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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Late-Nite FDL: C-Team To the Rescue

I was going to post last night about Unrequited Bush Virgin K-Lo's threnody at the NRO about the sacking of Kato's book, but alas Jim Brady shared precious moments with Hugh Hewitt and it had to wait 'til tonight. All's the better, because in the meantime a superior wit -- SZ from World o'Crap -- took her pen to it:
The whole "sacking" is a shame. Women Who Make the World Worse should incite a constructive debate.
That's why the publisher put such a constructive image on the cover on this tome.


Anyway, Kathryn Jean seems to think that the way it should work is that Kate writes a mean-spirited and partisan book, and her publisher puts an inflammatory cover and title on it -- and then people who might be offended by the book buy copies of it, read it thoughtfully, and then engage in a reasoned and mannered discussion of how they are making the world worse.
Of course, we didn't really need the admission [that the Amazon reviewers haven't all read Kate's book]; the lead customer review on Amazon for a few days now -- besides citing "her frequent attacks against the television show, 'Sex in the City,'"” (good luck finding them in the book -- they aren'’t in there)
So, the photo of Carrie Bradshaw on the cover was just a case of "bait and switch"? I think everyone who actually bought a copy should join in a class action suit against Kate's publisher!
--— says:
As much as I enjoyed this book, I can't give it more than a single star because it has a fatal flaw. It promotes the most destructive myth of all, the existence of lesbianism. Mrs. O'Beirne discusses it throughout the book as if it is something that is real. She doesn't seem to be able to understand that women can't have sex with each other.
There'’s not a single mention of lesbians in the book. That reviewer'’s got his own vast-right-wing-conspiracy book fantasy going on.
Yes, General J.C. Christian does have his own conspiracies going on, but he would wrestle any man who claims that he's part of the unhinged Left (he wouldn't wrestle K.Lo, but that's because she's a woman, and it's not seemly for men to do that kind of thing with members of the weaker sex). Clearly, Kathryn has not done her research, or she wouldn't be making cracks about the General's fantasies about lesbians, since everyone knows that the General is NOT turned on by the idea of women having sex.
Sorry for the crap typing, I'm near apopolexy over K-Lo-s review of The General. I'm thinking she didn't quite get it.

My prayers tonight will include a request that K-Lo do a full reading of the General's entire work, because the world will, indeed, be a better place for it. I hear she is quite tight with the Big Man (in platonicly platnoic sense) and I'm hoping he'll put in a good word.

They did a huge buy yesterday to try and prop the book up but it didn't work, it continues to tank. According to K-Lo, the publisher is shitting themselves over the whole thing. That would be a mighty big spanner recently just chucked into the middle of their tidy little right-wing-think-tank-subsidized book scam.

Cue the pearl clutching.


Li'l Debbie Still Doesn't Get It

She speaks:
I wrote that he gave campaign money to both parties and their members of Congress. He didn't. I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.
No. What you should have said was that although Abramoff's victims, the Indian tribes, gave money to Democrats it was much less than they did before Abramoff appeared on the scene and there is no indication that there was anything quid-pro-quo about it. Unlike the Republicans, who are up to their eyeballs in shit over this. To say anything else provides improper context and implies that legitimate contributions and illegal influence peddling are one, which they most certainly are not.
To all of those who wanted me fired, I'm afraid you're out of luck. I have a contract. For the next two years, I will continue to speak my mind
Thanks for making our job easy. You hang in there, li'l gal. Now that you've got a big fat target on yer back, we'll be right here swinging for the fences until you get it right.

The rest of it is just more hilarity as big media dinosaurs discover trolls. They are just not going to enjoy the bumpy ride into interconnectivity and the 21st century, are they? That one-way communication thing was really working for them.

Update: pseudonymous in nc puts it more succinctly:
As I just wrote to her, in slightly more polite terms: that's not your fucking job. Debbie, you're not an op-ed columnist, or on the editorial board. Your job title is Ombudsman.

Debbie still thinks she's a bureau chief or a newsroom boss, and if she continues to 'speak her mind' for the next two years, she's going to have a very, very rough time.

It's Peter Principle Alert: she has indeed been promoted to her level of incompetence.


Mr. Brady, Meet Mr. Troll

Regardless of whether I wind up going to DC or not, the question of what an appropriate public commenting policy is for a news organization like the is an interesting one. It's quite different than one that we would implement here, for instance, where we're running a community and regulars can pretty much say whatever they want but we have a low tolerance for trolls trying to disrupt it.

There's a good post up at the Bubblegeneration about the mistakes made by the in managing the situation, but it also goes to highlight something I think they were completely unaware of -- there was value in leveraging the situation that they totally blew:
Let me simplify some of these thoughts to crystallize some further key points:

1) Newspapers need commenters (read: connected consumers) more than commenters need newspapers. The simple economics of attention scarcity dictate this. The same equation holds true across consumer industries (esp media).

2) That is, you have to leverage and co-opt your readers, audience, etc, before your competitors do. Competing for their attention is a zero-sum game.

3) The big problem with the Post's move is that it's a barrier to learning: it stops it from learning how to leverage connected consumption - which is exactly the force that's hypercommoditizing media. Learning to leverage the edge is a kind of judo. But if you're not in the ring, by definition, you can't learn how to play.

4) Imagine a Post that did the opposite: highlighted in big letters on it's front page the raging discussion, actively driving attention to it.

Would the result probably have been a flame war? Sure. Flame wars mean your market, community, network, is working.

Would the Post have learned a lot more about how to leverage the edge? Absolutely.
As I've said before, I think that the has made some very smart decisions with regard to its online presence. So in light of Jim Brady's comments over at Jay Rosen's yesterday and the 42 comments they chose to delete from the blog, what would do you as their "consumers" believe should constitute a productive commenting policy?


The Post Relents

Shocked, shocked they are to learn about the existence of trolls. But it really only took three words:
The deluge, which overwhelmed the Web site's screening efforts, began after Howell wrote in a column published Sunday that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff "had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." That is incorrect.
I also got an invitation this morning from the to go to DC on Tuesday to discuss "a live online roundtable conversation on the issue of what the rules are/should be for major media in accepting free form comments, or indeed whether there should be rules at all."

So I emailed them back and asked who they were inviting -- Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen.

Digby sees it now:
That's not a bad panel. Glenn can explain why the left are objectively pro-terrorist. Jarvis can talk about the "new paradigm." Rosen can talk blog theory and referee. And you can explain to Brady that in the blogging world, only bedwetter right wingers don't have comments.
It would be remarkably inconvenient to go -- hard to wrangle dog-sitters on short notice -- but I thought I would throw it out there.

Do you think I should go?


Team Libby Tries a Stall Tactic

Scooter Libby's defense counsel team, along with Prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald's team, has filed a joint discovery status report with the Federal judge overseeing the Libby matter in advance of their scheduled February 3 hearing in the matter. The motions and filings give a glimpse of defense strategy and, as has been previously reported, it looks like Team Libby will be trying a scattershot approach, highlighting journalists and lapses in reporting and potential other Administration leakers to take the heat off Scooter.

As Jeralyn reports, the Libby segment of the filings highlights a number of disputes over discovery (or material turned over to defense counsel by prosecutors).
6. It is the position of the defense, based on the government’s written and oral responses to our requests, that significant disagreements exist between the parties with respect to the nature and scope of the government’s obligations under Rule 16 and Brady. These disagreements include, but are not limited to, the following:

A. Whether information in the government’s possession about reporters’ knowledge concerning Valerie Wilson’s employment by the CIA from sources other than Mr. Libby is material to the preparation of the defense. The defendant has already prepared and expects to file a motion to compel disclosure of such information on or before February 3, 2006.

B. Whether the prosecution must obtain and produce documents and information within the possession, custody or control of Executive Branch agencies other than the Office of Special Counsel and the FBI. The defense is preparing, and intends to file on or before February 3, a motion concerning this issue.

C. Whether classified information about Mr. Libby’s participation in meetings, briefings and discussions concerning pressing national security matters between May 6, 2003 and March 24, 2004 is material to the preparation of the defense. The defense is preparing, and intends to file on or before February 3, a motion concerning this issue.

