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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Bitches Brew

And you thought we'd forgotten Barbara Comstock. Fat chance. She may be busy doing opposition research into Patrick Fitzgerald and his witness list on behalf of Scooter and the bear, but people like Valley Girl and Alison K. have been doing opposition research into her.

Turns out she's bosom buddies with none other than fellow wingnut ogress Alice Fisher. From Roll Call, January 9, 2006 (Lexis/Nexis):
It's Washington. Eyebrows were raised last month at just how cozy things were at the Justice Department's Christmas party. Most notably, between Alice Fisher, the newly installed head of the Criminal Division, and her old buddy Barbara Comstock, a strategic public relations and lobbying consultant who represents two of the biggest Republican fish caught up in the corruption scandals engulfing Washington.

Comstock, a lobbyist at the Blank Rome Government Relations firm, represents indicted ex-veep Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, as well as DeLay, who's already been indicted in Texas and is treading choppy waters in the Congressional bribery scandal. Her longtime close friend Fisher, well, she has the ultimate say over which public officials are gonna get fried.

According to partygoers, the DOJ Christmas party was like a fish fry, with Comstock almost (though, come on, not really) like a PETA activist fighting to spare the lives of the Libbyfish and DeLayfish. One attendee described the party as "Lobbyist City" and said Comstock was "very conspicuous, buzzing around Alice." The term "nauseating" was also used to describe Comstock's palling around with the Criminal Division chief.

Comstock declined to comment. But her former colleague at Justice Mark Corallo did a heckuva job speaking for her.

Corallo is to Karl Rove what Comstock is to Libby; he's the flack for Rove's legal team. Maybe all that breath holding and praying that the man President Bush dubbed "Turd Blossom" doesn't get indicted has turned Corallo into some kind of neo-feminist, because Corallo thinks Comstock might be the latest victim of the Old Boys' Network's double standard. (Shocking. In Washington?)

He said he certainly didn't hear the boys complaining about him attending the solicitor general's Christmas party.

"I feel slighted," Corallo said, laughing. "No one raised eyebrows about me." He said "almost every lawyer" invited to the DOJ or the solicitor general's parties "inevitably have business before the Justice Department."
How is it that the people who regularly take a sledge hammer to the word "feminism" are so quick to invoke it whenever their tits are in a ringer? Must be convenient to have a mouth you can talk out of on both sides at the same time.

As Redd said, Comstock's history at the DoJ is a complete conflict of interest with her current job on Team Libby:
Whether or not it is "just fundraising," it is still wrong. Comstock would have been privy to high level meetings about the information gathered by the FBI, how the DoJ could best publicly respond to questions about Rove, Libby and other members of the Administration and their conduct -- and to do so, she would also have likely had contacts with the FBI investigators heading up the search for information. Think that kind of information wouldn't be valuable to Team Libby?

A way to look at it is this: if you were a corporate defense counsel, working for Corporation X, and you left the firm to work as plaintiff's counsel, you ought to be barred from participating in any way in any cases involving Corporation X. You would have intimate, behind-the-scenes knowledge not only of how your former firm operates, but also what kind of advice they have given on settling claims, what sort of risk averse or risk positive strategy your former client has, what they do in terms of investigation, etc., etc.

In Comstock's case, she would have intimate insights into how investigators approached the Traitorgate case from the outset. And how the DoJ managed crisis issues internally. And how the communications went between DoJ and the WH in those early days. And...well, you get the picture. This just screams "appearance of impropriety," doesn't it?
One would think the Virgina Bar Association might have something to say about this.

On the Ciro Rodriguez front, Kos tells us the campaign is going to be doing some remote phone banking. If you can afford the time you can sign up here. If you don't have the time but can afford the cash you can give here (we've now raised $18,478 for Ciro on this site alone). It's a great cause and if Barbarella knew you were doing it I'm sure she'd be outraged.


Tie the Tin Can on the Wingnut

Being generally inclined to be a bit lazy, any time I see the chance to hit three targets with one post -- in this case Holy Joe, the warmongers and the WaPo (in the form of the odious editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt) -- I'm going to take it, I really can't help myself.

Armando reminds us of this Hiatt chestnut from November 14, 2005:
. . . Congress . . . pours most of its Iraq-related energy into allegations of manipulated intelligence before the war. "Those aren't irrelevant questions," says Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). "But the more they dominate the public debate, the harder it is to sustain public support for the war."

What Lieberman doesn't say is that many Democrats would view such an outcome as an advantage. Their focus on 2002 is a way to further undercut President Bush, and Bush's war, without taking the risk of offering an alternative strategy -- to satisfy their withdraw-now constituents without being accountable for a withdraw-now position.

Many of them understand that dwindling public support could force the United States into a self-defeating position, and that defeat in Iraq would be disastrous for the United States as well as for Mahdi and his countrymen. But the taste of political blood as Bush weakens, combined with their embarrassment at having supported the war in the first place, seems to override that understanding.
Fred is one of Elton's favorite targets over at BusyBusyBusy. Elton gives us even fonder memories of Fred:
The United States and this administration in particular continually assert the moral right to behave differently than other nations. We will not be bound by the International Criminal Court. We insist that other nations give up their nuclear weapons while we keep our own. We wage war without U.N. Security Council approval. We publish annual report cards on everyone else's human rights records.

The premise of this highhandedness is that the United States is, on balance, a force for good in the world -- a superpower that uses its might not to subjugate others but to allow them to live freely. This is a premise that The Post's editorial page on the whole accepts -- to the dismay of many readers.
You would think those Iraqis would be so grateful for our our highhandedness that they'd hop to that "live freely" business already.

Have a tin can, Fred.


Reasons to Harp About Those Who Got It Wrong

I'm certainly not above engaging in bitter recrimination against those whose sagacity led us into this war, but as Glenn Greenwald notes, there are other reasons to consistently revisit this particular trail of blunders:
It is critical to focus on who was right about this war because this country, right now, has extremely difficult choices to make with regard to the disaster it has created in Iraq -- and the first choice is whose judgment and foreign policy wisdom ought to be listened to and accorded respect.
As Glenn notes, one of those people was Howard Dean, who was successfully ridiculed for being profoundly right at the time. From a Dean speech in 2003:
We have been told little about what the risks will be if we do go to war.

If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration's assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean. I certainly hope our armed forces will be welcomed like heroes and liberators in the streets of Baghdad.

I certainly hope Iraq emerges from the war stable, united and democratic.

I certainly hope terrorists around the world conclude it is a mistake to defy America and cease, thereafter, to be terrorists.

It is possible, however, that events could go differently, . . . .

Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.

Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.

And last week's tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists.

There are other risks. Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.
As Teddy points out in the comments, failure to politically decapitate people like Cheney and Rumsfeld at the appropriate time brought us to this current mess:
When all this neo-con farce is put to rest, we must ensure it's dead for good. Otherwise, the energetic and younger members of the current cabal will return in the third decade of this century with some "new" concept of Executive power and warmaking capability as well as some "new" paradigm for world domination. Yup, just like the youngest chief of staff in the White House (Cheney) and the youngest Defense Secretary (Rumsfeld) returned to visit this current hell upon us.
Not to mention the fact that these people will continue to be those charged with making decisions about the current debacle they have done so much to encourage. Redd linked to Wolcott this morning, who notes that they continue to pour gasoline on the situation with their phony concern for "free speech" (as if) with regard to the Danish cartoons to distract attention from the mess that they've made, though arguably this mess is just what they wanted all along.

Wolcott goes on to quote Robert Dreyfuss:
In a paper for an Israeli think tank, the same think tank for which Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith prepared the famous 'Clean Break' paper in 1996, Wurmser wrote in 1997 : 'The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state.' After Saddam, Iraq would 'be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families,' he wrote. 'Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq's] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition.' Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to 'expedite' such a collapse. 'The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance.'

Such black neoconservative fantasies -- —which view the Middle East as a chessboard on which they can move the pieces at will -- —have now come home to roost. For the many hundreds of thousands who might die in an Iraqi civil war, the consequences are all too real.
Until someone can point out the inherent logic to me of the John Dickerson's of the world who have concluded that we early opponents of the war were wrong to be right even as the warmongers were right in their wrongness, I think it's valid to keep harping on the scorecard. If not only to knock the struts out from underneath the GOP's plan to run on "national security" in 2006, then surely to figure out who should be listened to from here on in based on who has had a clear-eyed vision of this mess from the start, as distinct from those who most certainly have not.


And Now Let's Hear From the Experts...

