Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Falling Star

A new poll coming out today will show that Arnold Schwarzenegger's popularity in California has plummeted. This is partly due to his recent insistence on calling another special election for new ballot measures. The election will cost the state, which continues to run in deficit, at least $40 million, probably much more, and has 2 to 1 opposition in the poll.

Full numbers aren't yet available, but some info can be found here. This video reports that the current approval number is 37%. Although the Legislature as a whole has even lower numbers, voters by 44% to 33% say they generally would support it in conflicts with the Gropenator.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
A Goode Deal

Following up on the previous post concerning Virgil Goode and MZM, this site has some info on what MZM has gotten for its generosity. I doubt that this is the complete story by any means; the ROI for this kind of 'gift' is usually higher.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The Munificent Seven

Josh Marshall has a story up on Talking Points concerning the impressive generosity of MZM, the defense contractor owned by Wade Mitchell, towards Rep Virgil Goode(R-VA).

Josh has, however, missed part of the story - at least $18,000 worth. If you look at all Goode's donations from this year, you find that the entire amount, $48,625, appears to come from MZM. Seven checks for $2,000 each were written by women who appear to be wives of MZM executives. All seven women share the name and home town of an MZM exec who donated the $2,000 max, and all contributions were made in the same 3/2 - 3/11 time frame as the others.

The munificent seven are: Cynthia Bragg (MD), Jane T Flowers (MD), May I James (NC), Donna Harrell (TN), Robin Berglund (VA), Sharon Capra (VA), Jeneane King (VA).

At least two of these women, King and Bragg, also gave $2000 to Goode in the 2004 cycle.

It's still unclear what MZM gets in return for all this generosity. But they've given 100% of the donations he has received so far this year. I'll bet, at the very least, they get their calls returned real quick.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Sure, It's a Train, But...

There's light at the end of the tunnel.

The Pink Panther Elephant

The Guardian points out that Democrats recently failed to cut off funds for the continuing investigation of Henry Cisneros. Although Cisneros copped a plea in 1999, more time (and money) have been spent on the investigation since then than before. The rough timeline of this story is as follows:

  • 1987: Cisneros, then Mayor of San Antonio, begins an extramarital affair with Linda Jones, then Linda Medlar. He gives her money for living costs and her daughter's college expenses.
  • 1988: Cisneros admits affair and doesn't seek re-election.
  • 1990: Jones begins to record conversations with Cisneros without his knowledge.
  • 1991: Cisneros reconciles with his wife and ends relationship with Jones. He continues to send her money.
  • 1992: Cisneros is under consideration for a cabinet position in the incoming Clinton administration.
  • 1993: Cisneros lies about payments to Jones during his FBI background check. He is approved by Senate as Secretary of HUD.
  • 1994: Cisneros cuts off payments to Jones. Jones hires attorneys. By her own admission, she subsequently edited the tapes to remove her own demands for money and threats to expose Cisneros.
  • 1995: Cisneros settles a suit from Jones charging that he reneged on agreements to provide financial support. Special Counsel begins investigating Cisneros's statements to FBI. David Barrett is appointed as Independent Counsel. Jones, who also lied to FBI, is given immunity and cooperates with prosecutor.
  • 1996: Cisneros leaves HUD. Barrett discovers that the tapes, which Jones has represented as original, are doctored and obtains warrant to search Jones's home.
  • 1997: Jones is indicted for conspiracy, false statements to the Cisneros prosecution, and bank fraud. Cisneros is indicted for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to FBI.
  • 1998: Jones pleads guilty to 28 felonies, is sentenced to 3 1/2 years.
  • 1999: Jones is again working with Barrett in hopes of winning early release from prison. Cisneros pleads guilty to 1 misdemeanor count, agreeing to pay a fine but serve no jail time or probation. Cisneros becomes the first and only Clinton administration official convicted of criminal charges for acts related to their federal service. The Wash Post story on the plea bargain states it, "end[s] a wide-ranging independent counsel investigation that lasted more than four years and cost more than $9 million."
  • 2001: Cisneros is pardoned by Bill Clinton.
  • 2005: Investigation continues. Cost is now up to $21 million. Barrett states that, "the probe would continue another 10 months but [he] could not guarantee it would end then." There have been no indictments since 1999, and no clear statement of what Barrett has been investigating for the past 6 years.

