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April 5, 2007

The Payoff
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:30 AM * 107 comments

Sam Fox, the guy who bankrolled Swift Boat Liars Against Kerry during the 2004 election seaon to the tune of $50,000, has gotten his payoff. Bush appointed him ambassador to Belgium (what has Belgium ever done to us?) while Congress was in recess, to keep him from needing to get congressional approval.

CNN reports:

Recognizing Fox did not have the votes to obtain Senate confirmation, Bush withdrew the nomination last month. On Wednesday, with Congress out of town for a spring break, the president used his power to make recess appointments to put Fox in the job without Senate confirmation.

This means Fox can remain ambassador until the end of the next session of Congress, effectively through the end of the Bush presidency.

That’s just Bush saying “Up yours!” to the American people and the world, one more time, and paying off another buddy with a government job.

Comments on The Payoff:
#1 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 01:02 AM:

I have a feeling that when all is said and done, anyone appointed to any position in the Bush administration is going to be chopped liver. Because they're all going to be perceived to be appointed because they are buddies, not for any substantial talent they could bring to the job. For some it may be accurate, for others, not so much. But it will poison them all.

#2 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 01:35 AM:

I wrote to my congresscritter today, urging him to re-propose the same bills over and over and keep sending them back to Bush until he gets the message. Bush does that with appointments. It's time and past time for payback.

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 01:54 AM:

Scorpio, I admire the idea but think it would fail in the execution. Bush would gleefully veto them every time, and never ever glean a message; he doesn't do subtlety.

#4 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:04 AM:

Linkmeister #3: It's not Bush who needs the lesson. It's the American public, so that when the election comes the Dems can point to good bills consistently vetoed. The more similar items there are: vetos, investigations that turn up material, etc., the better the chance this country has of reviving the Constitution.

#5 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:31 AM:

Does the Senate have to go into recess, ever? Can they not just take a really long lunch break?

In the 1980s, there were a series of court cases (and then a state constitutional amendment) over where a "legislative day" meant "from roll-call to midnight", "24 hours beginning at roll-call" or "whatever the legislature decides". My memory is that the courts said it was whatever the legislature decided.

Mind you, this is the same state where beer which is 3.2% alcohol or less is "non-intoxicating", even long after the state constitution's prohibition on intoxicating beverages was repealed.

#6 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:33 AM:

Paula -- for ambassadors at least, maybe not so much. There is a long tradition of rewarding your best beloved campaign contributors with an ambassador post, even if they are total doofuses with no diplomatic experience whatsoever. This sort of assignment is sort of a null-op as far as your perceived competence is concerned.

That said, this move *is* a pretty obvious "FU" to the Democrats and John Kerry. (The one man who Bush should be on his hands and knees thanking, every day.)

*That* said, as Bush Administration FUs go, this one is pretty unimpressive. Maybe it's because I just got back from my Wednesday night poker game, but for some reason I'm reminded of someone who gets reraised and responds by limply pushing in a few chips to call. Which usually causes a chorus around the table of, "I smell weakness!"

#7 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 03:58 AM:

There is a long tradition of rewarding your best beloved campaign contributors with an ambassador post, even if they are total doofuses with no diplomatic experience whatsoever.

I recall a Reagan-era appointee to the U.K., about whom it was said that his only qualification was that he spoke the language.

#8 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 08:01 AM:

It is possible that this particular recess appointment is illegal -- Kos says that it's headed for the courts.

#9 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 08:16 AM:

Marketplace pointed out last night that Bush made history with this appointment. Traditionally, the President has waited for Congress to be in recess for at least 10 days before making his appointment. This recess won't even last 10 days.

Whether this appointment is legal or not, this act perverts the intent of the recess appointment. It's not as if there were some sort of diplomatic crisis and we need an ambassador to Belgium right now, as opposed to two weeks from now. It's not as if it were summer recess.

I wonder if this tidbit will get any traction. If it does, how long before people start crying (falsely) "Clinton did it too!"

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 08:41 AM:

JC @ 9

I understand Teddy Roosevelt made some recess appointments during a one day recess.

It's been suggested that the embassy be de-funded. I'd rather de-fund the official residence: 'Hey, you bought the appointment: you can afford to pay for your housing.'

And in the meantime, we need to start an amendment that defines the term of a recess appointment as 'until Congress returns from recess, or six months, whichever occurs first'. I'd also add a clause to the amendment that says that if your nomination to a post has been rejected by the Senate, or is withdrawn before the Senate can vote on it, you aren't eligible for a recess appointment to that position. (I'd really like to make it 'for any appointed position' but the courts would probably throw it out.)

#11 ::: Leslie Turek ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 08:42 AM:

CrooksandLiars points out two more offensive recess appointments: Andrew Biggs, an aggressive proponent of privatization, as head of the Social Security Administration, and Susan Dudley, an opponent of federal regulation, as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory affairs. As Jon Stewart said about John Bolton, it's like appointing Captain Ahab to be the head of "Save the Whales'.

#12 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 09:40 AM:

I'm not surprised that Fox got a reward for his scum-sucking actions.

