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Tuesday, November 22, 2005


by digby

FOX News is refusing to air an ad critical of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, citing its lawyers' contention that the spot is factually incorrect.

Factually incorrect?


Monday, November 21, 2005

Holding Their Feet To The Fire

Bob Woodward seems to think that he's been tough on the Bush administration:

WOODWARD: But you know, I would never compromise. You know, if I may, I brought some headlines in "The Washington Post." These -- do these make any sense?

KING: Hold them up a little.


KING: So we can read them.

WOODWARD: This is -- yes, OK. This is November 2002 before -- as the Bush -- word came out about the war in Afghanistan. "A Struggle for the President's Heart and Mind." Struggle. It explains in great detail how Powell had different positions, there was a mass tension and difficulties in the war council. Let's see. This is the second part of that series. "Doubts and Debates Before Victory over the Taliban." Doubts and debate. Now, anyone who knows anything about the Bush administration, they'd rather keep doubts and debate off stage. I bring them on stage in this book.

I've -- you know, I don't want to go on, but "The New York Times," front page, when the book, "Plan of Attack," came out last year, "Airing of Powell's Misgivings Tests Cabinet Ties" and the book jolted the White House and aggravating long festering tensions in the Bush cabinet.

"Airing of Powell's misgivings." "Doubts and Debate before Victory." Man, that must have really freaked out the White House!

The Bushies never gave a shit about Powell and they were thrilled to portray Commander Codpiece treating the great General like a lackey. It's quite clear that Woodward doesn't understand why he is given all that access.

Send In The Lobster

War-room spinners also hope to highlight whatever good news there is to be found in Iraq, and which, they say, doesn't make its way into the American media. They recently dispatched one of their best operatives, Steve Schmidt (no relation to the Ohio congresswoman), to Baghdad to look for ways generate positive press. His answer: build better relations with the reporters. But they may be preoccupied these days by the need to dodge terrorist attacks on their hotels.

I wonder why they haven't gone back to the tried and true. Via Somerby, here's Margaret Carlson talking about her time with the Bush campaign:

“There were Dove bars and designer water on demand,” she recalls, “and a bathroom stocked like Martha Stewart’s guest suite. Dinner at seven featured lobster ravioli.”

It wouldn't hurt for the administration to send over some Dove bars. It bought them oodles of good coverage in 2000.

Stuck In Their Groove

It's amazing how the media gets stuck on certain narratives and how hard it is for them to change. On Hardball today, Matthews had on Charlie Cook and Stewart Rothenberg, both of whom are non-partisan, clear thinking political analysts. Chris began by bringing up the president's low poll ratings, the trouble the Republicans are having on the war, the bad press and all of it. Within minutes, as always happens on these shows, they were dissecting the deep, intractable problems .... with the Democrats.

Rothenberg, to his credit, did bring up that it wasn't actually necessary for the Democrats to have a single message right now since we are a year from the elections and the Republicans are imploding. This led to a discussion of how the Democrats are the captive of special interests.

It's clear that the gasbags haven't yet developed a vocabulary or a framework from which to describe and understand the new political reality. Matthews, in particular, can't wrap his arms aroud the idea that the Republicans are tanking. He compared Bush to Henry the Fifth today (yup) and got all brow furrowed and confused trying to understand how it could happen that Bush is so unpopular.

This is something that the elite media and the Bush administration have in common. They can't adjust to changing circumstances. Once their narrative/gameplan/talking points are set, you have to pry them out of their brains with a crowbar.

I hope that Democrats are prepared for the fact that they are going to have to wage the 06 election as if they are 30 points down and Bush is still astride his destrier cutting a swathe through every competitive district in the country. No matter how low he goes in the polls, or how much the public is disgruntled with republican rule, the media are going to portray the Democrats as even worse. We'll have to win a few "surprises" before they can adjust their plot line.