D. Whether information concerning Mrs. Wilson’s status as a CIA employee, and the allegedly classified nature of that employment, is material to the preparation of the defense. The government intends to address this issue with the Court and the defense pursuant to CIPA.
This sort of dispute is not uncommon, and often serves as a means of stalling the trial schedule because defense counsel uses a lack of discovery in some area as a rationale for argument to the judge that a trial cannot proceed. Jeralyn has a great discussion of the areas of dispute at TalkLeft.

Additionally, David Johnston reports in the NYTimes:
Defense lawyers said the disagreements centered on issues like whether prosecutors were obliged to turn over to the defense information from the government about how much reporters knew of the employment of Valerie Wilson, the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the case, from sources other than Mr. Libby.

Other disagreements cited by defense lawyers focused on whether the prosecution had to turn over to Mr. Libby's lawyers information about Ms. Wilson's status as a covert employee at the C.I.A.

Another dispute, the defense lawyers said, involves whether prosecutors must relinquish documents in the government's possession about classified briefings and meetings that Mr. Libby attended from May 2003 to March 2004.
Johnston has had good sources within the Libby defense team in past articles, so I would suspect that he's getting this from someone who has been in on strategy sessions.

I agree with Jeralyn that this is likely to be a defense tactic -- the reaching beyond the scope of the indictment for a sort of "kitchen sink" defense. In my previous incarnation as criminal defense counsel, I occasionally found it useful to use this stall with a particularly annoying client case so long as it was a low-level offense, because occasionally you can wear down a prosecutor into giving you a better plea deal just to make an annoying defendant go away. This only works, though, when you have a client who is very low level and not at all important for a further piece of a broader case.

For Libby, I would think the long-term annoyance bid will only serve to dig in Fitzgerald's resolve. I know my response as a prosecutor in a complex case when I had opposing counsel trying a tap dance tactic was to say to myself, "Be as annoying as you like, but I'm going to nail your client's ass with both barrels." Fitz strikes me as the sort of prosecutor who doesn't take well to manipulative tactics, but it's too early in all of this to tell that for sure. We know that Fitzgerald doesn't appreciate liars, and I can't imagine manipulation sits well with him, either.

The practical aspect of this is that any trial date will be set much further down the road. Because it is a joint filing, the judge is likely to give it much wider latitude in terms of any request for extension of time. Additionally, there are clearly going to be a number of subpoenas for additional journalist and Administration personnel testimony and records, and then a flurry of motions to quash those subpoenas, so in practical terms, an early trial just isn't likely to happen.

In this case, the government has already turned over more than 10,150 classified and unclassified documents to Libby's lawyers, according to the AP and the NYTimes. That is a lot of interview and deposition transcripts and a huge paper trail of government documents that have already been handed over by Fitz. And, because Fitz has been playing this set of charges close to the vest, is likely to only be a small portion of the whole of the case.

Carole Leonnig of the WaPo has some additional spin from the Libby defense team, regarding potential defense tactics -- and looking specifically at a two-pronged approach: (1) independently investigating journalists involved in the case for methods and practices issues (basically challenging credibility because, jeepers, Judy Miller is a paragon of First Amendment virtue and all and...well, you know where this is going) and (2) the Booby Woodward "I've got a secret pal" defense of pointing the finger at others in the Administration who talked, too. (That means you, Karl.)

On the one hand, it's a flurry of motions and other crap to wade through for Fitz. On the other hand, though, it could get ugly if Team Libby and Team Bushie start to have clashing legal objectives and Scooter decides that saving his own ass is more important than covering Karl and Company's. If it can happen in the mob, it can sure as hell happen with this bunch -- you think this Administration has it all over la casa nostra in terms of loyalty and responsibility to the team first, and self last? Please. Blood brothers this crew ain't -- especially if they could sell one another out to keep their greedy little individual holds on power.

(Come clean, Scooter. You'll feel better if you do. Plant the knife in Karl's back for a change...he's due. Wouldn't you rather be the planter instead of the plant-ee this time?)

I can't imagine the Administration would be happy with an "everybody was doing it" defense from Scooter's team, so tactically the "blame others in the Administration" prong is intriguing. Since Loose Lips Luskin had his pie hole shut by Fitz, there just haven't been as many juicy leaks for all of us to chew on, and this filing and the upcoming hearing offer a good window into what has been going on behind the scenes.

Fitz and his team have likely been very busy with a flurry of continual motions requests from Team Libby. Not at all uncommon. And given the magnitude of some of Fitz's previous cases, not something he hasn't seen any number of times before now.

What it has meant, though, is that Karl has been left twisting -- perhaps just as a casualty of a busy schedule, perhaps on purpose. And all the anonymous folks close to Karl who couldn't help but call up Jim VandeHei at the WaPo to drop some hints in Rover's favor aside, the anonymous aide who said that had Fitz been done with Rove he would have cleared him already is right. You don't keep a full plate unless you have to as a prosecutor because you have too much other work to get done in the public's interest. That Rove is still twisting is a pretty good indication that Fitz isn't done with him yet. In my opinion, everyone ought to hold on -- Karl's on slow roasting at the moment.

Ought to be an interesting few days until February 3rd, wouldn't you say?

(Graphics love to On the Fritz.)


Frist Tells Truth (How's That for a Header?)

Bill Frist says that Judge Samuel Alito is the "worst nightmare of liberal Democrats." Well, that isn't exactly the confirmation strategy message, now is it?
Asked about the senator's remark, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said that Alito "is a thoughtful mainstream conservative jurist who is well respected by his peers, by Democrats and Republicans alike."
Sucks when the Senate Majority leaders slips up and tells his Republican party activist cronies the truth...and then one of them goes straight to a reporter to talk about it, now doesn't it? Or perhaps this was a way for Frist to get in a premature gloat...and wouldn't it be funny if the Dems took that gloat and turned it into a reason to filibuster or something. Oh yeah. Hilarious.

So sad that Frist had to send his spokesman out to backpedal for him. Wonder how much of an earful he's gotten from Rove this morning, considering how choreographed the Alito nomination has been thus far in terms of non-statement statements. Now, if the Democrats can only take this ball and run with it all weekend on the talking head shows...


Still No News

Was catching up on Jill Carroll news this morning, and this nugget caught my eye:
Muslims from Baghdad to Paris urged the militants to free the 28-year-old woman and end Iraq's wave of kidnappings. More than 240 foreigners have been taken captive and at least 39 killed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein....

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more Iraqis have been abducted either by insurgents or gangs seeking ransoms.

According to figures compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, there was an average of two kidnappings a day of Iraqis in Baghdad in January 2004 and 10 a day in December of that year. Last month, the think tank said kidnappings of Iraqis averaged 30 a day nationwide.
And here I thought that the meaning of "last throes" was that it would be getting less dangerous -- not exponentially more dangerous. Silly me.

Increasing to a current 30 kidnappings a day? Think about that for a second...and then contemplate how any economy, any government, can operate under those conditions, and contemplate what is going to occur when we pull out. Every once in a while, the enormity of the problems in Iraq hits me smack in the head, and all of those missed opportunities along the way -- starting with our ill-planned entry into the country in the first place -- just pisses me off all over again.

I wish I had some solution to propose, but I don't. The cumulative bad decisions, from the initial decision to invade without adequate planning for sustaining the peace afterward to the looting of the ministry buildings because of too little security in place after the invasion all the way through the failure to secure the oil pipelines from sabotage -- I'm not even sure where to start first. Don't even get me started on the rationale for going to war in the first place or the hyping of nonexistent evidence.

It's so maddening when you think about the enormity of the problems that we have amplified by our piss poor decisions, over and over, and I have enormous sympathy and admiration for the men and women in uniform who have been busting their butts carrying out orders despite the conditions, the obstacles, and everything else, but still find time to help build a new school or play soccer with the local kids or open a pediatric clinic with donated medicines from friends and family back home.

It's such an amazing testimony to the character of a lot of these folks that they have been finding time in their off hours to do the work that the State Department plans would have had us doing from the start. Had they not been thrown out by the Preznit and Rummy, I mean. But coulda, woulda, shoulda doesn't fix the problems there, and frankly I can't even imagine where to start at this point. Wish I had a solution, but this morning I'm just trying not to bang my head repeatedly on my keyboard.

With regard to Jill Carroll, an outpouring of support for her release has come from Muslim clerics worldwide, including from some prominant clerics in the Middle East and in Iraq itself. Negotiators have heard little from Carroll's captors since two twenty-second video segments of her were shown on Tuesday and Thursday, but they are hoping that the pressure from clerics and prominant Iraqi Sunni politicians will help to secure her release.

