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Monday, January 17, 2005


I'm given to understand that Junior wears these silly costumes as a courtesy because they are the uniforms of individual military units and they inscribe them with "Commander In Chief" and the presidential seal and all kinds of filligreed decorations over which he has absolutely no control (being only the commander in chief and all.) It's kind of like that "Mission Accomplished" sign. The troops just get overzealous and embarrass the president over and over again with their devotion.

So, does the flight crew of Air Force One also have a special uniform that somebody in the crew (maybe the flight attendant?) designed especially for the president?

Or is it possible that Karen Hughes sewed this one up her very own self? I'd be curious to know.

The Heart Of The Democratic Party

I posted this speech once before but I think it's worth a rerun. In the summer of 1998 Bill Clinton was slowly being assassinated by the death of a thousand cuts. The press was as bloodthirsty as I've ever seen it. It's hard to remember now, but the feeding frenzy was overwhelming. I can still see the looks on their faces as night after night the media held their witchburning tribunal, cackling madly as they picked over the "evidence" with prurient delight. It was a very sick time.

On the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have A Dream Speech" Bill Clinton gave the following unprepared speech. It was the most heartfelt speech I ever heard him give.

August 28, 1998

The summer of 1963 was a very eventful one for me: the summer I turned 17.

What most people know about it now is the famous picture of me shaking hands with President Kennedy in July. It was a great moment. But I think the moment we commemorate today, a moment I experienced all alone, had a more profound impact on my life.

Most of us who are old enough remember exactly where we were on Aug. 28, 1963. I was in my living room in Hot Springs, Ark.

I remember the chair I was sitting in. I remember exactly where it was in the room. I remember exactly the position of the chair when I sat and watched on national television the great March on Washington unfold.

I remember weeping uncontrollably during Martin Luther King's speech. And I remember thinking, when it was over, my country would never be the same and neither would I.

There are people all across this country who made a more intense commitment to the idea of racial equality and justice that day than they had ever made before. And so in very personal ways, all of us became better and bigger because of the work of those who brought that great day about. There are millions of people who John Lewis will never meet who are better and bigger because of what that day meant.

And the words continue to echo down to the present day, spoken to us today by children who were not even alive then. And, God willing, their grandchildren will also be inspired and moved and become better and bigger because of what happened on that increasingly distant summer day.

What I'd like to ask you to think about a little today, and to share with you -- and I'll try to do it without taking my spectacles out, but I don't write very well and I don't read too well as I get older -- is what I think this means for us today. I was trying to think about what John and Dr. King and others did and how they did it, and how it informs what I do and how I think about other things today.

And I want to ask, you all need to think about three things . . . .

No. 1, Dr. King used to speak about how we were all bound together in a web of mutuality, which was an elegant way of saying, whether we like it or not, we're all in this life together. We are interdependent. Well, what does that mean? Well, let me give you a specific example: We had some good news today. Incomes in America went up 5 percent last year. That's a big bump in a year. We have got the best economy in a generation. That's the good news.

But we are mutually interdependent with people far beyond our borders. Yesterday, there was some more news that was troubling out of Russia, some rumor, some fact about the decline in the economy. Our stock market dropped over 350 points. And in Latin America, our most fast-growing market for American exports, all the markets went down even though, as far as we know, most of those countries are doing everything right. Why? Because we're in a tighter and tighter and tighter web of mutuality.

Asia has these economic troubles. So even though we have got the best economy in a generation, our farm exports to Asia are down 30 percent from last year. And we have states in this country where farmers, the hardest-working people in this country, can't make their mortgage payments because of things that happened half a world away they didn't have any direct influence on at all. This world is being bound together more closely.

So what is the lesson from that? Well, I should go to Russia because, as John said, anybody can come see you when you're doing well. I should go there.

And we should tell them that if they'll be strong and do the disciplined, hard things they have to do to reform their country, their economy, and get through this dark night, that we'll stick with them. . . .

The second thing.

Even if you're not a pacifist, whenever possible, peace and nonviolence is always the right thing to do.

I remember so vividly in 1994 . . .I was trying to pass this crime bill, and all of the opposition to the crime bill that was in the newspapers, all the intense opposition was coming from the N.R.A. and the others that did not want us to ban assault weapons, didn't believe that we ought to have more community policemen walking the streets, and conservatives who thought we should just punish people more and not spend more money trying to keep kids out of trouble in the first place. And it was a huge fight.

And so they came to see me, and he said, "Well, John Lewis is not going to vote for this bill." And I said, "Why?" and they said, "Because it increases the number of crimes subject to the Federal death penalty and he's not for it. And he's not in bed with all those other people, he thinks they're wrong, but he can't vote for it." And I said, "Well, let him alone. There's no point in calling him" because he's lived a lifetime dedicated to an idea and while I may not be a pacifist, whenever possible, it's always the right thing to do to try to be peaceable and nonviolent.

What does that mean for today? Well, there's a lot of good news. It's like the economy: the crime rate's at a 25-year low, juvenile crime's finally coming down. . . .

Half a world away, terrorists trying to hurt Americans blow up two embassies in Africa, and they killed some of our people, some of our best people -- of, I might add, very many different racial and ethnic backgrounds, American citizens, including a distinguished career African-American diplomat and his son -- but they also killed almost 300 Africans and wounded 5,000 others.

We see their pictures in the morning paper, two of them who did that. We were bringing them home. And they look like active, confident young people. What happened inside them that made them feel so much hatred toward us that they could justify not only an act of violence against innocent diplomats and other public servants, but the collateral consequences to Africans whom they would never know? They had children, too.

So it is always best to remember that we have to try to work for peace in the Middle East, for peace in Northern Ireland, for an end to terrorism, for protections against biological and chemical weapons being used in the first place.

The night before we took action against the terrorist operations in Afghanistan and Sudan, I was here on this island up till 2:30 in the morning trying to make absolutely sure that at that chemical plant there was no night shift. I believed I had to take the action I did, but I didn't want some person who was a nobody to me, but who may have a family to feed and a life to live, and probably had no earthly idea what else was going on there, to die needlessly. I learned that, and it's another reason we ought to pay our debt to the United Nations, because if we can work together, together we can find more peaceful solutions. Now I didn't learn that when I became President; I learned it from John Lewis and the civil rights movement a long time ago.

And the last thing I learned from them on which all these other things depend, without which we cannot build a world of peace or one America in an increasingly peaceful world bound together in this web of mutuality, is that you can't get there unless you're willing to forgive your enemies. I never will forget one of the most -- I don't think I have ever spoken about this in public before -- but one of the most meaningful personal moments I have had as President was a conversation I had with Nelson Mandela.

And I said to him -- I said: "You know, I have read your book, and I have heard you speak.

And you spent time with my wife and daughter, and you have talked about inviting your jailers to your inauguration." And I said, "It's very moving." And I said: "You're a shrewd as well as a great man. But come on now, how did you really do that? You can't make me believe you didn't hate those people who did that to you for 27 years?"

He said, "I did hate them for quite a long time. After all, they abused me physically and emotionally. They separated me from my wife, and it eventually broke my family up. They kept me from seeing my children grow up." He said, "For quite a long time, I hated them."

And then he said: "I realized one day, breaking rocks, that they could take everything away from me, everything, but my mind and heart. Now, those things I would have to give away, and I simply decided I would not give them away."

So as you look around the world, you see -- how do you explain these three children who were killed in Ireland or all the people who were killed in the square when the people were told to leave the City Hall, there was a bomb there, and then they walked out toward the bomb?

What about all those families in Africa? I don't know. I can't pick up the telephone and call them and say, "I am so sorry this happened." How do we find that spirit?

All of you know I'm having to become quite an expert in this business of asking for forgiveness. And I ----. It gets a little easier the more you do it. And if you have a family, an Administration, a Congress and a whole country to ask, you're going to get a lot of practice.

But I have to tell that in these last days it has come home to me again, something I first learned as President, but it wasn't burned in my bones -- and that is that in order to get it, you have to be willing to give it. And all of us -- the anger, the resentment, the bitterness, the desire for recrimination against people you believe have wronged you -- they harden the heart and deaden the spirit and lead to self-inflicted wounds.

And so it is important that we are able to forgive those we believe have wronged us, even as we ask for forgiveness from people we have wronged.

