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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Joe Klein In His Own Words, First Semi-Final Round



Whenever Father Tim, Tweety and others decide to have the rare, one-off episode where they lure a Democrat into their lairs, more often than not the quote-unquote "Democrat" they book is Joe Klein. He then becomes the emblem for the party, the pundit who comes to mind when many Americans think "Democrat." He's the one the bookers have on speed dial, the one chosen to represent the "liberal" viewpoint on a weekly basis in Time Magazine.

Did it ever occur to Joe that the country's low opinion of "Democrats" -- something he is always quick to invoke -- is in large part due to the fact that people instinctively loathe him?

Here are tonight's entries for "Joe Klein: In His Own Words":
1. "For too many liberals, all secret intelligence activities are "fruit," and bitter fruit at that. The government is presumed guilty of illegal electronic eavesdropping until proven innocent. This sort of civil-liberties fetishism is a hangover from the Vietnam era, when the Nixon Administration wildly exceeded all bounds of legality—spying on antiwar protesters and civil rights leaders."

2. "There is evidence that the information harvested helped foil several plots and disrupt al-Qaeda operations. There is also evidence, according to U.S. intelligence officials, that since the New York Times broke the story, the terrorists have modified their behavior, hampering our efforts to keep track of them..."

3. "The possibility of vice-presidential anguish was barely mentioned by most commentators at first. Cheney is a tough customer; Oprahfied "sharing" isn't his way. But then, there he was, with that haunted look in his Fox News interview, saying, "[T]he image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling ..." Hunting had given him "great pleasure" in the past, but he wasn't so sure now. In fact, he sounded a lot like the combat veterans I've spoken with over the years, for whom the living nightmare of firing a weapon under questionable circumstances is a constant theme."

4. "Most polls indicate that a strong majority of Americans favor the [Patriot] act, and I suspect that a strong majority would favor the NSA program as well, if its details were declassified and made known."

5. "Populism is one of the more romantic and less admirable American political traditions. It purports to represent the interests of the little guy -- —the people, not the powerful... but more often than not it has manifested itself as a witlessly reactionary bundle of prejudices: nativist, protectionist, isolationist, and paranoid. The central assumption is that the little guy is so aggrieved that he can only be roused to citizenship by an appeal to his basest suspicions. Exploitation and venality are posited as the central fact of American life: The country is being taken to the cleaners by wicked plutocrats."

6. "I'm a so-called journalist who views his job as doing the legwork and then calling them as I see them. And I'm tired of civilians of the left and the right who, in their infinite wisdom, spew vituperative nonsense instead of asking substantive questions when they have the opportunity."

7. "John Kerry--John Kerry's been having a very bad cheese year. First he was going to put a Swiss cheese on his cheesesteak in Philly and now this."

8. "“In a way, President Bush is the beneficiary of 40 years of Democratic policy -- not just affirmative action, which helped create a broader, deeper pool of successful nonwhite college graduates, but also the Democratic Party'’s historic support for civil rights legislation, the feminist revolution and the easing of strict immigration policies in the 1960s, policies long opposed by many Republicans. But the Bush Cabinets have also been very much a reflection of who George W. Bush is and always has been."

9. "The Democrats' relative silence on all this has been prudent, but telling. Their implicit position has been to err toward law. 'The notion that Florida failed to do its job in the Schiavo case is wrong,' said Congressman Barney Frank, one of the few Democrats willing to speak about the case. 'Procedurally, there was a great deal of due process.' Frank was right, but it was a curiously sterile pronouncement, bereft of the Congressman's usual raucous humanity. It exemplified the Democratic Party's recent overdependence on legal process, a culture of law that has supplanted legislative consideration of vexing social issues. This is democracy once removed."
We will have four nights of semi-finals so that we can carefully evaluate each of the entries. Please vote only once and by number, but you are encouraged to passionately defend your choice for the benefit of those who come after you.

There will be two prizes -- one for the best Joe Klein quote, and there will also be a winner of the special Charles P. Pierce award for excellence in Klein Snark inspired by this piece (to be decided by the FDL panel of judges). Both will win a DVD copy of the dark and brilliant series Action. We will have three more nights of semi-finals before the final vote (one contestant from each night will make it to the finals), so please give your careful consideration to the task at hand.

Joe always speaks so highly of us, we really need to show up for him.

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Lampooning Lil' Debbie: No Longer Just For Bloggers



Congratulations Washington Post, your ombudsman is now a national joke.

(graphic by Valley Girl)

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Tucker's Got a Secret



Tucker Carlson, Republican Pun-don't on MSNBC, has made quite a fuss about the Libby case from the get-go, trashing Patrick Fitzgerald at every possible opportunity, and blathering sympathetically about Scooter Libby's kids...oh, the kids, for God's sake, the kids. Never mind that had Scooter not committed multiple felonies in the first place...well, Tucker doesn't really care about that, now does he?

But Tucker has a secret.

And unfortunately for Tucker, the secret got published on the Scooter Libby Defense Slush Fund website...and blabbed all over Washington...and Arianna found out about it.
But with all he's had to say about the case, there is one thing that Tucker Carlson has failed to mention: That his father, Richard Carlson, is on the advisory committee of the Libby Legal Defense Trust, the GOP-heavy-hitter-laden group that has so far raised $2 million.

Indeed, Richard Carlson was the Early Money Is Like Yeast of Libby defense fund-raisers, having couriered a check to Libby's home the morning he was indicted....

But while Carlson has mentioned the legal defense fund on the air and on his blog (including chiding Cheney for not donating to it), he hasn't seen fit to offer up an "in the interest of full disclosure" type disclaimer.
According to Arianna, this isn't the first time Tucks has failed to mention such a potential conflict involving Daddy and a story on which he was reporting. It's an exceptional article, filled with all sorts of bits, including all those pesky quotes that Tucker no doubt wishes he could soften or, perhaps, be up front and honest about his bias before opening his yap. I'm afraid "bygones" isn't gonna cut it on this one, Tucks.

Such a teensy detail as "my Daddy's money is keeping Scooter afloat while he's indicted for five felonies" must have just slipped his mind. Perhaps that bow tie is a little tighter than we thought.

Or maybe Tucks ought to ask Libby for the name of that memory expert he hired (Olbermann reported on that this evening, you know facts, names, stuff Tucker might want to consider using on his show) -- might be useful to have the guy on board when he explains things to the producers at MSNBC. I can hear it now:
"Erm...yeah, well, I forgot Daddy had a check messengered to Scooter's house the very day he was indicted. Maybe I should have been more up front about that with you and my viewers."
Oh, ya think? Conflict of interest, much?

Credibility is so tenuous. Especially when you were awfully low on it to begin with...but Rachel Maddow ought to be hilarious next time she's on the show. That might be worth the price of popcorn all by itself.

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Rickie Lee Jones Speaks Out Against Joe Lieberman



There's plenty of lingering resentment by musicians against Joe Lieberman's draconian PMRC censorship measures, and Howie Klein is having no trouble in his efforts to line them up to speak out against Lieberman and support Ned Lamont. Within minutes of sending out his initial entreaties he got this from Rickie Lee Jones:
Herr Lieberman helped me realize there is not much of a fine line left between the middle of the right and the edge of the left. We have moved so far over that even middle America stands perched on one foot, with it's one strand of hair tossed across its frowning face, trying to straighten the coffee in a cup that will forever be leaning far too right to ever feel balanced again.

No good American can go out into the street today and not turn gray with nausea at the complacency of every single newspaper, financial institution, and influential individual in the conspiracy to keep this unqualified, uneducated, unelected criminal in office. Lieberman was an important candidate, and he, above all of them, is a turn coat who helped to nullify the potency of the left.
Howie has the rest of her letter here. He's been hearing back from dozens of really big artists and managers and will be posting more in the next few days.

This could get very interesting.