I'm keeping Jill Carroll in my thoughts and prayers. She is doing a dangerous and vital job, along with all those other journalists who risk their lives and safety every day to report independently in Iraq and elsewhere. Here's hoping she is returned safely to her family soon.


Friday, January 20, 2006

FDL Late Nite: What Say You About Greater Blogistan's Newest Celebrity?

Jim Brady assumes the position with Hugh Hewitt:
HH: Jim Brady, you had a meltdown...A) congrats on going online today and answering your critics, and congrats for coming here. Explain to the audience what happened yesterday.

JB: This actually all started on Sunday when the ombudsman of the newsman, Deborah Howell wrote a column about the Abramoff scandal, and in that column, made a reference to both Republicans and Democrats being the beneficiary of Abramoff donations. And what she should have said, and what she put up on the blog on Thursday was that he directed...he did direct contributions to Democrats, which is undeniable. There's lot of documents that show that. But when she wrote it in the column, it was phrased in a way that made it seem like he was personally giving money to the Democrats, of which there isn't proof of that at this point. So on Thursday, she put a clarification up, and we had already been getting hundreds and hundreds of comments about her column, and they were very, very nasty, using words that I didn't even know existed. And after she put the clarification up yesterday, it just got worse and worse, to the point where we just felt like we were not able to keep...we were unable to get rid of the offensive comments faster than they were coming. And so we decided, you know, to take the comments in that blog down for a little while, just to let things cool off, and for us, to look at how do we make sure this doesn't happen in the future. Do we get technology that makes it easier to weed these out? Or do we just pour more human beings on the case? So...

HH: And this has become quite a controversy on the blogosphere for some...not for me. I think you did the right thing. But some are accusing you of censorship, for example, correct?

JB: Yeah, they are. I mean, and censorship is a pretty strong word to use. I mean, we have ways to send letters to the editor via snail mail, via e-mail. We still have 25 blogs on the site that allow comments. There's plenty of way for users to register their unhappiness with Deborah's, or anybody else's column, and those things all remain open. So I think we have 12 avenues to reach the newspaper, and we took one of them down, and I don't think that really goes toward censorship.

HH: The central fact which seemed to upset the critics of the column, is that the Post has reported that between 1999 and 2004, Jack Abramoff's Indian clients contributed to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats, tens of millions of dollars to both, correct?

JB: Correct.

HH: And so, why do people object to your publishing that fact?

JB: Well, they...they objected originally to the fact that she...that when she stated it, she made it seem as if he personally was donating to Democrats. But what she meant to say was that he was directing money to Democrats, which as I said, is beyond any kind of argument. So I'm not sure why her clarification yesterday didn't solve the problem, but it didn't. It just inflamed things even more. There's a real...this group that has been going after Deborah all week, I don't think, would have been happy no matter what she said. But she was clear about that, we put links up that have documents that show that, and it just wasn't enough. And like I said, the fact that they weren't happy about the column, if that's all they were saying, would have been fine. But it went way beyond that, and they were calling her...

HH: Jim Brady, who do you think these people are? Because I run into them in this business, but we have a six second delay, goodness knows why. Who do you think they are? Why are they so fundamentally unhappy?

JB: Well, I mean in this case, there was very much a concerted effort to...when Deborah wrote her column on Sunday, a lot of the bloggers on the left side of the spectrum really...they got together and they said let's go to the Post blog and tell them how unhappy we are with this column.

HH: Was there an epicenter of that effort?

JB: It looked like it was in a bunch of different blogs. I mean, it certainly was getting a lot of attention on Atrios and Daily Kos, and some other places. So I mean there did seem to know, it wasn't a campaign in the sense of a really organized campaign, but it was kind of a grass roots campaign to...

HH: Well, you've just named the two central islands in the fever swamps. So I'm not surprised. When you write your online edition today, I think it goes to basic human decency. Are you saying protecting Deborah Howell? Or are you saying...I hope you're saying both, you're protecting your readers from it as well?

JB: Yeah, and we've been clear about that, that we're not going to tolerate anybody being called these names, whether they're employees of the Washington Post or other commentors. And this was more directed at Deborah than it was at other commentors. But that was certainly part of the equation, and it's know, as I said in the discussion, if you can't make your point without calling people some of the names they were being called, then you don't have a point in my opinion.

HH: Now, I have never allowed comments simply because of the threat of libel, of the threat of trademark copyright. But I also want to protect my audience against abusers' vulgar...the sadistic and nutty people. How is the Post going to cope with the fact that on both ends of the political spectrum, there's one percent which are nutters?

JB: Yeah. I don't know how you protect from that, other than to build the best system you can to try to make it difficult for them to creat trouble. And I think one of the things we've learned in the last couple of days is we haven't made it difficult enough. We had profanity filters that weren't working, and some other issues.

HH: Jim Brady, how committed is the Post, and to blogging?

JB: Very committed.

(my emphasis)
For someone who's mapping out a future in the blogosphere, he's certainly bellying up to the right side of the bar. That was a major slime of Kos and Atrios that Brady played right along with. Cocktail weenies at the PJM party in his future.

Update: Wilson46201, from the comments: "Maybe it is time to send poor quasi-literate Jim Brady an unabridged dictionary? Or one of those "a word a day" desk calendars? Or a reprint from Readers Digest of "it pays to increase your word-power" columns? I do find it difficult to believe that anybody with a past career of sports journalism would have been sheltered from the widest spectrum of adult profanities...

Update: Atrios blisters:
Let's get this straight. The Right hates honest journalism. Has run a 35 year campaign against it. Hugh Hewitt does almost nothing but blast regularly what he considers to be "the liberal media" which, of course, includes the Washington Post. All we, on the left, wanted was a straightforward correction and admission of error and a genuine attempt to correct the record.

So, who does Jim Brady run to for sympathy? Hugh Hewitt. Factual errors throughout.

There is nothing within my power that I could possibly do to keep this thing alive and spreading like the WaPo has done. I cannot, cannot thank them enough.

(thanks to reader Sean C. for the tip)

Update III: Jukeboxgrad at DailyKos has a post up with the 42 deleted comments. Go over and judge their trollishness for yourself and give the diary a recommend while you're at it, it would be great for people to see this on the "fever swamp" of DailyKos.

(graphic courtesy Jesus' General, who has much more.)


Even the Techies Aren't Buying It, Jim

I find it interesting that this comes the day after NYT columnist David Pogue responded to a rash of personal attacks and other stupidity with his rules for internet hate mail []. Pogue dealt with the idiots with humor. The Washington Post had to close down a blog.


The Post could employ some automatic filters to weed out some of the worst offenders, and thus it seems hard to believe their claim that it was requiring two full-time moderators to keep out the blog comments that violated their standards. Either those were some pretty heavy standards that made context such an issue that automated filtering was ineffective, or their web guys are pretty inept.
There may have been some profanity and unacceptable insults in those comments. It takes me 30-45 seconds each morning and afternoon to clear similar out of my inbox, so I am not sure what the big problem was for the site managers.
And then, there was no question that the comments, the vast majority of comments were not uncivil or needed moderation. Frankly, I got nastier comments for insulting Chicago-style hot dogs and had a raging debate over mac and cheese which would have curled Brady's hair. I won't even mention what happens when I discuss Manchester United.


If you check the posts, available from Democratic Underground, few crossed any lines of civil comment, but most were quite angry.

It would also do your argument some good to admit what we both know: journalists have very thin skins and hate criticism. It would be easy to see that Howell was unsettled by the vehemence of the comments directed her way and unnerved by them. Because criticism in journalism has been restricted to the occasional letter, not daily parusing of stories and constant e-mail contact. In short, the public is holding journalists accountable in real time, and that is a shock for many reporters and editors.
I think Steve's right, the real-time nature of blogging -- where your shit is out there in the open before you have time to catch your breath, and you have absolutely no control over it -- probably shocked them. I'm not unsympathetic, but their steadfast refusal to correct Howell's mistake is till abject wankery.

