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Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Grateful Chrismahkwanzakah

Some Marines in Iraq got to talk with family members back home via internet video conferencing hook-up. The group included a Marine who got to see his newly-born child for the first time.

During this season of giving, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all those people who are putting themselves on the line for the rest of us. And to their families. I've had friends and family serving in various conflicts through the years, and it never gets any easier. For all those families who keep things going in spite of the fear and the worry and the exhaustion, I say a big thank you.

Thank you to all those diplomats serving in increasingly difficult positions around the world. Defending this Administration's foreign policy has to be a job and a half, and so many of these folks are doing so with no family because of the danger of the posting. So thank you. For everything you do to keep all of the rest of us safe.

As always, a big thank you to all the civil servants, police officers, and everyone else who works in the public interest. There are too many to mention individually, but I'm grateful to each and every one of you. Even that mean lady at the DMV who took the crap picture for my new driver's license.

I'm so grateful to all of our regular readers and commenters. The blogosphere is full of some truly decent human beings, and I'm proud to say that a whole lot of them hang out here. And especially thanks to Jane, who invited me to blog with her only a few months ago -- I'm having such a great time. Plus, it's a wonderful venue for me to vent, so my poor husband doesn't have to listen to it all the time. And for our precious child, and our foreign exchange student, I am so very thankful.

Thank you doesn't seem to say it, but it's all I have, so thanks. And Merry Chrismahkwanzakah! (Take that O'Reilly! We'll make that enemies list, yet!)


The Professionals

Oh sure the ladies of Pajamas Media PRETEND to be upset when incessant stirpot James Wolcott likens their knuckle-dragger diva dual to a Dynasty catfight, but if they didn't nurse a secret delight at the homology would they be resurrecting fashions from the era?

I think not.

I hope they're getting a nice chunk of that $7 million in wingnut welfare as the Mighty Wurlitzer goes full-bore into the blogosphere. The Saugeen stripper only made forty bucks for her labors, but then she didn't have to feign paroxysms of boob-clutching abandon over the nearness of Glenn Reynolds, either.


We Don't Want No Stinking Oversight

An anonymous Senate Republican has placed a hold on the Intelligence Authorization bill because two amendments calling for increased oversight of Bush Administration policies were added to the budget authorization. The amendments called for oversight of the "black prison" issues and for more detailed information on the array of intelligence which was available to the Adminsitration prior to the start of the Iraq War.

According to the WaPo, Intelligence Committee Chair Pat Roberts had initially agreed to both provisions prior to the bill making its way to the floor of the Senate. But the Republican leadership then took back the agreement and refused to allow the bill to go forward with both oversight provisions attached.

Sounds to me like the Administration doesn't want any oversight. And their Republican pals in Congress are only too happy to try and prevent it as well. Too bad issues like "are we torturing people illegally in other countrie to avoid prosecution at home" or "did the Administration tell us the entire truth before we committed our soldiers to battle, where so many of them have lost their lives and been injured" just aren't questions Republicans want answered.

What else have they got to hide?

(Photo from The Hill.)


How Many Wrong Numbers?

If you aren't reading William Arkin's Early Warning blog in the WaPo, you really ought to be. Arkin concentrates in the national security arena, and his blog makes some of the more intricate matters in the news lately very accessible to the non-techies of the world (including yours truly).

In the last couple of days, he's covered some issues that deserve more attention. Thursday's column sheds some light on the Pentagon's TALON database, and its foray into illegal activity via its JPEN compilation of data gleaned from the initial surveillance. What this means in plain English is that the Pentagon is keeping a massive database of antiwar protestors and other folks it deems to be questionable, well beyond the allowable time for collecting that information. And despite knowing that this is illegal activity, the Pentagon hopes to do a broader and more in depth database in the future.

Friday's column covered Section 126 of the Reauthorization of the Patriot Act, a section hastily added by the House to cover data-mining operations done by the government and adding in some oversight initiatives for the Congress thereon. Arkin surmises that the surveillance which has been ongoing in the NSA/DoJ authorized expansion since 9/11 is massive, broad, and is pretty much monitoring everyone in the hope of catching someone in the vast net.

The NYTimes has more on the data-mining operation, and it is vast.
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.
There is a tremendous amount of information in the article, including the fact that the FISA court was briefed on portions of this and raised concerns about legality and whether or not they were even empowered to legally monitor parts of what was being done by the Administration. One big question in my mind is how Congress sat back and allowed the technology to clearly outstrip the law.

Note to members of Congress: before you finalize the Patriot Act provision or any other law relating to these issues, you might want to contemplate whether what you are asking for in terms of oversight is activity that is even legal. Then, you might want to ask yourself the question Mark Kleiman asks:
Does the President have the Constitutional authority to violate criminal laws whenever he judges, in his sole discretion, that those laws might interfere with defending the country?
If your answer to this question is yes, then you might want to consider whether Congress is entirely superfluous, and whether your salaries, perks, and other benefits might be put to better use paying people who would actually be willing to do the job.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Meme of Fours

From Bob Geiger...

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: Temporary secretary, reporter, producer...shit, have I only ever had three jobs in my life?

Four movies you could watch over and over: Blow Up, Home Alone, 28 Up, Sunset Boulevard.

Four places you’ve lived: Fitchburg, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Oakland, California; Newport, Oregon.

Four TV shows you love to watch: Serial Experiments: Lain, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cowboy Bebop, Deep Sea Detectives

Four places you’ve been on vacation: Moscow, Rinkobing, Edinburg, Goodlettsville.

Four websites you visit daily: Eschaton, Hullabaloo, Wolcott, TBogg (and of course C&L)

Four of your favorite foods: goat cheese, rice crackers, spanish olives, Rock Stars.

Four places you’d rather be: Karl Rove's perp walk, Dick Cheney's sentencing, Dubya's impeachment hearings, Costa Rica.

Passing the ball to … John Amato at Crooks & Liars

(photo by my good friend the late great Helmie)



The natives in the White House briefing room are getting restless. Taibbi:
On the day before the Omni speech, I actually worried that gopher-faced administration spokescreature Scott McClellan might be physically attacked by reporters, who appeared ready to give official notice of having had Enough of This Bullshit.

In fact the room at one point seemed on the verge of a Blazing Saddles-style chair-throwing brawl when McClellan refused to answer the cheeky question of why, if we weren't planning on torturing war-on-terror detainees in foreign prisons, we couldn't just bring them back to be incarcerated in the United States.

"I think the American people understand," McClellan said, "the importance of protecting sources and methods, and not compromising ongoing efforts in the war on terrorism . . ."

When a contingent of audibly groaning reporters pressed, McClellan shrugged and tried a new tack: "I'm not going to talk further about intelligence matters of this nature," he said.

A reporter next to me threw his head back in disgust. "Oh, fuckin' A . . ." he whispered. The room broke out into hoots and howls; even the usually dignified Bill Plante of CBS started openly calling McClellan out. "The question you're currently evading is not about an intelligence matter," he hissed.


Up until now this president's solution to everything has been to stare into the cameras, lie and keep on lying until such time as the political problem disappears. And now, unable to comprehend that while political crises may wilt in the face of such tactics, real crises do not, he and his team are responding to this first serious feet-to-the-fire Iraq emergency in the same way they always have -- with a fusillade of silly, easily disprovable bullshit. Bush and his mouthpieces continue to try to obfuscate and cloud the issue of why we're in Iraq, and they do so not only selectively but constantly, compulsively, like mental patients who can't stop jacking off in public. They don't know the difference between a real problem and a political problem, because to them, there is no difference. What could possibly be worse than bad poll numbers?

On this particular day in the briefing room, it's just more of the same disease. McClellan, a cringing yes-man type who tries to soften the effect of his non- answers by projecting an air of being just as out of the loop as you are, starts pimping lies and crap the moment he enters the room. He's the cheapest kind of political hack, a greedy little bum making a living by throwing his hat on the ground and juggling lemons for pennies.
Happy holidays to me.

