Friday, May 26, 2006

 

As Traffic Laws Go...

...isn't illegal immigration more like running a red light rather than speeding?

Just asking.

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Friday Comic Book Blogging: X(3) Marks The Spot

Through happy chance last night, I caught X-Men: The Last Stand, the third installment in the saga of Marvel Comics' not-so-merry mutants.

Hadn't even planned to, I just happened to run into fellow New York tabloid serf and blogger
Derek Rose at New York's best dive bar, Rudy's.

I've known Derek off-and-on for a couple of years, however, I never realized that he was a comic book fan too. Anyway, he was there with his lady friend; they mentioned they were going to the midnight showing and asked me if I wanted to join them.

Not having been a third wheel in a while, I readily accepted!

Anyway, it was a fun time!

Director Bryan Singer who brought the first two excellent episodes has departed. His magic touch will be seen in next month's Superman Returns. Instead, Brett Ratner of the Rush Hour franchise is at the helm.

Net result? More action, definitely and some great special effects. Less nuanced character development than in previous films. Much higher body count -- including some favorites. In short, more of a pop-corny summer flick than the others.

One nice thing the X3 does similar to its predecessors is the knowing wink of scenes taken almost-wholesale from the three decades of X-Men stories. Most obvious are an early fight scene that pays homage to the alternative-history classic "Days of Future Past" and a scene featuring Scott (Cyclops) Summers and Jean (Phoenix?) Grey exchanging long passionate gazes packed with meaning (old-timers will get it).

It would have been nice if Kitty Pryde and Peter (Colossus) Rasputing had been fleshed out more. Traditionalists will be disappointed that there wasn't at least a tip of the hat to their history -- as opposed to having Kitty and Iceman flirting with one another. Conversely, it was nice to Halle Berry's Ororo (Storm) Munroe have a fair bit of screen time, even though this is as much Hugh Jackman's Wolverine film as anyone's.

But, hey, though this isn't up there with either the first two, the Spider-Man films or Batman Begins, but as comic book movies go, it definitely gets a solid B.

Two things to keep an eye out for: 1) A cameo by Marvel Comics co-creator Stan Lee during the first five minutes; 2) Despite the fact the closing credits go on forever -- STICK AROUND UNTIL they are over. You'll be glad you did.

That's all I'll say for now.


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Thursday, May 25, 2006

 

How Dumb/Smart Are You?

1) How dumb are you, Dennis Hastert?

Yes, you -- in creating a constitutional crisis over the case of "cold, hard cash"
Congressman William Jefferson?

As National Review
observes:


By nothing more than dumb luck, the Republican-controlled Congress—lambasted for the junkets, earmarks, and “culture of corruption” that have aligned to produce the lowest approval ratings in memory—was handed a shot at some desperately needed redemption. All its leaders had to do was make the right choice between condemning the rankest corruption and displaying an outsized arrogance. Guess which one they chose?
....

There should have been little for leaders of Congress to do but applaud. Instead, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader John Boehner led a chorus of disgruntled legislators in crying foul, closing ranks around an apparent felon, and raving incoherently about a supposed separation-of-powers violation.

This incredibly tin-eared performance was based on an extravagant construction of the Constitution’s speech-and-debate clause (Article I, Section 6). Congress evidently reads this clause as giving its office space blanket immunity from any investigation by the executive branch—even with court authorization—in connection with any crime, no matter how heinous.
They make this argument even though "felony" is actually one of the cases where the Constitution allows for the arrest of Member during a session (forget for a moment that Jefferson wasn't even arrested -- only served with a search warrant).

However, even from a purely tactical standpoint, one wonders exactly why Hastert would raise this objection.

Unless, of course, as some surmise, it is because he is concerned about other warrants that might be issued on other GOP members or --
if one believes that bizarre ABC News story -- on Hastert himself. The Justice Department has issued not-quite-blanket denials that Hastert is a target of any investigation.

Yet, the entire affair just brings further clouds to an already-tainted institution.