Then Greg at the Talent Show wonders, once again, where the Dems are:
The whole reason lefty-bloggers have been pointing out this media misinformation over and over again is to defend you guys. Since you beltway chickenshits have proven yourselves unwilling to defend your own views, we've put ourselves in the unenviable position of going up against media giants whose primary concern is avoiding the ire of conservative watchdog groups. And now that the inevitable pushback is occurring, the conventional wisdom is coalescing around the lie that bloggers and their readers are ignorant, vindictive trolls who add nothing to polite discourse. Here we are trying to pick up the slack for your ineffective war rooms and this is the thanks we get? We've got your back, why can't you get ours?
The other day on a conference call Harry Reid acknowledged that people like Chris Matthews and Tim Russert were abject water carriers for the GOP, and said that blogs were the only way to get the Democrats' message out there "unfiltered." I was happy to see John Kerry backing up the blogger smackdown of Matthews, because people like Lou Dobbs are going to continue to spew disinformation on a regular basis until we let them know it is not okay to say Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats when he didn't, it is not okay to compare Michael Moore to Osama bin Laden, and there are consequences.


Someone Won't Be Seeing "Syriana" Any Time Soon

Jack Abramoff's daddy is a wee bit upset at George Clooney for making jokes about his sainted son at the Golden Globes. To wit:
The movie star joked, "Who would name their kid 'Jack' with 'off' at the end? No wonder the guy's screwed up," which infuriated Abramoff's father, who was watching the awards show at home.

Frank Abramoff has since fired off a letter to Clooney via newspaper the Palm Springs Desert Sun, accusing the actor of being "glib and ridiculous."

Abramoff's father says, "Your glib and ridiculous attack on my son, Jack, coupled with your obscene query as to the choice his mother and I made in naming him brought shame and dishonor on you and your profession.

"What drove you to this lapse in lucidity, I can never know, but you need to know that your words were deeply hurtful to many innocent and decent people.

"Are you the heir to the dignity and greatness of Hollywood's past, or, more likely, a portent to a depressing and horrific future?"
Daddy Abramoff certainly has a selective news filter:
The Choctaws were one of a half-dozen Indian tribes who gave more than $80 million to Abramoff between 2000 and 2003. Not only were the tribes paying Abramoff's lobbying firm, they were also paying Abramoff's secret outside partner, Michael Scanlon, who charged the Indians millions of dollars for public relations work and split the money with Abramoff. Scanlon's public relations fees did not have to be disclosed under lobbying rules, thus making it possible for the magnitude of their take from the tribes to be kept from public view. The two dubbed their scheme "Gimme Five," according to e-mails in which Abramoff disparaged their clients as "morons" and "troglodytes."
Someone needs to hip Pops to the fact that his son is a crook because it sounds like unless it shows up on ET he'll never know that Jackie's in a spot of trouble.


Combating Zombie Journalism

The Deborah Howell/WaPo fiasco seems to be blowing up outside the blogosphere, which is great. We have a lot of these conversations amongst ourselves and we think other people must be hearing them too and they aren't.

This will probably be the first time many a TV talking head like Zombies-Ate-My-Brain Kyra Phillips will even hear that Abramoff did not give money to Democrats (Crooks & Liars has the video). If she hadn't heard it before this morning she probably has now. Not that it will make any difference to her, but still, it's the first step in disciplining the press. The talking heads may not give a rat's ass about the truth, but nobody is going to want to be the next Deborah Howell.

I should take a moment to thank Jay Rosen for his help in all of this. I didn't mention it before because I didn't know how Jay would feel about it but he wrote about it himself this morning -- it was Jay who initially suggested to me that the focus of everyone's comments should be the "Maryland Moment" on the That was a real watershed event for the blogosphere, and there has been much communication back-and-forth between bloggers this week about using it as a model during discussions about working together to effect change.

We quite inadvertently repeated it in the attempt to bury the book of WINO (Woman In Name Only -- someone emailed that to me and I just love it) Kate O'Beirne. The creation of a public record that cannot be erased, that the subject will have to come to terms with, is an incredibly powerful tool. They're now replicating it with great success on the Chris Matthews blog (18,500 unique visitors last time I checked) for much the same reasons -- it's time to discipline these people out of the sloppy repetition of GOP memes like comparing Michael Moore to Osama Bin Laden (which Joe Scarborough evidently just did).

(As a side note -- John Kerry just joined our blogswarm of Matthews with a post over at DailyKos. I am so happy to see this happening, and good on Peter Daou for spearheading it. We are learning. And rather quickly)

So all hail Jay for his help. If I was hard on him this morning it was because I don't think there is any larger consciousness that what Brady is talking about is TROLLS -- Kyra Phillips is essentially going into fits of hyperanxiety because of fucking TROLLS. I'm not surprised they've never heard of them, but to dismiss all participants in this discussion just because they've never heard of the problem before is not only absurd, it leaves them playing a role in a larger constantly repeating cycle that Atrios sketched out so clearly today:
[T]his whole situation is really reminiscent of the 2004 Adam Nagourney incident. Rough version: Nagourney wrote an article which passed on Bush administration peddled horseshit about how after the handover to the transitional government in Iraq U.S. casualties had declined. But they didn't. No matter how one squinted at the data, casualties hadn't declined. There was no way to slice it and dice it to make it so. Many angry exchanges between people and Nagourney and the useless Okrent. Many denials from them. Finally half-assed correction and an Okrent column which revealed the name and hometown of a rather "uncivil" reader because of his dastardly incivility.
We've been down this road before. It's quite sad that the learning curve of many is just getting around to an awareness of the existence of fucking trolls, and it's quite beyond comprehension that they designed their whole system without ever taking them into account. I don't buy it for a minute as I've said before, but at the very least it makes them look like a bunch of diddling idiots who become tools for the GOP disinformation machine.

And I'd like to thank them for fucking the whole thing up so dramatically that the message is reaching a larger audience. Arianna called to say she's being interviewed by the NYT over it, so this is not going away. The cautionary tale of Deborah Howell is being told to an ever larger audience, and that message will be carried no matter how much they want to jump up and down screaming about how uncouth we all are.

Deborah Howell lied. Jack Abramoff did not give money to any Democrats. It's in black and white and it is not going away.


Blame the Barbarians

The push is on to take the heat off the Post and their kneepads journalism in the Jack Abramoff matter by placing the blame on their unruly readers.

Jim VandeHei, this morning:
It is sad that a group of very mean-spirited readers can not engage in thoughtful, mature and provocative dialogue about stories and controversies. Instead, they revert to cowardly personal attacks on people without the courage to attach their names. As a reporter, I am a staunch supporter of free speech and welcome criticism. But readers should keep their comments to the issues and not make personal attacks that add nothing but empty anger to the debate.
Get it? No distinction between legitimate criticism over the Post's refusal to correct a blatant innacuracy and the inflamed rhetoric employed by a few. We are all trolls.

To his credit, Jim Brady takes reader questions this morning in an online chat. But if anyone thought it was going to be anything other than a "blame the barbarians" hatchet job, the first question -- chosen, one would assume, out of many, was this:
Cache Valley, Utah: if ya can't stand the heat...

Publish partisan lies and not expect a backlash? Get real pal!!!

Fire that f***ing b**** forthwith and all's well that ends well, no? Otherwise, batten down the hatches, pal, 'cause there's a storm a brewin' and it's gonna be nasty.

Respectfully yours.
This supposedly sets the table to educate people as to what the poor Post has been having to deal with. Brady says as much:
But I wanted to start with it to make a point that this was the kind of stuff we spent all week cleaning out of our message boards (except there were no asterisks). And when the amount of time it took to ferret these kind of posts out exceeded the bandwidth we could devote to it, we decided to close commenting on down
Maybe I'm more tech illiterate than I thought, but how exactly does "time" exceed bandwidth? Any number of boards have reproduced both the Howell and Maryland Moments comments with no "bandwidth" issues. Does Brady even know what "bandwidth" is?

(Note: I am told "bandwidth" is an "old white guy term" for "resources." I guess it's obvious I'm not a member of that particular club.)

When people commented that nothing in the comments on the board (that are still preserved by Salon and DU) seemed remarkably out of line, Brady said:
You were reading the ones that were posted live. There were a few hundred others that were removed the site altogether, and those would not be on the page you're looking at.
So we assume that the ones that did make it onto the board were, at some point, okay with the Post's policies, because the ones that weren't were removed. At what point did the policy change?

