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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Late-Nite FDL: C-Team To the Rescue

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


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

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

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

Cue the pearl clutching.


Li'l Debbie Still Doesn't Get It

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

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

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

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

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


Mr. Brady, Meet Mr. Troll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Post Relents

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

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

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

Do you think I should go?


Friday, January 20, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

JB: Correct.

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

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

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

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

HH: Was there an epicenter of that effort?

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

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

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

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

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

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

JB: Very committed.

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

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

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

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

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

(thanks to reader Sean C. for the tip)

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

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


Even the Techies Aren't Buying It, Jim

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Combating Zombie Journalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Blame the Barbarians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Maryland Moment blog is still open for comment.

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

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


Thursday, January 19, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Workin' the Refs

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

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

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

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

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

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


Et Tu, Li'l Debbie

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


Tweety Outta Control

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

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

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

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

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


Lil' Debbie Can't Handle The Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WaPo You've Outdone Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(graphic by alysheba)


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Let's Get Murtha's Back

When John Murtha stuck his neck out to call Bush's war a fiasco, he must've known that he would be the next one to be Swift Boated. That no major Democrat has endorsed his plan or called out the Washington Post and others for legitimizing the attacks of GOP-funded "Cybercast News" is shameful.

A couple of nights ago a commenter here suggested that Murtha be the one to give the Democratic rebuttal to the SOTU address. It is usually a pretty lackluster affair and everyone agreed that having Murtha do it would really invigorate the event, throwing Commander Codpiece into sharp contrast with a genuine military hero who spent 37 years defending his country.

On a blogger conference call with Harry Reid yesterday, I asked Reid who was going to be giving the rebuttal and he wouldn't say. I think it would be a good thing for Reid and all the Democrats to know just how strongly we feel about Murtha and the courage he has shown, because I'm not sure they do.

Democratic Underground has set up a board dedicated to Murtha giving the SOTU address. I urge everyone to stop by and let the Democrat establishment know just how you feel about John Murtha.

Update: The Democrats announced that their choice is going to be Tim Kaine. I think we forced their hand anyway. Good job everyone -- they know we're here.


FDL Late Nite: They're Waving the Idiot Flag at the Corner Again

I was going to leave off Kate O'Beirne tonight, really I was, the book is tanking and nothing they can do will save it. But I decided I needed to hit it one more time if only to dispel the notion amongst the conspiracy-minded that I am the one planning their "counter-offensive" (such as it is), because really I could not do a better job if I had orchestrated it myself.

I envision Kate sniffing daintily by the window, waiting for her Bush that will never come to rush through the door and rescue her. All of a sudden one of the Corner zeros -- and I've got five bucks on Jonah -- says "hey I know what, I'll call my mom...." and the rest is history.

Exhibit A: The Corner and Lucianne (gone now, but she had a giant picture of Valley Girl's mockup.)

Now I ordinarily wouldn't do their work for them, I'd just let them continue to parade around like a bunch of fucking monkeys, but I figure someone with a brain will show up at some point and scream for the love of God what were you thinking.

This whole adventure has been most illustrative and has shown many holes in their game that I hope to exploit at a further date so I'll say no more (because I know they read this and it brings me great joy). But I'm willing to give them this one because it demonstrates how thoroughly beatable they are. They may have money and they are ruthless but they are also, evidently, the stupidest people who grew opposable thumbs.

I used the Boss Tweed analogy the other night and I think it bears repeating. Tammany Hall was dismantled when cartoonist Thomas Nast drew cartoons of Tweed like the one pictured above.
"Let's stop them damned pictures," the Boss supposedly said, "I don't care so much what the papers write about -- —my constituents can't read -- —but damn it, they can see pictures."
See, Boss Tweed wanted Thomas Nast's cartoons wiped off the face of the planet. He didn't blow them up to mural size and slap them all over Tammany Hall. Would you like to tell me what kind of fucking moron copies the enemy's piss-takes and blows it up to enormous proportions for the whole world to see?

Jesus tapdancing Christ you really don't need to even bother when they're willing to do all the work for you.