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Clowns for Cuellar



The Texas race between Ciro Rodriguez and the DINO Henry Cuellar is heating up. Looks like some unexpected help may be coming from inside the Cuellar campaign, in the form of Cuellar's Democratic strategist (*cough*) Bob Doyle, whose skills were so meager he failed to get the 50 (yes, 50) signatures he needed to put his Ohio Democratic candidate on the ballot (and who must now run as a write-in).

I have a rather large poodle who could've done a better job.

From today's Roll Call:
An embarrassing last-minute filing snafu in a must-win Ohio open-seat House race has led to a round of behind-the-scenes finger-pointing in Democratic circles, as party leaders sought to assess blame for state Sen. Charlie Wilsons (D) failure to qualify for the primary ballot in the 6th district.

As Wilson announced Friday that he will pursue a write-in campaign to win the Democratic nomination, it was clear that some in the party were looking to Bob Doyle, Wilsons fundraising consultant who was believed to hold great sway over the campaign, to shoulder at least some of the responsibility for the major setback.

"I think in any screw-up like this one, you first look to the campaign manager and then you look to the consultant," said one Democratic operative.

(snip)

[I]n 2004, Doyle further incensed some party insiders on Capitol Hill by working to defeat a Democratic incumbent in a Texas primary.

His client in that race, now-Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), is currently involved in a biter rematch with former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) in the March 7 primary. Cuellar, a conservative Democrat who touts his ties to President Bush and was recently endorsed by the Club for Growth, is unpopular with liberal party leaders and interest groups.

As head of Sutters Mill Fundraising and Consulting, Doyle has built his reputation on electing moderate to conservative Democrats in tough contests largely in the South and Midwest, risky territory for the party in recent cycles.

But Doyles willingness to work against more liberal candidates, including incumbents, hasn't helped to foster the best relationship with his partys leadership, though he is close with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a champion of party moderates.

Meanwhile, within the DCCC, frustration with Doyle has festered in recent years due to the consultants insistence that the committee communicate with campaigns through him, according to knowledgeable Democratic sources. That frustration with Doyle has been amplified this cycle, due to the fact that he has several top-tier clients in races that are viewed as must-wins for Democrats.

Wilson and Ohios 6th district fall into both of those categories.

The open-seat race is among the most competitive in the country, and national Democrats had coalesced behind the socially conservative Wilson early on as their prospect for holding the seat that Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) is vacating to run for governor.

But last week Wilson was deemed ineligible to appear on the May 2 primary ballot after only 46 of the 96 signatures he submitted were ruled valid four shy of the 50 needed to qualify for the ballot in the Buckeye State.

Wilson has decided to run as a write-in in the primary, on a ballot where two lesser-known and underfunded Democrats will be listed.

(snip)

Wilsons failure to make the ballot opened a wide door for Republicans to raise questions about the competence of his campaign and whether he is ready for a national-level race.

"Charlie Wilsons inept non-candidacy is badly wounded both politically and in terms of his failure to understand the geography of the district he wishes to represent in Washington," NRCC spokesman Ed Patru said in a statement following Wilsons disqualification.

Wilson is not the only highly-touted candidate in a competitive race Doyle is working to elect this cycle.

(snip)

Last year, some party insiders privately questioned whether Doyles close relationship with DCCC Executive Director John Lapp was factoring prominently in his firms ability to score a number of top-tier recruits.

Lapps and Doyles political ties date back to the 1998 cycle and the campaign of Ken Lucas, a conservative Democrat then running for an open seat in Kentucky.

Doyle, who was just getting his new firm off the ground, was a consultant to the campaign and hired Lapp to manage the race.

Lucas, who retired in 2004, is now seeking a comeback and is challenging Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) in what is expected to be a highly competitive race this November. Doyle is once again working for Lucas.
The Republicans have been taking advantage of the truly awful Democratic "strategists" for years. It's nice to know we may now be able to take advantage of the same -- there's no reason to think they won't be shooting Cuellar in the foot too and staying true to form.

But how many other seats are these people going to cough up to the GOP through cronyism and ineptitude before they're through?

The March 7 Ciro primary is coming up soon so thankfully it may be working on our side for once.

You can give to Ciro here.

Update: From a dennisl at Kos: "You call them 'loser consultants.' I call them 'future Fox News experts on Democratic strategy.'"

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Fat Tuesday News Round-Up



It's Fat Tuesday, and New Orleans is celebrating the last day of Mardi Gras. If ever a region earned a party...especially given that 2/3 of Katrina donations have already been disbursed, but there is still substantial remaining need.

Here's hoping for some dry, sunny days ahead for everyone in the Gulf Coast.

Looks like President Bush has a grey cloud following him around today: poll numbers are at 34%, according to the latest CBS News poll. According to Froomkin, you have to go back pretty far to see numbers that low:
To find other numbers that low in the CBS poll, you have to go back 14 years to Bush's father. Bill Clinton never had it so bad.

To find numbers even lower, you have to go back to Jimmy Carter's disastrous 1979 -- or to Richard Nixon in 1974, who Gallup-polled as low as 23 just before he resigned.
And speaking of the President, Peter Galbraith has some choice words regarding his decided lack of true Presidential temperament:
In his State of the Union address, President Bush told his Iraq critics, "Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy." His comments are understandable. Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush's shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power.
Found this Galbraith article via Josh Marshall, and it is a great read.

The NYTimes is suing the Pentagon for more documents on the NSA domestic spying progra, according to the Jurist.
The Times asserts that the Defense Department has not contended that there are "unusual circumstances" prompting the delay, which the act requires to give the government more time to respond. In a separate FOIA lawsuit [JURIST report] filed by the Electronic Information Privacy Center, a federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to produce documents [JURIST report] relating to the NSA spying program, including the guidelines used when deciding whether to monitor an individual's communications.
With Senate committees reviewing whether to provide oversight, or to amend FISA, information the Times or other news organizations could obtain could prove very interesting, indeed.

And on the intelligence front, there are a lot of unanswered questions about how things are going in the "revamped" intelligence service.

Froomkin also has a review of the latest Libby news, with a hat tip to Jeralyn, Next Hurrah and FDL for reporting on the Libby case, along with links to some more articles on current maneuvers and rulings. Always nice to get a pat on the back, especially from Froomkin.

The WaPo reports that the death toll in Iraq from sectarian violence has topped 1,300 since the mosque in Somarra was bombed. There were 57 deaths today alone in Baghdad, after a string of bombings, according to the NYTimes.

Things are getting worse in Sudan, as the violence has now crossed the border into Chad.

Plus, as always, Arthur is a thoughtful read.

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Fresh Out of the Oven: The New Republican Memes



Via Atrios, we find that Media Matters is documenting the new GOP meme over the UAE ports fiasco: Democrats are "moving to the right" of Republicans on national security. As if the GOP are somehow the true banner carriers here.

As this whole mess unravels they are trying to digest their own history of spin and quite frankly choking on it. Democrats (like John Kerry) have long known that the corrupt GOP machine was all about consolidating its own power with fear mongering and using 9/11 as a means to get its hand on all the war and national security profiteering it could eat. They never cared about real national security in the form of actually securing our porous ports, probably the biggest gap in fighting the true terrorism threat (as opposed to the simple unremitting hatred of brown people that is now blowing back uncontrollably in BushCo.'s collective face) so it's both ironic and appropriate that their undoing should come in the form of the Dubai Ports World deal.

Meanwhile the war bloggers are picking up the Bill Kristol baton and have discovered what went wrong with the war in Iraq: protests from the left. I think we should let Glenn Greenwald field this one:
One can bet the mortgage that we'll be seeing a lot more of this over the next few months -- between now and, say, oh, November or so. Those who insisted on this war, who started it, who prosecuted it, who controlled every single facet of its operation --– they have no blame at all for the failure of this war. Nope. They were right all along about everything. It all would have worked had war critics just kept their mouths shut. The ones who are to blame are the ones who never believed in this war, who control no aspect of the government, who were unable to influence even a single aspect of the war, who were shunned, mocked and ridiculed, and who have been out of power since the war began. They are the ones to blame. They caused this war to fail.