And I heard that first -- first -- in the civil rights movement. "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

I never doubted Clinton's sincere committment to racial justice, but that speech illuminated something for me that I'd never quite understood before. The Democratic party is dysfunctional in so many ways, and it makes me crazy with its lack of discipline. (Just as Clinton did.) But, considering this country's sordid racial history, being the party of African Americans is the heart of what we stand for. It's what gives us our soul.

We like to think that we are about reason and rationality while the other side is all hot emotionality. But, we are all humans blesssed with the full spectrum of human attributes. The difference, it seems to me, is which human qualities lead us and where they take us.

The civil rights movement gives us the perfect window. Democrats led with their hearts on that issue. Although they knew it was politically dangerous they did it anyway because they were moved as human beings to do the right thing against their own political best interests. Immediately, the Republicans coolly and methodically set out to take advantage of the opening. The party of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had no personal stake in the issue of racial justice. The Republican party had, since Lincoln, been the African Americans' home. Both of those men were from California, so they also had no regional attachment to the "southern culture" that would have made them nostalgic for the old ways. Their Southern Strategy was pure, cold political calculation and it served them very well. A look at the 2004 electoral map confirms it.

We led with our hearts on civil rights and they led with their heads. And we were right. I believed Bill Clinton when he said that he'd cried when he heard the "I have A Dream Speech." Many, many people did. That moment symbolized the crucible of American culture. It challenged us to rise above the original sin of slavery and do the right thing. The people who heard that call were the people who formed the heart of the Modern Democratic Party.

And when we hear some of our own complain about the Congressional Black Caucus "mau-mauing" somebody or say derisively that the African American constituency should be less race based and more class based, we need to remember that the congressional black caucus is also the fighting liberal caucus. (They were the first and loudest to protest the bogus impeachment, a fact which Clinton knew that day very well.) They are Democrats because the Democratic Party invited them in and asked them to sit at the table when it was politically difficult to do. They knew that Bill Clinton, for all his foibles, understood that and appreciated what that meant. And they stood by him when he was being persecuted by the other side. If there is today a more reliable constituency of authentic courageous liberal Democrats, I don't know what it is.

Martin Luther King was murdered before his dream could be realized. But it's getting better slowly but surely. There will be no going back. It's an enormous achievement for a screwed up country like ours that we've finally managed to make progress in spite of the huge cultural obstacles that were virtually built into our political system from the very beginning.

Democrats led the way on that and paid a huge political price. For all the talk of spinelessness and weakness that you hear out there, when the chips were down, the Democratic Party showed that it would stand up for what was right. There is no doubt which party Martin Luther King would choose today.

I'm not evolved enough, I'm afraid, to be forgiving for what the Republicans have done to this country these last few years. I'll need some time to come to that. But, I appreciate the notion that we can't let them sour us and turn inward. Nothing will ever change if we do that. And I figure as long as African Americans are in our party fighting the good fight, the least I can do is stand beside them.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Long Time Coming

Frank Rich writes one of his typically interesting pieces today on the Armstrong Williams scandal and illustrates one of the reasons we are in such poor shape in the media wars.

[T]he Jan. 7 edition of CNN's signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.


That he[Novak] and Mr. Begala would be allowed to lob softballs at a man who may have been a cog in illegal government wrongdoing, on a show produced by television's self-proclaimed "most trusted" news network, is bad enough. That almost no one would notice, let alone protest, is a snapshot of our cultural moment, in which hidden agendas in the presentation of "news" metastasize daily into a Kafkaesque hall of mirrors that could drive even the most earnest American into abject cynicism. But the ugly bigger picture reaches well beyond "Crossfire" and CNN.


[P]erhaps the most fascinating Williams TV appearance took place in December 2003, the same month that he was first contracted by the government to receive his payoffs. At a time when no one in television news could get an interview with Dick Cheney, Mr. Williams, of all "journalists," was rewarded with an extended sit-down with the vice president for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationwide owner of local stations affiliated with all the major networks. In that chat, Mr. Cheney criticized the press for its coverage of Halliburton and denounced "cheap shot journalism" in which "the press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective."

This is a scenario out of "The Manchurian Candidate." Here we find Mr. Cheney criticizing the press for a sin his own government was at that same moment signing up Mr. Williams to commit. The interview is broadcast by the same company that would later order its ABC affiliates to ban Ted Koppel's "Nightline" recitation of American casualties in Iraq and then propose showing an anti-Kerry documentary, "Stolen Honor," under the rubric of "news" in prime time just before Election Day. (After fierce criticism, Sinclair retreated from that plan.) Thus the Williams interview with the vice president, implicitly presented as an example of the kind of "objective" news Mr. Cheney endorses, was in reality a completely subjective, bought-and-paid-for fake news event for a broadcast company that barely bothers to fake objectivity and both of whose chief executives were major contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign. The Soviets couldn't have constructed a more ingenious or insidious plot to bamboozle the citizenry.

The Leninists of the conservative movement morphed into Stalinists sometime during the Clinton administration and have been becoming more and more open about their totalitarian bent. But this has been brewing for a long, long time. In fact, it was the red-baiter of red-baiters, Richard Nixon, who set the whole thing in motion. That should serve as a vivid reminder that those who preach the gospel with the most evangelical fervor are the ones most likely to be sinners. The most zealous anti-communists developed a very inhealthy appetite for the tactics of their enemies. (Or maybe it was that fascination rather than any real philosophical objection that led them to become obsessed in the first place.)

As we live here in America, basking in the golden glow of conservatism's apotheosis, Dan Rather's "retirement" represents the completion of another piece of the American Soviet project.

This is just sad:

According to a Broadcasting & Cable source in Washington, D.C., CBS News president Andrew Heyward, along with Washington bureau chief Janet Leissner, recently met with White House communications director Dan Bartlett, in part to repair chilly relations with the Bush administration.

CBS News’ popularity at the White House-never high to begin with-plunged further in the wake of Dan Rather’s discredited 60 Minutes story on George Bush’s National Guard service.

An incentive for making nice is the impending report from the two-member panel investigating CBS's use of now-infamous documents for the 60 Minutes piece.

Heyward was -working overtime to convince Bartlett that neither CBS News nor Rather had a vendetta against the White House,- our source says, - and from here on out would do everything it could to be fair and balanced. - CBS declined to comment.

That had to have been a sweet victory. Seeing CBS tugging its metaphorical forelock in deference to the Republican White House was the culmination of more than thirty years of cultural indoctrination into Nixon's dark paranoid fantasy of the liberal media. But then the modern GOP is nothing if not the party of Richard Nixon.

From "The President and the Press" by David Wise in the Atlantic (sorry, subscription req'd):

In April of 1971, John Ehrlichman, the President's chief assistant for domestic affairs, complained in person to Richard S. Salant, the president of CBS News, about Dan Rather, the network's White House correspondent. Ehrlichman was in New York to appear on the CBS Morning News with correspondent John Hart. Afterwards Hart and Ehrlichman adjourned for breakfast at the Edwardian Room of the Plaza, where they were joined by Salant. The President's assistant brought up the subject of CBS's White House reporter.

"Rather has been jobbing us," Ehrlichman said. Salant, seeking to inject a lighter note into the conversation, told how Rather had been hired by CBS in 1962 after he had saved the life of a horse, an act of heroism that resulted in considerable publicity and brought him to the attention of the network. It was then that Rather went to work for CBS News as chief of its Southwest bureau in Dallas. When President Kennedy was assassinated in that city, Rather went on the air for the network, and his cool, poised coverage of the tragedy gained him national recognition. After Dallas, Salant explained to Ehrlichman, CBS brought Rather to Washington, in part because the new President, Lyndon Johnson, was a fellow Texan.

"Aren't you going to open a bureau in Austin where Dan could have a job?" Ehrlichman asked Salant. He then accused Rather of never coming to see him in the White House, and he suggested it might be beneficial if Rather took a year's vacation.


Walter Cronkite believes the Nixon Administration attacked the news media "to raise the credibility of the Administration. It's like a first-year physics experiment with two tubes of water--you put pressure on one side and it makes the other side go up or down." He added: "I have charged that this is a 'conspiracy.' I don't regret my use of that word."

