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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Journalistic Performance Art

Via Americablog, I read from CJR that Michael Wolff has an article in Vanity Fair that *gasp* questions the propriety of the major news organizations withholding important information from the public for their own purposes:

Michael Wolff deals with the Rove/Plame/Miller fracas in this month's Vanity Fair (the article isn't available online). Wolff manages to find a unique approach to the issue, positing the thesis that the New York Times and Time magazine are complicit in the cover-up of the fudging of intelligence in the prelude to war in Iraq -- in that they knew Rove was the source of the Plame leak intended to discredit Joe Wilson after he called the administration to account. "Not only did highly placed members of the media and the vaunted news organizations they worked for know it, not only did they sit on what will not improbably be among the biggest stories of the Bush years, they helped cover it up. You could even plausibly say that these organizations became part of a conspiracy -- they entered into an understanding that, as a quid pro quo for certain information, they would refuse to provide evidence about a crime possibly having been committed by the president's closest confidant."

To Wolff's mind, newspaper and magazine editors need to ask themselves an elementary question: "To whom do you owe your greatest allegiance: sources or readers?"

As Wolff sees it, by throwing their hand in with anonymous sources up to no good, instead of with readers, several distinguished media outlets let themselves become tongue-tied and thereby muffed an incendiary story that was in the palms of their hands.

"... [T]he greatest news organizations in the land had a story about a potential crime that reached as close as you can get to the president himself and they punted, they swallowed it, they self-dealt" -- all to protect a dubious source.

It's a novel take, but an intriguing one.

I don't think it's so novel. Many of us among the unwashed masses continue to scratch our heads in wonder as we watch guys like Tim Russert engage in this weird kabuki where he grills others about information pertaining to issues in which he is intimately involved --- and never mentions that fact. James Carville goes on Imus and pontificates about all the rumors he's hearing about the case and nobody asks him about his wife -- who is part of the story and was called to the grand jury. Bob Novak snaps at his press interlocutor, "how do you know if I've been called to the grand jury or not?" His questioner, of course, doesn't bother to follow up with the logical question, "Have you?"

I didn't know what Walter Pincus knew until he wrote an obscure piece for the Neiman Foundation. Meanwhile I've been reading his stories for two years as he quotes "people who've been briefed on the case" and tells it as he's phoning it in from Mt Olympus.

The NY Times rails against Karl Rove for not holding a press conference to tell what he knows while their reporter has never written a word about the same story --- an act of non-journalism for which she's in jail because she refuses to reveal her sources. Apparently, the NY Times feels that Judith Miller, a professional journalist, has no obligation to tell the public what she knows. Her only obligation, apparently, is to protect her source(s).

The media have become performance artists. And apparently they don't even see how surreal this whole thing looks to those of us who aren't involved. They all know a hell of a lot more about the story than they have revealed. And none of them (excepting perhaps Novak) have any personal legal liability stemming from the Fitzgerald investigation. They are simply protecting powerful government sources or each other or God knows what -- and in doing that they have failed spectacularly to do the job they are supposed to do. Nobody is saying that they have to reveal who their sources are, which is what the reporter's privilege provides. But is it too much to ask that they at least stop pretending that they aren't part of the story? Or better yet, is it too much to ask that they just tell the public what they know?

This is a huge scandal, as Wolff says, that may reach as high as the president. Half the press corps know details that they haven't written about. Yet, modern journalistic standards seem to indicate that if bodily fluids had been exchanged instead of classified information we would have gotten to the bottom of this a long time ago.

Special Friends

So, that multi-millionaire asshole Tom Noe stole $10,000 from the disabled workers of Ohio to give to that multi-millionare movie star asshole Arnold Schwarzenneger --- who only agreed to return the money after a big stink was made about it. (He's hurting, you see. He had to cancel his lucrative 8 million dollar "supplement" payoff.) I guess it was hurting his image as a guy who would work against the "special interests." Which he has done --- except he thinks that firefighters and nurses are the miscreants. Crooked coin dealers are just "good friends."

This is getting ridiculous. Are we so inured to their graft and corruption that we can't make political hay out of the fact that the entire Republican party is nothing but a bunch of crooked greedheads? Jesus. They've had total power for less than five years and they're bleeding the country dry.

Making Homos

Sadly No! posted this fascinating little note yesterday about our favorite dauchsie beater, James Dobson:

James Dobson's Focus on the Family has posted this delightful series of articles on how to instill your children with the proper "gender identification." The first piece is called "Is my child becoming a homosexual?" and it basically says that if your child exhibits "gender confusion," there's a good chance that he'll turn into a fruit

It features a full rundown of symptoms, like "is different" and "likes to play with girls" that are clear signs of impending homoism. It says that if your little boy shows any of these strange and freakish behaviors you should seek professional help. And to head off any problems, dads should take action themselves:

Meanwhile, the boy's father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son's maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.

Well, that depends on if his dad is Gary Bauer, but that's another story. (And anyway, everybody knows that real men pound square pegs into round holes and tell the hole they should just lay back and enjoy it.)

Frankly, as astonishingly simpleminded as "Dr" Dobson's understanding of human sexuality is (not to mention the pain and heartache his cruel advice is going to wreak on the poor kids --- both gay and straight -- who have the bad luck to be born into these families) there is a silver lining. These mindbendingly ignorant, primitive sperm donors will be blamed among the faithful for their children being gay.

Apparently these people believe that a boy becomes gay if his dad fails to drag him into the shower to show him his big penis...


Update: For some more dog pounding FOTF fun, check out these movie reviews on the American Street. Fr' instance:

March of the Penguins

The movie doesn’t credit our Creator with the masterpiece of nature known as the emperor penguin.



Mithras asks the perennial question" "Where are all the funny conservative bloggers?" It is one that has plagued philosophers and sit-com writers alike since the dawn of blogging (lo those many years ago.)

I am afraid that the answer is one that people may not want to hear or even think about. You see, it's not a matter of choice. From the time they were small children they knew that they weren't funny --- and more importantly, they knew that they didn't even know what funny was. These people were born that way. No matter how hard they try they are unable to be what society deems "normal."

And science has backed up this finding, which should lay to rest once and for all the canard that being entirely without a sense of humor beyond the most puerile schoolyard taunting is a matter of "preference." It's the way they are hard-wired.

For instance:

An investigation by Simone Shamay-Tsoory and colleagues shows that the ability to understand sarcasm depends on a carefully orchestrated sequence of complex cognitive skills in specific parts of the brain.

Dr Shamay-Tsoory, a psychologist at the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa and the University of Haifa, said: "Sarcasm is related to our ability to understand other people's mental state. It's not just a linguistic form, it's also related to social cognition."

The research revealed that areas of the brain that decipher sarcasm and irony also process language, recognise emotions and help us understand social cues.

"Understanding other people's state of mind and emotions is related to our ability to understand sarcasm," she said.


The study showed that people with damage in the prefrontal lobe struggled to pick out sarcasm. The others, including people with similar damage to other parts of the brain, were able to correctly place the sharp-tongued words into context.

The prefrontal lobe is known to be involved in pragmatic language processes and complex social cognition. The ventromedial section is linked to personality and social behaviour.

Dr Shamay-Tsoory said the loss of the volunteers' ability to understand irony was a subtle consequence of their brain damage, which produced behaviour similar to that seen in people with autism

"They are still able to hold and understand a conversation. Their problem is to understand when people talk in indirect speech and use irony, idioms and metaphors because they take each sentence literally. They just understand the sentence as it is and can't see if your true meaning is the opposite of your literal meaning."

As an example, consider this famous satirical mifire by Dinesh D'Souza:

... the Democrats could become the party of moral degeneracy. In recent years the Democrats have not embraced moral degeneracy outright. They have contented themselves with hiding behind the slogan of "liberty." If accused of encouraging pornography, the Democrats have said, "No, we are for liberty of expression." Charged with supporting abortion-on-demand, the Democrats insist, "No, we are the party that gives women freedom over their own bodies." Caught distributing sex kits and homosexual instruction manuals to young people, the Democrats protest, "We are merely attempting to give people autonomy and freedom of choice."

