Irony Overflowing

If we could just figure out a way to get energy out of the stuff, we'd be set for life.

Liberals for the filibuster; conservatives against it -- hilarious. Pentagon loses track of more than $1 trillion, and the Army can't find 56 airplanes, 32 tanks and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units. Not to mention Osama bin Laden. And more:

Right-wing Republicans fight to make the world safe from "judicial activists" by appointing Priscilla Owen -- the biggest, baddest, worstest judicial activist Texas ever produced -- to the federal bench.

Owen is so notorious for reading her own opinions into the law, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, then her colleague on the Texas Supreme Court, described her opinion in a parental consent case as "an unconscionable act of judicial activism." (For further irony, see Gonzales' subsequent attempts to deny that he was describing Owen.)

Each Owen aficionado here in Texas has his or her own favorite Owen ruling, but I always liked the one about the boy rendered quadriplegic by a defective safety belt, who died waiting for the dilatory Owen to figure out if a lower court decision that the manufacturer owed him enough money for his care was constitutional in Texas. Hey, sometimes it takes more than a year. But she's very pro-life.

In Texas, we elect our Supreme Court, which handles only civil matters. The pattern in Owen's decisions is to favor those corporations and law firms that contributed to her campaigns for office. One little gem involved Enron: Owen wrote the decision that allowed the company to escape paying $200,000 in school taxes.

In her 1994 campaign, Owen got $8,600 from Enron and $31,550 from Vinson and Elkins, the Houston law firm that represented Enron. Enron and V-E showed up in her court two years later, trying to get out of paying school property taxes. Not only did Owen not recuse herself -- get this -- she wrote the opinion that allowed Enron to choose its own method for property tax assessment, and lo, it cut its own assessed property value by millions of dollars.

Another fave: claiming, on behalf of a contributor, that property owners have a right to pollute the water supply. Moral: Judicial activism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

The George Galloway hearing (OK, so it was last week). In addition to being the funniest biter-bit performance in years (if you missed it, the transcript and the video are floating around on the Internet), it was yet another victory for the Brits over the Americans when it comes to spoken English. Holy cow, what a display of pyrotechnic mastery of language. The American senators were left with so much egg on their faces they looked like a bad day at a Tyson chicken plant.

As one of those slow-spoken Americans often out-tap-danced on panels by the nimble-tongued Brits, I defensively assert they don't really think faster and better than we do -- they just talk faster and better.

Galloway, a member of the British Parliament, simply danced rings around the clumsy Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, and the others. The hearing bore an uncanny resemblance to the scene in Leonardo DiCaprio's popular bio-pic about Howard Hughes, The Aviator, in which the deteriorating Hughes triumphs over a low-rent, witch-hunt committee.

In case you missed the flap, Galloway is a way-left Brit M.P. who actually did defend Saddam Hussein before the war, which may or may not have been based on his position that the pre-war boycott of Iraq did nothing to topple Hussein, but was a humanitarian nightmare for Iraqis.

In fact, the boycott, as has long been documented, did kill tens of thousands of Iraqis, in particular babies and small children. An insane policy. The United Nations' effort to mitigate it was the Oil for Food Program, and Galloway was accused of being a beneficiary of the corruption of that program, via a charitable foundation he had set up.

He has won two libel suits over the accusation, against the Christian Science Monitor and the London Telegraph. The Monitor, by mishap, used crudely forged documents, later discredited, to go after him. Now, British libel law is, frankly, hideous. How its press continues to function in such a lively fashion under that load of legal crap is a mystery to me: The burden of proof there is on the defendant.

Beyond the specifics of those cases, Galloway is generally in bad smell in Britain. This may or may not be attributable to his political enemies, but it is certainly attributable to more journalists than the neo-neo-con Christopher Hitchens, who described Galloway in London's The Independent as "a thug and a demagogue, the type of working-class-wideboy-and-proud-of-it who is too used to the expense accounts, the cars and the hotels -- all the cigars and backslapping." (Only a Brit could have written that sentence.)

So here is the irony of ironies. Into our midst comes this one Brit, who deservedly or not carries with him the whiff of bad reputation, to confront our Puritan-pure, sea-green, incorruptible politicians (Heh? Our guys never carry water for their campaign contributors, do they?), and in 20 minutes, he told more truth about our policy and our war in Iraq than any of our politicians have in years.

Reduced to this: George Galloway as truth-teller.

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