Saturday, May 29, 2010

the art of the backdown

house minority leader john boehner (R-OH) forecasting the 2010 midterm elections (apr 30):

inskeep: i understand you're saying it's difficult to model this election. but when you look across the 435 seats in the house of representatives, how many seats are in play right now?
boehner: well, typically, you are correct. there would be some limited number of seats in play. let me remind you that scott brown won the ted kennedy senate seat in massachusetts. if scott brown can win in massachusetts, there isn't a seat in america the republicans can't win. and what we're seeing every day is the playing field widen, widen beyond anything we've seen around here during my 20 years.
inskeep: how wide is the playing field now, as far as you're concerned?
boehner: at least 100 seats.
inskeep: you think there are 100 seats in the united states that could change hands one way or the other.
boehner: i do.

RNC political director gentry collins (may 11):

our scoring as of today has us looking at about 130 house seats as potentially competitive. ... just to be clear, i'm making no claim that we are going to pick up 130 house seats.

boehner (may 25):

whether we can get to a majority or not, is a steep climb. ... i do think that we have a reasonable chance.

house GOP deputy whip and NRCC recruiter kevin mccarthy (may 27):

mccarthy said that top GOPers have told him they hope to win in the neighborhood of 37 seats rather than 40 so they're in a stronger position to have good back-to-back cycles and win the WH in '12.

Friday, May 28, 2010

the art of the backdown

oil producer british petroleum (BP) ceo tony hayward, forecasting the damage, or lack thereof, to the gulf of mexico from the ongoing and as-yet-uncontrolled flood of crude oil from the well damaged by the destruction of his deepsea drilling rig deepwater horizon:

i think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest. it is impossible to say — we will mount, as part of the aftermath, a very detailed environmental assessment as we go forward. we're going to do that with some of the science institutions in the u.s., but everything we can see, at the moment, suggests that the overall environmental impact of this will be very, very modest. (may 18)

ten days later ...

it is clear that we're dealing with a very significant environmental crisis and catastrophe. ... a cup of oil on the shore is failure. ... in that regard, we have failed to defend the shoreline to the degree and extent that we believed we could. (may 28)
(tip of the hat to think progress.)

update: too true, john cole. too true ...

when the oil company that caused the mess is using this terminology, you have to wonder how horrible it is ...

quiet about the delorean

presenting "what natural-born citizenship really means", from afterbirther's excellent and soon-to-be-famous ongoing contemporary history series "great moments in birtherism":

jefferson: ok, i think i got this. i changed "45 years" to "35". it now reads:
"neither shall any person be eligible for that office who shall not have attained to the age of 35 years and been 14 years a resident within the united states."
how's that sound?
washington: oh yeah, i like that much better. after all, it's 1787, most of us are dead before we ever get to be forty-five.
jefferson: great. so, let's see: we've taken care of the age thing; we've written in the grandfather clause so that old benny franklin doesn't feel all left out; the residency thing is handled. so what are we missing?
washington: well, there's still that whole citizenship thing.
jefferson: oh yeah, that thing that john jay was running on about. what's his problem, again?
washington: well, he seems to have this wild hair about a usurper becoming commander-in-chief one day. i'm not quite sure i get the whole issue. i think it has something to do with kenya.
jefferson: ok, well, how about something like this: "no person except a native-born citizen can be born president."
washington: close ... but not quite. john really likes the term "natural-born" instead of "native-born".
jefferson: "natural-born"? what the hell does that mean?
washington: well, de vattel says —
jefferson: no! no! be very quiet about de vattel. nobody's supposed to know about the delorean!
washington: hey, you're preaching to the choir! but if we don't use the delorean, we're stuck with english common law! and you know how well that's been working out ...
jefferson: but if we start using common law terms in ways that won't be invented for another ten years, then we're gonna need a glossary.
washington: that's a bad idea too. after all, jay had his heart set on being on the supreme court. if we make a glossary, they'll have nothing to do.
jefferson: but why de vattel? i mean, on issues of citizenship, the man's a fucking idiot!
washington: i thought you liked the frogs ... ?
jefferson: now, george, be nice — you know i'm a dual citizen of france!
washington: i know. i just like to rub it in.
jefferson: and after all, de vattel is not even really french. he's swiss, for god's sake! who pays any attention to the swiss? they're not even big enough to have their own language!
washington: so, ok, we have to make john jay happy. after all, he's like a bazillionth-degree templar in the illuminati and if we piss him off, it's back to virginia for both of us!
jefferson: wait — i have an idea ... bear with me: what if we used jay's "natural-born citizen" but don't use english common law or de vattel's definition ... ?
washington: go on. i'm listening ...
jefferson: ... what if we use it to mean somebody who was born naturally, as opposed to cloned?
washington: cloned?
jefferson: yeah, cloned. i was tooling around in the delorean. it's gonna be huge!
washington: ok ... i like it. so john jay gets his phrase; we don't have to worry about either de vattel or english common law; no glossary so the supreme court has something to do. i think we've got article ii covered. awesome!
jefferson: now we can go tackle that amendment that abigail adams has been so bitchy about.
washington: which one is that, again?
jefferson: the second amendment. the one about giving first ladies the right to wear sleeveless dresses.
washington: oh yeah. grab some sunscreen. i'll go load the flux capacitor into the delorean and then meet you in the garage ...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the art of the backdown iii