Update: enigma4ever reports in the comments that there was a big pile 'o Kate's books on the floor at Borders in downtown Cleveland -- seems they were putting them back because there were too many out and they weren't selling. How very sad.


Malkin Takes a Dive

Although Michelle Malkin's blog has been around for much longer than the relatively new Crooks and Liars, according to Technorati C&L just passed her for number 8 spot in the most popular blogs list among the 25.4 million they track. That is just amazing, considering John Amato does it without benefit of wingnut welfare, think tank-sponsored book deals, columns syndicated to the functionally illiterate or a general willingness to spout fascist gibberish and turn himself into a rodeo clown for the cable news freak shows.

John is a class act, a true innovator and an immeasurable asset to the lefty blogosphere. I called my broker the other day and the girl who answered the phone said "oh my gosh! I saw your name on Crooks & Liars, that's awesome." He draws people into the blogosphere we otherwise wouldn't reach, and he's one of the big reasons the left leaning side of our aisle is growing while the wingers stay static.

Stop by and congratulate John and let him know how much you appreciate the fact that he just kicked Malkin's ass.


The Happy Haughty Howells

Okay the WaPo has now entered the territory of deep absurdity, employing an ombudsman who does not reply to the public. Which I suppose now makes her the ombudsman to the Heritage Foundation, to whom she does reply.

Just in case there was any lingering doubt as to Howell's political alignment, reader Bob B. did some digging into her background and unearthed some information about her husband, C. Peter Magrath, former president of the National Association of State Colleges and Land Grant Universities.

In 1997 McGrath published a Howowitzian paper calling for the elimination of tenure:
It is clear to me that tenure is one of those "third rails" that can quickly electrocute university chancellors and presidents.


Although still valued highly by society for the knowledge they produce, colleges and universities have only "soft" support in many sectors of society because of perceptions -- some justified, some not -- that we are not fully accountable and responsible; that we are inefficient and too often self-indulgent; and that we neglect the largest constituency that we are supposed to serve -- undergraduate students.

The issue of tenure must be viewed in this broader context of public unrest about higher education. It is part of a larger examination of American universities that is going on nationwide. Studies by such respected groups as the Public Agenda Foundation show that tenure, fairly or unfairly, evokes disdain from civic and business leaders because they believe it protects professors from the accountability and productivity required of other workers. I suspect that college tenure also is caught up in the many negative perceptions that exist regarding teacher tenure in our nation's elementary and secondary schools.
In light of the LA Times story about the really frightening Bruin Alumni Association's "Exposing UCLA's Radical Professors" initiative, whereby students are paid to spy on professors perceived as liberal, tenure is one of the only safeguards against fascism totally overrunning the institutions of higher learning that are one of the last bulwarks against it in this country.

Howell and her husband may be stupid but they're dangerous, and anything they do should be viewed through the light of their deep conservative convictions much like other Texans Who Shall Remain Nameless.

For anybody wishing to express their sentiments publicly to the Post, the Maryland Moment blog is still open.


Journalism 101

Crap journalism exhibit A, courtesy Peter Baker of the WaPo:
White House Disputes Gore on NSA Spying

"...The ACLU said that because of their work, the plaintiffs "have a well-founded belief that their communications are being intercepted by the NSA" but offered no evidence."
Responsible, non-stenographic journalism, courtesy Jonathan S. Landay of Knight Ridder:
Legal challenges to NSA eavesdropping filed

...She acknowledged that she had no "direct evidence" her clients were monitored.

Several legal scholars said the Justice Department probably would demand the cases be dismissed because the suits are based on suspicions - not proof - that the plaintiffs have been targeted.

In order for such cases to have standing in court, judges require plaintiffs to show that their rights were infringed by the government's conduct, something that will be difficult to demonstrate with the NSA program because it's top secret.
No wonder big wingnut bucks are being thrown around trying to shut Knight-Ridder up. Will Bunch does an excellent job of following this story.

And if anyone wants to photoshop up a set of logo kneepads for the WaPo, I really think they need 'em.

(thanks to reader Susan N.)


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Kate Circles the Drain

I had hoped to have something else for everyone tonight, but alas it will not be until tomorrow. It's a good one though, if everything comes together I think you'll like it.

