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Sisyphus Shrugged
Lasciate ogni speranza and put your feet up.
in a slightly unusual place
so in the wake of the Van Jones resignation, I did a bit of searching on the hot new viral wingnut "czar" meme (how new? The wikipedia entry was started in late July) and found the viral ur-czar list. Czars, you may recall, are presidential appointees by fiat who are "unaccountable" to our representatives in congress assembled, and Obama's bypassed Congress to create a huge number of them.

There are, as you can imagine, some issues with with the list.

edit: I am incredibly amused to see how many of these names appear on Politico's list of Obama Czars.

very, very longCollapse )
ahhhs. -- hmmm?
"Are you happy?" asked Mr. Nancy, suddenly. He had been staring at Shadow for several hours. Whenever Shadow glanced over to his right, Mr. Nancy was looking at him with his earth-brown eyes.

"Not really," said Shadow. "But I'm not dead yet."


"'Call no man happy until he is dead.' Herodotus."


"The Herodotus thing. It doesn't mean that the dead are happy," said Shadow. "It means that you can't judge the shape of someone's life until it's over and done."

—Neil Gaiman, American Gods

The youngest Kennedy gave the people who loved him and the people who, to put it mildly, didn't, a great deal of material to work with. I suspect the good he did will last longer.

Rest in peace, Teddy.

Howard Kurtz, of the Washington Post

Our boy Howie is shocked to discover that there are people who might not have been completely truthful about leaving the Bush administration to spend more time with their families

When Tom Ridge left his Homeland Security post nearly five years ago, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

But in a forthcoming book, Ridge says he decided to quit after two of President George W. Bush's top lieutenants pressed Ridge to raise the terror-alert level to a scarier color for what he suspected were political reasons.

Now he tells us?

Well, no. Then he told us.

Posted 5/10/2005 11:21 PM

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

His comments at a Washington forum describe spirited debates over terrorist intelligence and provide rare insight into the inner workings of the nation's homeland security apparatus.

Ridge said he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.

"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "..

but cut Howie some slack, kids. He's got serious moral issues with not telling the truth to the american people about politicians for anything but the very best reasons

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 9, 2007

We all sort of knew that Gingrich was having an affair back in the late '90s--and not just with anyone, but with a woman on the House payroll. After all, he ended up marrying the woman after breaking up with his second wife, Marianne.

Since he was leading the impeachment charge against Bill over Monica at the time, this might be seen as an example of . . . how shall I put it? . . . a flexible morality? But Newt kind of got a pass because he was out of office when this came out and yesterday's news. Unlike today, when he is contemplating a run for president. (Possible slogans: I'll return fun to the Oval Office? My mistress was better looking than Clinton's?)

Of course, Howie's memory serves him ill here. Vanity Fair actually outed the relationship between Newt and the current Mrs. Gingrich as common knowledge three years before the impeachment and four years before he announced the end of his time in Congress and his divorce.

On the other hand, getting back to Howie's current analysis, exposing Republican politicians is kind of icky

By charging that fellow Cabinet members Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft pushed the move, without specific evidence of a threat, the weekend before the 2004 election, Ridge is joining a growing list of former insiders who spill sensitive secrets once they are in a position to cash in.

"It's smarmy," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "Most people view individuals like that as traitors. I think they have a price to pay. Who's going to trust them in the future?"

Presumably no-one, unless they realize Ridge actually said all this when he resigned and then waited over four years to "cash in"

Which, I'll admit, isn't quite as long as Howie waited.

if you haven't yet, watch the long version of Jon Stewart's interview with Betsy McCaughey, the woman who injected Sarah Palin's famous imaginary "death panel" into the health care debate (part one here, part two here).

Most of you probably know that we, as a nation, were gifted Ms. McCaughey by Martin Peretz of the New Republic when they published a piece she wrote on the Clinton healthcare reform package which was mined for talking points by the press and the Republicans (the New Republic has since both debunked and apologized for the shoddiness and dishonesty of her work). She was then asked to join George Pataki as his Lieutenant Governor in his successful campaign against Mario Cuomo.