kentucky's spanking-new libertarian teabagging senate nominee rand paul opining on that part of the 1964 civil rights act that he would have tried to "modify":

well, there's 10 — there's 10 different — there's 10 different titles, you know, to the civil rights act, and nine out of 10 deal with public institutions and i'm absolutely in favor of ... one deals with private institutions, and had i been around, i would have tried to modify that.

... should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? should we limit racists from speaking? ... i don't want to be associated with those people, but i also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn't mean we approve of it.

rand spokesperson jesse benton:

civil rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the federal government the right to insure that private businesses don't discriminate based on race. dr. paul supports those powers.


i've never really favored any change in the civil rights act ... they seem to have unleashed some of the loony left on me.

update: greg sargent @ the washington post underscores why the question of what's in paul's heart is neither irrelevant nor a matter of sheer speculation:

i think people still aren't focused enough on the core issue at the heart of the controversy over rand paul's comments about the civil rights act.

specifically: paul, the darling of the tea partyers and one of the highest profile GOP senate candidates in the country, cannot bring himself to say — clearly and unequivocally — that the federal government should have the power to prohibit private businesses from discriminating on the basis of skin color, religion, or national origin.

sure, paul has now said he would have voted for the civil rights act. and his spokesman has clarified under questioning that, yes, paul believes the federal government should have this power.

but paul himself can't manage to say this. he visibly doesn't want to say this. it's remarkable..

a washington dictionary

sen•ate |'senit|


a private club for old, out-of-touch, rich white men, convened for the sole purpose of spending everyone else's money:

"i've never used an ATM, so i don't know what the fees are," [nebraska senator ben nelson (D-NE)] said, adding that he gets his cash from bank tellers, just not automatic ones. "it's true, i don't know how to use one."

"but i could learn how to do it just like i've ... i swipe to get my own gas, buy groceries. i know about the holograms."

by "holograms," nelson clarified that he meant the bar codes on products read by automatic scanners in the checkout lanes at stores such as lowe's and menard's.

"i go and get my own seating assignment on an airplane," nelson said. "i mean, i'm not without some skills. I just haven't had the need to use an ATM."

