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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Turning the Corner

I have no idea whether or not 2006 will be the year the power of the despots in this country will be checked, but if it happens it will be due to people like James Comey who after only three weeks on the job as the number two man in the Justice Department went to John Ashcroft in December of 2003 and told him he had to recuse himself from the CIA leak investigation.

It was also James Comey who appointed his good friend, the godfather to his son, Patrick Fitzgerald as Special Counsel and gave him the power to do the job without interference.

According to the New York Times, it now appears that when John Ashcroft was hospitalized for a gall bladder operation in March of 2004, Andy Card and Abu Gonzales had to go his hospital bed and ask for approval of key parts of the warrantless wiretapping program because his acting deputy refused to certify it.

The deputy's name? James Comey.
With Mr. Ashcroft recuperating from gall bladder surgery in March 2004, his deputy, James B. Comey, who was then acting as attorney general, was unwilling to give his certification to crucial aspects of the classified program, as required under the procedures set up by the White House, said the officials, who asked for anonymity because the program is classified and they are not authorized to discuss it publicly.

That prompted two of President Bush's top aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now the attorney general - to make an emergency visit to George Washington University Hospital to review the program with Mr. Ashcroft during what aides have described as a difficult recovery, the officials said.

The White House and Mr. Ashcroft, through spokesmen, declined to comment Saturday on the emergency meeting. "As the president has stated, the intelligence activities that have been under way to prevent future terrorist attacks have been approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department," said Jeannie Mamo, a White House spokeswoman.

Accounts from other officials differed as to exactly what was said at the meeting at the hospital. Some officials indicated that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, was also reluctant to give his signoff to continuing with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about the program's legality and its operational controls.

It was unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to approve the program or whether the White House moved ahead without his concurrence. What is known is that in early 2004, about the time of the hospital meeting, the White House suspended parts of the surveillance program for several months and moved ahead with more stringent requirements on the National Security Agency on how the program was used, in part to guard against possible abuses.

The Justice Department's concerns appear to have led, at least in part, to the suspension, and it was the Justice Department that oversaw an audit conducted on the program.
Comey announced his resignation from the Justice Department in March 2005. And when BushCo. tried to appoint a Skull & Bones crony to oversee Fitzgerald, Comey did an end run around them and appointed the extremely ethical David Margolis to the task as his parting shot out the door.

Was Comey one of the whistleblowers? I have no idea. But on that high note of integrity we finish our last 2005 post on firedoglake. Thanks to everyone for an amazing first year.

(thanks to Wilson46201)


Year End Navel Gazing

Sidney Blumenthal:
Bush hoped to erase the year's infamies with the election in Iraq on December 15, his ultimate turning point. He delivered five major speeches crafted by his new adviser on the National Security Council, Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and co-author of Choosing Your Battles, based on his public opinion research showing that "the public is defeat phobic, not casualty phobic". In one speech, Bush mentioned "victory" 15 times, against a background embossed with the slogan "Plan for Victory," and the White House issued a document entitled National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.

Since the election of the Shia slate that will hold power for four years, dedicated to an Islamic state allied with Iran, the president and his advisers have fallen eerily silent. As his annus horribilis draws to a close, Bush appears to have expended the turning points. Welcome to victory.
It's not that I don't enjoy it when people make predictions for the new year, it's just that for myself I haven't got a clue what will happen. BushCo. have managed to shrug off the torture scandal, the Iraq fiasco and the complete distortion of the ensuing public discourse in a way that I find utterly appalling, and the perspective of this commenter over at the HuffPo obviously represents a far larger segment of the population than I like to believe:
To all the Bush haters, Your life is not so bad under Bush and you have remained safe. Could any of you point to specific incident in your life that worsened under the Bush administration caused by a Bush Policy. As a conservative I would like to know.
I guess this is the year we will see if there are enough checks and balances in place in the system to steer things back to some course of sanity despite public apathy in the face of so many events that should have been challenged by outrage long ago.

I don't have predictions, but I do have hope. That Karl Rove will be taken down, that Jack Abramoff will sing like a canary, that the sacks o'cash that fuel the GOP machine will dry up and that DINO Democrats will "get religion" after witnessing the cautionary tale that will be Joe Lieberman.

Anyone willing to go out on a limb and look into their crystal ball for the new year?


Tom DeLay's Missionary Work

Tom DeLay's spokesman Kevin Madden has been tireless in his devotion to brewing a big batch of indignation over yesterday's Washington Post story.

I don't know about you, but I sure do find comfort when I hear that Hot Tub Tom was busy spreading the twin beacons of Christianity and capitalism to those godless communists of Moscow.

I can well imagine it was probably Madden himself who leaked the secret Russian diaries documenting the Hammer's visit to Sin City, a testament to the earnest piety of the one they call the Bug Man:
Day 4

I don't wake up until nightfall. We have a fine dinner at a restaurant called "Mario's." Local embassy rep joins us. I'm at the table with IMF reps, World Bank rep, someone from Exxon, says he knows me from Houston. ...

