Monday, April 30, 2007

Nothing too surprising on the Dem side, but it's interesting to see McCain in first place among Republicans in Illinois. In national polls, Giuliani always leads, and these results are especially weird to me since a lot of Illinois Republicans are social moderates -- you'd think they'd be simpatico with Giuliani. Anyone explain this? (It's a survey only of "hardcore" voters, that could be a factor.)
Note to person who came to AMillionMonkeys after googling "does kansas allow ownership of monkey": Sorry we couldn't help you.
TNR's James Kirchik on machine politics in Massachusetts.

P.S. ... And as long as I'm linking to The Plank, I'll second this:
The worrying thing about the piece [this New Yorker profile] for Obama fans is that his thirst for consensus and unity ("One America") comes across as less a way to pragmatically achieve good policies than as a misplaced need for consensus as an end in itself. And speaking of pragmatism, my hunch is that talking so high-mindedly will be much more effective in a general election than a primary--a primary that Obama still has to win.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hahaha, Margasak catches Time Out Chicago making sloppy mistakes. Some commenters think he's being a smarty-pants but both of these seem pretty dumb to me.
The Onion on Chicago's leading political party.

(Thanks Satya for the link)

Don Gordon sues Joe Moore

On the night of the Chicago municipal run-off elections, I got the following report from someone who had talked to an election watcher:
[Ald. Joe] Moore was intentionally and blatantly breaking the law by politicking at polling places. They kept reporting him, and he kept moving on to another before the authorities got there, apparently with the intention of just paying the fines.
That is second-hand, unconfirmed, to be taken with a grain of salt, etc. Still, I find myself less skeptical than I might otherwise be about challenger Don Gordon's lawsuit against Moore for illegal electioneering.

That type of after-the-fact suit is hard to win, of course, and who knows if Gordon's accusations are true. But for Chicagoans interested in bringing political independence to city council, wouldn't a Moore loss now be the best possible outcome?

The historic anti-incumbent wave that hit Chicago City Council this year was largely funded by labor unions. This is basically a welcome development, of course, but union money tends to beget union hacks, and a city council beholden to union dollars might not be that much better than one beholden to Daley.

Besides, over time Daley could co-opt the unions! Then we'd be back where we were.

Now suppose Moore's win is overturned. We would still have the anti-incumbent wave citywide and we'd have an ouster of the most visible and leading labor-union-pol. The message to aldermen would be: Too much hackish adherence to Daley is dangerous and so is too much hackish adherence to unions.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Another Friday come and gone and still Alberto Gonzales is attorney general. Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle explains why:

Press release of the day

Hot off the presses, from one of the congresswomen I covered while I was in D.C.:
Contact: Thomas Seay, (785) 234-8111
April 27, 2007


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Nancy Boyda (Kansas Second District) has introduced bipartisan federal legislation to protect the public from attacks by captive big cats, such as lions and tigers, at facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Boyda serves on the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, which oversees the USDA. Her bill, H.R. 1947, also known as Haley's Act, is named in memory of Haley Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old high school student who was killed by a 550-pound Siberian tiger at a USDA-licensed facility while being photographed for her senior picture. Haley was originally scheduled to be photographed with two tiger cubs.

There are currently more than 10,000 captive big cats, such as tigers and lions, held captive in the U.S. In recent years, captive big cats have killed more than a dozen people and injured more than 50 people. Many big cats are owned by individuals or organizations that have been licensed by the USDA to exhibit, breed, or sell these dangerous wild animals. While the terms of the license include certain requirements for the care of the big cats, the license does not address risks to public safety, nor does it firmly prohibit direct contact between the public and big cats.

Congresswoman Boyda said, "Lions and tigers are wild animals, not pets, and USDA-licensed facilities should treat these creatures accordingly. Congress must establish strict guidelines to prevent further tragedies from occurring due to poor safety standards and minimal fines."

Haley's Act is cosponsored by Boyda's three Kansas colleagues, Reps. Dennis Moore (D-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS).

Last year, after Haley's death, the Kansas state legislature banned the private ownership of big cats as pets and forbade public contact with big cats at USDA facilities to help prevent future tragedies. However, the problem extends well beyond Kansas. In 2006 and 2007 alone there were big cat incidents, including escapes or attacks, from California to Texas to Indiana to North Carolina and Florida. These states have yet to enact a prohibition on direct contact at USDA facilities.

"If a law to prevent direct contact between big cats and the public were in place already, Haley might still be with us today," said Haley Hilderbrand's parents, Ronda and Mike Good, who have worked closely with legislators and IFAW to champion the legislation in Topeka and Washington. "If Congress acts soon, we can save lives."