Genie In A Bottle

by digby

Nobody is going to ask me who should be hired at The New York Times to replace Judith Miller, but if they did I would say that they should hire the best and most unsung national security reporter in the country --- Jason Vest. If you are unfamiliar with his work, do yourself a favor and have Mr Google look him up. He's a real reporter, not a stenographer, but he also has an impressive interest and grasp of the history of various groups, cabals and individuals who make up the current national security establishment and the Bush administration. And lo and behold, he actually writes about them. This is a huge key to understanding these otherwise inexplicable people and their motives. I highly recommend that you read his pieces wherever they come up and I will continue to bring them to your attention.

Today, he has written a piece on torture for the National Journal that is fascinating because he's spoken to old guard CIA who have had some experience with this stuff in the past. They all agree that the moral dimension is huge, but there are good practical reasons for not doing it as well. These range from the difficulty in getting allies to cooperate because of their distaste for such methods to the fact that the information is unreliable.

But the thing I found most interesting is the observation that it does something quite horrible to the perpetrators as well as the victims:

"If you talk to people who have been tortured, that gives you a pretty good idea not only as to what it does to them, but what it does to the people who do it," he said. "One of my main objections to torture is what it does to the guys who actually inflict the torture. It does bad things. I have talked to a bunch of people who had been tortured who, when they talked to me, would tell me things they had not told their torturers, and I would ask, 'Why didn't you tell that to the guys who were torturing you?' They said that their torturers got so involved that they didn't even bother to ask questions." Ultimately, he said -- echoing Gerber's comments -- "torture becomes an end unto itself."


According to a 30-year CIA veteran currently working for the agency on contract, there is, in fact, some precedent showing that the "gloves-off" approach works -- but it was hotly debated at the time by those who knew about it, and shouldn't be emulated today. "I have been privy to some of what's going on now, but when I saw the Post story, I said to myself, 'The agency deserves every bad thing that's going to happen to it if it is doing this again,'" he said. "In the early 1980s, we did something like this in Lebanon -- technically, the facilities were run by our Christian Maronite allies, but they were really ours, and we had personnel doing the interrogations," he said. "I don't know how much violence was used -- it was really more putting people in underground rooms with a bare bulb for a long time, and for a certain kind of privileged person not used to that, that and some slapping around can be effective.

"But here's the important thing: When orders were given for that operation to stand down, some of the people involved wouldn't [emphasis mine --ed]. Disciplinary action was taken, but it brought us back to an argument in the agency that's never been settled, one that crops up and goes away -- do you fight the enemy in the gutter, the same way, or maintain some kind of moral high ground?

To some extent civilization is nothing more than leashing the beast within. When you go to the dark side, no matter what the motives, you run a terrible risk of destroying yourself in the process. I worry about the men and women who are engaging in this torture regime. This is dangerous to their psyches. But this is true on a larger sociological scale as well. For many, many moons, torture has been a simple taboo --- you didn't question its immorality any more than you would question the immorality of pedophilia. You know that it's wrong on a visceral, gut level. Now we are debating it as if there really is a question as to whether it's immoral --- and, more shockingly, whether it's a positive good. Our country is now openly discussing the efficacy of torture as a method for extracting information.

When Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the phrase "defining deviancy down" he couldn't ever have dreamed that we would in a few short decades be at a place where torture is no longer considered a taboo. It certainly makes all of his concerns about changes to the nuclear family (and oral sex) seem trivial by comparison. We are now a society that on some official levels has decided that torture is no longer a deviant, unspeakable behavior, but rather a useful tool. It's not hidden. People publicly discuss whether torture is really torture if it features less than "pain equavalent to organ failure." People no longer instinctively recoil at the word --- it has become a launching pad for vigorous debate about whether people are deserving of certain universal human rights. It spirals down from there.

When the smoke finally clears, and we can see past that dramatic day on 9/11 and put the threat of islamic fundamentalism into its proper perspective, I wonder if we'll be able to go back to our old ethical framework? I'm not so sure we will even want to. It's not that it changed us so much as it revealed us, I think. A society that can so easily discard it's legal and ethical taboos against cruelty and barbarism, is an unstable society to begin with.

