The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondants Dinner

Daily Kos has the complete transcript. Unbelievable.

So, Mr. President, please, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- it's important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash. Okay, look, folks, my point is that I don't believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull before a comeback.

He's funny. And he's biting. And if it were Nixon's White House...

Real ID act opposed in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire legislature is about to reject the Federal Real ID Act, which was passed to "close the kinds of loopholes that allowed the 9/11 hijackers to get valid ID cards," according to its principal sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). New Hampshire would become the first of possibly many states to refuse to implement the law, and given New Hampshire's history and character, that's not surprising:

"The war on our civil liberties is actually begun," New Hampshire state Rep. Neal M. Kurk (R) told his colleagues recently, borrowing from Henry's famous "Liberty or Death" speech to condemn the license plan and the U.S. government in place of the British crown. He continued: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?"
...Emboldened by that success, groups opposed to Real ID staged a rally in late April in front of the statehouse where, according to a report in the Concord Monitor, some wore "666" on their foreheads—indicating their belief that a national system of rules for driver's licenses is a step toward the "mark of the beast" prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

I'm not sure about the last part, but I am sure that Real ID doesn't actually solve the security problems it's meant to solve. Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in:

The REAL ID Act requires driver's licenses to include a "common machine-readable technology." This will, of course, make identity theft easier. Assume that this information will be collected by bars and other businesses, and that it will be resold to companies like ChoicePoint and Acxiom. It actually doesn't matter how well the states and federal government protect the data on driver's licenses, as there will be parallel commercial databases with the same information.
Even worse, the same specification for RFID chips embedded in passports includes details about embedding RFID chips in driver's licenses. I expect the federal government will require states to do this, with all of the associated security problems (e.g., surreptitious access).
REAL ID requires that driver's licenses contain actual addresses, and no post office boxes. There are no exceptions made for judges or police -- even undercover police officers. This seems like a major unnecessary security risk.
REAL ID also prohibits states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens. This makes no sense, and will only result in these illegal aliens driving without licenses -- which isn't going to help anyone's security. (This is an interesting insecurity, and is a direct result of trying to take a document that is a specific permission to drive an automobile, and turning it into a general identification device.)
REAL ID is expensive. It's an unfunded mandate: the federal government is forcing the states to spend their own money to comply with the act. I've seen estimates that the cost to the states of complying with REAL ID will be $120 million. That's $120 million that can't be spent on actual security.
And the wackiest thing is that none of this is required.

So while I think the protests in New Hampshire might have been a little over the top, I agree that REAL ID is a bad idea. That said, I believe New Hampshire's action might cause yet another Federalism problem on top of all the other splits between the states we've seen during this Administration (995 days, 3 hours left).

Stay tuned.

Update: The Electronic Privacy Information Center has a brief brief article and long list of links about REAL ID.

Little Utah towns are so cute

Visiting New York this weekend allowed me to read the Sunday New York Times in its native form, ink on paper, something I rarely do. So I was able to see, on page 21, a story I might not have found on-line: "Welcome to our town, or maybe not." Apparently, residents of Kanab, Utah, are up-in-arms about little "Everyone's Welcome" stickers that shops display:

...which sounds pretty tame until you get to the little rainbow-colored people beneath the text.
Are those little people gay?
Terril Honey, for one, is convinced that they are. "The rainbow colors are their symbol," said Mr. Honey, a member of the City Council and owner of Honey's Jubilee, a grocery store.

At first I thought it was a satire: I mean, some dude named Honey is afraid people will think he likes dudes because he put a welcome sticker in his store window. Oh, Honey, stay out of Wrigleyville and you'll be just fine.

Near the end of the article one resident neatly sums up the entire "gay" debate in this country, demonstrating the collision between our "core" values and our core values:

Kortney Stirland, a pharmacist who describes himself as a conservative Republican and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, displays the sticker and opposes the natural family resolution, which he has twice asked the council to rescind. He says he has also been offended by people in the community who have told him that a person cannot oppose the resolution, as he does, and still believe in traditional values.
"Originally it was a religious issue, then it became a gay and lesbian issue, but for me now, it's economic," Mr. Stirland said.

My prediction: In ten years, Kanab will be fabulous!