Haley's Act would amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prohibit direct contact between the general public and big cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars and hybrids. The bill does not discourage public display of big cats in accredited zoos, or housing big cats in sanctuaries, but rather seeks to strengthen safety for the public. It also significantly increases fines for violations of the AWA to further encourage facilities to abide by the law and treat the animals well.



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blagojevich echoing Bush

Here is what happened: AP made a FOIA request for some politically sensitive documents that the Blagojevich administration didn't want to release. Blagojevich's people asked Attorney General Lisa Madigan to make up a reason why it didn't have to. Madigan told them "there [are] no legal exemptions to withhold the documents." Cough 'em up.

Instead, Blagojevich had a spokeswoman respond:
We didn’t request an opinion on this topic, but we appreciate the attorney general office’s advisory input.
In the most recent accounts, administration officials have even claimed that Madigan did approve withholding the documents. Nice try! But I don't think you can do this.

So what is the next step here? Can AP sue the governor to force him to turn over the documents? Or would Blagojevich just thank the Illinois Supreme Court for its "advisory input" and keep right on refusing?
Potentially big development in the U.S. attorney firing scandal: DOJ White House liaison Monica Goodling granted immunity. You'll recall that she had pled the fifth to get out of testifying. No more. And since she worked directly with Karl Rove, her eventual testimony will be very interesting...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Obama and Rezko and money and politics

Okay let's talk about that Sun-Times two-parter (read it here and here). The story is about how Tony Rezko, a top Illinois political fundraiser, obtained a bunch of government grants for low-income housing for his company, Rezmar. According to the story, Rezko then acted like a slumlord, allowing the buildings to fall into disrepair even as he continued cashing government checks for them.

Tim Novak's story is pretty interesting for its many details about Rezko's dealings, the front companies he set up, funds he siphoned and his apparently correct assumption that as long as he kept the political money flowing, his grants would not stop. From the story's part two:
Rezko was the schmoozer. He showered politicians with money for their campaign funds and got others to do the same. He gave to Democrats -- foremost among them former Cook County Board President John Stroger, Gov. Blagojevich, Daley and Sen. Barack Obama. Rezko gave to Republicans, too -- among them former Gov. Jim Edgar, the late Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens and President George W. Bush.

He also gave to others who held sway over Rezmar's housing deals -- like Chicago aldermen.

Meanwhile, Rezmar's low-income apartments were deteriorating, and it stopped repaying some loans.
The story raises the question of whether Obama should have known about the falling-apart Rezko buildings that were in Obama's district. (Obama says their condition was "wasn't brought to [his] attention.") It's a fair question, though reasonable people can probably disagree about exactly how much building inspection we require of our state senators. But the story also tries to make an extremely iffy link between Rezko's company and a Chicago law firm where Obama worked fresh out of law school. Obama apparently did a few hours' worth of low-level work on some of Rezko's paperwork. Big deal.

For cynics like Steve Rhodes, though, it is just obvious that Obama always knew Rezko was a swindler and a cheat. In fact, Rhodes seems to argue that Obama definitely knew and intentionally ignored the conditions of Rezko's properties. Rhodes writes:
[Obama's account] strains credulity, though it fits the pattern of Obama as an innocent who's always the last to know about the evil that lurks around him. Such a smart guy, too.
Well, maybe. But isn't the Tony Rezko story really about money and politics more broadly? Rezko was able to thrive for as long as he did because he understood how to take advantage of the system -- you schmooze, you write checks, you pretend to care about the right issues, and who has the time or the inclination to check on what you're really up to? That's an indictment of the system, yes, but it is something more prosaic than a conspiracy: It's just a guy who knows how to cheat.

Look, Rhodes is right that our political machinery, for which money is oxygen, invites abuses by Rezkos and encourages politicians to look the other way. Still, my sense is that it's infinitely easier to be someone like Rhodes, placing himself completely outside the political process and declaring all actors equally bankrupt, than it is to try to work from within a lousy system to get good policies enacted.

Writing about a recent column by Maureen Dowd going after John Edwards for getting an expensive haircut, Matthew Yglesias wrote:
[It's] impossible, in practice, for anyone to advocate effectively on behalf of working class Americans. It's simply not possible, given the way the American political system works, for a person to be in a position to run for president without having achieved high socioeconomic status. A person will, in that position, be condemned by the press as a hypocrite if he acts like someone with money, and condemned by the press as a phony if he acts like someone without money. ... No real person can uniformly avoid these "errors" -- it's the media dynamic that needs to change.
Barack Obama suffers from some of the same dynamic, because at the same time that he is calling for a "new kind of politics," his candidacy has to have enough realpolitik to, you know, actually win an election. This means lots and lots of money, it means having a media strategy and operation, and inevitably at some points it will mean attack politics.

