He should have saved his receipts

Another in a long line of foxes nominated to the hen houses in this administration: Bush has nominated to the U.S. Tax Court a man who cheated on his taxes.

Bower submitted income tax returns to the Senate Finance Committee that showed approximately $2,000 in improperly deducted expenses over three years, committee leaders said in a joint statement. The panel requires every nominee it considers to submit their last three tax returns.

The committee found questionable deductions for unreimbursed employee expenses during its initial inspection early this year. Bower prepared amended returns and submitted those to the committee, and the panel found more improper deductions.

Those deductions included entertainment expenses, nondeductible gifts to employees, gifts to elected state officials that exceeded legal limits, and meals with no legitimate business purpose. Bower’s tax returns, which were prepared by an accountant, have not been audited.

Rant Round Up

Two subjects today that make my head hurt a little bit.
First, the good news: Admiral Poindexter is on his way out. Known in the 80s for his law-bending activities supplying arms to the Contras, he has recently been renowned for his creation of the “Total Information Awareness” project, which basically was the proverbial Big Brother database. Then last week it was disclosed that his department had come up with an inconceivable “online betting pool” on future terrorist attacks. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what in the hell that project was aiming to do, unless they figured that it would help rat out terrorism planners, perhaps?

DARPA and two private partners would have set up an Internet futures trading market on events in the Middle East. Traders could have bought and sold futures contracts based on their predictions about what would happen in the region. Examples given on the market’s Web site included the assassination of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a biological weapons attack on Israel.

Now, on to issue 2: same-sex marriage. I simply don’t understand the arguments against it.
“Marriage is only between a man and woman.” That’s discriminatory.
“It’s a sacred thing.” Sounds religious to me, and the government can’t endorse or promote such a thing.
“It’s for procreation.” An awful lot of people marry and have no children. Should they be allowed to marry?
“It will destroy the family.” Well, the family is falling apart now, and gays can’t marry. How in the hell can the union of two people in love destroy the family? It seems to me that we need more people who love each other.

Can I just say, how DARE the Pope presume to dictate what government policies should be, especially in this country where we (theoretically) have a separation of church and state. The Vatican released a document which calls for laws against same-sex marriage.

The document calls on Catholic politicians to vote against laws granting legal recognition to homosexual unions and to work to repeal those already on the books.

Aha! This adds fuel to the fire over nominee judge Pryor, who is being defended by conservatives with ads claiming religious persecution due to his Catholic beliefs. Well, he insists on forcing his Catholic beliefs on other people, which is not what this country (in theory) is about. No government official in this country should ever be allowed to make law or decisions based on his religious beliefs or what the Pope directs him to do.

[My cousin Kirk, who’s somewhat right-of-center comments on this blog sometimes exasperate me, makes a good point about the seemingly endless hypocrisy of the Catholic church, to which my family belongs (at least, the Mexican parts of us): “The next thing you know those gays will be covering for pedophiles, hiding Nazis and promoting slavery…. And mom wonders why I rarely go to church.”]

Republicans say Democrats’ opposition to Pryor demonstrates an anti-Catholic bias because of his anti-abortion stance. “This litmus test that is being applied is ultimately, is ultimately a religious one,” said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)

Here’s the old right-wing hypocrisy again: on gay marriage, the litmus test that is being applied is ultimately a religious one.

All the talk about writing legislation or a constitutional amendment to “define” marriage is about religion, pure and simple. How can this government legislate a religious belief? Hell, let’em have their marriage – but don’t recognize it legally, because it’s a religious concept.

Meanwhile, I find it tough to believe that God would have made me gay, then made rules saying that I couldn’t be happy. Frankly, I don’t believe that God made the rules, at all. Get the freaking religion out of our government. Religion is never rational, never fair, and never balanced. Government must be, to protect everyone – not just those who are believers.

Strip away the religious portions and what you have is a contract between two people who love each other. What else about it makes it necessary for the government to be involved? What’s wrong with two people loving each other and committing to each other? It’s folly to ask if the conservatives would rather that gay people never be happy, always be single, and seek out affection in any dark corner they can find; because in fact, the conservatives – regardless of the “compassionate” rhetoric – want gay people to disappear.

It’s astounding to me how in this day and age, the right wing can get away with treating an entire class of people the same way that another class of people were treated in the not-too-distant past. ____ people can’t marry. ____ people have no protections in housing or employment. ____ people are subject to being beaten and killed, but it’s OK because they don’t know their place.

Unbelievable.

