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Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Professionals

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

I think not.

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


Friday, December 23, 2005

Meme of Fours

From Bob Geiger...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passing the ball to … John Amato at Crooks & Liars

(photo by my good friend the late great Helmie)



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

(via Howie Klein)


Ho Ho Ho: A Christmas Chat With Jim VandeHei

Dear Jim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you and yours a happy Kwanzaa.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Victory in the War on Christmas

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

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

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

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

Lucky bastards.

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

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

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


Notes From the Crankosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then again, I read Froomkin.


Quest for Fire

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



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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

From the Juggernaut That Is Biden 2008

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

Crooks & Liars has the video.


Tilting at Windmills

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


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

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

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

Update: Swopa has more.


Top Down

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Scandal Fatigue

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

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

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

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

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


Washington Post Strikes Again

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

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

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

Richard Morin: This question makes me mad...

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

Richard Morin: Getting madder...

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

Richard Morin: Madder still...


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


On Image: Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


Monday, December 19, 2005

Yes It Is Just That Simple

Larry Johnson, on the capture of Pablo Escobar's henchman Dandeny Munoz-Mosquera:
Mosquera was grabbed thanks to a roving wiretap. I've heard the story from friends who were involved with the operation. DEA officials learned that Mosquera's mom was going to call him. They moved quickly to set up a roving wiretap. They knew he was in New York but did not know where. Mosquera took many precautions, including having the in bound call bounce around the United States. He sent a third party to answer the phone. Once certain the coast was clear Mosquera climbed out of his car. DEA agents closed in and put a major league killer in jail. He was later convicted and is serving a long sentence in a high security US penal facility. The FISA authorization was obtained subsequently.

So, President Bush is wrong. You don't have to break a law to get quick action. Not only can you catch terrorists using FISA, we have caught terrorists. The real story behind the unauthorized wiretaps authorized by President Bush probably concerns the source of the info. It appears the most likely explanation is that the Bush Administration did not want to have to tell a Federal judge that they were using information obtained from interrogations that violated the spirit and the letter of the Geneva Conventions. Instead of protecting the nation the President may be covering his derrier.
Sounds right to me.



Jonathan Alter, Newsweek:
[O]n December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president'’s desperation.

The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference.


No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story -- which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year -- because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force." But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing "all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.
Begging the press? How unseemly.

Despite the fact that Bush has been circling the wagons and allowing Rove to bask in the glory of his public presence once again of late, I've been noticing a shift in CW this week. After Scooter was indicted, wonkish DC agreed with David Corn that Fitzgerald was done and Rove had dodged the bullet. Most now seem to think that Rove will be indicted and that Luskin will have to recuse himself from the case; in fact, there are rumors Rove already has another attorney working for him (to which some attribute the competing stories about what role Viveca Novak plays in Rove's defense, although I confess I don't really understand that).

One need look no further than last night's tacky knickknack set decoration to know that Karen Hughes is BAAACK and ready to bigfoot her way onto the stage again, and by the way Karl don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

(thanks to reader zAmboni for the pic)


On Image

I've been holding this post for a couple days because I just can't figure out a way to say this without sounding like an incredibly stupid master of the obvious and digging into my Hollywood roots in a way I am ordinarily loath to do, but I spent some time on the phone with Digby this morning to clarify what I was trying to say and finally screwed up my courage so here goes.

When Hollywood (or anybody else) develops a movie no matter how complex they know at heart they are always playing with powerful emotional archtetypes and familiar, basic narratives to tug at people's heart strings and engage them in a particular drama. It is not happenstance that it is his wife Bruce Willis is trying to rescue from the exploding skyscraper and not his accountant.

The GOP really seized its current high ground after 9/11 when they were able to take advantage of national outrage and capitalize on the fact that most Americans felt that their country was under attack. Painting themselves as the Party of Men, George Bush preened in his flight suit and cod piece, called himself a "war president," and used simple, aggressive language to convince the country he was the man to preserve our security. His popularity soared.