One way to respond to this would be to deride all the realpolitik stuff as automatically hypocritical, dishonest, etc. But that's hiding your head in the sand. The real problem is structural, and in the end the "hypocrite" charge is just another way of arguing that politics shouldn't change.
The two-day Sun-Times Obama/Rezko investigative bonanza does indeed contain a lot of interesting detail on what a horrible person Tony Rezko apparently is. And of course Steve Rhodes loves it because it fits into his preconceived "the truth about Obama" storyline.

I am in class all day today, but I will have some stuff I want to flag from the story and some observations up later tonight.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Performed on Saturday Night Live. The song is "Earth Intruders."

UPDATE [4/24 12:56am] ... Hear the other, even better song Timbaland produced for Bjork here.

Gonzales did so badly it was actually kind of weird

No doubt it is just paranoia, but not long after Alberto Gonzales's disastrous testimony I began to wonder if his performance hadn't been, like, suspiciously disastrous. Could having the AG flame out spectacularly be part of some diabolical Rovian masterplan? What if the White House is figuring that if Gonzales seems completely incompetent and dissembling, this will somehow take heat away from an investigation into Rove and the president...?

That is crazy-talk, though, partly because Karl Rove has not even looked like a master tactician in some years. It's just that the attorney general's testimony was singularly terrible, and with more than a month to prepare, you have to wonder what exactly he we was trying to do with some of his answers.

Dahlia Lithwick's plausible-sounding theory is that Gonzales saw his job at the Senate Judiciary Committee as a matter of defending the unitary executive theory:
The theory of the unitary executive is a radical vision of executive power in which the president is the big boss of the entire executive branch and has final say over everything that happens within it. At its core, the theory holds that Congress has very limited authority to divest the president of those powers. An expanded version of this theory was the legal predicate for the torture memo: "In light of the president's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority in these areas. … Congress may no more regulate the president's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."


If you watch the Gonzales hearing through this prism (and in this White House, even the bathroom windows look out through that prism), they were a triumph. For six impressive hours, the attorney general embodied the core principles that he is not beholden to Congress, that the Senate has no authority over him, and that he was only there as a favor to them in their funny little fact-finding mission.
The White House's interpretation of the unitary executive theory is not just unconstitutional, it's anti-constitutional. Maybe the real reason Gonzales did so badly on Thursday was that by now most Americans, and most of Congress, reject Bush's ideas about his own power.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

New Lil Wayne mixtape. Haven't listened to it yet but I think it's safe to say it's the greatest thing ever.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Super must-download podcast! Motown Mix by Madlib. You want to hear it like right away.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Renzi gets a visit from the feds

Republican Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona had one of his businesses raided by the FBI tonight. I saw Rick Renzi speak one time when I was covering March for Life. He has 13 children.

You know who else had 13 children? ODB.

White House: President Bush has full confidence in Attorney General Gonzales.
What's this? Sen. Biden is declining to question Gonzales and instead submitting a statement for the record? Joe Biden intentionally turning down an opportunity to grandstand? I hope he is feeling all right...
Nina Totenberg on USA firings by other administrations: One was removed because he throttled a reporter on camera. One was removed because he bit a stripper on the arm.
Whoo! Afternoon is not as wild as morning. Except for this I guess. I'm going to be wrapping it up myself in another hour or so; I have a train to catch. Will be a chance to crunch all the information and collect other people's reactions later tonight.
Leahy is on the "lost" emails now.

Gonzales: "The fact that they may have been transmitted through RNC email accounts doesn't mean they aren't presidential records."

2:28 ... Leahy: What was the role of Monica Goodling in firing USAs?

Gonzales: I dunno.
Republican Sen. Jon Kyl: "I want to applaud your office for cracking down on internet gambling."

Very good use of time here, don't you agree?

Set of one

Nina Totenberg made the point on NPR: Gonzales says he opposed adding the provision to the PATRIOT Act that would allow the president to appoint USAs without Congressional confirmation. He says he thought it was a "dumb idea." But the provision was inserted into the act anyway (in committee, at the 11th hour, without any debate or anyone knowing about it). Who overruled Gonzales?

He's attorney general. I can only think of one person who'd have the authority.
Grassley makes the "mishandling" argument. It's perfectly fine for the president to fire USAs in favor of political hacks, Grassley says, but Gonzales shouldn't have lied to Congress. I don't agree with the first part, but it still makes a valid point: Even if you have a different view of the firings themselves, it doesn't excuse/explain Gonzales's numerous false statements.
1:00pm ... And we're back. I ate fake buffalo wings and spinach for lunch. With a little ranch dressing. You?

