Burning Down the House Lawn


Today, in between reading torture memos, I burned my front lawn. (Click on the pix to enlarge.)

The first year we moved into our house, mr. ew and I replaced most of the front lawn with native plants. We’ve got some oaks in our side yard which pretty much prevented lawn from actually growing. By replacing the grass with native species, we figured we could have flowers and interesting sedges that didn’t need much care that would thrive under the oaks.

Thing is, you’re supposed to burn native plants every five years or so. The idea is that the burn kills off non-native species and refreshes the natives that are left over. We were overdue. Plus, we had a bunch of ash saplings grow in last year (which is sort of odd, since almost all the ash trees in MI have died off after being infested with the Emerald Ash Borer), which were taking over.

how-to-burn.thumbnail.JPGSo today we burned our lawn.  Or rather, we had some guys who know what they’re doing come and burn the lawn. There were three of them, dressed like firemen, with backpacks of either gasoline/diesel or water. They’d light the fire, let it burn for a while, then put it out before our house (or, more importantly, the neighbor’s house) went up in flames. The whole process took about a half hour.

after-burn-1.thumbnail.JPGYes, some of the neighbors came out trying to figure out why the heck we were setting our lawn on fire. And, since we live on a fairly busy road, there were plenty of people rubbernecking, trying to figure out what was up. (School’s out today, so the kids weren’t in the elementary school down the street, and we did it during a fairly low traffic hour.)

We burned the actual non-native lawn too. Apparently, it’s buffalo grass, and will come back stronger after the burn, as well. 

So now we’re left with a scorched front lawn!!

The woodsier parks in our town do these burns all the time. It’s amazing to see the fresh new plants growing out of the burn, coming in healthier than before. In a few weeks, that’s what my lawn is going to look like.

Thanks to Peterr and bmaz, a selection of music to accompany this post:

Disco Inferno

Smoke on the Water


Burning Down the House

Great Balls of Fire

Oops! They Pissed Off Judge Walker Before He Finalizes Immunity

I just finished reading Vaughn Walker’s opinion explaining that the government will have to give him the document that–the lawyers for al Haramain claim–shows they were wiretapped without a warrant under Bush’s illegal wiretap program, so he can determine whether it really does show what the lawyers claim it shows. If it does, you see, then someone will finally be able to sue Bush and his cronies for violating FISA.

If you don’t have time to read the entire opinion, I recommend you pick it up around page 16–where Walker includes a short summary of how the al Haramain lawyers proved they were surveilled under the illegal program–and then go to page 21–where Walker starts getting really cranky with the government. 

Defendants simply continue to insist that § 1806(f) discovery may not be used to litigate the issue of standing; rather, they argue, plaintiffs have failed to establish their “Article III standing” and their case must now be dismissed. But defendants’ contention that plaintiffs must prove more than they have in order to avail themselves of section 1806(f) conflicts with the express primary purpose of in camera review under § 1806(f): “to determine whether the surveillance of the aggrieved person was lawfully authorized and conducted.” § 1806(f).

In reply, plaintiffs call attention to the circular nature of the government’s position on their motion:

Do defendants mean to assert their theory of unfettered presidential power over matters of national security —— the very theory plaintiffs seek to challenge in this case —— as a basis for disregarding this court’s FISA preemption ruling and defying the current access proceedings under section 1806(f)? So it seems.

So it seems to the court also.

It appears from defendants’ response to plaintiffs’ motion that defendants believe they can prevent the court from taking any action under 1806(f) by simply declining to act.

But the statute is more logically susceptible to another, plainer reading: the occurrence of the action by the Attorney General described in the clause beginning with “if” makes mandatory on the district court (as signaled by the verb “shall”) the in camera/ex parte review provided for in the rest of the sentence. The non-occurrence of the Attorney General’s action does not necessarily stop the process in its tracks as defendants seem to contend. Read more

Road Trip: Arrival in Denver


This is the view from Harney Peak in the Black Hills.

By far the most peaceful spot in the US was Lac Qui Parle in western Minnesota–there were almost no people in the park, just us and the birds.

The border guard coming back in from Canada gave mr. emptywheel all sorts of misinformation (told him he was eligible for a passport, which he’s not, and told him his Irish passport–which he doesn’t need to enter the country–was invalid). You can tell I was on vacation, because I just sat there and bit my lip and didn’t object to the BS.

So what did I miss? Obama even waited till I arrived to announce Biden. No one from the Bush Administration seems to have resigned in disgrace. I guess I wasn’t the only on vacation?

