Friday, July 12, 2002

Is Minority Report Shallow? According to Stanley Kauffmann at TNR online, it is. And who am I to disagree?

Wait a minute! I'm Terminus, dammit! Of course I disagree!

Kauffmann is bummed because the film doesn't explore the political/Constitutional issues brought up by the premise of predicting future crimes. A predictable complaint from a political magazine. But, in my opinion, Kauffmann is the shallow one. The issue that needs discussion in this film isn't political, its philosophical. In the world of the film, the precrime procedure is seen as flawless, and it has a flawless record. Not a single person has been falsely imprisoned. The Constitutional issue would be swept aside in real life just as easily as it is in the film, if not moreso, given the facts as presented. [In fact, seeing the film in today's post 9/11 Ashcroftian environment, I thought the approach it took to civil liberties was liberal almost to the point of quaintness.]

The film isn't concerned with the political ramifications of predicting crime. It's concerned with the philosophical ramifications. The system continues to function properly until such time as a person receives a premonition relating to himself. This introduces a logical paradox, and this paradox is the core of the film. Indeed, it is through this paradox that several massive plot holes creep into the story. But, the plot holes are unavoidable. They aren't the product of lazy writing or shallow plotting. They are the product of an unfortunate collision of metaphysics and logic.

Once a character sees his own future, either he fulfills it, or he doesn't. But the moment of seeing the future inevitably informs his actions. Thus, if the prediction hadn't been made, it wouldn't have come true. But if it doesn't come true, than it wouldn't have been made. The entire film, then, is not concerned with the Bill of Rights. The whole thing is a giant reductio ad absurdum written in celluloid. The film is a counter-example to its own premise. That is why it is brilliant.
Harken Back. Hmm, it looks like I was a little too hasty yesterday when I agreed to exonerate Bush for the insider trading business. I still don't think it's something that rises to the level where prosecution is in order, but then, neither was Clinton's "perjury".

But it looks like Bush's story is breaking down. Salon Premium is carrying the story full bore, and they've got lots of new details. Anthony York skewers Karen Hughes's claim that Bush was "selling into good news, not bad". Just about two weeks before the sale was executed, Bush was told that Harken's situation was getting pretty desperate. This seems to fly in the face of the SEC conclusion that neither Bush nor anyone else had material non-public information. This discrepancy adds credibility to the claim that the SEC did a half-assed job of investigating. Joe Conason has some more material on the various links between the major players, and also chews out the Washington Post editorial page for being too weak on the issue, especially in light of their ravenous appetite for Whitewater's meager morsels.

I still say that the insider trading is not the big story, and Conason does follow up on the Aloha story by drawing explicit comparisons between the bogus sale of Aloha Petroleum and Enron's now-infamous "off balance sheet transactions".
An Ominous Sign. This doesn't really mean much, in and of itself, but it has enormous symbolic value.
Tapped on Kass. You know, Tapped is absolutely my favorite blog. Along with Eschaton, they were responsible for inspiring me to start a blog, and I admire their respect for fairness and honesty. So it's pretty strange that I so rarely ever link to them.

But today, I've got something to add to this post about the majority pro-life position of the Kass Council on Bioethics. Tapped quotes a paragraph that clearly implies a pro-life ethic at work. Honestly, I'm not sure what Tapped is trying to prove, but nevermind.

The interesting thing is that the moral argument presented in the paragraph Tapped quoted; that it's immoral to serve some people by sacrificing other people's lives (implying that undifferentiated bundles of microscopic cells are morally equivalent to people), is equally applicable to the case on in vitro fertilization, which is relatively non-controversial.

Lots of people derided, for instance, the Pledge decision by saying increduously, "What, do we have to take 'In God we Trust' off the money now, too?" So why isn't there an outcry of people making an equivalent charge in this case. If these bundles of cells are people, then in vitro fertilization is utterly monstrous. But popular opinion has weighed in pretty clearly that in vitro fertilization is a pretty good thing, on the whole.