1:03pm ... Now they're saying the hearing is delayed for a few minutes. Nina Totenberg is talking about what a "rocky" time Gonzales is having. It's true: Republican Sens. Arlen Specter, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn were all pretty rough with him. Only Orrin Hatch and Sam Brownback (eyeing Republican primary voters) gave him softballs.
We're at recess, and now a bunch of people at the hearing seem to be shouting at Gonzales. Reportedly Code Pink protesters telling him to resign.

On Fitzgerald

Sen. Durbin: Were you involved in discussions about firing Patrick Fitzgerald?

Gonzales: "I don't recall if I was present. I suspect I probably was, but I don't recall."

11:33am ... Durbin: Why did your chief of staff Kyle Sampson recommend that Patrick Fitzgerald be removed?

Gonzales: I wouldn't characterize Sampson's recommendation as a recommendation.
Sen. Schumer: "Carol Lam was not aware of the DOJ's views on her immigration enforcement. Kyle Sampson has said she was not aware. And now you're saying that she was aware."

Sen. Feinstein: "Lam was never spoken to by anyone in DOJ about her performance."

Gonzales: "I think we should have done a better job of communicating with Ms. Lam."

Leahy puts to bed the "but Clinton fired 93 USAs" defense. George W. Bush himself replaced "either 92 or 93" of Clinton's appointees upon being elected in 2000. Leahy also runs down administrations since he became a senator -- Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush -- all of whom replaced USAs upon coming into office. Not the same thing.
Gonzales seems seriously rattled by Sen. Diane Feinstein's about Michael Battle.

10:15am ... Feinstein runs down Carol Lam's record, which is impressive. Gonzales is not answering well at all. Carol Lam is "going to have a lot of fans. ... Because there were good things that [she] did." But she just didn't prosecute enough gun cases.

I like the mustache but I'm not sure about the goatee

Sen. Orrin Hatch is kind of chief White House hack on this committee. No one reports on the good things DOJ does!
Gonzales: DOJ does not have a good enough process for the Attorney General to communicate with USAs.

...But they do have telephones! As Josh Marshall pointed out, all the discussions and machinations about San Diego USA Carol Lam's "performance" took place without anyone ever discussing anything with her. It's a joke to blame this on DOJ processes. They didn't talk to her because immigration and gun cases were cover stories, not justifications.
Sen. Kennedy pointing out that there already is an existing evaluation process for U.S. attorneys. (Point being that it wasn't used in this case.) Gonzales: "It is a peer review. It is a review conducted by assistant U.S. attorneys." He seems to think this is an argument against.
Specter goes pretty hard at Gonzales for having said that he was not involved in discussions about getting rid of inconvenient USAs. Gonzales: "I already said that I misspoke. It was a mistake." But that doesn't make any sense. Did he misspeak because he forgot? Because he misunderstood the question? Or did he, you know, lie?

9:20am ... Gonzales: "I had knowledge that there was a process going on."

Specter: "Did you tell [William] Mercer to take a look at [Carol] Lam's record with a view to getting her removed as U.S. Attorney? Or is he wrong?"

Gonzales: "I did not view that as part of Mr. Sampson's project."
Gonzales has really been working on his "I'm listening to you" face. Lips pursed, brow furrowed, head at an angle. A series of gentle nods as Sen. Arlen Specter speaks.

8:49am ... Specter raises the possibility of reinstatement for U.S. attorneys who were removed improperly, though he allows that it's hard to "unscramble the eggs." I am not sure I've heard anyone recommend this before.

Liveblogging Gonzales

8:35am ... And we're off. Crowded hearing room, Gonzales sitting alone at a table with a red tablecloth. Leahy: "The Department of Justice should never be reduced to a political arm of the White House -- this White House or any White House."

8:41am ... Leahy: "Katrina-style cronyism" at DOJ.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ed Kilgore takes the long view on today's anti-abortion SCOTUS ruling.
Re: Gonzales: Yeah these will get things started all right...
Great Mary Mitchell column about Dorothy Tillman's loss to Pat Dowell and the changing Third Ward.
More signs that something is weird with Gallup's numbers. Its April 10 poll (discussed here and here) showed Hillary Clinton with a persistent, commanding 19 point lead over Obama for the Democratic nomination. Today's numbers have Obama cutting Clinton's lead to only 5 points. In 10 days.