Bush on same-sex marriage

President Bush said Wednesday he has government lawyers working on a law that would define marriage as a union between a woman and a man, casting aside calls to legalize gay marriages.

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and I believe we ought to codify that one way or the other and we have lawyers looking at the best way to do that,” the president said a wide-ranging news conference at the White House Rose Garden.

Bush also urged, however, that America remain a “welcoming country” — not polarized on the issue of homosexuality.

“I am mindful that we’re all sinners and I caution those who may try to take a speck out of the neighbor’s eye when they got a log in their own,” the president said. “I think it is important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts.”

“On the other hand, that does not mean that someone like me needs to compromise on the issue of marriage,” he added.

Maybe it’s the way my brain is wired, but I just can’t wrap my mind around the way people like this President think they can have their cake and eat it to. He wants a “welcoming” country, not polarized… but then denies equal treatment to a segment of the population – with a constitutional amendment, no less! What else will be in this amendment, a clause designating gay people as 5/8ths of a person? I’m horrified by these right wing nut jobs who want to tamper with the very foundations of our nation for their ultra-conservative religious ends. With these people in charge, I certainly don’t feel welcomed in my own native land.

Meanwhile, Howard Kurtz in the Post reports on the potential for an anti-gay backlash in this country. He also quotes a good point from Andrew Sullivan, a guy who – while I thought was hunky until he gave me a sneering attitude one night at a movie theatre – I rarely agree with except for this one issue:

“It’s extremely depressing to see a magazine that has long championed federalism and states rights support a Constitutional Amendment that would shred such principles. . . .

“NR has essentially conceded in this passage that every link to procreation in legal marriage has been gutted already, except the abstract but practically inconsistent association of heterosexuality and procreation. Yet they are not proposing an amendment to make divorce or multiple re-marriage or sperm banks illegal — something that clearly would restore the ancient links between marriage and procreation. Their view is that although heterosexuals have severed the link between procreation and marriage, homosexuals should not be allowed to enter the institution on the same terms.

“Why? I can’t see a real argument, except that somehow admitting gay people would make what is already true too explicit. From the point of view of National Review, a civil marriage regime which allows the most shameless, intentionally childless, days-long, Green Card, Vegas chapel, heterosexual marriage is worthy of more legal and social protection than a long-term faithful and loving gay relationship with kids. It’s good to see how they really feel about gay relationships.”

Well, it’s about time

President Bush has finally uttered the words that he should have said weeks ago:

President Bush on Wednesday accepted personal responsibility for a discredited portion of last winter’s State of the Union address that suggested Saddam Hussein was shopping for nuclear material in Africa.

“I take personal responsibility for everything I say, absolutely,” the president said during an hour-long White House news conference where he sought to quell a controversy that has dogged his administration for weeks.

It was the first time he had specifically taken responsibility for the words. In the past, he sidestepped the question, taking responsibility only for his decisions.

The remarks came in a rare news conference:

The appearance before reporters marked the eighth time since taking office that Bush has fielded questions at a formal news conference, and the first time since American and British forces invaded Iraq last March.

By comparison, Bill Clinton had held 33 formal news conferences at a comparable point in his administration; Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, had 61.

Also:

On one simmering domestic issue, the president said he opposes gay marriage, and suggested his administration might propose legislation on the subject.

“I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we’ve got lawyers looking at the best way to do that,” he said.
Remember, he’s a compassionate conservative. That means, “we’re going to screw you, but we’ll pretend to feel sheepish about it.”

Beware of candidate promises

I put this piece of advice out there for both Democrats and Republicans. And Greens, and whomever else. But I give the example of our current “leader.”
I’ve written a few times here about the dismay of having a President who refuses to take responsibility. There are a lot of Bush apologists who keep pointing out that it was only 16 words, why is it such a big deal? It’s a big deal because his “savvy” team have bungled this issue so poorly and kept it in the forefront. And because of this statement by Bush during his presidential campaign:

“My job will be to usher in the responsibility era, a culture that will stand in stark contrast to the last few decades, which has clearly said to America: ‘If it feels good, do it, and if you’ve got a problem blame somebody else,’ ” Bush often said on the campaign trail in 2000.

But once in office, “like most presidents, Bush blames everybody but himself for bad news,” Congressional Quarterly’s Craig Crawford wrote last week.

I can’t help but wonder if the whole issue would have gone away if he had just said, ala Harry Truman, “the buck stops here. I made a mistake.”

