Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monica Goodling II

An article from the Washington Post on the Monica Goodling report and its links to other arenas of Bush's policy.

"Goodlings Amok" by Ruth Marcus

Marcus creates a connection between Goodling's approach to hiring at the Justice Department and Bush's approach to the deficit and tax cuts. Not something I'd thought of before. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Open Letter to Friends to Whom I Defended Monica Goodling

Dear Friends:

Last year, I said some positive things about Monica Goodling and her testimony before congress during the Alberto Gonzales debacle. (You'll perhaps remember that Monica Goodling pled the 5th during the Justice Department hearings before she was subpoenaed, only to testify after being pardoned.) At the time, I said something like, "She seemed more forthcoming than the other witnesses, and she seems like an honest person," blah blah blah. Ms. Goodling and I have some indirect educational ties that made me feel sympathetic toward her, and I believe made me want to defend her.

Now, however, I'd like to apologize, and retract.

Here is the NPR report on the Justice Department's report on the hiring practices of Monica Goodling.

(I recommend listening rather than reading, but you can do both on this page.)

Apparently, she made it her personal mission to politicize the justice department and fill non-political positions with stringent conservatives with loyalties toward George W. Bush. Pay special attention to the section on Leslie Hagen, who was apparently both fired AND black-balled for allegedly being a lesbian and despite her spotless professional record.

It comforts me to know how much this report will hurt Monica Goodling's once-disproportionately promising career. But I can only assume, whether the paper trail proves it or not, that Goodling's personal mission was linked to the greater mission of the Bush White House - to silence their opposition, neuter the democratic process and the governmental system of checks and balances, and ensure in every way possible that Bush agenda goes forward, whatever the costs to liberty.

brd suggests that perhaps the reason that people are paying less attention than they should to the domestic movements of President Bush (the Justice Department's firing of attorneys, Bush's unconstitutional claims of executive privilege) is that they are distracted by more important moves abroad - namely, the Iraq war. I think she is right, and I think people are right to be distracted. However, these machinations at home weaken Bush's opposition and lend strength to his policies both at home and abroad, and we would do well to watch carefully, and to do what we can to oppose these assaults on our freedoms.


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Kingdom for an Editor (or, a Red Pen's Letter to Rachel Z.)

This is what Rachel Z.'s red pen should have written to her BEFORE her article went out. Regrettably, it's too late for that.

Dear Rachel,

First of all, congratulations. Many aspiring writers out there plod along for years, biding their time until they land that coveted writing job, but you got one. You're a writer for, and furthermore, your upcoming article will be referenced and linked on the homepage, doubtless gaining a broader readership. Really, bravo.

However, I fear we simply can't let your article go out in its current condition. Though the ideas in your article are sound enough and are backed up by research from, well, at least one book, there are a few errors we have to correct before we go forward. Therefore, I've taken the liberty of marking up the draft below. Please consider my comments carefully; after all, as an experienced red pen, I know about these things.

Seven Deadly Workplace Sins
By Rachel Z.

You know the type. The guy who takes full credit for a job well done -- albeit any help he received along the way. - We're starting right off with a bang here. First, you've used a conjunction, "albeit," where you need a preposition. Secondly, you've used a word that means the opposite of what you think it means. The word you want here is "despite."

The "one-for-the-taking-and-focused-on-quick-ways-to-get-ahead" cougar lady. Unclear. What does "one-for-the-taking" mean? Delete. Once the baffling "one-for-the-taking" is removed, the quotes around "focused-on-quick-ways-to-get-ahead" will make even less sense, so delete them. Third, it's not clear to me how this woman's identity as a "cougar" - that is, in the vernacular, a woman who hopes to attract younger men - is relevant to her role in the business world. Start over.

The hot-headed jerk that jumps down your throat at any sign of question or disagreement concerning his latest project. This is OK. "At any sign of question . . .concerning his latest project" doesn't read well, but perhaps it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.

While most of us share a common goal of achievement and success in the workplace, we also know that there are ways to accomplish this ambition -- and ways to fall short. "Success in the workplace doesn't happen 'on a wing and a prayer,' but rather by knowing what specific job promotion pitfalls to avoid in working toward that heavenly pot of career gold," says John McKee, business coach and author of "21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot." Very good job remaining gramatically correct and articulate all throughout the quote from someone else's book. However, since the source is, in fact, a book (and not an article or poem), you must remove the quotes and either italicize or underline the title.

