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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fitz in Vanity Fair -- Pt. 2

I'm quite sympathetic to the plight of David Margolick, the author of the Vanity Fair piece on Patrick Fitzgerald. He's had to address the same problem I've been struggling with -- namely Fitzgerald is a very difficult person to get a grip on. A simple recitation of chronological facts is inherently uninteresting, and most people close to Fitz are unwilling -- or, as I came to believe, unable -- to give much insight into his character, despite my best attempts to cajole, charm, threaten and throttle them into doing so.

The nine page article segues quickly into the Libby press conference:
He started nervously, blurting out his words in shaky, sometimes garbled phrases. One could detect the shyness his friends routinely describe. Staring ahead blankly, speaking mechanically, he laid out his case against Libby as if reading it off a teleprompter. In fact, although he'd written something down beforehand, what he said was entirely extemporaneous; while the rest of Fitzgerald was still unwinding, his remarkable mind was already up to speed. The angst and awkwardness vanished once he took questions, and that made sense; he had always been better, more himself, in rebuttals than in opening statements. When he had to think on the fly, he could be sincere, joke or provoke, become Everyman. "We all have our shticks: his is the up-from-the-gutter Irish kid from a poor family," says a lawyer in the Plame case. "It's essentially authentic. But it's also served him well."

Again and again, reporters pressed Fitzgerald for specifics, not just about Libby but also about Dick Cheney (who had discussed Plame with his chief of staff before the leak), White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove (who had discussed Plame with at least two reporters), and Novak (who had outed Plame in his syndicated column, then, presumably, told Fitzgerald). They got only crumbs, but Fitzgerald doled them out entertainingly and ingratiatingly, appearing more forthcoming than he really was. Some non-answers came with humor, some with baseball metaphors or colloquialisms. There was none of the usual lawyerly stiffness and aloofness, nor was there elegance or eloquence. Fitzgerald was modest, self-deprecating, nimble, patient, accessible, even-tempered, reassuring, likeable, real. And the press quickly turned. Charles Laughton as Inspector Javert suddenly morphed into Jimmy Stewart as Mr. Smith or Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness."
Having read through the transcripts of that press conference repeatedly, I was struck with a similar observation -- Fitzgerald always seemed to be saying a lot more than he actually did. To use the term "false candor" implies a nefariousness that I don't intend, but the description is not far off. And it may explain why his friends have such unfailing loyalty to him without ever having any great insight into what makes him tick. He appears to be a lot more open than he actually is, to give away much more than he ever really does.
While the right-wing blogs remained unusually quiet -- Fitzgerald is, after all, a two-time Bush appointee -- on the left he was a hero.
I have no idea who they're talking about.
He is beloved as he is respected: 10 days after the press conference in Washington, he showed up at a dinner at the New York Athletic Club for a former colleague, and the hundreds of former and current prosecutors on hand twice gave him prolonged standing ovations, a tribute remarkable even in this cloistered, clubby world. Characteristically, he seemed vaguely embarrassed by it all.


Some defense lawyers say he has lived too long in a prosecutorial bubble, unable to see the other, sometimes more human side of legal issues. In another life, they say, he'd have been a priest. "He has an almost puritanical view of the world: you're either a sinner or you're saved," says David Rubnke, a lawyer in Montclair, New Jersey, who in another of Fitzgerald's signature terrorism trials, represented one of the four men linked to the 1998 bombings of American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. But like many defense lawyers, Ruhnke says he liked, respected, and trusted Fitzgerald. "If he told you something, you could go to the bank with it," he says. "That's not true of all federal prosecutors."


For all the recent adulation, Fitzgerald's relentless pursuit of the case, and partaker of journalists, has left lingering wounds -- and doubts. "He should get a life," said one of the reporters he pursued.
Okay he only really pursued two reporters -- Judy Miller and Matt Cooper. And that sure doesn't sound like Matt Cooper.
"A lot of people most enthralled by him and the vigor of his pursuit of Libby and others and his sureness in his own virtue would be very upset at the same level of diligence if applied to dissidents or people whose views they happened to agree with," says a lawyer representing that reporter.
And that sounds just stupid enough to be Floyd Abrams.

Margolick did a good job of getting more historical bio stuff than I've yet seen, those details are like pulling teeth:
Fitzgerald was the third of the four children of Patrick and Tillie Fitzgerald, immigrants from "the other side" -- County Clare, Ireland -- who settled in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn; his father was a legendarily hardworking doorman at 14 East 75th Street, on Manhattan's Upper East Side. (One summer, young Patrick worked the same job not too far away, at 520 East 72nd Street, and according to a former classmate, would bite his tongue at the condescension of residents.)
Although it's a bit of projection on my part there's always been something quite revealing about this particular detail. My dad grew up very poor in Tennessee and went on to study ancient languages at Harvard and earned a Ph.D in philosophy from BU. He had similar experiences like this growing up and as an adult they left him with no thrall of power; he was habitually neither impressed nor intimidated by it. The anti-Judy Miller, so to speak. I've talked with FBI agents who confirm this about Fitzgerald -- many US Attorneys, fearful that their jobs come as the result of political appointment, will not pursue the wealthy and the powerful and spend their time going after small fish. Fitzgerald is considered somewhat unique for his willingness to go straight to the top from the get, something I've always felt very heartened by in the face of an administration with a history of bludgeoning everyone who dares cross them into quick capitulation.
By recess of his first day of sixth grade at Our Lady Help of Christians School, in Brooklyn, his classmates were already touting him as the smartest kid there, though he insisted on playing sports so as not to be considered an egghead.
Being the Smart Kid, social death. I get it.
"Patrick Fitzgerald was the benchmark for what you had to be," says Martin Snow, who went to grade school and high school with him. "It was one word: 'patrickfitzgerald.' People would say, 'What do you think, you're patrickfitzgerald?'" Last October, during Fitzgerald's press conference, Snow stopped all workouts at the gym he runs in Lower Manhattan so that he, and everyone else, could watch his old friend.
More later.


Fitz in Vanity Fair

It's been a Plame-starved few weeks I know. Thanks to Jinny this evening I'm reading through the rather lengthy Vanity Fair article on Patrick Fitzgerald and I'll have more later, but in the meantime I thought this was rather touching:
Fitzgerald showed and instant aptitude for trial work; he was not one of those anal-retentive types who had to write everything out beforehand. And as disheveled as his files and personal life sometimes seemed, his brain was a marvel of organization. In 1993 he handled his first big case, of Mob bigwigs John and Joseph Gambino, associates of John Gotti's, charged with murder, racketeering, and narcotics trafficking. After a four-month trial -- during which Mob turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano testified -- a lone holdout hung the jury. So devastating was the outcome that Fitzgerald went into a deep funk and considered changing careers. (To avoid a re-trial, the two mobsters eventually pleaded guilty to lesser charges.)