Brady then ducks the question of Howell altogether on the chat saying it is not his place, but he addresses it this morning with Jay Rosen:
I'’ll be honest, I don'’t think the tone would have been much different if she'’d posted something on Monday or Tuesday. The basic issue here is that she didn'’t deliver the exact message her critics wanted her to. (my emphasis)
I have a great amount of respect for Jay Rosen who questions Brady at length this morning about his decision to shut the comments section down, but he concludes that Brady is someone we should be supporting, not criticizing, and takes me to task for saying Brady's excuses are not the least bit convincing:
Meanwhile, flaming the friends of transparency isn'’t helping anyone. Get it, Jane?
What I get is that listening to Brady and Rosen discuss the management of a large public board is like listening to two white, middle-aged Exxon executives discuss "what's really wrong with the negroes." As if this was some huge, unforseeable problem.

Anyone who sets up a public board like this in a highly partisan world with really active readers and doesn't make plans for troll management in their system architecture is a full-on, four-flushing idiot. If you do have a problem (and I maintain it is nothing that considering the number of comments involved couldn't be handled in five minutes hovering over a delete key, we do it every day) it is utterly disingenuous to lay off blame for your own shortcomings by blackening the readership. And given the fact that everyone at the WaPo now seems to be toeing this line, I do not think I am overboard in suggesting that this is part of some larger management decision that refuses to take responsibility for a very big problem.

Nobody at the Post has taken responsibility for Howell's comments. Nobody has printed a retraction, and the wagons have been circled by the likes of Howie Kurtz and Jim VandeHei, who now excuses Howell's comments as "a somewhat inartful way of making the point that Abramoff's clients, at his direction, gave money to members of both parties."

This attempt to "blame the trolls" and shift the dialog over onto a remedial internet issue that people like Kos, Atrios, Americablog, Digby, MyDD, Crooks & Liars and other deal with every day of the week quite seamlessly is bullshit. It is a cheap excuse to divert the focus from the real problem -- Deborah Howell fucked up. She said something that was blatantly untrue. The Post management have refused to print a correction. Peoplejustifiableyable angry and to let them hijack the dialog over to "impolite commentary" is an attempt to get themselves off the hook. And it won't work.

The Maryland Moment blog is still open for comment.

Update: Reader Bionic just emailed this:
I just heard Kira Phillips on CNN talk about the WaPo blog comment turning off incident. It was pretty onesided - hate speech and personal attacks cited as the reason they turned it off and then she said that the reason people were angry was that Howell had said Abramoff had sent money to both Repubs and Dems. Then she said and I quote "Well that's true."
This is the way this is one going to go down if we let it go unanswered.

Update 2:Atrios reports that this is the actual Phillips quote:
What set off readers was a Sunday column by Post ombudsman Deborah Howell who wrote that corrupt former lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. That's true but most of the money went to Republicans.
This is an incredible opportunity to speak up and both educate the media and dicipline them into telling the truth on this one very important point. We've got their attention now. Let's not waste it.


Tapped Out

Now that the DoJ has filed its response to the NSA/FISA legal challenges -- and the Administration has moved into a full-on admission that we're spying without warrants and we're gonna keep on keeping on -- aren't we all really asking ourselves: "What next?"

Salon has a great article today (subscription req'd or watch a video for a day pass) from Walter Shapiro, detailing how the behind-the-scenes political consultants have been telling Democrats that the NSA issue is DOA.
Midway through the meal, I innocently asked how the "Big Brother is listening" issue would play in November. Judging from his pained reaction, I might as well have announced that Barack Obama was resigning from the Senate to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. With exasperation dripping from his voice, my companion said, "The whole thing plays to the Republican caricature of Democrats -- that we're weak on defense and weak on security." To underscore his concerns about shrill attacks on Bush, the Democratic operative forwarded to me later that afternoon an e-mail petition from, which had been inspired by Al Gore's fire-breathing Martin Luther King Day speech excoriating the president's contempt for legal procedures.

A series of conversations with Democratic pollsters and image makers found them obsessed with similar fears that left-wing overreaction to the wiretapping issue would allow George W. Bush and the congressional Republicans to wiggle off the hook on other vulnerabilities. The collective refrain from these party insiders sounded something like this: Why are we so obsessed with the privacy of people who are phoning al-Qaida when Democrats should be screaming about corruption, Iraq, gas prices and the prescription-drug mess?
Discussion like this makes me want to tear my hair out, because what consultants are really saying is "the hell with doing what is right or protecting the Constitution, it doesn't play well in Peoria."

Here's my response: maybe what hasn't played well up to now is the way you have been describing it. Maybe what we need is a better message.

You know, something like, "The President has already authorized illegal wiretapping. What's to stop him from authorizing house searches without a warrant, compiling a list of all firearms owners without any legal justification and other infringements on what you ought to be able to do as an American citizen?"

Sometimes, governing is about doing what is right, even if it requires you to do a lot of hard work that you wouldn't otherwise have to do -- and which might cut into your fundraising time. Sometimes calling the President on his illegal actions is the right thing to do.

Sometimes, what you really want in your elected representative is for them to grow a spine and actually represent your interests and the interests of the whole nation. Let's call the President's actions what they are: an illegal power grab. And then let's hold him accountable for it.

(Major graphics love to The Propaganda Remix Project. There are some incredibly well done graphics from these folks, many of which are available for sale in poster and other form. Please support their continued freedom of speech and artwork by shopping, if you so desire -- wish this sort of thing had been around when I was in college, my dorm room would have been much more fun.)


Contempt of Congress

Yesterday's NYTimes had an op-ed from Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann entitled "If You Give a Congressman a Cookie." I've been struggling to put my thoughts on this article into words, because the pervasive corruption and contempt of the GOP leadership for the rules of Congress and the wider ethical norms of this country is truly breathtaking in its moral decay and scope.

If you didn't get a chance to read the op-ed, you should. It details a number of issues that the authors, both long-time policy and legislative analysts at AEI (Ornstein) and The Brookings Institution (Mann), see in this Congress and in the political culture of today's Washington, through the lens of how much more corrupt and grasping this particular incarnation of Congress has been under the Republican leadership -- how much further the GOP has taken the notion of "we can do whatever the hell we want, because we are the law."

That the authors chose a title cribbed from the children's book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" is apt -- I read this book often to my daughter at bedtime, and the tale of the greedy little mouse who continually wants more and more and more, never satisfied with gaining his latest objective, is a perfect analogy for the KStreet project and its adherents.

We hear over and over from corporate media stories, political consultants and talking heads on teevee that the American public thinks that all politicians are corrupt, that this issue hurts Democrats as much as Republicans, yadda, yadda, yadda. Well, I say that is bunk. Perhaps the public doesn't quite understand the lengths to which the GOP has gone to bilk cash or trips or whatever out of whatever source was willing to dispense it, and what favors were given in return for that largesse. And I say that the media and the Democratic party establishment have been horrid at educating the public on this issue.

But I would bet good money that what will make the public sit up and take notice is just how this "I'll scratch your bank account, if you'll scratch mine." behavior has impacted their own lives. And if you think that Jack Abramoff and all his KStreet pals and all those Republican budget earmarks can't take their toll, think again.

Today's NYTimes has another doozy of an op-ed, this time from Paul Krugman, that is blocked behind the TimesSelect wall -- so no link, but I am going to excerpt a bit here because it goes hand in hand with the Ornstein and Mann piece from yesterday.
Thomas Scully was a hospital industry lobbyist before President Bush appointed him to run Medicare. In that job, Mr. Scully famously threatened to fire his chief actuary if he told Congress the truth about cost projections for the Medicare drug program.

Mr. Scully had good reasons not to let anything stand in the way of the drug bill. He had received a special ethics waiver from his superiors allowing him to negotiate for future jobs with lobbying and investment firms - firms that had a strong financial stake in the form of the bill - while still in public office. He left public service, if that's what it was, almost as soon as the bill was passed, and is once again a lobbyist, now for drug companies.

Meanwhile, Representative Billy Tauzin, the bill's point man on Capitol Hill, quickly left Congress once the bill was passed to become president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the powerful drug industry lobby.

Surely both men's decisions while in office were influenced by the desire to please their potential future employers. And that undue influence explains why the drug legislation is such a mess.

The most important problem with the drug bill is that it doesn't offer direct coverage from Medicare. Instead, people must sign up with private plans offered by insurance companies.

