Friday, July 25, 2008

A Brief Hiatus

The Home Office is suspending regular operations for two weeks to make a fact-finding journey with the Sole Heir to the home of the Sibling Correspondent in Colorado, aka The Home Office West. Craze will meet us there, arriving by air a day ahead of us, as we drive through Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas.

The trip home will consist of a minor detour through Wyoming (Shoshone National Forest, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks), Montana (Yellowstone River, Little Big Horn), Wyoming again (Devil's Tower), South Dakota (Deadwood, possibly Mount Rushmore, the Badlands), before heading back through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois (again), Indiana (again), Ohio (again), Pennsylvania (again), and home to Maryland (finally).

So enjoy the time off. I'll be back, fingers well rested, with a new blog to add to The Home Office's expanding media empire. Rupert Murdoch quakes as you read this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Giving Credit Where It's Due

I don’t know why President Bush is getting so much flak over his comments about the current financial situation. Let’s face it, as much as he’s been abused in this blog, I’ll give props where they’re due: If there’s anything about which he has detailed knowledge, it’s getting drunk and hangovers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

An American Nuremberg?

This is from Dan Froomkin’s “White House Watch” column on

Charlie Savage writes in the New York Times: "Felons are asking President Bush for pardons and commutations at historic levels as he nears his final months in office, a time when many other presidents have granted a flurry of clemency requests."

But my ears really pricked up when Savage raised this question: "Will Mr. Bush grant pre-emptive pardons to officials involved in controversial counterterrorism programs?

"Such a pardon would reduce the risk that a future administration might undertake a criminal investigation of operatives or policy makers involved in programs that administration lawyers have said were legal but that critics say violated laws regarding torture and surveillance.

"Some legal analysts said Mr. Bush might be reluctant to issue such pardons because they could be construed as an implicit admission of guilt. But several members of the conservative legal community in Washington said in interviews that they hoped Mr. Bush would issue such pardons -- whether or not anyone made a specific request for one. They said people who carried out the president's orders should not be exposed even to the risk of an investigation and expensive legal bills.

"'The president should pre-empt any long-term investigations,' said Victoria Toensing, who was a Justice Department counterterrorism official in the Reagan administration. 'If we don't protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances.'"

Overuse has rendered the four-letter N word unusable for referring to anyone but Hitler, but doesn’t Toensing’s argument sound a lot like pardoning people for “only following orders?” Haven’t we heard that somewhere before?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No, I Didn't Make This Up

Maybe he's a better candidate for the Darwin Awards than an academic enrichment camp.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) -- A 10-year-old boy attending an academic enrichment camp at Hagerstown Community College was injured when he stuck a paper clip into a live electrical socket.

State police say the student at the College for Kids program was flown to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. on Thursday with burned hands.

College spokeswoman Beth Stull says the boy's action during a computer class was independent of what he was doing in class.

Stull says officials would look into the incident. She says officials discussed the incident with other students and a letter is being sent home to parents.

Friday, July 11, 2008


This is my 250th blog post, submitted as proof there is way too much shit on the Internet.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Proud to be an American

Cindy McCain took Michelle Obama to task a couple of weeks ago over Ms. Obama's now-infamous comment, "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country." Ms. McCain, it turns out, "always [has] been and will always be extremely proud of my country." Today must have been a particularly heart-bursting day for Cindy, as the following events were reported:

The new FISA bill passed, with immunity to telecommunications companies for the warrantless searches they performed on George W. Bush's and Alberto Gonzalez's say-so. Not only have new frontiers in warrantless surveillance been opened, there is no recourse for anyone who had their phones or emails illegally captured. Not that it mattered. In a classically Bushian Catch-22, previous suits were denied because no one could prove they'd been harmed; the personal communications illegally obtained are classified, and not available to the plaintiff. Democrats rolled over for what presidential candidate Barack Obama called a compromise; it was, if you consider it a compromise to re-position yourself so your new prison friend, Bubba the Shower Freak, doesn't have to lean over too much.

In other news, we learned the office of Vice President Dick "Prince of Darkness" Cheney excised several pages from the Congressional testimony of Centers for Disease Control Director Julie Gerberding that indicated the CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern. This, in turn, affected EPA policy that depended on the CDC's conclusions. Even that wasn't enough; the White House refused to open the email that contained the finding that would have required the EPA to take action, apparently using the principle, "If we didn't read it, it didn’t happen." This is not unlike a child plugging his ears and chanting, "lalalalalalalalalalala" when Mom tells him it's time for a bath. (The shunned email was actually reported last week, but it relevant to this story, and we should all be damned proud of it, too.)