Tristero has a superb post up at Digby's that calls into serious question the reporting skills of those we rely upon in the major media outlets to inform us about what, exactly, is going on in Iraq, specifically with regard to a survey of opinions about what civil war in Iraq would look like done in the NYT by Kenneth Pollack:
Pollack's emphasis on Shia-Shia conflict seems an academic distortion, going for the unusual angle. But that's nothing compared to this unattributed whopper:
Some experts, however, say Iran may understand the dangers of a war. Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denunciation of the bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra last week, in which he blamed Zionists rather than Sunnis, could be seen as an act of restraint, these experts say -- an effort to play to Shiite anger without fanning flames between Iraq's Islamic communities.
Now this is such an unspeakably stupid analysis of what Iran is up to that it could only come from a high Bush administration official. I'm quite serious. Another clue it's from a Bushite is its sense of loony "accentuate the positive" thinking. And indeed, the context gives a pretty clear clue where this idiocy probably came from. Backing up one paragraph we read:
While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proclaimed that the world has isolated Iran more than ever because of its nuclear ambitions, Iran has in fact tightened relationships with it local allies as events in Iraq have played out. In recent months, Iran has been deepening its alliance with Syria and the Shiite movement Hezbollah in Lebanon, and now it appears ready to strike up a friendship, backed by financing, with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Some experts, however, say Iran may understand the dangers of a war. Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denunciation ...
Am I saying Condoleeza Rice is the moron who sees hope in Iran's anti-Zionism/semitism? No, not exactly. But anyone who is making the fundamental error Rice is making - focusing on Iran's "world" isolation while downplaying its strengthening of regional ties, including to Hamas - is quite capable of misconstruing Ahmadinejad's remarks to mean Iran is not doing whatever it can to grasp as much purchase within Iraq as possible. And if it came to a war that led to Iraq's total disintegration, it is unclear what Iran stands to lose.

The article also floats the idea of a negotiated breakup of Iraq into three states. Good luck. Who gets the oil regions, boys and girls? Who gets the desert? And who moves? And who sez Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are just gonna twiddle their fingers and not interfere?

There is much more interesting speculation and detail about how truly incredibly complex the mess in Iraq is, and how few alternatives exist that won't quickly lead to disaster for the people of the region, and the people of the United States. Will Turkey invade to defend the Turkomen against oppression if Iraq's Kurds officially set up on their own? Will the Arab League step in to intervene? And looming above it all are nukes. Iranian nukes coming soon. Potential Sunni Arab nukes depending on how the situation worsens (calling Dr. A. Q. Khan!).

So, Mr. Tom Friedman, are you enjoying the real live political experiment now? So, Mr. George Packer, still think that those of us who absolutely knew Bush/Iraq would open the gates of hell have "second-rate minds?"

Hey, y'never know! Maybe Ahmadinejad really was sending a signal that Iran wasn't interested in an Iraq civil war when he blamed Zionists - Israel -for the attack. True, that could be because he wants to attack Israel first, but at least it's not supporting civil war in Iraq!

Yes, it's possible. And maybe there really is a Bigfoot. And maybe tomorrow, cold fusion will work and, as Woody Allen predicted in Sleeper, cigarette smoking will turn out to improve your health and longevity. You never know...
Meanwhile let's recall the snaggletoothed quote-unquote "experts" Matthews is dredging from the primordial ooze and propping up on MSNBC:
CHRIS MATTHEWS:....Could this civil war, which we're on the edge of, perhaps, be foreseen?

RICHARD PERLE, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well first of all, I don't believe we are on the edge of a civil war. I think we need to stay calm, which is what we in the leadership in Iraq are urging, urging Iraqis to do.

MATTHEWS: Why is our nervousness about a civil war in any way a triggering mechanism for more civil war? What matters whether I'm nervous about this or not? Why do we have to remain calm?

PERLE: Well it doesn't matter in that sense, but I think there's a lot of hyperbole. I was just listening to Mr. Reagan.

MATTHEWS: One hundred and sixty eight mosques have been torched in the last 24 hours.

PERLE: I don't believe that serious damage was done to 168 mosques and I don't believe that we're on the verge of a civil war although it was certainly the intention of the people who blew up the mosque in Samarra.
The neocon monsters had an awful lot of help bringing the world to this awful place. They could not have done it without the help of compliant -- and one can only assume willfully ignorant -- journalists. May it be tied to their tails like a tin can for all eternity.


Friday, February 24, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Barbara Comstock Goes Bottom Feeding

Scooter went a-fishin' for Marlins today and came back with a pocketful of guppies.

Libby's lawyers asked for copies of the notes he took during an 11 month period from 2003-2004 and got them, but that was about it.

They also wanted to know the identitity of the "Senior Administration Official" who leaked to Bob Woodward in June of 2002 (although the fact that it was an SAO is per Woodward, someone who has felt free to fabricate to protect the identity of his "sources" and nothing I'm putting too much stock in), but Judge Walton said no go:
Libby’s lawyers and Fitzgerald disagreed over whether the unidentified government official — who does not work at the White House — was referring to Plame or her husband when he said, “Everyone knows,” during a taped interview with investigators.

The defense said the official meant that most reporters knew that Plame worked at the CIA, as Libby testified before a federal grand jury. But Fitzgerald said the reference was to Wilson, who was not identified in initial media reports about the trip to Niger.
That seems to be all they've got -- Libby's lawyers consistently misstate what he's charged with distort basic facts in his defense. While I realize a lot of this is just standard throw everything against the wall and see what sticks tactics, it's also an indication that they haven't got a whole lot. So it's likely they either know Libby's guilty as shit or they have a client who is unwilling to actually let them defend him.

Neither of which puts them in a particularly enviable position.

According to the AP, Walton indicated that since the SAO has not been charged they have the right to privacy. But on Countdown tonight David Schuster seemed to be saying that to reveal the identity of that individual was getting to the "overall strategy" of Fitzgerald's investigation.

Both Schuster and the AP say that the investigation is, indeed, ongoing. Libby's lawyers also tried to block Fitzgerald from filing any information only the judge can see, including "strategy memos and classified information that he wants withheld from Libby's legal team." Walton said no dice to that, too. What's he gonna say? "You're right, I'd really rather be operating in the dark on this one."

The specter of the White House is always looming in the bakcground. According to Schuster, Walton put off deciding whether Libby was entitled to have access to the PDBs he's requested until the CIA has had time to review them. But Walton did say he is concerned that the request by Libby could "sabotage" the case because the President would no doubt invoke executive privilege.

And the white house computers seem to be recovering from the dreaded DC memory-sucking virus faster than their human counterparts:
The defense was told that the White House had recently located and turned over about 250 pages of e-mails from the vice president’s office. Fitzgerald, in a letter last month to the defense, had cautioned Libby’s lawyers that some e-mails might be missing because the White House’s archiving system had failed.
I seem to remember Judy Miller miraculously recovering some forgotten notes after her encounter with the Special Counsel. Fitzgerald's next gig will no doubt be a magic act with a couple of wild animals and a leggy bimbo in Vegas.

Redd had a good post up about the patent dishonesty of the charge that Fitzgerald's appointment to the case was unconstitutional, and Walton seemed to think about as much of it as Redd did. From a legal angle I suppose it is to be expected, and I might accept such bullshit tactics as just that -- were it not the lockstep with which people like the fashion challenged Byron York and CNN's Brian Todd were immediately parroting these canards that even a casual observer knew were false.

This seemed designed more for media consumption than success in court, a way to publicly call the legitimacy of both Fitzgerald and his investigation into question. Funny how it got smacked down immediately even at The Corner, and Andy McCarthy all but called Byron York a cheap hostile pimp.

Barbara Comstock must be desperate.

Update: How does the WaPo manage to print an entire article on the topic without mentioning the 250 pages of newly released emails from the Veep's office? I don't know but by jingo they do.

Update 2: Suzanne brings up an interesting point in the comments -- were the emails turned over last week, during Dickfest? Odd timing for the White House to be handing a loaded gun (so to speak) to Fitzgerald to point straight at Cheney.


South Dakota Blogger on the Rapists' Rights Bill

Doug from Dakota Today Blog weighs in on the state's decision to insure that rapists have their fetuses carried to term by the wanton women who were really just asking for it anyway (esp. if she happens to be your 12 year-old daughter, because all we know how that goes):
Mike Rounds, Governor of SD, is pondering and thinking about the Rapist Rights Bill the SD Legislature just passed. The wingnut loons answered prayers are putting Mikey in a bind. Does he eat everything they shovel his way or not?