(via Howie Klein)


Ho Ho Ho: A Christmas Chat With Jim VandeHei

Dear Jim,

I am so very sorry I missed your WaPo online chat this morning. I worry that you might take it personally:
Happy Holidays. Tis the season, so be nice to your chatter and no nasty e-assaults from the bloggers.
I'll have you know that we were up until the wee hours of the morning planning a deluge, but it's been quite a taxing season what with waging the War on Christmas and all so when the dogs woke me up with that "Mom let's go to town for donuts" look well that was the end of that. Not very Rommel-like of me, I know. I hope you were not too disappointed.

But I fear you are working on a wee persecution complex, and I hope we have not contributed to it:
Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.: What did you give/get for Secret Santa this year?...

Jim VandeHei: I gave Froomkin a new name for his column -- and the blogs more reason to hate me.
Oh Jim, Jim! Please, we don't hate you. In fact we have high hopes for you in the new year. You almost got a laugh out of us on that one.

No, we love you. Or we want to love you, anyway. Not a Richard Morin kind of love where you wonder what you're going to blog for the day and you turn on Fox news and see him tittering like a school girl over some dead cat bounce in Bush's poll numbers and you sit back, light a cigarette and say "well that's me for the day." And not in that John Harris "here's my excuse to say 'whiny-ass titty baby' again" kind of way. You are actually potentially useful as more than just the butt of an easy joke.

You cover something we care about Jim, and there is the rub. You're the only access we have to on-the-ground info in DC regarding things like the CIA leak and the Abramoff case and the NSA wiretapping scandal. So when you fail to ask the penetrating question or connect the obvious dots in the process it's immensely frustrating to us. We don't aspire to breaking the big story or getting the big scoop, and when it does happen it's probably only by accident because you're worried about offending someone and have dropped the ball, haven't followed up a lead you probably should have.

We presume you don't go to the White House Christmas party and whine about how the Preznit is mean to you and hates you, so just think of what we do as a bit of "push back." An attempt to gently nudge you into a place where you and your editors will be a little more worried about the verdict that we your readers will render unto you and a little less worried about arranging a flattering light for the people in the Administration you are ostensibly reporting on.

Because I've got to say, for all the hope we have for you, this concerned me a bit Jim:
Jim VandeHei: I don't know of anyone with any power seriously weighing the impeachment of Bush. I know some liberals are trying to pressure papers, including mine, to poll on the topic and write about it, but it is not a serious topic among Democrats in Washington.
If I was going to interpret this cynically I would say that as far as you are concerned, it's only news if the politicians say it is. I know this is the position of inveterate Kool-Aid chuggers like Richard Morin, but you Jim? An MSNBC online poll two days ago showed 85% of 135,000 respondents believe the President's actions justify impeachment. If they were all partisan libruls please let me know because someone wasn't holding up their end in the War on Christmas.

Anyway the good news from the whole chat is that golly you know we exist. Who knew. And please don't be so thin-skinned. We are pulling for you. We are hoping that the next time Rove says "over here, Jim," you remember we are here and say "not again Karl, never again. Not in the face."

Wishing you and yours a happy Kwanzaa.



Yellow Dog Blog has an hilarious account of a "debate" between Christopher Hitchens and Scott Ritter (which I found via Crooks and Liars).

A choice excerpt of Ritter to Hitchens:
"This is a war that's not worth the life of one American because it's a war based on a lie. And no amount of revisionism will make those lies true," he said. "And if you support this ridiculous notion that the ends justifies the means, then come up here, throw your passport on the stage and get the hell out of my country because that's un-American."
Ouch. And that's putting it mildly. Yellow Dog Blog has more.


Cracking Open the Mighty Wurlitzer?

Ahh, is that some corroded wiring I see inside the Mighty Wurlitzer? Could be. According to the NYTimes, some news organizations might finally be catching on to the endless round of news recycling and story planting that has been going on throughout the GOP noise machine.
One writer, Peter Ferrara, an advocate of privatizing Social Security who is often quoted by news organizations, including The New York Times, works for the institute as a senior policy adviser.

The other, Doug Bandow, a scholar for the libertarian Cato Institute and a columnist for the Copley News Service, resigned from both after acknowledging that he had received as much as $2,000 an article from Mr. Abramoff for writing in support of his lobbying clients, including Indian tribe casinos. Mr. Abramoff is now the focus of a federal corruption investigation involving his gifts to members of Congress.

The issue of whether supposedly independent writers and researchers are having their work underwritten - directly or indirectly - by lobbyists and other special interests is hardly new.

But the payments by Mr. Abramoff and a closer review of the work of the Institute for Policy Innovation, a group founded in 1987 by a former House Republican leader, Dick Armey of Texas, are evidence that the ties may be much closer than research organizations, conservative and liberal, would prefer to admit.
Oh, I'm sorry, did you say Jack Abramoff? What a small world. I know someone with the high ethical standards of Mr. Abramoff would never pay someone to write drivel to push his clients' agenda. *snerk* Oh man, I can't even keep a straight face as I type that.

Michael Kinsley has more in Slate, in a piece entitled "Pundit Payola." You just knew that Armstrong Williams was going to be the tiniest tip of the iceberg, didn't you?


Alito's Tactical Assault on Roe

Shorter Alito: I personally find abortion immoral, so I'm going to help the Administration figure out a way to trick the Justices into finding new limits for it. One brief at a time. Heh heh.

Next up, public justification: Judge Alito was just an attorney representing a client. That his personal views coincided with his job had absolutely nothing to do with it. Erm...I mean...

Photo credit to Joe Readle, via MSNBC.)

UPDATE: Well, lookie here: Alito offered the same tactical, step-by-step planning advice to chip away at the Fourth Amendment protections and to strengthen the Executive's authority to wiretap. I think we've moved from a single issue assault to some outright, conservative ideology strategery. Sure hope someone is taking notes for the Dems on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate. (Big hat tip to Mark and scarecrow for the heads up on this.)

UPDATE #2: AP (via Forbes) has updated their story on the wiretapping issue to include more background. (Hat tip to John Casper for the heads up.)


Better Start Listening to Opposing Views

The last few days have been an avalanche of criticism regarding the Bush Administration playing fast and loose with the law and the facts. And it isn't just coming from Democrats.

The recent decision (warning: PDF) by the 4th Circuit on the Padilla case is a good example of how even conservatives are disgusted by this Administration. Judge Michael Luttig, writing for the court, accuses the Administration of attempting to avoid review by the Supreme Court, by playing fast and loose with the law and trying to get the Court to aid and abet them in mooting the issue. To say Judge Luttig and the rest of the 4th Circuit judges involved in the decision were not amused is an understatement.

Then there is the decision recently issued by the D.C. Circuit (warning: PDF) regarding two Uighur detainees, already determined by the US military to be "no longer classified as enemy combatants" (whatever in the hell that means, since there is a substantial question as to whether they were ever enemy combatants in the first place, according to the Court, which can't get a straight answer from the Administration on this point and calls their description Kafka-esque). The case was sent along to me by Hilzoy from Obsidian Wings (who has been doing excellent work on this issue, btw, major kudos), and reading the opinion is an exercise in frustration and disgust.

It seems these two men have been held for four years in Guantanimo and, despite being determined by both military and civil courts as being innocent, are still being held because they are in some sort of legal limbo in terms of relief. Under the law, the D.C. Circuit cannot order release into the United States, but as uighurs who have been determined to have been in Afghanistan, the Chinese government has a "special interest" in them.

So, they are prisoners without a country of safety, and will remain in Guantanimo indefinitely until someone decides that imprisoning innocent people is unacceptable, and finds a third party nation to take them (since the US isn't exactly stepping up to the plate with offers of sanctuary, seeing how they might be pissed at us for wrongful imprisonment in the first place and all).