By applying constant pressure, in ways seen and unseen, the leaders of the government have attempted to shape the news to resemble the images seen through the prism of their own power. The Administration's attacks, Richard Salant acknowledged, have "made us all edgy. We've thought about things we shouldn't think about."

That article was written in 1973. And it was before they set the second part of their plan in motion. While diligently working the refs for the last 30 years they were simultaneously building an alternative media to push from the competitive side and drive the discourse to the right.

Today, that dream of control is fully realized. Republicans routinely bully any reporter or organization that doesn't play ball while they feed lots of juicy propaganda to their bought and paid for media like FOX, Rush, Drudge and The NY Post knowing that the story will work its way into the mainstream anyway. They created an entertainment model for news in which entertainment values superceded civic values and it attracted a different kind of person to the field. Over time, fewer and fewer reporters wouldn't play ball because those that refused were weeded out in a form of (un)natural selection. In the end, the survivors don't even know they are biased. They are so enmeshed in this system of celebrity punishment and rewards that their own self esteem is now drawn from their acceptability to the (Republican) establishment. And each and every day the partisan right wing media pushes the discourse a few inches further to the right.

So just this week we find out that Armstrong Williams is being paid by the taxpayers to promote the President's political agenda and the social security administration employees are being required to disseminate Republican talking points to the public during a major policy battle. There are undoubtedly many more examples of the literal merging of state and party.

But the media has long since been corrupted by a far more sophisticated, legal system of payola and influence peddling. It makes little difference now whether there are more Armstrong Williamses because there are many, many people who will happily perform his function while taking a check from a right wing foundation or think tank.
The right wing noise machine works like a single organism, relentlessly attacking any threat to the Republican party, unquestioningly advancing anything their leadership directs. It's just plain greed that led them to use taxpayer money when there is so much special interest money to be used for the exact same purpose.

In a just world this Armstrong Williams scandal would get at least the exposure the "selling" of the Lincoln Bedroom tale got in the Clinton administration. At the time there were endless stories about abusing the public trust and and forcing the taxpayers to foot the bill for partisan activity. There were months of handwringing and hankie clutching and "how will we ever sleep again knowing that political activity took place in the People's House!"

Anybody want to lay a bet that tthis scandal produces anything like that? Are any Democrats prepared to go on television and perform a soap opera prosecution featuring phony pathos and crocodile tears about "sending a message to the children?" Are we prepared to boost ratings and give the media reason to defy the White House and the right wing message behemoth with a show they can't resist? (Certainly, when given the chance our hard boiled political operative Paul Begala didn't even nick Armstrong with a ball point pen, much less stick the shiv in as Novak would have been so delighted to do if the shoe were on the other foot.)

I'm not holding my breath. The fact that no WMD in Iraq is causing nary a peep from anybody tells me that even body bags and billions can't shake the machine. I'm not sure anything will except total economic meltdown. Sadly, we may just get our wish.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Innocent As A Newborn Babe

Political campaigns and consultants are becoming increasingly skillful at manipulating the mainstream press by planting stories in the blogosphere. Despite this, the mainstream press remains credulous about blogging. During South Dakota's U.S. Senate race between Tom Daschle and John Thune, the Thune campaign put two local political bloggers on its payroll. One got $27,000, the other $8,000. Their anti-Daschle reports trickled up into South Dakota newspapers.

The lesson for a campaign is obvious: Got a story you can't convince a mainstream reporter to run? Leak it anonymously to a blog on your payroll. Then get a local reporter to write a story on the controversial, gossipy, local political blog. Soon everyone in town will be talking about the story you leaked to the blog. Voila! Eventually a mainstream news organization will run a story on the rumor that "everyone is talking about." Or they'll do a "what people are buzzing about on the Internet" piece. And no one will know that the blog post was a paid placement until after the election.


Whew! Excuse me, I have to dry my eyes. That was a good one.

Uh, Chris Suellentrop. I'd like to introduce you to a guy named Matt Drudge? I don't know if anyone's ever mentioned it to you, but Matt's been known to slip an item or two into the mainstream on behalf of Republicans in just the way you outline for almost a decade now. (It's pretty clear that he's slipped in an item or two on behalf of the mainstream media, too, hasn't he, Chris? It makes it so much easier to "report" these delicious gossipy lies once they're "out there.")

He doesn't get paid directly by the Republican national committee or any specific candidate for this so he doesn't have to disclose anything. Instead, Republicans launder great piles of cash through speaking fees and book deals and radio shows and "fellowships" to give them a couple of degreees of separation from Drudge's slime machine. They've been "feeding" stories to the mainstream press through him for almost eight years this way. He invented the practise. I'm very surprised you just noticed. Welcome to the world, little guy.

And here's a news flash for you. In this election they expanded that operation throughout the internets with stories like this:

It was amazing Thursday to watch the documents story go from FreeRepublic.com, a bastion of right-wing lunacy, to Drudge to the mainstream media in less than 12 hours," said Jim Jordan, a strategist for independent Democratic groups opposed to Bush.

"That's not to say the documents didn't deserve examination. But apparently the entire thing was cooked up by a couple of amateurs on Free Republic. The speed with which it moved was breathtaking."

By Friday, articles in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and other news outlets were quoting some analysts raising questions about the CBS documents, and others saying it was impossible to judge the memos' authenticity without seeing the originals.

Yes indeed. It was "cooked up by an amateur" who was later revealed to be involved at very high levels in the GOP legal infrastructure. Let's talk about transparency some more, shall we?

At other times you had that unctuous twit Hugh Hewitt exhorting the same Freepers on his radio show and on his blog to flog the Christmas In Cambodia story --- a flaky wingnut obsession that never really took off, but kept the Swift Boat story in the right wing news way after the credibility of O'Neill and Corsi had been completely destroyed.

The New York Post hired the Powerline guys (and Claremont "fellows") along with Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters to write a smear on Kerry's Vietnam record for the op-ed page at the behst, apparently, of John Podhoretz and Deborah Orin. One does wonder why they didn't want to get their hands dirty with such a story themselves.

There are endless examples of the Republican Noise Machine working in concert with the blogosphere --- how directly is anybody's guess. But, it's clear that they did it and regardless of who signs the checks, the money is coming from the same source. Please spare me the lectures about integrity. On the right side of the aisle there hasn't been any sign of it in eons.

Yet, just last night we saw the perfect examples of two of these upstanding rightwing Scaife/Regnery/Murdoch whore suck-ups looking down their patrician noses at the left bloggers who openly supported Democratic politicians and disclosed that they were consulting for them:

HUGH HEWITT [AUTHOR]: No, Bill. In fact, the idea of payola is very dangerous. Bloggers on the take are very bad for the business of blogging. Blogging of real journalists, and people like Power Line and like InstaPundit and myself, we don't like it when Daily Kos shows up on the take of the Howard Dean campaign. Now Daily Kos says, this is one of the bloggers from the left, says he disclosed it, but not to the satisfaction of anyone who watches him. I didn't know.

O'REILLY: Aw, this is bunk. This is bull. Nobody knew about this.

HEWITT: That's right.

What a fetid, pietistic pile of nonsense.

The only effect of this controversy is to make it impossible for Democratic bloggers to make money writing about politics unless they are employed by one of the three or four liberal magazines.

The major right wing bloggers, meanwhile, will always be well compensated for backing Republican politicians, never worry. They have an entire institutional machine set up to do just that. Kos and other entrepreneurial activist Dems, on the other hand, will be be emasculated with cramped rules and codes and a requirement for purity (as opposed to transparency) while the other side continues to stealthily professionalize their online operation and use it to dominate the discourse.

Suellentrop's take on this shows once again that just as the Right Wing Noise Machine is the Democrats' enemy, the SCLM is our enemy too. Indeed, they are mutually dependent. They play ball to get their stories and their gossip and their access (and their promotions from their Republican bosses.) They are not looking out for our best interests and we should not get defensive about our honesty or our integrity. After all, look at how well they've protected the political system from being polluted with years and years of Republican lies and propaganda.

It just makes me laugh to see them get high and mighty about the blogosphere being shills for politicans. At least we aren't willing, credulous tools who play court jester for the Republicans as they insult and berate us for doing exactly what they want us to do. That would be something to be ashamed of.