So, Dennis Hastert, how dumb are you?

2) How dumb are you, Nancy Pelosi?

Yes you -- given that nearly everything above could also be said of you as House Democratic Leader (except for the ABC report).

After making "culture of corruption" part of the Democratic talking points all year, how on earth could you let yourself be convinced by the Speaker of the House that it would be a good idea to sign on to this letter professing outrage over the serving of a search warrant and subsequent raid on the office of member of Congress?

Aren't you aware of how people are now making the joke: "Oh, so now Republicans and Democrats can find some bipartisan agreement -- avoiding FBI warrants!"?

Furthermore, the 45-day seal on the files removed from Jefferson's office essentially freezes that Justice Department investigation -- thus making it harder for an actual indictment to be returned, which in turn makes it more difficult for you to nudge Jefferson out of either his W&M position or get him to resign his seat completely. Of course, 45 days also makes the actual release of the files in the middle of the summer -- a lot closer to Election Day and easier for voters to link "corruption" with a Democrat.

The time lag also leaves the Congressional Black Caucus
more time to kvetch about your being "unfair" to Jefferson -- which is happening simultaneously with accusations that the "Howard DeaNC" was working (unsuccessfully) behind the scenes to support "vanilla" Mitch Landrieu over "chocolate" New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Geez, multiple fissures between Democrats and members of its most loyal constituency -- at a moment when Democrats most need all of their base to turn out this fall if the Party has any hope of retaking at least one of the chambers of Congress?

Maybe it's great work like this that causes even the hard-core-base Lefties at Kos to
despise your leadership job, Ms. Pelosi?

Hmmm...come to think of it, maybe the question I should ask is:

3) How smart are you, Dennis Hastert?


Yes, you!

Let's just take you at your word and, indeed, you are not under any investigation -- and are not afraid of having to face a subpoena yourself. Well, tactically, it is actually not a dumb idea to allow the constitutional issues to blow up over a Democrat's corruption! You look like you are fighting solely on constitutional grounds -- without any regard to partisan- or self-interest. You're on the high road.

But, in doing that, you have effectively removed the whole "culture of corruption" arrow in the Democrats' quiver. Even despite the DeLay-Abramoff-Cunningham issues, it is hard for the Democrats to claim that they are far removed from this when the Democratic leader is a signatory to a letter that basically stakes a claim for Members of Congress being above the law.

Think Pelosi's letter urging Jefferson to step down from the Ways & Means Committee for the duration of the investigation is going to get much public play -- as opposed to the letter to the President?

I certainly don't. Though, as mentioned above, it certainly does tick the CBC off at Pelosi. And, you know only too well how black people feel about the FBI.

Geez, Denny, you always were a pretty sly wrestler!


UPDATE: Michelle Cottle at The New Republic makes similar observations on Nancy Pelosi.

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Um, Yeah, Gawker -- That's Me!!!

Wednesday night, I attended a book party for former Post colleague Bridget Harrison.

Gawker was in attendance. But, you know the saying, "It doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they get your name right?"

Well, see for yourself (ninth photo down).

Sigh.


For the record, I wasn't the only black guy there. There was, um, another black guy from the Post too! (Just kidding, Hasani!)

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

 

Gorillas In The Frist

Um, there's no real point to linking to this wow-the-majority-leader-is-a-doctor-piece (that should have been in the W. Post's Style section instead of "A" News) -- except for the fact that the title above was just too damn good to pass up!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

 

If Greater Love Hath No Man...

...than to lay down his life for his country....

Then what kind of love did First Lady Martha Logan have to, uh, lay down and do that in order to
get her sleazy POTUS husband to 'fess up???

What an ending. What a season! (Though the Chinese can somehow grab Jack, beat him up AND get him on the tanker bound for who-knows-where in, um, six minutes!?!?!?!?! Right. But, hey, suspending the sense of time is one of the things that make 24 such a ridiculous guilty pleasure.)