What's the difference? Why is in vitro fertilization so innocuous and therapeutic cloning so evil? Can anyone formulate an argument to justify this peculiar contradiction? Or should we just get over our neo-Luddite fear of a strange new technology and figure out that people are people, and bundles of cells are bundles of cells, and proceed with saving the lives and alleviating the suffering of actual, bona fide people.

Moreover, a moratorium is quite simply a stupid idea. What would it achieve, exactly? Tapped made this point yesterday when they quoted Elizabeth Blackburn from the Council's report. Ostensibly, the purpose of the moratorium is to gather more information. But the moratorium itself would prevent, by law, the gathering of any relevant information. It's total, undisguised idiocy which serves absolutely no legitimate purpose whatsoever.

Kudos to Tapped for giving this issue the attention it deserves.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Right-wing Corporate Scandal Defense. I find this desperate defensiveness on the part of conservative apologists to be in equal parts amusing and frightening. One of the best strategies, I find, for evaluating the relative worth of competing arguments (in the absence of available hard evidence) is to evaluate the structural soundness of the arguments. It's not foolproof, but it's a good place to start.

The liberal argument has the basic and necessary structure of a sound argument: the logical progression from cause to effect. The Democrats are pointing to the source, deregulation, and claiming that it is the direct cause of the result, corporate malfeasance. The Democrats are mapping out the chain of causality that links them. The regulatory agencies of the government, first and foremost the SEC, were defunded, and headed by men with an ideological predisposition in opposition to the essential mission of the organization they headed. It's akin to firing Elliot Ness and hiring Al Capone to replace him. Moreover, crucial regulations were repealed, or gutted by the legislation, making perfectly legal conduct which was once prohibited specifically to prevent abusing arising from conflicts of interest.

What happened? The CEOs and Boards of Directors, who have no allegiance to social welfare (nor should they... it's not their responsibility), were suddenly given greater lattitude to pursue the one thing that mattered to them above all else: rising stock prices. There is nothing essentially corrupt about someone trying to maximize the stock price of their corporation. That's what they're hired to do. But when the safeguards are removed, they start pursuing morally suspect means to reach their perfectly reasonable ends. The works fine for awhile, but it inevitably gets out of control.

That's what happened with Enron. They dug themselves in too deep, and eventually had to declare bankruptcy. This was a huge shock to everyone. And a huge wake-up call. Plenty of people, including Paul Krugman, warned that there were more Enron's out there, and now we've seen them. We caught Enron because they went bankrupt, which is a public event. We caught many of the others because we started looking more closely.

So, that's the liberal argument. From cause, through a chain of causality, to effect. The conservative argument has no reasonable chain of causality. They tried the "Clinton's penis" argument, until it was pointed out that it is unlikely that Republican-leaning CEOs would take any kind of lead from Clinton, and some of the scandals pre-date not only Clinton's affair with Lewinsky, but Clinton's presidency itself. Now they're blaming the stock market bubble, which until now they desperately tried to take credit for. But there is no chain of causality. The conservative argument is not structurally sound.
Behind the Eight Ball. As some other leftist bloggers have been saying, the real Bush corporate scandal story from his Harken days isn't the stock dump. I spent some time this afternoon at the Center for Public Integrity website, and I'm convinced that Bush was not guilty of insider trading, or, at the very least, that there isn't nearly enough evidence to support a prosecution, much less a conviction, on that charge. I still have this nagging feeling, though, that something was wrong about that whole deal. Why was the Form 4 filed 34 weeks late, and without a date, if there was nothing wrong with the stock dump? According to S.E.C. documents, Bush consulted with his lawyers at Harken as to the legality of the sale before he did. Once his lawyers decided there was nothing wrong with it, he filed the "Intent to Sell Form". Then, he sold. Then, something like eight months after the deadline, the Form 4 appears, signed, but not dated. Given what happened to Harken's stock in the mean time, this was the best way to draw suspicion to the transaction, which is exactly what happened. But, the S.E.C. determined that, as far as they could tell, neither Bush nor anyone at Harken knew, at the time of Bush's stock sale, how bad things were. So, he was not guilty of insider trading, because insider trading would have required him to have specific non-public knowledge which the S.E.C. concluded he did not have.