This has three bad effects. First, the elderly face wildly confusing choices. Second, costs are high, because the bill creates an extra, unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. Finally, the fragmentation into private plans prevents Medicare from using bulk purchasing to reduce drug prices.
This tale of Mr. Scully and Mr. Tauzin is a small illustration of a much, much larger problem. I've been hitting this Medicare problem hard because it is one that I see play itself out every day here in West Virginia, where I've seen elderly folks at the drugstore struggle to piece together change from their coin purse to finish paying for drugs that they can ill afford, where heating prices have skyrocketed this winter at a time when the Administration has cut subsidies for people on the margins, and where my family has tried to help out folks at our local Mission and other shelter options because there are elderly people who have to face a choice every day between their prescriptions and eating, and that is just, plain wrong in a nation of such wealth and prosperity for so many at the highest end of income.

I don't say this to make myself out to be some saint, because I'm not -- there is a lot more than I ought to be doing, frankly. But because it is illustrative of what I've heard from hundreds of readers, friends and family who work with the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, the disabled, the abused and neglected. You know, the people who can't afford to hire Jack Abramoff to buy their way into a piece of the legislative pie bonanza.

We have a Congress and an Executive Branch, run by a Republican majority gone amok, drunk on power and dispensing legislative largesse on their contributors at every turn. A legislature which hands out pork and plums to clients of their KStreet pals, in order to secure employment for chosen order to secure more access to cash for campaigns and for travel boondoggles. (Notice how the interests of the American public don't really factor in there.) We have a legislative ethics process that has essentially stalled or disappeared altogether (via Ornstein and Mann):
Indeed, Mr. Hastert showed open contempt for the House ethics process last year when he fired the Republican chairman of the ethics committee and ousted two Republican members after they did their duty and reprimanded Tom DeLay for three violations of standards. Mr. Hastert then appointed two members to the committee who had given large sums to the DeLay legal defense fund - when the main matter pending before the committee involved Representative DeLay.

The same attitude produced the K Street Project, in which the new Republican majority, led by Mr. DeLay, used its governmental power to demand that trade associations and lobbying groups fire Democratic lobbyists and hire designated Republicans, who could then be expected to show their gratitude by contributing generously to party candidates and committees. Jack Abramoff was one of the progenitors of that initiative.
The Republican party controls both the legislative and executive branches of government. They are responsible for how business is currently being conducted. They should be held accountable for the mess that government has become.

How have Republicans been able to get away with this for the last five years and more? Because the Democrats must have a coherent opposition response to this mess and, thus far, that hasn't emerged. When you add in a complicit media, you have no check or balance but the judicial branch -- and legal balancing takes a long time to weight itself out. As Krugman said today:
The more important effect of the K Street project is that it allows the party machine to offer lavish personal rewards to the faithful. For a congressman, toeing the line on legislation brought free meals in Jack Abramoff's restaurant, invitations to his sky box, golf trips to Scotland, cushy jobs for family members and a lavish salary after leaving office. The same kinds of rewards are there for loyal members of the administration, especially given the Bush administration's practice of appointing lobbyists to key positions.

I don't want to overstate Mr. Abramoff's role: although he was an important player in this system, he wasn't the only one. In particular, he doesn't seem to have been involved in the Medicare drug deal. It's interesting, though, that Scott McClellan has announced that the White House, contrary to earlier promises, won't provide any specific information about contacts between Mr. Abramoff and staff members.

So I have a question for my colleagues in the news media: Why isn't the decision by the White House to stonewall on the largest corruption scandal since Warren Harding considered major news?
Why is it that this has not been bigger news? Well, take a long look at all the reporting Jane has been doing on just the lack of objective fact reporting from the WaPo, and you begin to see a big part of the problem. How we begin to fix this is a very big question indeed. And one to which I've been devoting a lot of thought over the last few weeks. The 2006 elections are a huge part of the puzzle -- and I've been trying to come up with better strategies and ideas to pass along because we simply cannot afford to half-ass our way through under these circumstances. I would really appreciate thoughts on this -- we have some great commenters on message and key issues, and this is the time for all of us to kick into high gear.

I've been working with my local Democratic party apparatus, trying to help with local organization and message issues. Think about the impact we could all have if everyone did the same. That's a whole lot of energy being brought to bear at once and, frankly, a lot of local Dem groups could use a boost in energy.

I look forward to everyone's thoughts on this. And I'm hoping we can continue this conversation over a series of issue pieces I'm working up for the next few weeks. Don't know about you all, but I'm sick of my country being gamed by a bunch of greedy thugs -- it's time that our representatives actually worked for our interests for a change instead of lining their own pockets and trying to get re-elected.

I'm sick of having contempt of Congress. And I'm betting there are a whole lot of readers out there who feel the same way.

UPDATE: Speaking of Congress, Rep. Conyers is spearheading some hearings today on the NSA issue that are currently being shown on C-Span. Current testimony being given by James Bamford and Bruce Fein, among others. Should make for some interesting discussion -- too bad Conyers had to put this together with other Dems because Republicans in Congress haven't yet picked up the ball to do the oversight that is their job. You know, what we pay them to do.

UPDATE #2: Changed to reflect that Ornstein works for the American Enterprise Institute and Mann works for Brookings. Had forgotten to add in AEI in the initial posting. My apologies.

UPDATE #3: C-Span now covering a panel on corruption and politics, including Thomas Mann.


Early Exit? Dems Speak Against Alito

Sens. Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy have spoken out against the Alito nomination -- outside the Senate floor, because Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) has declared that there will be no floor speeches on the nomination within the Senate prior to any vote. Nice. Now the Republicans want to restrict freedom of speech within the halls of government as well as at Presidential Town Hall Meetings. (For text of Sen. Kennedy's speech, read here. Sen. Leahy's speech can be found here.)

Kos has been running a whip count on the Alito nomination, so go check and see where your Senators are leaning. I called both my Senators yesterday to lodge my thoughts against Judge Alito's nomination, and staff in Sen. Byrd's and Sen. Rockefeller's offices were very polite and very receptive. If you call, be polite but firm, and give facts as to why you oppose the nomination -- informed voters are carry more weight with staffers.

The vote in or out of the Judiciary Committee is scheduled for the 24th of January.

UPDATE: The WaPo's Jim Brady will be online at noon ET to discuss the comments issue and Deborah Howell. You can submit your questions early at this link. Ought to be..erm...interesting, to say the least.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Workin' the Refs

Pretty amazing day today with much muscle flexing on the left. I think the push last night for Murtha to give the SOTU address last night forced the hands of the Democrats who tried to pre-empt the move by putting Kaine out there so quickly, but many people are still speaking out in favor of the idea. Here's hoping the Democrats hear that, too, and make some kind of move to show that the party is prepared to circle the wagons around Murtha in the face of GOP swift boating.

I'd also like to thank Amazon for keeping the one star ratings on Kate O'Beirne's book as long as they did (and I like to think it was some self-respecting woman at Amazon who was responsible for holding out against extreme publisher/right wing pressure for so long, and if so, hon, you are my hero). It was long enough, however, to put the book in the shitter where it belongs and as we promised, the bitch is dead meat.

I do have one question, though. Tlaloc did an analysis of the comments that were deleted (which were emailed to me, no link) and found that 64.9% of all reviewers who posted a 5 only ever reviewed Kate's book, while 65.5% of all reviewers who posted a 1 only ever reviewed Kate'’s book. He concludes: "Looks like both sides are equally guilty of trying to game the reviews on Amazon which makes the conservative protests about how unfair that is a big old batch of hypocrisy." Why weren't those 5-star ratings deleted as well, if Amazon really wants to be fair?

And Deborah Howell -- well, what can you say. New York Times public editor Byron Calame does not feel the need to wipe out all the comments on his reader forum, but then again he does a good job -- one that entails working on behalf of the readers and not being afraid to criticize the Times' staff when need be, rather than acting as an apologist and a conduit for disinformation. The WaPo can blame their readership from here to Christmas and it won't change the fact that Deborah Howell just plain sucks at what she does.

Matt Stoller has a good article up on the upcoming battle to unseat Lieberman which will, to my mind, be the true test of the internet community's ability to hang together and force real change within the Democratic party. There are a lot of risks involved -- the firepower that may line up against us, as Matt says, could be formidable -- but after Kos called fatwah on Holy Joe last year the "unseat Lieberman" impulse took on a life of its own. It looks like Lamont may have exercised some rather good judgment in chosing his campaign staff according to Matt, so I'd really like to hear your thoughts on his post.