Well, He just has to find out if God raped the Virgin Mary. That will provide the theological basis for SD supporting Rapist Rights and treating women as nearly worthless chattle, good only as reproduction machines betting on hitting the Jesus bonus on the reproductive powerball lottery. Speaking of lotteries, how about that Million dollar bribe the anti-women's righters are promising to pony up to fight for their lunatic legislation? Ok, Mike, I wanta buy a vowel and a subsection of a new law. Umm . talk to the lawyers, they are looking for another lawyer's subsidy law. Hey, guess what? Wild Bill Janklow is back in the legal saddle. Whooopppeeee!
I like this guy and I'm liking the idea of supporting local blogs a lot right now so let's throw him some traffic.

Oh and you can tell the rest of those godless South Dakota fuckers what you think of their Kingdom of Gilead beef, too.

(thanks to Valley Girl and TeddySanFran)


Milbank Slips One to Lil' Debbie

During today's online chat, the beleaguered Dana Milbank defends his wearing of the Orange as a statement of solidarity with the Dutch Olympic team.

Which lead to this follow-up question:
Boston, Mass.: Interestingly, I read that Queen Beatrix issued the following statement in your support:

Ik stel erg op prijs de steun dat Dana Milbank voor onze olympisch ploeg toonde door het dragen van onze nationale kleuren. Samen met miljoenen Nederlanders, neem ik kwallig de kleinzieligheid van Deborah Howell, die vaker onder de schijnwerpers gekomen is wegens de inhoudelijke fouten van haar verslagen. Lang leve Dana Milbank, het rapporteren van de waarheid, en het Huis van Oranje!

Did her spokesmen clear this with you?

Dana Milbank:
I could not have said it better.
Dannyboy gives us a translation in the comments:
"I heartily appreciate the support that Dana Milbank showed for our Olympic team by wearing the national colors. Together with millions of Dutchmen, I take offense at the mean-spiritedness of Debbie Howell, who has more than once been in the spotlight for the factual errors in her reporting. Long live Dana Milbank, reporting the truth, and the House of Orange!"
See, the truth does have a home at the Washington Post. Just as long as it's written in a language completely incomprehensible to 99.9% of its readers.


Joementum: Desperate and Draggin'

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: We want to give you a peek into how this local legislation is resonating nationally. There's not a lot of talk on the big, conservative political blogs, other than just linking to the news, but what little chatter we are seeing is about how this may be a sign of things to come.

It may be a sense that now that the Supreme Court is seeming to turn a little more conservative, this may be the start of lots of states challenging on this level.

We went to over to prolifeblogs -- this is one of the big blogs that was first and foremost in the fight for Terri Schiavo. And they say actually that the stipulation within this legislation that allows for an abortion in the case that the mother's life is at risk is actually a giant loophole. They'd like to see that go away.
That's right. You fuck you die. Your life thereafter as a woman is worth less than the embryo you carry. Your sole function is as human host, and should you fail in that task your death is appropriate punishment.

At least they're willing to come right out and say it.
There's also some reaction on the left that the stipulation that would punish doctors for with five years of imprisonment may be too much for moderate Republicans. And now there's also a call on the left to go after Joe Lieberman, saying that he helped to confirm Alito, this is all his fault. They want to support his [N]ed Lamont in the Senate race against Lieberman. So it's resonating. It's bubbling up, and then resonating out, Wolf.
That's right, it is all Lieberman's fault (that was FDL she was referring to, BTW). And it is resonating. It is bubbling up.

As long as we're on the subject, Ned Lamont reminded me of this Lieberman golden oldie:
"You would have kept the tube in?" asked NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert.

Lieberman, a Demcoratic U.S. senator from Connecticut who ran as his party�s vice presidential nominee in 2000, replied, "I would have kept the tube in."

The exchange began when Russert mentioned Lieberman's Republican House colleague, Rep. Christopher Shays.

Shays said he believed the GOP would suffer "repercussions" from voting last week to try to get the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube replaced.

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. ... There are going to be repercussions from this vote [on Schiavo's constitutional rights]," Shays said. "There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

Russert asked Lieberman if he "agreed" with that statement.

"I don't," Lieberman said. And though he said Shays' statement was "a very credible and respectable opinion, the fact is that, though I know a lot of people's attitude toward the Schiavo case and other matters is affected by their faith and their sense of what religion tells them about morality, ultimately as members of Congress, as judges, as members of the Florida state Legislature, this is a matter of law. And the law exists to express our values.

"I have been saying this in speeches to students about why getting involved in government is so important. I always say the law is where we define the beginning of life and the end of life, and that's exactly what was going on here," Lieberman continued.

"And I think as a matter of law, if you go - particularly to the 14th Amendment, [you] can't be denied due process, have your life or liberty taken without due process of law, that though the Congress' involvement here was awkward, unconventional, it was justified to give this woman, more than her parents or husband, the opportunity for one more chance before her life was terminated by an act which was sanctioned by a court, by the state."

Lieberman added, "These are very difficult decisions, but - of course, if you ask me what I would do if I was the Florida Legislature or any state legislature, I'd say that if somebody doesn't have a living will and the next of kin disagree on whether the person should be kept alive or that is whether food and water should be taken away and her life ended - that really the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to life."

In conclusion, Lieberman said, "The family member who wants to sustain her life ought to have that right because the judge really doesn't know, though he heard the facts, one judge, what Terri Schiavo wanted. He made a best guess based on the evidence before him. That's not enough when you're talking about aggressively removing food and water to end someone's life."

"You would have kept the tube in?" asked NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert.

Lieberman replied, "I would have kept the tube in."
That was on May 27, 2005, two days after a three judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the parents of Terri Schiavo. Not to mention all the other 20 judges involved in adjudicating the case over the previous decade.

Maybe it's Joe's noodly grasp of the facts that is causing people like Bill Buckley -- the man responsible for putting him office in the first place -- to jump ship from his tough talking chickenhawk Iraq stance.

As Kos says, Lieberman's actions are those of a man completely freaked out by Ned Lamont.

And well he should be. Weasely little creep.

Update: I'm on was on the Young Turks talking about NARAL, South Dakota and Ned.


Bill O'Reilly: Concern Troll

Church Lady Brady's got nothing on Loofah Bill when it comes to thin skin. From his website:
February 22, 2006
Chairman Robert Wright
National Broadcasting Company
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York 10112

Dear Chairman Wright:

We, the undersigned, are becoming increasingly concerned about the well-being of MSNBC and, in particular, note the continuing ratings failure of the program currently airing weeknights on that network at 8:00 PM EST.

It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice has been done to the previous host for that time slot, Phil Donahue, whose ratings, at the time of his show's cancellation three years ago, were demonstrably stronger than those of the current host.

Therefore, in an effort to rescue MSNBC from the ratings basement and to restore the honor and dignity of Mr. Donahue, who was ignobly removed as host three years ago, we ask that you immediately bring Phil Donahue's show back at 8:00 PM EST before any more damage is done.
When you think of the towering achievements in the Falafosphere already chalked up by Al Franken, David Letterman and now Keith Olbermann, our "organized smear website funded by radical left-wing billionaires" seems quite insignificant.

And I was so proud.

Keith just turned into Must See TV tonight.


Kansas Roots Action -- Phase I

Today as part of our Roots project we're asking people from Kansas (or those with ties to Kansas) to write in to local papers regarding the Senate hearings into the illegal NSA wiretaps. Kansas is the home of both Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sam Brownback of the Judiciary Committee. As Meteor Blades pointed out, many places will just ignore letters that don't have a Kansas address so if you are a Kansas resident your participation is really important.

Glenn Greenwald has a great post up with some very clear and concise talking points. It's important to put things in your own words, however, and not just "cut and paste" as those will probably wind up in the bin as well.

Kansas blogger Josh Roseneau who writes at Thoughts From Kansas has an excellent post up on the subject from a local perspective along with an in-depth media contact list for many local regions. And Thersites from Vichy Dems provides this quick national impact list:
The Kansas City Star
1729 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108

Guidelines : Paper accepts LTEs, "Voices"”, "As I See It" columns and Op-Eds. LTEs max. 150 words; must include name, address, daytime phone.

How to submit :
Snail mail at above address, or

Alternate venue : "“Reader's Representative: For concerns or questions regarding the fairness or accuracy of The Star's news coverage."”