Of course, as good liberals will be quick to point out, the stock dump was never the major issue anyone. It was the "Enron-style" accounting involved in the sale of Aloha Petroleum, at an inflated price. You see, they needed to mask lost earnings, so Harken arranged to sell Aloha, in effect, to itself, and report the sale as an influx of cash, thus masking the true extent of their impending losses. The S.E.C. caught them doing this, and demanded that they restate their earnings. This fits precisely the pattern of corporate fraud we've become familiar with, and Bush was a part of it, sitting on the Board of Directors and the Audit Committee.

Then there's the business of Bush having received a loan from Harken at a low interest rate. Now, Bush says that the corporate practice of providing insiders with sweet loans is part of the problem, and he wants the practice ended. But at the time, he benefitted from it. This is a juicy bit of hypocrisy to put in the papers for a day or two, but it isn't really a big deal. It's only important insofar as it is emblematic of the fact that Bush cannot be trusted to clean up corporate America. But who needs emblems... the man's own speech on Monday was glaringly indicative of the fact that we can't trust him.

None of these news stories change anything. But they do provide a valuable object lesson in who Bush is, where his priorities lie, and what he really stands for. There's a vast chasm between good behavior and illegal behavior. Bush's behavior was far from good, but it wasn't illegal, either. That's why we need, and we're going to get, tougher laws. Stricter penalties, as Bush proposed, without tougher laws, is ludicrous. We have to force these CEOs to adjust their behavior towards the good, by eliminating some of the wiggle room between good and illegal. Bush, who for his entire business career sat comfortably in that chasm, pretty far from good, but not especially close to illegal (and quite a distance from competent, I might add), is not going to lift a finger to support substantive change.

But he won't publicly block it, either. Just like campaign finance.

There are a host of commentaries on this issue today, as you might imagine. Check out Conason, Bob Somerby, as well as Spencer Ackerman at TNR Online.
Good News/Bad News From Morris. Say what you want about Dick Morris, but he's written a terrific piece for the New York Post.

[Irrelevant aside: I've got a Public Enemy song about the New York Post running round and round my head now. Most of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. "Hey New York Post, don't brag and boast, dissin' Flava when he's butter that you put on your toast....]

Anyway, Morris says that Bush made the corporate scandals the number one story by speaking about it. I was just wondering this morning why Bush made that speech at all on Tuesday. Certainly, I've wondered why he made such a bad speech, but why did he speak at all? He ignores everything else. Anyway, Morris says he's shielding his own personal scandals by cutting loose the larger scandals. In other words, he's saving himself, but turning on his party, which will be hit hard in the midterms thanks to this.

If that's the case, and it's at least an arguable position, I think it's an overall bad move for Bush. I mean, a big win in 2002 will give the entire Democratic field a big boost for 2004. Right now, a lot of pundits, donors, and political busybodies (like people who read and write blogs like this) remain unconvinced that anyone or anything can beat Bush. A big Democratic win will go a long way toward changing that zeitgeist. Suddenly, with Bush being seen as beatable, his popularity balloon could pop, and then its open season, with Congress pecking at his agenda (which has already faltered on lots of key points), and an animated field of Democratic challengers criticizing everything from his foreign policy, to his tax cut, to his hair cut!

Whatever happens, I think it's going to be fun.