What you may not know about Ms. McCaughey: when she was replaced on the ballot in the next election by another candidate for Lite Gov,* she left the Republican party to run for Governor on the Democratic and Liberal lines. That wasn't the reason she gave, though. The reason she gave was much more interesting (emphasis mine)

She complained that she was forced to turn to Democrats in the Legislature when Republicans rebuffed her efforts to expand pre-kindergarten programs in the state and to restrict the ability of health maintenance organizations to refuse to pay for experimental cancer treatments.

'''It showed me which party puts patients ahead of politics and campaign contributions,'' she said. ''It's the Democratic Party.''

so it wasn't really that the Republicans kicked her to the curb. She just couldn't live with their unprincipled opposition to government healthcare mandates.

As a not-Republican in the Democratic primaries, the then-Betsy Ross (yeah, I know, I always enjoyed that myself) had a number of positions which might surprise you. She was a crusader for unrestricted late-term abortion, a fan of gay rights and increased welfare spending, and someone who said she'd grown up and changed her mind about her opposition to the Clinton plan

Whether she ever was an ideological conservative or just made quite a career of seeming that way, she is now selling herself as a liberal's liberal-sorry, make that "the most socially progressive of the Democratic candidates." Ms. McCaughey Ross is not pro-choice, she is "unequivocally pro-choice." She registers horror at recent calls by both Mr. Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to cut welfare benefits to the children of workfare no-shows ("I don't think children should suffer for the failures or oversights of their parents"). Last St. Patrick's Day, when Mr. Pataki would have been thrilled for her to stay home, Ms. McCaughey Ross marched in the parade, anyway. This year she abstained, as the "champion of gay and lesbian rights" that her literature now advertises her to be. Not, of course, that everybody's buying. "There's a series of questions that I think she has to answer," said Richard Kahan, the gubernatorial hopeful responsible for the recent spate of anti-Betsy ads. "Why did she support Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court? Why did she write Op-Eds supporting big tobacco? Why did she pull apart Clinton's health care bill?" Ms. McCaughey Ross answers such charges in one of two ways: They are not true (She contends, for instance, that she never supported Mr. Thomas, but simply wrote a piece in The New York Times defending his method of judicial review) or not true anymore. "If you don't eat vegetables as a kid, you should never eat them?" she asked. "Where is the sense of human progress?"


Asked about Mr. Vallone's view that late-term abortion should be banned except when necessary to save the life of the mother, Ms. McCaughey Ross gave a preview of how she plans to wow the women. "The decision about an abortion should be made by a woman and her doctor, certainly not by those dark-suited senators strutting on the Senate floor," she said, denouncing the State Legislature's "very uninformed debate" on the subject, during which "several of the male members of the Republican majority were unable to even pronounce the various parts of a woman's body, but nevertheless felt fully equipped to make a decision about when a woman should or should not have an abortion."

a fan of blocking protests outside abortion clinics whose opposition to parental notification laws also evolved

Lieut. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross made her harshest attack to date yesterday on her chief rival in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Peter F. Vallone, calling his position on abortion rights ''a farce'' and questioning why he had not pressured New York City to enforce its law protecting women from harassment outside abortion clinics...

Abortion has not been a central issue in the race, since all four Democratic gubernatorial candidates support a woman's right to have the procedure. But in the final weeks of the campaign, Ms. McCaughey Ross has worked hard to emphasize that she is the only woman in the race. Her attack on Mr. Vallone yesterday seemed to be part of a broader strategy to prove that among the four candidates, she was the strongest champion of women's rights.

... [Vallone's press secretary] Ms. Rubey pointed out that Ms. McCaughey Ross wrote an article in 1992 praising a Supreme Court decision that allowed states to restrict access to abortions, a ruling that Ms. Ireland and other abortion rights advocates vehemently protested. ''The Supreme Court has provided the nation with common sense and common ground,'' Ms. McCaughey Ross wrote in the article, which was published in USA Today. ''Most Americans support a woman's right to an abortion but also believe that, except in unusual circumstances, a young girl's mother or father should be consulted.''