But I am shocked that Fox's price was so low. He pretty much bought Bush four more years; you'd think he'd get a plum Haliburton-esque contract out of it.

#13 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 10:28 AM:

Paula (#1): He'll be morally tainted and have to spend his declining days sucking at the teat of rich Publicans, probably as a lobbyist. Nobody ever goes broke on their side.

Though if the Democrats would ever get it together, I'm sure a lot of these guys have done things that would buy them jail time in a civilized society.

#14 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 10:38 AM:

I figured it out, it's

Satanic Possession!

Yes, the body occupying the Presidency of the United States is possessed by Satan! Karl Rove is another case of demonic-possession, and so is Dick Cheney! Satan is running the US Government!

Melech Ha'Mauvetz is ruling the world, and co-opting people who think they are working in accordance with God's Plans--all those supposedly pious and humble (not...) ministers of Jesus who have open access to the White House from Colorado Springs and elsewhere, who preach intolerance and bigotry and demand conversion of those who are either not of their faith, or have lifestyles and values (including tolerance...) that fail to comply with the preachers' professed credo (Ted Haggerty fell but shall rise again born again and again and again... shades of the hypocritical confessions and soul-cleansings in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). The demonically possessed subvert the populace of the USA, colluded to deliver thousands of souls into death on September 11, 2001 (refusing to accept any briefings about the threat posed by Al-Qaeda until after the start of September 2001, by the time the long-diverted and delayed briefing that finally got scheduled was scheduled for delivery, it was far to late to effective do anything to deter the murderers... complicity and collusion, and thousands of souls sent to death, and millions more sent into financial stress--I was one of the people whose job disappeared as part of the consequences, one of the companies with offices in the World Trade Center had been about to give a contract to the company that employed me; that contract and almost all the others pending, suddenly evaporated. The company was bankrupt less than a year later and everything auctioned off and gone before the end of 2002.

There was the invasion of Aghanistan--bungled, and the administration of Afghanistan after the invasion bungled even worse. The lot of women in that country has not changed much, the schools that had been closed for years were briefly reopened to girls, and then closed again with atrocities of bombings and arson and massacres effected against those with the temerity to teaching reading and writing to girls, and against the schools the girls were going to, and against the girls who were learning to read and write. US-backed warlords with no different social policies that Taliban--lock the women in purdah and throw away the key, bludgeon all males into wearing full beards and behaving in accordance with rigid codes prohibiting alcohol, graven images, etc., destroy any art or literature considered religiously improper or impious or challenging....

There was the invasion of Iraq--"collateral damage" of more than half a millon souls sent into death, more than a tenth of the population fled out of the country as refugees trying to avoid the fate of relatives murdered intentionally or as byproducts of homicidal mania masquerading as sectarianism or of homicidal mania manifesting as zeal for vengeance and revenge exacted for the deaths of friends and relatives....

"Blood and souls for Arioch!" called Elric as he wielded Stormbringer reaping its deadly harvest.. Stormbringer and Elric didn't cause the death and destruction of closing on a MILLION people, did they?

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 10:45 AM:

Paula Lieberman... "I am the Deceiverer!"

#16 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 11:30 AM:

The House and Senate should impeach Fox. Right now. On general principles. Specifically, to show Bush that he can't just place anybody he wants in the office without Congressional approval.

#17 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Adam, my understanding is that Fox is a multimillionaire who will be VOLUNTEERING to be an ambassador (no pay, no problem with recess appointments); however, there's a federal rule that says you cannot put volunteers in jobs that have a pay grade, and that's why it might be headed to court.

#18 ::: Erin Underwood ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Bush has given new meaning to the term "Rat Pack".

I think Bush has come to realize that he's not going down in the history books as one of the great American presidents, as he clearly desired. So, he's making the most of his power while he still has it and we'll be living with the consequences of his actions for many, many years.

#19 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Fox is a multimillionaire, so paying him off with money was a nonstarter.

Part of appointing Fox as Ambassador to Belgium is probably payback for Bill Clinton daring to appoint Hormel as ambassador to Belgium during a recess in order to thumb his nose at Trent Lott's homophobia.

#20 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:15 PM:

So, is impeachment the only recourse that Congress has to remove any person selected by recess appointment? Would it take a constitutional amendment to remove the power of making recess appointments from the presidency, or just a normal law? Is making an illegal recess appointment itself an impeachable offense?

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Todd Larason #5: Recess is when senators and representatives get time to spend in their states/districts. It's an essential part of the political process.

W has the power to make recess appointments, but they are time limited. At this point in his term, with the end rapidly approaching, it makes no difference to him, but he still has to pay his debts.

The problem is that Fox is -- as has been pointed out -- poisoned from the start (and doubly poisoned because there is no shadow of the future for W).

Jim Macdonald: The Belgians are part of 'Old Europe', that should be enough.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:24 PM:

Earl @ 20

You don't want to remove the power to make recess appointments. All that's necessary is to limit it. It's there for use 'in case of emergency'.