In the mean time, let's just enjoy dancing on Kate's grave. She dropped to 120 today on Amazon and is sinking like a rock. Which in a way is kind of sad, I had a whole lot more weapons in my arsenal that I was all ready to use but alas they do not seem to be needed. Inertia is pulling her sales, like her prom-queen visage, ever downward. I guess I will just have to save them for the next round, 'cos we're not done with Kate. Not by a long shot.

Wingnuts are bullies but they are (as we well know) roving chickenshits, they travel in packs. It's like that rich kid in the Wedding Crashers who thinks he's a badass because his friends hold a guy down while he wails on them. Single one out and they're pissing themselves. If you have a scattershot approach where everyone gets sprayed it is largely ineffective, but if you separate one from the group and make an example of them -- a cautionary tale to the others, so to speak -- your volley is much more effective.

They want to strike back? Bring it. Love to have the traffic. Because unlike the Corner where they apparently rescue people from eating lead-based paint off the walls, put them in front of a computer and subsidize their deep forays into Herbert Spencer scholarship, we have advertisers. I'm going to guess they will not be sending anyone with a book coming out. Nobody quite that brave.

I hear hairless troll doll Mark Levin is seething. Considering he is yet another wignut welfare-subsidized ink slinger, it really makes the whole thing worth it right there, don't you think?

Update: GSD, from the comments:
By the way, for Kate O'Beirne to somehow imply that she wasn't getting "kick me" posters slapped on her back and not spending lots of lonely high school nights watching Dobie Gillis all alone and sneaking off to rub up against the washing machine on an off-load is high comedy.
Just so they'll see it.

Update II: TBogg: "It's nice to see Kate going down faster than Pam from Atlas Shrugs at a PJM get together."

(graphic courtesy Corrado)


There Goes the Neighborhood

I know this will send the wonks into fits of hyperventilation about the interstate commerce clause, but I find it highly ironic that per the Supreme Court terminal patients can now end their lives but they can't smoke weed to make their pain more bearable.

And how about that charmer John Roberts, eh? The one who said only months ago he probably wouldn't vote against assisted suicide -- and then he did.

Maybe we can work up a few more bold headlines about how Strip Search Sammy is going to keep an "open mind" about abortion. 'Cos I know the Senate Dems are meeting tomorrow to see if they have the 41 votes or not and those always make me laugh 'til I cry.


The Maryland Moment

The smackdown of Deborah Howell offered up at the is having remarkable legs. Memorandum this morning had the headline "HOWELL IS A LYING HACK NOT FIT TO CHANGE TOILET PAPER OUT AT THE MOTEL 6!!!!", and then there is this deft response by Vance Lehmkuhl in Romanesco to Howie Kurtz' disingenous defense of Howell during his Post live chat:
Kurtz says Deborah Howell's statement about Democrats receiving money from Abramoff was not a lie, only "inartfully worded," and cites the phrase "have gotten Abramoff campaign money" as though this was the only instance in that column of her referring to this concept.

That's wrong, though. As Kurtz must know, the other reference was beyond artful or inartful; it was simply untrue: "Schmidt quickly found that Abramoff was getting 10 to 20 times as much from Indian tribes as they had paid other lobbyists. And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties."

No. Schmidt did not report (nor has anyone else to date uncovered) Jack Abramoff himself making ANY campaign contribution to Democrats. Howell and now Kurtz should apologize for continuing to parrot this falsity.
The Post this morning "disappeared" the Howell comments from the blog, only to restore them shortly thereafter. In case they get "disappeared" again, it's nice to know they are being helpfully logged here.

Reader RBG emailed me and suggested that much like the Boston Tea Party, the original title of the blog we hijacked -- "The Maryland Moment" -- be forthwith the designated monicker for this rather theatrical bit of reader pushback. I'm liking it.

Update: Wilson46201 from the comments:
What's fun to realize about the WaPo kerfuffle is the internal turmoil going on. Anybody involved in a large organization knows what happens behind the scenes when there's such a flap. The top dogs are chatting, lawyers have been discreetly consulted, office gossips are going full blast, Emails are being forwarded, everybody is afraid of screwing this whole affair up even more...
I also forgot to mention Will Bunch's pointed Howell rant in Romanesco this morning. If you haven't read it yet it's a delight.


