The worst criminal to come out of Detroit

I was speeding; sure, I won’t deny that. It was 8:20 or so on Super Bowl Sunday, and I was returning my rental car at Detroit’s airport before jumping on a 10:00 flight to Minneapolis for a story. Detroit, like most big cities, has spawned an airport inside a morass of frontage roads — to return a rental, you follow the signs, turn to what seems like an abandoned stretch of lots, and you’re there.

So, I turned onto Lucas, passing by the Hertz drop-off, intending to get gas at the end of the street before circling back and dropping it off. I notice, surreally, a cop car blazing into my rear view mirror.

“Can you… actually get pulled over on the street where you’re dropping the car off?” I wonder.

Indeed, you can. A surly officer asks why I think I was pulled over.

“I was in a hurry, so maybe I missed a turn signal on the way in,” I speculate.

According to him, no: I did not give the right of way when turning onto the final frontage road. I cut someone off — him, I assume — and was going 41 in a 35 mph zone.

(Here I will pause for an instructional video on how uniquely strange it is to drive in Michigan.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2485Vi9eB4

“Do you have $100 in cash to post bond?” asks the cop.

My mind… I was going to say “races,” but it actually turns pretty slowly. “No,” I say, knowing I have around $85 in cash, “but I can pay a ticket.”

Friendly enough, right? Wrong. The cop returns to his car with my license, and with knowledge of my story — trying to return the car for my 10 a.m. flight so I can get to Minneapolis for work. In literally 90 minutes I will be out of his state, a problem for the motorists of the Twin Cities, not him.

He returns 10 minutes later, as I check my watch, and hands me a ticket — but no license.

“I’m holding onto your license as bond,” he says.

“Oh,” I say. “I didn’t realize that was what you meant by bond. Can I go to the ATM over there” — I point to the gas station, maybe 20 yards away — “and get the cash.”

The cop summons up that attitude that only an armed and un-criticizable agent of the state can summon. He already gave me a chance. He only charged me for speeding. I should cut my losses.

“But I can’t get on my plane without my license,” I say.

“You can use the ticket and say what happened,” he says.

This part of the story engenders less sympathy — suffice to say that instead of using the TSA pre-check status I pay for, I must show the ticket at a regular TSA line, empty my wallet to find that there’s no other card with my birth date, note the disbelief of the agent at the idea that the ticket would be enough ID, and get every single item patted down and searched before getting a chance to sprint to my plane. I make it by 5 minutes. Could be worse.

I can’t rent a car anymore, but I can borrow one from a friend. I can’t get back to the airport right before my flight on Monday — I will have to subject myself to another long pat-down. Okay. In future, I’ll travel with my passport.

But here is the long tail of the problem — getting my license back means trusting the Wayne County traffic court to send it back. I’m not saying its employees are dishonest. On Monday, they seem perfectly polite, if confused. I’m saying an infamously cash-poor urban county is not exactly staffed up to process a ticket quickly or mail a license back. Also, I’ve moved since I got the license, and that’s the sort of thing you’d like to explain to a bureaucrat before they mail your ID to an address.

When I call, three times, I talk to three confused people who refer me to a website that doesn’t recognize my ticket number. My follow-up questions are directed the voicemail of “Maya,” or maybe “Maia,” with no indication of what she does.

Here is the larger context: I am shredded. I’ve worked every day of January and had half a day off in February. I’m lucky, insofar that once I’m not going through airports, I don’t need my ID to drive to work; I take public transportation. But I tend to pack my days with assignments, and now I’ve got to navigate around the motherfucking Wayne County traffic courts.

I guess I’m saying that I don’t understand the policy. You want to get dangerous drivers off the road? Okay. I am… probably more aware of the text messages being sent to me than I should while driving.

But Jesus Christ — why bludgeon someone who’s trying to drop off a rental car? Why, for speeding not on a road choked with motorists, but a road that exists so people can get out of your state and to a plane? Why throw someone into, as far as you know, days or weeks of difficulty that will impede his ability to get a job done?

Republicans knock Jindal on BP transparency

I’ll be on Countdown later discussing local criticism of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s handling of the oil spill. One line of that criticism — anger that Jindal vetoed legislation that would have opened all of the state’s records of how it handled the spill. The governor argued that the legislation would have weakened the state’s position in future liability claims. State Sen. Robert Adley, a Republican who sponsored the bill in the Senate, called that “disingenuous and ludicrous.”

“It’s absurd,” he said. “People can eventually issue subpoenas and get these records. All he’s doing is preventing the people of Louisiana from seeing the records, while BP will get to see them.”