What we have here is a problem with a president who doesn't understand 'no' applies to him, and is abusing his power.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:25 PM:

At least Fox won't be the worst U.S. ambassador ever, that 'honour' goes to a Nixon appointee.

#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:41 PM:

The Israelis have had some colorful ambassadors lately.

#25 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Erin Underwood @ 18

Don't diss rats. They perform a genuine function in the ecology, as opposed to politicians.

#26 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:44 PM:

I's pretty shady, and perverts the original intent behind recess appointments. I am not surprised though, it's par for the course with the Bush Administration it seems.

I don't think limiting recess appointments further is the right step, they are an important tool in case of an emergency. This is one of those cases where you have to hope the person using it won't abuse it so heavily.

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 14

Hmm ... I think you're close. Eva and I decided last night that Shrub had to be the Anti-Christ (which means, I think, that he's the son of the devil). Then I found proof on the internet.

#28 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:49 PM:

I'm still going to hold out for limiting recess appointments to six months or until Congress returns from recess, whichever comes first.

It isn't like telling them no recess appointments at all, and it isn't indefinite (or until Worst President Ever leaves office, which only feels indefinite).

#29 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 03:11 PM:

#28 --I'd drop limit it to two or three months (60 or 90 days) at most without a confirmation vote... if the confirmation vote doesn't occur, the appointee gets jettisoned...

AHA, that's the word I want applied to the B*sh Gang, JETTISON the lot of them....

Not George Jetson, jettison GEORGE!

#30 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Fragano Ledgister, #5:

Oh, I'm not proposing that Senators stop going home to their districts for a few weeks, or even a few months, when appropriate. I'm just proposing that the Senate not formally recess; they adjourn, or break, or take a time-out, or whatever term they're happiest with. "You're all dismissed for lunch; see you in 3 weeks."

Nina Katarina, #19: Hormel was ambassador to Luxembourg, not Belgium. But that could just be another example of this administration's inability to distinguish one country from another.

#31 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 06:45 PM:

The appointment is also something of an FU to Belgium. I wonder how a country goes about politely refusing to receive an ambassador.

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 07:18 PM:

Todd Larason #30: I suspect that wouldn't fly too well.

#33 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Connie @ 31

I don't think there's any polite way to do it, but there are several impolite ways. First, the country can just refuse to accept his credentials. Or, they can declare the ambassador persona non grata immediately and ship him home by slow freight. Neither of these is typically a good idea for a small country to do to a large, belligerent one. I can't name an instance offhand, but I'll bet there are a number of such incidents that the larger country used as casus belli.

#34 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Fragano Legister # 32: Depends what you mean by "fly". If you mean, would it be well received by the Bush administration, then no, I don't suppose it would be. But it's not like Belgium is in any way dependent on American aid, and I can't see even the Bushies thinking they could impose sanctions on the EU. So what do they do, boycott Brussels sprouts?

If this happens, I very much hope they decide to get even by boycotting Belgian chocolate, leaving all the more for the rest of us.

The Belgians probably won't bother, though. Look at it from their point of view: why should they exert themselves to save the US from being poorly represented? I suspect they'll handle it with a shrug, and simply ignore Mr. Fox until his appointment is up, snickering at him all the while behind his back.

#35 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 07:42 PM:

Oh wait. #32... you were saying a three-week lunch break wouldn't fly too well? Probably right.

A better plan would be to keep the session going with one senator while the others went home. I understand it does only take one. The job wouldn't have to be too burdensome, if they took turns.

#36 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 08:45 PM:

Wow. There's a special circle in hell for GWB. He really needs to meet my sisters ex-husband, who is also an idiot who wouldn't know a good idea if it hit in the balls.

#37 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 09:07 PM:

Sylvia Li, at 35. The problem with this plan is that at any point when the Senate is in session, any member may come to the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. If a roll call reveals that less than half of the Senators are present, the majority of those who are present can vote to compel the other Senators to appear. If the absent members decline, the Senate Sergeant at Arms can be sent to bring them, by force if necessary. That gets potentially quite messy, like that incident in Texas a few years back wehen legislators went into hiding to avoid a quorum call for a vote on redistricting.

#38 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 10:00 PM:

Then there's an interesting suggestion from Seth Barrett Tillman's in the Northwestern Law Review (from back in January): If the President can take advantage of a brief recesss to sneak in appointments (as presidents going back to at least Teddy R have done), the Senate should be able to remove all the recess appointments if it sees fit, by voting to terminate their session (and then immedaitely start a new one). This could be done by a simple majority, in theory.

(Recall that the Conatitution says recess appointments are only valid till the end of a Senate session. And while a new session starts after an election, there apparently isn't anything explicitly saying that's the *only* time a session can begin.)

Tillman does admit that this particular tack hasn't been tried before, but that it might be worth trying. The URL below points to an interesting dialogue between him and Brian Kalt on the matter. (Kalt argues against Tillman's proposal, suggesting some more conventional alternatives like voting on unpopular nominees as soon as possible.) I'm also not entirely sure what would happen to bills under consideration at the time the session terminates, though I suppose the vote could also include an automatic reintroduction of any pending bills at the same state as when the last session ended.