At this rather late stage in life, I'm realizing that the solid America I thought I knew may never have existed. Running very close, under the surface, was a frightened, somewhat hysterical culture that could lose its civilized moorings all at once. I had naively thought that there were some things that Americans would find unthinkable --- torture was one of them.

The old Lebanon hand that Vest quotes above concludes by saying this:

I think as late as a decade ago, there were enough of us around who had enough experience to constitute the majority view, which was that this was simply not the way we did business, and for good reasons of practicality or morality. It's not just about what it does or doesn't do, but about who, and where, we as a country want to be."

Now that we've let the torture genie out of the bottle, I wonder if we can put that beast back in. He looks and sounds an awful lot like an American.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

The War Marketeer

by digby

A lot of people are linking to this fascinating Rolling Stone article on John Rendon, king of wartime propaganda. I've written extensively about the Office of Global Communications and the WHIG, but I didn't know that Rendon was involved. I should have. It's exactly his kind of gig.

I became aware of Rendon after Gulf War I, when it was revealed that he had had a big hand in "shaping the debate." But it shouldn't be assumed that he was the only PR firm involved in such things. Many of you will remember that none other PR giant Hill and Knowlton orchestrated one of the most amazing examples of prowar flackery ever documented:

... nothing quite compared to H&K's now infamous "baby atrocities" campaign. After convening a number of focus groups to try to figure out which buttons to press to make the public respond, H&K determined that presentations involving the mistreatment of infants, a tactic drawn straight from W.R. Hearst's playbook of the Spanish-American War, got the best reaction. So on October 10, 1990, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a hearing on Capitol Hill at which H&K, in coordination with California Democrat Tom Lantos and Illinois Republican John Porter, introduced a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl named Nayirah. (Purportedly to safeguard against Iraqi reprisals, Nayirah's full name was not disclosed.) Weeping and shaking, the girl described a horrifying scene in Kuwait City. "I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital," she testified. "While I was there I saw the Iraqi soldiers coming into the hospital with guns and going into the room where 15 babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die." Allegedly, 312 infants were removed.

The tale got wide circulation, even winding up on the floor of the United Nations Security Council. Before Congress gave the green light to go to war, seven of the main pro-war senators brought up the baby-incubator allegations as a major component of their argument for passing the resolution to unleash the bombers. Ultimately, the motion for war passed by a narrow five-vote margin.

Only later was it discovered that the testimony was untrue. H&K had failed to reveal that Nayirah was not only a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, but also that her father, Saud Nasir al-Sabah, was Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S. H&K had prepped Nayirah in her presentation, according to Harper's publisher John R. MacArthur's book Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. Of the seven other witnesses who stepped up to the podium that day, five had been prepped by H&K and had used false names. When human rights organizations investigated later, they could not find that Nayirah had any connection to the hospital. Amnesty International, among those originally duped, eventually issued an embarrassing retraction.

They hate us because we're so good. God bless America.

All Leaks Are Created Equal

by digby

This essay in today's LA Times makes my head hurt. It's by a professor of media studies and history at Rutgers and it is called "Attack secrets, not leaks:"

As a critic of both the Iraq war and the administration's political ruthlessness, I appreciate the satisfaction of seeing a White House operative nabbed for what seems like petty revenge. As a former and still-occasional journalist, I agree with the criticisms of Miller's credulous prewar reporting, which helped legitimize claims that Saddam Hussein posed a danger to the United States. As a former assistant (and still a friend) to Woodward, I've often heard the rap that he's too close to those in power.

However, I also believe that the frame that the news media have used for presenting this story is badly warped.

Instead of dwelling on horse-race details about who leaked what to whom and when, pundits should be debating the fundamental issue: Should leaking be criminalized in the first place? Instead of cheering the Plame investigation and vilifying the reporters caught in its web, we should be deploring the probe and applauding the reporters for gaining access to classified material, however ugly the leakers' motives.