Then you add in the fact that Congress specifically negotiated with the Administration that there would be no domestic spying included in the Afghan resolution, according to Tom Daschle -- you really get a feeling that this Preznit is an awful lot like my toddler. Telling her no makes her cranky and obstinate, too. But, really, don't you expect more from an adult who styles himself the leader of the free world?

Apparently, some folks don't, like John Schmidt in the Chicago Tribune. Just one problem -- Schmidt ignores this in his reasoning: The Keith case specifically addressed domestic surveillance and determined that it DID require a warrant.

Moreover, the Supreme Court in that case did not rule that any surveillance methods used to surveil foreign actors were okey-dokey. Rather, they expressly stated they were reaching no opinion whatsoever on that matter, since it was not addressable under the facts at issue in that case. I'd suggest a re-reading of Keith, along with the Youngstown case, for good measure, for Mr. Schmidt. And some contemplation as to why the FISA court was established in the first place -- it's called Presidential overreaching and bad faith and ignoring Congressional and legal oversight. Sound familiar?

While the Preznit keeps touting his great legal advice, I have a little for him myself: try talking with lawyers who aren't just telling you what you want to hear. The value in legal advice is listening to all sides of the issue, even the ones that don't support your own viewpoint -- that way you don't continue to get an ass chewing from irate Federal judges that you are playing fast and loose with the law.

Of course, it's a little late for those uighurs in Guantanimo, isn't it? About four years too late.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald has more, including an update on Administration supporters' latest attempts at justifying all of this.

Also, TalkLeft addresses the Administration contentions on domestic surveillance authority.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Victory in the War on Christmas

It's nice to know that Bill O'Reilly doesn't pull his punches when it comes to calling out the true face of evil. While those weak-kneed sob sisters on the left might mewl about genocide or torture chambers, Bill knows that strong epithets like that should be reserved for much more sinister forces -- namely those who criticize Bill O'Reilly.

Those egg-sucking devils at Media Matters? "[T]he most vile, despicable human beings in the country...the worst...non-criminal element in the country...despicable, vile...ankle biters."

Andrea Mackris? "[T]he single most evil thing I have ever experienced --— and I've seen a lot."

And now, joining this illustrious predecessors: The New Yorker Magazine, who this week made it to the number 4 spot on the O'Reilly enemies list.

Lucky bastards.

How did they earn the coveted title? Well by daring not only to pshaw the War on Christmas which they deride as phony (and here we must concur with Bill -- we worked damn hard to plan that war) but also for having the audacity to compare him to Henry Ford:
Christmas itself, in something like its recognizably modern form, with gifts and cards and elves, dates from the early nineteenth century. The War on Christmas seems to have come along around a hundred years later, with the publication of "“The International Jew," by Henry Ford, the automobile magnate, whom fate later punished by arranging to have his fortune diverted to the sappy, do-gooder Ford Foundation. "It is not religious tolerance in the midst of religious difference, but religious attack that they -- —the Jews -- “preach and practice." he wrote. "“The whole record of the Jewish opposition to Christmas, Easter and certain patriotic songs shows that."” Ford'’s anti-Semitism has not aged well, thanks to the later excesses of its European adherents, but by drawing a connection between Christmas bashing and patriotism-scorning he pointed the way for future Christmas warriors.
Much as we'd like to dismiss the New Yorker's victory as being the product of nepotism, happenstance or the well-placed cocktail weenie, the sad truth is they earned it.

And while the crossover audience of the New Yorker readership and Factor viewers can probably be counted amongst the world's shortest lists, we know those New Yorker editors are walking with just a bit more spring in their step tonight for being the newest inductee into that pantheon to which so many aspire.

Our hopes for 2006 are renewed. Who knew O'Reilly could read.


Notes From the Crankosphere

Both Jay Rosen and Brad DeLong revisit the issue of Dan Froomkin's column at WPNI today, so I'd like to add my two cents.

Jay received a letter from Michael Powell, the New York bureau chief of the Washington Post, who says:
Perhaps, as you argue, separation of the corporeal paper and its Web off-spring spurs innovation; you make an intriguing case. And there are good arguments for retaining the creative and editorial tension. But many of us suspect that the Post maintains a separate web operation for another more prosaic reason. Our operation is a non-union shop, while the The Washington Post, to the enduring credit of the Guild, is a union shop. I love the creativity of our Web colleagues, and I would not stifle that. But I want them to partake of the same salaries and benefits and protections offered by the mother ship.
Oh be still my liberal heart. So the WaPo doesn't like this separation of church and state that exists with their online division because they want to share their union benefits with them? How touching! Let me pick the alfalfa sprouts from between my teeth and we'll celebrate with some tofu and Pete Seeger records while my boobs swing freely 'neath my Che Guevara t-shirt.

Let's clear one thing up right now. The reason the WaPo editors and writers pooh-pooh the blogosphere's concerns over GOP attempts to manipulate their content is not so much that they don't see it as a problem as it is beside the point as far as they are concerned. What they are actually distressed about is real estate. Prime online marquee Beverly Hills pricetag terra firma. And they are furious at the WPNI -- at war, as it has been described -- because they have no control over it.

Unlike the integrated shop at the NYT where Bill Keller could simply call over and pull the plug on a Froomkin, Len Downie does not have that ability. The WPNI is a new company, made up in large part by young, internet-friendly twenty-somethings who decide how the online edition is organized and who gets the big front page link. Because Froomkin's column is generated there, he always gets the front page link. If an article isn't on the front page of the online edition, it only gets about 10% of the traffic it would otherwise. Star reporters and editors like John Harris can call them up, bitch and moan, but from what I've been told in the end it is WPNI editor-in-chief Jim Brady who calls the shots.

As far as they're concerned, Froomkin is omnivorously eating up territory that should by all rights belong to them. Is Dan's column popular because it's well-written, informed and does an excellent job satisfying his readers? Not if you ask the Brahmins at the WaPo, who think it is simply a matter of prominent placement. Their egos render them fundamentally incapable of perceiving that Froomkin's column consistently ranks among the most highly trafficked because he asks the questions and connects the dots in a way that "straight-up Kool-Aiders" like Richard Morin fail to do.

They might want to know that from an online perspective, the Post is leagues above the NYT. The WPNI has made a series of excellent decisions that are sensitive to the needs of the online world and bloggers specifically. The Technorati tags they provide with each article mean that if I have the option of linking to a NYT article and a WaPo article, I'm always going to link to the WaPo because of the traffic it will generate. Not a great deal, but some.

The archives are also searchable, whereas the NYT makes you pay. I don't know how this affects them from a financial standpoint, but from a blogger standpoint we will always do our research in the WaPo archives first. Which means, once again, that they become the authority.

Their columnists are not behind a firewall, and as every blogger knows since the NYT put their columnists there they have dwelt in online purgatory. I have no idea what the statistics are but I'd say their work and ideas get about a tenth the discussion that they did previously.

The online version of the Post is also really easy to navigate, as opposed to the NYT which is clunky, slow and cluttered. Control may make the NYT writers and editors happier, but it hasn't done their readers any favors.

Harris calls us the "crankosphere" and Powell thinks we're stupid, that we're suddenly going to go all damp and start noodling to Phish because he uses the word "union." Well we're not the rubes that many seem to envision us to be, and if we get a bit "cranky" it is probably due to the persistent condescending tone. As Frank Probst said in the comments, "'crankosphere' is one way to think of us, but I think he'd be better off thinking of us as 'our readers'".

They should be thanking their lucky stars that the online staff keeps prepping them for life in the 21st century in a way that the NYT does not. If they want to unionize the WPNI, bully for them, go for it. In the mean time they really ought to climb up and view the world from a little higher perspective than the petty land wars that seem to render them clueless about the nature of the real problem at hand. Because I really can't imagine anyone envies the journalistic status of Newsmax or the Washington Times in a way that the recent squawkings of their various editors suggest.

But then again, I read Froomkin.


Quest for Fire

Shorter Washington Monthly: "Who are these people you call bloggers?"