I'm not a lawyer, and can't judge the viability of this proposal particularly competently, but here's where you can read more:

http://colloquy.law.northwestern.edu/main/2007/01/senate_terminat.html

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 10:29 PM:

Sylvia Li #34: I meant that the idea of the Senate avoiding going into recess wouldn't fly. That's not because Dubya wouldn't like it, it's because the Senate wouldn't like it.

#40 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 10:55 PM:

that incident in Texas a few years back when legislators went into hiding

Something else various people in Congress want to ask questions about, as it appears that someone used DHS personnel and equipment (aka taxpayer funded people and stuff) to find them, even though it was at the request of someone in TX. I assume DeLay and Rove were involved somehow....

#41 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 11:12 PM:

We should send Fox a t-shirt:

"My candidate went to Wash D.C. and all I got was Belgium"

Seriously... who would WANT to be Ambassador to Belgium? Why not go for something really neat like Special Intergalactic Ambassador to the Oort Cloud? Or is it really just that much of a trip to be called, "Mr. Ambassador" for the rest of your life? Because if that's all he's in it for, why not just name him Ambassador to Karl Rove's Bush-Flavored Ass? After all, it's bigger than Belgium and gapes wider than Antwerp Harbour...

#42 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 11:41 PM:

PJ, 40: I'm nonplussed. Didn't everybody know that at the time?

#43 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Serge @ 15: "I am the Deceiverer!"

Oh, thank goodness I wasn't drinking anything when I read this; I'm trying to keep my desk clean.

#44 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 11:55 PM:

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers, at 33:

You mean, maybe we could go to war simultaneously with Iran and Belgium, while occupying Iraq?

Sounds like someone in the WH has been playing too many late night games of RISK.

#45 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:07 AM:

TexAnne @ 42

I think it's more that they've decided that it's time to have the grownups look at it, in hopes of getting real answers. Also, then, we didn't realize what all Rove was up to.

(I don't know about you, but I haven't forgiven him or DeLay for the #$%^&* redistricting. The county I lived in had been part of a nice compact district above the Caprock, between Lubbock and Amarillo, and he scattered the counties of that district among three or four districts, some of which run nearly to Ft Worth.)

#46 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:15 AM:

Lizzy L #44: Sounds like someone in the WH has been playing too many late night games of RISK.

If that were the case, wouldn't they be after Kamchatka, too?

#47 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 01:22 AM:

Long article going into considerable detail about former Cong. Cunningham on the take from defense contractors, including $12,000 and $14,000 antique commodes....
http://www.baselinemag.com/article2/0,1540,2109801,00.asp


"....the information-technology scandal ...may be more far-reaching.... other members of Congress, along with a senior Defense Department official, have surfaced [relating to] Cunningham and co-conspirators caused hundreds of millions of dollars in defense and intelligence I.T. contracts — a number of them involving national security — to be awarded to companies that in many instances, the government claims, weren't the best qualified for the job."

"....The damage that government downsizing can cause.... By December 2005, when the Cunningham scandal broke, the entire staff of GSA's so-called Supervision and Disbarment function had either been transferred or had retired... The Supervision and Disbarment function has subsequently staffed up, but in 2005 the GSA didn't have the resources to go after the contractors that were dealing with Cunningham....."

"...Cunningham ...told the court that a number of other lawmakers had also helped arrange funding for the defense contractors who bribed him,.... These include Reps. Katherine Harris of Florida, Virgil Goode of Virginia and John Doolittle from California....

"...two days after she announced the indictment of Wilkes, U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, who oversaw the Cunningham probe, was fired, along with seven other U.S. attorneys, by the Justice Department...critics, including [Republican] Rep. Darrell Issa... said that Lam should have done more to pursue border crimes and focused less on white-collar malfeasance...."

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 04:58 AM:

The advantage of a Monarchy, such as Belgium, is that the new ambassador can be formally greeted by a real king, rather than merely be appointed by a fake.

It's a pity that it's the wrong court to make a gift of tennis balls.

Still, that probably wouldn't be a good idea. Neither would the gift of a fine shotgun to the VP.

#49 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 07:54 AM:

#41 Edward Oleander: "Because if that's all he's in it for, why not just name him Ambassador to Karl Rove's Bush-Flavored Ass? After all, it's bigger than Belgium and gapes wider than Antwerp Harbour..."

Wow, implying that Rove enjoys anal sex is such a cutting insult! What a witty and clever way of saying that he's gay, which, as we all know, is pretty much like the worst thing ever!!!! Hilarious!

#50 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 09:13 AM:

Heresiarch @ 49: I took "flavored" to mean kissing ass was involved, and "gapes" to refer to what comes out, not what goes in.

And this, you see, is why I can never believe in the literal interpretation of a holy text as a reasonable position of any religion: Too many people read things too differently for any diety with half a brain not to know what would happen the moment the book hit the shelves.

