOF levels.

However, as Vaccaro discusses, one thing that can't be ignored is how he has become one of the greatest ambassadors of the game of baseball -- and the American spirit -- as one is likely to find. He tours the country incessantly and gives great lively speeches about the Negro Leagues, what is was like to play in them and displaying league memorabilia. And it goes beyond just what O'Neill displayed in Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary.

I heard the man speak a few years ago at the major annual dinner for the 100 Black Men organization. There is not a trace of bitterness within him. He has the most perfect balance of humility and pride that one can imagine.

He talks about his good fortune and how well life has treated him -- the grandson of a slave. O'Neill is a testament to America -- and to its national pastime.

If there's room for mascots and clowns in the Hall, there is certainly room for a Buck O'Neill.


UPDATE: Some great hometown coverage of the Kansas City Monarchs player's HOF slight. And a well-made case for Buck -- on pure baseball merits (playing and coaching) alone.

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What's A Pundit 4?

You take a Jim Antle, a Doug Bandow, a Jeremy Lott and a Joel Miller, mix well and you get -- 4Pundits, the newest kids on the right-of-center/independent/libertarian block!

Please welcome them with open arms -- and minds!

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

 

More NYC Comic-Con Images





1) A stunning depiction of The Endless from Neil Gaiman's Sandman adorns the DC/Vertigo convention booth.
2) Comics legend
Neal Adams.
3 & 4) Wildstorm studio founder
Jim Lee -- oh, yeah, and artist on the Batman "Hush" story and All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder (with some guy named Miller) too.
5) Ray Billingsley, creator of the Curtis newspaper comic strip.




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NYC Comic-Con Images






Courtesy of the Treo 650:

1)
Kyle Baker signs one of his provocative works.
2) From Toronto: Matthew Mohammed, author of the subtly titled, Black Bastard.
3) From Boston: Michael Westerman, writer of the
Americanime alternative history works Katharsis and Bounty Killer (Mike's also the company CEO, pictured here with sales rep, Dominick Palumbo, in the "Silent Bob" role).
4)
Frank Miller, left, departs his lively and thoughtful post-lunch conversation (more later).
5)
Midtown Comics display.



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Chris Matthews...

...apparently mentioned this blog among others during a rant on the overreaction to the Dubai ports issue. Anybody see it to help give it more context?

Thanks to Robert H. and Eric A. for the heads-up.


UPDATE: Okay, I caught Matthews' syndicated show rerun on CNBC Sunday night. Don't ask me what the heck he was trying to say. It was something about the global pinball machine that the world is in now. Matthews compared the cartoon uproar sweeping through the Muslim world with bloggers getting exercised over the Dubai ports issue. I'm not kidding.

While not mentioned by name, Michelle Malkin, Daily Kos and this site were briefly shown on screen.

Apparently, the link was that the president prime minister of Denmark was surprised by how the cartoon uproar overwhelmed him -- and Bush was surprised by the Dubai controversy.

What on God's green earth is Matthews smoking? For one thing, the Danish president had nothing to do with the publication of the cartoons! So, duh! No wonder he would be surprised about the uproar. On the other hand, the ports deal was approved by a panel of Bush administration representatives! And people aren't supposed to wonder why the president -- and treasury secretary and defense secretary -- don't know the details about it until just before the deal is announced?

Oh, there is one other difference between the two situations.

Um,what was it again?

Oh, right! Rioting Muslims are, in many cases, calling for the death of the cartoonist -- while causing the deaths of other protesters! Bloggers -- and other members of the media -- are, 1) asking for some accountability from members of their government on an issue involving national security and, 2) in some cases, calling for the deal to be scrapped (there is by no means unanimity on the latter point).

These are somehow equivalent examples of a "global pinball machine"?

Thanks for the milli-second of visual publicity, Chris, but please get a frickin' clue.

UPDATE II/CORRECTION: Yes, Denmark has a PRIME MINISTER (and a queen), not a president! I knew that and still ended up writing "president" anyway. Thanks to the MANY who pointed that out.

UPDATE III: Matthews has managed to do the impossible: Put himself in the crosshairs of "media truthsquaders" on both the right and the left. Expose The Left has "global pinball machine" footage. Meanwhile, liberals have had an anti-Matthews site up for a few weeks. Matthews might say that "If both the right and the left hate me, I must be doing something right." Um, as the old song goes, that ain't necessarily so.


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Sunday Comic Blogging

Later today: My exclusive report from the NY Comic-Con.

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