[Full disclosure: I met Dick Morris once when he spoke at Rutgers University in New Brunswick while I was an undergraduate there. I imagine this was after he left the White House. I remember practically nothing about it, except walking away having been impressed by the man. Honestly, I think I was much more interested in this adorable girl I went with to see him, than in anything he may have had to say.]
Bush Scandal Update. Take a look at the latest from the New York Times. I'd like to draw particular attention to this paragraph, which concerns the comparatively minor charge of late-filing S.E.C. forms:

"According to company documents, however, Harken's lawyers sent Mr. Bush two memos in the months before the 1990 stock sale setting out in detail new procedures for filing paperwork with the S.E.C. But one of the two required forms regarding Mr. Bush's sale of the 212,000 shares reached the S.E.C. 34 weeks late – and while Mr. Bush had signed it, he left the date blank."

Ok, now this is no smoking gun, but it certainly looks as though Bush intentionally filed the papers late. Why would he do that? Why, to deflect the suspicion that he was selling stock to get out before the stock price plummeted. It did plummet. Possibly Bush accidentally filed the thing late, in which case, he was merely inept and incompetent, which are, incidentally, prime qualifications for being the chief executive of any corporation (even the one we call the United States of America). But unless he is really inept and incompetent, and in a peculiarly, conveniently, specific sort of way, it really looks like he intentionally failed to note the date of his signing of the forms. Of course, if he signed the forms on time and they were lost, either by the S.E.C. (his first story), or by his attorneys (his current story), he would have had no reason to omit the date. If he was filing late, and knew it, he would have excellent reason to omit the date.

Make up your own minds, people. You're not sheep.

Also, there's an interesting twist of which I was not previously aware. Apparently, a broker named Ralph D. Smith cold-called Mr. Bush offering to take the Harken stock off his hands and deliver it to an investor who has to this day not been identified. As the article points out, it was a strange company for an investor to suddenly be interested in, as its prospects weren't looking particularly stellar at the time. I don't know what this means, but I'm interested. In fact, fascinated.
More Liberal Media Bias. Ok, first a big, big caveat. I did not watch the program I am about to describe, so it may have been much better, as it went on, than how it is implied here. But last night, shortly before going out to see The Bourne Identity, which I liked very much, I was flipping channels and found a Town Hall Meeting on CNBC about the corporate scandals and Bush's speech. I only saw the first couple of minutes, but their guests were Don Evans, Commerce Secretary, and Paul O'Neill, Treasury Secretary. The first question put to each one was about how the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost over 450 points in the day-and-a-half after the Bush speech. Both men agreed that the two events were utterly unconnected.

Ok, maybe they had some Democratic critics on later, or maybe the moderators and/or audience posed hard-hitting questions that undermined the administration line, but if so, no indication of this was given at the top of the program. If anyone saw this (does anyone watch CNBC?), can you tell us about the rest of the show? Was it really as bad as it looked, or did I tune out too soon?
False Advertising. Speaking of Max, he is a funny man.
NAACP and tax cuts. The NAACP is not an organization that is known for its strong opinions on fiscal policy. But as Bob Herbert points out in today's New York Times, tax policy and minority issues are linked. This is what many Republicans don't seem to understand, including Bush himself. When asked on Monday about the NAACP's claim that Bush has a horrible record on civil rights thus far, Bush responded by pointing out that his Secretary of State and National Security Advisor are African-Americans, as if that answers the point. It doesn't. Herbert's column shows brilliantly how "compassionate conservative" is structurally untenable. Bush's tax cut for the wealthy (that's more than just rhetoric, by the way.... Herbert's column has the numbers) undermines his professed support for education by robbing the federal government of the money needed to put the "compassionate" programs in place. But that's the point of tax cuts: to de-fund the government, thus undercutting liberal (and also, broadly popular) social programs designed to help people, and also to cynically buy votes.