UPDATE: Technical question: Does the Constitution give the Attorney General the power just to order U.S. Marshalls to take a sitting president into custody? I thought the whole idea behind impeachment was that a president has to be REMOVED FROM OFFICE -- i.e. have the trappings and power of the office taken away -- before he can actually be formally charged with lawbreaking?

Any ideas?

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Monday, May 22, 2006

 

General Dissent

With some very good, informed historical perspective, Lt. Col. (ret.) Ralph Peters stands up for the importance of the uniformed critics of the war strategy:


Six decades ago, the National Security Act of 1947 inserted buffers between presidents and their top military men, leading immediately to a series of military debacles or, at best, stalemates. Instead of Marshall speaking--respectfully but frankly--to FDR, we got McNamara huddling with LBJ and, now, Donald Rumsfeld, who never saw combat, interpreting warfare to a president who never saw combat. Instead of making battlefield decisions based upon military necessity, the rise of powerful secretaries of defense resulted in combat decisions based upon political expediency.

Defense secretaries, not dissident retired generals, have politicized our national security. As for the recently invented "requirement" for retired officers to remain silent and apolitical, would we really like to strike George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower from our history books? After all, it was Eisenhower, the former soldier, who warned us so presciently of the military-industrial complex, while secretaries of defense--one after another--merely shoveled money into its maw.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act, an echo of Vietnam, was supposed to guarantee unfiltered military advice to the president. It didn't work. The elaborate superstructure of the contemporary presidency, with its many gatekeepers, excludes the nation's senior military leaders from the frequent, intimate, and unconstrained contact with the president that served us so well in the past. Too much has been delegated: While the president has the indisputable right to dismiss military leaders (as Lincoln certainly had to do), he also has the duty to study the professional advice of those who will lead our troops into battle before overruling it. With the approval of Congress (and increasingly without it), the president makes our strategic decisions, but it is his obligation to the American people to make informed decisions.

Today, however, our presidents do not hear unvarnished, de-politicized military advice, and the situation has never been graver than under the current administration. Presidential interviews with generals are essentially pre-scripted, with vetted talking points--political courtiers control access to the president and determine what the president will hear. Only the president himself could change the situation by demanding to hear a range of military views (without commissars at the shoulders of the generals). President George W. Bush, who has chosen war as a policy tool, may be the American president most isolated from sound military advice.

Something to ponder. Read the whole thing.



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About That "Culture Of Corruption"...

Finally! Something of an early Christmas gift to Republicans.

That "culture of corruption" meme Democrats were making a major part of their fall campaign message took a major blow over the weekend with Rep. William Jefferson's congressional office being raided and the release of a tape of him accepting a $100,000 bribe.
The court document was the basis for an FBI search of Jefferson's congressional office on Saturday and Sunday. The FBI had no comment on what it found in the 18-hour search.

According to the document, the FBI recorded a series of conversations between Jefferson and the informant, leading up to a July 30, 2005, meeting at a hotel in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. What happened next was captured by the FBI on videotape, the document said.

"At the close of the meeting, (the informant) and Congressman Jefferson exited the building and stood before the open trunk of (the informant's) car. At that time, Congressman Jefferson reached in and removed a reddish-brown colored leather briefcase which contained $100,000 cash in denominations of $100 bills," according to the court document.

"He placed the briefcase in a reddish-brown colored cloth bag, then took the bag, containing the briefcase and the $100,000 in cash and placed it inside the passenger compartment of his 1990 Lincoln Town Car and drove off."

According to the document, the money was to be used to bribe a high-ranking Nigerian government official who had agreed to help an American telecommunications company do business in Nigeria.
Just finding a completely impartial juror -- i.e. one who's never received one of those e-mails from a former Nigerian official who had his funds confiscated from the former corrupt military government of of Sani Abache -- might cause this trial to go on forever.

Good luck, Mr. Jefferson. Hardly exonerating the GOP from the taint of Duke Cunningham and Tom DeLay -- but at least cash bribes are very easy to explain in campaign commercials.

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