Again, an example of the Clintonian evasion that the Bush administration first excoriated, then embraced:

The inevitable question came again in Bush’s July 17 press conference with Britain’s Tony Blair. This time, Bush took responsibility four times — though not for the words.

“I take responsibility for putting our troops into action,” he began. “I take responsibility for making the decision, the tough decision, to put together a coalition to remove Saddam Hussein. . . . I take responsibility for dealing with that threat. . . . And, yeah, I take responsibility for making the decisions I made.”

But what about the 16 words? Five days later, in a briefing on the controversy, White House communications director Dan Bartlett was asked if Bush accepted responsibility for citing the discredited intelligence. “He is responsible for the decision of going to war,” Bartlett said. CBS’s John Roberts was not satisfied. “So does he not ultimately bear responsibility for these 16 words going in the speech?”

“Well, John, as I said, the president bears responsibility for the decisions he makes,” Bartlett replied. That still didn’t do it for Roberts, who said, “But on this particular issue, I mean, does he not say, ‘I’m in charge of the White House, it’s ultimately my responsibility?’ ”

Bartlett didn’t budge. “Well, and in this case, he is accepting the explanation of his staff.”

Roberts persevered. “Okay, so he’s not going to take responsibility for the White House that he oversees?”

“John, he takes full responsibility for the decisions that he has made.”

At a dead end, reporters tried deductive reasoning. If the president takes responsibility for the case for going to war, and the faulty allegation was part of this case, then the president does, in fact, take responsibility for the infamous 16 words? “He is responsible for the decisions he makes,” Bartlett repeated.

At the end of this Post article is a small item on overextending troops – at the same time there was a flap over the ABC News item which lead the White House to “out” the reporter as gay and Canadian, there was also an article in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes quoting military personnel saying the same thing.

And this wonderful quote:

“I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.” — Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, July 21.

That’s so wrong

I was hoping it was a joke when I came across the title for an upcoming Fox show a little while ago; but — it comes on this week:

It might have been called “Extreme Impalement,” but in reality, the hourlong special’s title couldn’t be more precise: “101 Things Removed from the Human Body” is not for the squeamish.

“There are a lot of orifices in the human body, and there are a lot of accidents that happen,” [Producer] Schotz says. “We’ve spent years compiling this show. … Sometimes you’d just come across a picture that would just stop you, and you’d go, ‘That’s so wrong.”‘
It seems like a joke, but… it’s Fox. What does it mean when Fox’s programming is almost exactly like a satire of itself?

The person you have reached is no longer in service. Please make a note of it.

Meanwhile, while the country is being blitzed by the non-stop coverage of the strangely unexpected death of 100-year-old, ill-health icon Bob Hope; there’s another sad death of a ubiquitous voice: Jane Barbe. Barbe is the woman who’s voice you’ve heard for decades when you dial a disconnected number; get stuck in voice mail hell, or call information.

Barbe was the queen of telephone recordings, whose voice was heard an estimated 40 million times a day in the 1980s and early 1990s on everything from automated time and weather messages to hotel wake-up calls.

She was heard on 90 percent of “intercept messages” – the recording played when something is wrong with a phone number – and 60 percent of automated time and temperature calling programs.

During her unusual 40-year career she articulated immortal lines, including, “I’m sorry, the number you have dialed is no longer in service” and “Please press 1 for more options.”

Them folks in Kentucky is smart

Via Fark: Kentucky has found a new way to drive sales of commemorative license plates: create a standard license plate so annoyingly stupid that everyone will pay extra to avoid it. The standard Kentucky plate includes a rather silly looking smiley face; so many people are opting to pay extra to get a special commemorative plate benefiting various charities instead.

December’s unveiling of the “Kentucky: It’s that friendly” plate almost immediately was greeted with hoots and haranguing by some. Letters to The Courier-Journal referred to the plates as “a cartoon,” “a hick plate,” and an “embarrassment.”  The smiling sun  was  referred to by one letter writer as “obnoxious, trite (and) hardly relevant to our natural resources or regional beauty.”

Less than a month after the new plate was unveiled,  Gov. Paul  Patton was on the defensive, saying he had nothing to do with their design before passing along faint praise.

“They don’t put Rembrandts on the backs of cars,” he said in January.

The plates were designed by a committee comprised of representatives from the Transportation Cabinet, Tourism Development Cabinet, and Governor’s Office. Given the state’s tight budget situation, Patton said a new plate is not possible before the next scheduled redesign in 2008.