By this point, Fitzgerald's mother had died and his father had Alzheimer's disease; still, when then attorney general Janet Reno gave Fitzgerald an award for his work on the Gambino case, he brought his father, then only intermittently lucid, with him to Washington and posed with him by the bust of one of the elder Fitzgerald's heroes, Robert Kennedy, in the Justice Department's courtyard. It was a moment that few there could forget. Invariably bringing his office work with him, Fitzgerald took terms with his siblings caring for his father at his home in Brooklyn until his death.
I've heard people say that Fitz believes his parents never understood his decision to pursue the job of a prosecutor rather than a high-priced New York attorney. The need to try and explain to your parents a decision you know in your heart they would be proud of if only they could understand, even when they are probably past the point of being able to do so, is both moving and telling.


"Stoopit Laws"

Still waiting for an adequate rejoinder to the Atrios challenge for an explanation as to how exactly the NYT revelation of warrentless NSA wiretapping endangered national security.

The chief tit on the GOP udder that is Powerline devotes the full force of his intellectual prowess to the task and both sadly and predictably comes up wanting.

Glenn Greenwald:
Anyone who has paid even the most minimal attention to this matter --– let alone someone who holds themselves out as some sort of legal scholar qualified to accuse people of treason -- has known for quite some time that FISA expressly allows immediate eavesdropping without a warrant under Section 1805. Thus, unless a terrorist were as confused and uninformed about the law as John still is, a terrorist who thought we were complying FISA (rather than violating it) would have already known that we could eavesdrop immediately and without a warrant. That's because FISA says in clear and unambiguous language that we can. The Times story reporting on Bush's illegal program didn't reveal that we could eavesdrop immediately because the Government has that power even if it complies with FISA.

Shouldn'’t this be extremely embarrassing to John? FISA is not really that long of a law, and it'’s pretty straightforward. It'’s been three weeks since this scandal began. He obviously has no idea what FISA even says. John could have made the argument he just made only if he was completely unaware of the fact that FISA itself allows immediate eavesdropping -- a fact which not only is readily apparent from the law, but also has been mentioned by pretty much everyone who has discussed this matter since it first arose.

This really is the level of argument which is coming from Bush followers on this issue. It is wildly incoherent and uninformed. That'’s because they begin with the premise that anyone who says anything that is harmful to George Bush, particularly with regard to his terrorism policies, is a subversive and a traitor, and only thereafter, in each individual case, do they go out in search of rationale to justify the accusation. The fact that none exists doesn'’t stop them, or even give them pause, in insisting that those who criticize or impede George Bush should be imprisoned.
Tough break for the Rocketman. I guess this still reigns unchallenged as the most articulate expression of the wingnut position I've seen.

(photo & headline via Dependable Renegade)


Jeff Goldstein Better Make Damn Sure He Wants To Get Into a Right/Left Wackjob Posting Contest

TBogg...comments...typing...laughing...can't breathe....



The notion that the temperate puritans of the GOP are now going to clean up Dodge having caught their first fetid whiff of Tom Delay's imprudence is a real knee slapper.

Let's recall that when the House Ethics Committee found DeLay guilty not one but three times of ethics violations, Dennis Hastert and the GOP responded by removing the GOP Chairman Joel Hefley and the other uncooperative GOP committee members and replacing them with more morally pliant DeLay henchmen. They then changed the House rules in 2004 to accommodate DeLay's continued leadership despite his quite obvious violation of the regulations the Republicans had enacted like shrieking vestals during the Clenis era.

I've no doubt the cranky Hefley was the first to sign the petition for DeLay's ouster; he was also the only Republican who supported the bill to repeal the changes to House rules that allowed DeLay to retain his sovereignty while under indictment. But lest anyone want to make Hefley a hero remember that he had initially voted for the changes the first time around -- his Come to Jesus moment had more to do with his removal from a powerful committee chair than any tender pangs of conscience.

There is not one member of the GOP in any position to be on a high horse over this one.

Even Chris Matthews shares my mirth. "Newt Gingrich as a reformer? I mean, I guess I remember -- I said the other night it reminds me the line about Doris Day, I knew her before she was a virgin."

With his splenetic history of moral triumphalism during the Lewinsky scandal even as he was cheating on his own wife Newt may well be the most honorable man in the GOP, but that really isn't something I'd advertise.

And this race to the altar has little to do with any newfound awareness within the GOP about indecorousness of its own ranks. They have both known about it and institutionally facilitated it all along. Their decision to try and grab the moral high ground just as the public is becoming acquainted with the shenaniganss they've all been co-signing for years is nothing short of ribald comedy.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)

Update: Watertiger has visual aids and stock market tips. (thanks Mark)

Update II: Crooks & Liars has the clip of DeLay's press conference up. It's a dilly. They also have a video of the sceptical Matthews here.


Bearing Witness

Per Atrios, a female journalist has been kidnapped in Iraq and her translator killed. Over at Kos her friends are asking that her name be kept secret:
The first 24-48 hours are critical, and American news organizations tend to not want publicity, at least during that period. It can make it much more dangerous for her and difficult to secure her release.

European news organizations often approach this issue differently, however, and will make an annoucement earlier, especially if they feel that the nationality of the reporter is likely to decrease the threat to his or her life. That is not the case here.
In the mean time if you want to know more about the incredible women who risk much to cover the war in Iraq have a look at the documentary Bearing Witness by Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple. Journalist Molly Bingham was actually taken prisoner and held at Abu Ghraib for a while by the Iraqis, and Kopple chronicles her return there along with several Iraqi women who shared her fate. These female reporters face incredible risks for often quite complex and compelling reasons and their commitment to telling the story always factors in this harrowing possibility.

Update: E&P: "A total of 76 journalists and media staff have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday. That was more than the 63 reporters killed in the 1955-1977 conflict in Vietnam, the group said, citing figures from U.S.-based press advocacy group Freedom Forum."


Friday, January 06, 2006

Just Keep Your Hands Off My Porn, You Bastards

Last month Goodman, an 81-year-old retired University of Kansas history professor, received a letter from his friend in the Philippines that had been opened and resealed with a strip of dark green tape bearing the words “by Border Protection” and carrying the official Homeland Security seal.

“I had no idea (Homeland Security) would open personal letters,” Goodman told in a phone interview. “That’s why I alerted the media. I thought it should be known publicly that this is going on,” he said. Goodman originally showed the letter to his own local newspaper, the Kansas-based Lawrence Journal-World.

“I was shocked and there was a certain degree of disbelief in the beginning,” Goodman said when he noticed the letter had been tampered with, adding that he felt his privacy had been invaded. “I think I must be under some kind of surveillance.”


The letter comes from a retired Filipino history professor; Goodman declined to identify her. And although the Philippines is on the U.S. government’s radar screen as a potential spawning ground for Muslim-related terrorism, Goodman said his friend is a devout Catholic and not given to supporting such causes.

A spokesman for the Customs and Border Protection division said he couldn’t speak directly to Goodman’s case but acknowledged that the agency can, will and does open mail coming to U.S. citizens that originates from a foreign country whenever it’s deemed necessary.

“All mail originating outside the United States Customs territory that is to be delivered inside the U.S. Customs territory is subject to Customs examination,” says the CBP Web site. That includes personal correspondence. “All mail means ‘all mail,’” said John Mohan, a CBP spokesman, emphasizing the point.