#51 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Edward Oleander @ 41 - Don't you mean George Bush's own Cheney-and-Rove flavored ass? It's really a matter of who's doing whom.

Aconite @ 50 - Your interpretation, although inherently more polite, would be better supported by the phrase "Bush-scented lips".

(Whew - it's too early for this level of vulgarity. I'd better get myself together and head to work!)

#52 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 11:59 AM:

"...of the ass-licking sons of the dying regime...."

2007, in Plutocrat Amerika...

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:27 PM:

Perhaps we should consider another meaning of 'ass':

The American people = Titania
Bush = Bottom

#54 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:46 PM:

Lizzy L @ 44

It might actually be a good thing for Belgium if the US declared war on it, consider The Mouse That Roared. Especially since all there is left for an expeditionary force is a couple of troops of Boy Scouts and a Park Ranger or two.

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:49 PM:

he damage that government downsizing can cause.

When "rightsizing" becomes "capsizing".

#56 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Aconite @ 50
Too many people read things too differently for any diety with half a brain not to know what would happen the moment the book hit the shelves.

Which is what convinces me that god is a Trickster. By definition, if god is omnipotent, then everything is intended; I prefer to think of Coyote running a practical joke as far as it will go before it turns around and bites him.

Really, can you think of anything funnier than sex? I don't think god could either.

#57 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:57 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @ 38

Not a political question, but by any chance did you work at Tektronix Labs in the middle - late 80's? Your name sounds awfully familiar.

#58 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Who's Oberon?

#59 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Paula Lieberman #58: Barack Obama, perhaps.

And Puck is definitely Bill Clinton.

#60 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Larry Brennan @ 51: Aconite @ 50 - Your interpretation, although inherently more polite, would be better supported by the phrase "Bush-scented lips".

Doesn't that depend on who's kissing whom?

I am now absolutely going no further down that road, as some mental images spoil perfectly nice acts forever after and cause severe emotional trauma besides.

#61 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 07:38 PM:

Hey, Park Rangers are tough.

Overheard on TPM -- Monica Goodling is resigning from the DOJ, right now.

Next?

#62 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 07:43 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 56: Really, can you think of anything funnier than sex?

People keep saying that to me, and I keep looking at them blankly. Maybe I just have much hotter sex than other people. I dunno. *g*

#63 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2007, 07:58 PM:

Aconite @ 60

Rats! I was going to sing a verse or two of "Go down, you blood-red roses, go down."

@ 62

You mean you've solved the problem of where the noses go when you kiss?

#64 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 12:20 AM:

Whoops, I thought the Bush-flavored ass comment was funny.

#65 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 02:05 AM:

Aconite@62: Some people say that sex is "fun". To my mind, "fun" implies something a lot less intense. I've been trying to come up with a comparison, a simile to get across my point of view...so far, without success.

#66 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 09:25 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 63: Rats! I was going to sing a verse or two of "Go down, you blood-red roses, go down."

Well, I don't need breakfast now, thanks very much.


You mean you've solved the problem of where the noses go when you kiss?

There's a problem?


David Goldfarb @ 65: Some people say that sex is "fun". To my mind, "fun" implies something a lot less intense. I've been trying to come up with a comparison, a simile to get across my point of view...so far, without success.

I can wrap my brain around "fun." Intensity doesn't have to be serious. But "funny"? I really don't get that. I get laughing, I get feeling giddy, I get feeling playful. But the act itself being ridiculous simply doesn't compute.

#67 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 09:50 AM:

#61 --

re: Monica Gooding resigning. Notice how the announcement came late on a Friday afternoon. That's the pattern with those people. Watch for the next news to come late this coming Friday.

#68 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 10:34 AM:

ethan 64: me too.

#69 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 53:

You mean you've solved the problem of where the noses go when you kiss?

Oh, are yours easily embarrassed? I figure it's no big problem as long as they come back when you're done.

("There were about a dozen of them in a large screwtop pickle jar. And they were... just noses. Not cut off anyone, as far as Vimes could see. They had little legs and were jumping hopefully up and down against the glass, like puppies in a pet shop window. He thought he could hear faint 'whee!' noises." -- The Fifth Elephant)

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Aconite 66:You mean you've solved the problem of where the noses go when you kiss?

There's a problem?

Not for those of us with small noses, no. And let me add that sometimes I like to rub my nose back and forth against my partner's...if I'm really getting Inuit.

#71 ::: Peter McGrath ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Belgium: a country invented by the British to annoy the French. It all makes sense now.

#72 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Xopher #70: Not for those of us with small noses, no.

Ahh, so you don't know the pain and heartbreak of having a Big Honkin' Schnoz?

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Aconite @ 62

Maybe I should say that I don't usually find sex funny when I'm involved in it; something about the hormones and the adrenaline concentrating the focus on the most important thing at hand, so to speak.* It's seeing other people that's funny. One reason I never got much into the orgy scene. And it's a reason why I can't take love scenes in movies very seriously.


* Although there have been moments. Elbows, knees, and noses don't always want to get out of the way when they're needed to. And there's something about just getting to the end of foreplay and having the background music suddenly morph into "Why Don't We Do It In the Road" to sort of turn the mood to giggles.