To avoid becoming the once-respectable, often-humble guy who got a promotion but lost his wits (and gained an ego), follow McKee's advice on the seven deadly career sins to assure career advancement and move you on the path to paycheck promise land:
This sentence is clunky in several ways, but let's focus on "move you on the path to paycheck promise land." First, the ending phrase should be "paycheck promised land," but you're not alone in that mistake, so don't feel too bad; many a Christian youth camp is named PromiseLand. Secondly, nice alliteration, but "paycheck promised land" needs an article. "The" will serve. Thirdly, you've got to adjust the wording. "Move you forward on the path to the paycheck promised land" would be fine. "Put you on the path to the paycheck promised land" would be even better, as it's more alliterative. But "move you on the path" really isn't a thing.

We're only 6 sentences into your article, but you get the idea. Remember, you're a professional writer - so act like one and do a second draft. I'm your friend, and I'm always ready to help. And you know, since you work for a corporation that publishes a lot of content, my guess is there's an editor somewhere in your office who could help too!

Best of Luck,

Your Red Pen

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This blogger, for one, would like to see the end of executive privilege

I feel like I'm the only one who's noticed - though, of course, I know it isn't true.

Once upon a time, the Founding Fathers got together and decided that we should have three branches of government. The idea was that if one branch of government got out of hand, or started to impose its agenda on the nation, or even began to act illegally, the other branches of government would reign it in. It's what veto power is about; it's what the Supreme Court is all about; it's what congressional approval is all about. America's particular system of checks and balances was a political innovation, and it's a system that is admired by much of the world. But . . . there's a big but.

The big but is George W. Bush. Bush has decided that instead of let the system of checks and balances do its job, he will instead attack our form of government and the benefits of a checks and balances system. Sure, he still uses the power of the veto; sure he still sends justices to the supreme court. But with two little words, he has nullified much of the Congress's ability to oversee the White House and keep his administration in check: executive privilege.

Now, you might say to yourself, "Yeah, but executive privilege is in the constitution, right?" No, executive privilege is not in the constitution. See this article. Now, the executive branch has historically argued that this privilege is part and parcel to the separation of powers, but not until 1974 was the concept of executive privilege confirmed by the Supreme Court - in United States vs. Nixon. Thanks, Richard Nixon, for just another one of your many rich contributions.

Since the Supreme Court's intent appears to have been to clarify and limit the concept of executive privilege, which had already been in use since Washington's time, I'm basically cool with that. And following Nixon's claims of executive privilege - ones that curiously resembled those now being made by George W., interestingly enough - nobody claimed it again until Clinton, so I'm cool with that too. But oh, our current president. Wikipedia shares with us the myriad instances in which George W. Bush has claimed executive privilege (this is long, so you may want to skim):

President George W. Bush first asserted executive privilege to deny disclosure of sought details regarding former Attorney General Janet Reno,[1] the scandal involving Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) misuse of organized-crime informants Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi in Boston, and Justice Department deliberations about President Bill Clinton's fund-raising tactics, in December 2001.[6]

Bush invoked executive privilege "in substance" in refusing to disclose the details of Vice President Dick Cheney's meetings with energy executives, which was not appealed by the GAO. In a separate Supreme Court decision in 2004, however, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted "Executive privilege is an extraordinary assertion of power 'not to be lightly invoked.' United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1, 7 (1953).

Further, on June 28, 2007, Bush invoked executive privilege in response to congressional subpoenas requesting documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor,[2] citing that:

The reason for these distinctions rests upon a bedrock presidential prerogative: for the President to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisors and between those advisors and others within and outside the Executive Branch.