Adley, who endorsed Jindal in 2007, called the BP transparency veto the latest example of Jindal making “one ethics rule for himself and another from everyone else.” Rep. Wayne Waddell, another Republican and the supporter of the transparency legislation in the House, took that further.

“He wants to preach that he’s brought to the state more transparency and ethics than any other governor,” said Waddell. “At the levels below the governor’s office, he has. But the governor should represent the gold standard, and right now it’s just gold-plated.”

Neither pol argued that Jindal had been negligent at any level in his handling of the BP crisis. The problem, they said, was with how difficult that question was to answer. Questions about whether the National Guard members Jindal asked for have been fully deployed have been basically blown off with spokesmen criticizing the federal government.

“I don’t know if anything is being done incorrectly,” said Adley. “I just want it to be done in public.”

“We don’t really know if anything’s gone wrong,” said Waddell. “Unless you open up the records how do you know? Unless you’re open about how the National Guard is being used, or how the money BP owes is being used, how do you know? Is the money going to be used to plug a hole in the budget?”

Waddell hoped that more media exposure of the transparency issue would get Jindal to think about his own “national ambitions” and revisit it. Adley just wanted to get it right.

“When I leave the legislature,” he said, “on each and every issue I want to find myself on the right side of history, if possible.”

Rick Barber talks about Nazis

The would-be GOP candidate in AL-02 has unleashed his third viral* video: a tavern chat with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln followed by… look, just watch it.

I talked to Barber today, who happily defended his evocation of slavery and his use of World War II iconography — which includes images of the Holocaust.

“Somebody has to say this,” said Barber. “When Hitler took power, no one wanted to think that the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jewish people, was possible. I’m saying that you have to recognize and name tyranny when you see it. And I think people are finding out that I’m the candidate who’s willing to speak clearly and not be afraid of sounding politically incorrect, and my opponent isn’t that candidate.”

*by the way, what is the point when we can call things viral? 250,000 views? A chat thread at the Politico Arena?

The Gore Presidency: A Look Back

Keeping up my theme of responding to Matthew Yglesias’s blog posts, I’ve often wondered how a President Al Gore–i.e., an Al Gore who won over an extra 600 Ralph Nader voters in Florida, or who got a statewide recount, or, or, or–would have governed. I think the recollections of ex-Clinton administration officials have given us a lot of clues.

Gore, who would have had razor-thin GOP majorities in the House and Senate to work with (the Senate being 51-49 after Connecticut Gov. John Rowland replaced Vice President Lieberman with a Republican), would have governed as Clinton Mark II. Larry Summers would have stayed on as Secretary of the Treasury. Madeline Albright would have stayed on at State. Ron Klain would have become Chief of Staff. Their agenda: Passing a stimulus package to dig out of the shallow recession. Republicans would have watered it down with tax cuts, but I think we keep balanced budgets unless and until there’s a 9/11-type attack.

The 9/11-type attack is crucial to the hypothetical scenario. If it doesn’t happen–ironically, if the Gore administration succeeds–I think Gore governs a nation that’s increasingly grouchy about Democratic rule. Republicans gain seats in 2002; in 2004, either George W. Bush or John McCain wins the presidency. (Neither man will have Dick Cheney on the ticket.) What sort of GOP takes over? It’s hard to say. Losing in 2000 might have done for the GOP what losing in 1988 did for the Democrats, and forced a dramatic rethinking of the party’s agenda. But I think such a rethinking would have resulted in the party moving to the right. On the other hand, Mark Green defeats Michael Bloomberg and is elected mayor of New York City.

If there is a 9/11-type attack, I think the country rallies around President Gore, and he shoehorns some more of his agenda through Congress. A carbon tax, it turns out, is patriotic! I don’t think Gore goes to war with Iraq, because as much as liberals like to rant about TNR et al, the “war with Iraq” crowd would have been opposed by most of the Gore administration. Gore beats some Republican sucker in 2004–you doing anything, Tommy Thompson?–although I’ve got to think, because Gore’s economic team lets the mortgage crisis happen, the Republicans surge back in 2008.

Wiki Wars

Well, this is amusing. Some time yesterday, a friendly person created a Wikipedia bio page for me. Some time after that, it was deleted. I was agnostic on the matter, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was like having my telepathy blocked by government satellites — I didn’t even know I had it, but it sucked to lose it.