We'll keep trying to figure this out together, one night at a time.


Et Tu, Li'l Debbie

They've obviously got kool-aid running in the water fountains at the WaPo. Nice to know not everyone is drinking it.


Tweety Outta Control

Crooks and Liars has the video up of Matthews getting quite overheated today. He likes to get cozy with ol' Sandpaper Snatch Kate O'Beirne who calls Michael Schaivo a murderer and thinks torture is nifty, but Michael Moore he compares to Osama Bin Laden.

As Peter Daou says:
"Bin Laden sounds like Clint Eastwood" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Ron Silver" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Rush Limbaugh" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Bill O'Reilly"-- "Bin Laden sounds like Mel Gibson" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Bruce Willis" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Michelle Malkin"... Imagine the outrage on the right and in the press (but I repeat myself) if a major media figure spat out those words. Well, on Hardball, Chris Matthews just blurted out that Bin Laden sounds like Michael Moore. Simple: Matthews should apologize. On the air. This has NOTHING to do with Michael Moore and everything to do with how far media figures can go slandering the left. And last I checked, Michael Moore didn't massacre thousands of innocent Americans.
Feel free to express your sympathies regarding Matthews' exceptional bad taste here.

Update: John Aravosis reminds us that Chris was on Imus this morning retelling unfunny gay jokes by "the wonderful Michael Savage." Working overtime to earn his Bush biscuits he is.

Update: John Kerry's not too happy about it either, has this to say:
"You'd think the only focus tonight would be on destroying Osama Bin Laden, not comparing him to an American who opposes the war whether you like him or not. You want a real debate that America needs? Here goes: If the administration had done the job right in Tora Bora we might not be having discussions on Hardball about a new Bin Laden tape. How dare Scott McClellan tell America that this Administration puts terrorists out of business when had they put Osama Bin Laden out of business in Afghanistan when our troops wanted to, we wouldn't have to hear this barbarian's voice on tape. That's what we should be talking about in America.
Update: Digby:
Come on. This is ridiculous. This man is either working overtime to kiss right wing ass for some reason or he's been paid off to do full-on GOP character assasination. This is exactly what the Republicans did to Tom Daschle and Max Cleland.

This comparing liberals to Osama bin laden has been going on long enough. We don't want to subjugate women and kill gays. We don't want to turn free societies into theocracies and inflict a particular religious doctine on everyone. We don't see geopoliticc through the lens of religious revelation and compel others to act upon it. It is beyond absurd to keep comparing liberals, any of us, to religious fundamentalist terrorists.
(graphic by Berkeley)


Lil' Debbie Can't Handle The Truth

I respect Jim Brady, he's made a series of smart decisions for the Washington Post online that have really given the paper an amazing internet presence, far ahead of the New York Times or anyone else. But the reason he gave for shutting off the comments to Deborah Howell's blog is just absurd:
Among the things that we knew would be part of that discussion would be the news and opinion coming from the pages of The Washington Post and We knew a lot of that discussion would be critical in nature. And we were fine with that. Great journalism companies need feedback from readers to stay sharp.

But there are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech. Because a significant number of folks who have posted in this blog have refused to follow any of those relatively simple rules, we've decided not to allow comments for the time being.
I'm assuming WaPo management just imperiously decided they didn't want to have a public record of opposition to the embarrassment that is Deborah Howell, and Brady was forced to make some excuse for shutting it down.

Because they had what, a thousand comments? For fuck sake we get that many comments on any given day and have to write our posts and manage the blog and pick images and do our own HTML coding and Redd and I manage to remove offensive comments quite easily, it takes less than a second. The excuse offered by Brady is so lame as to be comical, and anyone who runs a board open to the public just knows that people who show up are often not going to play by the "rules" you set up, in fact they'll break them just because you have them. To assume otherwise is incredibly naive, and using that as an excuse to silence your critics makes a complete farce of everything Brady has achieved in his online division so far.

But hey, I guess we should be thanking Jim for throwing gasoline on the fire. This complete disregard for the commentary their readers took care to craft, that they hoped to wipe from the face of the planet, has done more than I ever could keep the outrage white hot and active.

Update: Atrios said it well:
The Post said they wanted a discourse, but part of the reason people were rather angry was that Howell was not providing honest discourse.

So, they blame their readers. Nice job!
It also seems to be the topic of the day over at Romanesco, who quote Public Eye, the CBS News blog:
Nevertheless, the discussion was hardly one that could be considered respectful, or even civil. This unfortunate chain of events leaves everyone in the new media landscape in worse position.
Yes it's all our fault. Tisk-tisk. Oh those uncouth bloggers.

We are making some noise and it is being heard. The echo of these actions throughout the media world is thundering. Superb job.

Update II: Via AmericaBlog, we find our good friends at DU have taken a snapshot of the deleted Howell page. Better luck next time, WaPo.

Update III: Editor & Publisher is now trying to contact Jim Brady who is not responding.


1,590 Days and Counting...

1,590 days and counting.

That's how long it has been since 9/11/2001 -- and how long it has been since the Bush Administration said they would kill capture Osama Bin Laden. And...erm...they haven't exactly done that, have they? New tape from Osama today. No capture. Not feeling any safer under this Preznit's watch, that's for sure.

Maybe Bushie should actually start doing his job, instead of just talking about it all the time. Actions speak louder than words. So do inactions.

Results matter. I'm just sayin'.

(Photo via The Poorman.)


WaPo You've Outdone Yourself

UPDATE: The Washington Post has now turned off the comments on Deborah Howell's blog. The Maryland Moment blog is still functional however, so I recommend leaving comments here.

Lil' Debbie is now a a blogger:
I've heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties. A better way to have said it would be that Abramoff "directed" contributions to both parties.
And a better way to have said this would've been "I fucked up, what I said was an outright fabrication based on the fact that I was writing about something I did not understand. I accepted too quickly what the Heritage Foundation told me and I did not do my job as a journalist to check the facts."
Lobbyists, seeking influence in Congress, often advise clients on campaign contributions.
Debbie here assumes everyone is as slow on the uptake as she is and needs a nice, patronizing lecture about this amazing discovery she seems to have just now made. You guys at the WaPo did a great job hiring an obudsman. Really top-drawer.
While Abramoff, a Republican, gave personal contributions only to Republicans, he directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.
I don't expect Lil' Debbie to understand this so she can just stop reading now and go back to speed dialing the Hudson Institute for her next column, but those with some interest in spin, publicity and the generation of public image probably don't need to be told that all this dancing around about "Democrats took contributions from Abramoff clients too" is an intentional attempt to mislead the public into making a conclusion that is patently false. The implication is that the Indian Tribes are as dirty as Abramoff, something the Post has so far failed to do. They go straight to the White House for their take on any story which they then dutifully transcribe, and have neglected in any meaningful way to go to the Indian tribes themselves and ask for their version of events.

Somebody much more intelligent than Lil' Debbie obviously held her hand and put up some charts for her showing Democrats took money from the Indian tribes, listing Patrick Kennedy as one of the largest recipients. As they well know from their own reporting, Kennedy had a relationship with the tribes that predated the appearance of Abramoff. Do they have any evidence to support that Abramoff's "lists" were not somehow taking into account donations that the tribes themselves insisted on covering? Have they interviewed anyone at the tribes to see what their involvement was, were they the ones that demanded that Kennedy be included? We'll never know, at least not from the Post, because it clearly does not serve their purposes to ask these questions.

Somebody from the WaPo: please, please go check out Wampum. They are so far ahead of you on this one you should have the good sense to be embarrassed.

The propaganda assistance rendered to the White House and the GOP by such obfuscation is immeasurable. By pointing to carefully chosen "facts" which may be technically true (people like Kennedy did take money from the Indian tribes) without placing it in the proper context has lead to polling results that must have Ken Mehlman doing the lambada. According to the latest Diageo/Hotline Poll, a plurality of voters now do not associate Abramoff with any political party (PDF). That is just a remarkable achievement, considering everyone involved in this little wool-pulling scam -- with the exception of Lil' Debbie, of course, whom we assume is just too stupid -- knows that Abramoff was nothing but a bag man for the GOP.