On July 9, 2007, Bush again invoked executive privilege to block a congressional subpoena requiring the testimonies of Taylor and Miers. Furthermore,
White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding refused to comply with a deadline set by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain its privilege claim, prove that the president personally invoked it, and provide logs of which documents were being withheld. On July 25, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee voted to cite Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten for contempt of Congress.[8][9]

On July 13, less than a week after claiming executive privilege for Miers and Taylor, Counsel Fielding effectively claimed the privilege once again, this time in relation to documents related to the 2004 death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman. In a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Fielding claimed certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests” and would therefore not be turned over to the committee.[10]

On August 1, 2007, Bush invoked the privilege for the fourth time in little over a month, this time rejecting a subpoena for Karl Rove. The subpoena would have required the President's Senior Advisor to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a probe over fired federal prosecutors. In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Fielding claimed that "Mr. Rove, as an immediate presidential advisor, is immune from compelled congressional testimony about matters that arose during his tenure and that relate to his official duties in that capacity...."[11]

Leahy claimed that President Bush was not involved with the employment terminations of U.S. attorneys. Furthermore, he asserted that the president's executive privilege claims protecting Josh Bolten, and Karl Rove are illegal. The Senator demanded that Bolten, Rove, Sara Taylor, and J. Scott Jennings comply "immediately" with their subpoenas, presumably to await a further review of these matters. This development paved the way for a Senate panel vote on whether to advance the citations to the full Senate. "It is obvious that the reasons given for these firings were contrived as part of a cover up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort," Leahy concluded about these incidents. [12] [13] [14] [15]

Sadly, the Wikipedia article is incomplete. In late June, the Bush administration claimed executive privilege in a congressional investigation of whether the EPA's decision to refuse California the right to set its own emissions standards (WHY???) was political rather than scientific. And yesterday, the Bush administration claimed executive privilege again, in an invocation that many are calling creative or novel, and Representative Henry Waxman is calling "ludicrous." I'm in Waxman's camp.

I think it's easy to see the ways in which George W. Bush's version of executive privilege erodes the balance of power rather than supports it. Not to mention the ways in which it assaults the rights of the American people. I mean, we have a right to find out if our president is a criminal, right? If our vice president is a criminal? If both of them are criminals, and whether they've employed criminals, liars, and/or cheats in the positions below them? And yet, as long as these ludicrous claims of executive privilege hold up, we can't possibly know, because virtually no investigations can go forward.

I know it's late in the game, and I know Congress doesn't want to spend its time on a long legal battle against the White House. But for the sake of all of us, I wish they would take this to court. Not so that George W. Bush's power can be reined in for these last few short months of his presidency. Not at all. Rather, take it to court so that in the future, we'll have a stronger definition of executive privilege, and never again will a sitting president be permitted to hold the country and its people hostage to his whim.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting Dumber? Request for Advice

So I don't seem to be great right now at blogging about my own independent topics - it's easier to write a response. So this is a semi-response to one of my friend's blogs, but only tangentially. But I still wanted to give props. Props, friend.

Here's the issue: the "getting dumber" thing has finally struck me.

To explain: I'm a pretty smart person, and almost all my friends are also smart. I don't mean to brag on myself (or my friends, though they deserve to be bragged on), but the fact is, because I was a kid who wasn't that popular or particularly pretty and who also wasn't funny, I developed my obvious aptitude for learning. As I continued into adulthood, I kept succeeding at school, and gradually intelligence became one of my defining qualities. I'm smart. I'm a smart girl. I'm the smart girl. And because I'm the smart girl (smart woman now - I really haven't changed that much), I make friends with smart people and am not all that interested, at this stage of my life, in trying to backtrack and make friends with the cool kids. Screw the cool kids. I'm a nerd now.

So about halfway through college, my smart friends started to remark on a certain phenomenon that seemed to be slowly sweeping the group. "I'm getting dumber," I'd hear one or the other of my friends say. "I think my talent is slipping away." I would snort at them - because when you're a nerd, you can snort. "You're not getting dumber!" I would say. "There's no way. It's because you're in college, and now you know just how many things there are to know, and you know that you don't know them all yet." It always ran something like that.

Well, so, that's fine, and I was probably right in a way. And my friends are so darn smart that if they really were getting dumber, then they were still so smart that nobody else noticed. At the same time, I felt lucky that I hadn't been struck by this creeping terror, this horrible sense of losing intellectual ground. What a nightmare that would be, huh?

Well, I'm getting dumber now. It's my nouns. They're going. Names seem to be particularly difficult for me. The other day, I spent about 12 hours ruminating before I finally said to my husband, "Hey honey? You know our acquaintance in Columbus? What's his name??" I just couldn't remember. After that I started to notice it everywhere. The X files movie has that guy in it - what's his name?? (David Duchovney is the answer, which I remembered later without help.) And his partner - who the heck is she? (Gillian Anderson.) After a while, I started forcing myself to sit there until I remembered the answer. "The funny guy in The Office is not David Brent but . . . . Ricky Gervais!" "The woman who hosts Project Runway is not Holly Something-Or-Other but . . . . Heidi Klum!"