Ms. McCaughey Ross said yesterday that her article had only analyzed the court's decision, not sided with it. She said that she has always supported abortion rights, and that she never favored provisions that require parental consent for girls under 18 who seek abortions. ''I have always opposed those restrictions on a woman's right to choose,'' she said. ''I am unequivocally pro-choice.''
and, as the Liberal Party candidate in the general (she lost the primary 4 to one), a candidate whose "single issue" was her pro-choice stance on abortion.

If you've been holding your nose and trying to give her the benefit of the doubt that she actually believes what she's saying about the proposed healthcare legislation, let me relieve you. You really don't have to.

*Ms. McCaughey-as-politician was a gift to us from Al D'Amato (the then-"Senator Pothole" and the fixer who invented both Rudy Giuliani - although I wouldn't bring it up with either of them - and George Pataki) who thought the barbielike Clinton-killer would make a decorative, and female, addition to Mr. Pataki on a Republican gubernatorial ticket (decorative and female have always been at a bit of a premium in NYS Republican politics — see Pirro, Jeanine). Once she was in office, though, she disobliged both Pataki and D'Amato by numerous means.

The straw that broke the camel's back appeared to be when she confirmed to the press that D'Amato suggested at a private dinner that she bring Giuliani, with whom D'Amato was feuding, back to the fold by offering him sex. Pataki was forced to demand an apology, and D'Amato was forced to issue one, and McCaughey was (melba) toast, at least on the elephant side of the aisle, where she declined to stay. It wasn't until her marriage to an affluent Democratic businessman who financed her political endeavors ended that Ms. McCaughey came back to the right-wing fold by taking a job with a conservative think tank which opposes healthcare reform.

Go figure.

ahhhs. -- hmmm?
Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post

He was an opinionated op-ed man, a combative conservative on television, but through it all, Robert Novak prided himself on being a shoe-leather reporter.

That was true, in the sense that Novak regularly vacuumed up scraps and scoops from deep within the Republican Party. But his half-century career was also a monument to Washington insiderdom, to carrying coded messages for the sources he so assiduously courted.

Novak, who died yesterday at 78, was always well-wired on the right, and it was one such relationship, with George W. Bush's confidant Karl Rove, that drew him into a career-defining crisis.

"Karl and I had grown close since he began plotting Bush's path to the presidency as early as 1995," Novak wrote in "The Prince of Darkness," the memoir titled with the unflattering nickname he embraced. "I had never enjoyed such a good source inside the White House. Rove obviously thought I was useful for his purposes, too. Such symbiotic relationships, built on self-interest, are the rule in high-level Washington journalism."


Syndicated columnist Robert Novak died this week at 78, and I already miss him. I first talked to him 25 years ago, when I was a newly hired regional political director at the Republican National Committee. Guys like me weren't even supposed to talk with reporters, let alone bigfeet like Novak. Someone told me he was calling, and so, palms sweating, I picked up the telephone and sheepishly said hello. "I hear they hired some young whippersnapper over there," he said, "and wanted to introduce myself." Then, ending the small talk, he handed down Novak Rule No. 1. "In my world, you have a choice ... you can either be a source or a target ..." I gulped for air and wisely chose the "source" category, after which he growled, "Good," and hung up.

Sucks to be shoe leather.
ahhh. -- hmmm?

and this is the much better thing they spent the week doing.
from the Times, about recovering addicts working on an organic farm in Westchester

On that sunlit July morning, a man from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was leaning over rows of red kale, looking bewildered. He had been, he said, “addicted to everything, a garbage-head.” He was also new to the farm, and did not want to talk much about his past, or reveal his name. Instead, he kept his eyes pinned on another program participant, Bernard Cole, who was cutting off wilting leaves from kale.

“Those leaves aren’t good?” the man asked, perplexed.

“No,” Mr. Cole replied gently. “But see this one, see how it’s good?”

“No, I don’t know nothing,” the man replied dolefully. “I’m a newcomer.”