But what is the need for this coyness? The Democrats should stop hiding behind "freedom of choice" and become blatant advocates for divorce, illegitimacy, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and pornography. Indeed the Democrats could become the Party of the Seven Deadly Sins. The political advantage of this approach is that the Seven Deadly Sins are immensely popular. Imagine the political opportunities if all vices were associated with the Democratic party!

Yes, right now President Bush and the Republicans are riding high. But just wait until 2004, when the party of fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth, and fostering traditional moral values, meets its match in a party that stands for anti-Americanism, economic plunder, and moral degeneracy.

More to be pitied than censured, I'd say. It is insensitive to mock people for their inability to understand or be able to define irony, whether in the form of satire or sarcasm. It's simply a matter of higher brain function. They can't help it.

Establishment Claws

The Carpetbagger Report points to a case that shows the dangers this modern pluralistic country is facing as it begins to legally enshrine religion into public life:

In Pleasant Grove, Utah, for example, a Ten Commandments memorial, donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1971, sits in a secluded area of city property that is intended to honor the city's heritage. Pleasant Grove is now facing litigation about the display, not from civil libertarians, but from another religious group that wants equal treatment.

People will pooh-pooh this case as they did an earlier one involving Wicca, in which a practitioner sued for the right to give the invocation for the legislature and was denied because her religion wasn't part of the Judeo-Christian tradition:

The Fourth Circuit upheld the decision of a county legislature which sought to ban certain religions from giving an opening invocation:

The 4th Circuit ruled Chesterfield County's Board of Supervisors did not show impermissible motive in refusing to permit a pantheistic invocation by a Wiccan because its list of clergy who registered to conduct invocations covers a wide spectrum of Judeo-Christian denominations. Simpson v. Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, No. 04-1045 (April 14). Chesterfield County is in the Richmond suburbs.

"The Judeo-Christian tradition is, after all, not a single faith but an umbrella covering many faiths," Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the opinion.

Ok. So, as long as the Judeo-Christian tradition is fully represented then everything is ok, right? Not exactly. Guess what's starting to happen:

A religious watchdog group went on the attack Monday against a Bible study course taught in hundreds of schools in Texas and across the country, saying it pushes students toward conservative Protestant viewpoints and violates religious freedom.

The Texas Freedom Network, which includes clergy of several faiths, said the course offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools is full of errors and dubious research that promote a fundamentalist Christian view.

The council dismissed the Texas Freedom Network as a "far left" extremist organization trying to stifle academic review of a historical text. Elizabeth Ridenour, president of the Bible class group, accused the network of censorship.

"They are actually quite fearful of academic freedom, and of local schools deciding for themselves what elective courses to offer their citizens," Ms. Ridenour says in a statement on the council’s Web site.

Network President Kathy Miller said her group looked at the course after the Odessa school board voted in April to offer a Bible class. The network asked Mark A. Chancey, a professor and biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, to review the council’s curriculum. He was not paid for his work, Ms. Miller said.

Dr. Chancey’s review found that the Bible is characterized as inspired by God, discussions of science are based on the claims of biblical creationists, Jesus is referred to as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, and archaeological findings are erroneously used to support claims of the Bible’s historical accuracy. He said the course suggests that the Bible, instead of the Constitution, be considered the nation’s founding document.

All of those points may be acceptable to some religions, but not to others, Dr. Chancey said.


"No public school student should have to have a particular religious belief forced upon them," said the Rev. Ragan Courtney, pastor of The Sanctuary, a Baptist congregation in Austin.

Surprise, surprise. There is disagreement even within the "Judeo-Christian" tradition --- a fact which anyone who took 10th grade world history would already know. And some quite ugly problems promise to re-surface as more and more tax dollars are being funnelled to religious programs that are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion:

A Christian adoption agency that receives money from Choose Life license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency's "Statement of Faith."

Bethany Christian Services stated the policy in a letter to a Jackson couple this month, and another Mississippi couple said they were rejected for the same reason last year.

"It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith," Bethany's state director Karen Stewart wrote. "Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant's time, money and emotional energy."


The agency's Web site says all Bethany staff and adoptive applicants personally agree with the faith statement, which describes belief in the Christian Church and the Scripture. It does not refer to any specific branches of Christianity.


Sandy Steadman said she was hurt and disappointed that Bethany received funds from the Choose Life car license plates. "I know of a lot of Catholics who get those tags," she said.

She added: "If it's OK to accept our money, it should be OK to open your home to us as a family."

You do not have to be a genius to see that even though this country is majority Christian, there is always plenty of room for religious strife among the pious. The founders understood this very well being that they were the decendents of religious refugees from a country that had been fighting these sectrian battles for centuries.

They understood that democracy cannot properly operate when government establishes religion and that religion cannot freely operate when the government endorses one belief over another. Religion and government exist in their own equally important spheres. One of the ways the US came to deal with this ia a practical manner has been this: churches didn't pay taxes and in return they didn't expect the government to proselytise for them. All churches were on their own to promote their creeds however they wanted --- except through the government. That way, we didn't ask people to pay for religious belief they didn't endorse and we didn't create conditions whereby one religion could be seen to have preference over another.

The rules were always relaxed in terms of certain non-doctrinal traditions like holidays, which heavily favored the majority Christians (who could at least all agree that the big Christian holidays were shared among them all.) And we long practiced a sort of cultural protestant Deism that didn't presume any specific political agenda. Socially, of course, we were horribly bigoted toward Catholics, Jews and anybody else who didn't accept whatever the prevailing local sects decreed, but the federal government held to sort of phony distance that at least allowed the long progressive struggle to create a truly tolerant religious environment to endure. And it finally prevailed. Huzzah.

Sadly (or maybe inevitably) just at the moment when this country seemed to have found its way to a real tolerance of different religious beliefs, where there was more varied religion per square mile than virtually anywhere else in the western world, we've decided to force the government to get involved in pushing certain beliefs because they are majoritarian. I guess we're overdue to take a little walk through the 17th century and experience some of that good old fashioned, traditional religious hatred.

People think "what's the harm in putting up the 10 commandments on a courthouse?" Who cares? Truly, not a whole lot of people do. But as you can see by the the various legal challenges being mounted on behalf of minority religions and the stirrings of sectarian confrontation among Christian faiths, it would have been better if the government had just made it clear from the beginning that it can't take sides. People would understand that, even most majority Christians.

The government should stay out of it, period. Let everybody believe what they will in perfect freedom. But it should be on private property funded by private money. The principle isn't all that tough. Sadly, it appears that we are now going to have to painfully illustrate step by step, through court cases and endless fighting for who knows how long, why it is better for religion for the government to stay out of its sphere. (The battle for secularism for its own sake has been lost for the time being.) I guess we just have to relearn these lessons over and over again.

What Will We Have Wrought?

Matt Yglesias makes a good case for withdrawal of US troops upon the inveiling of Iraq's new constitution.

Far better to take advantage of the forthcoming promulgation of a new constitution for Iraq and then schedule a withdrawal on our own terms. Such a withdrawal would be pegged not to an "arbitrary timetable" but to the perfectly objective one governing Iraq's political process.

This would not only provide us peace with honor but also with the best chance for securing a decent outcome in Iraq. Setting an end date would allay Iraqi fears of an indefinite occupation and allow us to secure more cooperation in the short term, give moderate Sunnis the opportunity they need to join the political process and separate themselves from the jihadists, and focus the minds of Iraq's political elites on the urgent need to resolve the issues underlying sectarian tensions. Defeating every last insurgent in Iraq is not a realistic goal. But fortunately for us, neither is the insurgency's goal of renewed Sunni hegemony a realistic one. A clear plan to bring the troops home would allow us to begin focusing on the kind of support for the new regime -- political, diplomatic, financial, logistical, and intelligence -- that can be provided over the long term, and that would allow a wise Iraqi government to eventually stabilize the entire country. Meanwhile, we can work on rebuilding our armed forces and reconfiguring them for the 21st-century security landscape.

I agree that withdrawal is probably the best solution at this point and it is logical to tag it to a milestone political moment. Our presence seems to be perpetuating the insurgency rather than quelling it. But, I really wonder whether the outcome will be as benign as Matt suggests.