House passes ethics bill

The House narrowly passed a GOP-drafted ethics bill, 213 to 207:

The bill would require lobbyists to file quarterly instead of semiannual disclosures, and to include in those reports the donations they give to federal candidates and political action committees. Lobbyists would also have to make public the value of any gift that they give to lawmakers or congressional aides. In addition, appropriations bills would have to list any earmarks that they contain, as well as the sponsors of those projects. Ethics training would become mandatory for House employees under the legislation.
...[Christopher Shays (R-CT)] called the bill "pathetic." On the House floor, he added: "We're losing our moral authority to lead this place."

If by "we" he meant the Republican Party, then he's late to the game, as I'm pretty sure the Republicans lost whatever moral authority they had long before Mitch Wade opened a brothel for GOP Congressmen.

The Crony Fairy

Paul Krugman (sub.req.) offers a hypothesis about the Administration's hiring policies:

The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees. There's no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies' names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.
That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The report points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "had been operating at a more than 15 percent staff-vacancy rate for over a year before Katrina struck"—that means many of the people who knew what they were doing had left. And it adds that "FEMA's senior political appointees...had little or no prior relevant emergency-management experience."

Does anyone think Gore would have let this happen? Anyone at all?

States file climate-change suit against EPA

Well, this is interesting. Ten states and two cities today filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency seeking enforcement of the Clean Air Act to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions:

The states, led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer [quel surprise—ed.], want the government to require tighter pollution controls on the newest generation of power plants.
In July 2005, a three-judge panel in the same court upheld the EPA's decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act. The agency argues the law does not authorize them to regulate emissions to reduce global warming, and maintains there is not enough scientific data to support such a move.

Not enough data? Tell that to Kiribati and Nunavut.

(Found first on Dr. Heidi Cullen's blog at weather.com

Bush 36% approval: NBC/WSJ

With only 999 days (or fewer) left in his term, President Bush has scored his 9th consecutive month of under-40 approval ratings, and his lowest-ever rating in the NBC/WSJ poll, "a feat exceeded only by Richard Nixon (13 months) and Harry Truman (26 months)."

[But] with the midterm elections just six months away, the biggest drop in the survey—11 points in one month—is in the approval rating of Congress, which is locked in a bitter debate over what do about these gas prices, immigration, Iraq and a host of other issues.
In the poll—which was taken April 21-24 of 1,005 adults, and which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points—just 24 percent believe the nation is headed in the right direction, a drop of two points since last month and seven points since January. What's more, only 17 percent think the nation’s economy will improve in the next 12 months, a decline of seven points since March.

MSNBC also has detailed poll results available.

Election day is just 194 days away.

Ivins on our Israel policy

Molly Ivins' column published in today's Chicago Tribune raises some good questions about why we can't ask good questions about our policies toward Israel:

For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious—that there is an Israel lobby in the United States—[researchers] have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work." Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring, article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots."
Of course there is an Israel lobby in America; its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.

As she points out, Israelis are pretty harsh critics of their own government (and ours); why can't Americans criticize the Israeli government, too?

Great moments in energy policy

Let's sum up: The administration's energy and foreign policies have helped create a dire shortage of oil and prevented creation of alternatives. Yet, Bush is "probing" rising gas prices. There are only two possible conclusions: either he does not understand the connection, or he is lying about not understanding the connection.

"Energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer, and that's going to be a continued strain on the American people," Bush said....
Under pressure from GOP leaders, Bush is taking a tough public line with the U.S. oil companies that are recording record profits and paying hefty salaries and retirement packages to executives.

Remember Upton Sinclair's wisdom: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

This story directly connects to two important milestones for today. First, as of 1pm Eastern time today (17:00 UTC), there are no more than 1,000 days left in the Bush administration. Let's start the countdown; it's our own "thousand points of light."

Second, as many people know, today is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The Russian and Ukrainian governments are still cleaning up from it, yet nucular—sorry, nuclear—energy is starting to look more environmentally friendly than its principal competitors, oil and coal. This suggests that our problem isn't from where we get our energy, but how much we use. What a concept.

Soldier Field loses landmark status

As many predicted, and as the perpetrators denied, Soldier Field has lost its landmark status following its destr--er, renovation in 2003, former Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced as one of her last official acts on Friday. Says Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin:

If you obliterate a building's form, the government's decision suggests, you obliterate its meaning. Norton wisely ignored the arguments of those who claimed that Soldier Field retained its historic significance, irrespective of how it looked. Perhaps they would like to drop a steel-and-glass box inside the White House.

I'm reminded of Archimedes, I think it was, being skewered by an invading Roman for no apparent reason.