It's not just politicians we can be proud of. The workers' paradise of Communist China raised wages to almost a buck an hour last year, and made it harder for employers to cheat people out of it. American companies doing business in China warned them against such rash actions; the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai straight-out opposed them. Now much of that business has moved to Vietnam, where the Communist government knows how to treat business, primarily by refusing to coddle its workers like those touchy-feely Chinese. Vietnam was chosen over Thailand, where wages are similar, because "Communism means more stability." As the Washington Post's Harold Meyerson points out, we have 58,000 names on a wall downtown, each one representing someone who died to keep Vietnam from becoming Communist. Our failure made their sacrifices no less significant. Only a bottom-line mentality at all costs can do that.

The presidential campaign promises to keep us bursting with pride, no matter who wins. Barack Obama and John McCain brought their kneepads with them to yesterday's separate appearances before the League of United Latin American Citizens. It was like a limbo contest for groveling: how low can you go? Obama won, mainly because he had too big a lead from his previous statement that, while immigrants should learn to speak English, we should learn to speak Spanish. He went on to say we should all learn to speak several languages; that's what the campaign will point out. It's disingenuous; his intended audience stopped listening after "make sure your child can speak Spanish."

There is a lot of good in this country. The blind fealty to the divine rights and infallibility of Americans that began with the Reagan Administration does those good things no honor through its avoidance of admitting anything less than noble. Anyone who can look you in the eye and claim to be unreservedly proud of everything done in the United States, or in its name, has a curious definition of "pride," and is someone on whom you should never turn your back.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Brief Obituary

A woman to whom I was once married—not the Sole Heir’s mother—once thought living in North Carolina would be splendid. Beaches, beautiful mountains, nice weather, fully-realized but not-too-urban cities, not as pricey as the Washington area. A good deal all around, she thought.

“I wouldn’t live there if they paid me,” I said.

She asked why.

“Because over half the people who live there keep sending Jesse Helms to the Senate.”

And that encompasses my thoughts on his passing.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Timing Is Everything

The Home Office has been hard on the federal government over the past few years. In the interests of fair play, it's time to point out one thing the Feds got right: Monday holidays.

I used to make fun of the official federal holidays, especially the ones they made up just so they always fall on a Monday: Martin Luther King Day, Presidents' Day, (the moving of) Memorial Day and Columbus Day. (Labor Day was always on a Monday, so it didn't count.) "Let the holiday be on the day it commemorates," I used to think. "January 15, May 31, October 12, whatever."

This year my favorite federal holiday, Independence Day, fell on a Friday and showed me the error of my ways. "A three-day weekend is a three-day weekend," I used to think. "It doesn't matter whether the short work week falls before or after the holiday."

Dumb ass.

Mondays are much better. It was nice to have last Friday off, plopped into my schedule much like the rain that fell off and on throughout the day. Saturday was Saturday, and the Sunday routine stayed the same. Translated: back to work tomorrow.

If the holiday fell on Monday, the weekend would go on as usual, except when I got ready for bed on Sunday night, there would be no need to set the alarm; a bonus extension of the weekend was at hand. Sweet. Even better, the upcoming workweek was only four days. With the Friday holiday, we're staring at coming right back into a regular week. (True, last week was short, but that was last week; what have you done for me lately?)

So here's a big thank you to Congress for promoting the idea of Monday holidays. Yes, it was quite a few Congresses ago, and the current Congress has done little to recommend itself to anyone other than narcoleptics. Still, it's only fair to show appreciation where it's due. Granted, Monday holidays don’t quite tip the scales when balanced against the Iraq war, torture, the erosion of civil liberties, no energy policy, an unfair tax structure, faulty levees, and the failure to provide any meaningful oversight to banks and lenders that prompted the current economic downturn, but that's me: Mr. Glass Is Half Full, the eternal optimist.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hell Hath No Fury

It's rare to write about two perspectives of an issue and be right both times. It's happened here exactly once in three years. (That's a much better record than Robert Novak, who hasn't been right about even one side of an issue in fifty years.) Still, it's kind of fun.

Word got out a couple of years ago that Christie Brinkley was getting divorced for the fourth time. (That's as many as I have, squared.) Considering she's Christie Brinkley, I figured it must be her; any man worth being called one would fight like a rabid wolverine with a toothache to keep that deal alive.