It seems to me that even if we reject the cynical Realpolitik that says the country needed a strongman in order to survive, certainly we screwed things up so badly that we've allowed the conditions for protracted civil war to foment quite nicely. Perhaps there never would have been a better time, but I still cannot help but wonder at the logic that said we should use the moment of al Qaeda's greatest PR victory to engage in a dicey game of chicken in the mid-east --- at huge expense, without global support.

It still stuns me that the starry-eyed neocons thought we were so all powerful that we could simply flip a switch and the world would be changed. The timing was right for domestic political purposes but it couldn't have been worse for strategic purposes. Keeping Saddam in place for a short while, until the smoke cleared at least, would have allowed us to get a much better lay of the land post 9/11 and perhaps make some realistic decisions.

But, all that is spilled milk now and we find ourselves at a point where we are thinking seriously of leaving Iraq in a chaos we have created and I would be interested in what are the realistic scenarios among the experts for a post withdrawal Iraq. It is unlikely that I would change my mind about the correctness of our doing so, but I would like to be prepared for what may follow. I have a feeling I know the answer and it makes me sick to my stomach.

In this regard I have been meaning to mention that shameful column by David Ignatius from last week called Iraq Can Survive This in which he makes the increasingly common rightist argument that someday things will probably work out in Iraq so everything we did will have been right in retrospect:

Pessimists increasingly argue that Iraq may be going the way of Lebanon in the 1970s. I hope that isn't so, and that Iraq avoids civil war. But people should realize that even Lebanonization wouldn't be the end of the story. The Lebanese turned to sectarian militias when their army and police couldn't provide security. But through more than 15 years of civil war, Lebanon continued to have a president, a prime minister, a parliament and an army. The country was on ice, in effect, while the sectarian battles raged. The national identity survived, and it came roaring back this spring in the Cedar Revolution that drove out Syrian troops.

Similar logic would have one believe that because Czechoslovakia is now a thriving democracy, the invasion of Hitler in 1938 was all for the best. And hey what's 30 years of human suffering? Eventually things will probably get better --- as long as the "national identity" survives. Dear God.

This argument reveals something very fundamental about the way that the war hawks see this as a game of Risk rather than a catastrophic upheaval in which actual human beings are being killed and maimed and in which the everyday lives of those who live on that piece of land are affected in the most consequential ways possible. Who but the most arrogant, spoiled,pampered, elitist American could write such a thing? Perhaps David Ignatius should have a talk with Peter Daou, who actually lived in that lucky land of Lebanon during the civil war and occupation while "the country" was on ice. Unfortunately, the humans who lived there had some more immediate problems:

I spent my youth in Beirut during the height of Lebanon's civil war, and I fought the Syrian presence in Lebanon long before the "Cedar Revolution." I watched young boys give their lives and mothers cradle their dying children in blood-soaked arms. I've seen more bloodshed, war, and violence, and shot more guns than most of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists combined. I wouldn't presume to question the strength or dignity of a stranger, and I pity those who blithely push the right=strong, left=weak rhetoric. It says far more about their inadequacies than it does about the target of their scorn.

Ignatius's logic is becoming more prevalent among war supporters as we see that our lame attempt at neocon nation building (which was based, as are all their "plans" upon idealistic fantasies and crossing their fingers)has failed. Therefore, they are now going to take the "long view" in which victory will be prematurely hailed because as one Bush supporter puts it: "All that matters in the long run is the liberalization Bush and Blair have unleashed."

Neat trick, isn't it? Any progress in the future can be attributed to Bush and Blair's foresight, no matter how long it takes or how much blood is spilled in the meantime. Indeed, George W. Bush, magical figure that he is, must, therefore, be responsible for the fact that:

...there was not a single liberal democracy with universal suffrage in the world in 1900, but ... today 120 (62.5%) of the world's 192 nations are such democracies.

Still, I wonder how a bloody civil war in a huge country in the mid-east, at a time of rising Islamic extremism and peak oil can be sold as being for the Iraqis' own good --- and ours? Assuming that we withdraw (because we really have no choice, as Matt Yglesias writes, and because we are actually exacerbating the problem with our presence) what are the realistic ramifications of Iraq descending into sectarian violence as seems to have already begun? What will we have wrought with this misbegotten invasion for the next decade or three --- until everything comes out in the wash and we can permanently give George Bush credit for having invented human progress, that is?


Monday, August 08, 2005

Pushing Keller

Talk Left points out that all this talk of a waiver for Lil Miz Judy is bunk. Lil' Miz Judy is refusing to talk for reasons of her own.

However, I maintain that calling on Libby to produce this waiver puts pressure on the one place that may have some influence with Miller --- the NY Times. The weak point for her is if her employers get really antsy. We've already seen some indication that they are. Divide 'n conquor.

Jane Hamsher reports something I hadn't heard before which was James Carville's appearance on Imus last week in which he posited that Fitzgerald was going to call Keller et al before the grand jury. I don't know how he'd know that, but whether he does or not, it's quite clear there are rumblings down at the Kewl Kidz soda shoppe. Carville is very well connected if nothing else.

(In fact, as with so many others in the beltway circle jerk, he has a conflict of interest a mile wide --- his wife, who is up to her ears in this thing. She was, after all, hired back specifically to handle the post Novak damage control.)

Still, I assume that he's not working for Rove:

Carville said there was "heavy, heavy speculation out there" that Miller was being used by the White House to "disseminate this" - an apparent reference to CIA employee Valerie Plame's name.

"There are all sorts of rumors and I hear second hand that [Miller] was screaming out in the news room about this."

The Times, said Carville, "to some extent is going to have to come clean. Because they're going to have to tell us what Judy Miller knew, when she knew it and who she told."

"And there's a lot of people at the Times - and I know this to be a fact - who believe that," he insisted.

"It's going to be very interesting to see," Carville mused, "whether [Miller's] problem is a First Amendment [problem] - i.e., I want to protect a source - or a Fifth Amendment [problem] - I was out spreading this stuff too."

None of this is particularly new to those of us who've been following the punchin' Judy show. But it does seem to be bubbling up. As more and more strategic leaks are sprung, it becomes clear that some major media players have not been forthcoming.

Certainly Tim Russert owes everybody a little explanation about that NBC psuedo-statement that leaves wide open the fact that he may have shared a delicious little bit of back-biting gossip with his friend Scooter. If he didn't then he should come clean and take his medicine as he so santimoniously advises all his politician friends to do.

Bob Novak should be... oh forget it. The man's having a public nervous breakdown. It's absurd to think that he would behave like a journalist anyway. He should be retired. (His sources are already making a fool of him --- remember the Rehnquist is resigning today at 4:50pm story?)

And finally, we have the vaunted New York Times executive staff who've been parading Judy around like she was Jesus himself being crucified for standing up for the first amendment. It's been awfully convenient for them to do so, but their loyalty to Judith Miller is misplaced and it's hurting their reputations. They are going to have to start making some tough choices about what is really important to them.

If Lewis Libby says publicly that he released Judith Miller from all her obligations, the public is really going to wonder what in the hell is going on. See, this excuse that sources shouldn't be coerced only works when the source is a powerless lone citizen standing up against the full force of the government. Lewis Libby is chief of staff to the Vice President of the United States. If he makes it clear that he releases her from her waiver, nobody is going to believe that he's weakly acquiesing to the big bad government. He is the big bad government.

I realize that Miller will likely not capitulate even then. But it will put a tremendous pressure on the NY Times --- and they may put pressure on her. We'll see whether Miller cares more about her neocon buddies or her own career and reputation.

A La Carte

Michael at Americablog brings up a point I think is worth a little passing mention. People talk a lot about pushing for "a la carte" cable as a way to appeal to social conservatives who say they want to limit what their children see on television. But these social conservatives are not being honest. John points out that you can block any channel just by calling your cable company. After all, they have the ability to block out HBO if you don't pay for it, they can certainly block out MTV if you request it.

I think that most people would like the idea of paying only for the channels they watch. I pay an exhorbitant amount of money to basically watch a handful of channels in order to feed my addiction to CNN and HBO. But I think that people have to recognise that the whole 500 channel universe is built on the idea that you pay big bucks for these channels we all like in order to subsidize the ones that fit the niche markets. In the early days, they really did support new stuff this way, although it's now become a much different game with advertisers and big media conglomerates buying up cable channels.

