Monday, May 01, 2006

The Story Everyone (Except The Press) Is Talking About

Why isn't the so-called "liberal media" picking up on Stephen Colbert's appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner?

Sure, the president's appearance with his doppelganger was funny - although a bit disturbing; it was a bit like having a look inside Dubya's head and hearing exactly what he thinks (I know that was the idea, but I can't shake the belief that what was being passed off as humor and self-deprecation was actually a blinding glimpse into reality) - but Colbert was on fire! And was completely ignored in the media. Perhaps it was because of this comment:
As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.
Or maybe it was this:
But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!
Of course, this wasn't about the media, even if it is called the White House Correspondents' Dinner. No, it was about the president, and one of the few chances some people will get to take cheap shots at him without him being able to throw them in a secret CIA gulag in Europe. As I said, Dubya's bit was pretty funny (if mildly disturbing). But he was clearly outshone by Colbert, who, in his guise as the Stephen Colbert who hosts The Colbert Report - a staunch conservative Republican with only the slightest grasp on reality, pulled no punches against anyone in attendance, in the name of snark and satire:

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's yogurt. But I refuse to believe it's not butter. Most of all, I believe in this president.

Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

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.

I mean, it's like the movie "Rocky." All right. The president in this case is Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed is -- everything else in the world. It's the tenth round. He's bloodied. His corner man, Mick, who in this case I guess would be the vice president, he's yelling, "Cut me, Dick, cut me!," and every time he falls everyone says, "Stay down! Stay down!" Does he stay down? No. Like Rocky, he gets back up, and in the end he -- actually, he loses in the first movie.

OK. Doesn't matter. The point is it is the heart-warming story of a man who was repeatedly punched in the face. So don't pay attention to the approval ratings that say 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he's not doing? Think about it. I haven't.

You know... A post like this just about writes itself. With that in mind, let me direct you to a few more quotes before I finish it with a couple of links...
I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.

And I just like the guy. He's a good joe. Obviously loves his wife, calls her his better half. And polls show America agrees. She's a true lady and a wonderful woman. But I just have one beef, ma'am.

I'm sorry, but this reading initiative. I'm sorry, I've never been a fan of books. I don't trust them. They're all fact, no heart. I mean, they're elitist, telling us what is or isn't true, or what did or didn't happen. Who's Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was built in 1914? If I want to say it was built in 1941, that's my right as an American! I'm with the president, let history decide what did or did not happen.

And, finally, some more of his jabs at the press...
But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.
If you found these quotes amusing, you can read the entire transcript of Colbert's speech here. Better yet, if you've got BitTorrent, you can download the whole presentation (including Dubya's bit) here in high res!

Give it a look, won't we?

All the best,

Sunday, April 30, 2006

"750" or "Do As I Say, Not As I Do"

750. Seven-five-zero. Seven hundred and fifty. That is, according to an article in the Boston Globe (free registration required to read the whole thing, but you can get the gist of it in the first three pages), the number of laws that George W. Bush has said he is allowed to ignore during his time as president. This doesn't even include what his campaign monkeys and political party are alleged to have done during the past two presidential elections.

And yet, the Criminal-in-Chief still sits in office, and many of his detractors still scurry away in terror whenever the word "impeachment" is brought up.

How does this repeat offender weasel his way around the law without any punishment? I'm glad you asked.

It is well known that Bush has not once vetoed a bill that has come across his desk. Although he has threatened on numerous occasions to do so, he has always capitulated and signed, often inviting the author(s) of the bill to the signing ceremony. Much has been made by the mainstream media about how Bush is willing to reach out to those he might not see eye-to-eye with.

But what the mainstream media hasn't been so big on covering is what happens after the signing ceremony, and this is where we should be paying the most attention.

Many of the times that Bush has signed these bills into law, he has also filed what is called a "signing statement." A signing statement is basically an acknowledgement that, while this law is good and important to "th' 'Mer'can people," it holds no bearing on what he, the president, will do himself.

Let me say that one more time, just to make sure you're getting the idea.