Matt Stoller has been taking a bit of heat from the Obama Canonization Network for criticizing a speech Obama made recently that included the comment "I don't think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country." I'm sure it was offered up by Obama in the spirit of comity, of archaic Senatorial decorum that the left still endorses but the Newtian right long ago relinquished.

So what's wrong with a bit of good-natured congeniality for the Prez? I think Dave Johnson from Seeing the Forest said it very well (email, sorry no link):
I think Matt's more saying, stop backing up RW narratives. The "Bush is a nice guy" narrative brings with it the marginalization of people who oppose Bush. Obama says Bush is a nice guy, and doesn't know that he is undercutting his own position (along with the rest of us) because he doesn't know how the narrative operates. It opens the door to dismissing opposition (and polling on impeachment) as coming only from fringe "Bush-haters."

....How do we help people like Obama to understand what the RW narratives are? We in the blogosphere forget that our level of "informedness" is light-years ahead of most people, even people at the core of Progressive leadership and activism. (my emphasis)
Dave's comments cut to the heart of the problem -- they don't get it. Would Obama's speech, or the points he's trying to make, be any the less effective for leaving those two sentences out? No. Does he understand what he and others are doing by reinforcing the narratives that the Mighty Wurlitzer works overtime to seed in the public consciousness? Obviously not.

As Matt Stoller says:
Powerful actors, like the top-down media, will not attack the President unless they think he's weak. But to make the case that he is weak, he must be treated with contempt, and that cannot happen when party leaders like Barack Obama simply refuse to act creatively and risk driving up their disapproval ratings.
Peter Daou's predictions for how the NSA wiretapping scandal will play out are pretty dire, but they do not seem off base to me as I watch the high profile Democrats play their part. They're unwilling to suffer the negatives they incur for being critical, so they wait for wait for others to kick up a stink and take Bush down before they will take a shot. But it's certainly not the MSM who are going to force him into swinging distance, yet they continue to undermine, marginalize and disparage those who do the leg work necessary to rewrite the very narratives that continues to stand in the way of achieving everything they purport to believe in.

Obama is certainly not the only one nor is he the worst, he is simply one there is reason to hope will hear the message and heed it.


L'Etat, c'est George? Not What the Founders Had in Mind

It sure does feel an awful long way from the Declaration of Independence these days, doesn't it? And yet, there are those who continue to blather on about the President's absolute right of authority in all things under his "war powers" (the latest catch phrase in a long line of enabling excuses) as the Chief Executive.

Well, for how long? I mean, honestly, how long does George get to play King?

You cannot tell me that that the possible threat of terrorism today arouses more fear and a more pressing need for the suspension of civil liberties and the abdication of Congressional responsibility than the threat of total nuclear annihilation did at the height of the Cold War.

The people who are enabling and propping up this Administration are either a bunch of power-hungry nutjobs (i.e. Dick Cheney, the only human being on the planet who thinks the President has lost power over the last 30 years) or complete and total babies. (If you don't believe me, read Digby, who is, as always, spot on.)

But do the legal arguments of the Administration supporters hold water? Not so much. Glenn Greenwald has a superb post today calling on those shilling for the Administration to put up or shut up. I want to join Glenn's call: What limits, if any, are you saying the President has?

Does this utter lack of limits apply solely to this, particular Preznit? Or would you be comfortable with a...say...President Hillary Clinton being able to spy on anyone she likes without ever having to justify her agenda or probable cause or with Congress having no oversight responsibilities or right thereto? (Not that I'm saying Hillary is going to win the Dem. nomination, but she does seem to be the GOP bogeyman du jour.)

If you wouldn't be comfortable with Hillary wielding the magic Presidential sceptre and spying on anyone she likes whenever she likes for whatever purpose she likes, what makes you think that George Bush gets to do so without any check and balance?

Lest everyone get the impression that all Republicans support this unconsitutional, Fourth Amendment snubbing by the Administration, think again. According to the WSJ, libertarian conservatives are steamed. There are a number of people on both sides of the political divide who understand this question very clearly: is it loyalty to a particular man and the maintenance of power for your political party as your sole focus of existence? Or does the liberty and law embodied in our Constitution, our laws, our history mean more than a petty, craven, illegal power grab?

So, which is it? Do you honor the Constitution and our nation's laws? Or is loyalty to the President, no matter his actions and their repurcussions on the Republic, more important? I await a thoughtful response along with Glenn.

And should anyone wonder whether I am against surveillance altogether, the answer is an emphatic no. Surveillance is an important, and very useful, tool. I have gone before a judge any number of times with police investigators to obtain warrants, without which investigations into crimes would not have been able to be solved. But surveillance is also a very powerful weapon, to be used with caution -- which is why oversight is required by a third party who can provide that caution when an overzealous actor might not be thinking clearly. No one, not even the President of the United States, should be given absolute power. (Read the Federalist Papers again, if you need a refresher on why this is.)

What I want to know is why so-called "conservatives" suddenly think that power grabs are A-Okay. (And I use that term loosely, since I know people who are truly conservative -- and not just politically motivated -- and are appalled by this latest Administration overreach.) If you are simply defending the Administration because "that's what you do," then fine. But be honest with yourself and the rest of us. It's time to put up or shut up.


Happy Birthday, Fitz

To Rover, Bushie, Big Dick, and all the rest of the crony crew:

It's the integrity, stupid.

And even though it's not Fitz, the good elves at the Department of Justice Public Corruption unit are working hard this holiday season as well. Jack Abramoff may have a plea deal in place for the holidays, all tied up in a neat little bow, according to the NYTimes.

What does that mean, in terms of jail time and cooperation testimony? That's still being ironed out, although the information being floated to the press includes a reduced jail sentence in exchange for some substantial testimony against his associates. And the NYTimes reports that the deal is being worked out between Abramoff and prosecutors in both Miami and Washington, D.C.
...[P]rosecutors in Washington have been sifting through evidence of what they believe is a corruption scheme involving at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members, many of whom worked closely on legislation with Mr. Abramoff and accepted gifts and favors from him.
Suddenly, the holidays aren't look so merry and bright for a whole lot of folks who were feeding at the trough. If it could only include some names like DeLay, Reed, and Norquist, along with the Ney that we already know, my Christmas could get a whole lot merrier. Here's hoping.

Santa Fitzie, put a present under the tree,
for me.
I've been an awfully good girl.
Santa Fitzie, give me some indictments this year.

UPDATE: The AP (via CNN) and Josh Marshall have more.


Quick, Call the Snopes Folks

Telling outright falsehoods has become old hat for the Bush Administration, hasn't it? I mean, really, we've had a whole load of whoppers lately, but in today's WaPo, Glenn Kessler unloads on the latest "urban legend" to come out of the Preznit's mouth.

It seems the whole "the fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak." is nothing but a big, old lie.
The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.

The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself.
It's kind of tough to blame it on the media when Bin Laden is the one who told the media in the first place that he was using satellite phones, now isn't it?

Sure, this isn't a huge lie, like the mushroom clouds or the we'll be greeted with flowers and candy or we don't conduct domestic surveillance without a warrant or anything. But when an Administration gets comfortable enough to lie about the little things as easily as the big ones, it sure shows an intellectual sloppiness and an ethical black hole after a while.

And before I start hearing cries that this is just the politicization of national security matters and I ought to be ashamed of myself, consider this: the Judges on the FISA court so mistrust this Administration at this point, they've asked for a detailed briefing, because they fear the Preznit and his crony pals have tainted the entire legal process. One of these judges resigned in protest this week, he was so disgusted. And the Bushie crony rationale for not using FISA, even though they had emergency authority for up to 72 hours?
One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it.

"For FISA, they had to put down a written justification for the wiretap," said the official. "They couldn't dream one up."
Holy hell in a hand basket. If I made that kind of whiny excuse in a court of law, the judge would rip my head off with his bare hands.