I think it is highly unlikely that they will create an a la carte system that will allow you to actually save money. They'll just price CNN at 50 bucks a month and you won't get any of the quirky channels you might watch once in a while.

And I would bet that there would still be no respite from the religious right's screeching about decency on cable. They can have all that dirty, dirty turned off right now if they want to. It's not that they don't want their families to see "Deadwood." They don't want me to see "Deadwood."

Who Was Neville Chamberlain's Priest?

Can somebody please explain to me why the Democrats should be blamed for every stupid utterance that emantes from some junior college instructor, while the Republicans dance free of any association with a preacher who says "God Hates Fags?" Is it just the fag word that allows them to escape? It must be because the sentiment is certainly mainstream GOP cant.

I think Pastor Fred Phelps should be tied around the necks of the right wing Christianists with a bowline knot. Julia fills us in on his latest cause:

WBC rejoices every time the Lord God in His vengeance kills or maims an American soldier with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked" (Ps. 58:10).

To most effectively cause America to know her abominations (Ez. 16:2), WBC will picket the funerals of these Godless, fag army American soldiers when their pieces return home. WBC will also picket their landing spot, in Dover, Delaware early and often.

Why, if I didn't know better, I'd think that Phelps was saying that US soldiers are all "little Eichmans."

I recall that during a supremely insane period in our recent history we were told ad nausaeum that the president receiving fellatio sent a message of loose morals to the culture. (Fellatio hadn't been popular until then.) If that were true, I would think that messages like this should be seen as incitement for the likes of Fred Phelps:

Tony Perkins:

"If we do not immediately pass a Constitutional amendment protecting marriage, we will not only lose the institution of marriage in our nation, but eventually all critics of the homosexual lifestyle will be silenced. Churches will be muted, schools will be forced to promote homosexuality as a consequence-free alternative lifestyle, and our nation will find itself embroiled in a cultural, legal and moral quagmire."

Chuck Colson:

"Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers…. when radical Islamists see American women abusing Muslim men, as they did in the Abu Ghraib prison, and when they see news coverage of same-sex couples being ‘married’ in U.S. towns, we make our kind of freedom abhorrent--the kind they see as a blot on Allah's creation. Preserving traditional marriage in order to protect children is a crucially important goal by itself. But it's also about protecting the United States from those who would use our depravity to destroy us."

Alan Keyes

“It’s about time we all faced up to the truth. If we accept the radical homosexual agenda, be it in the military or in marriage or in other areas of our lives, we are utterly destroying the concept of family. We must oppose it in the military. We must oppose it in marriage. We must oppose it if the fundamental institution of our civilization is to survive. Those unwilling to face that fact and playing games with this issue are doing so irresponsibly at the price of America’s moral foundations.”

Gary Bauer

“An instinctive revulsion against evil isn’t bigotry, it’s our best defense.”

Gosh, it sure looks to me as if old Fred's only using some salty language to say the same thing the rest of these guys are saying. In fact, he's right in the mainstream of religious right thought. Apparently, God does hate fags.

So now pastor Fred is picketing outside military funerals, celebrating their deaths because they are part of a system that allows gay people to exist. He's making the same sort of logical leap that Ward Churchill made when he condemned the dead capitalist workers at the WTC for being part of a global economic system that exploited the downtrodden masses --- a point of view that is held by no more than .05% of Americans, who dwell at the far left fringe of American thought and have no influence on politics whatsoever.

Fred Phelps, however, dwells quite close to the mainstream of the religious right, which has huge influence in the Republican party. If instead of using a slur, he were picketing various events with his homemade signs and they said "God Hates The Homosexual Agenda" would he be any different than hundreds of other groups who say the same without any sense of shame or regret? It's just one little word.

I don't imagine that a spiritual advisor like Chuck Colson celebrates the killing of American servicemen, but his statement above sure sounds like he's sympathising with the Islamic fundamentalists' complaints about decadent western culture. One can see how Fred might extrapolate from that that the bad guys in this war of civilizations are Americans. In Fred's mind he's picketing fallen soldiers' funerals in order to protest his country's immorality.

I really don't want to hear any more lectures about Ward Churchill or any other obscure little left wing gadfly. The mainstream of the Republican party is out there promoting an agenda that the Ayatollah would be proud to sign on to --- and they admit it. Who are the appeasers now? And who is responsible for Fred Phelps celebrating the deaths of American servicemen? It sure isn't me.

Julia links through to some military wives' novel way of dealing with James Dobsons' blood brother's little stunt. They are turning the Phelps circus into a fundraiser.

Dear Leader

Kevin points to this Ron Brownstein column in which Brownstein compares the Republican Party's governing style to North Korea. It's quite true. They believe bipartisanship is date rape. They know that they needn't fear they will be seen in a bad light by the public for this because the public gives fuck-all about legislative process --- and the media allows them to present themselves as having mandates or representing the mainstream despite having only the thinnest majority. They've taken the "winner take all" concept to new heights.

From Brownstein:

The essence of the modern Republican governing strategy is self-reliance. The goal is to resolve all issues in a manner that solidifies their political coalition. The means is to pass legislation primarily by unifying Republicans, thus shrinking opportunities for Democrats to exert influence. This approach represents the political equivalent to what the North Korean government calls Juche: a strategy of maximizing independence by minimizing dependence on outside forces.

I keep hearing that until Democrats start "winning elections" they should just step aside and if they refuse, they will be shoved aside. It makes me wonder if the founders knew what they were doing with this representation thing. Surely, it would have been more efficient to just have the ruling party come to Washington and legislate without interference from the minority. Think of how much money it saves.

One thing I think that both Brownstein and Drum neglect with their North Korea comparison is that in order to succeed it must also feature a godlike infallible cult leader. (After all, before Kim Jong Il was revealed as the successor to his father, he was mysteriously referred to as "party center"):

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

In North Korea they have the same kind of leader --- but they have the good graces to notice:

Reflecting his apparent encyclopedic knowledge and superhuman abilities, the Dear Leader is also considered by North Koreans as a "great figure of the arts and architecture," "genius of music," and "world famous writer," the report said.

The KCBS added that the Dear Leader is a "computer genius who surprises computer experts", and the "ideal leader of the world" because he is so erudite.

The North's media also have described the North Korean leader as an "incarnation of power" who exerts "unlimited creative power" and is the "hero of the heaven."

Perhaps when we are done renaming every street in American after Great leader Ronald Reagan, we can begin the movement to officially recognise our Dear Leader too.

He, at least, knows his own value

Q -- at politically? I mean, you've still got Iraq holding over your head and Social Security. You've got a lot of tough things that are going --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it took -- it took the -- I don't know how many times I have to tell people that polls go up and polls go down. If you made decisions based upon polls, you would be a miserable leader.

Q But power is perception.

THE PRESIDENT: Power is being the President.


Q Did the Bolton decision, you think, have any affect on your relations with the Senate, or will they understand?

THE PRESIDENT: ...Bolton's standing in the world depends upon my confidence in Bolton, and I've got a lot of confidence in Bolton.

One would think it would be much more efficient if we let Dear Leader make all the decisions. After all, power is the president. However, it would be much more difficult for the revolving door of lobbying and the military indusrtrial complex to make multi-millionaires of generals and politicans. So we need to at least have a congressional pageant now and then. The Democrats can play the fools.


Sunday, August 07, 2005

Punchin' Judy

Arianna has more insider dirt on the Judy Miller file:

A well-connected media source e-mailed to say that the most interesting development on the Miller story is coming from inside the Times: "I gather that Doug Jehl, who is a dogged and respected reporter, has been assigned to do an in-house investigative report for the Times and that he is already cutting pretty close to the bone. Several editors he has spoken to are now asking themselves why there wasn't more questioning of whether Miller's silence reflects a fear of incriminating herself rather than betraying a source. I predict this will start to unravel in the next couple of weeks -- if only because the Times is afraid of getting scooped again by outside rivals."

If they just now began to question this then there is a lot more wrong with the NY Times than we've known. Considering Miller's recent history any cub reporter would have at least wondered whether Miller was colluding with the administration on this.

As Xeno reminds me in the comments, the NY Times recently published quite a scathing editorial about Karl Rove "using" the press for his own ends and demanded that he hold a press conference and admit what he knows.