(snip)

Virtually every prediction the President and his followers made about this war has proven to be false, while virtually every prediction made by war opponents has proven to be true. The President and his followers controlled every part of this war with an iron fist, ignoring anything which their political opponents said and insisting on the right to exert full-scale, undiluted control over it. And now it has failed. And it's everyone'’s fault except theirs.
Yes if only we had fallen in behind their superior intelligence, superb planning and visionary leadership none of this would have happened. The logic is ineluctable.

Meanwhile the bitter 101st Fighting Keyboardists take time off from playing paintball to cry that TBogg is being mean to them over all this.

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of WAAAAHHH.

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NARAL and Planned Parenthood (UPDATED)



Thanks to all your calls, faxes and letters a firestorm has broken out in the Connecticut pro-choice community over the decision of NARAL and Planned Parenthood to ask their members to thank Joe Lieberman for his Alito vote. I'll keep you posted as I hear more, but it looks like the consistent effort we've been applying has really started to take hold. I'm really, really encouraged. Thanks to everyone who has taken time to make the effort to thank NOW for getting it. We appear to have finally hit the mark.

Velouria left this comment over at the HuffPo in response to my post about Planned Parenthood and NARAL and I thought it was quite good:
For the record... PPFA was not able to participate in any electoral work until it started it's PAC just prior to the 2004 elections. Until then they had only a C3 status which does not allow for endorsements or money raising for candidates. They then endorsed John Kerry as their first candidate. In addition they have been working the past few years to create a network of national folks to contact lawmakers and raise the volume of pro-choice voices. PPFA (and NARAL) were the main players in the 2004 March For Women's Lives, the under-reported and largest protest in American history (over 1.125 million).

These issues are complex and ever changing. The right has created a battle plan that keeps pro-choice America on the defensive constantly, with trumped up issues like 'fetal pain' and so-called 'partial birth abortion'. It is the American people who voted for right wingers who get legislation after legislation designed to take away reproductive rights. And, in response, PPFA fundraised to fight legislation in the court systems. I betcha many of you have no idea how many court battles they have fought in the name of choice and access to reproductive health care. You are correct in that PPFA, NARAL and other groups failed to win at this point. Much of this is due to many being slow to believe reproductive rights are under attack anyway and called these groups hysterical. There is truth in the accusation everyone failed in framing the issue correctly. It is true that candidates should be cut off when they are not up to pro-choice snuff, and these groups need to be accountable for that. I will agree there have been serious missteps but to write off this very important agency, who is on the front line every day, is lunacy... and quite frankly what the right wants.

PPFA does raise money, but I can tell you it is not nearly as much as the right has in their deep pockets. This battle has been raging on all fronts and has been escalating. Without Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country, many women AND men would have NO health care at all. In addition to providing basic healthcare to the severely underserved and advocating for reproductive rights on a daily basis, Planned Parenthood workers are on the front line in this battle. Many receive clinic bomb threats, anthrax treat hoaxes, hate mail and phone calls, and have to walk a gauntlet of screaming lunatics DAILY. Those folks deserve support. So PPFA not only tries to hold together the battle weary affiliates across the country, it is also working to grow support and fight bad legislation. These groups are not unlike all non-right wing groups and politicians... on the short end of the stick... unaware of how strategic and powerful their opposition had become. EVERYONE blew it and now is not the time to jump ship. We need to tell them to get strategic now and work toward electing sane folks into office.
Absolutely. The people on the front lines of Planned Parenthood are heroes, day in, day out, every day of the week. From the people who are willing to staff clinics in places like South Dakota where doing so can get you killed, to the doctors who risk flying in an out of hostile territory just do do their job out of conviction, to the people in the community who defend its right to be there. These are extremely brave souls who deserve every bit of support we can give them.

But the fact is that Planned Parenthood has now gotten into the political endorsement game, no doubt because they have to. And the credibility that their endorsement lends to political candidates in states where pro-choice actually matters, like Connecticut and Rhode Island, is huge.

While it's open to debate how much influence NARAL's decision not to support anti-choice Langevin in the Rhode Island race had on his decision to drop out, it was perceived as significant. Their endorsement may not mean a lot in Alabama, but it means a lot in solidly pro-choice New England states. Further, their decision to continue to support Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman even after their disastrous vote on Samuel Alito is a signal to other Senators that is okay to vote like this in the future and keep your official pro-choice credentials in the process. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are rubber stamping these votes. How exactly do they plan on coming out and fighting the next Supreme Court Alito-lite nomination if they don't start yanking chains now?

Whenever major media outlets need an official quote from the pro-choice movement, they call NARAL and Planned Parenthood. If they are not speaking up against this bullshit, nobody is.

The problem is that in doing nothing they are actively hurting their own ability to do the good work that Planned Parenthood consistently does. If the South Dakota Rapist Rights bill goes through, it won't matter how many brave souls are willing to staff an abortion clinic, they won't be able to do so. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is no more important task right now before the pro-choice movement than changing the balance of power in the US Senate and breaking up the Gang of 14, something that -- as Chris Bower says -- has a very good chance of happening this fall.

If Planned Parenthood and NARAL put themselves in the position of granting the pro-choice seal of approval to people who don't deserve it in places where it's really meaningful they don't really leave us much choice but to go after them as a way to go after those they continue to endorse.

I wish it were otherwise but it is not. I can scream about how Lieberman and Chafee are not truly pro-choice all day but their constituents aren't going to listen to me or any other blogger if NARAL and Planned Parenthood are telling everyone not to worry, they're great.

It shows just how behind the times these organizations are that they would put so much energy into something like the "March for Women's Lives" in this day and age when the impact of an action like that depends on the media's willingness to cover it, something they quite obviously haven't been willing to do for a good long while.

NARAL in particular is sitting on a mountain of cash they did not spend to fight the Alito nomination. They need to make a real commitment to make up for this by getting into these races early and committing all that loot they've been hoarding to fighting in the races and apply it where it can actually do some good. This is not a time for moderation. The battle for the next Supreme Court vacancy begins now, and if they don't understand it we're just going to have to keep screaming until they do.

Right now it's imperative that people like Ned Lamont get every dime they can to muster the resources to cut through the media ice. You can do what NARAL and Planned Parenthood don't seem to understand (yet) that they need to do by giving to Ned Lamont here.

Update: The Supreme Court just dealt a big blow to pro-choice clincs, saying they could not use extortion and racketeering laws against the clinic bombing, doctor killing forced birth lobby.

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Don't Hold Your Breath On Those PDBs, Scooter



Jeralyn at TalkLeft has graciously posted a copy of one of the three orders entered by Judge Walton in the Libby case on Monday, so that everyone can take a peek at it. The three orders were issued after the motions hearing, which was held on 2/24/06.

The first two orders ought to come as no surprise -- as they are simply putting the oral orders from the judge into writing. We discussed the hearing information here and here, based on what we heard from print and television reporters who attended the hearing.

Essentially, the presiding judge set a schedule for subpoenas for journalists and motions thereon in one order, and denied Libby's attempt to block Fitz from filing information with the judge ex parte (meaning Libby's lawyers don't get to know what it is -- only Fitz and the judge do) about the continuing investigation and why Libby oughtn't get access to certain materials he's trying to get his grubby little hands on -- things that Fitzgerald says are outside the charges in the indictment, and that go to the heart of his ongoing investigation.

(You hear that -- ongoing. As in continuing. As in still working hard on it. You hear that, Karl and Dick and cronies? Ongoing.)

The third order, though, was a bit of a surprise, seeing as it comes out of nowhere from the judge, himself, and appears to directly undercut Team Libby's request for all those pesky PDBs. I've read through this order and agree completely with Jeralyn's assessment on it:
The third order indicates to me that Libby is going to lose his request for being provided with the Presidential Daily Briefings, and even the documents he will receive will be for a much shorter time period than he had requested. I have uploaded the two page order here.

Essentially, the Judge says he believes Libby's memory defense requires only a description of the subject matter of the daily briefings and documents attached to them, not the entire documents. He also says the relevant time period is not the year of briefings Libby had asked for but only three short time intervals: (1) when he spoke to Miller, Cooper and Russert, (2) when he was interviewed by FBI investigators and (3) when he testified before the grand jury.