The Lawrence Journal-World
609 New Hampshire
P.O Box 888
Lawrence, Kansas 66044

How to submit :
Paper asks for LTEs via Webform; not sure whether they accept by snail mail

Alternate venues : Editorial Page Editor Ann Gardner, 832-7153,
Online Editor Dave Toplikar, 832-7151,

The Topeka Capital-Journal
616 SE Jefferson
Topeka KS 66607
Fax (785) 295-1230

How to submit :
Snail mail at above address, or

Alternate venue : Executive Editor Pete Goering,

The Wichita Eagle
Reader Views
P.O. Box 820
Wichita, Kan. 67201

Note : Editorial (from news service, not home-grown) they’re running today on topic. Consider writing a letter responding to it.

Guidelines : Max 200 words. Include name, address and telephone. Letters are signed with the writer'’s name and town.

How to submit :
Snail mail at above address, or
Fax: (316) 269-6799, or

Alternate venues :
Editorial blog:
Opinion Editor Phillip Brownlee

The Pitch (alternative paper, KC)

Guidelines : Must include full name (but can request they don't print it), email address OR telephone number; city; and "title of the article you are writing about."

How to submit : Webform;, or

The Olathe News
514 South Kansas Ave., Olathe, KS 66061
Phone (913) 764-2211 -- Fax (913) 764-3672

How to submit :

Lee's Summit Journal

How to submit : Webform; (apparently same form is used for subscriptions and LTEs).

Alternate venue : Ann Scheer, Editor,

The Cass County (MO) Democrat-Missourian
301 South Lexington
P.O. Box 329
Harrisonville, MO 64701

How to submit :
Snail mail at the above address, or
Fax at (816) 380-7650, or

The Star-Herald (Northwest Cass County) (Weekly)
P.O. Box 379
Belton, MO 64012

Guidelines : Include name, hometown and daytime telephone number. "“[O]ne page typed double-spaced or neatly printed is a good measure." "Letters endorsing or against political candidates will not be published."

How to submit :
Snail mail at the above address, or

Update: Vichy Dems has a more complete, updated list.
If you are from Kansas or feel like you can write on behalf of family or friends there or have some other sort of tie to the state please take a moment to carefully craft your own thoughts, follow the specific submission guidelines and send a letter.

It's awfully difficult to cut through the national media ice on this (or any other) subject and by using local media we may be able to have a much greater impact at a time when BushCo. is busy fighting other battles and won't see it coming.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Late Nite FDL: BTW I Love You Guys

In a very non-gender specific way, of course. From MyLeftNutmeg:
Daily Kos: CT-Sen: NOW gets it
by: Larkspur
February 23, 2006 at 19:18:16 EST
( - promoted by Matthew Gertz)

This diary by Markos got the phones ringing off the hook at CT NOW headquarters. I got a call from our Exec Director, Kathleen Sloan, a few hours ago and she said that she was getting calls from as far away as California about her Feb. 1 press release. And she's gotten an avalanche of emails thanking CT NOW for rebuking Lieberman for his vote on Alito.

She had sent the Press Release out after Lieberman's last Alito vote around Feb. 1. The only call CT NOW got back then was from Lieberman's office. They called to complain about the press release to CT NOW's political director. They said that Lieberman has always supported women's rights in the past and he didn't deserve the treatment he got in our Feb. 1 press release.

Kathleen asked me why all the sudden interest in a press release she sent out a few weeks ago. I checked DailyKos and sure enough Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, had posted a diary about CT NOW's Feb. 1 press release and asked readers to call CT NOW thanking us for our stand. He posted this diary partly as a response to the new law banning abortions in South Dakota.

DailyKos diary by the founder of that blog Markos Moulitsas "CT-Sen: NOW gets it"

Kos links to blogger firedoglake diary "Ned Lamont and NOW" (you may have to do a find on the title to find it)

I had sent the Lamont campaign the CT NOW Feb. 1 press release and it was Ned Lamont who gave it to blogger firedoglake, who was impressed. Markos read firedoglakes blog and linked to it.

The power of the netroots!!!
I hear that NARAL is feeling the heat and is "irritated" by all the phone calls and emails they are getting. I'm also told that they "do not like you very much."

Well they can just sit over there and whimper with Church Lady Brady, Lil' Debbie Howell and Ole 60 Grit O'Beirne in the honorary FDL WATB chair. Being on their shit list is a badge of honor as far as I'm concerned.

(thanks to thirdparty for the catch)

Update: Well let's give them something to bitch about.


And The General Still Owns Maria Cantwell's Uterus

It seems quite clear that the new South Dakota legislation outlawing abortion is a means to test out the new Supreme Court now that Strip Search Sammy is on the job. How is a small state like South Dakota able to afford such an expensive legal skirmish?
The hope of the bill's supporters, reports Jodi Schwan of CBS affiliate KELO-TV, is that the U.S. Supreme Court will be more receptive if the case gets that far.

"They feel with the changing makeup of the Supreme Court that it is perhaps a time to start challenging Roe v. Wade, and they think especially with the addition of Alito and Roberts to the court that those are justices who would vote in their favor," says Schwan.

Supporters of the ban have said an anonymous donor has pledged to provide South Dakota with $1 million to help defend the law in court.
If this "anonymous donor" thing seems wrong to you in more ways than you can count, remember that our strength is in numbers so please give whatever you can afford, no matter how small to help break up the Gang of 14 who have committed themselves to the destruction of choice in this country (we've already raised over $4,000 in two days to help Ned Lamont -- YEA HAH!!).

Meanwhile that confirmed heterosexual breeder General J.C. Christian has found himself in the spotlight review again at Amazon. A telling nugget from his past gives us a peek into the enigma that is the General in a review entitled "Close, but no falafels."

(BTW -- did I mention that Amazon will not delete reviews if they recommend other books instead? Apropos of nothing, of course.)

And John Amato from Crooks & Liars will be talking about blogging with Alan Colmes' radio show tonight at 8pm PST/11pm EST. You can listen here.

(graphic by Jesus' General)


When Are We Gonna Ban In Vitro Fertilization?

As a big pro-choice person, I have absolutely no doubt that E.J. Dionne's contention -- namely that most forced childbirth forces actually "care" about "the taking of innocent life" -- is a steaming load of nonsense. What they care about is punishing women for having sex. Because you never see them picketing outside in vitro fertilization clincs do you? And yet the end result is the same -- creation of embryos that will only die. If life begins at conception, then in vitro fertilization is murder too. Period.

I wrote this a while back (when I was getting 25 hits a day so I'm sure nobody's read it unless that's you, Mom) about a debate on the first episode of the Ron Reagan/Monica Crowley show on MSNBC (the spiffy dresser I now know was Byron York). I don't think I could say it any better now than I did then:
On the pro side they had Alta Charo, professor of bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, and on the con side they trotted out Some Dude whose name I can't remember, whose personal style is cribbed from a 1957 issue of Gent and whose contention is that life begins at the moment of conception when sperm meets egg and having been thus blessed by the Divine Hand of the Creator it is henceforth entitled to the same protections as an adult human. In fact, more protection than if the life happens to belong to some African American on death row, but now I'm off topic and I don't even want to get into that right now. The ultimate conclusion is that Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is Wrong.

So Alta brings up the conundrum that's always guaranteed to set wingnut heads a-spinning and green pea soup spewing from their mouths, which is basically a riff on "if a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic, who do you save -- a Petri dish with five blastula or the two year-old child?" Suddenly everyone's yelling, Monica's mouth starts doing that other thing it does which is not a smile, and the whole show devolves into a split-screen talking head orgy of indignation. Nobody ever answers the question, by the way.

Whenever I hear wingnuts arguing about stem cell research I always get the feeling that they are doing so under duress, like reluctant Visigoths who've been forced to carry the battle into a town they really don't care about sacking. But having made the argument that women should not have control over their own bodies and be entitled to an abortion because even the littlest zygote amongst us is sacred, and not because they hate and fear women and want to relegate them to the social role of biological functionaries, they have to naturally extend the argument and oppose embryonic stem cell research as well. You know, for consistency's sake and all.

This is going to surprise a lot of people, but I actually respect that argument. If you really believe that life begins at conception and that all life is sacred, and therefore the destruction of any life is unethical, I really can't argue with you. Because I can only say what I believe, which is obviously not that, but I can't claim to have some sort of ultimate dispensation of knowledge that will answer the question of when life begins. So if someone wants to claim that life begins at conception, and works diligently against any, and I mean ANY procedure that would result in the creation of a cluster of cells that might one day result in the development of a human being only to ultimately thwart that process with its destruction, I have to respect that as an honest position.