“This process isn’t something we’re trying to hide,” Mohan said, noting the wording on the agency’s Web site. “We’ve had this authority since before the Department of Homeland Security was created,” Mohan said.
I keep hoping that any minute now Gladys Kravitz will wake up and realize that Bush 43 was just a dream.


Calling Jeff Gannon

To help defeat roadside ambushes, the military in May 2005 contracted to buy 122 Cougars whose special V-shaped hull helps deflect roadside bombs, military officials said. But the Pentagon gave the job to a small firm in South Carolina, Force Protection, that had never mass-produced vehicles. Company officials said a string of blunders has pushed the completion date to June.
How did the Cougar's manufacturer land this cherry contract?

Rule #1: Remind GOP of something they're already accustomed to paying for.

(Hat tip to reader Teddy)


War on the Cheap

A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.
I guess this should not be a surprise considering the advance planning skills of people who "really didn't see the insurgency coming."

OT anybody seen $9 billion lying around?


Scooter Gets His Wingnut Welfare

Now that he's cut off from all communication with his bedwetting, warmongering buddies at the White House, nobody wants Scooter sitting home all alone and gettin' hinky. Gawd forbid he get a wee bit paranoid and decide to have a chin wag with Patrick Fitzgerald. So the powers that be have arranged for Scooter to pick up a little wingnut welfare and a new bevy of bedwetting, warmongering friends.

He's now assigned to the Hudson Institute, which might as well be a 12 Step Program for Those Awaiting Indictment by Patrick Fitzgerald, including Marie-Josee Kravis and Richard Perle in the Hollinger affair. Fitzgerald had previoiusly indicted boardmember Conrad Black, who seems to be on leave of absence from the institute now that he's already a proud recipient.

The Hudson Institute is financed by such civic minded individuals as the Scaifes, the Coors' and the Waltons. And they must needs have Scooter because he is So Damn Valuable as an expert on Asia and the War on Terra.

And because silence is golden.

Update: Over at DKos Lobezno calls the Hudson Institute, asks them if they intend to hire Jack Abramoff next and winds up on the no-fly list.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Thank You, Walmart

Walmart is sparing no expense today to assure both traditional media and the internet that they are wracked with grief over the racially insenstive accident generated by their online "mapping" program. The corporate PR machine is on red alert at the highest echelons to assure everyone how very much they care.

Oh and screw the homeless:
January 6, 2006: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the nation's largest food retailer, said Thursday it will no longer donate nearly-expired or expired food to local groups feeding the hungry.

Instead, that food will be thrown away, a move several Sacramento charities consider wasteful.

Olan James, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the policy, which applies to all 1,224 Wal-Marts, 1,929 Supercenters and 558 Sam's Clubs, is an attempt to protect the corporation from liability in case someone who eats the donated food gets sick.

"We can't guarantee the safety of the merchandise, and consumer safety is our top priority," said James in a telephone interview from Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas.

Most charities get their food from an array of sources, and they say the loss of Wal-Mart or Sam's Club donations won't make a huge dent in their stockpiles. But as increasingly efficient grocery stores have less to donate, charities worry the stream of food donations from grocers is diminishing.

"If they were giving it away somewhere else that wouldn't be so bad, but the fact is, it's going into the garbage," said Owen Foley of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Locker at Presentation Church in Sacramento. "I mean, there's a big need."

Foley said the breads, pies and cakes his group received from the Sam's Club on El Camino Avenue helped round out the meals served to more than 900 families last year.

Ernie Brown, a spokesman for Sacramento's Senior Gleaners, which received about 25,000 pounds of food in 2005 from Sam's Club on Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights, said most food is fine to eat for days after the "sell-by" date.

He said Wal-Mart's concerns about liability seem misplaced in light of the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a federal law passed in 1996 offering food donors wide-ranging protections from civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution. The law states that donors can be held liable only in instances of "gross negligence."

"Lord, we get millions and millions of pounds from Raley's and Bel-Air and Albertson's, and they don't have a problem understanding the law," Brown said. "Why don't Wal-Mart and Sam's Club understand the law?"

James said he is not aware of anybody suing Wal-Mart after getting sick from donated food.
I'd probably be a bit more convinced of their social sensitivity if they devoted a bit less money and muscle to assuring everyone that their online software is not staffed by crackers and showed some concern for people who will only be too grateful to receive what they will otherwise consign to the garbage.

Don't you think it would be a really nice gesture if Walmart decided to restore these donations to the homeless today?

(hat tip to reader Susan)

Photo by Harvey Finkle from Urban Nomads: The Poor People's Movement


Semper Vigilans

Kos wants us to retire the term MSM and replace it with traditional media. I'm good with that.

Traditional Media (LA Times):
[Abramoff] also showed an interest in charitable organizations. Concerned about the quality of Jewish education in the Washington area, he founded an Orthodox school and sent two of his children there.
Traditional Media (Steno Sue, Washington Post):
He was a generous patron in his Orthodox Jewish community, starting a boys' religious school in Maryland.
Blogger (Roger Ailes):
Abramoff founded a school involved in money laundering; one that stiffed its employees (who Jackoff calls ingrates) and its creditors and screwed its tuition-paying students out of a diploma. What a mensch.
Now it's true that among the variety of sources Roger used were those considered "traditional media." The point is he took the trouble to dig through readily available public sources and didn't simply accept the mindless partisan gibberish of extremely dubious authority (as did the employees of two of the largest "traditional media" organizations in the country).

It ought to give them something to discuss it at the next blogger ethics panel, anyway.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Grieving Walmart Speaks

Got this from the apologists for Walmart:
Good evening. I work for Edelman in Washington, DC on behalf of Wal-Mart. I noticed that you blogged about the incident earlier, I wanted to make sure you got WMT's statement as soon as possible and were aware that the problem is being fixed as we speak. And as John Aravosis just wrote on AmericaBlog, this is most definitely a mistake and nothing sinister. ( 2006/01/about-that-wal-mart-story.html) If can answer any questions, please let me know.

I would only add one thing to the statement: with a site as big as, it has hundreds of servers that any changes that are made must be replicated across.
Wonder why they don't include a link to Steve Gillard's post. Probably just a mapping error.


More Walmart

Walmart's obviously scrambling. They've changed their Planet of the Apes page and sent me an email claiming it was all just an accident. But Webmaster in Seattle in the Comments says:
Generally, sites use automated tools for "related links", but sometimes they do it manually. (I've built automated tools for companies.)

You want to know whether it was manual or automatic, and whether it was intentional or accidental. A 2x2 grid of possibilities.

It was not intentional and automatic, though. ALL the related links are in the same category (black biographies), which should have no automated inference to Planet of the Apes (PotA). Readers have noted that PotA is a metaphor for race relations, which is true. But that would NOT mean you should code it as "black biography". You wouldn't even code it as "race relations", but if somebody were, they'd get different movies than these biographies.

It could be a manual OR automatic *accident* if, for example, a film about Malcolm X had an ID similar to that for PotA, and it got entered by mistake. Then the automatic link tool would think it's spitting out related links for "Malcolm X".

The way to get a handle on it is to check related links for many movies, and build a report of anomalies.