Update to the post below:

I've received about 30 pieces of e-mail on this subject from dean supporters who think that I'm playing into the right wing's hands for taking Zephyr Teachout's word that they hired Jerome and Kos in the hope that they'd stay on the team. I didn't realize that Teachout had been consigned to the ninth circle of hell long before this and that her characterization of what happened simply doesn't square with any reality as we know it. I take it all back, I didn't know what I was talking about. I'm an idiot. I wish I hadn't written about the implications within the Dean campaign at all because it obscured the real point I wanted to make about this little tempest. It never pays to get Dean supporters upset unless you have a really good reason.

I don't want to make more out of this than necessary, but with the "blogging and ethics" conference in which they invited no partisan lefty bloggers (unless Teachout was suposed to fill that role, god help us), the handwringing in the press and the phony sanctimony I'm seeing on the right, I think this actually adds up to more than just a convenient equivalence argument for the Williams payola scandal. I think that at a time when Democratic politicians are just becoming cognisant of the power of the internet (beyond fundraising) this trumped up controversy about "blogger ethics" could set us back quite seriously.

Update II: Crooks and Liars has the video of the High Priest of Blogging and his little dog Bill slandering Kos last night. (Scroll down.)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Those Who Can, Blog; Those Who Can't, Teachout

Well now, it appears that "Zonkette" is causing quite a brouhaha. Atrios and others have more than adequately explained the fact that Jerome and Kos disclosed everything they needed to disclose and any comparison with Armstrong Williams accepting a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars under the table is some kind of cosmic joke. But the damage is done.

Here we are in the midst of a huge ethical scandal in the right wing noise machine, and out marches Zephyr Teachout, goddess of the left blogosphere, with a salvo virtually designed to provide the SCLM with one of their patented false equivalence arguments. And, lucky for us, it serves to marginalize the left blogosphere at the very moment that the righties are being feted like princes in the salons of the Mighty Wurlitzer as right wing heroes! What excellent timing.

However, I think that the most disappointing thing about her post is the fact that the Dean campaign thought they were buying Jerome and Kos' loyalty by signing them on. The Dean campaign was supposed to be the new paradigm of grassroots activism being brought into the process on a national level and working for the common good instead of their own tired careerist aims. (Indeed, I thought this was actually the raison d'etre of the campaign and why Dean was running for DNC chair.) I don't know Kos or Jerome personally, but I certainly know their writings quite intimately and I would stake my life that they were deeply and personally committed to the Dean candidacy and would have walked on hot coals to get him elected regardless of any renumeration. But, if they had had a serious disagreement with the campaign, I would also bet my life that any contract they signed for technical advice would not have stopped them from leaving. It's called personal integrity and I thought that's what the Dean campaign was supposed to be all about.

The idea that the insiders quietly thought that could keep them in line with a few bucks is so seriously insulting that I'm having to reevaluate my endorsement of Dean for DNC. It shows absolutely no understanding of how the netroots works and if they actually used this crass Republican-style formula to deal with sincere activists like Kos and Jerome then there is zero hope that they can reform the party when faced with jaded lifetime political careerists in DC.

The larger question of blogger ethics in and of itself is a red herring. It's suddenly a "concern" of the SCLM and by extension the halls of academe, because they are taking heat from us --- and people are listening --- and they don't like it. Sadly, the only bloggers who are going to be restrained by these concerns are on the left. The right wing bloggers are now a fully accepted part of the Right Wing Noise Machine --- positioned in the dumb mainstream media's collective lizard brain as fearless wild west mavericks defying the establishment. Their "ethics" are the same as any other right wing media --- non-existent.

So the left blogosphere will be the focus of this crusade for online ethics. We don't have institutions like the Claremont Institute who can hire us on as "fellows" --- and launder Republican money through it to pay us. We aren't going to get our marching orders and talking points through the coordinated "left wing" media because there is no coordinated left wing media. We are out here on our own, and when or if we say or do something controversial, there is no institutional defense of us because there is no institution. Certainly, we aren't going to get paid big bucks to be a member of the team.

So fuck a "code of ethics." It will only serve to marginalize us.

All we really have, and ever had, is our credibility with our readers as opinion writers and committed activists. We shall have to measure all of our decisions based upon personal integrity and issue a blanket call of caveat emptor. It's all there is. And, frankly it's all we need. Because despite what some people seem to believe, there is no code of ethics to explain Judith Miller or Lisa Myers. The PR Flack "professional" organization stood up for Armstrong Williams. Even such things as the military code of honor has been stood on its head by aging Naval Officers and deviant interrogators just this past year.

Please tell me what these "codes of ethics" really mean because I've got to tell you, the minute I see one these days, I have to laugh out loud.

Update: It seems that my remarks about the Dean campaign have stirred the troops in defense. I just got three e-mails saying that I was a fool to abandon Dean for DNC because of this. Some commenters have said something like it as well.

This is why I endorsed Dean in the first place (last June!) for DNC. The loyalty he inspires among the grassroots is a powerful force for good in the party. So, ok, as if it matters at all, I am still for him. However, I would certainly hope that his devoted followers hold his feet to the fire on these matters. I don't hold him personally responsible for Teachout's apostasy, but he should be aware that this kind of attitude is a killer in the netroots. Bloggers aren't whores, they're partisans. It's a huge difference.

Update II: Responding to a commenter, my comment about the "PR Flack" organization standing up for Williams was wrong. The PR Agency organization stood up for Ketchum, the agency that paid Williams under the table. A different PR organization thoroughly condemned Armstrong. Here's the story, from the NY Times:

Yesterday, in a rare rebuke, Judith T. Phair, the president and chief executive of the Public Relations Society of America for 2005, condemned the decision by Mr. Williams to, as she put it, promote the law "without revealing that his comments were paid for by a public relations agency under contract to the government."

"As public relations professionals, we are disheartened by this type of tactic," Ms. Phair said in a statement on the Web site of the organization (www.prsa.org), which represents 20,000 people working in public relations, public affairs and corporate communications.

"Any paid endorsement that is not fully disclosed as such and is presented as objective news coverage," Ms. Phair said, is a violation of the group's code of ethics, "which requires that public relations professionals engage in open, honest communications and fully disclose sponsors or financial interests involved in any paid communications activities."


The group's members are individuals who work in public relations and related fields rather than the agencies themselves.

The agencies' trade association, the Council of Public Relations Firms in New York, also has an ethics code, but Ketchum did not violate it, the council president, Kathy Cripps, said.

"Public relations needs to express total accuracy and truthfulness," Ms. Cripps said. However, she added, referring to Mr. Williams, "it was the spokesperson's responsibility to disclose the affiliation" rather than Ketchum's.

Monday, January 10, 2005

When He's Right He's Right

Moral Clarity, Courage Needed, Bush Aide Says:

President Bush's chief political adviser told graduates of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University on Saturday to judge leaders on the basis of character.

America needs people who have "the moral clarity and courage to do what's right, regardless of consequence, fashion or fad,'"Karl Rove said.

"You either have values ingrained in your heart and soul that will not change with the wind, or you don't," he said.

He's right. This is their message and it's on the money. Of course they are faking it in every possible way with their vacuous brand name in a suit prancing around on aircraft carriers and such. But that's because they only pretend to have "values" when what they really have are political instincts. They are not the same thing.

If either party could give them the real thing instead of an ersatz, superficial rendering of smarmy religiosity, they would gain the support of a large majority of this country. You have to give Rove credit. He has done a lot with what he has to work with. Sexual priggishness, vengeance and racism are very difficult concepts upon which to build a positice values argument, but they've managed to create the illusion that they have "moral clarity" by garbing their narrow vision in religious and patriotic terms --- and because we have failed to stand up for our universal values of liberty, justice and equality. They win by default.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Under The Radar

John at STF says something I think is very interesting about the role of the blogosphere and why the SCLM is so hostile to it:

Two things are happening here. First, there is no middle any more. This is mostly because the hard right is trying to take over the country by any means necessary, and destroying moderates (including Republican moderates) is part of their game. They have many plants in the media itself -- especially at the relatively-anonymous high levels, including ownership – and rightwing activists outside the media have learned that if they complain all the time about everything, often they’ll get their way. (This accounts for a supposed paradox: why do both liberals and conservatives hate the media? It’s because the conservatives are faking it. They know as well as liberals do that Dan Rather wasn’t really a liberal, but they can win by lying and smearing, so they do it.)