#74 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2007, 08:09 PM:

ethan @ 72: Is that like the heartbreak of having some other feature people would kill for, like naturally curly red hair?

Noses are--as Xopher notes--lovely things to nuzzle and nuzzle with. They are also squishable enough not to be a barrier to lips meeting no matter the size. The only problem I can see is that sometimes you might squish to the point of not being able to breathe through nostrils, which could be inconvenient if mouths are otherwise occupied, but hey, everyone should learn to breathe through their ears anyway, because that comes in handy for other situations, too.

(If I'm loopy, this one time, don't blame the allergy meds. It's the annual Cadbury-Egg gorgefest, and I've had way, way too much sugar. Which invalidates nothing I've said; I just might not otherwise have said it. Or not that way. Or something. Where was I?)

#75 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 05:28 AM:

Edward Oleander, et al. : Apologies for the overreaction. Bigoted insults bug the hell out of me, partly because they're so omnipresent it's almost impossible to deliver an insult without them.

#76 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 08:47 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 73: I don't know how well I can explain this, so bear wth me as I fumble for words. Sex just isn't something I find funny. Fun, yes, and sometimes amusing things happen during/before/after; it's not that I think of it as a grimly serious thing. But I do not find the act, whether I'm participating or not, ridiculous. I've heard other people say they do, and I believe them, but I can't understand that.

Some specific acts or incidents are very funny (or, at least, will be, several years down the line). Watching or reading bad porn can be a hilarious non-turn on. But when people talk about sex being funny, they seem to mean a general, cosmic laughability about the whole thing that I truly cannot wrap my brain around. They say the mechanics are bizarre, for instance. All I can do is look blank and try to figure out why sex is supposed to be weirder than eating or breathing or sleeping.

Maybe that's tied in with how I simply don't get why someone's sex/gender is such a big deal for most other people.

#77 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Mourning doves love to rub "noses" -- for them, billing is clearly foreplay and they have at it with enthusiasm. (As for sex, the female isn't *always* shaking her tail feathers, but often enough she is.)

Random question of the day: Does any animal other than humans actually kiss? (Not doggie "kisses," but mouth-to-mouth.) I'd guess some apes do.

#78 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Aconite @ 76

Well, OK, this is clearly an area of individual opinion where we won't agree, and it doesn't make a bit of difference to our discourse. It's a lot like why almost everyone I know loves to watch the Three Stooges, and I just see a bunch of guys doing significant physical damage to each other. Doesn't make either of us right or wrong, just different. As Mencken used to say, "De gustibus ain't what they used to be."

Before I shut up on the subject, a couple of responses to sideissues:

All I can do is look blank and try to figure out why sex is supposed to be weirder than eating or breathing or sleeping.

Have you ever studied the physiology of eating and breathing (especially the mechanics of the getting the food and air in to the appropriate processing organs)? No self-respecting engineer would design such a system: one wrong swallow and you can suffocate. In other words, it's all pretty weird, no part much more than another.

Maybe that's tied in with how I simply don't get why someone's sex/gender is such a big deal for most other people

I doubt the two are closely related; I know too many people who think sex is funny and don't care about another person's sex or gender unless they're considering whether or not to have sex with that person. Personally, I don't know of any other reason to care that makes much sense. Well, perhaps you'd care if you want to have children with someone, because it will determine just where you'd get egg and sperm, how and where you'd join them, and how the zygote would be raised to term. But that's just medical technology (or evolved biological technique for host mothers, or socio-legal technique for adoption, depending), not about likes and dislikes, or even sex, at all.

#79 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 03:31 PM:

Long ago and far away (well, OKC) the convention hotel allowed us to view (or maybe someone at the convention had that room) their honeymoon suite. It had a circular bed. It had a circular mirror over the circular bed.

A girlfriend and I lay down side be side, looked up and burst out laughing. We both allowed as we wouldn't be able to keep a straight face having sex watching.

#80 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 08:04 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 78: It's a lot like why almost everyone I know loves to watch the Three Stooges, and I just see a bunch of guys doing significant physical damage to each other.

You have a witness, my brother. If you feel similar bewilderment at about the Austin Powers films and reality TV, I'm going to assume we were pod-mates, separated at hatching.


Doesn't make either of us right or wrong, just different.

It's a shame that can't go without saying, but I'm awfully glad when someone does say it, because I'm terrifically tired of dealing with brain-dead, xenophobic dolts who believe only homogeny is right.* (I blame bad upbringing--odd monotheism and all that.)


Have you ever studied the physiology of eating and breathing (especially the mechanics of the getting the food and air in to the appropriate processing organs)? [...] In other words, it's all pretty weird, no part much more than another.

Yup. Which is part of why I get so puzzled when sex is singled out as the funny bit.

Personally, I'm really peeved at the creator-thingie for not giving all mammals the marsupial solution to birth: squirt 'em out when they're tiny, and let 'em finish growing in a pouch with a much bigger exit passage.