But remember that this "accident", if it is that, is highly suspicious. Because PotA was written as a metaphor for race relations, AND because bigots refer to the movie often, as they do "Gorillas in the Mist". There *might* be a technical or accidental explanation, but right now I doubt it.
And from an email, after Walmart made the change:
Currently at the bottom of WalMart's PotA page, after Raymond and Friends, you can see that it says...

Browse for similar items in :
# Home Page ? Movies ? DVD ? Comedy ? General

Comedy? PotA is not a comedy. To me this suggests that someone quickly assigned a category after the story got out. This kind of "Breadcrumb" trail (x > y > z ) is almost certainly manually done, not automated.
Nobody ever suggested this was a corporate conspiracy, but I think GSD hit it on the head with the notion that it was probably some racist functionary's idea of a joke.

AP and Forbes have picked up the story. Crooks & Liars has more.

Update: WaPo:
The world's largest retailer said in a statement that it was "heartsick" over the racially offensive grouping and that the site was linking "seemingly random combinations of titles."

"It's just simply not working correctly," said Mona Williams, vice president of corporate communications for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The company said it was alerted to the problem early yesterday afternoon after word began spreading among bloggers. When visitors to requested "Planet of the Apes: The Complete TV Series" on DVD, four other movies were recommended under the heading "Similar Items." Those films included "Martin Luther King: I Have A Dream/Assassination of MLK" and "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson."

Williams said similar titles were called up when the DVD of the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was requested. There were three such combinations involving those two movies and African Americans films, she said.
Boy that "mapping" program sure does have a low-rent cracker sense of humor.


Cultural Energy

I was chatting with a good friend of mine today who went to high school with Jack Abramoff and remembers him simply as a "weird fat kid" and we got sidetracked onto the subject of blogs and cultural energy in general. We both concurred that the blog world has the feel right now that the punk rock scene of the late 70's had, and for much the same reasons.

The music business in the 70's had grown bloated and moribund and disconnected from its audience. Record executives busied themselves buying Rolexes for REO Speedwagon and paying millions for Casablanca records and nobody cared. They were perfectly horrified at the spectacle of kids paying $3 to see the Clash play a benefit for Marxist youth at the Geary Temple in 1978, but even as a kid it was perfectly obvious where the energy was, where the zeitgeist was shifting. Punk rock became a beacon for creative people of all walks, and oh so many years later the shadow it casts looms far greater than the corporate culture merchants of the time were able to envision.

It's not that the movie business or the book business or the magazine business is dead, or that the blog world is any challenge to any of them, but creativity is a very fluid thing and when it becomes difficult to achieve any kind of satisfaction in a particular medium the quality talent will siphon off into an arena that allows it expression. I could stand at a magazine stand for 24 hours straight, reading every issue on the racks and not come across the clever, relevant, insightful things I know I can find in a half hour on the blogs.

As a side note -- it's also apparent who hasn't been the beneficiary of this energy, and that would be in the right wing blogs. You can say my estimation is clouded by contempt but you would be wrong. I am perfectly able to appreciate and even (reluctantly) defend the filmmaking skills of people I loathe. I can count exactly two times I have ever read anything on the right even slightly insightful. For reasons too innumerable to go into right now, a philosophy that promotes totalitarianism and a system of endless repetition of someone else's talking points simply won't drawing the same quality thinkers. Period.

We thought punk rock and the energetic counterculture it produced would last for ever, but it didn't. It was over quite quickly.

Enjoy the blogs while you can. These are the salad days.


So Wrong

Now I don't want to go all Confederate Yankee or anything, but given Walmart's history of shall we say less-than-progressive policies can anyone explain how listing biographies of Martin Luther King, Jack Johnson and Dorothy Dandridge under the "similar products" category with Planet of the Apes looks anything but awful?

Update: GSD from the comments: "As for Wal-Mart, what do you get when you pay $3.20 to some white-supremacist parolee from Texas to do your copywriting."

Update II: Walmart has now changed it, but we were crafty and called Crooks & Liars to make sure they took a screen shot before we posted.



Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lindsay Lohan Admits Drug Use

Gone are the days when they'd say "well, you'll never be President of the United States."



Via Atrios, NBC says:
Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.
You know, having had some experience with transcripts I'll admit that when word first came out about this MSNBC lapse I figured the chances were pretty high that it was simply the result of oversight and incompetence. But this bizarre press release -- which appears to have been translated from the original Chinese by some Google algorithm -- really clinches it.

There are people WORSE than Andrea Mitchell at NBC.

Will Bunch has more.


Can You Say "Witness Tampering?"

Today King George announced seventeen -- count 'em seventeen -- recess appointments, many of whom would have faced serious confirmation problems. Kos tells us that the three appointments to the Federal Election Commission never even had nomination hearings. No opportunity to even face questioning. None. Zero. Zip.

Amongst them -- Hans von Spakovsky, who was in large part responsible for the purge of mostly Democratic, mostly African American and mostly legitimate people from the Florida voting lists in 2000. And, of course, Robert Lenhard, who is married to the Viveca Novak, the woman now providing the substantive part of Karl Rove's defense in the Plame matter.

The notion that we live in some sort of a democracy with three branches of government and any system of checks and balances is getting to be quite farcical, IMHO.

Update: falcone1204 from the comments: "The truly amazing thing about this is that he's had to do this to get past a Senate where his party has a 6 seat majority. God, this guy is a tyrant."


Dissembling -- It's Not Just a Job, It's a Way of Life

Steno Sue in today's WaPo online chat:
Alice Fisher has been in and out of the Bush Justice Department. Her appointment was held up as a procedural move by a member of the Senate for reasons unrelated to her qualifications. All top DOJ officials are Bush appointees. I am not aware of any ties between Fisher and DeLay. That said, she and other DOJ leaders are going to be scrutinized for any sign they are not pursuing this case aggressively. So far, though, they seem to have made it a high priority.
[Levin] has raised questions about Fisher ever since he obtained a more complete copy of a May 10, 2004, internal FBI e-mail outlining bureau concerns about interrogation practices at Guantanamo. The e-mail to senior FBI counterterrorism official T. J. Harrington—sent by an agent whose name remains redacted—reported on earlier disputes between FBI agents and top generals overseeing Guantanamo about “the effectiveness (or lack thereof)” of aggressive Defense Department interrogation techniques being used at the U.S. detention facility.

“In my weekly meetings with DOJ [the Department of Justice] we often discussed DOD [Department of Defense] techniques and how they were not effective or producing [intelligence] that was reliable,” the e-mail reads. The agent then listed a number of Justice Department Criminal Division officials who attended the meetings, including Fisher, who between July 2001 and September 2003, was deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the division. “We all agreed DOD tactics were going to be an issue in the military commission cases. I know [senior Criminal Division lawyer Bruce Swartz] brought this to the attention of DOD OGC [Office of General Counsel].”

But in written responses to the Judiciary Committee, Fisher denied having heard about such complaints. While acknowledging that she attended the weekly meetings referred to in the e-mail, Fisher wrote: “I do not recall that interrogation techniques were discussed at these meetings.” Fisher said she did recall becoming aware of “FBI concerns” about interrogations, “but I cannot recall the content of specific meetings … I do not recall the FBI expressing to me concerns about illegal activity at Guantanamo Bay regarding detainee treatment or mistreatment.”