But here's where it starts to get prickly. Because Ron then proceeds to point out that during the in vitro fertilization process numerous embryos are created but only the first one to "take" will produce a child. Mr. Needs to Update His Personal Style then argues that this is actually okay, because the embryos that are not used are not destroyed; they are merely frozen for all eternity. And since I was consumed at that moment with peeling an orange and drinking half of a flat Coke from yesterday I didn't get it all down word for word, so I'll have to paraphrase, but in a nutshell Ms. Charo's response was that after a certain length of time the embryos are no longer viable anyway so who are you fuckin' trying to kid, Jack.

Well now I'm consumed by curiosity about how the wingers address this thorny issue so I cruise on over to the NRO to consult that self-professed Oracle of all things Right, K.J. Lopez, and I found an article by her on in vitro fertilization cleverly entitled Eggheads. It's filled with the usual NRO "ooh, Science scary" tocsins, as well as a dig at working women ("The demand side of the market comes mostly from career-minded baby-boomers, the frontierswomen of feminism, who thought they could have it all"). But then she goes on to note that 15% of all mothers in this country get a little help on the fertility front from science, and since that probably includes no small number of Iowa fundies looking to increase the flock of the faithful, she stops short of casting Joe and Sally Christian who just want to breed, breed breed into the fiery ovens of eternal damnation if they happen to brew up a few extra embryos they never intend to use along the way. A strange omission.

Or maybe not. I surfed around to various anti-choice websites, trying to find out if there was any kind of consistent voice on this front, and it took me to a lot of dillies, but I found that most of them simply sidestepped the issue altogether. Some didn't, several of the Catholic ones were vocally opposed to in vitro fertilization, and I tip my hat to them for the consistency of their argument. I can hardly claim to have made a comprehensive and exhaustive exploration of the subject, because, you know, I had to finish the rest of that Coke. But on the whole it seems to be a bit of a sticking point that the fundies would just rather not address.

But it does lead to this other question that nags at me. When John M. Opitz of the University of Utah testified before the President's council on Bioethics in 2003, he noted that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in a woman's normal menstrual cycle in the first 7 days after fertilization, and that women never even know that conception has taken place.

(As a side note, at the same meeting, Harvard government professor Michael Sandel, also a member of the Bioethics council, noted that "If the embryo loss that accompanies natural procreation were the moral equivalent of infant death, then pregnancy would have to be regarded as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions: Alleviating natural embryo loss would be a more urgent moral cause than abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research combined." Although I enjoy Dr. Sandel's sense of humor and appreciate the presence of a smartass on the Bioethics council, I really do, let's just chalk this one up to "God's will" for the moment and proceed with the question at hand.)

Now, I'm certain by most fundamentalist assessments that when I die, barring some sort of deathbed recant of the Lee Atwater variety, I am going to hell. (That last vote for John Kerry probably put me over the top.) But say by some fluke God has a soft spot for unrepentant preacher's kids who are good to their dogs, and I wind up in heaven. Is 60 to 80 percent of the population going to be filled out with people who never made it past dome stage blastula? I mean -- conversation is liable to be a bit thin, don't you think? What can you really say beyond "congratulations on winning the big swim?"
Abortion/in vitro fertilization. Abortion/in vitro fertilization. Two sides of the same coin. If you think one is moral and the other is not you are inherently dishonest.

(Update: Byron York emailed Atrios and asked him to tell me it was not him. I of course was off getting irresponsibly knocked up.)


Keep Your Legs Together in South Dakota

South Dakota has now passed a law banning abortion with no exception for rape or incest thanks to angry, cowardly men (and women) like the one pictured above, whom TBogg dubs "lildick." TBogg has more on this fellow most women wouldn't fuck on a bet (and boy is he going to make us pay) who was instrumental in this law's passage.

As Digby says, enough already with this bullshit about how much they value life. I'll have more on that high hypocrisy and the mushy-headed tripe of people like EJ Dionne later, but for now just read Digby.

The law was passed, in large, because the way is now clear to a Supreme Court who might actually uphold it. A supreme court whose balance was tilted to the right when Joe Lieberman and Lincoln Chafee voted for cloture on Samuel Alito. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are whimpering on the ground, sniveling even as they frolic in the huge mountain of cash they raised for the purpose of fighting Alito's confirmation. Which they did not show up for. What did they do with that hoarded pile of cash? Then they had the outrageous gall to send out emails to their membership asking them to write thank-you letters to Lieberman for his vote. Why do they not understand? Their comfortable shift to the "middle" and toward the GOP can only be interpreted one way: follow the cash and fuck choice.

They cannot be trusted to be the guardians of pro-choice in this country any more.

If you care about choice, cut 'em off. And let them know why you're doing it. Contact Nancy Keenan at NARAL. Contact Cecile Richardson at Planned Parenthood. Tell them -- not one more dime until they denounce Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman and endorse Ned Lamont.

Give your money to Ned Lamont. Choice in this country will not survive another Bush nominee to the Supreme Court confirmed by this Senate. It may not survive the ones we've already got. There is no more important task right now before the supporters of pro-choice in this country than breaking up the Gang of 14 and making sure that pro-choice Senators take the seats of those who would return us to coathanger days, and yes that means you, Lieberman.

Please. I'm begging you. Support Ned Lamont with whatever you've got.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Late Nite FDL: And The Winner Is...

What a remarkable week of late nite poetry it's been. If the man who inspired Dickfest was even half so clever as those he moved to poetic musing this week why there would be no call for such festivity, so for all his limitations we must thank him.

Because Meteor Blades suggested it, and because it damned near killed me to declare a winner, we are also announcing the runner ups.

The bronze medal goes to:
The Ballad of Swagger and Scowler

They came from Wyoming and Texas, addicted to
        power and drink;
They bullied and lied, they tortured and spied till most folks
        were too scared to blink;
But when Scowl shot a hunter he thought was a bird and
        Swag let New Orleans drown,
Folks finally saw what these guys really were: a crusty old
        coot and a clown.

by a littlemusicalityplease
In second place, and by only the smallest fraction (one vote), our silver medalist is:
An accident it must have been,
And not a planned attack
Because Dick shot him in the face
Instead of in the back.

by rageneau
And the gold goes to:
If epitaphs were polygraphs,
This, terse and edifying,
Would crown the veep in final sleep:
Here lies Big Time--still lying.

by 88
Thanks to everyone who entered. It was an exceptional contest. A whole lot of work but well worth it, very inspirational. Thanks also to everyone who took time to read all the entries and give such careful deliberation to their votes, and 88 please email me and I'll make sure Bill Maher gets you your book and poster.

I managed to mangle a couple via cut and paste and did not do them justice in the contest but I can't lay my hands on them right now so they will be featured in upcoming Late Nites as an extra bonus treat.

If you would like to show your appreciation to all the poets who participated, you can do so by contributing to the tip jar for the preservation of Democracy.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)



Regarding the mandatory investigation into the port matter, reader Sean writes:
The articles appear to be mistaken about the timing requirements under Exon-Florio. The statute calls for a mandatory investigation to begin within 30 days of notification and requires that the investigation cannot take more than 45 days. Such an investigation is mandatory: "in any instance in which an entity controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government seeks to engage in any merger, acquisition, or takeover which could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the United States that could affect the national security of the United States."

However, there's also this provision:
(g) Report to the Congress

The President shall immediately transmit to the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives a written report of the President’s determination of whether or not to take action under subsection (d), including a detailed explanation of the findings made under subsection (e) and the factors considered under subsection (f). Such report shall be consistent with the requirements of subsection (c) of this Act.
It seems pretty clear to me that the conditions for a mandatory investigation are satisfied in this case. So the question becomes: Did Bush file a report or, if not, who in the Administration determined that no investigation was required under Exon-Florio in this case?
Should be interesting to watch BushCo. limbo around this one.

(graphic by Dark Black)


Ned Lamont and NOW

I had a great conversation with Ned Lamont this morning. Ned is the real deal. He's sharp, personable and extremely genuine. He's spending every afternoon traveling around to small towns and meeting with the people of Connecticut who haven't seen a US Senate candidate from their state in 18 years. His entrepreneurial background, firm grasp of the issues and deep-seated pragmatism make him the perfect antidote to Lieberman, whose close ties to George Bush as well as his position on so many issues are poised to alienate his constituents.

As Kos has noted, the more people see of Lieberman the more they don't like him. I'll add a corollary to that: the more people see of Ned Lamont, the more they'll think he's the man for the job.

Ned is solidly pro-choice and says that an Alito cloture vote "wasn't even close." He then listened to me bitch and moan for a while about NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and how after having an eye blackened by Lieberman they got down on their knees and thanked him for not blackening the other one. Then Ned said, "well, there's NOW..."

