Friday, February 17, 2006


Making "The Onion" Irrelevant...

Get shot by the vice-president. Have a heart attack. Recover. Apologize.

Exactly what
Ken Wheaton says.

Whittington sounds like an embarrassed samurai who has suddenly, uh, lost face. Ahem.

Next: a reading from the recently-discovered deathbed letter of apology from Alexander Hamilton to Aaron Burr.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall did the "picture is worth a 1,000 words" thing.

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Finding Light In Bryant Dark

Eric McErlain weighs in on the always-dependable Bryant Gumbel ("dependable", that is, to make gratuitous offensive racially-tinged statements -- like this one -- courtesy of the guys over at Newsbusters -- whose site likely crashed after being linked by Drudge):

I figure that when Thomas Paine said that “these are the times that try men’s souls,” he must’ve been talking about the start of another Winter Olympics. Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too.
Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention.
My reaction was similar to Eric's. I was watching the show (it rebroadcasts on Saturday mornings) and my mouth dropped -- and then I started laughing.

Gumbel's off-handed slam at Republicans is not surprising. Why should I be outraged? Remember that old story about the
frog and the scorpion? It's in Bryant's nature.

I'm not particularly a fan of the Winter Games, so I his dismissive attitude to them isn't a big thing for me. However, his seeming willful ignorance of some of the black participants (and not just Americans) implied by this statement was mindboggling. For one thing, Gumbel he apparently forgot (or didn't know that) Vonetta Flowers won the bobsled gold four years ago -- the first black person to win gold at any Winter Games; she's back here again. He also apparently hasn't heard of Shani Davis, who is competing in one of the men's speedskating events (in fact, Davis' decision not to participate in the "team pursuit" event may have cost Chad Hedrick a shot at Eric Heiden's five-gold record; the guy who skated in place of Davis was an older, slower guy.)

What's rather sad though is that Gumbel has a great platform with Real Sports (which, politics aside, actually serves Gumbel's talents well). Given the scheduling, he could have devoted some space to what are trailblazing athletes. Instead, he goes for the easy cheapshot.

On the other hand,
Booker Rising, an all-around excellent site devoted to black alternative-moderate-conservative politics, is running profiles of several of the black Winter Games athletes. The series is called "Black Ice."

Head over there and check it out. Use the opportunity of Bryant's ignorance to help educate yourself.

UPDATE: Fittingly enough, Shani Davis on Saturday became the first black man to win a gold medal, winning the 1,000-meter speedskating race. Paying attention, Bryant?

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Ben Smith at Politicker notes some interesting changes in the latest Gallup survey of possible 2008 Dem candidates.

He concludes: "More grist for
Ryan Lizza's and my Gore theories."

No offense, Ben, but I think I beat you to the Gore thing -- by at least
a couple of days.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006


"Monarchical Doctrine"

Today's must-read from George Will:
[P]erhaps no future president will ask for such congressional involvement in the gravest decision government makes -- going to war. Why would future presidents ask, if the present administration successfully asserts its current doctrine? It is that whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be. This monarchical doctrine emerges from the administration's stance that warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency targeting American citizens on American soil is a legal exercise of the president's inherent powers as commander in chief, even though it violates the clear language of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was written to regulate wartime surveillance.

Administration supporters incoherently argue that the AUMF also authorized the NSA surveillance -- and that if the administration had asked, Congress would have refused to authorize it. The first assertion is implausible: None of the 518 legislators who voted for the AUMF has said that he or she then thought it contained the permissiveness the administration discerns in it. Did the administration, until the program became known two months ago? Or was the AUMF then seized upon as a justification? Equally implausible is the idea that in the months after Sept. 11, Congress would have refused to revise the 1978 law in ways that would authorize, with some supervision, NSA surveillance that, even in today's more contentious climate, most serious people consider conducive to national security.

Anyway, the argument that the AUMF contained a completely unexpressed congressional intent to empower the president to disregard the FISA regime is risible coming from this administration. It famously opposes those who discover unstated meanings in the Constitution's text and do not strictly construe the language of statutes.
The whole thing is an excellent primer on the Constitution's separation of powers -- and the essential role of Congress during wartime.