After receiving her responses, Levin as well as Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Dick Durbin, told Justice officials that they wanted to question the FBI agent who wrote the May 10, 2004, e-mail to resolve what they saw as a conflict. Justice refused, citing longstanding policy, thereby leading to Levin’s hold on Fisher’s nomination. (Under longstanding custom, any individual senator can place such a hold and delay confirmation votes.) In an effort to break the logjam, Justice officials then interviewed the FBI agent on their own and then reported back that the Democratic senators were misconstruing his e-mail, according to a July 26 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter by William E. Moschella, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.

Moschella said that the unnamed FBI author of the May 10 e-mail reported that the sentence referring to weekly meetings with Fisher should be “decoupled” from the sentences before and after it, which refer to discussions about the ineffectiveness of Defense Department tactics and the agreement among participants that “DOD tactics were going to be an issue in the military commission cases.” In fact, according to Moschella’s letter, the FBI agent only remembered discussions with Fisher about one particular detainee and his links to law-enforcement investigations; “he does not recall any conversation with or in the presence of Ms. Fisher regarding interrogation techniques or the treatment of detainees.”

The answer didn’t satisfy Levin who still insists on speaking directly to the FBI agent, not relying on the Justice representation of what he said, according to a Senate source who asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivity of the matter.
"Unrelated to her qualifications?" That's a bit of a stretch, I would say. She didn't recall being at a meeting where the FBI expressed their concerns over Gitmo interrogation procedures, despite the fact that she was listed in the memo as having attended. Several Senators understandably wanted was to talk to the FBI agent who wrote the memo. Gonzo claimed the author's story had now changed, and the Senators said fine, let's hear it directly. But instead of doing something rather simple to clear it all up -- produce the FBI agent who can just repeat the story that they were mistaken -- Bush takes the rather extraordinary step of giving Fisher a recess appointment smack dab in the middle of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Does anyone else smell a steaming pile of bullshit?


Go Ask Alice

There's article up at the New York Observer that provides some interesting context for the prominent drama that is playing out within the Justice Department right now. It covers the changes that are happening in the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York, which happens to have been home to both James Comey and Patrick Fitzgerald:
Because of the complex, highly technical work involved, white-collar prosecutors are considered exceptions to the conventional wisdom that prosecutors don'’t make good defense lawyers.

But that doesn'’t mean it'’s always easy. There's a law-and-order mentality that's hard to shake. Prosecutors are often idealistic, coursing with the belief that they are incorruptible, that their loyalty is to the truth, to seeing justice served. They can often be righteous: Because they pick their cases instead of their cases picking them, they believe through and through that they are right. They see the defense bar -- —where loyalty to the client is paramount -- —as relativistic to the point of unprincipled. It can make the transition rocky.

“You've got to wait a little time for the "badgectomy"’ to heal,"” joked Steven Peikin, who left his post as co-chief of the unit in 2004 to join Sullivan & Cromwell'’s criminal-defense and investigations group. He just made partner.

When James Comey took office as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 2002, he described an earlier transition, from Assistant U.S. Attorney to corporate defense lawyer, as a "“major adjustment."

"You go from being paid to do the right thing every day, from having the freedom never to make an argument you don'’t believe in, to being a defense attorney, where you are duty-bound to make the best argument you can," he told the New York Law Journal. "“I have a tremendous respect for people who do defense work, and it's not lying, but in a private moment, sometimes, you say, 'Geez, this is a bunch of baloney.'"

Mr. Peikin argued that it's easier to make the transition to defense work in the white-collar arena. "I'm not representing any terrorists, I can tell you that,"” he said. "“It'’s seldom black-and-white; there are often degrees or shades of gray."”

Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney'’s office have different versions of the adage about selling out to a fancy law firm, but one version has it that they start looking around when they have a second child, or when their first hits school age. Prosecutors fresh off a clerkship can make about $50,000 a year, but most come in with more experience and earn starting salaries between $60,000 and $80,000. The U.S. Attorney tops out at about $140,000.

Meanwhile, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys jumping ship this fall are landing on some pretty swank dinghies. At the top-tier firms where they'’re headed, they'’ll expect to make between $700,000 and a million in the first year, experts said.
Patrick Fitzgerald is making that $140,000 a year. He doesn't get paid extra for handling the Plame investigating. One shudders to think of the financial lures from the private sector he turns down in order to do so.

When Comey took the job of number two at the Justice Department, he no doubt thought he was opting for a life where he would have a great deal of discretion in choosing to pursue cases he felt passionately about, and was willing to make the financial sacrifice on behalf of himself and his family to do so. That most certainly did not happen as part of the Bush Junta and it is to his credit that he stuck around and fought them as agressively as he did.

The case of Alice Fisher and her oversight of the Criminal Division is troublesome not so much because she will spike the Abramoff deal, although she shouldn't be anywhere near it. It is problematic because Abramoff potentially leads to so many other targets, and as head of the Criminal Division Fisher will have a great deal of discretion about who they decide to purse. Do they chase Tom DeLay, K Street and the elaborate GOP money laundering scheme, or do they go after Harry Reid for taking $5,000 in money with no obvious quid-pro-quo ties from Abramoff's victims, the Indian tribes?

THAT'S the problem.

PS I'll be on Majority Report today at 4:51 PT/7:51 ET with Janeane Garafalo and Sam Seder.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Time For a Few Flame Throwers

In a timely post entitled What Are Democrats So Afraid Of, Glenn Greenwald riffs on Swopa's idea that the Democrats need to designate a few flamethrowers to get out there and start calling bullshit before the Daou Principle kicks in yet again and the Abramoff scandal gets branded in the public consciousness as "bipartisan."

From the WaPo:
With an eye on November's elections, Republicans have sought to limit the damage to themselves by portraying the scandal as bipartisan, describing Abramoff as an equal-opportunity dispenser of campaign cash and largess.

So far, the public has not identified corruption as solely a Republican problem. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in November asked Americans whether they thought Democrats or Republicans were better on ethical matters; 16 percent said Democrats, 12 percent said Republicans, and 71 percent said there was not much difference between the parties.
Over at Kos they have also announced that Harry Reid is going to be attending the Yearly Kos convention this June. Can we say it's about fucking time these people realized who the base are and start doing some long-overdue sucking up? We're quite sick of watching the President of the Hair Club For Men tiptoe out in his little pink tu-tu on Sunday morning and discipline the dog he thinks won't bite as he tries to look Manly and Commanding.

Word up, Joe. This dog bites.


Heckuva Job Alice

I was more than a little tweaked today when I turned on CSPAN and saw that Alice Fisher was giving the press conference in the Abramoff case. Alice Fisher should have recused herself long ago.

As Digby has noted, with the Democrats neutered and the press sufficiently conscripted into the GOP cause at a certain point the only functional check in the system over this corrupt administration became the career prosecutors within the Justice Department. James Comey was a full-on disaster appointee for BushCo. who bucked them from the get over wiretapping, torture and Ashcroft's oversight of the Plame investigation. When the wingy Ashcroft was not servile enough and refused to reign Comey in even he got the boot and was replaced by the much more morally pliant Abu Gonzales.