That's why Democrats desperately need to articulate their own tax cut policy and work to replace the future portions of the Bush tax cut with a new, progressive version. I'm hoping that, if the Dems pick up seats in the Senate and win the House, this will happen. For a good starting point in constructing such a tax policy, take a look at MaxSpeak.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Welcome SullyWatchers!. It's taken a long time, but Terminus has gotten its first confirmed content link. I've noticed that Terminus has popped up on the links section of several bloggers (all of which, and more, appear on my own navi-bar on the right), and I'm very grateful for the support. But I believe that SullyWatch is the first blog to post directly to something I've written, and I'm very grateful. Check out SullyWatch, especially if you're feeling a bit dizzy from reading Sully himself. It'll put you back on track.
Tough Conason vs. Wimpy Conason? I'm puzzled, my friends. Salon.com plugged the arrival of Conason's new "daily column" by saying that now Conason would have the opportunity to take the gloves off and go after Bush for real. Ok, great. I admit, when I read that, I was salivating at the prospect. So would someone please tell what makes this presumably gloves-on column for the New York Observer so wimpy?

The simple truth: despite Salon's spin, Conason's column is just more Conason. As far as I can tell, the guy never wore gloves. Thank goodness for that!
Dowd Demolition. Maureen Dowd eviscerates the essential conflict in Bush between his "plain folk" persona and his elitist upbringing. Beside having a good point, there's also from very nice writing on display. "Can a Bush - born on third base but thinking he hit a triple - ever really understand the problems of the guys in the bleachers?" This concept will dog Bush for the rest of his political life. He's got a good, slick, image-control team, which portrayed him as simple, down-home, country-style, etc., against the perceived intellectual elitism of Gore in the 2000 election. [And the fact that a capacity for critical thought has become a liability in presidential elections scares the crap out of me.] But, when you look at the man's life, he hasn't earned a thing for himself. He traded on the Bush name throughout his business career, and he was a failure. He traded on the Bush name to become Governor of Texas, and he was a failure. He traded on the Bush name to become President of the United States, and he's a failure. It's a powerful, if disheartening, lesson for the young people of this country. Hard work can get you there, if you're bright, and if you're talented. Or, a powerful family will get you there faster even if you're neither.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

A Little Consistency, Please. William Saletan compares Bush's press conference yesterday, where he defended his own conduct on the Harken stock dump, to his speech today, where he said a lot of pretty things about CEOs being nice and playing by the rules and stuff. Get this: even if the stock dump was completely above board, Bush still personally benefitted from the "misstated" earnings report that Harken put out. By his own argument, he should not have been allowed to profit from that.

I'm not saying he should give the money back. You can't retroactively enforce new laws. But it makes the point very strongly that Bush is one of the villains of this story.
Reynolds Reaches. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame takes issue with Eric Alterman's use of the line "Some of my best friends are Negroes". The point that Alterman was making was not, as Reynold would have you believe, that Bush is a racist. The point is that, when asked about his civil rights policy, Bush did nothing but mention that he has African-Americans in his cabinet. When faced with a valid question about civil rights, Bush evades it with a clumsy non-sequitur. Bush implied through his answer that the fact that he has African Americans in his cabinet should insulate him from criticism on civil rights. That is the very essence of the "best friends" fallacy. Just because Bush has African Americans in key positions doesn't absolve him of responsibility for the civil rights of all African Americans. Alterman's evocation of the "best friends" line was by way of analogy, and the analogy holds. The conclusion is not that Bush is a racist; the speaker of the quote was racist. The conclusion is that Bush has a bad record on civil rights for African Americans.

Molly Trumps Terminus. As usual, Molly Ivins captured my feelings on the subject of Bush vs. Corporate Fraud much better than I could myself, and she did it last week. [Ok, well, that's just showing off.] She's got a litany of demands that Bush must fulfill if he expects to be taken seriously as someone who isn't bought and paid for by the corporations. And, if you're not satisfied, she's got another article out today in preparation for Bush's big speech, which is of course, now behind us. Her predictions about the ineffectual nature of Bush's proposal have proved true.