And if this is any indication, that's exactly what the Administration feared: if you are doing blanket wiretaps of multiple people with absolutely no probable cause, then of course the judge is going to yell at you. Grow some balls and realize that the legal system requires that you actually do your freaking job instead of trying to cheat your way through everything.

It's not as though a probable cause standard for potential terrorist activity is so high, for hell's sakes -- you simply have to show that you have evidence of a connection to illegal activity and to an outside actor. You know, like "hey, this guy works for Osama and he's roommates with some other guys we know do as well." Or "we found this guy's phone number in the cell phone used by this other fellow who was caught with bomb-making material." Oh yeah, tough standards.

Look, the FISA court is there for a reason. You need a cool-headed third party to review these warrant applications to be certain the government isn't running around half-cocked on a call from someone's pissed off ex-wife who is trying to get even for a late child support check. (Yep, it happens. Been there, done that, reined in an officer on that warrant more than once in my prosecutor days.) I mean, it's not like this Administration has given everyone any sort of confidence that there is a cool head in the bunch. *snerk* No wonder the FISA judges are pissed.

Next time someone whines on teevee that the FISA requirements were just too cumbersome (And I'm talking to you, Toensing, you dissembling partisan mouthpiece.), I want the journalist interviewing them to say the following: "Is the cost of liberty so cheap, that you are willing to sell it because you are too lazy to do some paperwork?"

Grow up, George. Do your job. And stop thinking you run the world. This isn't King for a Day. Here's an urban legend for you: all those advisors telling you how great you are at your job? They're just sucking up. They don't really mean it.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

From the Juggernaut That Is Biden 2008

Are there really no better people that Joe Biden can invoke than racist Bobo Brooks and neocon thug Henry Kissinger to support his position on Iraq? Every time he opens his mouth his commitment to planting himself firmly in the center and positioning himself for 2008 trumps any attempt at rational thought.

Crooks & Liars has the video.


Tilting at Windmills

Given the whoppers that Bob Woodward freely tells in the service of protecting the identity of his "sources" when a better man would just STFU, how much do I care that he tells the Harvard Crimson that "Mr. X" does not work in the administration? About as much as I care what Novakula has to say about the Democratic obsession with the 16 words.


Much more interesting is Matt Welch's analysis of Woodward's motives in all of this:
If there’s one theme tying his books together, it’s this: Don’t mess with the country’s secret intelligence agencies, and don’t let the White House develop a competing house of spooks. In an October interview with the First Amendment Center, Woodward said Felt, the FBI’s No. 2 man, was motivated by “the Nixon White House manipulating the FBI and trying to make the FBI into another instrument of the political apparatus.” Felt himself was no saint; he was later convicted of violating the civil rights of American citizens during his crackdown on the Weather Underground.

Veil, Woodward’s extraordinary 1987 account of how William Casey, director of the CIA during the Reagan administration, tried to force the agency to cook up bogus links between the Soviet Union and terrorism, reads like a prequel to Dick Cheney’s battles to stovepipe intelligence for the anti-communists’ new crusade against Islamic terrorism and Saddam Hussein. Indeed, it’s Cheney (whose office, after all, was the target of Fitzgerald’s investigation) who looks like the rogue in Woodward’s bureaucracy-influenced worldview.

The vice president, a Nixon appointee, was Gerald Ford’s chief of staff and has been the Bush administration’s point man in rolling back post-Watergate reforms limiting executive power. According to Woodward, “Cheney almost had another heart attack” when Bush agreed to be interviewed for his 2004 book Plan of Attack. And it’s not hard to guess to whom the Post reporter was referring when he told the First Amendment Center, “The big worry that we should have about the country is not terrorism or hurricanes or Karl Rove or George Bush or whoever; the real thing that will bring us down as a country is secret government.”
Maybe this is after all the white horse Woody sees himself riding on when the rest of us just see a commitment to access journalism and fat book deals.

Update: Swopa has more.


Top Down

TBogg lets us know that when Pajamas Media CEO Roger Simon went looking for a liberal to cane over the Iraqi elections, he didn't trouble himself to look any further than the one he recently bought to be the chicken in his very own right-wing geek show, David Corn:
I feel sorry for people like David Corn who have put themselves in such a box that they de facto are rooting for failure in Iraq, no matter how much they deny that. This is the fate of the modern fuddy-duddy liberal who was formerly in the "cool" position and now finds himself allied with most reactionary forces on earth just because he loathes George Bush on stylistics. Yes, that's what it seems to come down to. What a brutal historical joke.
Yikes. I would never talk about say, Tom Maguire that way, but then again I actually respect Tom Maguire.

When Wolcott questioned the wisdom of joining up with Pajamas Media in the first place, Corn responded in a way that reflexively made me throw up my hands, avert my gaze and scream good God man, not Wolcott, don't do it!! But to no avail:
[I]f James Wolcott, whose work I admire and respect, can bring himself to be associated with a magazine (which I admire and respect) that makes mucho bucks by placing Paris Hilton's jugs in front of our mugs, perhaps I can see if being associated with rightwingers will benefit this blog, my work, and my readers. If not, I'll be happy to chuck it all for a column at Vanity Fair. James, thanks for the vote of confidence.
Wolcott seemed to think that having any association with Michael Ledeen was its own punishment and let him off easy. But in light of Corn's timid rejoinder to Roger Simon I am moved to mention that as one of his readers I am still anxiously awaiting the benefits.

Update: The estimable Murray Waas has more at the Village Voice. As does James Wolcott.


The Forever War

When can we expect the United States to be under less threat from terrorists or others? I mean honestly, sit down and think about that for a moment.

How can you even contemplate national safety, with so many freelancing independent actors out there, trying to get their hands on nuclear, chemical and biological materials...and so willing to use pretty much any method necessary to get attention.

It seems we are in a period where a strong Executive here in the United States has perfected the Orwellian overtones in his "we're bringing freedom to the rest of the world" swagger all the while thumbing his nose at the laws of this nation. But are we any safer -- truly? I would argue that we are not, based on the rising number of threats and attacks on American interests. When can we expect to be year? The year after? Five years from now? Ten?

In the meantime, Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility of oversight. The GOP leadership has been too drunk with power, and too busy feeding at the money trough, to actually do their jobs. Which left a huge power vacuum that Karl Rove was only too happy to step in and have the President fill, using the powerful emotions of fear and anger to drive the political discourse.

But the problem with the President's seizure of all the reins of power in this country is that the nation's wagon wasn't designed to be driven by only one person. And we are careening toward the cliff, just like those old black and white cowboy cliffhangers, because we're off balance.

Anyone with a difference of opinion from this Administration has been painted as unpatriotic and soft on the defense of this nation ever since 9/11. Well, I'm calling bullshit on that meme right now. Here is why:

-- You do not defend this country well by making piss poor decisions, especially when you fail to plan adequately for military operations. This is evidenced by the mess we are still making in Iraq, and the growing resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. If the Republican Congress is not going to provide adequate oversight of this Administration's reckless and ill-conceived actions, then it is high time the Democrats were voted into power in the Congress to provide that balance.

The President and his merry band of incompetent bean counters and crony rewarders have endangered our troops and this nation's reputation with their piss-poor planning. And every citizen in this nation should be appalled and sickened by it. I've heard this from any number of readers and influential folks, including a growing number of former military and intelligence folks who are outright disgusted. If you haven't read James Fallows article in December's Atlantic Monthly, go find a copy and read it.

-- You do not defend this nation by pissing on its Constitution and its laws and its Congress because you find the paperwork tedious or because you think that legal restrictions are for the little people. This is a nation of laws. You are not the King. Get used to it.

If the Republican Congress will not provide adequate oversight of the Bush Administration's overreaching of the laws of this nation, then it is time for them to go. Let the government balance itself with the Democrats providing a check to Bush's power grab. But we do not serve this nation and its Founders by becoming the tyranny we say we are fighting.

-- You do not defend this nation by spying on its citizens and then lying to the face of every American and saying that you are not doing it. Again, if the Republican Congress is not going to provide adequate oversight, then the Democrats should be voted in to take care of providing a check and balance.