More on Jill Carroll

I've been holding on to this for a couple of days unsure about whether to post it, but now that Jill Carroll's captors have released a video and demanded that Iraqi women be set free or she will be killed within 72 hours I thought the perspective it offers might be enlightening. I found it quite sobering, from a female journalist I know who has worked extensively in Iraq:
I was very sorry to see that the kidnappings have started up again in Iraq. Unfortunately, it is a society that is accustomed to spying -- they all spy on one another -- and a foreigner cannot move about unnoticed anywhere -- phone calls will be made and it's just a matter of time. It is extremely naive for a foreign reporter to imagine they can move around in Iraq -- even to hospitals, police stations, universities and other public places with security and responsible officials in charge. There is no safe place in Iraq, not even the South. There are spies everywhere. At this point any journalist operating there, especially a freelance one, is one of three things:

1. Not leaving their hotel and if they do go out, it's with very heavy and very expensive security
2. Operating on a basis of being willing to martyr themselves because they truly believe getting the truth about Iraq is worth more than their life
3. Naive. Anyone who has spent anytime in Iraq, had any Iraqi friends, studied its modern history and cared to understand the society SHOULD know there is no such thing as blending in. There is a culture of report writing and tattling and a deep, unshakeable mistrust of foreigners -- They don't even trust each other. They know who all of us are -- they know where we live -- they know who we work with -- they make a point of it. You can't sneak around and you CANNOT hide.

Personally I might be in category 2 -- except one problem -- even if I don't give a damn about my own life, I wouldn't like to have the responsibility of exposing Iraqi colleagues and friends to being shot in the head, making widows and orphans of their families. And what if I survived and they didn't? I couldn't look that family in the eye. Maybe at some point I will change my mind and find myself willing to risk the lives of those people around me -- after all it's the most important story in the world and it's the most lied about story in the world and that is frustrating.

When the civil war starts up in full force it will be possible for journalists to go in with one group or another under their protection -- but right now we're still in the twilight period. I am wondering to myself who took Jill -- they are clearly Sunnis and that is bad news. Being female will help her, the Iraqis find it more distasteful to harm a woman than a man. If she is with the Iraqi Resistance I have a lot of hope for her -- they will not kill her, she may end up in a long dialogue with them and get a good story out of this. But if she is with the Ba'thists and Al Qa'ida these are closed organizations with a nihilist agenda toward Iraq -- no one tells them what to do or negotiates with them and they don't need money -- they have tremendous financial resources -- they don't need to resort to kidnappings for ransom. These are my thoughts for now. Please don't publish anything with my name anywhere near it.
I don't often write about Iraq because I don't know a lot about what's going on there but I am quite concerned about journalists who risk working there, especially the ones who aren't embedded and are trying to get the real story out. I read (and recommend) Juan Cole.



I've been quick to kick the WaPo for shitty, partisan reporting so when someone has the courage to speak out and tell the truth I wanna cheer and cheer loud, in this case for EJ Dionne:
I underestimated the viciousness of the right wing.

Last November, Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat and a decorated Marine combat veteran, came out for a rapid American withdrawal from Iraq. At the time, I wrote: "It will be difficult for Bush's acolytes to cast Murtha, who has regularly stood up for the military policies of Republican presidents during his 31 years in Congress, as some kind of extreme partisan or hippie protester."

No, the conservative hit squad didn't accuse Murtha of being a hippie. But a crowd that regularly defends President Bush for serving in the Texas Air National Guard instead of going to Vietnam has continued its war on actual Vietnam veterans. An outfit called the Cybercast News Service last week questioned the circumstances surrounding the awarding of two Purple Hearts to Murtha because of wounds he suffered in the Vietnam War.

John Kerry, as well as John McCain -- who faced scurrilous attacks on his war record when he was running against Bush in the 2000 South Carolina primary -- could have warned Murtha: If you're a Vietnam veteran, don't you dare get in the way of George W. Bush.


