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Impressive Speech From Sheldon Whitehouse

| Fri Dec. 7, 2007 5:27 PM EST

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) delivered an important speech today full of shocking information, if it's still possible to be shocked by the Bush administration. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Whitehouse has access to the Justice Department's secret legal determinations. He then was able to get some of the determinations declassified, or at least the summaries he wrote down while reading them in a secure room. This is how he characterizes three of them:

1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President's authority under Article II.

3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President's legal determinations.

In other words, the president is the law. Whitehouse concludes:

When the Congress of the United States is willing to roll over for an unprincipled President, this is where you end up. We should not even be having this discussion. But here we are. I implore my colleagues: reject these feverish legal theories.

There is, of course, little reason for Whitehouse to be optimistic this will happen. Still, it's a surprise to see even one senator demonstrating he cares about these issues, and explaining them in a way normal people can understand.

For more, see Marcy Wheeler's typically cogent commentary.

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Fiscal Conservatives Hit Huckabee on His Tax Record

| Fri Dec. 7, 2007 3:20 PM EST

The problem with the Republican Party is that it is composed of various groups—small government fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, national security hawks—whose interests don't always align.

Usually the GOP can find a candidate, like George W. Bush, who satisfies all three groups. This time around, though, they're not so lucky. The candidates who "check all the boxes" are either faking it (Romney) or are only kinda interested in running (Thompson), and those who don't are getting beaten up by the portions of the party they leave dissatisfied.

Take this ad, for example. The fiscally conservative, tax-hating Club for Growth is hammering Huckabee for his moderate economic record.

The bad thing about Huckabee's tax hikes mentioned here is that they weren't progressive (except possibly the income tax "surcharge"); they hit the middle and working classes as hard or harder than they hit the upper class. That means that if Huckabee survives these attacks at gets the GOP nod, he'll probably be attacked for this stuff by the Democrats, too.

The Next Financial Crisis: Credit Cards

| Fri Dec. 7, 2007 2:42 PM EST

The next step in the growing financial squeeze—what the banking community likes to call the "soft landing"—is coming down in credit cards. Take a look at those offers you're getting in the mail. Gone are the promises of permanent low APRs on purchases or balance transfers. Instead, the companies are offering a low rate for 6 or maybe 12 months, and then it shoots up to 15 or 20 percent or higher. And there's usually a 5 percent transfer fee on your whole balance—the ceilings on transfer fees are disappearing. So even if you get, say, a 4.9 percent APR for 12 months, it's really 9.9 percent.

Grammy Nominees: The Right-On and the Random

| Fri Dec. 7, 2007 2:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-grammysart.jpgBy now everyone's seen the big news about the Grammy nods: Kanye gets a bunch, Amy Winehouse gets almost as many, and Bruce gets denied in the Album of the Year category. Since the Grammy nominees have about as much to do with good music as, I dunno, the contestants on America's Next Top Model have to do with human beauty, it doesn't really pay to fret about who's been unjustly denied a nomination. What's more interesting is finding evidence there are some serious weed smokers in the nominating committees, allowing both compelling and completely baffling nods to slip through.

Does Huckabee Believe Angels Intervene in Hunting Contests?

| Fri Dec. 7, 2007 1:56 PM EST

That's the question I've tried to get the Mike Huckabee campaign to answer.

The surging social conservative who once was a Baptist preacher, as AP reports, is refusing to discuss theology and the "intricate, nit-picky things of church doctrine"--even though he recently attributed his success in the polls to divine intervention. For instance, he has declined in recent days to talk about his view of creationism (at an early debate he indicated he supports it) or to say whether he believes women should be permitted to serve in pastoral leadership roles (a controversial matter within some fundamentalist circles).

But what about angels? As I've noted previously and elsewhere, Huckabee gave a rather intriguing speech at the NRA in September, during which he deftly merged his heartfelt evangelical beliefs with his deep passion for gun rights and hunting. He recalled the time he was in an antelope hunting contest in Wyoming. After several hours of stalking prey on a miserably cold, windy and snowy day, Huckabee had his chance. An antelope was 250 yards away, but right at the edge of his range as a shooter. Then a miracle happened:

I decided that one way or the other, this hunt is about to be over, because I can't stand any more of this cold. And somehow, by the grace of God, when I squeezed the trigger, my Weatherby .300 Mag, which has got to be the greatest gun, I think, ever made in the form of a rifle -- for my sake in hunting, I've never squeezed the trigger and not gotten something -- did its work, and somehow the angels took that bullet and went right to the antelope, and my hunt was over in a wonderful way.

Thanks to those angels, that elk was dead.

After hearing that speech, I sent an email to the press office of the Huckabee campaign asking if the former Arkansas governor does "believe that angels literally intervene in the affairs of human beings and that such intervention includes hunting events." I received no reply. I tried again. Still silence.

Huckabee is delighted to let people know he's a firm believer in God. He's well aware that helps him with Republican primary voters, especially in Iowa. But he doesn't want to answer questions about his beliefs. That's trying to have it both ways--the glory without explaining. With less than month to the Iowa caucus, can Huckabee continue to duck questions about spiritual affairs? Maybe with the help of angels.