Some Kentucky motorists have opted to send a mixed message from their back bumper in connection with the new plates. Among the personalized “it’s that friendly!” plates registered with the state: “GOAWAY,” “GRUMPY,” “ANGRY,” and “MEAN2U.”

From the vault to your heart

I wanted to post something up here about Bob Hope, but figured that the entire world was going to be over-using the phrase “Thanks for the Memory” today. If you’d like to hear the entire song in it’s original usage, I posted it up a little while ago on his birthday.
So, rather than a long retrospective or maudlin eulogy, let me just say this: Bob Hope was funny, and he was funny without being mean or dirty. And his legacy of comedy now belongs to all of us — literally. Hope donated his entire vault of jokes to the Library of Congress. They belong to you, and they belong to me. Other people have donated great works of literature, but Bob Hope gave us the means to laugh for time immemorial. How many other governments archive jokes for their citizens?
Go the Library and search for a good joke. Then make someone laugh.

Word play, Clinton-style

Boy, oh boy. The Bush administration has taken the Clintonian art for parsing and technicality to an entirely new level.
Neocon war monger Paul Wolfowitz is still trumpeting that line about Iraq being the bedfellow of al Queda, despite all evidence to the contrary. He is trying to make it appear that al Queda is behind the constant attacks on US forces:

Asked about the increasing casualties among American soldiers in Iraq, Wolfowitz, appearing on “Fox News Sunday” said, “It is a sacrifice that is going to make our children and our grandchildren safer because the battle to win the peace in Iraq now is the central battle in the war on terrorism.”

His current line is that Iraq is the “central battle” in the war on terrorism. Never mind that Iraq had nothing to do with September 11 – or that there is no evidence to support that claim – and that the war on terrorism seems to have all but fizzled out. When was the last time you heard them talk about finding Osama bin Laden?
Now, here’s the doozy: Since there is no evidence at all that Iraq helped al Queda or that, in fact, al Queda even gave as much as a fig about Saddam Hussein, a secular leader like the ones that bin Laden fights against, Wolfowitz has finally parsed and pieced together an excuse for this linkage. Are you ready for this one? I’m serious. Really. This will make you either laugh out loud or shake your head in disbelief:

He linked bin Laden to Iraq by saying that the al Qaeda leader first called for the death of Americans because they were stationed in Saudi Arabia to carry out flights over southern Iraq, as part of Washington’s post-Gulf War policy. He went on to say that the killings of 19 Air Force personnel in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the 17 Navy sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 would not have happened if the United States had not been engaged against Iraq.

In other words, our own actions in the Gulf region are the cause of the terrorist attacks, and since our actions were against Iraq, naturally, the whole thing is Iraq’s fault. That makes them “linked.” Technically, yes, that’s a “link.” But what a Clintonian stretch that is. I guess it depends what the meaning is “link” is.
By that logic, I am linked to Kevin Bacon and he is responsible for the fact that I got bronchitis last month.
Incredible.

On the neo-con menu

From the “Taking Liberties” satire in today’s Washington Post:

Bill Clinton has enlisted the services of dozens of friends to produce a celebrity cookbook to raise money for his presidential library. Not to be outdone, President Bush is planning his own celebrity cookbook complete with these favorite recipes:

Treasury Secretary John Snow’s Upside-Down Cake: Start with one healthy economy with a projected budgetary surplus of $300 billion. Add $1 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years and several ongoing wars and bake for 21/2 years. Remove cake from hot oven, turn upside down and voilà, you’ve got a $450 billion deficit. Repeat for the next three years for a decadent confection.

John Ashcroft’s Constitutional Purée: Start with separated church and state. Mix with an assortment of diluted civil liberties. Add your choice of faith-based initiatives and simmer surreptitiously until church and state are well blended.

And finally, the president’s own Texas-Style Barbecued Goose: Combine generous dollops of suspect intelligence with a unilateral, nation-building worldview to justify an ongoing state of war. Mix in tax-cut giveaways and record-breaking deficits and your goose could be cooked by Nov. 2, 2004. Serve with a Crawford whine of your choice.

A eulogy for Futurama

AP television writer Frazier Moore has written an excellent review/eulogy for my fave, Futurama. Unfortunately, the show airs its final episode on August 10. I wish that kudos such as this had appeared long ago…

It falls to Fry to share long-lost techniques for littering. Just as, on another episode, he draws on 20th century logic to argue that TV should avoid all cleverness, since “clever things make people feel stupid, and unexpected things make them feel scared.”

As viewers eons from now may discover, “Futurama” never bothered to take its own advice.