The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Say what?

"There are SBA loans for this. And I understand for some the word SBA means Slow Bureaucratic Paperwork. I hear it loud and clear."
—George W. Bush

Reported in today's Doonesbury Daily Dose.

Secrecy protects incompetence, not us

Former Vice President Gore's address to the Liberty Coalition yesterday is worth reading. He draws a direct line between the authoritarian mindset and incompetence. This is not a casual relationship; the executive's power grab encourages incompetence and lessens our security. Says Gore:

In the words of George Orwell, "We are all capable," he said, "of believing things which we know to be untrue and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right." Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time. The only check on it is that, sooner or later, a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
Two thousand two hundred American soldiers have lost their lives as this false belief bumped into a solid reality. And indeed, whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable, it almost inevitably leads to gross mistakes and abuses. That is part of human nature. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes, dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded. It is human nature, whether for Republicans or Democrats or people of any set of views.
Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that, if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.
Tragically, he apparently still does not know that the administration did, in fact, have the names of at least two of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have led to the identification of most of the others. One of them was in the phone book. And yet, because of incompetence, unaccountable incompetence in the handling of the information, it was never used to protect the American people.
It is often the case, again, regardless of which party might be in power, that an executive branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often the request itself is used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.
Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. That is why many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this president means that the next will have unchecked power as well. And the next may be someone whose values and beliefs you do not trust. And that is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this president has done.

Read the rest. It's worth it.

Supreme Court upholds Oregon assisted-suicide law

I got all excited that the Roberts Court had upheld Gonzalez v. Oregon, until I realized the Chief Justice was in the minority with Justices Scalia and, you will be surprised to know, Thomas. Rehnquist would have voted with the majority, I think, so this signals Roberts may not be the Warren some of us were naively hoping for.

I'll have more salient analysis shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court publishes the opinion online. For now, I'll just have to go on the Associated Press report, which appearsto miss the real holding in the case. I say that because the quotes from Kennedy sound awfully more like dicta than holding, but I could be wrong.

The A.P. reports on the dissenting opinions:

Scalia said the court's ruling "is perhaps driven by a feeling that the subject of assisted suicide is none of the federal government's business. It is easy to sympathize with that position."

To which I say, yes, assisted suicide is none of the federal government's business. Later today I'll figure out if that's what the majority thought, too. I am surprised that Scalia thinks it is the federal government's business, when he's usually more of a states-rights guy.

Then there was this unintentionally amusing line:

Thomas wrote his own dissent as well, to complain that the court's reasoning was puzzling.

I just don't know which half of the sentence is funnier.

Update, 5:35pm CT/23:35 UTC: The opinion is available (406 kB, PDF), and I shall now read it.

California poli-sci professor wants more labor coverage

Peter Dreier, professor of politics and director of the urban and environmental policy program at Occidental College in Los Angeles, writes in today's L.A. Times that the paper should revive its history of reporting on labor issues:

Up until the 1980s, most major newspapers, including The Times, had a regular labor reporter. Today, few papers, The Times among them, have even one reporter exclusively assigned to cover labor.
That may be a consequence—even a cause—of declining union membership. But The Times serves a metropolitan area that has become the U.S. capital of the working poor, where more than 800,000 workers (almost twice the national rate) are union members and where (unlike most parts of the country) labor union membership is actually growing.

I couldn't agree more.

P.A. stands for "<b>Public</b> Address"

It seems a train conductor in Chicago had some musings about the new Chicago smoking ban, which he shared with riders on an inbound commuter train yesterday.

Seems these musings contained a bad word:

Veering from his script notifying riders about the ban, the conductor used a vulgar sexual epithet over the Metra train's public address system to describe the city officials who enacted the ordinance.

Seems he's looking for a new job now.

For my part, I can't figure out what epithet he used, but I'm guessing it was close to "putz."

Don't do that and tell me it's raining

The Administration would have you believe that the $400 billion deficit the U.S. will have this year is because of Hurricane Katrina clean-up.

Reports the Chicago Tribune (reg.req.):

Even with December's surplus, experts are predicting that the budget deficit for this year could well surge above $400 billion, reflecting increased government spending to help with reconstruction efforts in hurricane-ravaged states along the Gulf Coast.

Katrina clean-up accounts for, oh, $1 billion—0.25%—of the deficit. The other $399 billion comes from a deliberate sequence of ideologically-driven tax cuts that have (a) left the Federal government vastly under-funded, which (b) is what the Administration wanted in the first place.

The Tribune goes on directly:

President Bush has vowed to cut the deficit in half by 2009 and still preserve the tax cuts he pushed through Congress in his first term.

I don't need Anne's math degree to find fault with that goal.

Let's review the Administration's record:

  1. The GOP cuts taxes severely.
  2. The GOP cuts spending on Federal programs (FEMA? CDC?) and staffs them with incompetent flunkies.
  3. The programs fail miserably.
  4. The GOP claims that, because the programs are failing miserably, the programs and the taxes that fund them should be cut further.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

This is the program outlined by Grover Norquist and his homeys almost 25 years ago.

Happy New Election Year, folks.

Welcome to Broadband; and Borowitz is funny today

First, I'd like to welcome my mom to broadband. She's been on dial-up since she got her first home computer (in, I think 2001), but she finally got a cable modem. I clocked the thing at 9.1 Mbps downstream, which is about 160 times faster than her 56.6k analog modem.

I mention this because yesterday she asked me to pick up a copy of Turbo Tax at the store. I pointed out that, with a super-fast Internet connection, she could simply download the product and save a tree.

In an unrelated train of thought, Borowitz was funnier than usual today:

[O]ne day after published reports alleged that author James Frey had fabricated sections of his bestselling memoir, A Million Little Pieces, Mr. Frey was named chief spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department.

Finally, the new Webcam arrived from Logitech. I'll be testing it in the lab for a few days before replacing the main one—assuming the replacement works as hoped.

Revenge of the old fogeys who lie about flaming rodents

Yesterday's post about the flaming mouse is apparently so much hooey, says the Associated Press in a follow-up report today:

A small-town rumor that sparked world-wide interest about a mouse burning down a house has been found to be untrue.
"It's really humorous more than anything that a mouse burned down the house," [81-year-old Chano Mares] told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque. The mouse was dead when it hit the burning leaves.
Mares said he trapped and killed the critter and tossed it on the fire.

So This American Life remains the only verified rodent-running-around-on-fire story I have, though there are still two verified rodents flambés on record.

Poor things.

Revenge of the flaming rodents

Update: The following entry may be false. Or maybe the guy just changed his story after the A.P. got ahold of it.

The Associated Press reports today that a New Mexico man destroyed his house when he threw a mouse into a pile of burning leaves, only to have the mouse run into the house and set it on fire.

This reminded me of a segment on This American Life involving a rookie cop and a squirrel, except that the cop didn't intentionally set fire to the squirrel.

Sic transit gloria musi.