Ned then quickly sent me an email from NOW that almost made me cry, and I'm not kidding. NARAL and Planned Parenthood may be thick as posts and working hard to kill choice in this country, but NOW gets it:
For Immediate Release
February 1, 2006


Senator Lieberman turned his back on this country'’s women by refusing to support a filibuster against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Judge Alito was confirmed yesterday by a vote of 58-42. While Connecticut NOW recognizes the 42 senators who voted against confirmation, the crucial vote happened the day before, when senators voted on whether or not to end debate on this nomination. Since the Republican leadership had enough votes to confirm Alito, a filibuster was the only way to prevent his confirmation.

Connecticut NOW applauds Senator Dodd for his support of the filibuster. Shamefully his colleague, Senator Lieberman, demonstrated a lack of respect and concern for the women and girls of Connecticut and the nation by his refusal to support the filibuster. Senator Lieberman pointed out that he had studied Samuel Alito'’s record carefully and so he was aware of the threat Alito poses to a woman's most basic constitutional right: to control her own body and decide whether or not to bear a child. As reported by The Hartford Courant, Senator Lieberman stated that he did not support a filibuster because Alito's confirmation vote did not meet the standard of "extraordinary circumstances" decreed by the Senate "Gang of 14." "This is a slap in the face to every woman of this state, no matter her political beliefs, economic status or race," stated Rosemary Dempsey, President of CT NOW. "“What could be a more '‘extraordinary circumstance'’ than when a woman'’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions is seriously threatened?"

The women of Connecticut expected that our senators, who call themselves pro-choice and claim to be supporters of women'’s rights, would use every measure available to prevent the confirmation of a judge who undermines and disregards them. Laudably, Senator Dodd did just that; regrettably, Senator Lieberman did not. Senator Lieberman's vote to shut down debate had the effect of anointing Judge Alito as a Supreme Court Justice. As Kathleen Sloan, Executive Director of CT NOW explained, Senator Lieberman's vote against Alito on Tuesday was "symbolism without substance". His failure to support women'’s rights at a time when they are most severely threatened by a Supreme Court Justice whose record is replete with contempt for same, makes it highly unlikely that CT NOW will support Lieberman in his bid for re-election.
I'm flabbergasted. And thrilled. I thought there was some sort of collective brain atrophy going on in the institutional "pro-choice" world that caused people's capacity for critical thought to disolve. What is it that Planned Parenthood and NARAL don't understand about this? Why are they both asking their memberships to thank Joe Lieberman for throwing them yet another beating?

Ned will be announcing his candidacy on March 11. I hope everyone will contact NOW, thank them for their brave stance and ask them to enthusiastically support Ned Lamont:
Connecticut National Organization for Women
135 Broad Street
Hartford, CT 06105
860.524.1092 fax

Kathleen Sloan, Executive Director
Rosemary Dempsey, President
Then contact Planned Parenthood and NARAL and ask them why they aren't.

The other thing I'd like to mention: both Ned and his campaign are more internet and netroots savvy than any campaign I've ever dealt with. They're right on top of it, have information at their fingertips and know how to operate at the speed the blogosphere runs. It's extremely impressive and gives me great hope that their alacrity and resourcefulness will be able to cut through the institutional mountain of bullshit Lieberman will no doubt bring to the campaign.

I think we've got a winner here, folks, so please get on board with everything you can.

Update: The South Dakota State Senate just passed a bill banning all forms of abortion except when the life of the mother is endangered. Thanks, Holy Joe. We owe you one.


Bombs Away

As Digby notes, Senator Warner was just on CNN saying that the UAE deal was all about maintaining our military access there.

From Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies, p. 111:
In May 1996, shortly before the Atlanta Olympics, word reached Washington of a remarkable discovery made by the Belgian authorities. They had intercepted a shipment en route to Germany. Inside what was labeled as "pickles" was a custom-designed weapon best described as the largest mortar ever seen. The weapon was designed to lob a large explosive charge a short distance, such as over the walls of an Israeli or US embassy compound. The shipment was traced to Iran.

The Defense Department agreed to our request to station an additional aircraft carrier battle group in the waters off Iran temporarily, as a deterrent signal to Tehran. The Navy was growing increasingly concerned with anti-ship missiles that Iran was placing on islands in the Persian Gulf and on its coastline, particularly at the narrow point in the Gulf leading to the Indian Ocean, the Straits of Hormuz. In early May, DOD announced that Iran had acquired long-range missiles from North Korea and was engaged in a program to protect its missiles in hardened bunkers.

The Navy relied on two ports in the Persian Gulf. Only one, in the United Arab Emirates, could handle an aircraft carrier. That port, near Dubai, saw more U.S. Navy ships anchored and more U.S. sailors ashore than any harbor outside the United States during the 1990s. It remained, however, a commercial facililty with no permanent U.S. Navy facility. The U.S. Navy base was a few hundred kilometers up the Gulf in the island nation of Bahrain. There, thousands of U.S. sailors lived and worked. After the Tanker War and then the first Gulf War, the little Navy base at Bahrain had mushroomed into a large and active facility. In 1996, DOD announced that the base would now be headquarters to a new entity, the Fifth Fleet. With the Soviet navy rusting at Siberian ports and the Iraqi Navy sitting on the bottom of the Persian Gulf and Shatt al-Arab, the Fifth Fleet had only one possible enemy: Iran.
This is, after all, the administration that reluctantly rushed through a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq in only 20 days with no outside peer review that might have spotted all the bogus WMD claims. Why would they wait around for some pesky, arbitrary legally mandated 45 day investigation into the Dubai World Ports transfer?


Roots Project Update

This Friday we are going to take our first action in the Roots Project targeting local media outlets in Kansas about the Senate investigations into the illegal NSA wiretaps.

Glenn Greenwald has a great piece up today that talks about how the port scandal dovetails nicely with what we're trying to do:
[T]his port controversy represents yet another instance where the Administration expressed its transparent contempt for the notion that Congress has any real role to play in our system of Government other than giving symbolic endorsement to the dictates of the President. Drenched yet again with the humiliation that comes from being ignored and misled, members of Congress -- including Republicans -- will be in no mood to play the role of meek little rugs which lay quietly on the floor and have no role other than to conceal the Administration's dirt. Helping the White House evade accountability for the NSA scandal by continuing to stonewall investigations would appear to be the very last thing this Congress -- desperate to demonstrate its institutional dignity and independence -- would be inclined right now to do.

In light of all of that, we want to being our laboratory experiment by first targeting Kansas -- because it has a Senator (Roberts) who is probably the single most important person right now in determining whether a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation will proceed; because it has another Senator (Brownback) who is on the Judiciary Committee and has expressed strong objections to the White House's NSA law-breaking; and because we have had a substantial number of Kansans who are very familiar with the political terrain in that state step forward to work with us.

We believe we can develop a potent strategy for generating as much pressure and persuasion as possible towards Roberts (and Brownback) to encourage a meaningful investigation into to the NSA scandal -- not because the Administration should per se be assumed to be guilty of high crimes, but because the NSA program has generated a very intense controversy and Americans ought to know what our Government has been doing with regard to its secret eavesdropping on American citizens.
Get your pencils sharpened, we're going to focus this first action on LTEs for Sunday publication. And go and read the rest of Glenn's piece, he is -- as always -- quite eloquent.


Screw Israel, Lieberman Sticks To His Bush

When even Bill Frist, Dennis Hastert and Fox News have abandoned him on the matter of the ports, Commander Codpiece knows that Joe Lieberman can always be counted upon for the public fluff.

From the NYT:
One of the few legislators to come close to defending the transaction was Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, who is considered a security hawk among Democrats.

He told ABC News that he was "not yet" prepared to try to block the sale. He noted that many port terminals in the United States are foreign-owned.

"I worry more about the failure to invest in port security" - to improve the ability to detect smuggled weapons of mass destruction, for example - "than I worry right now about this sale," Mr. Lieberman said.
This despite the fact that -- as Maureen Dowd notes -- the UAE does not recognize Israel and they have a history of being quite anti-Semitic. I guess it's a matter of priorities. Lieberman has long claimed to be a big supporter of Israel, but -- much like pro-choice -- I guess that's only when Junior lets him off his leash.