The judge suggests that two days leeway on each side of (2) and (3) should suffice.
The judge asks Fitz to provide him with a rudimentary summary of topics, and to give the court some idea of how much time it would take to compile a more thorough summary. This sounds to me like the judge is fed up with his schedule being taken up by less-than-on-point motions and that he has done enough perjury cases in his day to know when he's being asked for evidence which is not material to the charges.

Plus, as the Judge himself said at the hearing, concerns that the Executive branch would refuse to turn over the PDBs as a matter of national security ought not derail the prosecution in this case, given that the PDBs are neither material nor essential. Guess that greymail tactic wasn't so successful after all.

If this is any indication at all of Judge Walton's criminal court temperament, Scooter Libby is going to be tried on the narrow framework of his indictment without much embellishment. And that is not good news for Team Libby.

It's early to speculate on this just yet, because this is simply an information-gathering exercise from the judge. But in my experience, judges know just how heavy the case load is for most prosecutors (and Fitz's briefcase is crammed especially full between this investigation and his duties in Chicago), and they don't hand out homework assignments without a good reason behind them. Meaning, if I were Scooter, I wouldn't hold my breath on getting those PDBs.

Just guessing, but Team Libby likely won't get much beyond this order. (So much for all that cash thrown at Cline thus far, eh? Good thing Babs appears to be good at bilking the kool-aid impaired donor base fundraising.) And Jeralyn is absolutely right that if this ends up being the case, it will make Scooter's "memory" defense a much tinier needle to thread.

The big question in my mind is where does Team Libby go from here?

This is where the tension between the lawyers who want Scooter to stand up and fight for himself, perhaps cut a deal now while it is still possible, and get what he can from Fitzgerald rather than risk having the book thrown at him after a conviction at trial and the lawyers who hang with Babs and her crowd, and want Scooter to remain the steadfast and loyal firewall...well, they begin to get a lot more tense as these pre-trial dominoes begin to tumble, don't they?

I mean, there is still the journalist card to play, but if the PDB perspective is any indication -- and that's a stretch, considering I haven't seen enough of this judge to say one way or the other -- but if it is an indication of judicial temperament, Judge Walton doesn't seem to be the sort of judge that puts up with a whole lot of extraneous crap in his courtroom. That would include subpoenas for journalists that have no relationship to the charges, in my mind -- we'll see if Judge Walton agrees with me on that as well.

And between your former boss shooting a man in the face, and now having poll numbers in the low 20s, and the President having poll numbers in the 30s -- well, is that really what you want to bank the whole farm on at this point, if you are under indictment for five felonies and facing further investigation?

I mean, think about it: you are Scooter, sitting at home when you aren't at the wingnut welfare think tank office, and you flip on the teevee, and you are hit with pictures of Iraq sliding into civil war, this port deal with Dubai, NSA spying revelations, more Republican indictments and investigations into members of Congress...it just goes on and on every day.

Can you assure yourself, if you are Scooter, that any pardon at all is even remotely possible...in the next three years, in this political climate, with Bush and Cheney as your trusty knights in severely dented and rusting armor, wheezing along astride a very lame looking duck to carry them forward into battle for the next three years? This is your battle plan for staying out of prison? You want to risk your life and freedom, and the happiness and well-being of your wife and children, on the steadfast loyalty and political capital of Bush and Cheney?

Don't know about you guys, but I wouldn't be holding my breath on that one, either.

Come to the light, Scooter. Fess up. Spill your guts. You'll feel better. Fitzgerald seems like a good listener. You know if things get dicey, Rove would stab you in a heartbeat to save his own pasty ass -- why not be the planter instead of the plantee with that knife, Scooter? Think about it...wouldn't you feel better if you just let it all out?

(Anime image of Chihiro from the amazing Hayao Miyazake's "Spirited Away." If you haven't seen this film, you really ought to -- this is my personal favorite of all his films. The soundtrack alone is worth the viewing.)

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Our New Contest On the Wankery of Joe Klein



From time to time the question arises: when the revolution comes, who will be the first against the wall, the Democratic strategists or the Democratic pundits? And the answer is always the same -- Joe Klein.

Joe really out did himself this week. Ever sensitive to the subtle nuances of Islamic culture, he appeared on Lou Dobbs and sneered about the opposition to the Dubai Ports World deal as nothing but blatant racism and claimed that killing the deal would only breed more terrorists. Whereas invading a sovereign country, ripping apart its infrastructure, killing its citizens and igniting a civil war can be justified in the name of "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." Or some such gibberish.

But it does raise an interesting point. Before Joe gets his blindfold and final cigarette and breaks into La Marseillaise, what will be remembered as his stupidest, most absurd, most rank and obtuse quote of all time? I know there is a plethora of material to choose from (much of it catalogued over the years by Digby) but I think it is high time to take stock of Klein's atrocities.

Whoever unearths the most ludicrous, most irresponsible, most feeble-minded Klein quote as judged by the patrons of this blog will get a copy of the newly released DVD of Action, which TBogg quite rightly lauds for "its brilliance and viciousness and cold bitter laugh-out-loud black humor." (Most people have never seen it but it is quite possibly the funniest thing that's ever been on TV.) Entries will be accepted up until 7pm tomorrow night PST with a semifinal process to be determined. Please keep your entries down to one paragraph; I know it will be hard with the pure heaping piles of merde with which Little Joe's utterances tend to be laden, but precision is going to be counted a virtue here.

Update: I'm modifying things somewhat -- please provide a link along with your entry for verification purposes. Much appreciated.

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For Sale



Just because the jingo-all-the-way crowd is all over it doesn't mean there isn't real danger in the UAE ports deal. Pollyusa provides this link to a WaPo story that I think raises the legitimate fears a lot of people have:
Joseph King, who headed the customs agency's anti-terrorism efforts under the Treasury Department and the new Department of Homeland Security, said national security fears are well grounded.

He said a company the size of Dubai Ports World would be able to get hundreds of visas to relocate managers and other employees to the United States. Using appeals to Muslim solidarity or threats of violence, al-Qaeda operatives could force low-level managers to provide some of those visas to al-Qaeda sympathizers, said King, who for years tracked similar efforts by organized crime to infiltrate ports in New York and New Jersey. Those sympathizers could obtain legitimate driver's licenses, work permits and mortgages that could then be used by terrorist operatives.

Dubai Ports World could also offer a simple conduit for wire transfers to terrorist operatives in the Middle East. Large wire transfers from individuals would quickly attract federal scrutiny, but such transfers, buried in the dozens of wire transfers a day from Dubai Ports World's operations in the United States to the Middle East would go undetected, King said.
The article also says that the K-Street crowd have jumped in on the side of Dubai Ports World. Does anyone really think this administration is going to do due diligence once the chief thieves catch wind of a buck?

Hugh from the comments: "Due diligence in this Administration means counting the money before the bagman leaves."

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What Took You So Long



From CBS News:
Poll: Bush Ratings At All-Time Low

The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Americans are also overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush-backed deal giving a Dubai-owned company operational control over six major U.S. ports. Seven in 10 Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, say they're opposed to the agreement.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that now it turns out the Coast Guard had concerns about the ports deal, a disclosure that is no doubt troubling to a president who assured Americans there was no security risk from the deal.
They've now pissed Lou Dobbs off, watch him go apeshit on the C&L clip. And that Coast Guard thing is the kicker. Squirming out of this port mess is going to be a bitch and a half.
Mr. Bush's overall job rating has fallen to 34 percent, down from 42 percent last month. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing.

For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.

By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly --– the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq.

Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he's handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.

In a bright spot for the administration, most Americans appeared to have heard enough about Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident.

More then three in four said it was understandable that the accident had occurred and two-thirds said the media had spent too much time covering the story
Yeah yeah yeah. I don't know how they phrased those particular questions but only a nitwit would conclude that the Veep had now slipped to an 18% favorability rating based on what -- lack of personal hygiene?