AMillionMonkeys takes a rare pass on kicking a neocon

This next sentence contains two things I don't often say: Christopher Hitchens makes a strong argument that Paul Wolfowitz didn't do anything wrong. His girlfriend Shaha Riza was already working at the World Bank when he was appointed to head it. He disclosed the relationship to the bank's ethics committee, and as a result Riza was transferred to the State Department. I guess she was promoted, too, so there's your hook if you want to be outraged.

To me it does not exactly rise to Stroger- or Beavers-level nepotism and does not seem like a very big deal. Though no doubt people at the World Bank have all sorts of reasons of their own to want Wolfowitz out.
Steve Rhodes has an interesting point:
It appears to me the council now has the votes to override a mayoral veto should the big-box ordinance be reintroduced and passed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Joe Moore leads by 60 votes with 38 of 42 precincts reporting.

UPDATE ... Moore ends the night up by 138 votes with one uncounted precinct due to "computer problems."

What we're getting

These Dick Simpson data from December are useful again tonight:
  • Vi "No Relation" Daley, who is safe, voted with Mayor Daley 90% of the time, the fourth most frequently of any alderman.
  • Madeline Haithcock, who got a thumping, 86% of the time.
  • Dorothy Tillman, for whom it does not look good, only 63%.
  • Bernie Stone, who is safe, at 84% voted with the mayor more than even ousted Ald. Burt Natarus.

"Congress[wo]man, you're never going to be the North Side boss"

Ald. Bernie Stone, real class act, squeaking through and immediately lashing out at Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
Matlak out.

What's wrong with the GRT

The Reader's Harold Henderson offers U. of I. prof J. Fred Giertz's critique of the governor's proposed gross receipts tax:
[U]nder Blagojevich's gross receipts tax proposal small businesses who pay outside lawyers, accountants, and janitors would be subject to the tax on those services--but big businesses with their own in-house lawyers, accountants, and janitors would not. The exemption for firms with $2 million or less in yearly sales does little good; it's a loophole that would, for instance, allow "a four-partner law firm with annual receipts of $7.9 million" to escape the tax by becoming four independent practitioners sharing an office.
A gross receipts tax would also encourage Illinois businesses to economize by buying from out-of-state vendors. (Buy plants from an Illinois vendor who bought them from an Illinois grower and they're taxed twice.) This is bad news even if you don't care about buying locally: the best taxes don't distort economic activity beyond the minimum necessary.
Washington Post has photographs of and short essays about Rio's favelas.
Good luck Naisy Dolar!

UPDATE ... Stone stays alive.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Robots make better pollsters

Slate's Mickey Kaus offers a theory about that outlying Gallup poll that showed no progress for Obama:
The Gallup Poll appears to be a conventional telephone survey conducted by human interviewers. Why might Hillary do worse in a robo-poll, like Rasmussen's, where the pollee doesn't have to talk to an actual person but simply presses buttons? There's an obvious possible answer: Men don't like Hillary but they're reluctant to say so in public. They'll tell a robot. But they chicken out when they'd have to tell a human interviewer--especially, maybe, a female interviewer. They're scared of looking like sexist pigs.
Clinton is less popular with men, but the robo-pollster explanation wouldn't have to be gender-based. Clinton's aura-of-inevitability thing could work on anyone: maybe people talking to human pollsters fear that expressing support for Obama will make them sound naive, unrealistic, even disloyal! Either way, the robo-poll probably is a closer approximation of actual voting behavior...

My own theory (link above) was/is that Gallup's problem is its tedious list of 11 candidates, which artificially inflates the value of name recognition. It appears that the Rasmussen poll is only asking voters their opinions of Clinton/Obama/Edwards. Obama's stronger showing under these circumstances would seem to be a point in my favor.

Liveblogging Gonzales hearings

FYI for anyone who shares or partially shares my obsession with the U.S. attorney firings: I'm going to spend the day tomorrow Thursday watching the Gonzales hearing on CSPAN and liveblogging about it. Even if I can't compete with TPM for breadth or depth, I'll offer observations, analysis and snark as best I can. Hope you'll check in periodically throughout the day tomorrow Thursday...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Brother Ali gets deep

Nas's Hip-Hop is Dead was not much of an album ("Black Republican" is good) but to music writers it was a boon. Here rapper Brother Ali answers the question in a new way:
When Nietzsche said, "God is dead," he was saying that religion as a means of upholding morals and decency was extinct. Religious people freaked out, but they couldn't deny the reality that the church had lost its grip on the people. Nas isn't saying hip-hop doesn't exist anymore. He's saying that it's lost its power to educate and empower people. I think he made that statement to the people in the industry to let them know that, as a whole, they've lost their way.
From the Tribune piece by Andy Downing, who had the idea to call a bunch of rappers for their opinions. Brother Ali has the best response but there are some other good ones.