Read it and save it.

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Possible Cheney Good News?

Though not speaking to police following his own recent shooting incident, rapper Busta Rhymes is still interviewing applicants for his vacant bodyguard position.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Working On A Cheney Gang

So, if apparently incapable of doing the right thing, your political allies might step in to provide you with a conscience.

DC Republicans start getting nervous over Cheney's
bizarre post-shooting behavior :

Vice President Cheney's slow and unapologetic public response to the accidental shooting of a 78-year-old Texas lawyer is turning the quail-hunting mishap into a political liability for the Bush administration and is prompting senior White House officials to press Cheney to publicly address the issue as early as today, several prominent Republicans said yesterday.

The Republicans said Cheney should have immediately disclosed the shooting Saturday night to avoid even the suggestion of a coverup and should have offered a public apology for his role in accidentally shooting Harry Whittington, a GOP lawyer from Austin. Whittington was hospitalized Saturday night in Corpus Christi, Tex., and was moved back into the intensive-care unit after suffering an abnormal heart rhythm yesterday morning.
The comics have had their day, but with Whittington's medical setback, people are starting to realize that this situation is as serious as, well, a heart attack.

The scandal is no longer (solely) the fact that the vice president didn't alert the press -- or allow the press to be alerted -- until nearly a day after the shooting. The more prominent problem is that Cheney has decided to be "out of site, out of mind." A man he shot is back in intensive care after one of the pellets from the shotgun caused a "minor" heart attack -- and Cheney is nowhere to be seen.

Cheney doesn't necessarily 'owe' the press anything -- the more the press makes the story about his failure to alert them (us?), the more he will dig in his heels. However, he does owe the American people an explanation, or some public discussion of the incident.

For only the second time in American history, a sitting vice president has been involved in a shooting incident -- and he feels there is no cause for him to discuss the matter publically?

Give us a break, Mr. Vice President.

The public can have differing views on the war; the Medidicare prescription drug plan is confusing to many people; arguments can be had on all sides when it comes to tax policy.

But, somebody getting shot is a pretty cut-and-dried situation: This isn't policy issue folks have to think through too much to figure out how they feel about it. Whether a hunter in the South, random urban dweller in the North or tree-hugger in the West, anyone can understand the implications of somebody ending up on the wrong end of a firearm.

The vice president made a serious mistake in judgment -- and he seems to have forgotten that in this democracy (i.e. constitutional republic), he is still accountable to the citizens who put him in office. As ex-WH flack Marlin Fitzwater put it, in failing to be front-and-center square on this issue, Cheney "ignored his responsibility to the American people."

Exactly, in this form of government, the need for accountability from our highest elected officials remains: It is always true; it's not one of those things that becomes optional just because the country is quote-at-war-unquote.

UPDATE: Cheney will be interviewed on Fox News Channel at 2 p.m.

UPDATE II: Interview to be aired in full at 6 p.m. on Special Report with Brit Hume (repeated at midnight, I believe), though with some choice nuggets released earlier. Let me reiterate here something I said in the previous post's comment section: This is not (solely) a media-manufactured scandal: "I am fairly confident in saying that a private citizen would NOT have been granted the courtesy of arranging to speak with the authorities the following morning. If nothing else, law-enforcement would be double-checking to see if any drinking had been going on -- and if there was any indication that the shooter had been under the influence (I am not insinuating that that was the case with Cheney). If the shooter declined to speak with the cops right away, that would have, I believe raised a few red flags." Having "one beer" as Cheney admits doesn't mean that he was impaired while on the quail shoot. However, that information would have provoked some follow-up questions from local law-enforcement were this a typical case and Cheney an anonymous private citizen -- and were that information disclosed in a timely fashion after the incident.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Ch-Ch-Cheney of Fools

OK, let's get this out of the way.

As I
referenced on Sunday, the story of Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shooting someone while hunting quail (of course, it had to be quail, right? A Republican vice president, what else would it be?) is comedy and media gold.