On the issue of Bush's personal history with irresponsible corporate conduct, which Ms. Ivins mentions more than once, I was directed today to some comments made yesterday by The Daily Howler. Let me say, I love this site. However, yesterday, the Howler explained that, in all likelihood, there really wasn't anything wrong with Bush's Harken stock dump. Hmm. I really didn't expect to read something like that there. But, The Howler has such a strong reputation for Bush-bashing, it can't be dismissed. [The Howler doesn't have permalinks, so you'll have to scroll down quite a bit. But read through it, it's very worth it. The post about the Harken business is the top post under yesterday's dateline.]

I know it's terribly bad form for a blogger to so much as admit to the existence of evidence that undermines one his public positions, but in the interest of truth, justice, and fairness, I figured I'd link to this anyway. I expect my bloggers license to be revoked any minute.

If anyone has any idea what to make of all of this, please share. If you can. Last I checked the comments were broken. Ugh.
Another Loss for Film Fans. Rod Steiger has passed away. I was just watching On the Waterfront the other day, and he deserves as much credit as Brando for that unforgettable scene. He also won an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night, which I must admit I haven't seen. I'll be sure to catch it soon. He was 77.
Bush Blathers. The highly touted speech on corporate responsibility has come and gone. Basically, as far as genuine, legitimate policy is concerned, Bush punted. That puts the ball back in the hands of the Senate Democrats, who will carry it in for the touchdown.

But policy is only one of the games played in Washington. The much more important one is politics. This speech was obviously designed to cut off criticism of the White House. Now, everyone can say "Look, he's showing leadership," blissfully unaware of the fact that he isn't. He's saying the things that a leader would say, but he's not doing the things that a leader would do. He's not getting in front of the issue, he's talking as though he were getting front of the issue. He's not taking a hard stance, he's just saying that he's taking a hard stance. There is a word for this kind of behavior. There are actually several. "Hypocrisy", for instance. "Deceit".

For this reason, the speech doesn't amount to a hill of beans. If progress is to be made on this issue, it will be made by the Senate Democrats. All Bush can do is sign the bill that they drafted, that they were pushing through even before he got involved in the issue at all. All he can do is play catch-up with the real leaders, put his name on their work, and take as much credit as the press and public will give him.

To see for yourself, here's a few links.

The Associated Press
The Washington Post
Tapped
Crony Capitalism is Not a Conservative Value. So says the Bull Moose in his latest musing. I like this guy, even if he does have a picture of Ronald Reagan on his website's banner. He's as harsh on the corporate corruption of this administration as anyone I've seen, and much tougher than the mainstream press. Go Moose Go!
So What's the Deal with Huffington? My abiding memory of Arianna Huffington is of her literally getting into bed with Al Franken for Politically Incorrect. [Note to readers: when I use the word "literally", it means "literally". It does not mean "figuratively", as it is so often employed to mean by people who don't have an unhealthy interest in language.] She was once a Republican, and a nasty one. She was married to Michael Huffington, a gay anti-gay Republican who held, or ran for, some office in California. Whatever. I used to hate her, a little like I now hate Ann Coulter. But apparently she's one of us now, or at least, not one of them. I missed her transformation: anybody know what happened?

Anyway, she zings the administration for all of this corporate fraud. It's not a terribly good article, honestly, but the points she makes are accurate in so far as I can see. But she compares Dick Cheney to Rick Blaine. I can't abide that. That would make Lynne Cheney Ilsa, wouldn't it? That could be worse! Stop Arianna before she commits more heartless smears against beloved movie characters!!
Sullivan's Fuzzy Logic. Here's a question for Andrew Sullivan: if I'm a bigot, and you are a bigot, but you are more of a bigot than I am, does that mean that my bigotry is not a flaw and I shouldn't worry about reducing it? That seems to be what Sully argues in his response to Nick Kristof's condemnation of American religious bigotry in the New York Times. Let me set the record straight: Kristof is right that we have seen a huge upswing in public anti-Islam bigotry in this country since 9/11. Sullivan is right that anti-American bigotry on the part of the Islamists (to use Lou Dobbs's convenient and functional term) is far worse than American bigotry against Islam, because people like Al Qaeda are employing terrorism against us to kill thousands of people. Very true, but totally fails to address Kristof's point. Rather, Sullivan misrepresents Kristof as saying that there is a moral equivalence between Americans and Islamists. He says nothing of the kind. He says that they are bigots against us, and we are also bigots against them. He doesn't say that each is as bad as the other; he merely says that both are bad. Basically, he says that bigotry is bad. Exactly what portion of this does Sullivan object to?
Farewell Frankenheimer. I forgot to mention that John Frankenheimer died. He was once a great director, but recently he did Reindeer Games with Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, and Gary Sinise, which is probably the single worst movie I've ever seen in theaters. But he also did Path to War, that HBO movie about Johnson and Vietnam with Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin, and Donald Sutherland. Roger Ebert has a eulogy here.