Far be it for us to denounce leaks. Newspapers have relied on countless government officials to divulge vital information that their bosses want to be kept secret. There is even value in the sanctioned leak, such as when the White House, say, lets out information that it wants known but does not want to announce.

But it is something else entirely when officials peddle disinformation for propaganda purposes or to harm a political adversary. And Karl Rove seems to have been playing that unsavory game with the C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, Joseph Wilson IV, a career diplomat who ran afoul of President Bush's efforts to justify the invasion of Iraq.


The White House has painted itself into a corner. More than a year ago, Mr. Bush vowed to fire the leaker. Then Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman, repeatedly assured everyone that the leaker was not Mr. Rove, on whom the president is so dependent intellectually that he calls Mr. Rove "the architect."

Until this week, the administration had deflected attention onto journalists by producing documents that officials had been compelled to sign to supposedly waive any promise of confidentiality. Our colleague Judith Miller, unjustly jailed for protecting the identity of confidential sources, was right to view these so-called waivers as meaningless.

Mr. Rove could clear all this up quickly. All he has to do is call a press conference and tell everyone what conversations he had and with whom. While we like government officials who are willing to whisper vital information, we like even more government officials who tell the truth in public.

I assume that the NY Times will issue another such scathing indictment of Scooter Libby now that we know he was the person who Judy Miller is protecting. After all, he has the power to release Judy tomorrow if he will just hold a press conference and tell everyone what conversation he had and with whom. Then Judy would be released from her obligations and could testify in good faith. Right?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Libby On The Label

According to Murray Waas, Scooter told Fitzgerald that he met with Miller on July 8th. But he has not given Judith Miller the specific waiver she seeks to talk to the prosecutors.

It's time for the press to go to the mattresses and demand an explanation from the white house.

The new disclosure that Miller and Libby met on July 8, 2003, raises questions regarding claims by President Bush that he and everyone in his administration have done everything possible to assist Fitzgerald's grand-jury probe. Sources close to the investigation, and private attorneys representing clients embroiled in the federal probe, said that Libby's failure to produce a personal waiver may have played a significant role in Miller’s decision not to testify about her conversations with Libby, including the one on July 8, 2003.

Libby signed a more generalized waiver during the early course of the investigation granting journalists the right to testify about their conversations with him if they wished to do so. At least two reporters -- Walter Pincus of The Washington Post and Tim Russert of NBC -- have testified about their conversations with Libby.

But Miller has said she would not consider providing any information to investigators about conversations with Libby or anyone else without a more specific, or personal, waiver. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, has previously said Miller had not been granted "any kind of a waiver … that she finds persuasive or believes was freely given."

Libby has never offered to provide such a personalized waiver for Miller, according to three legal sources with first-hand knowledge of the matter. Joseph A. Tate, an attorney for Libby, declined to comment for this story.


At least two attorneys representing private clients who are embroiled in the Plame probe also privately questioned whether or not President Bush had encouraged Libby to provide a personalized waiver for Miller in an effort to obtain her cooperation.

In a memorandum distributed to White House staff members shortly after the investigation became known, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, who at the time was White House counsel, wrote, "The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation." Bush himself said: "[I]f there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

Congressman Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, while sidestepping the specifics as to whether Bush should order Libby to provide a personalized waiver for Miller, said in an interview Friday evening: "I would say the president has the power to help us get to the bottom of this matter. And we in Congress want to do this not so much for what has happened but to prevent such a thing from happening again."

This is bullshit. The white house cannot get away with saying they are cooperating with the prosecutor by not talking --- and then not require the staff to fully cooperate with the prosecutor.

"I want to know the truth," Bush told reporters in September 2003 after news of the investigation had burst into headlines. "If anybody has got any information, inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business."

Here's Scotty from July 11th:

Q: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in a leak of the name of a CIA operative?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked related to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point.

And as I’ve previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.

The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren’t going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

Now that it's been reported that Libby is the source Miller is protecting the media should demand that Libby free their sister from jail.

"Scott, Judy Miller is languishing in a DC jail because the vice president's chief of staff refuses to grant her a specific waiver. The prosecutor has told federal judges that he needs to talk to her. Is this what the president calls cooperating with the investigation?"

There really is no good reason why Libby hasn't provided a specific waiver for Judy if he told Fitzgerald he talked to her.

Unless he lied to the prosecutor about what was said, that is.

And if Judy gets a specific waiver she has no more excuse to play Jeanne d'Arc. If she still won't squawk, the NY Times will have to finally admit that they have employed a neocon operative as a reporter.

Sit Tight

A thought to ponder as we debate whether we should be moving toward more social conservatism. The number one Republican in the US Senate just endorsed stem cell research and the number three Republican in the Senate just backed off his previous support for intelligent design.

This would indicate to me that these two politicians, one of whom is running for president and the other who is trying to keep his seat in a swing state, have seen numbers that indicate the religious right is hurting their chances. They are sistah sojah-ing like madmen pretty damn early in the game.

I suspect that some democratic strategists think this is a good reason for us to "meet them in the middle" by running as social conservatives --- just without James Dobson. But anyone who thinks this is someone who hasn't been watching politics for the last 20 years.

We should sit tight. We're already in the middle, right where most of the public is. It's just that the public didn't realize it until recently. When the wingnuts start devouring each other we should tie them together and run against the whole lot. I know this because I watched it happen in the 80's. To us.

Good For Thee But Not For Me

The United States' envoy in Iraq delivered a warning on Saturday to Shi'ite Islamist leaders, propelled to power by U.S. forces, not to use a new constitution to impose discriminatory laws by majority rule.


JOINT RESOLUTION Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage .

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

"Article --

"SECTION 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

The Palmeiro Defense

In related news, Karl Rove returned to testify before the grand jury investigating the Plame leak today. Rove testified that while he indeed did leak Valerie Plame's name to reporters, he has no idea how it happened.

"I still don't know what caused me to do it," Rove said. "I know I didn't mean to do it. I don't even think I did it, but I did. I'm not a crazy person. We were going to get our war anyway. It makes no sense."

Read the whole thing.

Confession Is Good For The Soul

In anticipation of tomorrows Press The Meat, I think that guests should be required to read Swopa and Fishbowl DC. Maybe Ashleigh Blitzer ought to see if he can get Monsignor Tim on his show.

It turns out, contrary to my post below, that NBC was a little bit, shall we say ... lawyerly, with its statement of Russert's involvement:

Mr. Russert told the Special Prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby. Mr. Russert said that he first learned Ms. Plame's name and her role at the CIA when he read a column written by Robert Novak later that month.

What that statement very cleverly leaves open is that Russert did tell Libby that "Joseph Wilson's wife" was a CIA "employee."

Look, this is getting stupid. There is no reason on earth that Tim Russert should not be required to say right out if he repeated gossip to Lewis Libby about Joe Wilson and his wife. It means that he's a dirt-dishing little scumbag but it has no bearing on his legal culpability. One could easily understand why he would think that repeating this tidbit to a man who had the highest security clearance wouldn't exactly mean he was spilling state secrets.

I would have thought that since all this has been hashed over in great detail these last few weeks that the "professionals" in the mainstream press would have thought it was worthwhile to pursue --- even if it meant that the leader of the kewl kids was confronted with his own words and asked to explain. After all, that is what he does every single Sunday morning to whichever poor schmuck submits him or herself to his grilling.

As Atrios eloquently points out this morning, this absurd idea that celebrity journalists aren't public figures is laughable in itself. But the idea reaches total absurdity when you consider that these celebrity journalists are players in the biggest scandal of the last five years. When you have these journalists being called before Grand Juries, making deals with special prosecutors and distributing carefully worded lawyerly statements --- they are just like any other citizen in that situation; they are witnesses to a possible crime. I wish that the press were so solicitous of private citizens who don't have their own TV shows when they camp out on their doorsteps screaming for comment.

Tim Russert gave a very lawyerly statement about what he told the special prosecutor. He has never been asked to expand on it or clarify it, to my knowledge. That is journalistic malpractice.

Here's what they should do, it's really quite simple.

Mr Russert, did you ever tell Scooter Libby in any way shape or form that Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?