We leave Mario's and head to an American-style bar in the center of town. It's called the "Hungry Duck." I like that name. The club is full of promising pro-American youths who are resisting old Communist ways. Several freedom-loving young Russian girls are dancing on the bar top. The IMF rep and World Bank rep hoist me up. Turns out these girls are guides. O sweet Jesus! They strip their tops off and strip my top off. Great music, song called "Alice" which I love. Just as they're undoing their short skirts, IMF rep says to me, "You know Tom, Russia really needs to keep the aid money flowing. Otherwise democracy and Christian values are in danger."

I tell him to get the fuck away from my guides or I'll strangle him with his own shoelaces. "And I won't make it a slow death either, you sleazy fucking prick," I tell him.

Vodka, whiskey, liquor...One guide falls off the bar top and cuts her lip. We go into a booth near the back, where awful things happened. Left club at 7am.

Day 5

I wake up around midnight. I don't want to move from my bed. Order a burger and fries from room service. Yell at the room service kid. Then I feel awful, give him a Hershey's bar.

"Sopeezda," I say to him. He blushes. "Sopeezda!" I say. He blushes and runs out. I follow after him. Bastard is stonewalling me. I head down to the lobby bar. "Sopeezda! Sopeezda!" The guards comfort me. I scream "Sopeezda!" and create a scene. They tell me they understand, and lead me up to my room. About thirty minutes later, after praying, there's a knock on my door. Two guides are there waiting for me. They enter my room, and we discuss golf and charitable contributions.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking -- DeLay Family Values Tour 2006?

He can skip Uzbekistan though. They're already quite good at manifesting everything the GOP stands for.

(thanks to SteinL)


Friday, December 30, 2005

Raging Bullshit



PRODUCER: Okay, go with me on this one. It's great. An updated version of Elmer Gantry. Only the guy's not a preacher, he's a politician, see, we'll call him "the Bugman." No, he's not Burt Lancaster handsome, more wall-eyed crazy like he's been huffing insecticide fumes for about a week. I see Hoffman or Pacino, doing one of those over-the-top character things...

So anyway, you with me here? Good. So this guy, he goes to Russia and he says he's there pimping Christianity, but really he's putting the squeeze on a bunch of rich Russians oil barons who don't want to pay taxes and want the IMF to bail out the government to the tune of $15 billion. So the Bugman says, for a cool million I can fix it for you.

So the Russians funnel a million dollars into -- get this -- a company called "The US Family Network" right? Cos ol' Buggy, he's got nothing if not a sense of humor. And it's run by this preacher, see...yeah, I know, it's just too rich, huh...but really all it does is pay out money to some lobbying firm run by the Bugman's former chief of staff, who writes checks to the tune of $3200 every month to the Bugman's wife for some fucking useless list of Congressional members' favorite, no, she doesn't do shit....

And they buy this townhouse, see, where they run all their business out of...and they've got all kinds of hucksters and shell games going on there, taking money from the Republicans...oh, did I not mention that? Yes, they're Republicans...and laundering it into the coffers of GOP candidates. They're living like kings. Ripping off Indians, hauling in bags of cash...And when anybody calls him on his shit, the Bugman just utters this outrageous crap like "We pray for God's wisdom..." And the marks eat it up!

It's gonna be great, Oscars all around, we'll all be buying each other BMWs this time next year....Yes, I know it's a bit over the top....Hero? Well, there really isn't one yet...

Okay, go with me on this one. There's this dog, see, and it talks....


Fair Play

Krauthamer just said that he needs to see a case of abuse before he is convinced that the leakers in the illegal NSA spying case are whistle blowers. That's interesting. It shouldn't be required to show harm in a criminal case like this, but perhaps on a public relations level this is really what needs to happen.

I believe there is only a one percent chance that this extra-constitutional power grab did not result in abuse. The FISA court and the justice department both pulled in the reins in 2004 for a reason. The president kept this program secret long past the time he could have developed some reasonable legislation to accomplish what he needed to accomplish. There is something very wrong with this program or they wouldn't have handled it the way they did.
Everyone who thinks Dubya would never play dirty and use this kind of power against his opponents raise their hand.

(photo via Dependable Renegade)

Update: I'll be on Sean-Paul Kelly's radio show on station KTSA in San Antonio, TX from 7:00 - 7:30 PM PST, and I'm following Amato who will be on from 6:30 - 7:00 PM PST. You can stream it here.


Only Serious Journalists Need Apply

Oh bully for Judy Miller. What a bravura performance last night on Nightline. All that was missing was an atomizer of throat spray and a few strands of tightly clutched pearls.

First she can't remember who originally told her of "Valerie Flame," then she can't remember if she gave Maureen Dowd the boot from her White House press room seat but says if Maureen says so it probably happened (we read: witnesses). But she sure as hell remembers telling NYT editor Jill Abramson she wanted to write about Joe Wilson.

With a memory like that no wonder she generally has to make it all up.

On the Jill Abramson front we might actually believe her; if Scooter spoke with her three times on the topic he obviously wanted Judy to write about it and coming from the school of "legs in the air" journalism, Judy usually does what she's told. It's everything else that sounds like a pack of self-serving lies. But the curious part comes when Judy says that Libby never told her that Joe Wilson's wife had any part in sending him on the Niger trip.