Speaking for myself, The Mancurian Candidate was a childhood favorite of mine. Even though it had Frank Sinatra in it.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Crappy Cult Movie Alert. I watched Ghost World tonight. [I've stopped hyperlinking movies... if you're interested, you can look them up yourself, dammit!] It is pure, unmitigated crap. I think it's one of those cult movies that a few really strange people really like a lot. Full disclosure: I like lots of cult movies. Not this one. Between this and American Beauty, which I also despise, Thora Birch has taught me that a teenage non-conformist is every bit as much of a walking cliche as every other pre-packaged youth lifestyle out there. Out there in America today, their are probably millions of high school girls who are just like Thora Birch's characters in these movies, who hate Britney Spears, eschew make-up, go for those weird, creepy, unpopular guys, and all think that they're totally unique and, you know, like, real. Guys too.

Listen people, individuality is a lot harder than rejecting the cliches. Unfortunately, even rejecting cliches has become a cliche. Ghost World would have been great if took the standard high school movie and pushed it into two degrees of abstraction, rather than just one. Their needed to be a sarcastic, ironic commentary of the main character's sarcastic ironic commentary. Otherwise, we're left with the impression that this cheap, specious "iconoclast" is meant to be taken seriously. It's just Daria: The Movie.

Oh, except that Daria is funny sometimes.
The Daily Conason. Well, how do you like this? Joe Conason has just started a daily column at Salon.com. Very interesting. Oh, and he's starting off with a gem dated tomorrow. He's talking about Bush's Harken deal. You know the one, it looks suspiciously like insider trading, the SEC investigated and neither prosecuted nor exonerated Bush, and Bush's explanation keeps changing. Conason writes "In other words, everybody was responsible for his failure to observe the securities laws except him." That's what I love about Bush: accountability, responsibility, honesty, integrity.

Conason saves the double-standard argument for the end, and it's a good one. Just imagine if Clinton was going through this same business. Could you imagine? After all the crap he got from Whitewater, when he was a victim of fraud who lost money, not a perpetrator who made a mint! The mind boggles.

The Nation is en fuego. Check the navi-bar to the right and click on the link for The Nation. I won't even bother linking to the individual articles because there are a few worth checking out. Start with the John Nichols piece about Karl Rove's court-packing plan. That article is a call-to-arms. [Not literally... put the weapons down.] Be sure to look at the July 3 editorial by Herman Schwartz for another reminder of why judicial nominations are so crucial to the future of progressivism in this country.

Listen, sooner or later, possibly very soon, one of those Supreme Court justices is going to resign. It'll probably be Rehnquist. Now, he's part of the hard-right axis of the court, which voted 5-4 in favor of school vouchers and in favor of drug-testing high school children without probable cause, not to mention calling the 2000 presidential election for the guy with fewer votes. His resignation is a huge opening opening for Democrats. There's no way in hell that we'll get a liberal to replace him, and we probably won't get a moderate. But Rehnquist is so conservative that Bush is going to be under incredible pressure to nominate someone just as conservative as he is, or else the result will be a small step to the left for the court as a whole. Senate Democrats, if they play it right, can get a windfall out of this. If they can portray Bush's nomination as motivated by ideology and politically divisive, while at the same time forcing Bush to move left in the face of rejected nominees, it's a total win. But, it's going to be a hard fight, and the Republicans might turn it to their advantage if they can find a way to get the "obstructionist" label to stick (and have you ever heard a more intellectually bankrupt argument than the "obstructionist attack"?).