The Jam, "That's Entertainment"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

You can't erase emails, not today

CNET's Harry Fuller says what Sen. Leahy said -- the White House/RNC can't erase its emails, they've been through too many servers. In fact, Karl Rove's messages probably aren't even really deleted:
In nearly all Microsoft-based e-mail systems [a deleted message] persists in multiple locations. It has not been truly trashed but simply delisted. Most U.S. federal agencies use Microsoft software.

So unless the actual physical servers on both ends are physically destroyed or digitally scrubbed by overwriting hundreds of 1s and 0s, that email is still out there. It's just going to be harder to find. But, Vamosi, tells me, there are digital forensic programs that can go in and reconstitute every "deleted" file and e-mail still on a server.
Digital forensic software, yes, let's get some of that.

Believe me: I am awfully eager to see Karl Rove's emails. But on another level, who cares about the emails. Just subpoena him. Make him testify under oath, with a transcript, about his role in firing U.S. attorneys. Do that and do the thing with the digital forensics, both.

If it was done intentionally, deleting Karl Rove's emails is illegal under the Presidential Records Act, not to mention cynical, crass, unethical, etc. etc. Due to lingering effects of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, Christy Hardin Smith points out that it could even be obstruction of justice.

But not having Rove's emails doesn't make this scandal go away. The scandal keeps right on going.

Friday, April 13, 2007

...and arrest Karl Rove

Mark Kleiman on why Congress should subpoena Karl Rove immediately, and how Rove could plausibly become a "fugitive from justice" ...

Free Monica Goodling

This could be a big deal. As a DOJ employee, Monica Goodling worked directly with Karl Rove to install one of Rove's cronies as a USA in Arkansas. She pled the fifth to try to get out of testifying before Congress -- can you even do that? -- and now comes news that someone's floating the idea of offering her immunity. I hope they do. Truthful testimony from Monica Goodling is what Karl Rove does not want.

State of play: My guess right now is that Gonzales's testimony next Tuesday will be a disaster; the White House will spend Wednesday through Friday distancing themselves from him; Gonzales will resign on Friday. But of course my track record on these things is not great...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"I hit a track I'm like a energy pack"

Speaking of serious, and I am talking about serious:
(via SF-J, Nah Right)

Leahy: "I don't believe that"

Dude seems pretty serious:
And he has a point. How deleted are those emails really?

In which I ask Blagojevich why not HB750

I got a chance yesterday to ask Gov. Rod Blagojevich why he isn't supporting H.B. 750 to reform school funding. He spoke to undergrads at Northwestern; I asked my question in the Q&A session after his speech.

No big surprises in his answer. H.B. 750 would "raise your taxes," and he gave his standard talking point about big corporations need to "finally start paying their fair share." In his view it is "wrong" to raise taxes on individuals, and as long as he is governor he will never, ever let this happen.

I followed up by asking if individuals wouldn't also ultimately bear the brunt of a gross receipts tax on businesses, Blagojevich's proposed school funding reform. Gov. Blagojevich gave a rather queer answer to this: He said he is a believer in the theories of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman, and that he believes the market determines pricing. But isn't a burdensome business tax the exact opposite of what Milton Friedman really called for? And wouldn't Friedman have said the market ensures that costs will definitely be passed along to consumers?

Even so, I now think I asked the wrong follow-up. I should have pointed out that H.B. 750 could actually pass, while the governor's GRT proposal seems like it's dead in the water. I wish I had asked: How are you going to build consensus around your plan, which after all needs political support to pass?

On the subject of political alliances, his speech, which was mostly soft and biographical, did offer some insight into his mindset.

"I'm happy to say I have fewer friends today than I had four years ago," Blagojevich said. And why? He is "shak[ing] things up" and "ruffl[ing] feathers.

"But that's what leadership is," he said.

Is it? No leader can be all things to all people. But Blagojevich is isolated from his own party, and has a serious lack of allies in Springfield. Does that increase or decrease his chances for passing the GRT?

Those looking for signs that the GRT is pure kabuki, intended to fail in a way that's politically beneficial to the governor, take note! Blagojevich closed his speech by dusting off the old Teddy Roosevelt "man in the arena" speech, closing by saying:
[I]f he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
Or something like that...
R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut.