I understand this principle. If you "criminalize" leaks then people will stop leaking and the public will be less informed. But that principle exists to serve the far more important principle of the public's right to know. That is what has become badly warped.

Why in the world should we applaud reporters for getting access to classified material but not writing a story about the powerful government leakers who leaked that classified information in order to obscure the facts and hide the truth? I'm not crying for Plame (although I think it's a traitorous act to cavalierly expose a WMD specialist for petty reasons at a time like this.) What I'm interested in is the fact that the executive branch used classified information to secretly discredit a critic and the press doesn't understand that withholding that story, not the identities of those who did it, is outrageous and worthy of condemnation.

The Fitzgerald probe is a peculiarity that is merely shining a light on a common practice among insiders that they clearly don't understand is wrong. In the case of both Miller and Woodward, they wrote nothing about the case until they were forced by the law and their lameass, tardy editors. Their protection of their sources actually superceded their larger obligation to inform the public. This happened throughout this saga to greater and lesser degress, wherein a number of reporters gave lawyerly answers and talked about the case as if they didn't know the answers to the questions they were asking, acting the part of journalist instead of actually being journalists. As I wrote earlier, as far as I can tell, Matt Cooper (and I should add, Knut Royce and Tim Phelps) were the only ones who actually understood what the story was.

Nobody is saying that they should have revealed the names of their sources, but they damned well should have revealed the substance of their conversations with those sources. Moreover they should have revealed to the public that the administration was using underhanded methods to discredit a critic. The fact Woodward and Miller (and others) wrote no stories is not a reason to excuse them --- it's the main reason to condemn them.

We hear a lot of whining about how they didn't write stories because they didn't want to be subpoenaed or the prosecutor asked them not to say anything (which is a genuinely baffling genuflect to government power.) I feel their pain, but that is the chance they take when they traffic in classified information. Their job is a risky business and while I'm sure they hope they aren't going to have to face a prosecutor for it, it's always got to be in the back of their mind that it could happen. The government tries to keep secrets and the press tries to dig them out.

Surely, everyone can see where that breaks down in this story, right? The idea that the "ugly motives" of government officials is irrelevant is preposterous in this case. The first question should have been, why is the powerful Scooter telling me this on backround? Why isn't the president's right hand man Rove saying this on the record? Would George Bush fire them if he knew they were revealing this information? If it's relevant to Wilson's report and casts doubt on his credibility, why aren't they saying this publicly?

There are only two possible reasons that Libby, Rove and the other leakers would not go on the record. The first is that they knew Plame's status was classified. The second is that they were trying to smear Wilson and didn't want the public to know that. Either way, reporters should have understood they were being used by powerful forces to obscure the truth, not reveal it.

There is no legitimate reason for a top administration official to anonymously leak classified information to support the administration's position. You can see a case in which a top official would legitimately leak classified information to cast doubt on the administration's policy with which he disagrees, but not the other way around. The executive branch classifies information in the first place, presumably because it's not supposed to be public. If they feel that the information is important and necessary to make public in order to support their policy, they can declassify it, call a press conference, give an interview, write a paper. Or they can shut up and find another way to advance their position. What they shouldn't be able to do is have it both ways --- use classified information to wage turf wars or discredit administration critics by having the press cover their asses. And yet that's what happened. Top members of the Bush administration know they can get away with this because they believe that the chumps in the press will even go to jail rather than reveal their dirty deeds (which they went to great pains to remind the press to do.) That is "up is downism" taken to an extreme.

I agree that it's not the job of the journalist to worry about the legal ramifications for Rove and Libby. Reporters are in the business of reporting classified information if it is in the public interest. (See: Pentagon Papers) However, reporters are not supposed to be in the business of advancing the administration's position through this means. That is an abuse of confidentiality. The highest level of government has both the power and the responsibility to debate its critics openly and honestly. If they refuse to do that, the press shouldn't do it for them behind a shield of anonymity. It subverts democracy.