This has actually been well documented.

"William Kristol, without a doubt the most influential Republican/neoconservative publicist in America today, has come clean on this issue. "I admit it," he told a reporter. "The liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.

There is no liberal media. There is a partisan Republican media and an establishment media and since the establishment is conservative there is only conservative media.

John continues:

The second thing is more positive. Faceless copyeditors and other behind-the-scenes pros try to control the spin of news by highlighting some stories, downplaying others, and hardening or softening the main point. Various tricks can be used to suppress a story: putting it on page 16 with a small, misleading headline and burying the point of the story in the 9th paragraph sum up the most common ones.

With the internet, this arbiter function is lost. Every man can be his own I.F. Stone now. Stone used to say that you could always find the truth in the newspapers, but it would often be in a short paragraph on page sixteen. Most of the damage that bloggers do to the established media doesn’t come from independent reporting, but from displacing the copy editors by highlighting stories the editors wanted to downplay.

This is quite correct, but it really only applies to our side. We on the left are sorting out the political spin and trying to get the establishment media to focus on issues and stories we think are important. And we don't get especially good results. Our success has been with grassroots organizing, not message pushing. This can be attributed to the political and media establishment's reluctance to deal with us (as we can see with the "liberal" media and the "liberal" academia represented at this conference.)We are out there, hundreds of thousand readers are reading us and yet we exist under the radar of all the liberal institutions while the right wing bloggers are "handled" by rightwing PR outfits and pushed into rightwing media and eventually into the mainstream.

On the right, the blogosphere has been incorporated into their message machine. (Indeed, the political blogosphere was really invented by a guy named Drudge, wasn't it?) They feed and are fed, without explicit direction. They know what they are supposed to say and it filters up down and around talk radio, cable news and into the mainstream. We all know how it works. This is why only a right wing freelance political blogger was invited to the conference --- the mainstream of both political parties are really only aware of the bloggers who have been pushed to the forefront by the Mighty Wurlitzer. Just as they are only aware of ... so many things that have been pushed to the forefront by the Mighty Wurlitzer. It's the essence of our political weakness.

Corrected to reflect John Emerson as the poster on STF.

Why Don't They Like Us, Heinrich?

David Low

A veteran interrogator at Guantánamo told The New York Times in a recent interview that it became clear over time that most of the detainees had little useful to say and that "they were just swept up" during the Afghanistan war with little evidence they played any significant role.

"These people had technical knowledge that expired very quickly after they were brought here," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Most of the emphasis was on quantity, not quality," the interrogator said, adding that the number of pages generated from an interrogation was an important standard.

Well, say hallelujah! The truth shall set us free. This has been known for at least a year, but who's counting? In January of 2004, David Rose wrote in Vanity Fair:

According to General Miller, Gitmo's importance is growing with amazing rapidity:"Last month we gained six times as much intelligence as we did in January 2003. I'm talking about high-value intelligence here, distributed round the world."

Unsurprisingly, the same nonsense took place at Abu Ghraib

"...they were frustrated by intense pressure from Colonel Pappas and his superiors - Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez and his intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast - to churn out a high quantity of intelligence reports, regardless of the quality. "It was all about numbers. We needed to send out more intelligence documents whether they were finished or not just to get the numbers up," he said. Pappas was seen as demanding - waking up officers in the middle of the night to get information - but unfocused, ordering analysts to send out rough, uncorroborated interrogation notes."

I wrote back in June about this absurdity.

Daily success or failure in guerilla wars is notoriously difficult to assess. Unlike a war for territory you cannot say that you took a certain hill or town. Political types are always looking for some measurement, some sign that they are succeeding (or failing.)

Billmon noted this back in October in an interesting post on Rumsfeld's angst at being unable to assess success or failure in the WOT:

Above all, Rumsfeld cries out for "metrics" that can be used to measure progress in such a war:

"Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," he wrote. "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

Billmon makes the obvious comparison between Rummy and the most recent war criminal sec-def, Robert McNamara, concluding:

The same mindset also spawned McNamara's preferred metric: the infamous "body count." In that earlier, more naive, era, it hadn't yet occurred to management theorists that numeric targets can quickly become bureaucratic substitutes for real objectives, such as winning wars. So McNamara (and the military) had to learn it the hard way, as industrious field officers dispatched soldiers to count graves in Vietnamese civilian cemetaries in order to hit their weekly numbers.

Like the mediocre, hack bureaucrats they are, they [Rumsfeld et al] decided that they would guage success or failure --- certainly they would report to the White House success or failure --- based upon the sheer numbers of raids, arrests, interrogations, reports, confessions and breakdowns achieved, regardless of whether any of it resulted in good intel or enhanced security anywhere.

This was the only metric they could conceive of and in order to get those numbers up they had to detain large numbers of innocent people and torture them for false information to fill the endless reports of success on the ground in Afghanistan, Gitmo and Iraq. They could hoist up a huge pile of paper in a meeting with their president and say, "look at how much intelligence we're getting. We're really getting somewhere."

McNamara quotes TS Eliot at the end of "The Fog Of War":

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Well, not everybody apparently. Thirty years after the hell of Vietnam, it's the same shit, different fools. Lyndon Johnson is laughing his ass off in hell.

Actually, Johnson is probably only in the 8th circle. The 9th will be reserved for the Bush administration because they wilfully ignored the experience of their own lives.

Now we find that in addition to a bunch of false intelligence gained through torture and other means, we are going to lock up a lot of these guys at Gitmo forever. Sadly, we can't give them any kind of due process because we don't have enough evidence. And that's because many of them were innocent of any affiliation with the Taliban or al Qaeda and many others were very low level grunts. But they've known this for years. From the January 2004 VF article:

In late summer 2002, a senior C.I.A. analyst with extensive experience in the Middle East spent about a week at the prison camp observing and interviewing dozens of detainees, said officials who read his detailed memorandum.

While the survey was anecdotal, those officials said the document, which contained about 15 pages, concluded that a substantial number of the detainees appeared to be low-level militants, aspiring holy warriors who had rushed to Afghanistan to defend the Taliban, or simply innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Senior military officials now readily acknowledge that many members of the intelligence team initially sent to Guantánamo were poorly prepared to sort through the captives. During the first half of 2002, they said, almost none of the Army interrogators had any substantial background in terrorism, Al Qaeda or other relevant subjects.

It gets worse, though. Since we kidnapped these innocent men and threw them into a hellish gulag they have, unsurprisingly, become radicalized.

American and foreign officials have also grown increasingly concerned about the prospect that detainees who arrived at Guantánamo representing little threat to the United States may have since been radicalized by the conditions of their imprisonment and others held with them.

''Guantánamo is a huge problem for Americans,'' a senior Arab intelligence official familiar with its operations said. ''Even those who were not hard-core extremists have now been indoctrinated by the true believers. Like any other prison, they have been taught to hate. If they let these people go, these people will make trouble.''

They now hate our fucking guts and will work until their last breaths to kill as many of us as they can. Perhaps this is one good reason why:

During late 2002, FBI Special Agent [blank] was present in an observation room at Gtmo and observed [blank] conducting an interrogation of an unknown detainee, [blank] was present to observe the interrogation occurring in a different interrogation room)[blank] entered the observation and complained that curtain movement at the observation window was distracting the detainee, although no movement had occirred. She directed a marine to duct tape a curtain over the two-way mirror between the interrogation room and the observation room [blank] characterized this action as an attempt to probinit those in the observation room from witnessing her interaction with the detainee. Through the surveillance camera monitor [blank] then observed [blank] position herself between the detainee and the surveillance camera. the detaiunee was shackled and his hands were cuffed to his waist. [blank] observed [blank] apparently whispering in the detainee's ear and caressing and appluying lotion to his arms (this was during Ramadan when physical contact with a woman would have been particularly offensive to a moslem male.) On more than one occasion the detainees appeared to be grimacing in pain and [blank] hands appeared to be making some contact with the detainee. Although [blank] could not see her hands at all times. He saw them moving toward the detainee's lap. He also observed the detainee pulling away and against the restraints. Subsequently, the marine who previously taped the curtain and had been in the interrogation room with [blank] during the interrogartion re-entered the observation room. [blank] asked what had happened to cause the detainee to grimace in pain. The marine said [blank] had grabbed the detainee's thumbs and bent them backwards and indicated that she also grabbed his genitals. The marine also implied that her treatment of the detainee was less harsh than her treatment of others by indicating that he had seen her treatment of other detainees result in detainees curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain.