ORIGIN middle english : from old french senat, from latin senatus, from senex 'old man'.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

everybody's biatch

the problem with RNC chairman michael "i'm the de facto leader of the republican party" steele's brand of baldfaced b.s. is that it only works if his fellow republicans go along with it.

however ... when even conservative sanctuary fox news won't take you seriously ...

steele says he doesn't know who the republican 'establishment' is; cavuto responds: 'you, you, you!'
citing rand paul's victory in the GOP kentucky senate primary against establishment choice trey grayson last night, neil cavuto asked RNC chairman michael steele today about "dysfunction in the republican party" as the GOP establishment clashes with the tea party. steele denied tension, saying he told the tea party in kentucky that "if we have a situation where your guy prevails, we're backing that candidate, we're very much looking to supporting rand and if our guy prevails, we'd like the same support."
cavuto responded that tea partiers had told him that they view the GOP establishment negatively, leading steele to reply, "i'm telling you as the national chairman of the party there's no bad blood between the republican national committee and the tea parties." cavuto persisted, however, in claiming that there was tension between the "establishment" and the tea party. steele responded by saying that he didn't even know who the republican establishment is, leading cavuto to note that steele is the establishment:
cavuto: michael, the tea partiers didn't like senator bennett.
steele: that's fine.
cavuto: fairly or not, they didn't like him. the established republican party did.
steele: ok, that may be ... but wait a minute —
cavuto: i'm just saying that for you to say there is no angst between the two ...
steele: neil, don't mix. please stop.
cavuto: there clearly is.
steele: [exasperated laughter]

please do not mix the republican party establishment — i don't know who that is, by the way —

cavuto: you!

you! you! you —

steele: — with activists, i, no ...
cavuto: you! you! you! you! you!
steele: neil, have you been reading my press lately? i don't think, the last thing you could say about me is that i'm part of the establishment.
cavuto: well, that's true because everybody hates you.

but, i'm kidding ...

heh, that neil ... such a kidder ...
(hat tip to think progress)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

portrait of the artist as a young killer

comics industry titan of titans frank frazetta died of a stroke this week at the tender age of 82. the norman rockwell of science fiction and fantasy art had sired countless imitators but no superiors. however, instead of redundantly reproducing some of the world's most recognizable and ubiquitous art, i thought we'd take a rare glimpse of the artist himself in his element:

frazetta and his friends and colleagues often posed for each other's reference photos, and frank certainly looked like one of his own archetypal heroic subjects.

this 1954 story from ec comics shock suspenstories represents frazetta's only solo piece for the company, and he modeled its callow protagonist's looks after his own. (bonus quiz: ec comics' publisher and mad magazine founder bill gaines makes a cameo appearance as well. can you spot him?)

(story by bill gaines and al feldstein; art by frank frazetta)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

birther morituri

the interview is just under eight minutes. i doubt the court-martial lasts as long:

cooper: he's a decorated army doctor, and tonight lieutenant colonel terrence lakin has become the face of the so-called birthers movement, whose followers believe president obama may not have been born in the U.S. and may not be eligible to be president of the united states.

lieutenant colonel lakin, who's been an active-duty physician for the military for 18 years, has been ordered to deploy to afghanistan for a second tour of duty. but lakin is refusing that command, saying the order is coming from a commander in chief who he believes may not, in fact, be a natural-born citizen.

lakin has also invited his own court-martial and says he wants proof the president was born in the U.S.

lieutenant colonel terrence lakin joins me now, along with his attorney, paul jensen. i appreciate both of you being with us.

colonel, you say you're refusing your orders because, quote, "there is significant evidence or unanswered speculation that mr. obama is not eligible to be president." you said that in a note to general casey.

now, ignoring the idea that you actually cited speculation as a justification for your decision, but to say there's significant evidence that the president was not born in america is just false. i mean, you're an honorable guy. you've served your country incredibly well. you're a doctor. do you honestly believe president obama was not born in hawaii?

jensen: well, anderson, let me answer as his lawyer ...
cooper: no, no, no. excuse me. wait, this is a doctor — excuse me. this is a doctor. this is a man who served his country for 18 years. i think he can answer a question by himself.
jensen: i think that the lawyer should protect the client from incriminating himself. you say it's false. you're not prosecuting this case.
cooper: ok, lieutenants colonel, if you call up the state of hawaii and you ask for a birth certificate, you're sent a certificate of live birth. that is the official document. and the president has ...
jensen: that is not correct.
cooper: and the president ...
jensen: that is absolutely not correct.
cooper: and the president has released — and the president has released that certificate of live birth — there it is — to newspapers. in 1961, had birth announcements provided by the state of hawaii health department. certificates. the republican governor of hawaii sent someone to personally view the birth certificate at the department of health and says it's there.
jensen: that's not ...
cooper: again, can the colonel not talk for himself? the guy's an adult.
jensen: you said that that's a birth certificate, mr. cooper. now you want to tell the truth to your viewers.
cooper: according to the state of hawaii ...
jensen: that's an abstract, a computer-generated abstract ...
cooper: according to the state of hawaii, the certificate of live birth, and i'm quoting from the state of hawaii health department. the certificate of live birth is the standard form acceptable by federal agencies.