Last year BushCo. was trying to get Timothy "Tyco" Flanigan through Senate confirmation to replace Comey as the number two in the Justice Department, but Flanigan got cute at his hearings and Specter hated him. There was much speculation that Flanigan would get a recess appointment last summer and as Bush's old Skull-and-Bones crony be in the perfect spot to oversee Patrick Fitzgerald, but that didn't happen. Bush did give a recess appointment to Alice Fisher as Chief of the Criminal Division. On Wednesday, right smack in the middle of the Hurricane Katrina disaster when the country wasn't looking. (Comey eventually shot them all the finger on his way out the door and appointed the ethical David Margolis to oversee Fitzgerald.)

Bush must've really wanted Alice Fisher in there.

Fisher had been having trouble with her confirmation too, and Carl Levin had blocked her nomination due to concerns over her position on torture. There was also worry about her connection to DeLay:
Leahy also expressed concerns about Fisher's "views on checks of controversial provisions of the Patriot Act and her opposition to the Act's sunset provision; her participation in meetings in which the FBI expressed its disagreement with harsh interrogation methods practiced by the military toward detainees held at Guantanamo, and her ideas about appropriate safeguards for the treatment of enemy combatants." Leahy was also concerned about "reports that she has had ties to Congressman Tom DeLay'’s defense team" and "also to know what steps she to take to avoid a conflict of interest in the Department's investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and possibly Mr. DeLay."
Fisher is a career Republican who in her former job was registerd as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Bill Frist's father. Her appointment was also controversial due to the fact that like her boss Abu Gonzales, Fisher has no trial experience and with Comey gone there would be no senior member of the Justice Department who was an experienced criminal prosecutor. But Senatorial oversight was dispensed with and BushCo. continued on its Brownie-esque rampage to replace experience with cronyism.

Said Newsweek:
For the Hammer, the involvement of the Department of Justice is bad news -- but not as bad as it could be. The allegations are serious enough to have drawn the attention of the Feds -- —whose motives can't be as easily dismissed as those of Ronnie Earle, a Texas state prosecutor and Democrat who's been tracking DeLay with Javert-like intensity. The probe is being overseen by Noel Hillman, a hard-charging career prosecutor who heads the Public Integrity Section and who has a long track record of nailing politicians of all stripes. But politics almost certainly will creep into the equation. Hillman's new boss will soon be Alice Fisher, who is widely respected but also a loyal Republican socially close to DeLay's defense team. The larger question is whether Justice -- run by Bush's buddy Alberto Gonzales -- will aggressively seek evidence that could lead to DeLay or to other Republicans in Congress. "I just don't know that they have the stomach for it," said a lawyer close to the probe.
You can say that again.

Staring down the twin barrels of the Abramoff and DeLay investigations, Bush's urgent insistence on having Fisher in there does not bode well. Imagine the shock and horror of BushCo. when it turned out that when James Comey testified that "I don't care about politics. I don't care about expediency. I care about doing the right thing" the fucker actually meant it. I really have a hard time imagining that they took Fisher off the hot seat, bypassed the Senate approval process and then jammed her into a critical spot without feeling some comfort that she would not, indeed, turn into another Comey.

Maybe she is a total straight shooter who will do right by everybody involved. But if that's the case she should step aside, recuse herself and let other people within the Justice Department who are not tainted by conflicts of interest handle this one.

Update: Digby: "Now, ask yourself if an investigation was being held into powerful Democrats under a Democratic administration if there would be shrieking harpies flying all over the airwaves today demanding a special prosecutor.

"Yeah, I know. Whatever."



The airwaves are full of the obedient and the credulous this morning trying to tar the Democrats with Jack Abramoff's filthy lucre, so let's set the record straight for those too busy sucking down hairspray fumes to pay full attention. As Media Matters noted when the NYT's Anne Kornblut pimped this crap on Hardball:
Appearing on the December 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Kornblut falsely claimed that Abramoff had given contributions to Democrats. Yet a Media Matters for America search of the Center for Responsive Politics database of campaign contributions did not find any contributions from Abramoff to Democrats or Democratic leadership political action committees.

Although Kornblut amended her statement to claim that Abramoff "had his clients donate to Democrats," her comment falsely suggests that Republicans and Democrats are equally enmeshed in the scandal surrounding Abramoff. In fact, while Democrats have received contributions from Abramoff's lobbying groups and his clients, Kornblut's statement ignores the difference between accepting contributions from groups linked to Abramoff, which is legal and proper, and taking contributions in exchange for official actions, which is illegal, and which is at the heart of the ongoing investigations.
Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show. (my emphasis)
Enough with the docile repetition of "well you know Democrats are implicated in this too." They're not. The shameless perpetuation of GOP talking points in the guise of news by major media outlets is a embarrassment creeping coup.

Update: Think Progress has a great compendium of the players in the Abramoff scancal. Worth bookmarking.

Update II: Anybody else catch the Abramoff presser? I'm not liking this one at all. WTF is Alice Fisher doing at the head of all of this?

(thanks to Phoenix Woman in the comments)


Monday, January 02, 2006

Bloggy Participation Time

Long-time and much valued reader Susan sends me an email asking for help in generating a pithy response to a bulletin-board poster who has this to say about Brokeback Mountain:
What I don't care for, is Hollyweird's obsession with deconstructing traditional American values and icons. Many things of great value are eviscerated in film by pseudointellectual producers with a left wing agenda.
I haven't seen the movie and everything I try to write comes out mean, overly complicated and un-funny, so please help Susan out and take your best shot.

Also, FDLers Karen Allen and Froggermarch are going to a Mean Jean event tomorrow. If you have any burning questions in need of posing to either Jean or her broom do post them in the comments.


Shallow Waters

Franklin Foer says we should be nice to the MSM because if we're critical of them it will only make the wingnuts happy.

What Foer seems to have difficulty understanding is that the important role the Press SHOULD play in our society is not to say that they are doing their job. Indeed, it is our view that the Press has failed miserably in its role for the past 5 years at the least.

One can hold these two views at the same time. It is not complicated. To hear Foer tell it, you're for a free press filling its role in our society or agin it. And if you are for it, you can never speak an unkind word against the Media. Sound familiar?
I don't know why this is too hard to comprehend. It's been an obvious difference in the critique of the press since I've been paying attention to such things. The Post's ombudsman just wrote something along the lines of "the right forgets how mean we were to Clinton and the Left wants us to be an adjunct of"

Uh, no, the issue is that the Left remembers how shitty and unfair you were to Clinton and ALSO remembers how Walter Pincus can't get published on Page 1. It's the Right which has been spewing the "liberal media" drumbeat for decades as idiots like Bernie Goldberg were paraded around the media while the Left has been screeching Please Do Your Jobs Better.
I only have one question for the Deborah Howells of the world who say that if both the left and right are complaining it indicates they must be doing something right.

How would we know if you were just completely fucking up?