What's maddening here is the unblushing hypocrisy of the right wing and the way it circulates -- usually through Web sites or talk radio -- personal vilification to abort honest political debate. Murtha's views on withdrawing troops from Iraq are certainly the object of legitimate contention. Many in Murtha's party disagree with him. But Murtha's right-wing critics can't content themselves with going after his ideas. They have to try to discredit his service.

Moreover, the right has demonstrated that its attitude toward military service is entirely opportunistic. In the 1992 presidential campaign, when the first President Bush confronted Bill Clinton -- who, like Cheney, avoided military service entirely -- conservatives could hardly speak or write a paragraph about Clinton that didn't accuse him of being a draft dodger. In October 1992, Bush himself assailed Clinton. "A lot of being president is about respect for that office and about telling the truth and serving your country," Bush told a crowd in New Jersey. "And you are all familiar with Governor Clinton's various stories on what he did to evade the draft."

But from 2000 forward, the Republicans had a problem: They confronted Democrats, first Al Gore and then John Kerry, who actually did go to Vietnam, while it was their own standard-bearers who had skipped the war. Suddenly, service in Vietnam wasn't the thing at all. When a Democrat went to war, there must have been something wrong with the way he did it. Gore's service was dismissed because he worked "only" as a military journalist. You can even find Bush's defenders back in 2000 daring to argue that flying planes over Texas was actually more dangerous than joining the Army and serving in Vietnam the way Gore did.
Most journalists are so whipped and intimidated by the GOP that they just don't use this kind of truthful, direct language even in the unlikely event they timidly call them on their shit. And although it is unsaid, implicit in it is a criticism of his own paper for furthering the cause of these attack dogs with Howard Kurtz's shoddy journalism.

Good on EJ Dionne. He just called Dubya a chickenhawk. BIG round of applause.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Late Nite FDL: War Whoops On the Left

It was a good day for Team Librul. Even as Dubya made a cheap, cynical bid to appropriate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Al Gore knocked one over the fence. He also had a chance to talk with MyDD's Matt Stoller (above) and let Matt know that he was a faithful Daily Kos reader, so I guess it was a good day for Al too.

It was a bad day to be Deborah Howell. Although the WaPo has now deleted from the 50 of the comments (though they claim it was a dozen) it thought were offensive, over 600 still remain. I guess it is okay to call Democrats crooks but not impugn the integtrity of Ms. Howell. No matter, the same person who told me to direct readers to the also emailed me to let me know that Deborah getting "hammered" was a big story at Romanesco. "That means the professsional world of journalists will be checking it out," the person said. How embarassing for poor Deborah.

And it was a worse day to be Kate O'Beirne. While I'm sure her publisher was screaming at Amazon to delete all the one-star reviews like they did for Malkin, Amazon obviously felt Kate was too B-list to bother with, hence they now have some paid, thick-witted trolls churning out 5-star reviews. It also looks like somebody dropped a huge chunk of change buying back books to try to prop up sales. That is just awesome. Every dime some wingnut welfare think tank spends trying to save Kate's wreched face is money they don't spend wiping out condom use in Africa or finding new ways to snatch food out of the mouths of the homeless. Digby reminds us of just what a beast Kate and her ilk are, and C&L documents the amusing position Kate now finds herself in vis-a-vis Brokeback Mountain.

Pat yerself on the back. We did good today.

Update: The General has tbeen having a lively exchange with Amazon.


Amour Courtois

A trembling Sir Galahad comes to the defense of the Fair Deborah Howell over at the WaPo blog:
Writing as someone who was involved in researching campaign contributions for these stories, I'd like point out what the Post's reporting on this has demonstrated: according to Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service records, Abramoff himself never gave any money to Democrats. He did direct his tribal clients to contribute to both Democrats and Republicans, with Republicans getting the bulk of such funds
The links provided by this Derek Willis do in fact prove that the Post has been consistent in their attempts to tar Democrats all along.

This hardly works in his defense.