From Breakfast of Champions:
[T]he picture your city owns shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every animal. It is the immaterial core of every animal--the “I am” to which all messages are sent. It is all that is alive in any of us--in a mouse, in a deer, in a cocktail waitress. It is unwavering and pure, no matter what preposterous adventure may befall us. A sacred picture of Saint Anthony alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light. If a cockroach were near him, or a cocktail waitress, the picture would show two such bands of light. Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Poplicks is taking applications for "worst rhyming couplet in musical history."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sen. Clinton the "dominant frontrunner"

Gallup throws cold water on Obamamania. I'll have a chance to look more closely later today, but right now I really don't understand the numbers. E.g.: How is it that by Gallup finds static support for Obama among Democrats, but aggregated polling data shows a steep increase? Something wrong with Gallup's methodology? Or everyone else's?

(via Ben Smith of Politico)

UPDATE [4/10 1:16pm] ... Aha! Name recognition! The Gallup poll question was phrased this way:
Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for President in the year 2008. ...
(Emphasis added.) What follows is a list of 11 people's names and positions, rotated by pollsters. After a list that tedious, it is easy to understand why most of those polled would simply revert to the name they know best: Clinton.

I don't know, anyone else have a theory? Or does the Gallup data ring true to you? How for-real is Clinton's lead?

Does Blagojevich want the gross receipts tax passed?

Schools in Illinois get most of their money from local property taxes, which is a great way to fund schools if you want to make sure that rich areas get great schools and poor areas get terrible ones.

The system is broken, and on the table now are two proposals for reforming it. The first is House Bill 750, which would shift some of the school funding burden from property taxes to income taxes. This bill has passed in the Illinois House, and its support in the statehouse seems to be pretty broad.

The other proposal is the governor's incredibly sweeping gross receipts tax, which would fall on business income, and hit small business most heavily. This proposal has diminishing support in the Senate, is not supported by the lieutenant governor and is opposed by farmers.

So, seriously, what is Blagojevich thinking? When a commenter on Yellow Dog Democrat's Illinoize post raised the possibility that Blagojevich and Madigan could be working fiendishly together, YDD outlined a set of potential motivations for Blagojevich's weirdly aggressive, unpassable tax proposal:
--He really wants his health care plan (and needs a bigger tax increase to pay for it). ...

-- His political advisers have misread the tea leaves and the polling on an income tax/service tax plan that increases funding for schools and provides property tax relief. And they foolishly believed that voters would buy into their "big corporation" rhetoric and were too stupid to see the GRT would be passed on to them.

-- He's too arrogant to support a plan that wasn't his idea to begin with, and requires complex negotiations and compromises.

-- What the Governor actually hopes to accomplish at the end of the day is nothing, but he wants to be able to say he tried to do something, and blame others for the fact that nothing happened, gaining a political advantage.
(Emphasis added.) These four possibilities aren't mutually exclusive, but that last one feels the most right, doesn't it? My sense is that Blagojevich must know he doesn't have anything like the clout he needs to pass his GRT bill. And in fact it would be politically risky to pass, since the governor would be left on the hook for the seemingly inevitable economic ill-effects.

So not getting anything done while blaming others for it is probably just about the best political outcome for the governor right now. Too bad it's one of the worst outcomes for the children attending schools in Illinois.

UPDATE [4/10 12:38pm] ... Yellow Dog Democrat's follow-up Illinoize post.

Monday, April 09, 2007


I don't know, maybe this will be fun. I use a site called Bloglines to compile my RSS subscriptions to various blogs. I recently learned that Bloglines creates a public page for every user, so here is a link to it for anyone interested to poke around looking at what I read in the blog world. It's like an extended blogroll.

The folder marked "Real real real sh*t" contains some of my favoritest and most-checked blogs. The "friends" folder contains the blogs of people I know in real life, which I also of course check feverishly. Also have blog-friends and favorites in other folders (esp. "Chicago") that I go to a lot.

I am feeling

I am not feeling the entirety of the new Timbaland record -- She Wants Revenge, Timbaland? -- but I am feeling the single:
Beat is kind of like "Pass that Dutch."

Also feeling the Jeezy/R. Kelly single "Go Getta." R. Kelly steals it outright, but then again what does Jeezy care?

Classic Rock Corner: "The Weight," from The Last Waltz, shown to me by Candy Cane Sammy. Great for the song and for the camera movement by Martin Scorsese.

And I am definitely feeling Modest Mouse, and in certain respects this video is the greatest thing ever:
Drug map of the western hemisphere from NPR, accompanying this story. (Thanks Logan for the link.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Taking a short blog recess for the next few days. If you're traveling this weekend, safe travels. AMillionMonkeys will return on Monday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

In time for Easter, there's beer and shrooms at Stop Smiling! Patrick Sisson supplies the review of a book about beer; I wrote the review of a book about shrooms.
At Strange Maps, a hand-drawn map of Jack Kerouac's On the Road journey, straight from Kerouac's diary.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Obama's money

Well this will certainly change the dynamic of the race. Just $1 million shy of Hillary's record-breaking totals. And twice as many individual donors...