She's said this before but I guess I've never seized on it, since it is quite an odd assertion that does little to enhance her already sullied reputation.

According to the indictment Libby was most certainly aware as early as June 11, 2003 that people in both the State Department and the CIA were saying Wilson's wife was involved in the planning of the trip, and Libby himself had been poking around trying to find out what paperwork would back this up.

In Judy's own private La Traviata she says:
Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether I ever pursued an article about Mr. Wilson and his wife. I told him I had not, though I considered her connection to the C.I.A. potentially newsworthy. I testified that I recalled recommending to editors that we pursue a story.
So, Ms. Solid Journalist, seeking to "reclaim" your reputation. If Wilson's wife had no role in his trip to the best of your knowledge, what exactly made this story newsworthy? If you weren't simply acting as a smear merchant for those who butter your toast, what possible bearing would the fact that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA have? Judy says:
I said I felt that since The Times had run Mr. Wilson's original essay, it had an obligation to explore any allegation that undercut his credibility.
What allegation was that exactly? The Jill Abramson thing is starting to make sense. If Judy ran back to the Times dithering about Wilson's wife's part in some secret liberal CIA cabal to take down the President well it just isn't surprising that Abramson paid no attention and hoped Judy's shrink would eventually get around to adjusting her meds.

Judy goes on to attribute her own personal trials at the Times to sexist fucks who didn't want women to succeed. Although it would be difficult in this lifetime to make the personal acquaintance of all those who loathed her during her 28 year stint there, my long-term encounters with those amongst them who wanted the head buried no closer than a thousand yards from the body and the mouth stuffed with garlic to assure she never returned attest to their own commitment to women's rights that renders Judy's latest pile of excuses a heap of vicious, self-serving spew.

If Judy wants to be taken seriously as a journalist she can stop with the purple dramaturgy, the Edina Monsoon desert ensembles, the awkward schoolgirl tittering at inappropriate moments during her interviews and the outrageous denial for any culpability in anything, ever. Judy's colleagues hated her because she never met a problem she couldn't lay off on someone else. Her journalistic "triumphs" now look like a steaming pile of shit since her quote-unquote "access" was gained in the thrall of powerful men she never bothered to question.

Her kiss-up, kick-down journalism make her John Bolton with a pen, and her reputation -- such as it is -- will probably be best served by keeping future TV appearances to a minimum.

Crooks and Liars has the video of the Nightline TV clip, and ABC News has excerpts not broadcast on television that include her Plame references.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dubya's Glorious New Year

Shorter WaPo: Shhhh!! Don't mention the wiretaps!

VandeHei is quick to attribute the blip in Bush's Washington Post poll numbers to real smart politickin', but others have noted that it could just as easily be tied to falling gas prices. Meanwhile a new CNN poll puts Bush's favorability rating at an all-time low (53% unfavorable).

Well that was a rather brief dead cat bounce, heh?

Also: Judy Miller is going to be interviewed in Nightline tonight, and evidently Terry Moran asks her if she really made Maureen Dowd get out of "her" chair in the White House press room. You can watch an advance 6 min. clip here. Thanks to Steve at Tiger Beat for the tip.

Update: Judy's Plame stuff was not in the Nightline TV segment but can be seen online.


Cockpunchers of Thermopylae

I have resisted addressing Jeffrey Hart's article that is obsessing Wingnutiztan on the anatomy of a conservative mind because a) I knew it would be just so much wankery and b) already graced with an opinion on the topic I would nonetheless be obliged to read it.

It shouldn't really be a shock to anyone that the modern conservative movement which devotes itself to the endless generation and repetition of preposterous talking points that seek to befuddle the public and obscure the true motives of its proponents should not in fact attract the nation's "best and brightest" but rather its erstwhile used car salesmen (see: DeLay, Tom). But I was somewhat surprised to see Hart acknowledge that "[b]eauty has been clamorously present in the American Conservative Mind through its almost total absence." If he'd taken it a step further and included the American Conservative TV Presence the article might actually have stumbled upon some relevance.

There were perhaps historical eras in which conservative thought had its shining moments (just don't ask me to name any). I could go on and speculate as to the reasons for its current limitations, but I think my esteemed colleague TBogg said everything I have to say and more about the state of modern wingnuttery in this particular dramatization which is my sole nomination for the Koufax awards this year.

Mostly I just wanted an excuse to say Cockpunchers of Thermopylae.


Circle Jerks

Actual result of Rasmussen poll: ""[s]ixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States."

Headline from wignut blog Ace of Spades: 64% Say Warrantless Eavesdropping OK

And when the firebrands in the comments section noted the inherent mendacity of the warrentless insertion, how did the blog's auteur defend his decision to retain the headline?
Because I'm pretty sure that everyone in America knows we were conducting warrantless searches.

You bring up a sort of decent point about wording, but, come on, everyone knows what was being asked of them.