The quasi-hit piece co-authored by Mr. Willis in June of last year entitled "Democrats Also Got Tribal Donations: Abramoff Issue's Fallout May Extend Beyond the GOP" buries this bit at the bottom:
A spokesman for [Patrick] Kennedy said the congressman's donations from the tribes "have nothing to do with Abramoff." Kennedy traces the money's genesis to his family's long-standing commitment to Indian causes, to the fact that he co-founded the Congressional Native American Caucus in 1997, and to his personal relationship with Mississippi Choctaw Chief Philip Martin, whom Kennedy met in 1999 on a fundraising trip for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "They just became close friends," said Kennedy spokesman Sean Richardson.
So let me ask Mr. Willis. If the Indian tribes had a relationship with Patrick Kennedy completely independent of Jack Abramoff, isn't it a bit patronizing to say that Abramoff would "direct his tribal clients" to give money to him?

Further at the bottom of Mr. Willis's co-authored article, it is noted that Harry Reid is "a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee with strong relations with Indian tribes."

Is Mr. Willis trying to assert that the Indian tribes were just too stupid to know on their own that giving campaign contributions to Harry Reid might be a wise thing to do? Is he saying that they needed Jack Abramoff to hold them by their little Indian hands while they wrote their big Indian checks?

More reliable news organizations are quick to point out that Indian donations to Democratic candidates dropped dramatically during the Abramoff era, and it does not take tremendous gifts of deduction to conclude that this was probably the direct result of Abramoff's influence. But there is consistently a strong current of anti-Indian condescension in the Post's reporting and in Mr. Willis's assessment of the situation, and they really need to either prove that the Indian tribes would not have given this money to these Democrats if Abramoff hadn't told them to or STFU.

The only people in the blogosphere that I'm aware of who write about this consistently are the folks over at Wampum, who articulate the situation quite succinctly:
The Republican strategy is regarding the Abramoff scandal is now quite apparent: 1) paint the story as "bi-partisan", so as to confuse the public, and 2) turn the victims into "villains" and then carefully remind Americans that those villains are part of an Other (Indian, Jew) known to be greedy, dirty and immoral.

Ask yourself if during the years the media covered Abramoff's relationship with the GOP, how many times was his religion/ethnicity even discussed? I can honestly say I never thought of him as anything but a Republican lobbyist, yet time and again in recent months, somehow his Jewishness is worked into a story, usually with the term "dirty" in close proximity.

Same now for Indians. More and more, Republicans are framing Abramoff's tribal clients not as victims, but as essentially co-conspirators, out to tempt the honest, white, Christian Congressmen. GOP operatives are engaging in outright Willy Horton-esque campaign - what's up next? Republican television ads with a "red" hand dropping a bag marked "casino money" into some white hands with Congressional cufflinks?
Ralph Reed is a professional dirtbag, yet implicit in all of this is the suggestion that he and his merry band of Christo-crooks and their morality extortion racket really just wanted to fight off the dirty Indians and their corrupt gambling habits. And on the other side we're supposed to believe that the Indians were too ignorant to tie their shoes and Jack Abramoff did everything but bottle feed them and burp them after breakfast.

I doubt this analysis will have much traction at the WaPo or anywhere else, really. But I feel compelled to keep pointing out the inherent racism that underlies these assumptions nonetheless.


Challenging the Status Quo

Anyone who has been following along with the polling stories of late -- from the deliberately misleading Rassmussen poll on wiretapping to Richard Morin of the Washington Post and his blatantly partisan refusal to inquire about anything that might make the administration look bad -- knows that most of these organizations seem to devote their energies to providing George Bush something he can wave around in support of his disastrous, stumbling bullshit.

Over at MyDD they are trying to make a serious challenge to this awful status-quo by sponsoring their own poll to ask real questions that will fuel the construction of a counter-narrative to the GOP lie machine. Says Bowers:
Our groundbreaking poll, which will challenge conventional wisdom on a variety of topics--Iraq, withdrawal, terrorism, Bush approval, domestic spying--is about to be brought to the public. This will be the first comprehensive nationwide public survey where the questions are informed by the collective knowledge of the netroots and the blogosphere. You helped to make these questions, and with your help this poll will serve as a direct challenge to the entire field of public polling as it is run by commercial news organizations.
They need to raise $6500 in the next couple of days. I gave myself and if you're interested in helping them redraw the political map in this country, please consider going over there and helping them out.

(graphic by dark black)


And the G. Gordon Liddy Award For Excellence in News Commentary Goes To...