UPDATE [4/4 1:23pm] ... But bear in mind that Obama is a "CIA PLANT" who wants America to become "a nation of Islam ruled by the Iluminatis' EU, UN, NAU, CFR and PNAC holdings." Personally I am not even sure what all of those acronyms stand for, but those concerned about rule by Illuminatis should take note...

UPDATE #2 [4/4 5:02pm] ... Hotline states the almost-obvious: that Obama raised more primary cash than HRC. Plus also, Matthew Yglesias notes that:
Edwards and Obama aren't really in zero-sum competition with one another [at this point in the race] but rather are both productively undermining the Clinton campaign from different directions.


Lately I have been digging WeeGee, a.k.a. Arthur Fellig, the NYC tabloid photographer from the 40s. He took photos of crime scenes, cityscapes and grit, and pioneered a style of highly immediate, slightly scummy photojournalism that is more or less openly exploitative but absolutely compelling. The photo above (link) is titled "Teen-age boy arrested for strangling a little girl, 1944." WeeGee photographed murder scenes, fires and the Lower East side. More clickable galleries here and here, and a kind of meandering ArtForum article here.
The print hed for this Sun-Times story is much better than it is online. Rather than "Evangelicals hope to 'reach' Buddhists," the print edition has "Hello Dalai."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Obama = Holy Savior

Paper mache sculpture of Obama as Jesus "causing a stir"!

UPDATE ... Austin Mayor likes this statue too, and as it happens has some Obama/Jesus art of his own.

UPDATE #2 ... Yes, obviously the sculpture is satirical. The artist, David Cordero, told AP:
"In a lot of ways it's about caution in assigning all these inflated expectations on one individual, and expecting them to change something that many hands have shaped."
Steve Rhodes will approve...

UPDATE #3 ... Anyone know where this gallery is? I think I'd like to see the giant Obama-as-Jesus sculpture.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kos disses Obama

Kos hits Obama for telling USA Today that "nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground." Possibly Kos has a point on the politics, but he is definitely wrong on the policy.

Here is Sen. Obama:
Given that Bush is determined to veto a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Congress has little realistic choice but to approve money for the war, Obama said.

"I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground," said Obama. "I do think a majority of the Senate has now expressed the belief that we need to change course in Iraq.

"Obviously we're constrained by the fact that a commander in chief who also has veto power has the option of ignoring that position," Obama said.
Kos calls this "surrender[ing]" to Bush. Is it?

The reality is that Democrats don't have the strength in the Senate to force the president to withdraw troops from Iraq. Period. They don't have the votes to override Bush's veto of the war funding bill.

Because Kos thinks the political theater favors Democrats, he favors any and all kabuki confrontation. And there is political value in passing a popular bill and forcing the president to veto it, which Democrats have been doing. But at some point the important thing will become choosing the next president, who will be tasked with truly, finally bringing the war to an end. Obama isn't out of line to say that.

And in the same interview, Obama also said he wants to "ratchet up pressure" both on Bush and the senators who vote with him:
[T]he American people have to continue to put pressure on their representatives so that at some point we may be able to get a veto-proof majority for moving this war in a different direction.
Not very surrender-y! Like it or not, voting pro-war politicians out of office is finally the best weapon war opponents have.
Re: SCOTUS: You win some, you lose some...

Snoop Dogg speaks to Bill O'Reilly

On Dutch TV:

(via Matthew Yglesias)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sanneh on Timbaland:
He long ago established himself as the most exciting producer in pop music, a composer who has changed the way rappers and singers — and their fans — think about rhythm. It’s no exaggeration to compare him to James Brown, another rhythm fanatic who found new possibilities in old grooves. The only difference: James Brown was a bona fide star.
Tim's previous solo albums have been so-so but I am pretty excited to hear the new one...

More Mims

Saw this graphical representation of that Mims song on a friend's MySpace page:

Very helpful! For more diagrammatic wisdom on "This is Why I'm Hot," this Village Voice article is the place to go...
CLARIFICATION ... Yes, I underestimated the time it would take for Alberto Gonzales to resign as attorney general, meaning Laura won her choice of dinner out. But she's asked me to make clear that she took the 'over' bet not because she's supporting Gonzales, but just because she thinks he'll cling onto his job for a few months yet.