Rove and Libby (and the others) may not have anonymously leaked because they knew Plame's status was classified. It is just as likely that they did it for the same reason they always do --- they were playing dirty pool and didn't want to attach their names to it. This is what all these jaded members of the beltway refer to as "hardball politics." And like hundreds of examples before this, the press docilely went along in order to preserve its access.

The reporter's privilege is a means to an end, not the end in itself. It exists to serve the public's right to know. And yet in this case, as in so many others in recent years, it's been used to obscure the truth, spin the facts, serve the powerful to the detriment of the public.

To pretend that motives don't matter, that all sources are equal, that it doesn't matter if a source lies or uses the reporter as a cover for unethical behavior, is to devalue the principle until it has no meaning. Apparently, many of the elite media are so "entangled" with their sources and so inured to dirty politics that they can't see this.

For the press to shield immensely powerful individuals from being responsible for these actions stands the entire principle underlying the reporter's grant of confidentiality on its head. The point of it is to allow people to criticize their government without fear of professional reprisals, not so that powerful government officials can discredit their critics without fear of public reprisals.

Occam's Leak

by digby

Emptywheel at the Last Hurrah and Jane and ReddHedd at Firedoglake both have lengthy and interesting speculation on Woodward for the Plame obsessed among you.

I would only add that this morning it sounded as if the courtiers, as represented on the Stephanopoulos circle jerk and Newsweak, have decided that the source is Richard Armitage.

If this is so (and it may very well be --- Armitage was a major souce for "Plan of Attack") it doesn't impact Libby's legal case but it changes the focus of the narrative a bit. We have been operating under the assumption that the leak was coordinated directly out of Cheney's office, with some help from the WHIG, which included Karl Rove and Stephen Hadley. If Armitage was telling Woodward about Plame as "idle gossip" in a conversation at the State Department, the Bush apologists (and the elite media --- for different reasons) will call that coordinated leak scenario into question.

If it does turn out to be Armitage, regardless of the political implications, I think that it's actually quite likely that the Woodward leak probably happened just as he describes it --- passing on idle gossip. Via Talk Left's excellent rundown of the Armitage theory, we have an article from The LA Times last August that discusses Armitage's access to the information:

After a June 12 Washington Post story made reference to the Niger uranium inquiry, Armitage asked intelligence officers in the State Department for more information. He was forwarded a copy of a memo classified "Secret" that included a description of Wilson's trip for the CIA, his findings, a brief description of the origin of the trip and a reference to "Wilson's wife."

The memo was kept in a safe at the State Department along with notes from an analyst who attended the CIA meeting at which Wilson was suggested for the Niger assignment. Those with top security clearance at State, like their counterparts in the White House, had been trained in the rules about classified information. They could not be shared with anyone who did not have the same clearance.

Less than a month later, Wilson went public with his charges. The next day, July 7, this memo and the notes were removed from the safe and forwarded to Powell via a secure fax line to Air Force One. Powell was on the way to Africa with the president, and his aides knew the secretary would be getting questions.

Woodward says he had the conversation with his source in mid-June, so it fits that Armitage might have recently read this memo and shared the insider info with Woodward. The Bush administration observed no rules, as far as I can tell, about classified information when it came to Bob Woodward. It explains why Woodward would have been so adament about this not being anything more than idle gossip, because that's exactly how he heard it from his pal Dick. According to the article, that Armitage memo didn't leave the safe until Wilson went public so it could have easily been just a delicious tittilating tidbit Armitage threw out there, not realizing where this story was going. (Powerful administration sources discussing classified matters under the caveat that they must never reveal the information is apparently so common in DC now that reporters don't even understand what's wrong with it.)

If my simple scenario is true, then the wingnuts will claim that it proves there was no coordinated leak. If others in the Bush administration were gossiping about this then it wasn't a smear job at all, just simple socializing around the water cooler. This is, of course, nonsense. It would only mean that Woodward and Armitage were socializing around the water cooler (on deep backround.) We already know that Libby and Rove, on the other hand, were rabid dogs working overtime to discredit the CIA (Libby) and destroy "a Democrat" (Rove )through underhanded leaks and then lying about it under oath. One doesn't necessarily affect the other.