Now this pop culture identity parade really doesn't matter. Doesn't matter at all. But to the extent that it points to a larger vocabulary problem, it really does matter to me. Realllllllllllly. If I can't remember nouns, then I can't remember terminology. And if I can't remember nouns, chances are my adjectives and verbs are suffering too. I've noticed myself misusing certain words, or stuttering between two similar-sounding terms before settling on the right (wrong?) one. Little malapropisms just slip out of my mouth. I hate it, because this is the one thing I pride myself on. This is the one thing I do just right.

So, perhaps the first step is to ask for stories and suggestions. Who else out there is suffering from the (perceived?) onset of dumb? What are your stories? How are you coping? And, most importantly - how are you fighting back?

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moderately Interesting

Just re-reading some of my old posts. I actually used to be a kind-of interesting blogger, eh? I mean, not super-brilliant, but the way I remembered it in my mind, my blog was just one unending string of complaints and vague, unsupported opinions. I mean, the unsupported opinions are there, but it's better than I remembered.

Mostly I'm just posting now to have kept posting for two days, but I expect to return tomorrow with something interesting to say, so that I'll have balanced out this vague, self-focused post.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"What Would You Do?" Pop Prostitute Edition

Maybe you (faithful readers . . . . hello??) have noticed that I haven't blogged in . . . well. A while. But I've been reluctantly brought back to the blog by an extended rant I posted on a friend's blog. She indicated this rant was really not so much a comment as a blog entry of its own, so here I am. Welcome to "What Would You Do?", Edition 1 (or, Pop Prostitute Edition), written in response to the below-linked blog post:

In Defense of Poppery II: "Sweetest Girl"

"Sweetest Girl" is a pretty good example of the song type my friend names the "pobrecita-prostitute" (or, "po'ho") genre, and I agree that the way the "Sweetest Girl" referenced there is respected is much preferable to other approaches, that begin by pitying but ultimately fall back on judgment and a strange brand of moralizing. For example, in the song "What Would You Do," by Citi High (or City High?), the singer describes a similar reunion with a girl he used to know:

Saturday night was at this real wild party
They had the liquor overflowin' the cup, about
Five or six strippers tryin' to work for a buck
And I took one girl outside wit' me
Her name was Loni
She went to Junior High wit' me

"Why you up in there dancin' for cash?" he asks her, but she throws the question back in his face, asking:

What would you do
If your son was at home
Crying all alone on the bedroom floor
'Cause he's hungry?

She then, very appropriately reminds the singer that he is a client of hers, even perhaps a victimizer: "for you this is just a good time, but for me this is what I call life."

Initially, the singer seems to absorb neither her question nor the charge leveled against him, offering the rejoinder, "You aint the only one with a baby; that ain't no excuse to be living all crazy." But after Loni answers by looking him "straight in the eye" and declaring, "every day I wake up waiting to die," he seems to be willing to listen to her story.

Unfortunately, after she once again posits the question "What would you do?", the singer/stripper patron regrettably attempts an on-the-spot answer that really reverberates - because it's totally hollow:

Then she said, What would you do if?
Get up on my feet
And let go of every excuse
What would you do if...?
'Cause I wouldn't want my baby
To go through what I went through
What would you do if...?
Get up on my feetS
top makin' tired excuses
What would you do if...?
Girl I know if my mother can do it
Baby you can do it

This, to me, is a very regrettable climax to the song, primarily because it doesn't describe any (non-metaphorical) action that Loni could take to alleviate the difficulties of her situation. Obviously, the singer's invocation of his mother is meant to lend a feminist-flavored weight to his hackneyed answers; however, following the graphic descriptions of the youthful circumstances that preceded Loni's pregancy - obviously, for her, the straw that broke the camel's back - it's no longer a given that if singer's unknown mother could do it, so could Loni. And, in the end, we certainly have no reason to trust that our contradictory narrator (I pay for strippers, but I would never be one) has successfully let go of every excuse in his own life.

So, zero stars out of . . . let's say, 100 . . . for "What Would You Do."

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