so are you saying, colonel, but you're not actually saying anything. but i would appreciate it if you actually would, and not hide behind your attorney. are you actually saying that all soldiers who currently serve who are from hawaii should be suspect because that's what they provide?

lakin: this is a constitutional matter. and the truth matters, and ...
cooper: well, and answers matter. can you answer my question? should all soldiers who are from hawaii and who have given certificate of live births as their proof of citizenship, should they all be suspect now?
lakin: this isn't a matter about all soldiers. this is a matter about ...
cooper: well, you're saying the president ...
lakin: ... the two positions that are — require — that require a natural-born citizen.
cooper: you've taken countless orders in your — in your laudable service over the years. have you ever asked for any superior's birth certificate?
jensen: you know, that really is — begs the question...
cooper: no, no, no, sir, please let your client answer. you served under general casey. where was he born?
jensen: i'm the lawyer, and i'm going to tell you, mr. cooper, the issue isn't about where general casey was born, where mr. ...
cooper: he doesn't know. because you've never asked the question, because you just assume that they're americans.
jensen: he doesn't have to be a natural-born citizen to be the chief of staff of the army.
cooper: actually, to serve in the united states army, according to your own documents, citizenship papers have to be brought to bear. in fact ...
jensen: that's not the issue. to serve as president of the united state...
cooper: in your own letter ...
jensen: mister — mr. cooper, please.
cooper: in your own letter ...
jensen: ... to be president of the united states ...
cooper: ... to general casey you have said that you had to provide your birth certificate.
jensen: you're afraid of letting me answer. are you afraid of letting me answer?
cooper: no, i'd like your client to answer.
jensen: the issue under the united states constitution is whether the president is eligible to hold the office. that determine — is determined by whether he's 35 years old and a natural-born citizen. those are not requirements for the chief of staff of the army, sir.

and what colonel lakin has said is that there's mounting evidence that he is not. and the original birth certificate has not been released.

cooper: right, ok. there's not mounting evidence. and he has ...
jensen: that's what you said.
cooper: excuse me. let me respond. he has taken orders for years from people, probably thousands of orders. countless orders. he has never questioned the legitimacy of the people he is taking orders from. general casey. but he doesn't know where general casey is born. for all he knows, general casey could be a foreign-born, not an american citizen.
jensen: mr. cooper, if you've done your research, you know that, in the state of hawaii, there's a statute that allows anyone born outside the state of hawaii, including in a foreign country, to obtain a hawaiian birth certificate at any age by going back and filling out a form...
cooper: right. and if you'd done your research, you'd know that, on the certificate of live birth, it would indicate if the person was born in another country. it would say they were born in another country ...
jensen: that's not correct.
cooper: that is correct. that is the fact.
jensen: i beg your pardon. under hawaiian statute 338-17.8, there's nothing that says that in the statute.
cooper: ok.
jensen: you point it out to me if i'm wrong.
cooper: in your complaint to general casey, colonel, you say, quote, that you're not seeking any grandstanding or publicity for this action. how can you seriously say that? i mean, you put out a youtube video with your — talking, frankly, more than you've talked here tonight.

you have this group paying all your legal fees, the american patriot foundation legal defense fund. they've provided the attorney who's sitting next to you. and they're fundraising based on you. they're raising money using you.