Thanks to bmaz (and William Ockham) for filling in this week. bmaz will continue to monitor the wide world while I get into Convention mindset and visit with my family here in Denver. 

President Haney Loads Up And Fixes To Move Back to Hooterville

There are a 183 or so days left in the magnificent George W. Bush Administration. Remember the condescending caterwauling by the Republicans when the Clintons were winding down and leaving office? Of course you do. Heavens to Betsy, they were going to plunder the country right down to stealing the "W"s off all the keyboards and typewriters. So, what is George Bush up to as the sun sets on his catastrophic presidency? What kind of Payne will he cause?

Glad you asked. Here is one example, rapacious influence peddling to fund his Presidential Crayon Workshop Library. From the Mid-East Times:

The Justice Department says it has no record that it told a GOP lobbyist accused of influence-peddling that he did not have to register his activities arranging visits to the United States and meetings with Bush administration officials for Central Asian politicians.

The lobbyist, a major GOP fundraiser called Stephen Payne, this week was asked to resign from a Department of Homeland Security advisory panel after he was surreptitiously videotaped by the London Sunday Times. In excerpts of the tape posted by the newspaper, Payne offers to arrange meetings for an exiled former president of Kazakhstan with senior U.S. administration officials in return for a six-figure fee, including a quarter-million-dollar donation to the $200 million fundraising effort for the George W. Bush presidential library and museum.

Here is a video of Payne in the act; it is pretty damning.

We have been seeing all sorts of instances of the final grab for the country’s treasure by the Bush-Cheney gang as they prepare to flee with their tail between their legs and ill begotten booty on their backs. Doling out of no bid deals. Multi-million dollar gift contracts to Ashcroft by the DOJ. Federal land giveaways. Trashing of environmental regulations for favorite friends and industries. Seeding of the civil service corps with Regent clones. You name it, it has been cropping up. So I though it would be a fun exercise to have a working thread to list out all the instances of this plundering.

So, as Mr. Haney (Bush) and Fred Sanford (Cheney – It’s the big one Lynne, it’s the big one!) perpetrate their parting scams and thefts and move back to the scrubbrush of Texas, let’s make a list of what they are doing. And any other necessary discussion too.

UPDATE: Read more

Mourning The Loss Of A Giant Recently Passed – Sunset Musings II

PrickyDespite the wall to wall coverage, not just on NBC and MSNBC, but all the networks, the hand wringing, the eulogizing, the lionization, the body lying in state at the Kennedy Center, and the funeral worthy of royalty, not enough has been said about the recent passing of a giant. Probably because all that bleating was about Saint Tim of Russert. I am talking about a different giant. A giant in my own family has passed. Granpa Pricky.

Granpa Pricky was our 24 foot tall saguaro cactus that majestically guarded the east entrance to Casa de bmaz since at least several decades before Casa de bmaz was built, and our house is almost fifty years old. Just woke up one morning and there it was, keeled over into the road. Saguaros are truly Pricky 1grand and majestic entities, standing tall as the guardians of the Sonoran desert. Granpa Pricky was not just a centurion, he was a home as well. There are now a couple of homeless woodpeckers. Actually these peckars don’t even peck wood that much. They like to perch on my chimney and wail on the metal vent cover on the top. Sounds like a freaking machine gun or jackhammer in the house. Very annoying. Metalpeckers.

At any rate, an autopsy was conducted. Any and all of these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The whitish material in the center is very squishy. There is simply a ton of moisture in saguaros. And we don’t even have the cacti on drip systems; all they get is rain water, and it does not rain that much here. It is kind of fibrousPricky 3 pulp like stuff. People trying to survive in the desert desperate for water cut up that pulp and put chunks in their mouth to suck the water (and there is a lot) out. The cactus does produce a red, bulbous, pretty sweet fruit that is fully edible and not bad. Granpa Pricky died on June 5. Here is a photo just taken of the same cross section depicted above.

Note how the pulp is shrinking as opposed to the outer shell and especially the spine. The spine is the circle of dowel like looking things in the middle. When you tap on the outer surface of the pulp, which has hardened, you can tell from the sound that Read more

WiFi Turkey

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I’m about to go to Kentucky for a week–and will have no WiFi (get it–WiFi Turkey?). Long time readers know that every time I go off-grid, something crazy happens–the last time, Alberto Gonzales resigned.