If Armitage was Novak's source as well, which Newsweak claims, then Occam's Leak doesn't apply. It's not believable that Armitage would have casually gossipped about this to both reporters. I'll withhold judgment until I see any evidence besides Isikoff's observation that Armitage isn't a "partisan gunsliger" to back that up.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

All In The Family

by digby

Bruce Reed writes:

Back in August, when George W. Bush crossed the Mendoza Line with a disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll of 56 percent, he still had four men left to pass for the title of most unpopular president in modern history: Jimmy Carter (59 percent), George H. W. Bush (60 percent) Richard Nixon (66 percent), and Harry Truman (67 percent). I predicted that the way things were going, he could speed past Carter and Bush 41 "within the next month."

I was wrong—it took the president two months.This week's Gallup puts his disapproval at 60 percent, which means father and son share third place on the all-time list. Bush 43 always said he learned an important political lesson from Bush 41, and now we know what it was: Don't hit bottom too early. If you're going to be the third-most unpopular president, do it in your second term, so you have some time to stop and smell the Rose Garden.

It's an awesome achievement for one family to produce two of the four most unpopular presidents in modern times. If there were a Mount Rushmore for rejection, the Bushes would have half the place to themselves.

If I had an advanced degree from Ratfucking U, the minute that Bush announces his election year phony drawdown I'd start the "Read My Lips - Not On My Watch" Bush Family Travelling band. Like father like son.

Report From Afghanistan

by tristero

RAWA - the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan - was one of the most vocal groups speaking out against the Taliban when no one was listening. Now, one of their members responds to the bromides being wholesaled by a Republican observer to the recent elections. Since those of us in the US have been fed news about Afghanistan that is entirely propaganda, these words probably will read as shrill, hysterical, and suspiciously "radical." I wish they were, but they are not. I followed international news reports pretty closely of the first Loya Jirga after the Taliban fell, the one which first "elected" Karzai. It was a total sham. The US did everything possible to undermine the proceedings, not that they would have been much less corrupt if the US had stayed away. And RAWA's description of the Northern Alliance, the drug farmers,the warlords, and the abuse of women's rights also jibes with numerous reports that fly under the radar of mainstream American news. And for all the suffering the Afghans have endured since what even The Nation described as the "just war" of invasion, the US failed to achieve its prime objective: Bring Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar to justice.
The US started the fracas by not replacing religious tyranny with democracy, by not relying on the people, but rather by siding with the NA, the very worst enemies of our people. It goes without saying that Afghans will not see as their “liberators” those who drove the Taliban wolves through one door and unchained the rabid dogs of the NA through another. How a nation “sees as liberators” those who have blown to shred not the terrorists but thousands of innocents? How can simple Afghans “see Americans as liberators” while the “liberators” are going to woo their men in the government and in the parliament to approve the establishment of the US bases on our soil for decades, which obviously goes contrary to the independence of the country? Our people say that if Americans were their liberators, they should have not allowed about 200 criminals and arch enemies of democracy to pave their way to the parliament and provincial council. After four years the people see that the “liberators'” promises for them were all lies. And bear it in mind, Ms. Tebelius, that our ruined people have no doubt that those with the disgraceful stories of Abu Ghraib cannot be their “liberators”. Do we need to recite abuses of the “liberators” in Afghanistan?


After 9/11 when the U.S. resorted to bomb our wounded country and take the lives of several thousands innocent civilians it helped the bloodthirsty NA seize power. The NA is comprised of those millionaire rapists busy in the opium trade under the very nose of the US troops. They are the people behind the insecurity, kidnappings, embezzlement of billions of dollars of foreign aids, injustices, anti-women constraints, covering up of the day light murders, and so on and so forth.