Should I have a Wikipedia bio page? I know a bunch of folks who do. A short list of “people on Wikipedia with whom I have lived or worked or had brunch” — Chris Beam, Kerry Howley, Megan McArdle, Julian Sanchez, Will Wilkinson. But -should- I have it? I have no earthly idea. Arguments con:

– I have not written a book (although I’m trying).

– I do not write a column currently for a major American newspaper or magazine.

– I have not won any major journalism awards.

– I did not star in “Couples Retreat.”

Arguments pro:

– I am responsible, by pure accident, for two of the strange memes of our time – “birthers” and “teabaggers.” Recognize the photo at the top of this page?

– I have written for a whole bunch of magazines, and am the only person I know to have contributed to The Nation and The American Spectator.

– I’ve been on TV and radio to discuss my reporting, most notably MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and NPR’s Fresh Air.

– I’ve been profiled, as a bit player in much larger profiles, in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

– I’ve got stories. Go back and check the names of the three Ralph Nader electors for Delaware in the 2000 election. Recognize one of the names? I edited a conservative newspaper and college and was funded by, and friendly with, a conservative organization which spooks the hell out of the left. I have been paid, indirectly, by John Mackey, George Soros, and David Koch.

I’ve worked with Lulu and four other people.

Is this the life and work of a notable person, or just another person who works (hard!) in D.C.? That’s up to the internet, and so far the internet is going with that latter, sadder option.

Bill Kristol: A Play in Three Acts

Act One: September 25, 2008

This year, for the first time in U.S. history, both major party nominees for president are sitting senators. The winner may be the one who can convince some portion of the electorate that he’s less “senatorial,” and more “presidential,” than the other.

That’s why McCain’s action Wednesday–announcing he would come back to Washington to try to broker a deal to save our financial system–could prove so important. The rescue package that was so poorly crafted and defended by the Bush administration seemed to be sliding toward defeat. The presidential candidates were on the sidelines, carping and opining and commenting. But one of them, John McCain, intervened suddenly and boldly, taking a risk in order to change the situation, and to rearrange the landscape.

Act Two: November 4, 2008

Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.

Act Three: July 3, 2009

If Palin wants to run in 2012, why not do exactly what she announced today? It’s an enormous gamble – but it could be a shrewd one.

Michael Calderone was right!

I return to this blog, on a slow-ish day beset by laptop errors, to defend the honor of Michael Calderone. He reported that Matthew Cooper had a “new gig” writing for The Atlantic’s political page. Cooper responded that he was “still @tpmmedia” and FishbowlDC reported that Cooper was “pulling double duty” at both news orgs.

Well, whatever. I really loved Cooper’s output for Portfolio, but his “duty” at TPM, as “editor-at-large,” has produced… what, exactly? At TPMDC, where reporters Brian Beutler and Eric Kleefeld churn out thousands of words every day, Cooper has produced a total of 103 posts since January 19. By contrast, Beutler and Kleefeld wrote 13 posts today. Cooper slowed down dramatically after March 5, and his latest post, on “The Old Pulitzers,” went up on April 20. If writing one post for The Atlantic and none for TPM is “double duty,” I think we’re out of the recession.

Shorter Chicago Tribune

Barack Obama makes an average of one gaffe every two months. Time for impeachment?

That’s my snark, folks, although I am tempted to add that if admitting you buy arugula (which I ate last night!) is equivilent to accidentally insulting the mentally disabled, then “gaffe” has no meaning.

Let’s get Confucian here and correct the language. A “flub” is a fuck-up, like getting someone’s name wrong, or getting the city you’re in wrong. A “gaffe” is any offensive statement. And a “Kinsley gaffe” is a statement that reflects what one things but it politically unpalatable. To break down the Trib list.

“Special Olympics” = gaffe
“Nancy Reagan” = gaffe
“clinging” = Kinsley gaffe
“typical white person” = Kinsley gaffe
“likeable enough” = Kinsley gaffe
“arugula”= fucking meaningless, grow up
“Sunshine” = flub
“Sioux Falls” = flub

Mort Kondracke: Fool

I love watching the Beltway Boys on Fox – because no one else is watching, Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke say absolutely brain-dead shit. To wit, I just heard Kondracke pronounce Nancy Pelosi once of the “losers” of the week because the stimulus bill included an “earmark” for an “$8 million train from Las Vegas to Disneyland.”

OK. First, it was $8 billion, not million. Second the earmark didn’t make it in. Third, Anaheim is not just “Disneyland.” It’s a city of 350,000 people, bigger than Cincinatti or Pittsburgh, and its location in the sprawling Los Angeles metro area connects it to 19.5 million more people of whom at least a few would like to head to Las Vegas.