*That most of them think "homogeny" involves anal sex and so would get more upset about that than "brain-dead dolts" gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

#81 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 09:40 PM:

Faren Miller @77:

Bonobos and chimpanzees both certainly kiss as a friendly greeting, though chimps tend to go in for the pucker-up-and-make-loud-smacking-noise approach, and bonobos try to lick their partner's tonsils.

Both species will try to greet humans similarly, when kept in captivity, which has led to some very disconcerted zoo-keepers.

#82 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 12:00 AM:

Aconite @ 80

If you feel similar bewilderment at about the Austin Powers films and reality TV, I'm going to assume we were pod-mates, separated at hatching.

If by "reality shows" you mean those poorly-scripted , low-budget shows whose actors are so bad at ad-libbing that they can't release the show until the whole story-arc's been shot, so they can do massive editing on the whole thing at once and insert all the fake conflict they think the audience wants, then yes, I welcome you sister.

Personally, I'm really peeved at the creator-thingie for not giving all mammals the marsupial solution to birth:

It could have at least made the kids' heads a little smaller, so they'd come out a little easier. Intelligent Design, phooey!

As for anal sex, will somebody explain to me why that's supposed to be a great sin practiced only by homosexuals? Like no one else can do it?

#83 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 01:25 AM:

Count me in as another person who never liked the Three Stooges or found them funny. Never seen an Austin Powers film or a "reality TV" show, though what I've heard about them does not exactly fill me with a burning urge to do so.

#84 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 01:56 AM:

#82, #83: At last, I have found my clan. (Anyone remember what we're supposed to do now? Swim back to hatchingplace, assume birthright as galactic overlords, order pizza--? I'm still in a sugar haze, and a little fuzzy on the details.)

As for anal sex, why, as you know, Bob, of course it's only practiced by homosexuals, because if it weren't twisted and wrong, everybody would want to do it and then there would be no more babies and the human race would die out.

#85 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 02:20 AM:

Heresiarch, #75: Generally speaking, I'm right with you on this. However, I do tend to consider such insults, when flung at anyone in the Bush Regime, to be exceptions to the rule. They have turned homophobia into such a golden calf that it just seems somehow appropriate to tar them with that brush.

Bruce, Aconite, David, et al. on the topic of slapstick, humiliation "humor", and soi-disant "reality shows": hear, hear! There is absolutely nothing funny about the overwhelming majority of what's classified as "comedy". And I'm convinced that the actual motive behind all the reality shows is that TV execs have discovered a cheesy, sleazy way to get around paying their actors union scale.

#86 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 02:26 AM:

Aconite @ #84: Yes, I know you're being ironic, you've made me smile. However, we listened to Clarence Carter's Strokin'. I would refer you to these lyrics:

The other night I was strokin' my woman

And it got so good to her, you know what she told me

Let me tell you what she told me, she said:

'Stroke it Clarence Carter, but don't stroke so fast

If my stuff ain't tight enough, you can stick it up my...'

#87 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 02:44 AM:

Lee, #85: it's not just non-unionized actors; it's also non-unionized writers.

#88 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 09:26 AM:

Todd Larason @ 87, Lee @ 85

All that, and they can blow off most of the craft people, too. You usually only need a single cameraperson and no additional camera crew, since it's one portable camera, one sound tech, maybe a gaffer (and maybe not, and those guys are really expensive), but probably no grips. Come to think of it, one of the producers can take the director title, and get an extra bit of salary. And there's no costume or makeup either.

Also, no studio, lights, generators, large trucks, etc., etc., etc. to rent.

The operative phrase is cheap, fast, and out of control. Not in a good way.

#89 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 11:50 AM:

Aconite @ 84

everybody would want to do it and then there would be no more babies and the human race would die out.

And maybe the bonobos would get a shot at doing a better job than we did (the chimps are too much like us, IMO).

As for what we're supposed to do, I think we're a little late; we're supposed to find out we're alien royalty in late adolescence, giving us much more scope for sex, intrigue, and sword fights(!). See Roswell

#90 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 12:01 PM:

82-85: Soulmates! Especially this bit from Lee: There is absolutely nothing funny about the overwhelming majority of what's classified as "comedy".

#91 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Lee @ 85

on the topic of slapstick, humiliation "humor", and soi-disant "reality shows"

The part I hate worst is the humiliation. This seems to be a large part of comedy, and it's not just unappetizing for me, it's downright painful. I'm not a squeamish sort*, so there's not much I look away from, but many times I cannot watch the screen while a character is being humiliated. It's just too close to what happened to me (and a lot of others) when I was a kid.

* I worked for several years in a medical school, where part of my job was running the instrumentation in the teaching OR. This not only inured me to seeing blood and tissue, it also gave me a generally low opinion of doctors. The only medical procedure I don't like watching is injections, because I've always hated getting them myself.

#92 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2007, 05:09 AM:

@82 [The creator thingie] could have at least made the kids' heads a little smaller, so they'd come out a little easier. Intelligent Design, phooey!