I could keep going on, but you get the picture.

We are in a protracted period, where the very liberty and democracy we have all held so dear in this nation are threatened. But not just from outside actors who threaten our safety. This threat comes from within our own borders -- our very complacency has allowed this power grab by the current Administration to fester and grow. The citizens of our great nation must demand better from our elected representatives. And that demand starts today. And it must continue into the elections in 2006.

If supporters of this Administration in Congress are going to abdicate their responsibilities as patriots and, instead, use their office to line their own pockets and those of their cronies, and rubber stamp whatever the Administration wants, whatever the cost to our liberty and our laws, then they must be voted out. Each and every one of them.

The 2006 elections ought to be a sea change for this nation. Let's all work to be certain that our elected representatives -- each and every single one of them -- know that we expect more. We expect better. We expect them to do their damn jobs. And if they won't, then we'll put someone in office that will.

This is a forever war, for the heart and soul of this nation - a philosophical war between patriots and power-hungry sycophants. There will always be forces who want to hijack the political arena for their own personal use. But it is our responsibility to stand up to this craven attempt at tyranny and call it for what it is. George Bush is a President, not a King -- and not a very good one at that.

(Apologies to the great Joe Haldeman for using his title for this post. If you haven't read Joe's book, The Forever War, you ought to do so. It is timeless science fiction at its best. Plus, Joe is one of the finest human beings you could ever hope to meet.)


This Just In...

MSNBC is reporting that the President and the Senate have reached some sort of agreement, allowing for a temporary extension of the Patriot Act so that civil liberties can be ironed out over the holiday recess. Guess it's tough to keep that game of chicken going when people are pissed at you on so many fronts at once. Especially when several of them are in your own party.

Also, the cloture vote on the ANWR issue didn't go well for Sen. Ted Stevens. The Senate is contemplating ways to strip the ANWR provision from the defense spending bill now in order to get it passed.

At least Dick Cheney got to be the tie-breaker for the budget vote today -- I'm sure he enjoyed casting that vote to cut services for the poor. Talk about your Christmas spirit!


Gonna Find Out Who's Naughty or Nice

Well, lookie here. According to the WaPo, guess who is negotiating a plea deal, just in time for lumps of coal in a whole lot of GOP stockings?
Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, facing trial on fraud charges Jan. 9 in Florida, is negotiating a possible deal with the Justice Department, in which he would agree to plead guilty and cooperate in the wide-ranging political corruption investigation focused on his dealings with members of Congress and executive branch officials, people familiar with the talks said last night.

Abramoff would provide testimony about numerous members of Congress and their staffs if he and the Justice Department reach an agreement, the sources said. Negotiations have been ongoing for several months, people knowledgeable about the discussions said, but pressure is mounting because of the pending trial.
Let's see. By my count, that makes Scanlon and Kidan already plead and flipped, and Abramoff with a hook in his mouth so big that everything looks like it will be spilling out shortly.

All of this is putting a damper on the merriment of Christmas the holidays for the GOP establishment, according to the NYTimes.
What began as a limited inquiry into $82 million of Indian casino lobbying by Mr. Abramoff and his closest partner, Michael Scanlon, has broadened into a far-reaching corruption investigation of mainly Republican lawmakers and aides suspected of accepting favors in exchange for legislative work.

Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients. The case has shaken the Republican establishment, with the threat of testimony from Mr. Abramoff, once a ubiquitous and well-connected Republican star, sowing anxiety throughout the party ranks.
Sucks when everyone is rushing to plant a knife in someone's else's back before one lands in their own, doesn't it? And it isn't just lawmakers in the crosshairs on this -- it's also current and former staffers and what prosecutors are calling "the wives' club." Oh yeah, it's a merry one alright.

Here's a question, though, why is this leaking to so many news services all at once? In the WaPo story, Abramoff's counsel refuses to comment on rumors that his financial situation has become precarious, due to the expenses of criminal defense on multiple fronts at once. Is Jackie Boy asking for some sheckels in exchange for...well, for silence? Or is that just a coinky-dink? Hmmm....

Speaking of sheckels, the AP has a doozy of a report on The Lifestyles of the Bought and Paid For, featuring our favorite GOP poster boy, Tommy DeLay. Whew -- the Hammer is not going to be pleased about this one.
Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress.
Did they say children's charity? Tom DeLay was paying for his lavish lifestyle with children's charity money? That doesn't sound like the spirit of giving, now does it? But it does sound like a fiduciary responsibility problem, let alone a big issue for his upcoming re-election bid. laundering felony indictment, possible bribery and stealing from needy children? That sound you hear is someone's poll numbers dropping.

And the House GOP is still holding his leadership post open? Is it me, or are you also sensing that Tommy Boy knows where a whole lot of skeletens are buried, and he won't be going down without a fight. Oh man. I really have been a good girl this year.

"Hello, schadenfreude hotline? I need an emergency 24 pack, with an eggnog chaser."

UPDATE: This just in, as reported on MSNBC (via AP): Jeanne Pirro will be dropping out of the NY Senate race against Hillary Clinton tomorrow. She is expected to announce tomorrow that she will be running for AG of NY instead. Pressure from state Republicans played a big part in this, due to her troubled run thus far. No word on successor candidate as yet. Now back to our regularly scheduled schadenfreude.

UPDATE #2: Hat tip to GSD for the reminder on this vintage DeLay quote:
"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know... I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation."
- U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, 11/16/95
Pot, this is kettle...


...And Yet There Is Hope

Jane and I often say that our commenters are among the best, if not the best, in the blogosphere. We truly are blessed, and this is an excellent example:

Because we love what this country of ours is meant to represent in its principles and ideals (even though we have often fallen way, way short of them), we have a solemn duty to fight our hearts out. A SOLEMN DUTY. We need the kind of soul-searing commitment that says we will fight even if we don't know if we will succeed or can succeed. We'll fight because it is right, and because we owe it to ourselves, to future generations, and to the memory of our founders and those who fought to preserve the Union and those who gave their lives for the right to vote or the right to strike.

Although we must always see to it that we are working most efficiently toward our goals, we cannot TIE our fight to the measurement of immediate or short-term success. A line keeps going through my head, even though I don't remember if it's a quote from a historical figure, a religious figure, or a political figure: "to fight and not count the cost."

Our freedom, our precious civil liberties, our Constitution must be so sacred to us that we will fight to rescue them no matter how hopeless it might appear at any given moment. In such a struggle as we have here, we are BOUND to have moments of darkness, discouragement, a teetering on the edge of despair, but we must NOT give in to these emotions.

We should study examples here in our own history and all around the globe to get a renewed spiritual sense of how precious justice and civil liberties are, and what sort of nightmarish evils and struggles people have endured to secure their rights. Just think of Jim Crow, of the horribly impoverished but relentless dissenters in South Africa from townships like Soweto -- and what must it have been like for Nelson Mandela to have been in prison for so long? MLK's "Letters from a Birmingham Jail" are good to read, and the biography of Gandhi, and the story of those who have worked tirelessly for reconciliation in Rowanda and other war-torn areas. There are so many examples of people who have had nightmarish experiences in their battle for justice, and who haven't given up.

Expressing disappointment and looking for community support is sometimes essential and can be nourishing and healing to the soul. But we must never let ourselves succumb to discouragement, ultimately.

If ever there were a time for all of us to get involved, work our butts off on the 2006 elections, speak out and stand up and be counted, it is now. These are the times that try men's souls...but real men and women get up off their butts and do the work necessary to make things better. Let's get to work.

(Image via Pixeldiva. Some gorgeous photography here -- do browse. Some available for purchase, and well worth it for the crisp black and white imagery. Well done.)