A question about "noncontroversial eavesdropping with full approval of a FISA court" would get nearly 100% approval, don't you think, Chief?

So what could possibly account for the missing 36%?
I can't include the full question in the fucking title, moron.
No, no he can't. That would be too long. He needs that space for violating Atrios's copyright.

I swear, between the slavish, Stalin-esque love for totalitarianism and their contempt for private property, free enterprise and market capitalism these people are all just fucking communists.

In the end, principle meant nothing and he bowed to the slavish demands of the crowd and changed the headline.

Let's amend that. Communist pussies.

Update: Sadly, the remedial Ace has no better education than his counterparts on the Russian collectivist farms and seems to be unfamiliar with the copyright laws that prevail in the free market. I realize that the concept of Intellectual Property is a bit sophisticated for someone grappling with the rudiments of capitalism, but as most liberals know you cannot copy someone's entire post and still fall under "Fair Use" provisions of the Copyright Act.

I'm sure he would just sulk before the judge, claim he was undeprivileged and should be excused because he "just didn't know." Tragic, really, how they all just can't take responsibility for their own culture of criminality.

I blame it on the welfare state.

(via Stephen Kaus)


Crashing the Gates

Good article on Markos up at Newsweek online, infinitely more savvy than the hopelessly muddled Washington Monthly one that appeared recently. I was really happy to hear Markos, always a good distiller of netroots acumen, talking about positive long-term Democratic vision and branding that didn't rely on Bush-hating for its vertebral column:
I think Democrats will make gains, but it'’s 2008 we need to think about. I'’m hoping that as we build our machine and repair the Democratic brand, people will start voting for Democrats because they want to vote for Democrats and not just because they want to vote against Republicans.
He also fires another salvo in the War on Lieberman, which we in blogtopia all take for granted but I haven't really seen accepted as an article of faith in the main stream press. Listen up ye stenographers, it's a-comin'.

You can also pre-order Crashing the Gates, the book by Markos and Jerome Armstrong here.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sing, Jackie, Sing!

As Hot Tub Tom scrambles to clear himself in time to regain his House leadership position, he also has his staff at the Washington Post (in the form of Ken Starr leak ho Steno Sue Schmidt) trying to distance him from Jack Abramoff. A new profile of toxic Jack contains this knee slapper:
DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men.
But Jack seems to be peddling a different story. According to Michael Isikoff earlier this year:
"Everybody is lying," Abramoff told a former colleague. There are e-mails and records that will implicate others, he said. He was noticeably caustic about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. For years, nobody on Washington's K Street corridor was closer to DeLay than Abramoff. They were an unlikely duo. DeLay, a conservative Christian, and Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, traveled the world together and golfed the finest courses. Abramoff raised hundreds of thousands for DeLay's political causes and hired DeLay's aides, or kicked them business, when they left his employ. But now DeLay, too, has problems—in part because of overseas trips allegedly paid for by Abramoff's clients. In response, DeLay and his aides have said repeatedly they were unaware of Abramoff's behind-the-scenes financing role. "Those S.O.B.s," Abramoff said last week about DeLay and his staffers, according to his luncheon companion. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."

It is a Washington melodrama that has played out many times before. When political figures get into trouble and their worlds collapse, they look to save themselves by fingering others higher in the food chain. Will Abramoff attempt to bargain with federal prosecutors by offering up DeLay—and does he really have the goods to do so? Abramoff has at times hinted he wanted to bargain—possibly by naming members who sought campaign cash for legislative favors, says a source familiar with the probe. But Abramoff's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, says, "There have been no negotiations with the Justice Department." Lowell cryptically acknowledges that Abramoff has been "disappointed" and "hurt" by the public statements of some former friends, but insists his client is currently "not upset or angry with Tom DeLay." Still, if Abramoff's lunch-table claims are true, he could hand DeLay his worst troubles yet.
Don't get mad, Jack. Get even.

Update: I should point out we are lovin' this, from the WaPo story:
Alan K. Simpson (R), the former Wyoming senator who was in Washington during the last big congressional scandal -- the Abscam FBI sting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which six House members and one senator were convicted -- said the Abramoff case looks bigger. Simpson said he recently rode in a plane with one of Abramoff's attorneys, who told him: "There are going to be guys in your former line of work who are going to be taken down."
And excellent visual aids here.

(hat tip netro and John Casper)

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


And the Winner Is...

Yes, it's that time again. The Poorman hands out the Golden Winger awards, and winner of the Palme d'Hair is...well I really don't want to spoil it, except to say that I was pulling for Assrocket, I thought he clenched it with that "Bush is a genius" thing. So sad.

It was mostly domestic affair this year, but Matt over at lets us know that there is serious competition springing up from across the seas. He nominates GWB's good buddy Pervez Musharraf for "worst person of the year" for this quote:
You must understand the environment in Pakistan. (Rape) has become a money-making concern (for the victims). A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.
In a recorded interview. With the Washington Post. As Matt says, "that didn’t stop Musharraf from later trying to deny having said it."

He's a comer, that one.


