Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl postpourri

-- There is a case to be made for the impeachment of Dick Cheney.

-- Global warming news: The world's leading scientists, evangelical Christian groups, and even the CEOs of BP, DuPont, GE, Duke Energy and others all asked Bush to require limits on greenhouse gases this year, but he has refused. The intergovernmental report on climate change that was panned as too cheery even before it was released was also undermined by a conservative think tank: scientists were offered bribes by the American Enterprise Institute.

-- Joe Biden is going to establish a new land speed record for shortest presidential campaign. He is the Apollo I of White House wannabes (all apologies to Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee). Then again, however he thought it possible to out-DLC Hillary -- and Tom Nutsack, for that matter -- should have been a red flag on his political acumen. At least he won't be plagiarizing anyone's speeches.

Al Sharpton told him he bathed every day. Priceless.

-- The 2008 federal budget strips $1.3 billion out of Louisiana's levees, prompting outrage even from Republican senator and Cajun right-wing freak David Vitter:

"I am deathly afraid that this vital emergency post-Katrina work is now being treated like typical (Army Corps of Engineers) projects that take decades to complete. We will not recover if this happens."

-- Watching some of the old Super Bowl highlights on ESPN this time of year is a real treat. Regarding this year's game, I like the Bears to shut down Peyton Manning and cover the 6 1/2 point spread, if not win outright. If the Texans can do it, the Bears sure can. As it has been all season, it comes down to how well Rex Grossman plays.

In the vein of football-on-the-brain, here's a few of the people we are all bound to encounter at our Super Bowl parties this Sunday. "Fantasy Football Guy" manages to show up at mine every single year. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, a sad article from Dan Wetzel on the steep price NFL vets have paid, both in terms of disability and for playing the game when the money was lousy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Commissioners Court Shuffle

The third largest county in the United States may soon have a vacancy at the top of the food chain:

Harris County Judge Robert Eckels said Wednesday he is mulling offers from the private sector and can't rule out walking away from the four-year term he just won in November.

An early resignation would create a political whirlwind in county government, where officials serve without term limits and open seats are rare.

Eckels, a Republican, has political ambitions extending beyond these on-the-table offers to make a big pile of money; his name was mentioned frequently in the DeLay-apalooza last summer. But his current job gives him oversight which spans all or part of seven congressional districts, so his interest is likely as a statewide candidate. Houtopia (much better connected than me) handicaps the potential replacements:

Some names that have surfaced on the GOP side as possible replacements are Jerry Eversole, Ned Holmes, or Paul Bettencourt. Eversole would seem more of a placeholder. If he left his Commissioner's seat to take the job, there would likely be a wide-open Republican primary for County Judge in 2008, whether Eversole wanted to keep the position or not.

Holmes, a longtime party donor, hugely successful businessman and former Port Authority Chairman, if appointed, would be a daunting opponent for 2008 challengers. First of all, he could self-fund, he would be a smooth, telegenic candidate, and he has a ton of favors to cash in -- the guy's raised money for or given to every candidate and elected official in town. Nobody wants to take him on in a GOP primary.

Then there's Bettencourt. The darling of the anti-tax conservative crowd (ironic when you think of to whom you write your enormous property tax check each year), the current Tax Assessor-Collector has one rather large obstacle -- (Commissioner Steve) Radack. That's right folks, they too are mortal enemies. So, the interim appointment is probably out for Bettencourt, though he may well look at 2008.

Keir also slips in a mention of the Democrats' chances:

After all, the average downballot countywide Dem candidate got about 48.5% of the vote in 2006, with terrible base voter turnout and absolutely no coordinated effort. All signs point to Harris County tipping back to the Democrats in the near future, so they would be crazy not to mount a serious challenge for this seat in 2008, particularly considering the dramatically higher base Democratic voter turnout in a presidential year. ...

The two names most often mentioned are former City Council Member Gordon Quan and former Party Chair and real estate investor David Mincberg. Both would be strong candidates.

Local politics could get a lot more interesting if Judge Eckels decides to bail.

"How the hell has Condoleeza Rice got away with it for so long?"

Cragg Hines, DC bureau chief for the Chronic (I love him mostly because he drives these people batshit) serves:

A cheeky Brit pol is ragging on the bearer of the Vestalian aura within the Bush crowd, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

What's more, the guy is a leading light in the Conservative Party, once such great chums with Bush's Republicans. ...

And the incipient backbiting I'd hope this guy's screed generates could make the dust-up between Rice, incensed professional woman, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California flamer-mother, look like the sitcom episode it was.

Actually, Johnson's extended paragraph could have been dictated by any number of Rice's erstwhile allies in the American conservative movement. Johnson knows some of the same folks I do who have been dishing Condi's intellectual capacity and judgment from the get-go.

Here's the extended paragraph he refers to, from the blog of MP Boris Johnson (bold emphasis added to make it easier to read):

It is one of the great mysteries of modern geopolitics. How the hell has Condoleezza Rice got away with it for so long? There she is, Secretary of State of the United States and one of the most powerful people on the planet. It is Condi Rice who leads on behalf of you, me, the entire Western world, in waging this deepening Cold War with Iran. She is the girl who threatens Ahmedinejad with Armageddon, or whatever our policy is. And yet if you read State of Denial by Bob Woodward (as you must) it is clear that she was the most stupefyingly incompetent National Security Adviser in the history of that office. She was warned, in some detail, about 9/11. The CIA made a special trip to see her on 10 July 2001 to say that al-Qa'eda was planning something huge and imminent, and that a 'strategic' response was necessary. Uh-huh, said Condi, and did zip; and at every stage in the catastrophic 'War on Terror' her behaviour is characterised by this same weird zen-like passivity. Soon after the invasion the question emerges: should the US send many more troops? Condi somehow fails to offer an opinion. The Americans' first hapless proconsul, Jay Garner, asks her before setting out what the game plan is. Where is power to reside? he asks. Who do we want to run the country? You might have thought this was a fairly crucial question, but 'Rice said nothing.' When Garner's successor, Jerry Bremer, makes the appalling mistake of de-Baathifying Iraq, she doesn't seem to grasp the significance of what is going on. And yet she was so important in the decision-making process that she was one of only two people consulted by Bush before he made his decision to go to war. The whole thing is terrifying. I absolutely refuse to take seriously any American urgings to get tough on Iran as long as she is still part of the show. Rumsfeld was demonised until Bush finally whacked him. Colin Powell was whacked. How come Condi is still flying around telling us what to do? One of the many reasons for regretting the death of Robin Cook, Labour's conscience over Iraq, is that he never had the chance to interrogate her. I was all set to write the headline, 'Cook Turns Up Heat On Rice.' It's about time someone did.

At every critical point in her administration tenure Rice has been out to lunch, literally or figuratively; shopping for shoes and attending Broadway plays while New Orleans drowned being the most obvious and appalling example.

She initially forgot about a briefing from George Tenet on July 10, 2001 regarding the al-Qaeda threats in advance of 9/11, but later on when her recall improved she also remembered that she had asked that former AG John Ashcroft receive the same briefing one week later. (He also currently disavows recollection of his briefing, yet something happened during mid- to late July -- six weeks before the World Trade Center towers were hit -- that scared Ashcroft so badly he ceased flying commercial aircraft.)

She confused Bush as being her "husb..." even though she's never been married.

Finally, when Bush asked Rice to focus on Iraq when she was still at NSA he said her job was "to help unstick things that may get stuck, is the best way to put it. She's an unsticker."

Now there's an unsettling visual.