Oh, and then guys,if he tries to answer by saying that he didn't know her name or what her role was at the CIA, follow up. Be reporters and persist. Ask him if he mentioned Joe Wilson's wife to Libby at all. If he says yes, then ask if he mentioned where she worked. It's not hard.

Update: I see Arianna beat me to this.

...frankly, this week, instead of coming up with questions for Tim, I’d like to hear him give some long-overdue answers about his still ill-defined involvement in Plamegate.

And I’m not the only one feeling this way. Earlier this week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg called on Russert and all the other reporters involved in the story (yes, that includes you Bob Novak) to “tell us everything”: “Tim Russert cuts a large figure in Washington,” wrote Shanberg. “He should be a big man now and give us some details; why not agree to be interviewed by someone as probing as he?"


So what do you say, Tim? Why not put Roberts’ faith on hold for a week and restore the public’s faith in you by putting yourself in the Meet the Press hot seat? As Schanberg said of his fellow reporters: “We have no rational explanation for calling regularly on government and corporate giants to release all possible information to the public if we ourselves decline to release the details about our roles and our processes when they are germane to the story.… The public has a right to know; isn’t that our mantra?”

Considering how well Bob Novak has responded to being on the receiving end of the cattle prod, I suspect that The Padre will not take to well to being "probed" with his own petard. But it is worthwhile to put pressure on these guys to start leveling with the public. I know that it's too much to ask that this clubby little world be exposed, but we have to try.

I'll agree with Kevin on this to the extent that the press may be better than it used to be in many respects, but that's not really the problem. With the rise of public relations, the cacophany of information and the overwhelming power of marketing we need an independent press more than we used to to help us filter through the bullshit so that we can maintain our democracy. Instead, they seem to be drifting toward entertainment values which are by definition controlled by the very forces that are making it difficult for the public to see their world clearly. The last fifteen years of political coverage have been dominated by tabloid circuses or jingoistic parades. They need to try harder.

The Terminator

In case anyone's wondering if Pat Fitzgerald is really as much of a prosecution machine as people think he is, there is actually little doubt. He seems to really like putting away dirty politicians of all stripes. In fact, he seems to be mowing down the entire corrupt Illinois political system in a thoroughly bipartisan way:

If ever U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald leaves Chicago, I figure that Mayor Richard Daley, his Democratic machine and his Republican friends in the Illinois political combine will pop for champagne at Gibsons in Rosemont.


"I'm just going to do my job until someone tells me otherwise," Fitzgerald said at a news conference in which he announced the indictments of more combine boys.

"I love my job. I'm very, very lucky to work with the people behind me and the people behind that, and I have no plans to do anything else."

Federal authorities charged three political insiders Wednesday with extorting money from investment companies working with the Teachers Retirement System pension fund.

According to the indictments, in trying to shake down a Virginia investment firm on behalf of Republican Stuart Levine, top Democratic fundraiser and lawyer Joe Cari is alleged to have said:

"This is how things are done in Illinois."

Another lawyer, Steven Loren, also was charged in the shakedown scheme. He and Cari are now cooperating with prosecutors. Levine, who was indicted on multiple counts, was recently indicted in another alleged kickback scam on the state's Health Facilities Planning Board.

Years ago, some questioned if there was an Illinois combine, a ruling bipartisan clique gorging on public money, using political muscle to fill their pockets. I don't think many people question that anymore.

According to the grand jury, some Democrats and Republicans work together just fine. They're not divided by opposing ideologies. Instead, they're bound by a common interest: cash.

The combine fought to stop Fitzgerald from coming to Chicago from New York. They ran former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) out of politics for the sin of installing Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) in the job of federal hammer in Chicago.

Lately, there's been speculation that the president would lean on Fitzgerald and remove him because Fitzgerald is a presidential irritant, acting as special counsel in Washington. He's investigating Bush administration officials for reportedly leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Presidential political adviser Karl Rove and others in Rove's sphere have been questioned in the investigation. It is assumed Rove will seek revenge. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) wants to hold Senate hearings to question Fitzgerald about his investigation. These hearings are seen as an extension of Rove's long hand.

And in Chicago, Fitzgerald has the Outfit upset, not to mention Streets & San, the mayor's office and Daley's own 11th Ward organization, and the Republican clique of former Gov. George Ryan. Fitzgerald and Chicago FBI chief Rob Grant are expected to announce more corruption charges in another case on Thursday morning.

So they're giving everybody agita. With all this going on, all these investigations and all the political interests he's threatened by pursuing cases, Fitzgerald was asked the big question.

Do you want to stay?

"I'm not going to start lobbying for a job," he said. "I'm just saying that I'm very happy with my job, very grateful I have it, and I'm just going to keep working."

He wasn't lobbying. And he wasn't being slick about it. He was just answering the question, appearing to be slightly embarrassed to be talking about himself.

I don't know Fitzgerald well. But I can see he is uncomfortable with being cast as some knight on a white horse. He's no such thing. He's much more dangerous.

He's a federal prosecutor who does not want to run for governor or a big job in a top law firm. He's not whispering that he'd like to be made a federal judge. He doesn't want to be somebody's rainmaker.

There's nothing more frightening to the combine than someone without an appetite they can feed.

If he hands down indictments the long arm of Karl Rove is going to morph into a thousand tentacles intent upon bringing this guy down. Within minutes you will see every talking point the Democrats used against Ken Starr being regurgitated by right-wing mouthpieces as if they just made it up that morning. It's one of their favorite (and most useful) tactics --- use the other side's rhetoric against them. They take advantage of the ear worms of repetitive political rhetoric which a lot of people then just automatically accept as conventional wisdom.

And if you think you've seen Republicans whining and snivelling about being victimized before now, you ain't seen nothin' until you see them shriek like little old ladies about being persecuted by the jack-booted thugs. If and when that happens, I hope that the liberal pundits have the wisdom to turn the tables on them this time and call them out for being a bunch of bedwetting sissies. Karl Rove needs to take it like a man. There's a war on. If he'd just apologise, maybe we could move on ...

'N what about the rule 'o law?

Jujitsu Death Blow

Blogenlust's Law
states ...

As an online discussion among wingnuts grows longer, the probability that a Clinton will be blamed for something approaches 1 (i.e., certainty).

Here's the example John cites:

The left appears to have lost its appetite for the Plamegate scandal. This, in itself, is more than sufficient reason for conservatives to pursue the matter aggressively. The left has much to hide in this affair. Now that they have done us the service of making Plamegate a national issue, let us employ Saul Alinsky’s principle of "political jiu-jitsu" and re-direct the left’s own momentum against it.

Of particular interest is the odd connection between Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper and would-be president Hillary Clinton. Cooper is the reporter who made an elaborate show of pretending that he was ready to go to jail to "protect" his "source" Karl Rove. In fact, we now know that Rove had given Cooper a blanket release to reveal his name some eighteen months before Cooper finally revealed it. So why did Cooper pretend that he only received permission at the last minute, just before he was to be jailed for contempt? And why did major media assist Cooper in his pretense?

Plainly, the Democrats’ media allies were trying to distort the facts to cast Rove in a bad light. But to what end? Such an elaborate deception could not have unfolded on its own. Someone had to orchestrate it. But who?

One hint may come from the fact that Hooper’s wife, Mandy Grunwald, is a former spinmeister for the Clinton White House and a close confidante of Hillary. Her father, Henry Grunwald, was formerly editor of Time magazine, and wrote the first major editorial calling for Richard Nixon’s resignation (hat tip, Sacajaweau).


It would seem that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Like her father before her, Mandy Grunwald now finds herself at the vortex of what appears to be an effort to undermine our commander-in-chief at a critical phase of a major war.

How likely does it seem, gentle reader, that Matt Cooper failed to discuss his Plamegate work with his wife? And how likely does it seem that Mandy Grunwald failed to keep Hillary’s war room advised of her husband’s progress?

To put it another way, what did Hillary know and when did she know it?

I hadn't thought about it before, but it's perfectly obvious that Hitlery and her minions in the liberal media hatched this clever plot to implicate the White House in the outing of a CIA agent --- in order to help the terrorists. My God, it's been right in front of our faces all this time!