Friday: Hi, I'm Back, and It's Music News Day

| Fri Dec. 7, 2007 1:47 PM EST

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  • Bay Area trio Green Day is finally ready to hit the studio to work on the follow-up to 2004's American Idiot. The band released a statement on their website saying they wouldn't be repeating any of the angry themes established on that decidedly political album, which makes sense because everything's totally fine now.
  • Jay-Z may be splitting from his label Def Jam after allegedly demanding "big, big money" that Def Jam bigwigs found "excessive." The rapper's contract is set to expire at the end of the month, and the article helpfully points out that instead of working on his negotiating skills, he was celebrating his 38th birthday… in Paris. No wonder he needs more cash.
  • Brit combo Manic Street Preachers are accusing Radiohead of "demeaning" music by allowing fans to decide how much to pay for their new album, In Rainbows. This is a band right up there with Robbie Williams on the list of Bands Most Successful In Europe That Nobody In the US Has Ever Heard Of. Anyway, their bassist Nicky Wire spoke to UK newspaper the Daily Star, saying the free download phenomenon is "ruining" the music industry.
  • Can't get enough of Benny, Bjorn, Anni and Agnetha? Well, starting in 2009 you'll be able to take a chance (ahem!) on the Abba museum in Stockholm, a three-floor complex dedicated to the Swedish legends. The complex will include a room dedicated to the band's fashions as well as a recreation of their recording studio. Hey, let's watch an Abba video.

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    Nowhere to Hide: Googling in Space

    | Fri Dec. 7, 2007 12:31 PM EST

    The New York Times:

    Starting next week and over the next few months, several American airlines will begin testing Internet service on their planes.

    On Tuesday, JetBlue Airways will begin offering a free e-mail and instant messaging service on one aircraft, while American Airlines, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines plan to offer a broader Web experience in the coming months, probably at a cost of around $10 a flight.

    Tuesday, 7:05 am, JFK to DFW, JetBlue Flight 263:
    Seat 5A: Dude, what u doin? just took off. drunk off my ass by 1 PST HELL YEA. Flyin suks.
    Seat 14F: hi mom.just tok off. $10? tis connectn so lame.
    Seat 17C: wassup? jus tk off. i thot stewardss wer supposed 2b be hot? pilot has a lisp. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!
    Seat 19D: i wanna divorc. jst took ff.
    Seat 22B: just tuk off. r u there?! OMIGOD. Loser in 5A watchng porn!!!!!!!!! its 7:06 in THE MORNING!!! Flyin is he wurst. ths connectn suck bg tme. shudda brout a book....


    Bad, Baaaad Santa

    | Fri Dec. 7, 2007 12:27 PM EST

    From the AP:

    "Last year, Microsoft encouraged kids to connect directly to "Santa" by adding northpole@live.com to their Windows Live Messenger contact lists. The Santa program, which Microsoft reactivated in early December, asked children what they wanted for Christmas and could respond on topic, thanks to artificial intelligence.
    The holiday cheer soured this week when a reader of a United Kingdom-based technology news site, The Register, reported that a chat between Santa and his underage nieces about eating pizza prompted Santa to bring up oral sex."

    It went downhill from there. Oddly, Microsoft doesn't suspect this was the result of an employee prank. Meaning someone consciously programmed AI Santa to discuss bj's? No wonder everyone wants to work there.

    Here's Your Damn Baby, Now Where Are My #@%&ing Diamond Earrings?

    | Thu Dec. 6, 2007 11:35 PM EST

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    Not to begrudge any woman who's toiled through nine months of pregnancy and multiple hours of labor, but there's something quite sickening about this NYT story about how new mothers are expecting their husbands and partners to pony up with some really sweet bling.

    This bonus goes by various names. Some call it the "baby mama gift." Others refer to it as the "baby bauble." But it's most popularly known as the "push present." That's "push" as in, "I the mother, having been through the wringer and pushed out this blessed event, hereby claim my reward." Or "push" as in, "I've delivered something special and now I'm pushing you, my husband/boyfriend, to follow suit."
    "It's more and more an expectation of moms these days that they deserve something for bearing the burden for nine months, getting sick, ruining their body," said Linda Murray, executive editor of BabyCenter.com. "The guilt really gets piled on."
    A recent survey of more than 30,000 respondents by BabyCenter.com found that 38 percent of new mothers received a gift from their mate in connection with their child. Among pregnant mothers, 55 percent wanted one. About 40 percent of both groups said the baby was ample reward.

    You heard that right, only 2 in 5 kids can rest assure that Mom wasn't disappointed that their arrival wasn't accompanied by a tennis bracelet.

    It is not the fact that Moms are getting a token of their hard work that bugs me, it is that you know that the diamond industry has their hands in this. Just as they invented a "tradition" of diamond wedding rings, the "three months salary" rule, and the "three-stone anniversary ring." Hey, you can hear DeBeers' pitchmen saying: Why not a carat for each pound of baby? Don't you care, Dad?

    I'm just saying. Because no man would ever dare.

    (For a timeline of diamond marketing, follow the jump. And there's more here.)

    Steve Irwin, Illegal Whaling Ship Hunter?

    | Thu Dec. 6, 2007 8:47 PM EST
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    The environmental buccaneers at Sea Shepherd just named a ship after "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. No doubt the good ship Irwin will bring renewed attention to skipper Paul Watson's high-seas exploits chasing whalers and other enemies of the ocean. But does this strike anyone else as weird? Whatever his credentials as a committed environmentalist might have been, Irwin's claim to fame was his skill at sneaking up on and molesting unsuspecting creatures. Sea Shepard's claim to fame is its skill at sneaking up on people who molest (or worse) unsuspecting creatures. OK, there's a big difference between manhandling a croc and harpooning a humpback, but still, doesn't the "look but don't touch" rule get to the heart of what protecting animals is all about?

    (Image: Worth1000)