We have an extraordinary window to exploit Bush's anti-popularity and shake up a few Senators with regard to the investigations into the illegal NSA wiretaps. The vote on whether or not the Intelligence Committee looks into the matter is coming up on March 7, so this Wednesday we'd like to have a Roots action for Nebraska and Maine residents to put pressure on Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe not to cave. We'll be encouraging state residents (or those with ties to the state) to write their local papers and others to call both Hagel and Snowe's offices to let their feelings be known.

So please stop by on Wednesday morning, if you know people from Nebraska or Maine please tell them to check us out and take part, and enjoy the fact that BushCo. is now quite vulnerable and we're going to do everything we can to exploit that.

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Time and Accountability



The incredible box of photos recently discovered by the Birmingham News gives an amazing view of the civil rights movement in Alabama during the 60s. The photos are both eloquent and haunting, and the decision by the paper to suppress them at the time (they thought they would be "embarrassing" to the city's white community) is something history will most certainly judge them harshly for.

Something like that could never happen now. Oh, wait, what am I saying. Over at Nieman Watchdog, Paul Pillar takes a look at the free pass given to the 9/11 Commission by the media, and wonders when journalists will begin to ask the appropriate questions:
The 9/11 Commission established as its goal the generation of enough public support to enact a reorganization of the intelligence community. Pursuit of that goal led it to produce a selective and misleading account of strategic intelligence on terrorism, obscuring the actual reasons US counterterrorist policy took the course it did prior to 9/11. The press was remarkably acquiescent in this; as Judge Richard Posner noted in his critique of the commission's work, a combination of political circumstances paralyzed criticism of the commission and led its report to be accepted unquestioningly as "holy writ." The politics of the Congressional intelligence committees have led them to delay repeatedly any public appraisal of how the administration used intelligence on Iraq (in the case of the Senate committee) or not even to attempt to address the subject (in the case of its House counterpart). The commission investigating intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction produced an otherwise useful report, but its White House provenance constrained it from exploring all the ways in which policy preferences affected the intelligence.

Vigorous and illuminating treatment by the press of similar situations in the future will require it to dig below the public rhetoric and explore the actual bases for policy decisions, which may or may not match the rhetoric and may or may not come from intelligence. It also will require going beyond the issue of "flagrant fouls" in the intelligence-policy relationship and considering the more numerous and more subtle ways in which intelligence can be politicized, both publicly and privately.
The long-lost Birmingham photos were extremely moving and quite inspirational. They document the struggle of incredibly brave people with no money who banded together to fight a powerful elite that controlled the media and did everything possible to keep their message from getting through. But time has a way of unraveling those conspiracies, and history will judge journalists who currently collaborate with power to perpetuate war with lies that go unchallenged just as harshly as it did those who thought it was a good idea to stick that box of photos in a closet some forty years ago.

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Joe Lieberman and the American Taliban



Howie Klein has today's must-read post. As former head of Reprise Records, Howie was the first-hand witness to the puritanical wrecking ball that Joe Lieberman took to the music industry through his activities with the PMRC:
People often ask me what happened and what was the big deal. Lieberman knew exactly what he was doing-- far better than the batty wives' group that preceded him-- when he insisted on ratings on CDs and it had nothing to do with helping parents supervise their children. Few people understand-- the way Lieberman did -- that in the late 80s something like 70% of all recorded music was sold in stores in malls and that malls have very stringent lease arrangements about their tenants not selling "pornography." Over the course of this controversy two of the Senate's most uptight and close-minded prigs, Sam Brownback and Lieberman, pushed for the kinds of stickers that would make it impossible for the kind of music they objected to -- like anything talking about masturbation or homosexuality, for example -- to be stocked by 70% of American retailers. The effect inside the music business was chilling-- and instantaneous. Suddenly a whole new internal bureaucracy had to be created to police every record and suddenly artists were being pressured -- sometimes overtly and sometimes less overtly -- to cave in to demands by two really reactionary fundamentalists whose values are far from mainstream. In one fell swoop Lieberman destroyed an alliance between young voters and the Democratic Party that had started with John Kennedy's election as he ham-fistedly savaged their culture for his own political ambitions.
People in the entertainment industry have long know that Lieberman is happy to curry the favor of the universal pecksniffs by smashing free speech. He is despised by both conservatives and liberals alike for being -- among other things -- a vicious homophobe, as Howie notes. His adventures in Bush kissing have just allowed the rest of the country to get a glimse of what a toxic little churl he is. Read Howie's post, it's excellent.

The antidote: Ned Lamont. You can also visit Ned's new blog.

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Monday News Round-Up




Josh Marshall has two great investigative pieces up that I wanted to be sure everyone read. The first identifies the "Pentagon official" from the MZM plea on Friday's whose son was passing details on to MZM for their contract negotiations with the DoD (via Josh's discussions with Walter Pincus). [NOTE: Oops, my error -- it was Paul Kiel, the new muckraker reporter and not Josh on this one. Thanks to reader RabbiBob for the heads up.] The second is a piece on a recent IRS political hit on an anti-DeLay group. Who says there's no revenge in politics these days? Guess you can't get away with anything any more.

Glenn has great analysis of the Specter FISA proposal.

And Laura Rozen has more dispatches from Pat Roberts hometown paper -- showing that Sen. Roberts might want to actually read his constitution and stuff.

Use birth control? You might want to think about a stockpile, just in case, if you live in a red state. FiredUpMissouri has more. (I can't help but think about Elaine and the "sponge worthy" episode of Seinfeld. Ahead of its time, that show.)

More questions on Rick Santorum's "ethics" from Attytood. Wonder if we'll ever get any answers?

Wolcott reviews "V for Vendetta" and gives it two martinis up and very dirty, in the best of ways. (Naughty boy.)

Swopa has an update on Iraq. As does Juan Cole.

Also, a story that needs wider press, they are covering depleted uranium at Skippy.

And yes, Froomkin is a gem again today, considering whither goest the lamest of ducks...and other assorted goodies -- including this gem: the WH first learned that wingnuts were pissed about the UAE deal because Dan Bartlett likes to listen to Michael Savage on the way home from work, and tuned in to the show to hear his own kind ripping the President a new one. Bet that was a fun cell phone call back to the West Wing. *snerk*

In case you missed this: the President can't ride his bike and wave hello at the same time. Makes you wonder about all those other times life threw him a curve ball, doesn't it? (Or not.)

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This Is the Best We Can Do?



Knight Ridder reports (via Kevin Drum) that:
Military interrogators posing as FBI agents at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, wrapped terrorism suspects in an Israeli flag and forced them to watch homosexual pornography under strobe lights during interrogation sessions that lasted as long as 18 hours, according to one of a batch of FBI memos released Thursday.
Who are these people? That is considered an interrogation technique? Where did they learn this -- at the frat house in college, for hell's sakes, before the faculty shut it down for hazing?

Larry Johnson has had a lot to say about this subject, including this op-ed from the LATimes. So have a lot of other former CIA and other intel officers. Would that the Bush Administration had listened to them.

I missed this somehow, and found it this morning doing a search on something else. Just wanted to bring it to everyone's attention because it is worth noting again that Gen. Miller still works at the Pentagon, with his stars intact on his collar. I'm just sayin'.

(Photo is a still from an episode of Jeremiah, a series written and produced by J. Michael Straczynski for Showtime. Joe was also responsible for B5, for the sf fans who read here. Great stuff, and exceptional story and character development.)

NOTE: Oops, forgot to move the Air America note up from the previous thread and I got an e-mail telling me that made it inconvenient to find, so here you go -- ease for our readers is, of course, our primary objective. *g*

I've been asked to be a guest on the Al Franken Show on Air America this afternoon. Sam Seder is guest hosting for Al. You can listen live to Air America at this link. I'll be on the show a little after 2 pm ET.

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Mock Me



I'm going to type this very slowly so that Byron York can comprehend it: when Patrick Fitzgerald says that whether or not Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA NOC is irrelevent to the case at bar against Scooter Libby -- he means only for the case at bar.