One wonders if they had become "dehydrated" and had been forced to have one of those therapeutic enemas against their will.

Yes, they hate us. The ones who have been locked up and the ones who haven't. And it's you and me and your kids who they hate now, not just the leadership or the troops. They hate us personally. And they hate us because we don't seem too worked up about this disgusting breach of human rights. In fact, a majority apparently think it's just dandy, including the most powerful leaders in the land who continue to support the war criminals who concieved this disasterous blunder, even this week elevating one of them to the highest law enforcement office in the land.

So let's have another lecture on morality and values. I really need to hear one. Let's hear some more talk about how liberals are leading this country down the path to perdition with our lack of restraint and our inability to draw lines between right and wrong and good and evil. I need to bask in the glow of republican righteousness and beg for forgiveness for sinfully indulging gays in their quest to form families and cleanse myself of the shame of forgiving a man for committing adultery. God help me, I need some moral clarity and I need it damned quickly because I'm really wondering just who in the hell is evil in this war on terror and who isn't. It's getting hard to tell the difference here. It's getting really hard.

Doomsday For The Democrats

Via DAOU I see that Adam Yoshida is prognisticating about 2008:

If I were going to guess, the Republican primaries in 2008 may well end up looking a great deal like the Democratic ones in 2004. We'll have a slew of major establishment players running simply because it's 'their time to run.' One of them (early guess: Bill Frist) will emerge as a shallow front-runner, holding 20% in the polls versus 10% or so for other candidates. The race will be thrown into disarray when a candidate who connects to the Republican Party's conservative base catches on fire. I've also got a suggestion as to who that candidate may be: former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Oh, I fervently hope not. Why, if Judge Roy Moore emerges as a powerful spokesman for the Christian Right (who feel betrayed by the rampant liberalism of George W. Bush) it will be just terrible for us. I get scared just thinking about it. We should publicly beg the Republicans every chance we get not to let Moore run for president. Maybe they will listen to us. They so often do.


If anyone in history has ever emitted a bigger pile of oozing, sanctimonious, unctuous, fetid, perfidious, malodorous offal than this, I'd like to know what it could possibly be:


January 6, 2005

Mr. DELAY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to
claim the remainder of the time.

In the tradition of
the House, the gentleman from Texas
is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. DELAY. Mr. Speaker, what is happening here today is amazing but not surprising. Mr. Speaker, what we are witnessing here today is a shame. A shame. The issues at stake in this petition are gravely, gravely serious. This is not just having a debate. But the specific charges, as any objective observer must acknowledge, are not.

That is because the purpose of this petition is not justice but noise.

It is a warning to Democrats across the country, now in the midst of soul searching after their historic losses in November, not to moderate their party’s message.

It is just the second day of the 109th Congress and the first chance of the Democrat congressional leadership to show the American people what they have learned since President Bush’s historic reelection, and they can show that, but they have turned to what might be called the ‘‘X-Files Wing’’ of the Democrat Party to make their first

Rather than substantive debate, Democrat leaders are still adhering to a failed strategy of spite, obstruction, and conspiracy theories. They accuse the President, who we are told is apparently a closet computer nerd, of personally overseeing the development of vote-stealing software.

We are told, without any evidence, that unknown Republican agents stole the Ohio election and that its electoral votes should be awarded to the winner of an exit poll instead.

Many observers will discard today’s petition as a partisan waste of time, but it is much worse than that. It is an assault against the institutions of our representative democracy. It is a threat to the very ideals it ostensibly defends. No one is served by this petition, not in the long run. And in the short term, its only beneficiaries are its proponents themselves.

Democrats around the country have asked since Election Day, and will no doubt ask again today, how it came to this. The Democrat Party, the party that was once an idealistic, forward- looking, policy colossus. The New Deal, the Marshall Plan, the Great Society, the space program, civil rights. And yet today one is hard pressed to find a single positive substantive idea coming from the left.

Instead, the Democrats have replaced statecraft with stagecraft, substance with style, and not a very fashionable style at that. The petitioners claim that they act on behalf of disenfranchised voters, but no such voter disenfranchisement occurred in this election of 2004 and for that matter the election of 2000.

Everybody knows it. The voters know it, the candidates know it, the courts know it, and the evidence proves it.

We are not here to debate evidence, but to act our roles in some scripted, insincere morality play.

Now, just remember: pre-election memos revealed that Democrat campaign operatives around the country were encouraged by their high command in Washington to charge voter fraud and intimidation regardless of whether any of it occurred.

Remember,neither of the Democrat candidates supposedly robbed in Ohio endorse this petition. It is a crime against the dignity of American democracy, and that crime is not victimless.

The Democrat leadership came down to the floor and said this is a good debate;we ought to be having a debate on this issue.

This is not a normal debate. This is a direct attack to undermine our democracy by using a procedure to undermine the constitutional election that was just held.

If, as now appears likely, Democrats cry fraud and corruption every election regardless of the evidence, what will happen when one day voters are routinely intimidated, rights are denied, or, God forbid, an election is robbed?

What will happen? What will happen when, God forbid, this quadrennial crying wolf so poisons our democratic processes that a similarly frivolous petition in a close election in the future is actually successful, and the American people are denied their constitutional right to choose their own President?

Mr. Speaker, Democrats must find a way to rise above this self-destructive and, yes, plain destructive theory of politics for its own sake. A dangerous precedent is being set here today, and it needs to be curbed, because Democrat leaders are not just hurting themselves.

By their irresponsible tactics, they hurt the House, they hurt the Nation, and they hurt rank-and-file Democrats at kitchen tables all around this country.

The American people, and their ancestors who invented our miraculous system of government, deserve better than this. This petition is beneath us, Mr. Speaker; but, more importantly, it is beneath the men and women that we serve.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, to do the right thing. Vote ‘‘no,’’ and let us get back to the real work that the American people hired us to do.

Yes, by all means, let the House get back to the work the American people hired it to do --- payoffs, character assassination, political intimidation, stealing elections and impeaching for blowjobs.

Really, we should listen to Monsieur Delay's deeply sincere analysis of what is wrong with our party. After all, nobody knows more (except maybe Governor Schwarzenegger) about launching "attack[s] to undermine our democracy by using a procedure to undermine the constitutional election." And there is not an American alive who is a greater expert on employing a "strategy of spite, obstruction, and conspiracy theories" or staging a "scripted, insincere morality play". Lord knows he virtually invented the "destructive theory of politics for its own sake." And well, I think we already know the answer to "what will happen when one day voters are routinely intimidated, rights are denied, or, God forbid, an election is robbed" don't we?

Most importantly, when he says, "what will happen when, God forbid, this quadrennial crying wolf so poisons our democratic processes that a similarly frivolous petition in a close election in the future is actually successful, and the American people are denied their constitutional right to choose their own President?" I think it's pretty clear that he's issuing a threat not a prediction.

I have said many times that Democrats have been stupid by not seriously focusing attention on Rove, Delay and Rush. This crooked triad forms the head of republican power. We should have been working much harder to decapitate it. It won't solve the problem, but it would go a long way toward crushing its effectiveness. Support the DA's who have the cojones to go after these crooked bastards. Gawd knows the media isn't interested.

In other GOP megalomaniac news, it looks like Newties back!
Garlic won't work with these people. It takes a stake to the heart.

Thanks to Pandora at BCF

What A Surprise

Some of us predicted this the minute John Negroponte was named as ambassador.

Newsweek has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported 'nationalist' forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success-despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)


Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government-the Defense department or CIA-would take responsibility for such an operation. Rumsfeld's Pentagon has aggressively sought to build up its own intelligence-gathering and clandestine capability with an operation run by Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone. But since the Abu Ghraib interrogations scandal, some military officials are ultra-wary of any operations that could run afoul of the ethics codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That, they argue, is the reason why such covert operations have always been run by the CIA and authorized by a special presidential finding. (In "covert" activity, U.S. personnel operate under cover and the U.S. government will not confirm that it instigated or ordered them into action if they are captured or killed.)