When the village is under attack you send in the men; tales of Boadicea and Ripley notwithstanding, this is a fundamental construct of our dramatic culture that appeals to the reptilian brain and causes people to put aside rational thought that might lead them to other conclusions.

In the 2004 election John Kerry would be painted as a girlie man by the GOP, a "flip flopper," soft and feminine and flaccid and not at all capable of leading the troops into battle to defend the village. A pretty amazing PR feat considering the fact that Kerry actually was in the military, as opposed to Bush who spent his days in the Texas Air National Guard snorting coke off of some Texas stripper's rock-solid ass, but such is the power of a skillfully manipulated media. The Democrats were the party of women, and Karl Rove himself said they wanted to coddle the terrorists and give them therapy.

This was no accident either.

And the Democrats unwittingly played into this. Nobody wanted to be perceived as soft on terror, no siree, even though anybody with two IQ points knew that the reasons for going to war with Iraq had been ginned up by a bunch of crackpot imperialistic con men. Almost every Democratic leader tore at one another in a mad scramble for the center as they sought to be Tough On Terror. And it backfired. The Republicans already have that piece of emotional real estate, it is not up for grabs. The Democrats who voted for this phony war only succeeded in rubber stamping GOP bullshit.

The Joe Bidens of the world think they appear strong and manly for such stances, but they only wind up looking like battered wives who bat their eyelashes and blow kisses at the men who continue to whallop them. And when someone really stands up to the bullying Republicans like Howard Dean did when he said they were the white, Christian party and Tom DeLay belonged in jail, the thoroughly useless Bidens and Bill Richardsons and Nancy Pelosis and Barak Obamas (yes, I said it) make Republican critique superfluous as they come out and discipline him themselves.

Do they understand how bad this makes them look? They don't look centrist and reasonable, they look like a bunch of Phyllis Schlaflys beating down her own so others won't have to. I can't tell you how much that one still rankles. You don't bash your own brand you fucking morons.

The construction a counter-narrative to the highly successful GOP war drama is extremely tricky. The Republicans evolved their current brand image not only by tapping into white male rage, but by playing on very powerful strains within the American psyche. "America right or wrong" and "might makes right" and "love it or leave it" play very well with the post 9/11 public. Even though the war has turned into a fiasco, the underlying story -- of Men going off to fight to defend the village from its enemies -- is very difficult to deconstruct. And to do so, the Democrats must find an equally powerful, equally limbic emotional narrative that will trump the one that the GOP has fobbed off on the public.

To wit -- the village is on fire. It's time to come home.

Basically, the Republicans got caught in a PR trap when there turned out to be no weapons of mass destruction. They had to shift into talk about Sadaam's torture chambers, but that was quite dangerous because the American public doesn't really give a shit about stuff like that when it happens in countries like Rwanda or Sierra Leone. What they were being offered at that point was an excuse for having supported the war, because nobody in the public wants to admit that they were wrong, either. But excuses last only so long, and that's why Dick Cheney will continue to talk about ties between Al Quaeda and Sadaam every time he opens his mouth. No, he's not stupid. True or not, it offers a powerful morality play to people who want to buy into it. And he knows the other side has nothing better.

Even though Katrina and other recent events offered the Democrats the perfect opportunity to say "the village is on fire," it's still hard to put that across in a way that will not be countered by the message machine of the right as sounding negative and down on America. But the fact is the village is on fire, and people are awakening to that fact. It's time to seize the "Republicans are crooks and bullies" meme, invest in some long term strategies and become a meaningful opposition party. It's the third act, Ma's fed up because the thieves are stealing her crops and she can't feed the kids, the audience is emotionally ready for her to grab the shotgun and run 'em all off so Pa will have something to come home to.