Gettin' Ugly In Here

Bob Barr
First, we get a president bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali. He knows he can't really tell the truth and he knows he can't rely only on lies. The resulting dilemma leads him to veer from unintelligible muttering to attempts to distract, and then to chest-beating bravado and attacks on his accusers.

Soon, he begins taking trips abroad and appearing at the White House podium with foreign leaders with minimal command of English, allowing him to duck for cover whenever scandal questions arise.


A critical component of White House Scandal Defense 101 is rallying the partisan base. This keeps approval ratings in territory where the wheels don't start falling off. The way to achieve this goal is you go negative and you don't let up. If you're always attacking your accusers, the debate becomes one of Democrat vs. Republican, rather than right vs. wrong. Anyone who questions the legality of the decision to wiretap thousands of Americans unlawfully is attacked, as either an enabler of terrorists or a bitter partisan trying to distract a president at war.
John Dean:
I think it's dangerous for some Republicans, and I think some Republicans have realized that....They know the politics of this. They know the American people do not like to lose their civil liberties. It's still a story that is just starting to catch on and be broadly embraced and understood. It's a complex story. But people do get wiretapping. That's one of those issues they understand. Richard Nixon was impeached for it. He claimed national security. The Congress said, No national security. I think we got a parallel situation. (my emphasis)
I guess we can look forward to a lot more of this shit in our immediate future.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Fun With Wiretaps

Michelle Malkin, still aglow from her recent capital punishment endorphins-and-Aste Spumante moment, is now one of many in the up with savagery crowd calling for the NYT's James Risen and Eric Lichtblau to be waterboarded until they cough up their NSA wiretap sources.

She quotes:
Those who have demanded severe punishment for whoever it was who told reporters that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA have been remarkably forgiving about who leaked the existence of the NSA intercept program, which - like the earlier leak of secret CIA prisons for al-Qaeda bigwigs and unlike the Plame kerfuffle - has done serious harm to our national security.

But fortunately, by clapping New York Times reporter Judith Miller in irons until she talked, overzealous special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has set a valuable precedent.
That is just one astonishing bit of misinformation. We realize that doing any actual reading that doesn't involve porn of the Islamofascist barbarism variety can be bothersome and far be it from us to get in the way of a good philippic, but fill up column inches we must so let us dust off crusty old Judge Tatel once again.

In his concurrence to the decision to deny Miller and Cooper's motion to quash the Fitzgerald's subpoena, Judge Tatel was quite clear about the standards that must be met in order to force a journalist to reveal their sources. Basically the court looked to balance the value or "news worthiness" of the information released to the public with the damage potentially done to national security. He writes (PDF):
The leak of Plame's apparent employment, moreover, had marginal news value. To be sure, insofar as Plame's CIA relationship may have helped explain her husband's selection for the Niger trip, that information could bear on her husband's credibility, and thus contribute to public debate over the president's "sixteen words." Compared to the damage of undermining covert intelligence-gathering, however, this slight news value cannot, in my view, justify privileging the leaker's identity.
"Slight news value" -- his words, not mine. Compare this to the "news value" of the President engaging in illegal activity to spy on American citizens in violation of the Constitution. And I hate to be spiny but I really must wonder at how exactly this damaged national security. Were the jihadists somehow a bit less fiendishly clever than we take them for and quite aghast to learn the NSA was spying on them?

We picture a cave somewhere in Pakistan. Osama picks rat meat off a stick when countless number twos rush in screaming "Good God man, no warrants! Shut it all down!"

More critically, Tatel goes on to differentiate between a journalistic source that deserves protection under the law and one that does not based on the benefit derived by the public in protecting them. In his view, Cooper's "source" did not meet the criteria for protection:
[Cooper's] story revealed a suspicious confluence of leaks, contributing to the outcry that led to this investigation. Yet the article had that effect precisely because the leaked information -- Plame's covert status -- lacked significant news value. In essence, seeking protection for sources whose nefariousness he himself exposed, Cooper asks us to protect criminal leaks so that he can write about the crime. The greater public interest lies in preventing the leak to begin with. Had Cooper based his report on leaks about the leaks -- say, from a whistleblower who revealed the plot against Wilson -- the situation would be different. Because in that case the source would not have revealed the name of a covert agent, but instead revealed the fact that others had done so, the balance of news value and harm would shift in favor of protecting the whistleblower. Yet it appears Cooper relied on the Plame leaks themselves, drawing the inference of sinister motive on his own. Accordingly, his story itself makes the case for punishing the leakers. While requiring Cooper to testify may discourage future leaks, discouraging leaks of this kind is precisely what the public interest requires. (my emphasis)
So had the leaker been someone who worked for Rove who was jeopardizing their employment by exposing criminal activity, Judge Tatel says they would have been viewed as a whistleblower whose actions the public has an interest in protecting. Instead it was the very people who were doing the leaking who were committing the crime and as such they did not merit it.

In placing themselves at risk to expose government misdeeds, whoever leaked the NSA wiretap information qualifies as a "whistleblower" under this definition in a way that Rove, Libby et. al. explicitly do not.