I'm reeling from the devastating cleverness of that move. My head is spinning. All is lost, my friends. All. Is. Lost. I'm joining the other side. They were always right. I was always wrong. They have won three elections in five years and I realize that we can never defeat them again. They are too smart for us.


Friday, August 05, 2005

Uhm no --- He's Just An Idiot

Bush's loyalty raises doubts about his political judgment

"It seems that President Bush is falling into the Nixon trap - his administration can do no wrong. His allies and people who support him can do no wrong," said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian. "Palmeiro is above suspicion, Rove is not to be questioned, John Bolton is a stand-up guy.

"The danger is he divorces himself from public reality, political reality, and it erodes his ability to lead the country," Dallek said.

It's not that his administration can do no wrong. It's that he can do no wrong. If he picked these people for his administration or for his friends, thay are, by definition, good people who are above suspicion. To say otherwise would be to admit that his judgment is imperfect and that is impossible. Dear Leader is an infallible child.

Several analysts said the Palmeiro situation illustrates that point. Bush took a strong stand against steroids in his 2004 State of the Union address, demanding that major league sports take tougher action to eliminate steroid use by athletes.

"The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football and other sports is dangerous and it sends the wrong message - that there are shortcuts to accomplishment and that performance is more important than character," Bush said.

But when news of Palmeiro's positive drug test and 10-day suspension by Major League Baseball became public, Bush almost instantly backed the ballplayer, saying Palmeiro spoke truthfully on March 17 when he wagged his finger at the
House Government Reform Committee and emphatically denied ever using steroids.

Bush's fondness for Palmeiro - who recently became only the fourth major league player to slam more than 500 home runs and 3,000 base hits - dates back to when Palmeiro played for the Rangers under Bush's ownership.

"Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him," Bush said Monday. "He's the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him. Still do."

Bush's quick defense seemed contradictory to some, in light of his previous tough talk on steroids.

"His defense in this case, so quickly, seemed like an about-face, from taking a stand to a ridiculous statement a fan might make to another fan in a bar," said Richard Lapchick, chairman of the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. "It certainly didn't seem like he thought that one through."

How unusual. And he's usually so intellectually thorough.

Stephen Hess, a political scientist at George Washington University in Washington, believes Bush's judgment isn't clouded by loyalty. The president had no problem in dismissing Lawrence Lindsey, his economic adviser during the 2000 campaign and the head of his Council of Economic Advisers until his ouster in 2002.

"That showed me he'll carry loyalty to a point - which is part of what presidents do," Hess said.

Of course, Lindsey was let go not long after he estimated publicly that a war in
Iraq could cost $200 billion, far above Bush loyalists' line at the time, which may have been seen as disloyal. Iraq war costs will exceed $200 billion in the next year.

And he was fat. His loyalty doesn't extend that far.

Honestly, this blind defense of Palmiero has little to do with loyalty. It's about Bush's faith based approach to everything. If he believes it, it must be true. He does not use reason to come to conclusions. He makes decisions based on feelings and beliefs and "instinct." In this case, his instinct is that Palmiero is a good guy and therefore could not have lied. His "instinct" is that creationism makes sense and therefore, is as legitimate as evolution. His "instinct" was that Saddam was a threat and therefore, we had to invade.

We have a man with a child's mind running this country. Millions of us can see this as clearly as we can see his face on our television screens. People can call me an elitist and a snob for pointing this out but I will never stop. It's like telling me it's rude to notice that the sun came up this morning or that gravity exists. It is observable fact that this president is intellectually stunted. I'm not going to pretend otherwise so that certain people's feelings don't get hurt. I'll lose my mind.

Lawyered Up

It's almost spooky that I've been writing about Novak all this week --- even before he had his hissy fit yesterday. Perhaps I have some sort of psychic powers of which I've been unaware up to now. I hope so. If this works out I'll get back in the market.

Actually, there is a more prosaic explanation. I've been writing about Bob Novak all week because he wrote an odd column about the Plame case on Monday. It was the first time he's written anything about it in many months. And he said that he'd done it against his lawyers' wishes. Atrios is reporting a rumor that Novak is being called before the Grand Jury all of a sudden. I would suspect that if it's true, it's because of something he wrote in that column.

We all know that it is quite strange that he had not been called before (although we don't know that for sure.) It's even more strange that he seems to have cooperated. Otherwise, unless Pat Fitzgerald was the most incompetent boob in the DOJ, he would have been in the same boat as Matt Cooper and Judith Miller. It's the nature of the "cooperation" that's most curious.

Of the major media players, Walter Pincus has spoken to the public and the prosecutor. Matt Cooper has spoken to the public and the prosecutor. Tim Russert made a deal and spoke with the prosecutors and NBC released a statement to the public relaying the substance of his conversation. Judith Miller hasn't spoken to either the prosecutor or the public and is in jail. Robert Novak, the only one who actually published the leak information, hasn't spoken to the public but (we assume) he has spoken to the prosecutor. He has repeatedly said that he cannot discuss the case in any way because his lawyers have advised him not to say anything publicly.

Why would that be? Here's one little hint, although it may just be an accidental turn of phrase. The day after Novak had his little contretemps with Ed Henry in June, miracle of miracles, the NY Times actually did a tiny little story on why Novak has not been on the hotseat like every other reporter in town. And Novak's publisher said this:

Among those defending Mr. Novak yesterday was John Cruickshank, publisher of The Sun-Times.

"We, as news people, never want to be in a position of saying, No comment," Mr. Cruickshank said. "But he cannot respond and at the same time abide by the legal strategy his counsel has been recommending."

Why is his legal counsel recommending a legal strategy at all? Nobody else is using that excuse. Obviously, as a journalist he cannot use the white house excuse that the prosecutor has requested he not talk about the case because ... well, that would make him the worst kind of journalistic sissy there is. Especially compared to macho Judy Miller. While it's true that Miller is practising shoddy journalism by refusing to write what she knows (without revealing her source) she at least is following the general principle that the press shouldn't knuckle under to the government, which is, after all the reason for the confidentiality rule in the first place.

Novak hasn't upheld anything at all. He's almost certainly given up his sources and also refused to answer questions. He is being totally unprincipled. It's left him open to being called a hack and a liar and he's restrained from responding by his "legal strategy." It's clearly driving him crazy. And that leads me to believe that his lawyers know that there is a grave danger that if Bob keeps talking he's going to find himself in a big heap of trouble.

It's possible that Novak wrote something he shouldn't have in that column on Monday. Not knowing what he's told the authorities I don't know specifically what it said that would be cause for worry but Bob is clearly having a very hard time with the fact that he is not allowed to spin his way out of this defend himself :

Though frustrated, I have followed the advice of my attorneys and written almost nothing about the CIA leak over two years because of a criminal investigation by a federal special prosecutor. The lawyers also urged me not to write this. But the allegation against me is so patently incorrect and so abuses my integrity as a journalist that I feel constrained to reply.

Again, why would Novak have to be so careful? He's not covered under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act nor is he really prohibited from publishing classified information. His only reason for having to be so cautious is because he either has an immunity deal with the prosecution, which I sincerely doubt, or his lawyers believe that Fitzgerald thinks he may have lied to the authorities or obstructed justice.

Based on his meager public statements alone you can easily see why Fitzgerald would have ample reason to suspect him of participating in a cover-up. He's been changing his story from day one. In his original column he said that Wilson was a fine, well qualified non-partisan, ex-diplomat and that the administration had told him that his wife suggested him for the mission. He explained a few days later, "I didn't dig it out -- they gave it to me --- they thought it was significant." Shortly thereafter, he changed his story and wrote that it had been just an "off-hand remark" in the midst of another conversation. Then when the justice department began its investigation he said he pursued the story because he was "curious" as to why a partisan Democrat like Joseph Wilson with no qualifications was sent on the mission --- a characterization that is entirely at odds with what he actually wrote.

You can see why his lawyers wanted him to shut up. He tends to draw suspicion on himself every time he opens his mouth. And let's not forget that Karl Rove and others, through their mouthpieces, have been using the same line with respect to other reporters like Cooper --- "it was an offhand comment." Indeed, the administration figures involved seem to want us to believe that they were just offhandedly mentioning this little factoid with no coordination or plan at all --- to a reported half dozen elite DC journalists. Robert Novak, contrary to his earlier statements and the tenor of his original piece, seemed to want to enthusiastically back that up and imply that he was independently pursuing the story of the partisan democrat Joe Wilson's trip all on his own. How very convenient.