It's incredibly hoakey but it's a quite fundamental dramatic truth and until the Democrats like Joe Biden stop licking David Brooks's boots on national TV and competing for the title of Biggest Pussyman in the Democratic Party (yes I said that too, and I mean it) there will be no effective challenge to the GOP tyranny we now live under. Russ Feingold is looking awfully strong right now for having voted against the Patriot Act. The Democrats would do well to remember that and stop reaching for Dubya's prop codpiece.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Smokin' the Good Shit

And what did our counterparts on the right have to say about the Preznit's speech tonight?

Cap'n Ed:
8:00 -- I wonder what color tie he'll be wearing? I'll be watching this on Fox ...
Glen Reynolds:
Bush went out of his way to take responsibility for the war. He repeatedly talked about "my decision to invade Iraq," even though, of course, it was also Congress's decision. He made very clear that, ultimately, this was his war, and the decisions were his. Why did he do that? Because he thinks we're winning, and he wants credit.
Many of the e-mails I'm getting tonight go something like this one:
Turn your vibrator off before you post next time.

You thought just I made all that up, didn't you?


The Preznit Speaks

Shorter GWB: "Some of you may die, but that's a sacrifice I am willing to make."

Was I the only one who thought it looked like a Stanley Motss production? I full-on expected him to end the speech with "have courage, Mom."


God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

Big brave Ralph Reed got up in front of a bunch of teenagers and told them why he took $5 million in gambling money:
"In 1999 I was building my small business, Century Strategies," Reed said in the speech.

"A friend of almost 20 years, then working at one of the most prestigious law firms in the nation, came to me and offered the opportunity to serve as a grassroots subcontractor to the firm."

"I knew the law firm had tribal clients who had their own reasons for opposing new casinos. I was assured by the law firm at the outset of the work that the funds contributed to our efforts would not derive from gambling activity," Reed said.

The speech does not address the fact that in several e-mails between Reed and Abramoff, made public by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the tribal sources of some of the money were discussed. Reed never disclosed the origin of the cash to his religious allies.

Reed pointed to the good he said his work had accomplished: "We will never know how many marriages and lives were saved, or how many children were spared the consequences of compulsive gambling."

But the fact that his campaigns were secretly fueled with gambling funds has raised the ire of many religious groups, which Reed said he regrets.

"I cannot change the past, but I can certainly learn from it," Reed said. "I am a better man and a better leader as a result."
"Small business." "Grassroots." "Marriages and lives." The "children were spared." Oh I am touched by the simple homilies of an honest man.

Did Ralph offer to give back the $5 million he made off his fundie shake-down racket? Well no.

All I ask for is a titty bar, a toilet seat, an 8-ball and a camera. And since it's Christmas, what the hell -- Jeff Gannon.

(via Roger Ailes)


Let's Keep it Simple

Before the administration disciplines themselves into talking points they clearly do not have yet:

FISA, which came out of 1978 at a time when the principal concern was, frankly, the activities of people on behalf of foreign governments, rather stable targets, very different from the kind of urgency of detection and thereby protection of a country that is needed today. And so the president has drawn on additional authorities that he has under the Constitution and under other statutes.
FISA provisions already provide for emergency surveillance measures. Under 36 USC 1805, the Attorney General may authorize emergency surveillance (including wiretapping and other regulated surveillance methods) for up to 72 hours, so long as application for approval by the FISA supervisory court is made before that time expires. The Administration already had all the emergency measures it needed to do surveillance without illegal encroachment on American civil liberties.
In other words, Condi's argument -- that such flexibility is needed to go after fast, slippery characters like terrorists -- is completely specious, in an emergency situation a warrant can be applied for up to 72 hours after the wiretap is already in place. According to Redd this is done all the time, and anyone in law enforcement would know that Condi's line of bullshit is just that.

Although Russert did a better job than usual and Condi was clearly waffling, it would be nice to see someone pose this particular question. Because according to the AP:
[S]ome NSA officials were so concerned about the legality of the program that they refused to participate, the Times said. Questions about the legality of the program led the administration to temporarily suspend it last year and impose new restrictions.
Their protestations to the contrary, they knew they were on thin ice with this one.

Crooks and Liars documents the atrocities.

(hat tip John Casper)