Update: Matt Stoller: "Foer's point is dumb, since it was the New York Times public editor taking the New York Times to task. Or should I call him the Mainstream Public Editor Media (MPEM)?"


Linky Link: The Long Memories of the Blogosphere

Siun tells us that Pete Williams was on MSNBC today spinning the yarn that James Comey's objections to the NSA wiretapping scheme were only momentary and technical, and that he eventually was part of the effort to get the NYT to sit on the story.

While this tale is I suppose possible it sounds quite unlikely, and its successful perpetuation depends on two things:

1) That Comey himself will not come out and challenge it. Probably true.

2) That nobody in the blogosphere will ferret around in the news vaults and set Comey's relationship to the Administration during his brief stint at the DoJ in its proper context.

Too late.

In this particular instance the context is set by Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy, who unearths this superb bit from the Legal Times in October 2004:
There are a number of candidates who could be tapped to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general if President George W. Bush wins re-election. But perhaps the most obvious choice, Deputy AG James Comey, almost certainly will not be.

Since his confirmation as the No. 2 Justice Department official in December 2003, sources close to the department say Comey has had a strained relationship with some of the president's top advisers . . . .

Earlier this year, after the disclosure of internal administration memos that seemed to condone the torture of suspected terrorists overseas, Comey pushed aggressively for the Justice Department's memos to be released to the media and for controversial legal analyses regarding the use of torture to be rewritten.

In a deeply partisan administration that places a high premium on political loyalty, sources say Comey — a career prosecutor and a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — is not viewed as a team player.

"[Comey] has shown insufficient political savvy," says the former official. "The perception is that he has erred too much on the side of neutrality and independence."
"The appointment of Pat Fitzgerald is the kind of decision that the White House isn't thrilled with," says one former DOJ official. "Comey knew what he was doing when he appointed Pat."

(my emphasis)
In a different era Pete Williams' story would sit unchallenged like so many other great stinking piles of pushback spin, at best only part of a larger story designed to paint the Administration's despotic actions in a positive light. By the time the truth came out Williams' credulous repetition of a tale that certainly looks, sounds and smells like bullshit would be long forgotten. In the post-Whitewater world, however, Williams will now be made to wear this particular story like an anvil for the rest of his career if it turns out not to be true.

Volokh is no liberal choir boy and as his role in the Padilla case shows, neither is Comey. Partisan privilege will not protect journalists willing to sacrifice the truth and their integrity for a quick ride on the lap of the steely-eyed rocketman.


Link You Huskies, Link!

[W]e scruffy bloggers...are greeted with great skepticism because we are unregulated, uncredentialed, and in some cases pseudonymous, so we also must go to great lengths to document our findings. Luckily, the technology that gives us such amazing instant access to reams of information also gives us the ability to link directly to our source material --- as Arianna once described it "showing our work." And over time we gain credibility with our readers the same way that newspapers do.
If there was one thing I would say to print journalists trying to ease themselves into the internet era it would be LEARN HOW TO LINK YOU BASTARDS.

It drives us CRAZY and fuels much scorn when nobody in the MSM seems to realize that this possibility (let alone this necessity) exists. And I don't mean some auto-generated Yahoo link to the word "Pentagon" like nobody knows what it means. I mean if you talk about Karl Rove's first appearance before the grand jury, and six months ago your own publication wrote an article about that very event, you link to it. It's not hard, you probably looked at it when you wrote the piece in the first place.

Reading an article on the AP or the UPI or the WaPo or the NYT or Time or Newsweek is often an exercise in complete frustration for a blogger because you know you're going to have to go dig up all that shit yourself when the writer could so easily have done it. Linking builds up an architecture, it allows you to cover only what is actually NEWS without having to restate so much that is already known. If somebody doesn't know the history, they can jump through to a link that recounts it. And once several levels of posts exist that do just that, people can keep going back -- six or seven layers deep -- until they explore all the aspects of the story that they are interested in. It's an extremely efficient way for someone who has never explored a topic before, or who just hasn't been keeping up recently, to acquaint themselves rather exhaustively without boring the tits off everyone who just wants the update.

What do they do instead? They recap. Oh that's a killer. You scan some new article and the first three paragraphs gives the "news" (such as it is) and then they start the deadly RECAP. Nothing that a simple link couldn't facilitate for the curious. And then just when your eyes are glazing over from reading a rather shallow synopsis of something you already know quite well they throw in some actual NEWS but by then you aren't paying attention and you go over to Needlenose and Swopa is and you think SHIT how did I miss that.

For all the bitching about scruffy unwashed bloggers we DO show our work, and if you think we're building a house of cards well it will immediately become apparent if the links go to dubious and discredited sources. I just don't understand the reticence of MSM journalists to do this. Do they think it's a clerical task somehow beneath them?

You would think the NYT in an effort to peddle their firewall crap would be linking the bejesus out of their archives both as a practical and a financial matter. That AP and UPI would sign some kind of deal with Yahoo to link back to newswire articles appearing on their site. That they'd do something about link rot to keep the links from going sour. It's absolutely neanderthal and all the bitching about bloggers sounds quite hollow and Damon Runyon-esque coming from people who have not caught on to this simple fact of life in the 21st century.


Sunday, January 01, 2006


Now I may not be as "emotionally or morally sophisticated" as Roger L Simon, but then I didn't spend the afternoon of 9/11 flushing away my beliefs and convictions in a piddle-stained panic. So please spare me the "cojones" and "cowardice" locker room speech from the man who is one car backfire away from turning into a fedora floating in a puddle of pee.

You wanna run into the arms of the big strong steely-eyed rocket man? Be my guest. But when he picks your pocket, steals you car and leaves you high and dry in some cheap motel near Waco, don't come crying to me.
I believe the rest of the year will be spent finding endless ways to say just this, only not nearly so well.

Update: Digby:
Very moving, no? All those fine words about the rule of law safeguarding our liberties, the arbitrary exercise of power and Bunker Hill, Lexington and Normandy went right out the window on 9/11. That was when Henry [Hyde] and the rest of his stalwart defenders of the rule of law promptly wet their pants and then let their president use the constitution to clean up the puddle.
I say two is a trend.

Update: Wolcott takes the pledge:
In fact, my policy is to refer to the warbloggers in 2006 as "bedwetters." There need be no shame in being a bedwetter. It's a condition that can be treated. But for the neocon-converted, treatment first requires taking honest self-inventory. Having the courage to look in the mirror admit, "I'm a pompous warmongering bedwetting crybaby who loves to hear myself maunder."
And that's a hat trick.


Dirty Rotten Bloggers

Odd article up over at the New York Times that starts out talking about reporters' "sources" who use the internet to fire back at them by publishing original transcripts, tapes and emails themselves. But then it wanders over into blogger territory to discuss people who will take the time to sift through all this stuff:
The printing of transcripts, e-mail messages and conversations, and the ability to pull up information from search engines like Google, have empowered those whom Jay Rosen, a blogger and journalism professor at New York University, calls "the people formerly known as the audience."

"In this new world, the audience and sources are publishers," Mr. Rosen said. "They are now saying to journalists, 'We are producers, too. So the interview lies midpoint between us. You produce things from it, and we do, too.' From now on, in a potentially hostile interview situation, this will be the norm."