And there is another aspect to this story as well. Novak seems to have finally lost the protective insular cloak of the celebrity proess corps brotherhood. But that doesn't abslove them of their absurd silence all these months.

It is one thing for a reporter to withhold the names of his sources. It is quite another for a reporter to withhold information from the public to protect each other. But this case has shown in numerous ways that the press feels perfectly comfortable trafficking in gossip about a president's sex life --- and funneling that gossip through the foreign press and back to sleaze sites like Drudge in order to "get it out there." But they have been remarkably willing to stay silent when their "stars" are involved in a legal tangle.

That's one big reason why this ridiculous spectacle of Bob Novak and Tim Russert and Judith Miller the rest of these guys, who clearly have pertinent information, has been played out for two years as kabuki while the rest of us keep scratching our heads and wondering why they don't just tell us what they know.

Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei changed the dynamic last week when they printed Bill Harlow's comments about Novak. Novak lost his composure, both in print and then on television. He is a spoiled DC elder who believes that he is above the petty humiliations and character assassination he deals every day to politicians of whom he disapproves. He can't believe that he has to sit back and let people trash his reputation while he's constrained from responding by the possibility of legal consequences. Poor baby. Maybe he ought to spend some time in jail reading some of his columns and reviewing tapes of his Crossfire and Capital Gang appearances in which he ruthlessly destroyed Democrats for the last 40 years. Maybe he could write a novel about his experiences on the other side of the fence --- where Bob Novak is subjected to ... Bob Novak.

Update: Mark Leon Goldberg at TAPPED has a delicious little piece of speculation about Novak's "cooperation" and his little temper tantrum yesterday:

Picking up on what Atrios hints at, if James Carville was engaging in some privy, insider goading when he told Robert Novak that he has to “show the right wingers that you are a stand-up guy, and The Wall Street Journal is watching your every move,” does that suggest that Novak already named names? If so, is the VRWC silently sharpening their knives in the event that Novak's spilled the beans? Will they sacrifice one of their own?


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Leaning On The Bulldog

Josh Marshall wonders why Novak would have stomped off the set just because Ed Henry was planning to ask him about Plamegate (if that's why he did it.) After all, Novak's been successfully fending off questions about this for two years now.

I think he might be a little bit prickly because he didn't want it generally known that his most recent column used false information not generated this time by "senior white house officials" but from a discredited cockheaded man-ho. Check out Peter Daou's full report on the Gannon "expose" that Novak used as proof that the Kerry campaign "discarded" Joe Wilson.

It seems to me that it's possible the mean old man just didn't want to face the fact that he is a has-been journalist as well as a Republican hack who's outlived his usefulness. Retirement must be looking pretty good.

Just Shut Up

Bayh said there are legitimate grounds to criticize
President Bush's approach to fighting terrorism, but until Democrats establish more credibility on the issue, many voters won't listen.

"Many Americans wonder if we're willing to use force to defend the country even under the most compelling of circumstances," Bayh said. "The majority of Democrats would answer that question that, yes, there is a right place and a right time. We don't get to have that discussion because many people don't think we have the backbone."

And the best way to deal with that is to vigorously endorse whatever insane, bullshit war the Republicans want to wage. Because it's worked out so well so far.

In a major victory for the White House, the Senate early Friday voted 77-23 to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq if Saddam Hussein refuses to give up weapons of mass destruction as required by U.N. resolutions.

The president praised the congressional action, declaring "America speaks with one voice."

I guess even though more than half the Democrats signed on to that cock-up, we still should have been even more enthusiastically running off the cliff with old George. What utter nonsense. If DLCer Evan Bayh thinks that we'll build credibility on national security by screaming "War On Terror" louder and shriller than the Republicans, he's nuts. Even they know that slogan has outlived its usefulness.

Might I suggest that the reason Democrats have no credibility on national security is not because we allegedly refuse to defend the country, but because bedwetters like Evan Bayh run all over the country validating the Republican's patented talking points that Democrats refuse to defend the country?

It's true that the American people think we have no backbone. But let's just say the reasons have less to do with our national security policy and more to do with our leadership. We will have credibility on national security when we have a credible national security policy --- and when we show the country that we aren't so afraid of Tom DeLay and Karl Rove that we'll scurry to the front of the line to sign up every time they say boo.

Sensitive Little Creatures

This is best reason yet to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Speaking of which... via Crooks and Liars I see that both Little Ricky and Novakula had hissy fits on the air today. Ricky resorted to gay bashing right away. I suspect that Novakula will be buying himself a nice new SUV very soon.

Waiting To Exhale

Via Talk Left, I see that Murray Waas and Joe Wilson were on Democracy Now. Waas obviously has some informed contacts and he said a couple of things that caught my eye:

MURRAY WAAS: Fitzgerald keeps his cards close to his vest. There was some interesting action in the last couple days before the Grand Jury. Two of Karl Rove's aides came before the Grand Jury, an assistant and another top aide. We're not sure what they said. We're not sure why they were called. But that would indicate some intensification or moving toward some kind of closure, which way is a little bit difficult to tell, but Fitzgerald does seem stymied still by the lack of testimony by Judith Miller.


So, we're not sure exactly where things are going. One other interesting possibility, if there isn't -- if there aren’t indictments brought, there is the option for special prosecutors to issue a public report. So, Fitzgerald can potentially put out everything that he knows in the public record. But he is kind of a man who is impervious to public opinion, who doesn't see his role necessarily as one of informing public opinion, but simply prosecuting crimes. So, he has had discussions with people in the Department of Justice, and some people have urged him to take that course, but we hope we can find out what actually happened here. If there are indictments, there would be trials, and if there were no indictments, because the evidence doesn't reach a level beyond a reasonable doubt to bring people to trial, that maybe there would be a public report. And lastly, interestingly, there's a movement by Nancy Pelosi, the majority leader -- Democratic leader in the House now, to get behind a Democratic resolution of inquiry by Congress to get to the bottom of this, when Fitzgerald is all done. So hopefully someday we'll learn the truth, we’ll learn all of the facts.

I can't tell you how much it's going to chap my hide to see Karl Rove and his buddies skate because Judith Miller is covering for them. After watching them willfully and credulously print every smear that scumbags like David Bossie could dream up about Bill Clinton, the NY Times makes a fetish of protecting the Bush administration. Our paper of record has seriously lost its way. It is now little more than a Republican plaything; its reputation is being used as a vehicle to mislead the public; its ethics and standards are being manipulated to cover up corruption. Something is very rotten at the Grey Lady. (Here's Gene Lyons' latest take on the matter. He's an expert in the perfidy of the NY Times.)

And I think we know why the republicans are being very ginger in their treatment of Fitzgerald and why Senator Pat Roberts backed off his threat to hold hearings about the investigation. They don't want to piss Fitzgerald off and force him to offer a public report in order to clear his own reputation.

Everybody's sitting tight.

Update: I see that Talk Left has yet another post on this matter in which she wonders why (Rove's lawyer)Donald Luskin is no longer talking and speculates that his law partner Benjamin Ginsberg might be involved:

Is Ginsberg serving as an ex-officio, behind the scene counsel to Rove? Don't forget, Ginsberg both represented the Bush campaign during the 2000 Florida recount and served as counsel to the Bush 2004 re-election campaign.

I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised. The post links to an interesting interview in Legal Times with Richard Sauber, Matt Cooper's lawyer:

LT: From all that you've heard and all of the people you have spoken to, what do you think Fitzgerald is aiming for?

RS: I spent a lot of time on the phone [with Fitzgerald] and in person. He was so careful not to give away anything -- even with body language -- any indication of what he was looking at or where he was going. It was quite astonishing how uncommunicative he was. So the short answer is, I don't know.

But the only clue is that he submitted some fairly extensive material under seal. Every judge who has commented on that [has said] how impressive the showing is and how important this case is to national security. All I can surmise is that he has a substantial amount of evidence to continue a fairly robust investigation. And it does involve classified material.

This Fitzgerald is a machine, isn't he?