Depending on the timing of the resignation/nomination, this could have a huge impact on the midterms, or the midterms could have a huge impact on the nomination fight. The next session of the High Court begins in early October. If Rehnquist bails now, Bush will try to get the next guy in before November. On the other hand, if the elections come first, then we may see a stronger Democratic majority in the full Senate, which would put even more pressure on Bush to nominate a more moderate candidate.

If anyone knows anything more about the whole nomination process, please comment. I'm sketchy on the details. I mean, if Rehnquist retired now, Bush would have to nominate a new Chief Justice, which would probably be drawn from the pool of currect conservative justices, right? And then, he'd have to nominate someone else to fill that person's seat, right? If Rehnquist dropped out today, how long would the nomination/confirmation realistically take?
Bush Corporate Scandal. There's an article in the Financial Times about the developing story of both the corporate scandals in general, and Bush's peculiar connection to them. Senators Daschle and, interestingly, McCain are both calling for the resignation of SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt. So let's add him to the list of administration notables we discussed last week. I'm really not sure what kind of traction this issue is going to have. Does anybody out there in the country really care about this stuff? I don't know. I'll be interested to see what Bush has to say tomorrow. To satisfy me, he'll need to talk policy, not ethics. A lecture from Bush won't mean squat to anybody. We need to put people in jail, including Bush's Enron-buddy Ken Lay. We need to put them in real jail, not some comfy prison-resort. We need to prevent these things from happening in the future with active regulatory oversight. It's not enough to punish a few people "to send a message". The government has to get in the game and actively prevent further corporate fraud, not just punish it after the fact.

Icing on the cake would be if Bush announced a scheme to somehow compensate the innocent victims of these lying bastard CEOs... the employees and shareholders who got burned by this fraud.

My official prediction is that Bush will say a lot of nothing, and try to vaguely imply that he supports all of the things I just laid out, without actually doing anything about any of them. We shall see.
Good Morning So, to officially begin the week's blogging, I'll tell you a little about my weekend (a reader suggested I incorporate amusing anecdotes from my life into my blog). Friday night, after my band cut a few instrumental tracks (ah, I haven't told you about Big Fantastic yet, have I? Well, I play drums), I went out to a couple of really lame bars with the guys. I had a great time, and got a little ripped. Fun, fun, fun. I also solicited ten dollars from my friend Tucker. He bet me that I wouldn't have the cajones to walk up to the hottest girl in the bar and buy her a drink. Well, folks, I don't have much hair, but I do have cajones. Didn't get anything out of it but the ten bucks, but it was fun. Saturday was a quiet evening in with Ivy and HippieChick, which was very nice. The evening ended with Ivy and me spending about two hours in the greatest diner in the world pounding coffees and racking up a total bill of $1.70. Ivy's in college; free coffee refills is a good way to live on low income. Sunday my sister KJ came over to use the pool with her boyfriend and his two sons. Those guys are great. Then, the Sunday tradition of bowling with the Duke and Jr. Varsity (averaged a 103 in three games... very bad day), and then retiring to the Duke's apartment to play Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Another band practice Sunday night where we cut three more tracks without vocals (to be added later), and that was that.

So now, Monday morning is hear, and I'm ready to get Terminus underway for another week. Check back as the day continues, and please feel free to leave comments and send emails. I'm trying to accomplish two things with this blog: 1) introduce a little political discussion into my interactions with my real-life friends, and 2) create a new community outside my real-life friends for the purpose of having political discussions. Opposing viewpoints are always welcome, but not always respected, at Terminus.