All these developments have forced journalists to respond in a variety of ways, including becoming more open about their methods and techniques and perhaps more conscious of how they filter information.
I think they were trying to wrap their arms around a topic that is still quite elusive to traditional media minds, and did so with limited success. It is almost by accident they bring up a topic I'm quite interested in but haven't had the opportunity to write about.

The Kathleen Parkers of the world are irate because someone with no official journalistic imprimatur should be challenging them in the domain of news reporting, and she and her ilk are always shrieking about how bloggers have no editors and are basically just an unwashed horde who would be nothing without the big news bureaus to feed them raw data. Without going into all the keen misunderstandings in the realm of Kathleen Parker, let's just say she represents the mindset of many who don't comprehend what bloggers do or what the allure of a blog is to its readers.

I can only speak about my own experience, as someone who regularly converses with numerous journalists who cover the CIA leak case for the purpose of getting a better understanding of what's going on. And these are remarkably smart people, because I'm not going to waste my time talking to the dumb ones. But their job is to stay on the phone all day and cultivate sources, and their memories probably don't extend a whole lot further than the article they wrote yesterday.

They do not spend the hours and days sifting through raw data now available to average people on the internet. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. That is not what they do. If you want to know some obscure detail about something Judith Miller did or said in June of 2003 you call emptywheel. If you need to know about journalists named in the subpoenas sent to the White House in January 2003 you email Jeralyn. If you expect that kind of depth of knowledge about details from the people whose job it is to dig up new dirt in this case, they don't have it. They don't have the time.

In this light bloggers serve the function of analysts. Or re-analyzers, more aptly, who attempt to contextualize as they sort through available data and look for patterns, inconsistencies and greater truths. For my money if I was trying to marry a blog with a newsroom that's where I'd start -- I'm constantly amazed that with all the access to information now available the big news bureaus don't have a deeper pool of researchers to be the adjunct memories of people who spend their time in the development of external news sources.

Because as they are coming to slowly realize, the audience has a critical faculty and they are anxious for interactivity in a way that the MSM just aren't set up to handle. From our standpoint we're trying to come up with new ideas and theories as we try to sort through the available information and expose the systemic bias from which it comes. We're not afraid to be wrong in our speculations, nor are we afraid to interact with people who like to think along side us.

A bit of light chit-chat with Robert Luskin and a thin whitewash of John Harris's political slant just isn't going to cut it as "news" much longer, but these are the habits of journalists that have been entrenched over centuries and I don't see them crumbling without great reluctance.

Oh and Bill O'Reilly's an asshole.

Update: Sean-Paul Kelly and I discussed this on his radio show on Friday night. He has more here.


Press the Meat

Arianna is on vacation so I'm on Russert Watch today at the HuffPo. Roger Ailes does likewise, and of course there is nothing I can say that he will not say better and quicker.

Update: Anyone so inclined can go and vote for my story on Yahoo News here.


What Do We Look Like, Newsweek?

In an evident bid to replace Harriet Miers as the number one go-to frothy apologist for the Bush Junta, Newsweek jumps into the wiretapping fray this morning:
The message to White House lawyers from their commander in chief, recalls one who was deeply involved at the time, was clear enough: find a way to exercise the full panoply of powers granted the president by Congress and the Constitution. If that meant pushing the boundaries of the law, so be it. The Bush administration did not throw away the Bill of Rights in the months and years that followed; indeed, NEWSWEEK has learned, ferocious behind-the-scenes infighting stalled for a time the administration's ambitious program of electronic spying on U.S. citizens at home and abroad.
They remove the anodized knee pads momentarily however to lapse into a bit of actual news:
On one day in the spring of 2004, White House chief of staff Andy Card and the then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a bedside visit to John Ashcroft, attorney general at the time, who was stricken with a rare and painful pancreatic disease, to try -- —without success -- to get him to reverse his deputy, Acting Attorney General James Comey, who was balking at the warrantless eavesdropping. Miffed that Comey, a straitlaced, by-the-book former U.S. attorney from New York, was not a "team player" on this and other issues, President George W. Bush dubbed him with a derisive nickname, "Cuomo," after Mario Cuomo, the New York governor who vacillated over running for president in the 1980s. (The White House denies this; Comey declined to comment.)
Abu and Card were not successful in getting even the wingiest of the wingnuts, John Ashcroft, to sign off on their little scheme.

And in the midst of all the drum-beating about protecting the country from terrorists, a man who has more anti-terrorism bona fides than all of the BushCo. yellow elephants combined -- James Comey -- is saddled with a belittling nickname and derided for refusing to ignore his own pangs of conscience with regard to that pesky Constitution.

Meanwhile, it does raise several questions. If Abu Gonzales was involved in this nasty business all along, shouldn't he be recusing himself from oversight of any Justice Department investigation?

And who exactly were they wiretapping that this bothered both Ashcroft and Comey so much? As Digby notes, they've called us traitors to our faces. Trusting souls like Jonah Goldberg may rest easy in the belief that they were only wiretapping terrorists, but even William Safire believes that's a load of bollocks.

I guess you can start peeling off the Libertarians from the coalition of the duped.

Update: In lieu of any poll that asks a legitimate question about illegal, warrantless wiretapping engaged in by the administration, you can express your own opinions in Newsweek's own poll, currently running 85% against. Perhaps it will act as a cure to their euphoria.


Another One Bites the Dust

I was really disconcerted to read over at Kos yesterday that Air America Phoenix has been sold to a Christian station. As you may know both Redd and I have appeared on the Charles Goyette show somewhat regularly, so I emailed Charles to see if it was true.

He sent me this:
It's so.

Religious broadcasters out of Denver bought it in a three station acquisition from our owner, James Crystal Inc. Expected closing date of Feb. 1. It's hard to believe that Phoenix needs another religious station, but the new owners will have two here.

It's really is puzzling from a business and revenue standpoint. (It seems like a lot of bother just to get me off the air!) This is the nation's fifth largest city, 15th market, with dynamic growth. There are 60-some radio signals in the airwaves here, most of which aren't making any money. Yet we turned the corner to profitability in less than a year, an amazing feat for a start-up. Despite having done virtually no outside advertising or promotion, Air America Phoenix is already the third talk station in town having left behind a half-dozen others that have been long established in the market. My show is virtually sold out all the time.

Bob Christy, who made this happen, is exploring other possibilities for the operation in the market, but time is running short. Who knows?
It's a terrible loss. Charles is one of the most well-informed people you'll ever speak with, and the world just really does not need a voice of sanity trumped by yet another snake oil salesman bleating for dollars. (As a side note, anybody ever get stuck driving through like the West Texas panhandle where Jesus radio is the only thing besides the cattle futures you can get? I always start thinking about what kind of mindset you would have to be in where that shit actually starts to sound good and then I creep myself out. I'm fairly certain the idea for satellite radio was hatched somewhere between Amarillo and Lubbock.)

judybrowni has a good bit up at Kos about how to bring Air America to your community as was successfully done here in Oregon recently. Anybody looking for a good New Year's project could certainly do worse.

(graphic courtesy