Word came out a couple of weeks later that it was, in fact, her husband who lit the fuse, by sleeping with a nineteen-year-old coworker. Christie received the apology she was due; The Home Office is nothing if not even handed, especially to world-acknowledged Fabulous Babes.

Now we find out Christie has demanded a fully public divorce trial to air all the dirty laundry. The affair, hubby's $3,000 a month internet porn habit, everything. Maybe she deserves a more blame than we thought for all those divorces. There are kids involved here. This guy's already been humiliated worse than Larry Craig, at least in the eyes of men: he burned an unlimited season's pass to Christie Land. (This essay is living proof; I can't bring myself to type his name.) There's nothing worse she can do to him without exposing a lot of dirty undergarments adolescent boys don't need to have traced back to their own family.

Talk about a woman scorned; if she really wanted to hurt the guy, make the judge order him to look at albums of her pictures once a week. Remind him there was a time when he could exercise his Christie Brinkley fantasies and not have to worry about getting the pages stuck together. If she wants to publicly humiliate him, write a book when the kids are out of college, after he thinks it's blown over. Vengeance is a dish best served cold, and, unlike broccoli, kids can do without it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Breaking the Code

Yesterday the head honcho at [government agency redacted] where I'm currently under contract released the typical political appointee message for a national holiday. It ended with the obligatory paean to the military:

And I also hope you’ll remember all the men and women who have sacrificed in so many different ways to build our nation, especially including those who have given or risked their lives in the armed services.

Nice, but unremarkable. Why did it irritate me so much yesterday? We've heard these on every remotely applicable occasion, since September 11, 2001. What was different this time?

I've broken the code.

Asking people to remember those who serve in the uniformed services always leaves out one part: so I don't have to. Veterans never say shit like that. Their phrasing is more to the point. None of this And I hope you'll remember… Could it be any more mealy mouthed? If it wouldn't be too much trouble? If you think of it? Don’t put yourself out, but…

Too many people praise the military now as sops to their own nascent consciences about who serves and who doesn't. Let's call a spade a spade. Just once I'd like to see someone come clean and send out one of these:

And I want to praise all those brave men and women who allow our government to place them in harm's way so I –or my kid—can pursue an MBA (or play college sports or get likkered up on weekends or work the commodities markets). Thank God we'll always have people like that. It's hard enough making the decision to send them without having to worry about going ourselves.

One last thing. Today, of all days, take a look at the paraphrase on the masthead above. The next time you're debating someone about FISA and warrants and torture and freedom, remember Benjamin Franklin said all we really need to know about the topic two hundred plus years ago: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Happy Independence Day, and many more, for as long as we deserve them.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

And They Say There's Justice

I’m depressed. Marian Hossa has left town.

For those who are not devoted puckheads, Hossa is a world-class right winger. (Hockey player, dumb ass. Grover Norquist or Karl Rove could leave town in a pine box and I’d dance like the best man at a Greek wedding.) Picked up late last season by Pittsburgh’s Penguins, he has gone to join the team that beat them in the Stanley Cup finals, the Detroit Red Wings.

It was always at least even money Hossa would leave after the season, but Detroit? He got within one game of carving his name in the cup with Pittsburgh last month; I guess seeing the Wings skate around with it made him think he could get it done there next year. Here’s a news flash: you could have got it done in Pittsburgh next year, Marian, and you wouldn’t have to live in Detroit.

The salaries were about the same, except Pittsburgh’s was for five years, and Detroit’s for just one. Taking a one-year deal with Detroit is easy to understand; pledging to spend more than one year of your life in Detroit is crazy talk, $7 million a year, or not. I’m sure Pittsburgh would have offered him a shorter deal; they thought they were doing the chump a favor.

Hossa came to the Burgh with the reputation of disappearing during the playoffs. The Pens worked with him, put him on Sidney Crosby’s line, did everything but put Kolache on his pillow at night, to help him overcome his history as a choker, and it worked. What thanks did we get? He blew town like hovno through a husa.

This is how Detroit operates; it’s a parasite. Called itself the “Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II, because it manufactured tanks and trucks and planes. Manufacturing jobs on an assembly line. Tighten this rivet. Balance a tire. Line up an engine mount. Like building one of those particle board desks you can buy at Target.

It was harder? They used steel, you say? Where did the steel come from? It came from a smaller city with broader shoulders, where brave men slaked the thirst of ravenous molds with white-hot rivers of molten steel. Detroit built its reputation on the backs of Pittsburgh’s labor. It got Grosse Pointe and Greenfield Village; we got pollution. And how do they repay us? Taking Marian Hossa.