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Scandal Fatigue

Peter Daou draws a portrait of how the FISA wiretap scandal will most likely play out if the Democrats stay true to form, and it ain't pretty:

7. A few reliable Dems, Conyers, Boxer, et al, take a stand on principle, giving momentary hope to the progressive grassroots/netroots community. The rest of the Dem leadership is temporarily outraged (adding to that hope), but is chronically incapable of maintaining the sense of high indignation and focus required to reach critical mass and create a wholesale shift in public opinion. For example, just as this mother of all scandals hits Washington, Democrats are still putting out press releases on Iraq, ANWR and a range of other topics, diluting the story and signaling that they have little intention of following through. This allows Bush to use his three favorite weapons: time, America's political apathy, and make-believe 'journalists' who yuck it up with him and ask fluff questions at his frat-boy pressers.

8. Reporters and media outlets obfuscate and equivocate, pretending to ask tough questions but essentially pushing the same narratives they've developed and perfected over the past five years, namely, some variation of "Bush firm, Dems soft." A range of Bush-protecting tactics are put into play, one being to ask ridiculously misleading questions such as "Should Bush have the right to protect Americans or should he cave in to Democratic political pressure?" All the while, the right assaults the "liberal" media for daring to tell anything resembling the truth.

9. Polls will emerge with 'proof' that half the public agrees that Bush should have the right to "protect Americans against terrorists." Again, the issue will be framed to mask the true nature of the malfeasance. The media will use these polls to create a self-fulfilling loop and convince the public that it isn't that bad after all. The president breaks the law. Life goes on.

10. The story starts blending into a long string of administration scandals, and through skillful use of scandal fatigue, Bush weathers the storm and moves on, further demoralizing his opponents and cementing the press narrative about his 'resolve' and toughness.
As Matt Stoller says, as long as people like Barak Obama persist in calling Bush a "good man" even as he pummels them about the head nothing is going to stick and his laundry list of scandals only begin to work for him. It's high time for "reasonable people" to tie a tin can to his tail and call him out for the varmint he is, and stop marginalizing those who have had the good sense to do so all along.


It's Not a Religion, It's a Lifestyle

I've decided that God is a capitalist. There's just no other explanation for why someone in my neighborhood bought a giant, air-filled snow globe with the Baby Jesus in it as their Christmas decoration this year.

Nothing says "We're religious!" quite like having an inflatable lawn ornament that pelts the Christ child with fake plastic snow bits, let me tell you. I feel diminished in the eyes of the Lord because we don't have one.

Is there something I missed in Sunday School at my Grandpa's church that said driving your car around with one of those fish things on it is a requirement? Or that Jesus loves you more because you wear a gold-plated filagree cross on every available jewelry wearing location? (With the exception of a few piercing locations that might be...erm..less than holy, although that might just be my own inhibition speaking.)

Does God truly get excited when you "Honk If You Are Pro Life," as a bumper sticker read on a Hummer I saw yesterday?

What about all those people with the signs in their yard that have the interchangeable biblical passage panels in them, so you can let the neighborhood know your religious sentiment of the day? Are you truly a better person because you have religious lawn decor and the guy next door only has those creepy little gnomes and a plastic waterfall garden?

Do you have any idea how much money those "Left Behind" guys are making, let alone the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" folks?

Religion is big business in this country. Just ask Ralph Reed. Or those teevee preachers that live in the multi-million dollar mansions and ride around in their Rolls Royce of the month.

Watch the 700 Club sometime and tell me it doesn't cost them a lot of money to keep a production studio like that going, week after week, and then think about how many little old ladies had to pull out their wallets and write out those checks to keep Pat Robertson and his staff on the air talking about assasinating Latin American presidents and bringing the wrath of God down upon little towns in Pennsylvania for voting out their fervently religious schoolboard in the last election.

Of course, sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways. The AP and NYTimes report that the federal district judge hearing the Dover School Board case ruled today -- in favor of the parents who sued to get the Intelligent Design curriculum out of science classrooms in the county.

The decision today from Judge Jones (warning: PDF) is a detailed history lesson, and instructive as a case study on how to annoy a judge by lying to his face. He sure did crack me up when he called the no-longer-elected school board members inane (p. 138) and a bunch of liars who hold themselves out to be Christians (p. 137).

And I found it interesting that there is some legal group called the Thomas More Law Center that set themselves up to go around the country and prod school boards into being their test cases for religious experimentation. Talk about your public interest work! Hoo boy! I have to wonder how they still have tax exampt status, seeing how politically involved they are and everything, but it help to have friends in high places.

Oh, no disrespect to the Big Guy, I meant in the White House. Beg your pardon.

It's just that people sure do spend an awful lot of money trying to look more and more religious than their neighbors: only listening to the right radio stations, buying only the latest in fervent rock music, only wearing the approved sorts of clothes, only going on retreats sponsored by the appropriate sorts of groups that charge exhorbitant fees for them, only reading books on the approved lists from approved publishing houses wholly owned by approved religious businesspeople, only...well, you get the picture.

What happened to the whole "love thy neighbor" thing? The whole "do unto others," instead of just trying to look like a better person than the other guy by buying more licensed Jesus merchandise? Seems to me that money might be better spent on helping out the less fortunate instead of getting the latest from the Biblical video of the month club.

When did everyone decide that the only way to be religious is to get in the face of every human being you meet and demand that they believe exactly the same way that you do? I dunno, I've never been much for the Church of the Lemming, so I guess I just don't get it. Maybe I'm just too old school.

It sure isn't my Grandpa's church any more. It's not a religion, it's a lifestyle.


Washington Post Strikes Again

Deborah Howel, November 13, 2005:
First, there was a swarm to me and to Post Polling Editor Richard Morin asking that The Post do a poll on whether President Bush should be impeached. Whoa. Since we get mail all the time saying that we are biased against Bush or are in his back pocket, why would The Post want to do that? The question many demanded that The Post ask is biased and would produce a misleading result, Morin said; he added that the campaign was started by
Media Matters, December 9, 2005:
A January 1998 Post poll conducted just days after the first revelations of Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky asked the following questions:
"If this affair did happen and if Clinton did not resign, is this something for which Clinton should be impeached, or not?"

"There are also allegations that Clinton himself lied by testifying under oath that he did not have an affair with the woman. If Clinton lied in this way, would you want him to remain in office as president, or would you want him to resign the presidency?"

"If Clinton lied by testifying under oath that he did not have an affair with the woman, and he did not resign, is this something for which Clinton should be impeached, or not?"
Morin was the Post's polling director at the time, and he wrote the January 26, 1998, article reporting the poll results.
Richard Morion, from an online chat December 20, 2005:
Naperville, Ill.: Why haven't you polled on public support for the impeachment of George W. Bush?

Richard Morin: This question makes me mad...

Seattle, Wash.: How come ABC News/Post poll has not yet polled on impeachment?

Richard Morin: Getting madder...

Haymarket, Va.: With all the recent scandals and illegal/unconstitutional actions of the President, why hasn't ABC News / Washington Post polled whether the President should be impeached?

Richard Morin: Madder still...


[W]e do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion --witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls.
Anybody who wants to argue that this is not a systemic, pervasive, unchecked problem at the Post (or the NYT, who sat on the NSA wiretapping story for a year) -- bring it on.


On Image: Part Two

On the final day of a film shoot when they call out "it's a wrap" only a tiny fraction of an actor's job is done. The real work as far as the studio is concerned comes when the film is ready for release. When that day comes no matter how much you hate the film, want to kill the director and secretly hope IMBD loses the tag from your name to that piece of shit in their database, you have nothing but fucking hot monkey love for it when you sit down in the middle of a press junket. You can air your dirty laundry on Leno five years from now when it has played out through all its various markets, but for today it is the Greatest Movie Ever Made. To say otherwise is blasphemy, the one unpardonable sin in Hollywood from which you cannot ever come back and everyone knows it.

I realize the movie business is quite different from others and my master's degree is in motion picture business so maybe someone can explain to me what the hell is up with the Democratic party. Every time someone on the right opens their mouth they do nothing but bash and besmirch the Democrats in a wholly successful effort to define their public image that always goes unanswered.