Well Fox News certainly knows how to pick a quote-unquote "expert:"
Sunday, Jan. 15

The investigation of disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has put Congress under a microscope. We'll take an inside look at the investigation with Republican strategist Ralph Reed.

These stories and much more! Don't touch that dial!
That must've been some fucking dance of the seven veils, eh? I'm going out on a limb and asume nobody used the word humping.

(thanks to Colorado Bob)


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Kate O'Beirne Sales Tanking on Amazon -- Courtesy FDL Late Nite & Friends

This was more than even I had hoped for. With a large press (Sentinal) behind it, able to command page views and recommends on Amazon aimed at people with wingnutty reading habits, Kate O'Beirne's book Women Who Make the World Worse was #29 in sales when we started four days ago. With positioning like that, which no independent book could in any way command, it should have shot up the charts.

As of today, Kate's book is sinking like a stone. Yesterday it was #51. Today it is #78, solely because people from this site, from Crooks & Liars, from Kos (thanks Rena) and Jesus' General acted in concert for political action. And I want to thank every last ever lovin' one of you who participated from the bottom of my Kate-baiting heart.

Oh am I doing the happy dance.

The right-wing book business is subsidized by wingnut welfare when conservative foundations buy large quantities of books and either give them away or charge a penny apiece, so the "sales numbers" that put them on the New York Times best seller list for example are hopelessly rigged, making them appear much more popular and influential than they actually are.

But let's let the tightie whitie rightie crowd speak for themselves as to how important Amazon is in getting their message out:
Amazon itself is another boon to conservatives, since the Internet giant betrays no ideological bias in selling books...."The rise of Amazon and the chain stores has been tremendously liberating for conservatives, because these stores are very much product-oriented businesses," observes David Horowitz. "The independent bookstores are all controlled by leftists, and they're totalitarians--they will not display conservative books, or if they do, they'll hide them in the back." Says Marji Ross: "We have experienced our books being buried or kept in the back room when a store manager or owner opposed their message." She's a big fan of Amazon and the chains.

Amazon's Reader Reviews feature--where readers can post their opinions on books they've read and rate them--has helped diminish the authority of elite cultural guardians, too, by creating a truly democratic marketplace of ideas. "I don't think there's ever been a similar review medium--a really broad-based consumers' guide for culture," says 2blowhards blogger Michael. "I've read some stuff on Amazon that's been as good as anything I've read in the real press."
The past four days have sent Kate's book spiraling on a downward trajectory in the largest book market in the world. As any marketing guru will tell you, turning it around at this point will be virtually impossible without an enormous infusion of cash.

Good. Make 'em spend. But I doubt they'll think she's worth it.


(graphic thanks to Valley Girl)


WaPo Bats 1000

I love seeing Ralph Reed tied to Jack Abramoff in print, really I do. And today's WaPo includes this delightful quote:
Similarly damaging has been a torrent of e-mails revealed during the investigation that shows a side of Reed that some former supporters say cannot be reconciled with his professed Christian values.

"After reading the e-mail, it became pretty obvious he was putting money before God," said Phil Dacosta, a Georgia Christian Coalition member who had initially backed Reed. "We are righteously casting him out."
But would someone like to explain to me how it's possible to do a three page article on Reed's ties to Abramoff and never once mention what exactly Reed did for Abramoff that made him worth millions?

It's really quite simple. Reed had the fundies in his hip pocket and he used them to bang the anti-gambling morality drum so loudly that then-Texas AG, now US Senator John Cornyn shut down the casinos who were competing with those run by Abramoff's clients. In a series of emails he also took credit for "choreographing" Cornyn. That's not complicated. It's a fucking paragraph.

Cornyn is Rove's hand-picked boy and he continues to get an inexplicable free pass on this from the press. He accused Reed of being a liar last week on Meet the Press. It really does not take a great deal of intelligence to see that this is going to be at the heart of any quid-pro-quo Reed controversy, and any journalist has to be either remarkably stupid or remarkably craven to fill up three pages without even alluding to it.

As neokneme said in the comments, "the WaPo would be alot more useful if it were printed on hemp."