Several feet away, Mr. Crafton was cleaning lettuce, and eyeing it suspiciously. He is not fond of vegetables, and as a rule, he said, doesn’t trust any food that “doesn’t already come in a bag.”

“If it ain’t on a McDonald’s menu, I ain’t eating it,” Mr. Crafton declared proudly, peering out from beneath his straw brim, a wet, dripping head of lettuce in his hand. “I always been a picky eater.”


Mr. Long was shaking water off some lettuce, and the droplets were catching the sun and spraying a few men standing nearby. He laid the heads in a box bound for the farm stand.

As often happens during the slow hours in the field, the talk drifted back to the men’s former lives.

Mr. Crafton was speaking about the old Project Renewal farm truck, which was crushed on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. DeArmas had driven it to the city that day to deliver produce to a farmers’ market near the World Trade Center, and fled on foot when the first tower fell.

“That truck was de-stroyed,” Mr. Crafton said to the others.

The group fell silent for a moment. Then: “I bet the drug dealers were having a field day that day,” Mr. Long said.

“No cops,” Mr. Crafton said.

Then another man had a thought.

“No cellphones,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” Mr. Long said.

from the Washington Post, on trying to survive on $300k/yr a few miles away

Steins grew up in the idyllic Queens suburb of Douglaston, specifically Douglas Manor, where mothers played bridge on a dock in Little Neck Bay. Her father was a savings-and-loan president who owned a summer house in the Hamptons, but Steins was grounded in the middle class in many ways, attending public school and working at McDonald's. She has lived in London and Johannesburg and has a closet full of fabulous clothes from jobs with Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein. Steins is still a black diamond skier, and she barrels down the mountain of life in much the same manner, tenacious and determined to stay upright. She is rarely wistful except for the topic of her marriage ending. "Because I grew up in divorce, I swore I would never put my kids through it," she says.

Now she sits at the head of the dining room table. Dinner is served at 6 by the nanny, but the same pandemonium and fatigue of any other house exists.


Whatever fantasies the underclass may have of the good life -- of small dogs in purses and Dolce and Gabbana -- are not on display here. The rugs are worn. Milk is spilled. A Marmaduke of a beast named Tyson hovers at the table ready to snuffle up pork tenderloin from the plate of a distracted child. "Tyson!" says Steins.

The funny part of this is that we've by this point in the story gotten a fair amount of information about how much Ms. Steins' community spends on non-essential overpriced consumer goods for their children, who think they can't live without them.

I suspect "the underclass" would probably settle for having to worry about the pork tenderloin the nanny cooked going to the dog.

Is this that irony thing people talk about? Is it more like rain on your wedding day, do you think, or a free ride when you've already paid?
ahhhs. -- hmmm?
where the line you mustn't cross is ground exceeding fine

To accuse a Virginian politician of turning his back on Martinsville, the beleagured Southside mill town whose unemployment rate hit 21.6 percent in June, is almost like a slur.

So, so close. Presumably an actual slur would be accusing a Virginian politician of turning his back on a capital gains tax cut.

See, back in '99, the Republican then-Governor, Mr. Gilmore, vetoed popular Democratic legislation with significant GOP support to extend health and unemployment benefits for folks in Virginia who lived in areas with over 10% unemployment (which is to say Martinsville, where a plant had just closed and left a lot of folks unemployed). He wanted to stimulate the economy by giving the money to businesses instead and letting it trickle down to Martinsville.

The Post feels that it's not fair to look at current Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell's vote supporting his then-Governor's plan to deny those benefits without context. To be fair to McDonnell (who's in a GOP spotlight battle this year), you need to know that when he voted to support Gilmore's stance against assistance for Martinsville, it was because he agreed that it would be expensive to cover all the unemployed people who would be covered if any place other than Martinsville was affected.

Duly noted.

ahhh. -- hmmm?
that creepy guy from WorldNetDaily* takes birthering to a whole new level

*yes, I know that doesn't narrow it down much.

ahhhs. -- hmmm?