lakin: i attempted all avenues i could over a year ago. i submitted an article 138, which is the only way that i could research how to — how to address this issue, asking and begging my leadership for guidance in how to — how to address this issue. and the answers that i got were not ...
jensen: mr. cooper, you — the standard is not satisfying you — the standard is to satisfy ...
cooper: lieutenant colonel, you sound like an honorable man — excuse me. i'm addressing your client. lieutenant colonel, you seem like an incredibly honorable man who's obviously served his country. you're a doctor; you're an educated man. why is it this issue? i mean, of all the orders you've taken, of all the people you've served under, why this, why now? what is it that has got you so, you know, sticking on this issue?
lakin: it's a fundamental of the constitution, and my oath of office is to the constitution. and i believe we need truth on this matter.
cooper: but i mean, what's wrong with the certificate of live birth, in your opinion? what's wrong — i mean, how do you explain a newspaper — two newspapers in 1961 announcing the birth of barack obama in hawaii? which is not something his parents did or his grandparents did. those are based on health records sent by the health department, as it does for every person born in hawaii. and everyone gets a newspaper now.
jensen: mr. cooper, that's simply not correct. and the issue is instead why hasn't the president released the original birth certificate, if one exists? this could be over tonight. tonight. release the birth certificate, if it exists, signed by the doctor in 1961. it's in the state of hawaii's records. if —
cooper: i'm just going to read you a quote from janice okubu from the department of health: "our certificate of live birth is the standard form which was modeled after national standards that are acceptable by federal agencies and organizations."
jensen: but it is not the only form ...
cooper: the governor of hawaii, a republican, has said, and i quote, "i had my health doctor, who is a physician by background, go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records of the department of health, and we issued a news release."
jensen: and she is not going to be testifying at the court-martial. this is a criminal case. the president should release the original birth certificate, and this would be over tonight. these other documents and testimony are not admissible and will not be admitted in court.
cooper: well, i appreciate you being on the program tonight. lieutenant colonel terrence lakin, i appreciate it, as well. thank you, sir.
jensen: thank you.
cooper: you can join the live chat. let us know what you think about this issue at

none of these birther claims will be admissible at trial, which will go something like this:

judge: did you disobey a direct order?
lakin: yes, but ...
judge: guilty. welcome to leavenworth.
lakin: b-b-but ...

or, as the military justice blog caaflog explains:

... while i find the eligibility debate interesting, it is also profoundly irrelevant to the prosecution of LTC lakin. LTC lakin is guilty of missing movement and violating lawful orders regardless of whether the president is or isn't constitutionally eligible to serve. there is no real prospect that his court-martial will result in the production of any documents or testimony concerning the irrelevant issue of president obama's constitutional eligibility to serve as president. instead, the case is likely to be a circus leading to an inevitable conviction. attempts to press the issue on direct appeal will fail because ACCA will hold that discovery into eligibility issues isn't relevant and CAAF will either agree or, more likely, simply deny review, thus foreclosing a cert petition on direct review. collateral review attempts will fail under abstention (if filed before the completion of direct appeals) or because the issue was fully and fairly resolved by the military (if filed after completion of direct appeals). some courts on collateral review may add that they agree with the military courts' determination that president obama's eligibility was irrelevant.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

the art of the backdown ii

christian conservative cofounder of the family research council and anti-gay culture-warrior george alan rekers on getting caught on a 10-day vacation with a male prositute hired from

i had surgery ... and i can't lift luggage. that's why i hired him.

i have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as 'gay.' my hero is jesus christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes.
(tip of the hat to talking points memo.)

and the winner is ...

it's only wednesday but i feel pretty safe in bestowing this week's "look who's oozed out from under its rock" award and "feces flinger of the week" trophy to disgraced former FEMA head michael "heckuvajob" brown for his transparently self-serving efforts to wipe the stink of katrina onto obama:

brown: and i think the delay was this: it's pure politics. this president has never supported big oil. he's never supported offshore drilling. and now he has an excuse to shut it back down.

you've already heard bill nelson, senator from florida, saying offshore drilling is DOA. they played politics with this crisis and left the coast guard out there doing what they're supposed to do.