Not even the most grizzled, secular, atheist-mantra-spouting clown could deny that there is a God with this raw material dropped in their lap. It's not just the late-night comics ("Top Ten Dick Cheney Excuses" was Letterman's topic).

Wanna know what sort of pop cultural lightnight bolt this made?

Try ESPN. A Sportscenter anchor Monday night described the atrocious statistics of the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats: "The only way to have a worse week is to have been on a hunting trip with the vice president."

Ouch. So, fine, the humor value is self-evident.

Except for one thing: This isn't quite so funny anymore. There are several legitimate political questions here:

Why did the vice president's office not alert the media about the shooting -- and Cheney's role in it?

Why wasn't White House Chief-of-Staff Andy Card made aware that the vice president was personally involved in the shooting?

Why did Karl Rove call Katherine Armstrong to find out what happened -- yet leave her to release the information to the press (the following morning, so it would only end up on the paper's Web-site)?

Why wasn't the president alerted about the vice president's role in the shooting immediately?

Why did everyone wait until Cheney flew back to Washington, DC?

A real simple question: On Hardball, Patrick Buchanan asked -- instead of making an arrangement
with local law-enforcement authorities to talk the following morning (and having the Secret Service dismiss a deputy who hadn't gotten the message) -- "Why didn't the vice president just invite the guy in and say, 'Here's what happened?'"

Great question.

And the VP had better have a good answer to that and the others real quick because the ingredients are there for the cultural zeitgeist to make this so-far giggly matter into a drastically serious matter for this administration.

Is the White House aware that we live in a country awash in crime shows? There are three installments in the Law and Order franchise, three CSI's, a Cold Case, an InJustice, a Numbers, an NCIS, plus their "true-crime" cognates on Court TV, A&E, Bravo, etc. etc. Almost all of these are fairly popular (or have been in recent years). That means a fair part of the populace feels that it "knows" something about criminal activities and what constitutes suspicious behavior.

Fairly or not, there will be more than a few who wonder whether Cheney's reticence was out of concern for the injured Henry Whittington -- or so a certain number of individuals can all "get their stories straight."

If, as it seems, the Vice President allowed his hostility toward the national press to cause him to take the politically expedient route rather than the one dictated by common sense, he may pay a very heavy price.

Final question, having nothing to do with legality: You think Cheney misses Lewis Libby right about now?

UPDATE: What JPod says here. And what NRO says here.

UPDATE II: What Marlin Fitzwater says here.

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That Rudy & Rice Train?

Someone forgot to tell the conservatives to get on board:

In the CPAC presidential preference straw poll,

The biggest losers...were two moderates: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who dropped from first place last year (with 19%) to third this year (with 12%); and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who went from second last year (with 18%) to fourth (with 10%).
Well, regular readers of this space and Alarming News could have predicted this.

So, who are the leading candidates right now?

Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.) went from a middle-of-the-road presidential candidate one year ago to the favorite among conservatives...The unscientific poll of CPAC attendees gave Allen 22% -- double the 11% he received in last year’s straw poll. Although conservatives remain divided, Allen’s plurality cements his status as one the leading Republicans. Finishing second was Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) with 20%. One year ago, McCain tied Allen at 11%. McCain’s strong showing came as somewhat of a surprise given his role as a maverick unafraid of bucking his party. McCain has also rankled conservatives for his support of a campaign-finance law strongly opposed by those on the right.
So, Allen vs. McCain for the hearts of conservatives? It's waaaayyyy too early, but, it still raises an interesting question: Willl that put an odd sort of pressure on McCain to come help his Senate colleague if James Webb is the Democratic nominee challenging him in the Fall?

How does McCain play it? Will he do the same as he did in '04 -- support and campaign for the Republican non-veteran (Bush/Allen), while refraining from overt negative attacks on the Democratic veteran (Kerry/Webb)?

My Virginia Republican (see previous post) thinks that sounds right: "That's exactly it. I think McCain will campaign forAllen in northern Virgina and maybe the Norfolk area. McCain will promote Allen but he will not bad mouth Webb unless Webb draws first blood -- and Webb just might do that over McCain's support of the Iraq War."

