Almost too depressing to think about

From Bob Harris we get this nugget of downer

Less than six months into a new term for President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, some of their heaviest donors are scoring victories on the legislative and regulatory fronts.

From rewrites of the laws concerning bankruptcy and class-action lawsuits to relief for oil, timber, and tobacco interests, the GOP’s business supporters who gave millions of dollars last year are reaping decisions worth billions from a Congress with more Republicans.

The best-case annual return on invested capital within a particularly robust business: maybe forty percent.

The best-case annual return on invested capital when buying political influence: maybe a thousand percent.

You can see where the whole American system might be headed long-term very quickly.

He goes on to point out

One of the arguments you hear against sending aid to the poorest African nations is that many of their governments are notoriously corrupt kleptocracies.

The near-immediate response which seems to be commonly made by supporters of such aid across Europe: the American government’s a kleptocracy, too, but that doesn’t stop us dealing with them.

Yay, us.

Right dog, wrong tree

I hate to cross swords with Gordon, mostly because he’s almost always right but also because he’s probably as fierce and sneaky as a wombat in a fight. However, I have to break with the pack on the issue of journalistic privilege.

Yes, Judith Miller deserves jail for so many things, and the responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians needs to be laid at her feet. However, just because she’s been the Bush Administration’s jizz rag in all Iraqi-puffery-related-programs-activities doesn’t mean we should abandon sense and do away with journalistic privilege.

Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, and the Bushistas were pursuing an honest and decent reporter (they’re out there… it could happen…) for the identity of the person who leaked something as damning as the Downing Street Memos or the Pentagon Papers. Threatening the reporter in question with jail time would hit all of us as unnecessarily putative.

Notice how quiet the Right Wing Thug Machine has been on this one. They love to see reporters in jail. This sets a dangerous precedent. Pinochet, Galtieri, Samoza, Batista, Amin- those are the types that jail dissident journalists.

I realize that we are pursuing two people complicit in a crime. (I don’t understand why Robert Novak isn’t facing the same jail time, unless, as someone hinted some months ago, he may have struck some kind of deal with the Fitzgerald prosecution team. Robert Novak- slimy ANY WAY you touch him.) However, (and this is the crux of my argument) if we can’t grind the identity of the Leaker out through phone records and chain-of-information-custody deduction, then the case isn’t solid enough to continue pursuing. Prosecuting this case at the expense of the Freedom of the Press is a dangerous precedent. You can count on the worst elements of the Blunt Trauma Right to build future gallows upon this foundation.

Yes, I want to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House. Yes, I think that the outing of Valerie Plame was a heinous act and a federal crime. However, is vengeance upon the most loathsome man in American politics worth chipping away at the 1st Amendment?

I think not.

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident…

I have always loved that phrase from the Declaration of Independence. We, as a Nation, assume that these things are so obvious that pretending otherwise is rank folly.

Specifically, in the Declaration, these rights are enumerated:

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Not to be overly pedantic, but we are just around the corner from Independence Day- I think that the Bush Administration might do well to have a quick scan of the DOI just to refresh themselves.

I should think that the cooking of the books which occurred in order to make the case for the Iraq War violates principle one- the Executive Branch “derives their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

For Bush to climb up on his cracker box and further conflate 9/11 with the Iraq war further violates my sense of what is “self-evident.” It’s hubris of the first water to keep folding that paper-tiger into new shapes.

Let’s review the Declaration of Independence a bit further. You recall that the Declaration lists the colonists’ points of contention with the Crown, which, ironically enough, was God’s Manifestation on Earth, King George.

Here are some of their complaints:

• He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
ICC, Kyoto Accords, UN Security Council…. check

• He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
Terry Schiavo? Check.

• He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
Check.

• He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
Downing Street Memo, anyone?

• For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.
Or, perhaps, protected and extended a completely inequitable tax burden upon those who work while liberating the richest from paying their share. Check.

• For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.
Depends upon, I suppose, whether or not one is swarthy and/or terroristy-looking.

• For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses.
Ditto above.

• He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
heh. Uh. Yeah.

You should go have a look yourself. Put yourself in the average Iraqi’s shoes, and then read the list of grievances.

Happy Independence Day, folks.

Of Local Interest

If you’ve got a minute, let me recommend spending it looking at Jason Thrasher’s Fine Art and Editorial photographs.

Jason’s from Athens and a passing acquaintance of mine, and I have seen some of his photos before. I had the abundant pleasure of being there when he got back all of the prints of the photos he shot in Taladega. Watching him furiously rifle through them, occasionally holding one up and saying “AH! Yes!” or “Hm. Oh, well,” was a marvelous experience. Artists and their work are a world unto themselves. I felt like a benign voyeur.

His family photos and wedding photos are good, though they are unfortunately hampered here and there by the necessity of capturing a more objective subject than his amazing photos from Varanasi. I don’t even know where Varanasi is.

I went to his site looking for his phone number and ended up staying all morning. Go and see.

Speaking of which, pt. 2

I did some research on tractors before we bought the John Deere L111. I gotta tell ya, having a membership at Consumer Reports has made buying really expensive stuff a lot less scary. The L111 was their top-rated lawn tractor.

Consumer Reports doesn’t take ads. They refuse to be intimidated by lawsuits by various charlatans. All of their revenues are from memberships, so they’re not on anyone’s payroll.

My dad always had a Consumer Reports membership when I was growing up. I remember the magazines lying all over the house, and he didn’t make any big purchases without having a look to see what CR thought. They rate everything from coffee makers to mid-sized sedans.

Next up, we’re painting the house, and guess what… Consumer Reports has rated exterior paints and stains.

Highly recommended.

outstanding

You should go read this history of Pylon in Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s own words.

It’s incredible.

Pylon debuted at a party above Chapter Three Records shortly thereafter. Most of our friends from town and art school came to the party.Chemical Features, basically Pylon without me were the opening act. The crowd stood still. This was also the same reaction we received the second time we played a party at Curtis’ loft with the Tone-Tones. Not until the third time that we played, did the audience dance. I think that people were a bit stunned. Perhaps they weren’t sure what to think. Perhaps we were truly awful.

That’s my favorite paragraph.