George W. Bush, the guy who, whether legitimately or not, was sworn in as President of the United States twice, and swore to "uphold the laws of the Constitution to the best of my ability," is saying that these laws, which we regular citizens have to follow, do not apply to him.

This initially came to light, according to the Globe article, when Bush signed the bill that included John McCain's anti-torture ammendment. Immediately after signing the bill, Bush filed a signing statement that said, in effect, that it didn't really apply to him, and he could still torture captives.

The man is a monster.

But it doesn't stop there. He also filed a signing statement when Congress passed a bill requiring him to report regularly in order to make sure that the Patriot Act wasn't being used illegally. Again, the statement said, in effect, "I don't have to tell you nothin'! You're not the boss of me!"

More from the Globe:

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

His excuse, however, is "everyone is doin' it!"

Bush administration spokesmen declined to make White House or Justice Department attorneys available to discuss any of Bush's challenges to the laws he has signed.

Instead, they referred a Globe reporter to their response to questions about Bush's position that he could ignore provisions of the Patriot Act. They said at the time that Bush was following a practice that has ''been used for several administrations" and that ''the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution."

But the words ''in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution" are the catch, legal scholars say, because Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Still working on that "King George" thing...

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.

More secrets. More lies. And yet he still manages to garner 33% support. Are these people brain dead?

And guess what? You're not safe, either:

Congress has also twice passed laws forbidding the military from using intelligence that was not ''lawfully collected," including any information on Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches.

Congress first passed this provision in August 2004, when Bush's warrantless domestic spying program was still a secret, and passed it again after the program's existence was disclosed in December 2005.

On both occasions, Bush declared in signing statements that only he, as commander in chief, could decide whether such intelligence can be used by the military.

Still not nervous? How about this:
Many laws Bush has asserted he can bypass involve requirements to give information about government activity to congressional oversight committees.

In December 2004, Congress passed an intelligence bill requiring the Justice Department to tell them how often, and in what situations, the FBI was using special national security wiretaps on US soil. The law also required the Justice Department to give oversight committees copies of administration memos outlining any new interpretations of domestic-spying laws. And it contained 11 other requirements for reports about such issues as civil liberties, security clearances, border security, and counternarcotics efforts.

You know where this is going, right?
After signing the bill, Bush issued a signing statement saying he could withhold all the information sought by Congress.
And even government employees aren't safe, should they decide to report their bosses for unethical or illegal activities:

On several other occasions, Bush contended he could nullify laws creating ''whistle-blower" job protections for federal employees that would stop any attempt to fire them as punishment for telling a member of Congress about possible government wrongdoing.

When Congress passed a massive energy package in August, for example, it strengthened whistle-blower protections for employees at the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The provision was included because lawmakers feared that Bush appointees were intimidating nuclear specialists so they would not testify about safety issues related to a planned nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada -- a facility the administration supported, but both Republicans and Democrats from Nevada opposed.

When Bush signed the energy bill, he issued a signing statement declaring that the executive branch could ignore the whistle-blower protections.

Bush's statement did more than send a threatening message to federal energy specialists inclined to raise concerns with Congress; it also raised the possibility that Bush would not feel bound to obey similar whistle-blower laws that were on the books before he became president. His domestic spying program, for example, violated a surveillance law enacted 23 years before he took office.

Remember the halcyon days of "I'm a uniter, not a divider"? We've since heard it changed to "I'm the decider," and apparently that doesn't just cover who gets to stay and who gets to go in the administration.

But there are more and more people breathing down Dubya's neck, watching and waiting for the day of reckoning. Many are looking forward to the next presidential election. Others, saying it's entirely too early for that, are pinning their hopes on the 2006 midterm elections. If the Democratic party takes control of the House (and maybe even the Senate), which is looking more and more like with the revelation of three new scandals (on average) per day, Bush will be called to the carpet for the half-asseds way he has done his job. As it is, he is already being sued by a group of 11 House Democrats for signing a spending bill that did not pass both houses of Congress.

It's looking like the "I" word isn't that hard to fit your mouth around these days.

All the best,