I have no doubt if George Bush wants an investigation into this matter he will get one, but his failure to satisfy Michelle Malkin's blood lust so far probably has less to do with a tendency to coddle the "liberal media elite" and more to do with the fact that it would only extend this drama into the courts in a way that would not play well for the Administration.


Ankle Biters of the Internet

Coming on the heels of MoveOn's announcement that they're willing to back a serious challenge to Joe Lieberman, William Grieder speculates about a larger organized rebellion within the Democratic Party:
With persistence and strong convictions, insurgents can change a political party. Witness the right's slow-motion crusade to conquer and transform the Republican Party. Thirty years ago right-wing activists regularly mounted hopeless challenges to the GOP establishment -- including Richard Nixon -- and usually lost. They were called "ankle biters" in those days. Today, they are running the party. The right continues to use this tactic to threaten and punish wayward incumbents. The Wall Street-financed Club for Growth ran a right-wing primary opponent against Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania in 2004, and it is doing the same thing to Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island in 2006. New York Times columnist David Brooks astutely observed: "When conservatism was a movement of ideas, it attracted oddballs; now that it's a movement with power, it attracts sleazeballs."

The Democratic Party is never going to change substantively and again become a reform party with a serious agenda until some of its blood is spilled in the same fashion. For years, incumbent Dems have distanced themselves from fundamental convictions, confident the party's "base" wouldn't do anything about it beyond whimpering. Until now, the cynicism was well founded. Galvanized by the war, disgusted with weak-spined party leaders, the rank-and-file may at last be ready to bite back.


Democratic leaders in Washington naturally discourage the talk of insurgency, warning it could endanger the party's chance of regaining a majority in the House or Senate. Some progressives doubtless agree. But this is the same logic -- follow the leaders and keep your mouth shut -- that has produced a long string of lame candidates with empty agendas, most recently John Kerry in 2004. The strategy of unity and weak substance led Democrats further to the right, further from their most loyal constituents. And they lost power across the board.
We regularly watch the Slow Joes on the Sunday Morning chit-chat and bemoan their prominence as we shrug our shoulders and say "what are you going to do?" A serious threat to Lieberman coming from the grassroots would reverberate far outside of Connecticut. As Grieder notes, Nancy Pelosi "got religion" and endorsed Murtha's Iraq withdrawal plans after an anti-war challenger was lined up for her.

Just let me know where to send the check, people. I'm so there.

(hat tip to John S.)


They're Hurting America

What are your favorite video clips of 2005? Crooks and Liars is taking a poll. Stop by and show your love for all the wingy wack jobs who do so much throughout the year to keep us amused.

John Amato will also be on the Ed Schultz show today (sometime after 2PM PT) with Tony Trupiano substituting, likewise Judd Legum from Think Progess. You can listen to them document the atrocities here.


Monday, December 26, 2005

What's He Up To?

Things sure have been quiet on the Plame front of late. Someone was asking today what I thought it all meant so based on absolutely nothing but intuition and baseless gossip here goes:

1. Luskin either got the boot or has been neutered. He's clearly not talking to the press any more, which is so un-Luskin like that either Karl has fired him or his participation as a witness now necessitates silence.

2. The nomination of Viveca Novak's husband to the FEC is nothing if not a giant "fuck you" to Fitz, and if it happened in say the Gotti organization it would definitely raise the eyebrows of a prosecutor. It's also a big "who's your daddy" moment for Viveca Novak, as she is probably out of a job and now the key defense witness for a man who is now going to be her husband's boss. Those who want to argue they nominated him purely on his merits with no notion of any larger implication? Please. This is Karl Rove we're talking about here.

3. The fact that they felt free to do (2) above means that they know Rove is going to soon to be indicted. With the exception of Victoria Toensig and her squirrelly husband running around calling Fitzgerald an out-of-control prosecutor, Rove has really gone out of his way up until now to refrain from his usual smear tactics and keep on Fitz's good side. That they are no longer troubling to do this means they know the party's over.

4. Fitzgerald has been before the new grand jury several times recently without presenting any new witnesses. I have no clue what he's talking to them about but it would suggest he is presenting information that was previously given to the other grand jury and it's not a new matter. We've been told over and over again that Rover barely escaped the hangman's noose during Round One, so it's not outside the realm of the imaginable to assume his turn is up once again.

5. Timetable: Not even a guess.

A special plea to Mr. Fitzgerald: The natives are getting restless. You of all people know how important it is to keep the public on the right side of all of this, and since Luskin went silent it's been deathly quiet in here. Can you please release the Scooter part of the pages redacted from Judge Tatel's concurrence to give us something to chew on? Think of it as cocktail weenies for the masses to tide us over so you can take the time you need to do this right. We know you don't get any do-overs.


The Horror

WaPo's Deborah Howell hears the word "liberal," her eyes bug out and her head starts spinning around until she can get the Heritage Foundation and the Rand Corporation on speed dial for some "balance."

At issue? A controversial statement from a Nov. 4 Post story that says "newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war."

I am going to need a highball or two to recover from the shock of that one.