You know, the indictment wherein Libby was charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction. Where Valerie Wilson's job description truly has no relevence to the fact that Scooter Libby is a big liar. And a serial liar at that.

Or that he has acted as the firewall to Dick Cheney and others in the Administration, by throwing a wrench into the investigation.

From York's own article in the National Review online:
"We're trying a perjury case," Fitzgerald told Judge Reggie Walton. Even if Plame had never worked for the CIA at all, Fitzgerald continued — even if she had been simply mistaken for a CIA agent — the charges against Libby would still stand. In addition, Fitzgerald said, he does not intend to offer "any proof of actual damage" caused by the disclosure of Wilson's identity.
Could that be any more clear, in terms of exactly what Fitzgerald was saying? Could Byron York be any more deliberately disingenuous in his manipulative ride on the spin-mobile describing the proceedings?

What part of the seriousness of being charged with mutiple felonies does not adequately register with Byron York? Perjury is serious business -- I know the National Review sure thought so when Bill Clinton was facing potential charges of perjury, has that somehow changed in their minds now that a Republican is facing a jury of his peers? And what part of "there is an ongoing, continuing investigation" is so freaking difficult to understand -- or does that not sell well to your readers?

Let me explain this very carefully, as though I were speaking to someone who is thick or dull-witted: Pat Fitzgerald charged Scooter Libby with lying. He will present evidence which shows why he thinks Scooter is a liar. If, at some point, he has enough evidence to also charge Scooter with more criminal charges, then he will present evidence regarding those charges.

Prosecutors present the evidence required by the charges within the four corners of the indictment -- they don't throw in extra bits just for fun, or because pundits have their hair net in a twist. The judicial process is not a political game -- and Fitzgerald is not going to treat it as such -- so take Barbara Comstock off your speed dial, Byron, she's feeding you tripe and you oughtn't swallow it whole.

Shorter Byron York: They pay me a salary to write this crap, even though I have no real understanding of the criminal legal process.

Or, in the alternative, I know exactly how the legal process works, I just choose to write inaccurate spin instead, lying to my readers to gain political traction with the kool-aid impaired. Mock me.

NOTE: I've been asked to be a guest on the Al Franken Show on Air America this afternoon. Sam Seder is guest hosting for Al. You can listen live to Air America at this link. I'll be on the show a little after 2 pm ET.

UPDATE: From reader anon_1 in the comments:
The most interesting thing about the York piece is he admits (finally) that Plame was covert. Of course, he whines about it and tries to qualify that fact - hilariously complaining now that she wasn't "covert enough". But you know his last few columns? Where he was darkly proclaiming she probably wasn't covert? Turns out he was wrong and those columns were bullsh**. Shocker. No wonder it took him the whole weekend to write that tripe. He should of titled that column, "Okay I was wrong, so what."
Some days, I just love reading the comments here.

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Bush Policies Weaken National Guard



The NYTimes reports this morning that governors in this country are concerned about Bush Administration policies which they say are weakening the National Guard.
The National Guard, which traces its roots to the colonial militia, has a dual federal-state role. Governors normally command the Guard in their states, but Guard members deployed overseas in support of a federal mission are under the control of the president.

The governors said they would present their concerns to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday. In a preview of their message, all 50 governors signed a letter to the president opposing any cuts in the size of the National Guard.

"Unfortunately," the letter said, "when our National Guard men and women return from being deployed in foreign theaters, much of their equipment remains behind." The governors said the White House must immediately re-equip Guard units "to carry out their homeland security and domestic disaster duties."
The National Guard carries out important missions here in the States: flood rescues and clean-up, diaster relief, hurricane rescues...the list is endless, and the flood and hurricane seasons are coming up again soon. This is an enormous concern for state governments and disaster planning -- and the fact that the enormous red flags raised by Katrina led folks at the Pentagon to think cutting National Guard numbers was the right move is simply mind boggling.

Is this all politics? Not according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, which has the responsibility for providing oversight on this.
David M. Walker, the comptroller general of the United States, who heads the Government Accountability Office, said the governors had some basis for their concerns.

"The Army cannot account for over half the equipment that Army National Guard units have left overseas," Mr. Walker said. "And it has not developed replacement plans for the equipment, as Defense Department policy requires."
Yep, the Bush Administration -- coming up with new ways to fail to do its job. Sure hope a flood or a hurricane or a tornado or some other natural disaster, or even heaven forbid some terrorist attack, doesn't happen any time soon anywhere near you. There may be too little equipment for these brave folks in uniform to do their jobs.

Feeling safer? Me neither.

UPDATE: I've been asked to be a guest on the Al Franken Show on Air America this afternoon. Sam Seder is guest hosting for Al. You can listen live to Air America at this link. I'll be on the show a little after 2 pm ET.

UPDATE #2: And in case you were wondering, we aren't even close to being ready for the next hurricane season in the Gulf Coast region. Just what those folks need to hear on top of having less-than-sufficient National Guard assets, eh?

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Barbara Comstock, The Early Years



Well not so early really, May 1998. But certainly in time to be part of the Lynch Clinton party, white sheets and all. From The Hill (Nexis/Lexis):
At its heart, the fiasco over the release of tapes of Webster Hubbell's prison phone calls by Rep. Dan Burton's (R-Ind.) campaign finance probe highlights the sharp divisions that have plagued the House inquiry from the outset.

On the one hand are the political operatives like Oversight Coordinator David Bossie -- workaholic, Burton loyalist, savvy media handler, anti-Clinton zealot and 32-year-old volunteer firefighter from Burtonsville, Md.

They have often found themselves at odds with the professional investigators and trained prosecutors on the staff of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee.

The dispute pitted those who favored building a strong case in the hearing room vs. those who tried their case in the media; those whose approach was methodical vs. those who wanted a more scattershot probe; and those who sought a clear organizational structure vs. those who were more freewheeling.

Political hands, for example, had recommended releasing transcripts of all the tapes of convicted Justice Department official Webster Hubbell's conversations, committee sources said. The professionals were dead set against a general release.

In the end, a compromise was reached in which part of the transcripts were released. Ironically, it was this compromise that gave Democrats a wedge to charge that the Republicans had doctored the tapes, leading to Bossie's forced resignation last week.

While Bossie has been a source of friction between the two camps, his announced departure also seems to have inflamed some tensions.

Some aides have looked on with astonishment in the days following the forced resignation of Bossie, who has remained in his office -- talking with reporters, meeting with staff and reading files almost as if nothing had happened. On Tuesday, nearly a full week after Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) reportedly ordered his ouster, Bossie still maintained his office and had not yet moved his belongings.

Bossie loyalists have continued to assist him, despite his departure from the committee. One committee investigator and friend, Kristi Remington, even accompanied him as he visited in the studio of ABC's "This Week," where he appeared on Sunday morning's broadcast. Remington was shown on camera outside the studio holding Bossie's cellular phone and a briefing book with red tabs marking important pages.

Chief Counsel Richard Bennett, who has run the investigation since last September and has avoided being identified in either the political or professional camp, described Bossie's lingering as routine, saying there was no need for him to be rushed in packing his things.

The political aides, led by Bossie and Chief Investigative Counsel Barbara Comstock, a close ally of his, recommended the release of full transcripts of the tapes.

Meanwhile, professional investigators and prosecutors, whose position was advanced by Bennett, feared that the release of the tapes would be an abuse of the committee's power. The Privacy Act makes it a crime for executive branch officials to release such conversations to all but Congress, which exempted itself from the law.

Overruling his chief counsel and siding with the political aides, Burton ordered that the tapes be released. But in an olive branch to the professionals, the chairman acquiesced to Bennett's desire to have the tapes edited to remove conversations that would constitute an unwarranted intrusion on Hubbell's private conversations.

Bossie and Comstock assigned two committee attorneys fresh out of law school to the tape transcription task. According to witnesses, they did not use official transcription equipment that would have made their jobs easier. Committee aides acknowledge that at least two important transcription errors were made in the process.