I Have Read Somewhere On The Internets that the human gestation period ought to be about twice as long as it is (comparing to other mammals of similar adult body weight, IIRC), but then neonatal head size would also be substantially larger, and the (adult female) human pelvis can't be any wider than it already is.

In other words, the "creator thingie" (read: evolution) has in fact made some effort to make the kids' heads smaller, at the expense of other useful properties like infant motor control. And to go back to 80, we are doing the marsupial thing. We finish gestation after birth. (That we have no pouches to do so in, and must contrive with arms or cloth slings, is really no different from our inconvenient lack of fur.)

#85 There is absolutely nothing funny about the overwhelming majority of what's classified as "comedy".

I was just reading a James Thurber essay collection in which he laments the Death Of American Comedy (in 1951, I think) and while it read like that old complaint about how everything new is crap, I have to agree that hardly anything commercial I've seen in ages has been funny.

#93 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2007, 06:13 AM:

If I recall correctly (I think from reading Stephen Jay Gould) researchers looking at things like degree of calcification of finger bones have concluded that if human babies gestated proportionally as long as chimpanzees, they'd be born in fifteen months rather than nine.

#94 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2007, 08:51 AM:

David Goldfarb @ 93

If human gestation took 15 months, most mothers would go on strike. That old line about "I've decided I'm not doing this" just before labor is not a joke*; I've heard it said by several women, including my own partner.

* That is to say, it's not said in jest. And laughing at the woman saying it, who's probably very pregnant, and very pissed-off, will likely get you killed, with a directed verdict of "justifiable homicide" as an epitaph.

#95 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2007, 08:54 AM:

While human infants may be born before their full (developmental) gestational period is up, I do not accept this as the marsupial solution so much as a worst-of-both worlds compromise. Marsupials have the babies when they are really tiny. Human infants are emphatically not tiny. That is the basis of my dispute with the creator-thingie. I do not care that they could be even bigger; they're too big as it is.

I don't personally know any women who would not prefer to deliver an infant the size of an index finger rather than one with a head like a cantaloupe. As soon as I'm done with the whole galactic domination business, I'm going to set my minions working on that design flaw.

#96 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2007, 10:28 AM:

#85 There is absolutely nothing funny about the overwhelming majority of what's classified as "comedy".

I believe it was Mel Brooks who said:

Tragedy is when I get a hangnail. Comedy is when you fall off a cliff.
#97 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2007, 08:07 PM:

We all find mirth in one thing or another:
Stooges for some the acme of delight,
for others dreary crap. One brother
may laugh long at Austin Powers, one might
think well of Mel Brooks' gassy lines. The cause
of disagreement out of ken, to taste
we had best ascribe it. Some viewers' craws
stick at Survivor, by others it's embraced.
For me no humor comes from degradation,
disrespect, and pain. I am not alone:
my friends hold views on humor much like mine.
We feel a strange and troubled fascination
for debased humor. Find humor in the moan
and grope of sex? On that we can't combine.

#98 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2007, 12:29 AM:

Back to the original topic, you have this all wrong. He isn't being paid off for smearing Kerry - that's ancient history. He's being paid off for organizing the smears of Pelosi.

#99 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2007, 01:09 PM:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/04/12/fired.prosecutors.ap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

"Leahy: Aides lying about White House-Justice e-mails"


Lee Iacocca annoyed,

Leahy: Aides lying about White House-Justice e-mails

"Excerpt
"Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
"By Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney"

=================================

"When in the course of human events...."

Monday is Patriots Day....


#100 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2007, 02:28 PM:

Todd @ #87: So basically, the soi-disant "reality shows" need to lower their ionization threshold?

#101 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Re: #91 ::: "The part I hate worst is the humiliation. "

But the essence of some major forms of Humor is the humiliation ... of people who _deserve_ to be humiliated. But that doesn't diminish your point -- one of the reasons I don't watch TV or movies is that so often the people who create them apparently do not share my definition of "deserve", or my sense of the importance of that quality.

#102 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Monday is Patriots Day. In commemoration of the Sons of Liberty and in parody which is supposed to be protected speech in the US Constitution.... how about some effigies of the modern figure corresponding to King George to tar, feather, hang from a Liberty Tree, perhaps burn....

#103 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2007, 03:47 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 102

In recognition of what Shrub wants to do to the Constitution, how about running an effigy of him through a paper shredder?

#104 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2007, 08:48 PM:

"running an effigy ... through a paper shredder"
Also in memory of the notorious 'people-shredding machine' Saddam was reported to have.
It, or physical evidence of it, never seems to have been seen AFAIK - I don't know what eye-witness evidence the reports were based on.

What's the difference between Patriot's (Patriots' ?) Day, Independence Day, and Veterans' (=Remembrance) Day (which is mostly superseded by Anzac Day, April 25 here)?

#105 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Epacris @ 104

Patriots Day is the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord (Paul Revere, the shot heard 'round the world, and all that). 1775.

#106 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Does Patriots' Day get celebrated anywhere other than Massachusetts?

#107 ::: scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2007, 10:22 AM:

loyalty is always more important than ethics or competence in politics.

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