Well now, this certainly explains the ongoing need for that pesky finding that the president can ignore any laws he chooses, doesn't it? And good old Porter is certainly unlikely to have any qualms about doing it.

The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is said to be among the most forthright proponents of the Salvador option. Maj. Gen.Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq's National Intelligence Service, may have been laying the groundwork for the idea with a series of interviews during the past ten days.


Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, "are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them." He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won't turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.

Yeah, "shock and awe" just needs to be fully unleashed. Surely, if we just scare them enough they'll learn to love us.

If there has been a worse idea, I don't know what it is. If anyone thinks in this day and age in a country like Iraq that ongoing "covert" operations will stay covert, they are dreaming. The details of the operations will emerge replete with pictures and testimony. It will naturally make us even more hated and even more vulnerable to terrorism.

On the other hand, it's also true that the Pentagon has run out of options. We don't have the troops to quell this insurgency with any humanity and even if we did, it's probably too late. The civil war that everybody from Scowcroft and Bush Sr to Joseph Cirincione predicted is already in full swing. The US is in the middle of it, universally mistrusted and widely hated with all the predictable results. It's a cock-up of historic proportions and it gets worse with every passing day. I'm not sure we can do anything but withdraw and institute immediate energy conservation on a scale previously unheard of. It may not have been the only reason we invaded in the first place, but losing, which we are, means that Iraq's oil fields are now a battlefield. It's time to trade in those SUV's folks.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


"A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?" --- Albert Einstein

Via Daou I see that some on the right are kind of disturbed at all the Dem activity these last few days.

Out of the Gates:DEMS GO CRAZY

OFF WITH A BANG!: It only took seconds for the Dems to set the new record for crazy...Kerry bashing the U.S. while in Iraq, Boxer and Conyers pulling the "dimented act of the year" award, and the Gonzales grilling was accompanied by the MSM's coordinated attack in the five most recognizable daily newspapers in America. My new World Net Daily column gives you the blow by blows...as the DEMS GO NUTS.

Better keep your heads down, little wingnuts. We're OUT OF CONTROL. Who knows what we'll do next!

It's quite liberating being completely out of power after hearing the right insult, browbeat and demonize us for more than 15 years. After this over the top post election end zone dance in particular, we no longer have anything to lose by making it our business to simply fuck with Republicans for the pure entertainment value. In some ways it's a kind of political insurgency. They refuse to compromise, they insist on being demeaning and crude, so all that's left is to make their lives unpleasant is a thousand little ways every single day.

And the really fun part is that we represent 49% of the people so there are quite a few of us around.

Help Us Understand Ourselves

This is so cool. An academic conference on Blogging, Journalism & Credibility with select journalists and bloggers discussing the issues surrounding this incredible year in political blogging. Check out the panel of experts. At least four or five of them even have blogs of their very own!

It's good to see that they did invite at least one non-media or academic blogger -- Hinderocket. (We on the left are well represented by the corporate media and liberal academia, of course, so we needn't have any similarly popular grassroots partisan bloggers on the panels.)

They seem extremely concerned about the bloggers inconscionable lack of ethics so I'm hoping they can find some ways to correct our egregious practices. Perhaps they could convene a panel with John Ellis, Howell Raines and Judith Miller to give us some guidance.

If anyone were to ask, I might point out that there are a few blogging practices that the media might want to adopt for themselves. One is that we back up our assertions of fact through linking. The internet makes it quite easy to footnote our posts and our readers demand that we do it. (Too bad journalism doesn't have the same requirements or the public wouldn't be constantly misinformed by "opinion" writers who dishonestly whore for corporate interests on the op-ed pages of major newspapers.) And, as shocking as it is, most of us adhere to that "ethical guideline" without even a professional association or stylebook to guide us. Imagine that.

Not that I would ever presume that those who created and fuel the blogosphere 24/7 from cubicals and laptops in Starbucks around the country have anything useful to say on the matter. Best leave it to the experts.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Mixed Nuts

Yglesias says that the neocons may not be as triumphant as we thought since John Bolton has been eighty-sixed. I'm not so sure. Bolton, for all of his insane ramblings, wasn't really a neocon. He was Jesse Helms's boy --- reflexively anti-international, confrontational and crude. He's more of a paranoid John Bircher than a starry-eyed neocon intellectual and while it's true that their interest in unilateralism and American hegemony intersect, they really come from different schools. Bolton was a loose cannon. I'm not surprised the neos would want to see him gone.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Wampum Needs Some Wampum


These guys are hosting the Koufax Awards for us at considerable expense. If we all kick in a few bucks we can help them get over the hump.

And don't forget to vote in the semi-finals as they roll out over the next few days. (I'm pretty sure I'm going to be nominated for Best Costumes.)

Fact Checking The Asses

Via the Poorman I see that the Columbia Journalism Review does a little fact checking on the fact checkers in the glorious blogospheric triumph of "Memogate." The kerning sleuth's scoops were actually inferior to the average newsflash in the Weekly World News, but in these heady days of faux internet journalism, as pioneered by our own William Paley --- Drudge --- it ranks right up there with "Monica's talking points" for making utter fools of the mediawhores. That in itself is a triumph since they are so good at making fools of themselves.

...much of the bloggers’ vaunted fact-checking was seriously warped. Their driving assumptions were often drawn from flawed information or based on faulty logic. Personal attacks passed for analysis. Second, and worse, the reviled MSM often followed the bloggers’ lead. As mainstream media critics of CBS piled on, rumors shaped the news and conventions of sourcing and skepticism fell by the wayside. Dan Rather is not alone on this one; respected journalists made mistakes all around.


Would-be gumshoes typed up documents on their computers and fooled around with the images in Photoshop until their creation matched the originals. Someone remembered something his ex-military uncle told him, others recalled the quirks of an IBM typewriter not seen for twenty years. There was little new evidence and lots of pure speculation. But the speculation framed the story for the working press.

The very first post attacking the memos — nineteen minutes into the 60 Minutes II program — was on the right-wing Web site FreeRepublic.com by an active Air Force officer, Paul Boley of Montgomery, Alabama, who went by the handle “TankerKC.” Nearly four hours later it was followed by postings from “Buckhead,” whom the Los Angeles Times later identified as Harry MacDougald, a Republican lawyer in Atlanta. (MacDougald refused to tell the Times how he was able to mount a case against the documents so quickly.) Other blogs quickly picked up the charges. One of the story’s top blogs, Rathergate.com, is registered to a firm run by Richard Viguerie, the legendary conservative fund-raiser. Some were fed by the conservative Media Research Center and by Creative Response Concepts, the same p.r. firm that promoted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. CRC’s executives bragged to PR Week that they helped legitimize the documents-are-fake story by supplying quotes from document experts as early as the day after the report, September 9. The goal, said president Greg Mueller, was to create a buzz online while at the same time showing journalists “it isn’t just Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge who are raising questions.”

Doggonnit to heck. And after all those false tips during the Clinton years. Whodda thunk that liberul media would get taken again?

There was actually a big story of blogospheric triumph this year that the mediawhores have conveniently ignored since they weren't spoonfed the delicious details by their trusted RNC sources.(They're very busy.) It was the story of a big media player being forced to back off a plan to air partisan propaganda as news in the waning days of the presidential campaign when the internet organized a boycott that made it's way to institutional Wall Street investors and snowballed into a precipitous stock dive. But that's a very dull story that didn't feature even one adorable tale of an intrepid blogger cracking the DaVinci Code in his pyjamas. Who cares?

The Poorman notes another real blogospheric reportorial triumph with serious real life consequences. Not that it matters.

Stand Up

Ezra says:

Unfogged is right; barring a miracle of competence and media responsibility, opposing torture will end up making the Democrats look like we get the vapors whenever the menfolk whip out the cigars and talk terrorism. Our press flacks are are ineffective, our caucus can't stick to a message, and we don't have a party leader charged with articulating our position to the public.

Doesn't matter. Torture just isn't something you compromise on. I'm as coldly political as the next guy, but not torture. That's not part of the country I grew up believing in.