A third -- and ultimately more damaging -- error was made in the editing process, aides acknowledge. A conversation exculpatory to first lady Hillary Clinton was also removed.


Aides say the editing was a Bossie and Comstock joint project. "Dave and Barbara were the editors of this transcript," said one source.

Neither could be reached for comment. At deadline time, Bossie had not returned a phone call and Comstock was on her way back from a trip to France.

Republican committee aides differed as to how the mistaken transcript was made. "I don't believe he did it intentionally," Bennett said in an interview. "I believe there was a good-faith effort to accurately edit the tapes."

Another who sides with the professionals said, "I have a hard time believing that this was done by accident."

The first public signs of the rift between political aides and professional investigators occurred last July when Chief Counsel John Rowley resigned, causing three others to leave as well. In his letter to Burton explaining his action, Rowley, a former assistant U.S. attorney, cited Bossie's "unrelenting self-promoting actions."

People close to Rowley described extreme philosophical differences with Bossie, and those differences were also apparent in Bossie's relationships with other professional prosecutors and investigators.

While Rowley tried to be a methodical investigator, Bossie branched out in a hundred directions at once hoping to hit paydirt somewhere. Whereas Rowley insisted upon a firm organizational structure for the probe, Bossie liked things fluid and seemed to answer only to Burton. While Rowley was satisfied with developing a strong hearing record, Bossie worried most about having a strong media strategy, and according to numerous committee aides, constantly leaked materials to reporters.

So tied was Bossie to reporters that committee aides said he carried two cellular phones with him at all times. Though Bossie was reprimanded for leaking confidential documents early in the investigation, he has always denied leaking, even to fellow investigators who know otherwise. "He would expect for you to believe that he never talked to the press," a GOP colleague said. But "I know that both Barbara and Dave talk to the press all the time."

When Dick Bennett arrived in September, many expected to see a change. "Bennett clearly thought, 'I'm in control now,'" said a friend. Quickly, though, he found his power diminished by the drive, institutional knowledge, and political access of Bossie and Comstock. "I think Bennett in the end has succumbed to Bossie," the friend said.

"The people who are in charge of this committee are Dave Bossie and Barbara Comstock -- period," lamented one Republican aide. "Dick Bennett is at best a figurehead of some kind. Almost immediately, Dick Bennett learned that Dan Burton would take sides with Bossie, always. To see a former U.S. attorney who's 50-something years old kowtow to a 32-year-old man who's fireman, that hurts."

Bennett friend Bob Rohrbaugh downplayed any rifts, saying he did not see any while he served as former senior investigative counsel for the committee. "I'm sure the whole matter with Mr. Rowley . . . left a bad taste in people's mouths," he said. But when he came on board in September with Bennett, "I didn't see really the tensions that I expected to see."

Others like Charles Little, a seasoned investigator for the IRS who joined the committee last July, saw the relentless self-promotion of which Rowley warned. He left the committee last fall after only several months. "I knew it wasn't going anywhere," he said.

"Ninety percent of the staff doesn't have a clue as to how to conduct an investigation," he complained. "Ninety percent."

Little said he received a stack of paper when he first arrived and asked committee aides for an overview of the evidence that they were pursuing. Instead of depositions and documents, the papers consisted primarily of press clippings.

"The committee totally operates by the spin placed by the papers the day before," he said. "They reacted within 24 hours of any press article."

"There's no plan," confirmed one remaining committee aide. "I have to underscore that. There's no plan."

Professional investigators also complain that political aides have siphoned off committee talent and resources on projects that do not always have a clear connection to the investigation of campaign finance abuses, such as to assemble feminist viewpoints of alleged sexual harassment in the White House and to catalog all statements critical of the White House by former presidential adviser Dick Morris.

Most committee investigators interviewed said they believe that, despite momentary lapses, the overall investigation has been well-run and highly professional. But they also have to confront lingering doubts even among Republican investigators, one of whom confided this week, "I'm ashamed to be part of something that's so unprofessional."
So basically they've hired the dirtiest, most rat-fucking crook they can find to be in charge of Scooter's loot and PR because really, who else is better suited for the job.

She's no doubt providing the benefit of the insights she got while being at the DoJ when they were investigating Scooter to Scooter. And her first official on-the-job hit was challenging Fitzgerald's whole investigation as lawless and unethical. That takes some set of stones.

(Update: marky reminds us that this creative tape editing by GOP operatives was all the rage back in the day.)

Tomorrow night: Barbara flogs the War on Terra for fun and profit.

Meanwhile, I was checking out our ActBlue page and I just thought I'd give a bit of a rundown of the totals to date:

Ciro Rodriguez

$24,726 Eschaton
$18,572 Firedoglake
$16,605 General Netroots Page

Ned Lamont

$14,211 General Netroots Page
 $5,848 Eschaton
 $5,348 Firedoglake

And that, quoth Paris Hilton, is hot.

Update: Mike Stark, onen of our Roots radio advisors, is putting together a little radio action for tomorrow. Should be a hoot.

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Scrubbing



Back in the days when newspapers and magazines were printed on paper once something was committed to ink that was pretty much it, you had to live with it. And while I do look quite fetching in my tin foil hat I generally like to save it for special occasions, but there's something unexplained and a little disturbing going on with internet news scrubbing.

We've seen quite a few instances of it recently and it usually has to do with explosive comments that are unfavorable to the narrative being disseminated by the administration (and quite often the Vice President):

. Josh Marshall noticed that it happened in a Washington Post article referring to a conversation on Air Force II:
On July 12, the day Cheney and Libby flew together from Norfolk, the vice president instructed his aide to alert reporters of an attack launched that morning on Wilson's credibility by Fleischer, according to a well-placed source. (WaPo, October 30 2005)
. The comments about Sherrifs being turned away from the Armstrong ranch were removed from the CBS online site:
CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer reports Texas authorities are complaining that the Secret Service barred them from speaking to Cheney after the incident. (CBSnews.com, February 13, 2006)
. Katharine Armstrong's references to alcohol being served on the day Cheney shot the old man in the face were scrubbed from the MSNBC site:
"There may be a beer or two in there," she said, "but remember not everyone in the party was shooting." (MSNBC, February 15, 2006)
. Now a comment Swopa made note of in a WaPo article about the bombing of the Golden Mosque has been deleted:
In Samarra, witnesses said that Interior Ministry commandos and Iraqi police were cordoning the shrine before the explosions took place. (WaPo, February 23, 2006)
CBS PublicEye actually did address what happened to their Cheney article and on its own would seem like a plausible explanation, but these are just a few examples of what appears to be a consistent motif in the mainstream online press. Not to go all 1984, but who is it that's sitting around reading all this stuff, suddenly deciding that these phrases are not okay, then calling up and twisting arms 'til they're taken down?

Bloggers change stuff in their posts all the time, usually as a result of people showing up and pointing out errors. But the presumption is that by the time a story goes up on the washingtonpost.com it's already been approved by the editors and it's not like they're seeing it for the first time online. It's also customary to make a correction note when a major change is made as the CBS Public Eye article noted. That's not happening.

I'm sure there's a partial explanation in the fact that now that things can be changed there is going to be pressure exerted on reporters to do so. But how are we to know that these comments are erroneous and not merely unflattering and/or inconvenient if nobody takes pains to explain that?

I don't know how or why this is happening but it seems to be occurring with some frequency. It would be nice to hear an explanation.

(thanks to reader David F.)

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What is This Strange Thing You Call "FISA?"



Glenn Greenwald takes a look at Specter's new draft legislation to address warrantless NSA wiretapping and it is predictably ugly:
It does indeed go far beyond simply bringing the NSA program within the purview of the FISA court. What it does is authorize the entire warrantless eavesdropping program itself by directing the FISA court to approve of it every 45 days provided some extremely permissive criteria are met, and in the process, allows eavesdropping without case-by-case warrants. In other words, as Marty points out, it renders legal the lawless NSA program and simply requires the FISA court to rubber-stamp its approval for the program every 45 days.