My predictions are one or more of the following will happen:

  • At 1:20 today, a letter from Henry Waxman to Condi Rice, inquiring what State is going to do about three people apparently doing oppo research on Obama’s passport file
  • Sometime next week, Wall Street will have another meltdown; this may or may not be the one that has folks hiding cash in their mattresses
  • The long-awaited DOJ IG report, finding that BushCo badly politicized DOJ and that Alberto Gonzales broke several laws in doing so (I’ve asked bmaz to call me if this does, in fact, happen)

Enter your own predictions in the thread. 

Speaking of bmaz, he’s in charge. The good news for you is that you’ll no doubt talk about baseball a lot more than I would. If you’re persuasive with the poor ASU fan, he might even allow a couple of March Madness trash threads. 

But it also means I will ask you to be on your very best behavior. Please please please, nothing about the primary. There are plenty of other things to keep yourselves busy with without tearing each other’s throats out, and plenty of other places where tearing other Democrats’ throats out is standard behavior. Thanks in advance for playing nice.

Have a nice week!

Beer and Turkey Thirty


I just turned in the paper I’ve been working on. Luckily I’ve got a couple of these stashed away in the basement.

So I’m off to clean the house–I’ve got house guests coming in five hours. And then, tomorrow is Turkey Day for me–an odd little custom some friends and I have adopted that makes the whole process less stressful. We got the full Heritage Turkey thing this year; I’ll let you know if it’s worth its considerable price tag.

All of which means there’ll be light posting until Sunday (rumor has it the football has already started for the weekend, but you wouldn’t know it by what’s on the TV).

But keep track of the site anyway. I’ve got an announcement or two in the next couple of days that may be of some interest. And Monday, I get to start my blog and bill paying frenzy I’ve been warning you all about.

Domestic Spying

I’ve got more questions about the Patriots spy scandal than I do answers.

  • Will the Pats do measurably worse now that the league is going to be watching for them videotaping their opponents defensive calls?
  • Are the great halftime coaches really just users of illegal spy techniques, as is the logical progression of Brian Dawkins’ thoughts? Or is it just the Pats?
  • Unlike some commentators, I consider $750,000 in fines and a first round draft pick a light penalty. With Belichick’s ability to pick talent, losing the draft pick is much less to pay than losing his coaching for, say, the first quarter of the season. Is the light penalty just an attempt to scare everyone else spying as well to cut it out? Because it sure seems designed to bracket further inquiry, rather than make the Pats pay.
  • What’s up with Eric Magini’s silence on the issue? Magini’s not the only former Pats Defensive Coordinator who has to compete against Belichick now–though he is the one with the crappiest relationship, as far as I know. But Mangini’s silence sure suggests Mangini learned of the spying practice when he was in New England.

So those are my questions. As to great commentary about the Read more

It’s Going to Be One Heckova Political Year in Football

Just a few weeks away, too! I can’t wait to turn the satellite back on.

It’s going to be an interesting year in football. Not only have the Patriots loaded up on targets for Tom Brady. But the following issues have arisen since the end of last season:

  • Keith Olbermann will be returning to sportscasting in NBC’s Sunday night prime time slot. He’s not likely to be overtly political–though I do hope it’ll get Joe Sixpack to consider tuning into his show. Olbermann will be accompanied by the conservative but very very pretty Tiki Barber, so the show has something for every … woman, at least.
  • A number of veterans are trying to get the NFL to help get documents relating to Pat Tillman’s death. In any case, the ongoing controversy with the Administration’s cover-up of the real reasons for Tillman’s death might begin to attract some Joe Sixpack  attention as the season gets into gear.
  • George Bush has appointed the gay-hating (but brilliant) Tony Dungy to a Presidential Council.

Hopefully, that last item, tied to Bush’s disappearing support, will convince Americans everywhere that the Colts are not America’s team.

Which is my way of warning you all that there might be an undue Read more

YearlyKos Timing

I’m madly cleaning the house (trust me, a very rare event chez emptywheel) in some kind of mad guilt for leaving mr. e-dub and McC alone again while I’m in Chicago at YKos. So I thought it a good time for a last post until I get to Chicago tomorrow mid-day (well, you know how promises like that go).

I’m hoping I’ll get to put more faces to names among our readers (heck, I hear some of my blog-mates may come out of the woodwork, too). Our "Live-blogging the Libby Trial" (me, Christy, and Shelly Snook from the Courthouse, along with Jeralyn keeping us in line) is at 9:30 on Thursday, which is likely before a lot of you get in. Then, rumor has it, I’m doing a book-signing at 2PM on Thursday. Other than that, I’ll just be wandering the halls aimlessly, mourning the chocolate fountain I bitched about last year.

Drop a note in the comments if you’ll be at YKos, so I know to keep a look-out for you.