If they care so much about the "facts," why don't they hit the "fact" that so far there has been no proof that any of the contributions made by the Indian tribes to Democrats were in any way illegal, or that their overall contributions to Democrats plummeted once Abramoff appeared on the scene? I guess those "facts" don't conform to the dog-whistle journalism they are clearly engaging in.

Congratulations, WaPo. You have done your job well, Bush will no doubt have a biscuit for you. And congratulations on the selection of Howell -- much like Scott McClellan, her own stupidity will now be the focus of anything she involves herself in and take the spotlight off of any larger issues she might be tasked to investigate.

Update: In the comments, David Latchaw reminds us of this Abramoff email from a Steno Sue article, no less:
"I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out."
Clearly the Indian tribes themselves had some history in directing their own money toward politicians. The notion that they were just a bunch of slack-jawed dupes being wholly "directed" by Abramoff is both demeaning and misleading.

(graphic by alysheba)


Dems Say Congress Should Not Be for Sale

Democrats launched their lobbying reform proposal yesterday, with the signing of a "Democratic Declaration of Honest Leadership and Open Government."
Surrounded by dozens of House and Senate colleagues in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, Mr. Reid and fellow Democratic leaders blamed close ties between lobbyists and majority Republicans for health care, energy and other legislation that they called too friendly to industry at the expense of the public.

"The Republicans have turned Congress into an auction house, for sale to the highest bidder," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. "You have to pay to play. That's just not right."
This is a good start. Especially when the Democratic proposal takes things several steps further than the Republicans have proposed. But there is a lot more work to do, and the message needs to get out to the whole of the American public that the Republicans are trying to pull a fast one on behalf of their big money donors and KStreet cronies -- publicly pretending to be for reform, while still cutting deals int he back room with big money interests.

The DSCC has a new ad out today regarding the Senate Republican leadership's choice for lobbying reform point man: Rick "K Street is good government" Santorum. The ad can be viewed here. It's not my favorite ad of all time, but it does make clear that Santorum isn't exactly an honest broker -- and neither is the Republican party -- so it's a start.

As for the House side of the Republican "reform" agenda, it's hypocrisy central (hat tip to FiredUpAmerica). Again. Nothing like calling for reform, while continuing to set up a clone of Team DeLay to consolidate your power base. Et tu, Blunt? Boehner? Shadegg? As Roll Call reports today (subs. req'd):
In the case of Blunt, GOP leadership aides said the most visible outside help is coming from Gregg Hartley, formerly chief of staff for Blunt’s whip operation and now a top lobbyist for Cassidy and Associates.

Blunt’s Whip office is part of the suite of rooms occupied by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on the second and third floors of the Capitol and includes Blunt’s leadership office, his communications staff and a conference room.

Several GOP sources said Hartley is often seen roaming through Blunt’s office area, meeting with the Missouri Republican or his staff, using the elevator located in the Speaker’s suite or talking with aides in the conference room.

“He’s there a ton, I can tell you that,” said a Republican aide who often is in the Speaker’s suite. “He’s still heavily involved in Blunt’s PAC stuff and fundraising.”

Another GOP insider said Hartley “has been in and out of the Capitol constantly” since the Majority Leader race began. “He just doesn’t meet with Blunt, he meets with staff.”
Oh yeah. Staff, eh -- as in the Hastert Staff, the GOP House leadership staff, Blunt's staff, or just Republican staff in general? House GOP serious about reform? Not really. Serious about pulling one over on the American public so they can continue their KStreet scam? Absolutely.

The WaPo has a review of some of the articles on the subject over the last couple of days. Yeah, I know, Howie Kurtz, but there are some decent links, including this gem from Josh Marshall at TPM and this excellent article from Hilary Rosen at HuffPo.

This is going to be a big story for a long time. Partly due to more impending indictments and plea deals (You can just feel them coming down the pike, can't you? I know I can.) but also because you have Denny Hastert tap dancing around the issue with his Mr. Magoo "I don't see any corruption prior to this month" act. (And that is not a pretty picture, is it?) The White House continues to stall on answering any Abramoff questions regarding Jackie Boy's contacts with members of the Administration, which only serves as fuel for the "what the hell are they hiding" fire.

At some point, all this combustible material is going to catch fire, and a whole lot of Republicans are awfully frightened right now that they'll get singed in a wide ranging swath. As bits and pieces of this story trickle out in a drip, drip, drip, we need to figure out exactly how to best use this for the 2006 campaigns.

Just saying "culture of corruption" over and over isn't enough. Practical solutions must be coupled with facts as to why the Republicans have so aggregiously and purposefully broken the rules. The KStreet project was an attempt to legitimize bribery, corruption and pay to play politics -- for Republicans and their big money friends and cronies. Period.

It's going to be a lot of hard work -- but it's worth it to kick those smarmy bastards and their KStreet crony machine back into the gutter where they belong. Let's get to work.

(Photo credit to Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via NYTimes. The color clarity in this photo is brilliant, and the fact that the Dems managed some stage set-up is pretty exciting, too.)

UPDATE: Excellent comments thus far, but I want to highlight this one from MSB: "We need to say, no scream, that they CHEATED. Then we need to explain how they did it." Agreed -- and wonder how we can build on this to move forward. I think the whole concept of the GOP cheating its way through resonates on so many levels with this particular group, both in the Administration and Congress. Any ideas?


Profiles in Cronyhood: The McClellan Brothers

Sometimes, you just have to take a moment to point out the sheer hackitude of certain members of the Administration. This morning, let's take a moment to discuss the McClellan brothers. It's two, two, two brothers working for one Administration. No cronyism here, though. Nope.

Here's Scott McClellan on torture by proxy in Syria, via ThinkProgress:
QUESTION: There are allegations that we sent people to Syria to be tortured…


QUESTION: Yes. You’ve never heard of any allegations like that?

MCCLELLAN: No, I’ve never heard that one. That’s a new one.

QUESTION: Syria? You haven’t heard that?

MCCLELLAN: That’s a new one.

QUESTION: Well, I can assure you it’s been well publicized. My question is…

MCCLELLAN: By what, bloggers?
Ooooh, new WH press strategy: if we don't like the question, we'll blame it on bloggers. Never mind the facts, the truth or the importance of the question.

Or the fact that the issue has been addressed a number of times by different news organizations, repeatedly, with no answer from the Administration. Can you say dodge and weave? I thought you could.

And are you asking yourself, "What about the other McClellan brother?" You'll recall that Medicare Plan D isn't working well? And that seniors and pharmacists and medical professionals who are trying to make sense out of the entire mess can't get a straight answer from the 1-800 hotline, even after waiting forever on hold to get to a person who is supposed to help them? Guess who is in charge of coordinating this non-helpful service (via The Plank):
I have an article about what's going on with the Medicare drug benefit--and why--coming out in this week's edition of the magazine. But one tidbit I came across in my research seems worth sharing now. It's a Government Accounting Office report, issued in December, warning that the Bush administration hadn't done enough to make sure the most medically and financially vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries could actually get their drugs.

If you do get around to reading it, make sure to check out the part where Mark McClellan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the GAO has it all wrong--the part where he insists that "CMS has established effective contingency plans to ensure that dual-eligible beneficiaries will be able to obtain comprehensive coverage and obtain necessary drugs beginning January 1, 2006."

Well, maybe not entirely effective.
Is there some sort of cronyism manual that this Administration is using? Because this is one hacktastic duo, and I can't come up with an explanation for their continued employment other than Bushie likes to hang with his cronies regardless of how ill-served the American public continues to be.

Oh, and for those who are waiting for the answer to "How many times was Jack Abramoff in the WH and what relationship did he have with this Administration?" that Scott McClellan promised to give...still waiting. Thankfully, Knight Ridder is still asking the questions, even though the WH still isn't giving any answers. Heaven forbid the American public get a glimpse of how things really work in this WH or something.

This concludes this morning's edition of Profiles in Cronyhood. We now return you to your regularly scheduled disgust for the length that this Administration will go to cover its ass, and that of its cronies and large money donors.

We'll revisit Cronies-R-Us soon, because truly it's a continuing saga with these folks, isn't it?

(Graphics love to I laughed, I cried, I spewed my coffee. Mwahaha. There's something hilarious and disturbing about this photo, but it cracks me up nonetheless.)