Update: NYT editorial:
The issue is not, as Mr. Bush is now claiming, a question of bias against a Middle Eastern company. The United Arab Emirates is an ally, but its record in the war on terror is mixed. It is not irrational for the United States to resist putting port operations, perhaps the most vulnerable part of the security infrastructure, under that country's control. And there is nothing in the Homeland Security Department's record to make doubters feel confident in its assurances that all proper precautions will be taken.
Yeah I really don't think that "trust us on this one" meme is going to play.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Dickfest Finals

After six grueling nights of battle the Iron Chefs of irreverant lefty poetry have been boiled down to these, the finalists in Dickfest. The winner will be honored with Bill Maher's latest book New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer and signed poster courtesy of his series on HBO. And, of course, the title Poet Laureate of Dickfest 2006.

In the end we had over 500 entries. Winners all. On behalf of everyone here at FDL, our families, babies, and dogs we thank you for your participation and the honor of hosting this prestigious event. We hope the Vice President is aware of the honor bestowed upon him as the subject of all these splendid poetic musings, though he's probably just happy to be out of the headlines and grateful to Junior for fucking the ports in such a timely fashion.

Please vote by number and vote only once. It is a solemn task before you but I'm certain you will execute it with all the gravity and serious deliberation it demands. Without further ado, the finalists are:
The lovely landscape of Texas wealth,
The relaxed stalk of priveleged stealth,
Much time to quaff, no time to aim,
But eons to spin about who I maim (23)

Harry, Harry, Dignitary
Tell us your huntin' woes
'Bout farm-bred quails and frosty ales
And Dick's buckshot up your nose. (47)

The sun was low
The ground was red
The spin exploded
The facts all fled (83)

An accident it must have been,
And not a planned attack
Because Dick shot him in the face
Instead of in the back. (114)

When William Clinton was the president
To get a blow job was a big disgrace.
But times have changed, now it's OK
To shoot a load in some old geezer's face! (163)

The Loaded Shotgun shoots; and, having shot,
Moves on: nor all thy silence nor spin shall lure it back to cancel half a Wound,
Nor all thy lies undo the crime of it. (192)

They came from Wyoming and Texas, addicted to power and drink;
They bullied and lied, they tortured and spied till most folks were too scared to blink;
But when Scowl shot a hunter he thought was a bird and Swag let New Orleans drown,
Folks finally saw what these guys really were: a crusty old coot and a clown. (238)

There once was a Veep from Halliburton
Who knew that his poll numbers were hurtin
As he turned on the shooter,he thought he saw Scooter
And prayed Plamegate was buried for certain. (254)

The lawyer, though peppered, has the finest of care
The rich shooter's safe in his rarified air
A poor circus for fools who watch and ignore
The lives being lost in a cruel unjust war. (277)

If epitaphs were polygraphs,
This, terse and edifying,
Would crown the veep in final sleep:
Here lies Big Time--still lying. (334)

Two red faces: one bloody, peppered with shot,
The other just flushed due to drinking a lot.
"How best to fake sorrow? Wait! I know just the trick!
I'll go on Fox News and have Brit Hume suck my dick!" (365)

I'm Big Dick Cheney who the fuck are you
Satan wears a bracelet What Would Cheny Do (353)

To hunt with a man
whose gun and hubris know no
bounds is to lose face. (421)

Dick's friend? Shot in the head.
Iraqis? Around 100,000 dead.
Congress? Power's been bled.
Demoracy? She's been put to bed. (433)
Thanks to all the poets as well as those who took the time to read over all the entries and give them your thoughtful deliberation. Tomorrow night join us when we crown the winner and honor a few poems I managed to mangle in the cut & paste process.

(graphic by Dark Black)


There's No Such Thing As a Pro-Choice Republican (or Lieberman)

We knew it would happen sooner or later, and I guess it's going to be sooner:
The Supreme Court, at full strength with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on the bench for the first time, opened the next chapter in its long-running confrontation with abortion today by agreeing to decide whether the first federal ban on a method of abortion is constitutional.

The court accepted, for argument next fall, the Bush administration's appeal of a decision invalidating the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.
Everybody who didn't seen this coming raise their hand. Oh, is that you, Planned Parenthood?
"Today's actions by the court are a shining example of why elections matter. When judges far outside the mainstream are nominated and confirmed to public office by anti-choice politicians, women's health and safety are put in danger," said the organization's president, Cecile Richards, in a written statement.
Well, you might have fucking thought of that when you were encouraging people to thank Joe Lieberman for his cloture vote on Alito, sister:
From: "Public Affairs Staff"
Subject: What's Happening! PPC News
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2006 23:43:40 GMT

60 Seconds with PPC keeps you updated about Planned Parenthood of Connecticut!
Our goal: help you stay informed and connected to our work in one minute or less. Ready? Set? Read!


On Tuesday, January 31, 2006 the Senate voted to confirm Samuel Alito, Jr. 58-42 as the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice after failed efforts by Senate Democrats to filibuster his nomination. Take time to thank Senator Chris Dodd and Senator Joseph Lieberman for opposing Samuel Alito's nomination. We thank all our supporters and activists for their energy and effort to defeat this nomination.
Holy Joe is quick to dance around and parade his final (and meaningless) anti-Alito vote to prove his pro-choice bona fides, but in an email explaining his cloture vote, he said:
With respect to the filibuster vote, as you may know, I was a member of the Senate "Gang of 14" that last year worked together to save the right of Senators to filibuster judicial nominations. As part of that agreement, I agreed to filibuster only in extraordinary circumstances. To me, this situation did not meet this extraordinary circumstances standard.
I'm not going to waste any more time hammering on Planned Parenthood and NARAL except to say that they do not get it. Pro-choice in this country is going down, all because of people like Joe Lieberman. It will not survive another vacancy on the Supreme Court filled by George Bush and confirmed by this Senate.

Redd and I are adding Ned Lamont to our Act Blue page. Ned Lamont would not have voted for cloture on Alito, and he is a solid pro-choice candidate (I will hopefully have more on this tomorrow). If you care about pro-choice in this country please give to Ned Lamont. Give til it hurts. It saddens me terribly to say this because I have been a big Planned Parenthood and NARAL supporter all my life but until they can show that they understand what is going on and the way this war is being waged they do not deserve your pro-choice dollars.

What's more, their endorsement could swing the election in a heavily pro-choice state, and they are under tremendous pressure to endorse Lieberman. Please contact both NARAL and Planned Parenthood and tell them to support Ned Lamont and prove that they understand that people like Joe Lieberman and Lincoln Chafee are pro-choice only when it doesn't count.


Do You Feel More Secure? 'Cos I Don't

I don't know if anyone remembers the ABC news story from September, 2002 when they tested the security of American ports by attempting -- with frightening success -- to smuggle depleted uranium into the country via the port of New York. They did the same thing again, this time through the port of Los Angeles, in 2003.

One would think that the response of a Homeland Security Department that actually cared about protecting the country from the great fear they are always so quick invoke would be to take measures to make sure that the ports were strengthened such that real terrorists who actually attempted this could not succeed.

What did the Bush administration do?

They began an investigation of ABC news for violation of felony smuggling laws. Intimidate the whistleblowers. It's the mafia's stock in trade, too.

I remember this very clearly because it really terrified me. One of the reasons I really came to admire John Kerry was due to the fact that he had an actual plan (can you imagine) to strengthen the big holes in the US port security system. Because contrary to what wingnuttia would have you believe, liberals don't want to hand over the US to the terrorists. We just want real measures to be taken to secure the country, as opposed to the millions upon millions of dollars wasted in meaningless measures that do nothing to protect national security while a lot of empty rhetoric masks the true intent their efforts: namely, funnel big bucks to your buddy. Then they stomp around and pretend like they actually did something.

Anyone who thinks that BushCo. has done more to make this country secure isn't "tough on terror." They're just a bunch of marks.

Now George Bush wants rake in the big bucks by outsourcing control of our ports to a country that has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Lybia, and he's so accustomed to screaming "look fast, the boogyman's over there!" while he lifts your wallet he thinks nobody will notice this time either.

Is the the game finally over? Are the Bush cultists finally coming to realize what we've known all along -- that this bunch of crooks is all about making money and only about making money, national security be damned?

Let's hope so, because the wingnuts have been the major impediment to true national security for years. It's high time the scales fell off their eyes for all our sakes.


Mike Stark's Tips For Calling Talk Radio

(By popular demand -- Mike Stark has made a name for himself over at Kos for his successful calls into the heart of wingnuttia with the likes of Hannity and O'Reilly. As part of our Roots project, Mike has agreed to act as an advisor and to write about his tips for calling into local radio shows. You can find him documenting his adventures regularly at his blog Calling All Wingnuts and he will also be answering people's questions in the comments section here.)