Finder's credit for this story goes to skippy.

Sunday, June 12, 2005
Kevin Drum recently suggested that the reason the Downing Street Memo has been relatively overlooked by the media is that it is old news. Everybody already knows that Bush had decided on war long before the invasion took place. Frank Rich said precisely the same thing last week on Al Franken, where he was given a far more sycophantic intro than he actually deserves.

No doubt this is true. It would also explain why the press gave so little coverage to the Monica Lewinsky story. After all, by 1998, it was clear to everybody that Bill Clinton was pretty much a cad in his private life. One more instance didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. And that's why the story was ignored, however much rightists wanted it to get bigger play.

Oh, wait - it didn't actually happen like that. One excuse after another gets hauled out, and we continue for some strange reason to take them seriously. The press went after Clinton agressively? Well, that's the natural relationship of the press to power, and after all it's healthy. The press doesn't dare challenge George Bush? Look, it's an intimidating setting and nobody wants to just attack the president in a crisis. The press repeatedly told outright lies about Al Gore? Well, he was uniquely unpleasant and unsure of himself - even though he'd spent most of his life in Washington and nobody noticed these traits until 1999. Of course stories about Bush committing insider trading at Harken Energy aren't going to be covered - they're too complicated and unsexy. Naturally the media won't write about Jeff Gannon - way too sleazy. It would invade Gannon's privacy, and we all know how much the media respects privacy.

The punditocracty and the corporate media wants very much for us to believe the excuses they throw out, one after another, for their Republican bias. I suspect that they want, even more, to believe themselves. After all, the people dominating today's media, in their 40s and 50s, are largely a generation inspired by Woodward and Bernstein. They went into journalism with visions of protecting the downtrodden and uncovering the truths hidden by corrupted power. It can hardly be pleasant to admit that they have become the power they once dreamed of fighting, with no higher causes than keeping the taxman away from their high 6 and 7 figure incomes, and a devotion to hiding any truth that might endanger the authority of tax cutting Republicans.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Deep Threat

The revelation of the identity of Deep Throat last week brought on some very interesting reactions from rightist commentators. One was the open identification with Richard Nixon. It used to be that rightists didn't really want to have anything to do with Nixon. After all, not only was he disgraced, but he was far from even being a proper Republican in modern terms. He helped create the EPA and OSHA, and put forward unsuccessful proposals for universal health coverage and a national minimum income. But that no longer stops righties from claiming him as a martyr, destroyed by the evil Liberal Media (which, in his time, really existed) and vile Democrats. The overwhelming evidence that he was actually guilty of numerous crimes doesn't either, but that shouldn't surprise anybody familiar with the modern right.

Ben Stein is perhaps the nuttiest Nixon defender, managing to make Mark Felt and Bob Woodward personally responsible for the genocide in Cambodia. It's a theory that makes a sort of sense, as long as you ignore the fact that Nixon had a great deal to do with destabilizing Cambodia in the first place, along with the fact that there was nothing any President could have done in 1975 to prevent the victory of the Khmer Rouge.

Another columnist writing from Bizarro World is Gary Aldrich. One clue to his location can be found here: "Let’s review what was happening in our country during the Nixon presidency: entire cities were being burned to the ground, and banks and universities bombed, while hard-Left Marxist radicals like Bernadine Doran called for 'Revolution!' even as they stuffed cash into their pockets that had been funneled to them by the Soviet Union." On this planet no entire cities burned to the ground, and the Weathermen, although certainly a nasty outfit, were pathetically small and incompetent, never received Soviet money, and incidentally never had a leader named Bernadine Doran.

In these fantasies Mr Aldrich is on his own, but for another flight of imagination he matches what many other Nixon apologists have said. "Claims that 'there was only one thing that Mark Felt could do' seem especially hollow when you consider that there was always a legal way available to this cabal. There is a third branch of government on Capitol Hill called the U.S. Congress, who at that very time was gleefully sharpening their knives, salivating at the chance to impeach a detested president." This standard theme of Felt's attackers deserves a more detailed answer.

Both houses in 1972 did have Democratic majorities, but there was little eagerness to go after Nixon aggressively. The most obvious committees for an investigation of Executive abuses, the Judiciary Committees, were headed by James Eastland (Senate) and Emmanuel Cellar (House), both friends of Nixon with very little loyalty to their own parties. (Cellar would have been unlikely to run a serious impeachment investigation, but his loss in the 1972 Democratic primary to insurgent Liz Holtzman paved the way for the much less pro-Nixon Peter Rodino, recently deceased, to become the new House Judiciary Chairman and oversee impeachment hearings.)

