« October 2005 | Main | January 2006 »

December 24, 2005

Nick and Nora

Can't stress enough how smart, funny, and essential is The Thin Man. William Powell slides through it like the coolest motherfucker on earth, which he just might be; Myrna Loy is hot no matter what century it is; and their snappy rapport is timeless. Anyone with a brain, a libido, and what the old-timers call "a long thirst" has dreams of a love like that.

And it's a Christmas movie, sorta, although Jimmy Stewart never shot balloons off his Christmas tree with a BB gun and a hangover.

This and the recordings of the Nat Cole Trio are the best evidence I know to show anyone who thinks "hip" started with BeBop, the Beat Generation or, God forbid, the Summer of Love. Nick and Nora Charles get the joke better than anyone.

Posted by pk at 8:26 PM

December 22, 2005

Presence of malice

Continuing the diablog with Damn You, Sir! vis-a-vis conservative shamelessness:

David Brooks has a slimy column today (subscription required) sympathetically outlining Bush's "options" for snooping on terrorists.

Option 1 is doing it like you're supposed to, getting permission to eavesdrop from the courts, which is bad because there are all these new technologies and, "[s]wamped in the data-fog, the courts would just become meaningless rubber-stamps." He doesn't say why making those courts obsolete is preferable.

Option 2 is what Bush did, which Brooks acknowledges is "legally dubious," and could get you in a lot of trouble if you get caught. Fair enough. Option 3 is to do that, except bring a few congressional leaders on board so that you're at least informally honoring Congress's responsibility for oversight, and you've got someone to keep you honest.

That option, says Brooks, "is impossible because it requires trust. It requires that the president and the Congressional leaders trust one another. It requires Democrats and Republicans to trust one another. We don't have that kind of trust in America today."

Italics mine. Brooks just reports that condition without further explanation, like it's just the way it is, a drought or a plague for which no one can be blamed. But someone is to blame: The vast right-wing conspiracy is to blame, in a thousand ways, for this plague of dishonesty and distrust, and I could sit here and name names from now until breakfast, starting with Lee Atwater and ending with Brooks himself. In an oddly smug and lecturing tone, he declares that our constitutional democracy is broken, but he is too corrupt or too cowardly--I know he's not too stupid--to say that it's the Republican Party and its media apparatus that broke it.

Posted by pk at 2:44 PM

High crime

"Bush's Impeachable Offense," Michelle Goldberg, Salon, 12/22/05:

"Looking at this controversy objectively, you inevitably end up with a question of impeachment," says Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law.


According to Turley, there's little question Bush committed a federal crime by violating the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The act authorizes a secret court to issue warrants to eavesdrop on potential suspects, or anyone even remotely connected to them, inside the United States. The bar to obtain a FISA warrant is low; more than 15,000 have been granted, with only four requests denied since 1979. In emergency situations, the government can even apply for FISA warrants retroactively. Nevertheless, Bush chose not to comply with FISA's minimal requirements.

"The fact is, the federal law is perfectly clear," Turley says. "At the heart of this operation was a federal crime. The president has already conceded that he personally ordered that crime and renewed that order at least 30 times. This would clearly satisfy the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors for the purpose of an impeachment."

Turley is no Democratic partisan; he testified to Congress in favor of Bill Clinton's impeachment. "Many of my Republican friends joined in that hearing and insisted that this was a matter of defending the rule of law, and had nothing to do with political antagonism," he says. "I'm surprised that many of those same voices are silent. The crime in this case was a knowing and premeditated act. This operation violated not just the federal statute but the United States Constitution. For Republicans to suggest that this is not a legitimate question of federal crimes makes a mockery of their position during the Clinton period. For Republicans, this is the ultimate test of principle."

Of course, that may be exactly the problem. While noted experts--including a few Republicans--are saying Bush should be impeached, few think he will be. It's not clear that the political will exists to hold the president to account. "We have finally reached the constitutional Rubicon," Turley says. "If Congress cannot stand firm against the open violation of federal law by the president, then we have truly become an autocracy."

A way of thinking about this that I've seen a few places and makes sense to me is that, in times of crisis and danger, the president may have not the right but the responsibility to break, expand, or circumnavigate the law--and then be prepared to explain himself and perhaps face certain consequences.

The Constitution, not any president, is the governing entity of the nation. The president protects and defends it. The presidency is a position not of power and privilege but of duty and sacrifice. When circumstances force a president into actions that go against existing law, he doesn't get to break the law, he has to. Then his decision must be tried against the law.

Otherwise, the law is whatever he thinks it is and he can make it up as he goes, and the rest of us are just pawns, scribes, and onlookers. Which just about describes the state of affairs we have allowed to exist in this country for more than four years.

It may be naive to think this isn't already merely academic. It may be that an apparatus already exists to undermine democracy and make it impossible for the people to force the government to act in their interest when it contradicts the interests of the powerful. Certainly the impulse to do that has existed throughout history, and will always threaten the people. Until now, our Constitution was the most effective defense against it ever devised.

Everything this president does is calculated to expand the powers of the executive so that the will of the people can be more efficiently and effectively disregarded. If this clear violation of the law is allowed to stand uncontested, then the apparatus will be that much stronger.

More here, here, here, and here.

Posted by pk at 9:15 AM

December 20, 2005

The Declaration of Codependence

Fill in the blanks:

To stress the high stakes in the war between _____ and _____, _____ doesn't dare undermine the power of _____, and therefore can't help but play into _____'s pretensions, becoming part of the _____ they're against and in the process proving just as _____.

After all, if we weren't convinced that _____ was so powerful, we wouldn't grant _____ so much power. You might even say that _____ effectively makes _____ more powerful -- because you can't buy that kind of PR.

Of course, in this case, _____ is very powerful. But it's still a useful and portable metaphor.

Posted by pk at 9:24 AM

December 1, 2005


Not that much of the pudding, not that much of the time.... What (I) (we) have is in the LinkLog--right column.

When that changes, you'll see it over here.

You know who you are.

Posted by pk at 8:48 PM