But, you see, the mere act of finally drawing that line in the sand, of saying "No More" is the very thing that refutes the charge. It's hemming and hawing and splitting the difference and "meeting halfway" and offering compromises on matters of principle that makes the charge of Democratic splinelessness believable. This isn't about a special interest giving money or bending to the will of a powerful constituency. People can feel the difference. There is nothing weak about simply and forcefully standing up for what is right.

A number of the commenters to the post below are convinced that the American people actually approve of torture so this will not be a very salient issue for the Democrats. I disagree. I think it may just be a defining issue for Democrats.

It's not that I believe that all Americans are horrified, or even a majority of Americans are horrified. Clearly, the dittoheads think it is just ducky. But that isn't the point. Just because they aren't horrified or even endorse it on some level doesn't mean that they don't know that it's wrong. They do. And it is very uncomfortable to be put in the position of defending yourself when you know you are wrong. Even good people find ways, but it cuts a little piece out of their self respect every time they do it.

Every person alive in America today grew up with the belief that torture is wrong. Popular culture, religion, folklore and every other form of cultural instruction for decades in this country has taught that it is wrong, from sermons and lectures to films about slavery to photographs of Auschwitz to crime shows about serial killers. It is embedded in our consciousness. We teach our children that it is wrong to torture animals and other kids. We don't say that there are exceptions for when the animals or kids are really, really bad. We have laws on the books that outright outlaw it. The words "cruel and unusual" are written into our constitution.

The problem is not that there isn't a widely accepted admonition not to conduct torture, it's that many people, as with all crimes, will choose to ignore the admonition under certain circumstances. However, that does not mean that they do not know that what they are doing is wrong. There is nothing surprising in that. It's why we have laws.

The arguments for torture being raised by the right are rationalizations for what they know is immoral and illegal conduct. Their discomfort with the subject clearly indicates that they don't really want to defend it. (Witness the pathetic dance that even that S&M freak Rush Limbaugh had to do after his comments were widely disseminated.) Will they admit that they know it's wrong? Of course not. But when they take up their manly jihad and accuse the Democrats of being swooning schoolgirls they will also be forced to positively defend something that many of them know very well is indefensible. And every time they do that their credibility on values and morals is chipped away a little bit.

I don't expect them to change their tune. Way too much of this comes from a defect in temperament and garden variety racism and that's not going to go away. But Democrats have to thicken their skins and be prepared for the usual attacks and insist over and over again that it is against the values and principles of the United States to torture people, period. It is not only right, it is smart.

As I wrote below, the opposition will bluster and fidget and scream bloody murder. But listen to the tenor of their arguments. The WSJ article below rails against the "glib abuse of the word" as if they can run away from the issue by engaging in a game of semantics. They are reduced to claiming that unless we torture it will be unilateral disarmament. We, the most powerful military force the world has ever known, will be defeated by a bunch of third world religious misfits if we don't engage in torturing suspects. Just who sounds weak?

Moral Quicksand

I see that right is fulminating about the Democrats' objection to torture as an American value. Yeah, it's tough, isn't it?

The WSJ said today:

The White House appears to be dreading today’s confirmation hearings for Alberto Gonzales now that Democrats seem ready to blame the Attorney General nominee for Abu Ghraib and other detainee mistreatment. But this is actually a great chance for the Administration to do itself, and the cause of fighting terror, some good by forcefully repudiating all the glib and dangerous abuse of the word “torture.”

For what’s at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the ability of U.S. forces to interrogate enemies who want to murder innocent civilians. And the Democratic position, Mr. Gonzales shouldn’t be afraid to say, amounts to a form of unilateral disarmament that is likely to do far more harm to civil liberties than anything even imagined so far.

Gonzales certainly wasn't afraid to use the word torture. In fact, he personally asked for a definition and a legal finding as to whether the president had the authority in wartime to ignore the laws against it, both American and international. Why the squeamishness about the word now?

Perhaps because they have waded into quicksand on this issue and they know the only thing that will save them is if the Democrats throw them a lifeline by refusing to expose the shallow prurience of their "values." We should not do it. We should turn the spotlight back on those who made a fetish of morals and show them for what they are.

The right is going to accuse us of not caring about winning the GWOT but we should stand tough and not flinch when we say that torture is immoral. They are now caught in the bind of having to defend it (indeed, some relish defending it) and it is indefensible on both moral and practical grounds. We should not be afraid of their bluster. It is the sign of their weakness. Let them bellow.

The American people know that torture is wrong. They know. That does not mean, of course, that some don't think we should use it. Even so they know it's wrong . And because the modern Republican party has sold themselves as the party of values this discussion leaves them uncomfortable, squirming and impatient. Their smugness has turned to waspishness. They want desperately to change the subject.

This is the dawning of a new values debate and one which is far more defining for a great nation than tendentious posturing about personal sexual morality. This goes to the very core of what we, as Americans, really are. It's time for us to take that fight to those who constantly use their cramped definition of morality to bludgeon us into a corner.

Torture Debate

Human Rights First Blog is blogging the Gonzales confirmation hearings. There are also links to the audio in case you are tired of watching that Ken doll anchor on MSNBC commend the president for saying he doesn't believe in torture.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

L'etat C'est Moi

As long as I'm approvingly linking to myself, I might as well pat myself on the back for seeing this one coming.Atrios points to a Nelson Report that says Junior refuses to hear bad news and has personally directed that his staff not burden him with it.

Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.

I am not surprised. In fact a couple of weeks ago I wrote:

This is the big story of the second term. Bush himself is now completely in charge. He did what his old man couldn't do. He has been freed of all constraints, all humility and all sense of proportion. Nobody can run him, not Cheney, not Condi, not Card. He has a sense of his power that he didn't have before. You can see it. From now on nobody can tell him nothin. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, doesn't it?

They can't control him.

Cat's Out Of The Bag

OK, so I'm linking to Josh Marshall twice in one day, but that's tough. Here he talks about the Wehner memo and points out something important:

In other words, this isn't about the fiscal soundness of Social Security or the babyboomers moving toward retirement or anything else. As Wehner himself says, this is the best chance the opponents of Social Security have had in six decades of trying to phase-out the program.

And this allows us to see the whole matter clearly. Social Security has been around for seventy years. How many people do you know who really don't like Social Security? Back when I was younger I'd go spend part of my summer at the subsidized retirement community where my grandparents lived. And I don't remember many people who lived there bad-mouthing Social Security. And those folks had lived under the program for pretty much all of their adults lives.

Or, the more relevant question, how about people today? How many people think Social Security is a bad thing? A program that never should have existed? I'm not saying how many worry that the program may not be there when they retire. How many people don't even like the whole concept?

I think they're in a distinct minority.

So now you can see from memos emerging from the White House itself that this isn't about 'saving' Social Security. If it were, what would that sentence mean -- ("For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win")? The first time in six decades they can save it?

Clearly, this isn't about 'saving' Social Security. It is a battle to end Social Security and replace with something that Wehner clearly understands is very different, indeed the antithesis of Social Security.

This entire debate is about ideology -- between people who believe in the benefits Social Security has brought America in the last three-quarters of a century and those who think it was a bad idea from the start

No kidding. The Republicans have always wanted to destroy Social Security:

Their motive for destroying social security is that it puts the lie to their contention that government can't be trusted to do any positive social good. They are wrong and social security proves it. That's why they must create the lie that it won't work even while it's clearly working. As the quotes above prove, they've been crying wolf for decades and yet the program continues to provide millions of old and disabled people a bare minimum of income when they are past their working years and it will continue to be funded, fairly painlessly, for at least another forty years. It's very existence is a slap in the face to the Republican philosophy. That's why they must destroy it.

And the fact that most people do not believe that social security is wrong means that they have to pull this dishonest scam.

"For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country."

They can't make it any plainer than that. They have always wanted to destroy Social Security.

Update: Here's a letter Tamara Baker sent to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I don't know if they printed it, but it gets to the point quite nicely:

Don't let the crocodile tears of the Republicans fool you. They have
wanted to destroy Social Security from the time President Roosevelt started it nearly seventy years ago. And they've always been using trumped-up claims of imminent doom as a way to con Americans into letting them at the Social Security cookie jar.


Republicans hate Social Security because it proves them wrong. They and their big-business buddies have spent many decades and many hundreds of millions of dollars saturating the media with bogus horror stories about Social Security. But as with everything else they say they want to "reform", their real goal is to kill it. Don't
let them.


Tamara Baker