Howell quickly locates the bogeyman:
The story, which was largely based on Pentagon data, included some analysis done by the National Priorities Project (NPP), a liberal-leaning think tank that questions the war in Iraq. The NPP also used Pentagon, census and Zip code data. A different analysis, released by the conservative Heritage Foundation a few days later, was reported by other media outlets.
Because as we all know, unless we give the wingnuts equal time to air their phantasmagorical pep squad rah-rah "war good" spin, they might complain to one's editors.

Which they obviously did.

Concludes Howell:
My bottom line on polls and surveys, no matter what kind: Look for the widest context. Ask as many experts as possible what the numbers mean. Numbers can be right but not tell the full story, and that's the case with the article on recruiting.
Her final word: the wingnut interpretation is the right one, the common sense version is highly overrated and that Jerome Corsi is one sexy muthafucka, ain't he though?

We know Ms. Howell has only has only been on the job as public editor a brief time but we look forward to the day when she actually represents the public.

(hat tip to reader Teddy)

Update: The NPP refuted the Heritage Foundation analysis and says "NPP stands by its conclusion that youth from low and middle income areas are being heavily recruited." Obviously this context was a little too "wide" for Deborah's inclusion.

The WaPo really had to scrape the bottom of the intellectual abilities barrel to find someone who thinks the military isn't using poor people for cannon fodder, didn't they? (thanks to tryggth in the comments)


Wingnut Welfare

One of the big stories of 2005 has to be the extent to which the media turns out to have been bought and paid for, bullied and manipulated by an elaborate right wing money machine. Each new week brings some shocking revelation about how the White House kept its illegal activities out of the pages of the major papers by its bullshit claims about national security, spiked the stories it found unflattering by denying "access" to journalists and then just plain bought off those who were otherwise too lazy to cooperate.

I have to say the last few weeks have amazed even me.

On one hand it has lead to a burst of blog traffic as people realize they can't trust media outlets who are so busy dry humping a corrupt administration that reporting the news isn't even an afterthought. But on the other it has lead to an incursion of GOP money to prop up the right-wing blogosphere in an attempt to skew the dialog in the same way they have the MSM.

People have wondered why we're bitching about Pajamas Media and the so-called "liberals" who have chosen to hitch their wagons to them so let me explain why this isn't just some bloggy infighting. When liberal bloggers join the "advertising liberally" network we do one thing -- sell ads. Our finances are incredibly transparent, just look up and see our rates and the number of paid ads and you'll get a pretty good idea of what we make. The rate we charge is based on traffic we manage to generate, subject to the much-vaunted "free market" that the wingnuts are always applauding. If we churn out shit and nobody wants to show up and read it, we don't make anything.

And most liberal bloggers make just that -- nothing. People like TBogg, Roy and Roger Ailes, amongst the very best voices in the blogosphere, all manage other paying gigs and then snatch what time they can away from their families to blog. There is nothing on the right -- and I mean nothing -- that compares with their quality, their insight, their wit and their panache.

When the wingnuts chant their talking points like a bunch of tambourine-beaters at the airport, they want to be paid for their efforts. And Pajamas Media was set up to do just that. They received by some accounts $7 million dollars to subsidize 70 right wing bloggers, and if you look at their sites there are no ads, many don't even identify their affiliation with a logo. Look at some full-on loon like the Confederate Yankee who earns his/her 800 hits a day by having seizures over Google's attempts to mock Christmas with Jesus butt plugs. The General will easily draw twenty times the traffic with his rapier-witted takedown, but the Confederate Yankee probably earns a lot more money than the General. These illiterate zeros are being paid out of principal, not out of any ad revenues. They are all Armstrong Williams.

The Pajamas Media folk ridicule the liberals they have bought for the purpose of rendering them neuter and biting their heads off like chickens in some geek show. Let's just be clear, they didn't offer this gig to James Wolcott who could tear them to shreds and blow the pig up from the inside, and they didn't want anything to do with Crooks and Liars who draw more traffic in a day than all these fools combined simply by putting their cretinous droolings on video clip display. They are not there to make a profit. There is no "business model" involved. And every criticism they all laid at the feet of every East German factory worker after the toppling of the Berlin wall -- they have no ability to work in a competitive environment, they know they will never be fired -- comes into play. They're fools, but they're subsidized fools. They never have to worry about traffic, they never have to be even a little bit clever or creative or think or even spell right.

All they have to do is continue to repeat what they're told.

In the past year alone many fine voices on the left have stopped blogging because they could no longer spare the time, had to go tend to their lives and finances. You won't have to worry about that with the Pajamas Media crowd. Even the most dilatory, the most insultingly stupid amongst them will continue to be subsidized and probably make more than Digby. More than Billmon. All that noise about the free market, natural selection and survival of the fittest is just so much racket.