One committee did go after Watergate. The House Banking Committee chaired by Wright Patman, knowing that some funds used by the burglars had been laundered through a Mexican bank, tried to employ Felt's famous advice to "follow the money". The staff requested subpoenas on eight witnesses, and the witness list shows that the staff had made significant progress: John Kitchell, Maurice Stans, Jeb Magruder, Robert Mardian, John Dean, Hugh Sloan, John Caulfield, and Fred Larue. Most were then completely unknown, but every one was in fact significantly involved in Watergate.

On October 3, the committee met and voted 20 - 15 not to issue subpoenas. Every Republican voted no, joined by some Dixiecrats, and apparently some Democrats who had ethics problems of their own that were threatened with exposure. They were given cover by a letter sent from the Justice Department, but actually instigated by Dean, that claimed the hearings would interfere with the ongoing investigation, although Patman had deliberately left out the 5 burglars, Hunt, and Liddy, who were the only targets of the criminal inquiry. Nixon was actively involved in blocking the Banking Committee; he told Haldeman on September 15, "All Republicans boycott all Committee hearings after the Conventions - will hamstring them."

That ended the only attempt to hold Congressional hearings between the break-in and the election. Congress never did get around to holding hearings until the cover up had largely unraveled. On April 30, 1973, Nixon announced the resignations of Haldeman, Erlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, and the firing of John Dean, who was giving the Special Prosecutor testimony that directly implicated Nixon. The famous Ervin Committee held its first public hearings on May 17. The televised hearings did Nixon endless political damage, but they revealed only one new fact of real importance - the existence of the tapes.

So Felt's decision to work with Woodward rather than going to Congress, made only a few days after the break-in, was correct. Congress wasn't eager to investigate Nixon before the election; after his landslide victory, they were even less interested. If the cover-up hadn't come apart in Judge Sirica's court and the pages of the Post, Congress would almost certainly never have acted.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Celebrity Blogging

I'm thrilled to hear that Paris Hilton is engaged. And it's just so cute that her fiance has the same first name that she does. But really, isn't this guy a little old for her?

Thank goodness that we have the fearless tribunes of the liberal media to warn us when evildoers threaten. Anne Applebaum comes through today, picking up her pen to fight back against a terrible injustice related to American detention practices against suspected terrorists.

What is it that has our fearless crusader so irate? It isn't the practice of rendition, sending prisoners who have never recieved judicial proceedings to other countries so they can be tortured. It isn't the fact, well explained by Juan Cole, that the very existence of the Guantanamo prison, outside US territory in a legal no man's land, was designed as an assault against the rule of law. Applebaum probably is well aware that over 100 people have died in US custody, and that at least 27 of these deaths were ruled to be homicides by our own medical examiners, but in her outrage over a far greater offense, this fact is never mentioned in her column. She understands that people disappear into this system for years, never charged with any crime, unable to contact family or lawyers, without any legal rights, but this is a secondary problem. She is also aware, and does mention, that the legacy of torture, disappearances, and lawlessness perpetrated under Bush is angering millions of Muslims formerly friendly to us, and is more likely to cause than prevent future terrorist attacks.

Like the heroic truthseeker she is, Applebaum has brushed aside all these minor distractions to write a column which focuses squarely on the true outrage: Amnesty International actually used a Naughty Word in describing this system. The use of that Naughty Word has entirely discredited all information in their report, although Applebaum certainly doesn't point to any inaccuracies, and nobody else seems to. Why, any report using that wicked Naughty Word (although it seems the Bad Word wasn't used in the report itself, but in a press release) is so irrelevant that the Bush administration won't even have to pick out a few Sergeants and Privates to throw to public opinion, and what a tragedy that is.

Sleep well America. Your press corps may no longer care about freedom, corruption, or the rule of law, but they stand ready to protect you from naughty words, runaway brides, and weird over the hill pop stars.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Coo Coo Coo Choo, Mrs Robinson

The great Anne Bancroft, Mrs Mel Brooks in real life but eternally Mrs Robinson to movie lovers and all Baby Boomers, is dead at 73.