By guest poster Mike Stark

Before you call talk radio for the first time, it’s important to listen to the show. Get to know the host and identify their shtick. All of these folks have different ways of dealing with callers that challenge them, but there are some common MO’s… For instance, O’Reilly’s method is to keep you on a short leash and then bloviate - often distorting your initial statement… Hannity is more likely to engage you in debate, but he forces the debate onto his turf, i.e., “Is the world a better place without Saddam Hussein in power?”

Unfortunately, none of those MO’s includes the host saying, “Hmm, you’ve got a point there. You know what, you’re right, George Bush is an incompetent and dangerous megalomaniac.”

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, but the point is that you should study the terrain carefully before you join the battle.

Once you’ve decided that you know the host as well as you ever will, it’s time to take the plunge.

I divide the process of calling talk radio into three stages: talking point preparation, getting through, and the showdown.

Talking Point Preparation

First, be sure you know what you want to say and that you are prepared for any challenges. Unless you are confident in your ability to think quickly on your feet while speaking publicly to thousands of people, the easiest way to prepare is to develop one talking point to hammer over and over again. Rehearse it. Make it short and snappy (I’ll return to this crucial piece of advice later), and don’t stray from it - no matter how hard you are pushed.

The best way I’ve found to go about preparing talking points is to steal them wholesale from the blogs I read. I’m too busy and/or lazy to do original research on every issue I call about - instead, I read as much as I can about what other people are saying and then decide what I think. You don’t want to be caught espousing a weak point of view that the (invariably wingnut) host can assail. For me, there is nothing worse than knowing I’ve been out-argued, so I do everything I can to make sure I can defend what I’m calling about. That means A LOT of blog reading.

Almost as important as knowing what you want to say is anticipating what the host is likely to come back at you with. If you are a political junkie, you probably watch enough “debate” programs on CNN, MSNBC or Fox to have a general idea of common winger retorts. Other good sources are wingnut blogs and administration talking points.

Finally, you never know when the host will cut you off, so, like I said earlier, it’s important to make your statement short. Don’t go beyond five or six sentences. The purpose of the statement is to set the call up on terms that are favorable to you - so try not to be deliberately incendiary or controversial. Instead frame your argument in such a way as to make even the wingiest of the wingnuts sound unreasonable if they disagree with you.

So let’s see what I can come up with regards to NSA wiretapping Americans…

First, I want to remember to keep things in a frame favorable to me. So this isn’t going to be about wiretapping the terrorists (although I’m sure that’s what the host will say). Instead, I want to make sure that I end up talking about tapping the phones of Americans… I also know from tracking the Patriot Act that the government has unprecedented powers to spy on my library reading habits, listen in on my conversations with my lawyers, and bug my home… And I also know that I grew up in a time that the “Evil Empire” was an itchy trigger-finger away from blowing us all to smithereens… I’m going to weave all of the aforementioned threads into my introductory statement. I’ll write it out - either in bullet points, or, as I prefer, completely:

You know, Paul, you’re about my age. We both grew up at a time when the prospect of all out nuclear war and the end of the world was a real fear… Today, we worry about terrorism - that some cave-dwellers might blow themselves up and take a few of us with him. In order to keep that from happening we’ve passed the Patriot Act which allows the government to spy on our library records, bug our homes and even listen in on our conversations with our lawyers… But that wasn’t good enough for the President… He’s decided he wants to illegally bug our telephone conversations also… Well, if we didn’t put up with that when we were fighting Soviet spies, why should we put up with it when we’re fighting goat herders?

When you call DO NOT read your statement verbatim. People can tell. Instead, make sure you have it readily accessible in your short term memory… remember, we’ve kept it short, so you shouldn’t have any problem remembering your talking points. However… I know from experience that when you call, you can get nervous. Sometimes the anxiety causes a really bad case of mental diarrhea - everything in your mind just evacuates… If it happens to you, don’t get discouraged - just try again the next day. If you are worried it might happen to you, use a fake name - nobody will ever know.

Now that we’ve formulated our opening shot, we want to anticipate what the host might come back with. Like I said, if you are paying attention to politics, you will probably have a pretty good idea…

In this case, the host is likely to argue one of three points:
1. That the program is legal
2. That in a post 9/11 world…
3. If terrorists attack and the president hadn’t authorized such actions, we’d be asking for his head
I’m not going to go through each of the three points and rebut them because you can find all the info you need for that on blogs or news shows… But I will say this:
1. Be prepared - don’t get caught stammering because the host hit you with a talking point that you hadn’t seen or heard before. Wingers are on strict message control - they are automatons. It really isn’t that hard to know how they will go about defending whatever issue it is you are calling about
2. Remember your initial statement. An ideally crafted opening salvo will have your response contained within it…
Getting through

If you are calling local radio, you most likely won’t have any trouble getting through. A screener will come on, ask your name and where you are calling from (feel free to lie) and what you want to talk about. Keep it pretty simple - don’t go into your whole statement… In this case, I’d say, “The NSA spying program”. Usually, that will be sufficient and you’ll be put on hold for anywhere between 0 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of callers in front of you. Other times, the screener may ask what your take is. I’d say, “I disagree with Paul - I don’t see why the program is necessary today when it wasn’t necessary when we were facing nuclear annihilation.” That should clinch it for you.

On the other hand, if you are calling national shows, there are some additional tips I can share. First of all, call early in the hour. The talk shows usually begin at eight minutes into the hour, so begin hitting the lines at about six after the top of the hour. You will probably get a busy signal at first - the screener has all the lines off the hook. You never know when he’ll start taking calls, so keep hitting redial. Usually by 10 to 15 past, the lines open up. Sometimes, especially if there is a guest, it takes a little longer. Be persistent.

When you do finally get through, you are only half-way home. These screeners are more likely to test you - to make sure you aren’t too nervous to maintain coherence and to make sure you have a decent, relevant argument. Just stay calm and talk…

Still, there is no guarantee. Just this morning, I called Laura Ingraham to talk about the Fightin’ Dems and the fact that so many Iraq/Afghanistan vets are running as Dems. The screener told me it was a “Good point” and hung up on me. That’s OK… next time I’ll get mine by pretending to be a sycophant…

The Showdown

You’d think that when you call talk radio, you might end up in a discussion, right? Ha. No way, kimosabi (or as my Chinese wife once put it, “Kawasaki”), this isn’t Kansas. Instead, you’ll - if you’re lucky - get through your statement and then find yourself standing in the middle of Bizarro World. As much as you’ve crafted your statement to be agreeable as sunshine, your wingnut host will find a way to disagree.

Relax. It’s, as you already knew from listening, part and parcel for the medium. Just remember these do’s and don’ts:

. Do stick to your topic: don’t let them change the subject on you. Whether or not you hate George Bush has got nothing to do with the rule of law. So blow the question off by asking your own: “Are we a nation of laws?”

. Do restate your most powerful premise as often as you can - and use right-wing frames as often as possible. For example: “Paul, I’m surprised at you. I thought you wanted limited government - I can’t think of a more powerful government than one headed by a president who thinks he can flout any law he wants and listen in on my personal phone conversations. Reagan didn’t do it, why is it OK for Bush?”

. Be prepared to be:
. Hung up on or muted - (short & snappy is important)
. Being herded into arguing an entirely different matter - (always return to the purpose of your call - one of my favorite statements is, “Paul, I’m a guest on your show and you took my call so that we could talk about XXX… can we get back to that?”)
. Attacked personally - (don’t take it personally, but stand up for yourself)
. Filibustered - (not much you can do - they control your mic and your connection - short and snappy is important)
. Don’t lose your cool. Think of this as a debate - the minute you begin to sweat, the other guy has won. Keep your voice calm and be ready to chuckle at the more ridiculous things the host is about to say. I’ve heard that if you force a smile while you are on the phone, there is a perceivable change in the tone of your voice - for the better. Try it.

This might be hard at first - the host does this job several hours a day… you are just getting started… So it’s only natural for a certain amount of nervousness to leak into your voice at first. Don’t worry, you get used to the platform and in no time at all, you’ll be laughing at the wingnuts because you know you’re scoring points. It’s a confidence game.

There is one exception to this rule: if the host calls you a liar or otherwise insults you, it is OK - even desirable - to stand up for yourself. There’s nothing worse than a squishy liberal.

. Don’t ever give an inch - don’t go week-kneed in an attempt to curry favor. If you are the type of person that would do this, do not call.

When all is said and done, make sure you have fun. Remember, you are calling a wingnut that has everything except the truth on their side. They control your volume, how long you can talk for and even how long you remain connected. They invariably get the last word. It’s a platform on which you really cannot expect to win - but somehow, with the miracle of truth on your side, you can sometimes change minds.