But, as we speculated in the previous post, what happens if both Allen and Rick Santorum -- the golden lights of the socially conservative right -- lose in Fall '06? Would conservatives give Condi and Rudy another look-see? Perhaps, though I doubt it (assuming, of course, either of them truly are interested in making a run).

Would Sam Brownback of Kansas begin to surface more strongly on the radar screen (to mix metaphors)?

This year may be more interesting than anyone could have imagined.

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Webb of Intrigue

If there's a "must-read" article out right now, it's Mackubin Thomas Owens' piece on Jim Webb and the VA Senate race.

Owens is a rock-solid Republican, strong supporter of the Iraq War and regular contributor to National Review Online. However, he is also a good friend of former Secretary of the Navy James Webb (under Ronald Reagan), who's decided to challenge incumbent Sen. George Allen -- as a Democrat.

Webb announced last week that he is seeking the Democratic nomination.
Owens suggests that some of the hardball tactics used on behalf of George W. Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns (where, to win the presidency, he had to steamroll over a decorated Vietnam War veteran) may be creating some domestic blowback:

Why does a man who served in the Reagan administration now embrace the very party that, since Vietnam, has denigrated the martial virtues he epitomizes? Part of it is his opposition to the war in Iraq. Webb is no knee-jerk Bush hater, and his opposition to the Iraq war is based on strategic considerations -- he is concerned that by committing such a large force there for an extended period of time we have weakened ourselves in the long run against a rising China.

More to the point, though, is his growing anger at the Bush administration for what he sees as a McNamara-like disregard for military advice, and even worse, a tendency on the part of too many Republicans and conservatives who did not serve in the military to attack the service of veterans like Jack Murtha who oppose the war. Webb's New York Times op-ed of January 18, 'Purple Heartbreakers,' was a clear harbinger of his break with the Republican party. There he wrote:

"[I]n recent years extremist Republican operatives have inverted a longstanding principle: that our combat veterans be accorded a place of honor in political circles. This trend began with the ugly insinuations leveled at Senator John McCain during the 2000 Republican primaries and continued with the slurs against Senators Max Cleland and John Kerry, and now Mr. Murtha."

The political tactic of playing up the soldiers on the battlefield while tearing down the reputations of veterans who oppose them could eventually cost the Republicans dearly. It may be one reason that a preponderance of the Iraq war veterans who have thus far decided to run for office are doing so as Democrats.

Both Jim and I have taken Kerry to task for what he said after the war (readers of National Review and NRO may have noticed that I wrote some 14 articles on Kerry's antics after the war), but both of us were troubled by the attack on his service. I cringed during the Republican convention in 2004 when some genius came up with the idea of mocking John Kerry by circulating band-aids in the shape of Purple Hearts. This seemed to me to be a real case of tonedeafness.
Indeed, one could almost argue that Owens' article is a preemptive strike against the possibility of "Swift Boating" Webb, with its extended encomia to his military service:

Webb is an impressive man. He is a 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. As a Marine officer in Vietnam, he led an infantry platoon and company, was wounded twice, and was awarded the Navy Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor as a recognition of valor) and the Silver Star. After he was medically retired from the Marine Corps, he attended Georgetown Law School and later served as counsel to the House Veterans Committee. He is the author of six novels, including Fields of Fire, the best novel there is about Vietnam. During the Reagan administration, he served as an assistant secretary of Defense and secretary of the Navy. Combine his virtues with the fact that Virginia is one of the few states where a conservative Democrat might win, and, if Webb prevails in the Democratic primary, Senator Allen is likely to be in for the fight of his life.
There's already one announced candidate in the Senate field, but Webb would almost immediately draw money on the Democratic side. He would never be the darling of the Daily Kos folks. However, Democrats have had an acute skill this election season for getting behind candidates who can win in certain districts and state. Robert Casey in Pennsylvania would be a perfect example of that.

Could Jim Webb be the next?