cavuto: so michael, you don't take him at face value when he says a temporary halt in offshore drilling is just that — a temporary halt.
brown: no, no. look bill nelson — and you know, they don't say these things without it being coordinated — and so now you're looking at this oil slick approaching the louisiana shore, according to certain NOAA and other places, if the winds are right it'll go up the east coast. this is exactly what they want. because now he can pander to the environmentalists and say, 'i'm going to shut it down because it's too dangerous.' while mexico and china and everybody else drills in the gulf, we're going to get shut down.

brown: hey, hey, chris, i think there's two things. i think, one, we're seeing the rahm emanuel rule number one, ah, taking effect. and that is, "let no crisis go unused". so, this is an opportunity for a president who wants to bankrupt the coal industry and basically get rid of the oil and gas industry to shut down offshore drilling in the gulf of mexico.
matthews: why would somebody sabotage something that would cause this kind of damage to our planet, really?
brown: oh well, because i think there are terrorists in the world who would like to do that sort of thing. terrorists don't give a rat's butt about the ecology or anything else. all they care about is hurting america.
matthews: ... but he just came out for offshore oil drilling.
brown: oh, chris, ah, i'm glad you asked that. he came out and said, look, i'm going to approve oil and gas drilling. and all you guys went, look what a great guy he is, trying to reach out to everybody else. chris, all he did was he approved two existing leases on the northeast coast, and shut down all the other proposed leases on the west coast and the southeast coast. there was nothing new in what he did.
matthews: but don't you know what you're saying to a third party, not somebody like myself or somebody like yourself, listening to you, thinks that you're sounding insane. you're saying that the president of the united states went into slow-mo here, somehow — or for somehow seemed to be working faster than he really was, but was really quite slow to get there, because he saw an opportunity to exploit a disaster so that he could reap discredit on to the coal industry.

and by the way, a couple of weeks ago —

brown: no, no, no, not just the coal ...
matthews: — he came down for offshore drilling so that he could discredit it when this thing occurred. are you suggesting he somehow knew this would happen and that's why he came out for offshore drilling?
brown: no, no ...
matthews: it sounds like that's what you're saying —
brown: no, no, chris, hang on ...
matthews: and it sounds crazy. crazy!
brown: well, and the way you just put it, chris, the way you just put it, it sounds crazy to me, too.

Monday, May 03, 2010

deepwater hindenburg

(photos from the department of energy. see the rest at talking points memo.)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

who's your baddie?

it looks like number three has a date: july 20, 2012.

director christopher nolan and headliners christian bale, gary oldman and likely michael caine will return. anyone else is anyone's guess.

even though nolan is against the idea, it would be very logical for robin to show up in number three. batman's failure to save either long-distance love rachel dawes or crusading "white knight" harvey dent, even with the help of commissioner gordon and the gotham police force, would make batman very interested in finding a reliable partner with special skills more like his own.

it would also be logical for catwoman to show up. her skills would make batman interested in recruiting her as well — if he could figure out if she's truly bad or could be turned to good. but he'd also be forced to question his motives in pursuing her, since the loss of rachel must leave him emotionally vulnerable. a possible subplot could follow a rivalry between robin and catwoman for batman's attention.

but even if catwoman ended up as one of the bad guys, she doesn't have the threat-level to carry the film as the main villain. both batman begins' ras al ghul and the dark knight's joker took the city to the brink of destruction; catwoman simply isn't that menacing.

despite much gossip about the riddler, he's always seemed too much like a poor man's joker to play second act to the real thing, especially on the heels of heath ledger's daunting performance. like catwoman, the riddler's never been an existential threat to gotham city. unfortunately, despite seventy years of adventures, batman's arch-enemies a-list is surprisingly short and nolan has been going through it two at a time, while rightly disqualifying villains like the penguin and mr. freeze as too outlandish.

it's a tall order to fill: enough gravitas to have been a major batman villain and enough menace to terrorize the entire city, yet enough plausibility to exist in nolan's gritty and realistic universe. even as a life-long batman fan i'm stumped and the only name that springs to mind is dr. hugo strange but even he might not be good bad enough.