So the next time you hear us bitching about Pajamas Media, the incursion of right wing money into the blogosphere or the compromised voices of the "liberals" they've bought, remember that it's just another attempt to control the message. They're not our "counterparts on the right," they're paid operatives. I'll leave you with this little paean to the free market by Neal Boortz, talking about one of the African-American victims of Hurricane Katrina that earned him one of Media Matters' most outrageous statements of the year:
"I dare say she could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard here in Atlanta and have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no. ... Well, you know what? [laughing] Now that you mention it ... [i]f that's the only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers."
If they'd care to explain how the jizz of right wing robber barons trying to preserve their privilege of feeding at the taxpayer trough is oh so much more righteous and anything more than illiterate wingnut welfare then let's fucking hear it.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Never Follow an Animal Act

Howard Kurtz:
Some liberals, meanwhile, attacked the paper for holding the story for more than a year after earlier meetings with administration officials.


Some liberals criticized The Post for withholding the location of the prisons at the administration's request.
And in one fell swoop the whole matter of illegal wiretaps is now reduced to a partisan squabble instead of a justifiable concern about government overreach, invasion of privacy and complete disregard for the Constitution.

Someone should hip Bob Barr to the fact that he is now a Fellow Traveler:
What's wrong with it is several-fold. One, it's bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it's bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it's bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order.
When Karl Rove gets frogmarched out of the White House he should take comfort in knowing that by the time he left the press were reduced to such a pack of trained seals.

Meanwhile in between recipes for the perfect Molotov cocktail and love poems to Kim Jong-il that librul rag Barrons says that Bush's willful disregard for the law "is potentially an impeachable offense."

Someone check Richard Morin for sharp objects.


Give the Gift of Christmas Traffic

Alternate Brain quotes Ted Koppel: "The only difference between Clinton and Bush is 9/11. If it would have happened on Clinton's watch, we'd be in Iraq now too." Is he gone yet?

Roger to Glenn Reynolds: "Blow Me, Hillbilly."

Roy defects from the War on Christmas.

TBogg can't keep his (hot) women out of the bars.

Wanda forgets Festivus. It must be war.

Skippy will have the Blue Xanax, thank you.

DBK fights the good fight for voter verified paper trails 'cos golly, some of us just don't trust these people.

Elayne Riggs looking hot in her Christmas sweat shirt. Oh my God the boobs.

Harry notes that if Mary and Joseph did the same thing today they would pass through 15 Israeli check points.

Sadly, No! says the greatest tragedy of the home school set is their tendency to take fashion cues from 70s porn stars. Tragic.

King of Zembla wonders why the NSA even bothers with illegal wiretaps when the Brits will happily do it for them. Poodles everywhere.

Dependable Renegade says James Dobson's son is -- well, a little too stylish, if you know what I'm saying and I think you do.

The General: Bill O'Reilly, Jesus, Free Republic, butt plug, crucifix. 'Nuff said.


Festivus Fun: Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

Oh yeah. You know where this is going.

Originally created to spy on foreign adversaries, the N.S.A. was never supposed to be turned inward. Thirty years ago, Senator Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who was then chairman of the select committee on intelligence, investigated the agency and came away stunned.

"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," he said in 1975, "and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

He added that if a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. "could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."
Rush Limbaugh, from his radio show on December 22, 2005:
“Liberals and Democrats,” Limbaugh claimed, “are only opposed to this because they don’t want anyone finding out what they’ve been up to. … What have you folks been doing that you so desperately want to keep hidden?”
Rush's attorney Roy Black with Wolf Blitzer on December 15, 2005:
BLITZER: If Rush Limbaugh has nothing to hide and has done nothing wrong, what’s the problem with letting the prosecutor speak to the doctors and go through all the records?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, that’s an excellent question. A lot of people ask this all the time. You know what? We have a right of privacy in this country that I think is important for us to hold onto. I mean, we could let prosecutors and police into our bedrooms, search our computers, watch us having sex. We could let them do all these things, but then we would have a police state. We would no longer have a democracy. I think it’s very important to fight these privacy battles—and Rush Limbaugh has taken on this battle of privacy with your doctor, and I think it has really been a public service for him. Not only for himself but everybody else who wants their medical records and medical treatment kept private and not to be disclosed in the press or with the police or prosecutors or anyone else who has no business being there.
Race you for the gutter.

(Hat tip to Merlot Democrats)


Happy Holidays From Poodle Beach

Well it has been a rip-snorter of a Festivus morning. We tore outselves away from the all-Robert Goulet Christmas carol radio show and went for our morning walk on Poodle Beach, and everyone has henceforth been celebrating their gift bonanza which included a rubber chew toy filled with liver snaps, a book on the watercolors of John Singer Sargent, a stuffed bone, a history of the Roman gladiators, some dried organic herbed chicken strips and a Firedoglake coffee mug. The dogs are currently sleeping off a pig's ear and crab claw high.

The newsmakers have been remarkably quiet -- hello, anyone heard the words "news dump?" Who knew we would miss our daily dose of spin so much? If this keeps up we're going to have to start a "free Robert Luskin" campaign.

Katie (pictured above -- yes, she's the one who barfed in my shoe when Rita Cosby started talking about porn) is the heart of the family, and she hopes everyone has a deligtful Brumalia as we celebrate this the birthday of Sol Invictus. Well actually she's a Buddhist being a Bodhisattva and all but she's been reading that gladiator book and got a bit carried away.