I asked a Virginia Republican how a possible Allen-Webb scenario might play out:

I think Webb is a serious threat to Allen starting from the Norfolk area and moving west, right into the heart of Allen's heartland. When Webb was in the Pentagon he was the lead prophet touting the ambitious 1,000 ship Navy during the ideologue Weinberger days.
That is music to the ears of those in Norfolk (not to mention naval bases from the Norfolk to Galveston Bay -- all Red States, mind you -- so key to a certain lock). Webb will run against Rumsfeld's Pentagon budget, Rumsfeld's "transformation"/ downsizing and base closings, which Allen will not be able to defend.
Webb will play up the threat of China and the necessary need to beef up Naval operations which means jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs to northern Virginia (Pentagon) and Norfolk. Naval families will see a new savior in Webb and will put Virginia's other Senator John Warner, a former naval man and former Sec. of Navy -- like Webb in a tough position.

It will be interesting to see if Webb can overcome the local Democrat organiztion who want a liberal. However; seeing how Lynn Swann took over the state party in Pennsylvania, I'll bet Webb can do so in Virginia. Imagine if Allen and Santorum both lose this fall. The Far Right will be squealing like a stuck pig on the set of "Deliverance," and George Bush will be blamed. The Far Right will be left with Brownback (or Condi Rice) for 2008. If Webb wins, he will be a national Dem star and a serious VP candidate for any Democrat challenger -- especially a northern candidate with no military experience.
Keep in mind, of course that military types -- especially in recent memory -- have a spotty record in their first political campaigns (Oliver North, Wesley Clark, to name a couple). Still, Webb can't be completely underestimated.

More later.

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Monday, February 13, 2006


Of Coulter, Just Halt-her...

Kudos to David Hogberg for slapping Ann Coulter for her comments at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week.

[S]he made the following "joke": "I think our motto should be post-9-11, 'rag head talks tough, rag head faces consequences.'"

How stupid are such remarks? Let us count the ways.

First off, they're racist. There is no difference between using "rag head" and using "nigger," "spic," or "honky." Perhaps it could have been excused had she made it clear she was referring to Islamists and not Muslims in general, but she did not. Indeed, her speech seemed to suggest that she wasn't making that distinction. It is cliche, but true: the vast majority of Muslims are not Islamists.
Well, yeah. But beyond that: Not all "ragheads" are even Muslim: Sikhs cover their heads in turbans as well and they are most decidely NOT Muslim. In fact, in many countries, they've historically been victimized by Muslims (Islamist or otherwise).

Hogberg was in no way defending Ann and I seriously commend him for going after her, but it really is important to underscore exactly how offensive her comments were -- and not just to the ethnic "target" for which she was aiming.

They should be deemed offensive regardless of one's religion and whether one is conservative, American or just anyone of good will, sense and manners.

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Don't Call It A Comeback..., well, actually, I guess you should call it a comeback.

Long before there were blogs, there was...Extreme Mortman and the man is back.

Yep, Howard M. returns glowing to the extreme, rocking a mic like a vandal
Lighting up a stage, waxing a chump like a candle.

Welcome back, Howard! Things haven't been the same --
since you been gone.

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Back In Black (& Silver)

It's nice to see Art Shell back as a head coach in the NFL -- even if it is with the only team which gave him a chance the first time around.

While this increases the number of black head coaches in the NFL by one (to seven), it is still fair to ask -- what the heck took so long to give Shell a second chance? After his Raider HC stint ended in 1994, he had a 54-38 record and had made the playoffs in three of his five years.

That record, by the way, was the same as Jon Gruden's before he got himself "traded" to the Tampa Bay Buccanneers right before the 2002 season -- for high-round draft picks.

It's understandable why some people wonder about a double standard when it comes to black head coaches -- especially given how many mediocre white coaches seem to become part of the coaching carousel.