Do the Democrats not realize that their brand is under attack?

Scratch that. The Democrats have no brand. What's their slogan? Together we can do better? Who ran that fucking focus group, Ed Gillespie?

Merck doesn't wait for a bunch of people to drop dead from taking Vioxx before they start defining their brand. They spend billions shaping the public image of both the company and their products and when something bad happens the CEO doesn't just sit back and wait for things to blow over. No effort is spared to get there message out there that everything is fine, they are still to be trusted and look at all the arthritic little old ladies they have helped. Damage control is full-frontal and relentless.

I am on this current tilt because I can't believe the thundering silence that has arisen from the Democratic Party in response last week to the acknowledgment by the Washington Post that they were trying to shut down their one vocal critic of the Administration in response to complaints from both the White House and the Republican Party. The Democrats have been fist-fucked and shitcanned by the GOP as they bully the media into submission and at the same time spread the meme that they are the victims of a liberal press, and there is no answer from the Democrats. Ever. As a business person I am continually gobsmacked.

It was the perfect opportunity to both demonstrate that the GOP noise hounds are completely full of shit and head the very problem that continues to plague them off at the pass. They got killed last year because news outlets like the WaPo gave endless play to that Swift Boat nonsense and nobody said squat. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD we gave them cover, there were two thousand comments on the WaPo website expressing outrage over what was happening to Froomkin, and nobody spoke out. Not a peep.

Fine we know the big Democrats are all stuck in the Senate bathroom blowing Lindsey Graham. But when the GOP knew they had a problem on their hands with Murtha and the Preznit couldn't do the honors, it was time to call on someone from a solidly wingnut district like ol' Mean Jean and remind her how much money they'd dumped in her campaign at the last minute. Anyone who thinks that was not orchestrated by larger forces within the GOP is probably also sitting around waiting for those Nigerian millions to arrive in their bank account from Dr. Okon any minute now, too.

This is simple Marketing 101, it is not that complex, and it astounds me that the Democrats keep shoveling millions of dollars to Bob Shrum to lose key elections and nobody figures this out. The Republicans know it. Ralph Reed has spent the better part of three decades organizing the extreme wackos of the right into a highly effective weapon he points and shoots with tremendous accuracy. Is the GOP embarrassed by the lunacy, the bigotry and the ignorance of these people? You bet your ass they're not. They embrace them. They run to them. When Justice Sunday comes around, they send Bill Frist to stand with them in pride as they babble and foam.

They know those people are the money in the bank, the letter writers, the activists who put boots on the ground and deliver elections for them. It was Digby who pointed out that the right runs toward their freaks in the off-season and then distances themselves at election time. The Democrats do just the opposite. When the ANSWER people decide to protest the war or Cindy Sheehan is sitting in a ditch outside Dubya's rehab ranch well it's all just too unseemly for the Democratic leadership to be associated with. But come election time, who do they start pumping for cash? They bungled the whole K Street thing. The strains of the Mighty Wurlitzer leave them battered and bloodied in the mainstream press. The lunatic left they spend so much time distancing themselves from suddenly turns into the only cash machine they've got.

Look I understand they're all afraid of being Daschled as they stand there trembling and furiously clutching their few coins of lunch money in their sweaty palms and hoping that the highly effective, organized rage of the schoolyard bullies doesn't land on them. But sitting around hoping that the GOP fucks things up so badly that 2008 will make everything all better is delusional. It won't. The machine is still in place and being out of power will not make the right miss a beat. It was extremely effective in hijacking the Constitution and impeaching Bill Clinton at the height of his popularity, and it is not going away tomorrow until someone puts some muscle into fighting it.

The Democrats need to get to it. Embrace their freaks, stop running from the word "liberal" and send SOMEBODY, anybody, some minor congressperson from a safely Democratic district over to the Washington Post to have a loud and very public word with Len Downie and John Harris and ask WHAT THE FUCK IS UP over there that they are so accepting of Republican efforts to squeeze any critic of the administration out of their pages that they talk about it like it is no big deal. Until they are willing to organize and do battle with the beast where it lives they will continue to be scattered and picked off one by one by the GOP machine and no amount of "comity" will ever change it.



Unlike the wingnut welfare-subsidized wankers at Pajamas media who get paid to spew their bullshit all over the blogosphere, when those of us on the left wake up every morning and start to blog we are indebted to no one. This blog ran for a year without one dime coming in. I've never even spoken to anyone from the Democratic party yet they expect us to do their dirty work day in and day out hoping something we bitch about will finally gain traction so they can jump on it. But they are so afraid of being branded "liberals" that if it wasn't for John Conyers and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus we might as well be coated in anthrax for all they care about supporting us with even so much as some kind of encouragement or communication that isn't SPAM or a push to use us as a fucking ATM.

Digby is one of the most important voices on the left, whose elucidation and clarification of issues continues to be a clarion voice of reason that reverberates through the blogosphere and beyond. People regularly pick up Digby's ideas and trumpet them without knowing where they came from, such is the power of Hullabaloo's influence. I cannot urge you strongly enough to go over there and support Digby's fundraiser today, since no rich Florida right wing wackjob is going to leap into the breech and write some big fat check to make sure that there is some vocal public counterpoint to the encroaching fascism trumpeted by the Mighty Wurlitzer. Because if you're waiting for one of the Slow Joes that they book onto the Sunday morning talk shows to represent the "left" to pipe up in indignation at the CIA leak or the NSA wiretaps or this fiasco of a war you have a fucking wait on your hands, let me tell you right now.

And while you're at it, click on our advertisers and see what they have to say. Our click-through rate is all the help we can offer to those who continue to support us.


So, Let Me Get This Straight...

So, let me get this straight: instead of using our limited law enforcement resources to do surveillance domestically on potential terrorist cells and possible supporters, we instead have the FBI spying on lesbians, vegans and advocates for the poor?

Wow, talk about your enormous security threat. What are they going to do, make me sing Indigo Girls medleys, eat raw carrots and clothe the homeless? Oh, the horror.

The NYTimes has more. The level of incompetence of this Administration continues to amaze me. (TalkLeft has more.)

UPDATE: William Arkin's Early Warning blog is a great read again today. Just FYI.


Cheney to Founding Fathers:

In an astonishing dump of gall and malarky, Dick Cheney told reporters today that the power of the Presidency has contracted since the era of Vietnam. (Guess he was a pod person during the whole Reagan era or something.) I mean, who needs the other branches of government when the Vice President gets to run the whole show? Oh, wait...erm...what I meant to say is this is a democracy, and of course we welcome everyone's input. Ahem.

Cheney is on the way back from his Middle Eastern tour early, ostensibly because votes are tight in the Senate and he may be needed in his role of Senate President to break a tie.

And how embarassing is it to need VP vote insurance when your own party controls both houses of Congress? Talk about your lame duck status...Daffy Duck is looking competent compared to this bunch of assclowns.

The WH has version 2.0 going on their legal authority to trample on the Constitution and the principles advanced in the founding of this nation. New version same as the old version. Here's a thought: try respecting the law before you act, then you don't have to worry about being prosecuted for breaking it.

And for everyone who has written me to ask about the differences in the leaking of this material and, say, Valerie Wilson's NOC status: all of these leaks need to be investigated thoroughly. Period. But there is a vast difference between (1) a whistleblower exposing the cover-up of illegal activity on the part of a governmental or corporate actor for the purpose of advancing the public interest and/or seeking prosecution for a crime and (2) the releasing of highly classified information specifically to damage someone as a means of political payback. The law protects the former and punishes the latter (in most cases, it's not absolute). Only an investigation into the facts of each case can determine which description applies -- and the punishment on all sides of the issue should be administered according to the law.

That goes for ALL lawbreakers, be they a leaker or a Chief Executive. No one, not the President or Vice President, is above the law. Period. The sooner we all agree on that point, the better for the entire nation.

(Image via BushFlash.)