Nothing in the legislation grants immunity to the Administration for prior lawbreaking, nor would it preclude the legislation Specter said he intended to introduce of requring the FISA court to adjudicate the legality of the program. Clearly, though -- as several commenters in the thread after this post speculated -- Specter's intent seems to be to create an illusion of FISA court oversight over this program while handing the Administraiton legal cover for its previously illegal behavior.
We'll try to have some kind of Roots project action in Specter's back yard soon. If you've got a blog that covers local Pennsylvania politics and would like to take the lead on this like Josh from Thoughts From Kansas did for the Kansas project, please email me, we really want to work through local people on this.

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Rita Cosby, Right Where She Belongs



In the middle of the freak show, that is, and not not on "cable news." Speaking about the Democrats on Hardball:
Talk about a wacky thing. They're going after the, quote, hoodlum vote. I mean that, I think, is very racist. Clearly they are going after the African-American vote.
This isn't news any more, it's way past political propaganda and devolved into tabloid TV. Where did they unearth this tacky, ignorant ding dong anyway? She sounds like she's been gargling on O'Beire's 60 Grit (no doubt the wellspring of her political acumen) and dresses like a cocktail waitress from the bowling alley. When she did her special on porn my dog threw up in my shoe.

MSNBC needs to pack her off to Aruba. She can come back on the air when she actually finds Natalie Holloway.

(special thanks to TBogg who went dumpster diving for the photo. It would be easier to kill the smell of week-old cat piss.)

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And From the Department of Lunacy...



Talk about taking those lemons and trying your damndest to make some lemonade, eh? The above screen grab is from Fox News on Friday. I found it at Opinio Juris, and had to share it with everyone here. Lunacy, indeed.

Crooks and Liars has some video of Bill Kristol on today's Fox News Sunday, wherein he says, flat out, that the United States has not made a serious effort in Iraq for the last 3 years. Well, isn't that nice to know? ThinkProgress has the transcript. Just a warning -- it's infuriating.

Oh, and according to Kristol, this is all Rummy's fault. Is that a bus I hear rumbling along in the distance?

ThinkProgress also has an excerpt from This Week, wherein George Will flat out says that Iraq is already in civil war.
ZAKARIA: It was a very bad week for iraq. The fundamental problem here remains the original one, which is when people don’t have a sense of security because there were not enough American troops, they will revert to their script, their tribal loyalty, the Sunni and Shiite. This happens in every society. That is what is happening, a pervasive sense of insecurity has made them search for security in the things they can find, which is their sectarian identities. But the fact that a few hundred people died — and it is a terrible tragedy — it does not necessarily mean we’re on the brink of civil war. India goes through sectarian violence from time to time. Nigeria does —

STEPHANOPOULOS: What does civil war look like?

WILL: This. This is a civil war.
Should we start calling this the Poppy Bush Rebellion at this point -- wherein the Old Man and his pals try to shake some sense into Junior? Or is this simply what Buckley is trying to do in his opinion article -- distance the Conservative and Republican brands from the mess that is the Bush Administration before they are irretrievably tarred? (We had a great conversation about this throughout the comments threads yesterday, btw.)

Or maybe, just maybe, has reality begun to intrude on the neocon fantasy island -- to the point that those on the kool-aid fringes are no longer willing to partake? No freaking clue. Would that reality had intruded well before we made the mess in the first place...but it is far too late to be thinking along those lines, isn't it?

Swopa and Juan Cole have a lot more on where things are and are likely to go in Iraq, including Juan's report that Sistani is now forming a militia.

As if that isn't depressing enough, our prison at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan is apparently a Gitmo II. Great work, Gen. Miller, great work. Afghanistan, Gitmo and Iraq -- it's truly the torture tri-fecta for that guy, isn't it?

Lovely that Miller's still got a job at the Pentagon, and still gets to polish all those stars on his collar. Especially since it's only been lower level folks that have had to take responsibility for any of the actions unbecoming our military personnel -- heaven forbid the man giving all those nasty orders be held accountable or anything.

Oh, and for those who were asking earlier, I can't find any news on Jill Carroll, either, other than this latest wire report that there is no news. They haven't heard from her captors in a couple of weeks, but they are still hoping. Let's hold onto that hope along with them.

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Winds of Change



Sometimes, you just have to reaffirm your faith that some hope exists. Somewhere. Somehow. And that education can, indeed, make a dent in some of the hatred and violence and division that seems to be multiplying across the globe these days.

Today, the NYTimes has an exceptionally written piece about a former Taliban spokesperson who is now attending classes at Yale. It is more of a human interest story than any sort of solution-oriented political and social commentary, but it is a good read nonetheless, and although long, I recommend it with a fresh pot of coffee if you have the time this morning.
In 1989, the Soviets withdrew in defeat from Afghanistan. Mohammad Fazal Hashemi, weary of holy-warrior politics and hypocrisy, opened a shoe shop on the outskirts of Quetta. Shortly before the end of the school year, he told his 10-year-old son that his school days were over — he needed Rahmatullah to mind the store while he worshipped at the mosque.

"Why didn't your older brothers help out?" I asked.

"That's a good question," Rahmatullah said. He was silent for a while, as if 16 years later the blow were still fresh. "Those were the best years of my life," he said at last. "When I dropped out that day, I was crying all the time. I thought I would never see school again. We were in a constant economic crisis, moving from one house to another."

At the shop he cleaned windows, brushed the shoes and battled the dust. To guard the stock against thieves during the night, his younger brother, Asadullah, would lock Rahmatullah inside behind a steel shutter. There was no electricity. He read the Persian poets Sa'di Shirazi and Rumi by candlelight, and the Pashtun Shakespeare, Rahman Baba: "An ignorant man is like a corpse."
To understand what this one man had in his own heart as a child, and still has with everything he has seen and done, is such a gift. This is an article worth the read, for all its contradictions and questions.

The news is often filled with images and articles and snippets from "Afghanistan" or "Iraq" as if they are nations filled with single-minded people who fit some sort of caricature of what we think they ought to be. But we forget, at our peril, that these are nations filled with individual human beings -- who live, eat, work, play and dream, just as we do. And whose culture and intellectual underpinnings run deeply through all of Western civilization.

In our hubris, we too often forget. And this omission and this failure to broaden our understanding, to learn the lessons that were hard earned in history, this is what has brought us to this point today. And why we are all fearful of the headlines to come over the next few weeks.

But we must continue to work on our understanding. To value individual lights, to help them move toward their dreams -- for it has been that lack which has led far too many toward the darkness, toward violence and hatred and death.

Right after 9/11, I searched for some understanding -- I had the education in terms of the geopolitical concerns and the economic pressures and the ideological fight, but I had little to no real understanding of Afghanistan. I picked up a travel book, "An Unexpected Light" by a fellow named Jason Elliot, which I highly recommend as a good read and a peek into Afghan culture.

One of my fears in all of this is that the constant concern for the violence and safety considerations would cause us to lose sight of individual issues. One of those which has always been important to me is that of women's rights. Afghan women in particular have had to endure so much, and there is still such a long way to go.

Amnesty International issued a report last May which details some of the issues involved for women in the region. With Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban pals still running around the Afghan/Pakistani mountain region, there isn't a whole lot of security or stability to point toward there being a better environment for women there any time soon.

Isobel Coleman (in Foreign Affairs) presents some of the questions (and perhaps some ideas for answers) on how we move the women's rights issue forward in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in other nations in the region where women need our support. She talks about the issue in terms of the new environment in Iraq -- but I think some of her thoughts might translate to Afghanistan as well.

I keep thinking back to Colin Powell's "we break it, we own it" warning before we went into Iraq. With so many things going wrong, so many broken pieces, what I'd like to think is that there is some measure of discussion on solutions. While the headlines keep getting more and more bleak, there has to be some hope. Somewhere.

Because the children who live in Afghanistan and Iraq and everywhere else in the world where strife is a daily form of existence go to bed just like my little girl...and dream their dreams.

And I cannot bear to live in a world where we do not consider all those children's dreams to be important. Every single one of them.

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