However, of the "new generation" (those hired after Shell's initial stint), both Tony Dungy and Herman Edwards managed to leverage new jobs immediately after leaving their previous ones (Dungy went from Tampa Bay to Indianapolis and Edwards jumped from the New York Jets to the Kansas City Chiefs; indeed, the latter's move to KC was the closest thing to an "old-boy network" strategy as you'll find ). But, overlooking Shell for the last dozen years is mind-boggling (Oh, the Raiders have had only on three winning seasons since Shell left).

On a vaguely related note (in that it involves race and an NFL player), but much more significant note, I somehow missed -- during all the Super Bowl hype -- that game MVP is the son of an African American father and a South Korean mother. However,
this story was not missed by South Koreans -- particularly those of mixed background, who face much discrimination in their country:

The South Korean military bans men who clearly appear of mixed racial background
from serving compulsory duty out of concern they might be unable to fit in,
noted Song Kil-weon, head of HIfamily Institute, a group working for rights of
those with mixed heritage.

Children, particularly those with a black American parent, routinely suffer harsh discrimination by fellow students, said Yi Kyung-kyune, director of Pearl S. Buck International Korea, a group that supports mixed-heritage youth. Because of the pressure, the middle school dropout rate for "Amerasians" -- children with American and Korean heritage -- is more than 17 percent, Yi said.

The group says about 2,000 Amerasians in this country suffer severe discrimination along with another estimated 1,000 children of mixed Korean and Asian descent, or "Kosians." Many also have challenges at home, with 83 percent being raised by single mothers, who are often jobless or only work part time.

Ward's success became a rallying point for them -- in a country that knows little about American football. It is the flip side of the same phenomenon that enables cartoons in Denmark to spark riots that cause deaths in Lebanon -- yet, obviously, far more organic. Technology has given "globalization" an impact that stretches well beyond economic concerns.

Another example showing, as someone once noted that
the world is, indeed, flat.

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When Is News Not News?

Answer: When it's "news" delivered on a cable news operation with a parent organization that has a billiion-dollar contract to deliver sports-entertainment programming.

Case-in-point: MSNBC anchor
Chris Jansing is in Torino, excuse me, Turin giving updates on all-things Olympic.

But is she there as a journalist for the news channel -- giving a mixture of news and sports updates -- or is she there as one more public relations agent for parent network NBC's Games coverage?

Well, to ask the question is to answer it. At around 1:20 Sunday afternoon, Jansing came in with a "report" about the developing Michelle Kwan story. No problem, Kwan's decision to pull out of the Olympics was the big story of the day.

However, then Jansing got all coy about the "stunner" in the men's downhill skiing. It "involved", she told her co-anchor back in the States, the American favorite, magazine cover boy Bode Miller. Jansing said that viewers would have to check NBC's coverage later that day to see the "stunner."

Please. Anyone who had been watching ESPN's Sportscenter over the previous four hours knew that the "stunner" was that Miller had not only lost, but lost badly -- coming in fifth. If NBC wants to make the corporate decision to show the biggest events in prime time, because of ratings, that is fine. (I personally believe it to be a foolish decision given the "more-than-24/7" world that the Internet makes possible now.)

However, NBC has made that choice. But, GE/Universal, the corporate parent, should realize that its individual brands have different audiences -- and different responsibilities than stand-alone NBC.

Yes, the sister networks -- MSNBC and CNBC are also showing the Games. But they are still primarily, respectively, news and business news operations.

Jansing is doing a disservice to MSNBC viewers -- and herself as a journalist -- with the cutesy "teasing" of the downhill skiing event. She is supposed to give viewers information that she has, but is intentionally keeping it quiet -- and certainly not because it has anything to do with something so jejeune as "national security." It's to protect the corporate parent's investment. The in-studio anchor is, of course, complicit in this abandonment of journalistic principles by saying how much she would hold off on not finding out the result so she could "tune in" to watch the event later that day...on NBC.

MSNBC: Bronze in the news channel wars, but gets the Gold in keeping viewers in the dark.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006


Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter

Um, some jokes just write themselves. Oh well, have fun at the Vice President's expense.

Go ahead. Give it your best shot.

Um, uh, oops, did I just say that?

Extra points for any "Brokeback Mountain" references.

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