They include the likes of Dr Abdullah, Younis Qanooni, Zia Massud, Karim Khalili, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mohaqiq, Sarwar Danish, Ms. Mosouda Jalal, Nematullah Shahrani, Ismail Khan, Ms. Sediqa Balkhi, Rasul Sayyaf, Ikram Masoomi, Rashid Dostum, Mullah Fazil Hadi Shinwari, Ms. Amena Afzali and others are stained with the blood of tens of thousands of Kabul residents. All of these ladies and gentlemen have the disgraceful scar of inhuman brutalities against our people in the blackest years of 1992-1996. They are “our” ministers, vice presidents and advisors to the president. Most of the Afghan ambassadors, governors, secretaries and other high ranking officials are also affiliated with NA mafia.


It is not difficult to predict what will be the result of the “miracle” election about which you take comfort. A parliament filled with the most cruel, misogynist, anti-democracy, and reactionary fundamentalists headed by such disgusting drug traders as Sayyaf, Qanoni, Rabbani, Mohaqqiq, Pairam Qul, Hazrat Ali, and their likes. These U.S. backed religious fascists will never “spread democracy”, but rather try to “legitimate” and perpetuate their bloody domination on our people by sitting in the legislature as “lawmakers”.

Ms. Tebelius, anybody who wants to be regarded as a friend of the people of Afghanistan and not of the present regime, she/he has to expose the fundamentalists and their dangerous agenda and avoid to dance to the tune of the US government or its blue-eyed boys in Afghanistan. As Aldous Huxley wrote, “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human”. Please don’t play the role of a propagandist.

Moreover by naming the most scandalous elections in the world “the miracle of Afghanistan”, you have insulted millions of Afghans who didn’t vote for the murderers of their beloved ones. Can’t you feel how painful and disgusting it is to propagate such nonsense?
Update: Jen in comments linked to these beautiful pictures of Afghanistan. It certainly is one of the most photogenic countries in the world.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dear God

by digby

Half of those surveyed said President George W. Bush was right to suggest that "intelligent design" -- the notion that God played a role in evolution -- be taught alongside Charles's Darwin's theory in public schools while 37 percent thought he was wrong to do so.

The Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll found that 69 percent agreed that "evolution is what most scientists believe, so it should be taught in public science classes." Twenty percent said they believe "scientists are wrong, so evolution should not be taught" while 11 percent suggested teaching both views or were undecided.

Just 23 percent of those surveyed said "humans evolved from other animal species through natural selection" while 54 percent said they believe "God created the universe and humans in a six-day period," Seventeen percent said "God caused humans to evolve from other species." Six percent were undecided, the Cincinnati Post, a Scripps Howard paper, reported.

A sizeable majority believe that the earth was literally created in six days. But they also think that kids should be taught "what most scientists believe" even though they don't believe it themselves. Huh?

And only 11% think that ID should be taught alongside evolution but 50% think the president was right to suggest that it should be.

We are obviously dealing with a very confused public on this subject. I think the way to deal with this may be to take a positive stand for teaching comparative religion in public schools. That may just satisfy the majority who clearly don't want to say they believe in evolution but know in their hearts that their kids need to understand it if they don't want to be mullet-headed morons unable to function in modern society.

I took comparitive religion in high school and it was a very interesting class --- not to mention a really easy A. I'm sure the kids would get behind this too.

Hawks Fly Away

by digby

Kevin at Catch reads Little Green Footballs so I don't have to poke my eyes out with an ice pick:

Has anyone here tried to phone, e-mail, fax, or otherwise contact the political slut, John "the coward" Murtha? You, know, the maggot who is being quoted by Al-Jazeera (see nationalreview.com)? I have attempted to call this creature since last night (phone still busy), fax him (busy yesterday and today), and he does not accept e-mails from people outside of his district. This man is a tumor, a slime, a piece of shit and I don't give a DAMN that he served in Vietnam! My Dad served in Korea, my father-in-law in Vietnam, and my cousin in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite their courage and service, NONE of them can tell me (who has not served) or any other American citizen that I cannot hold an opinion regarding US-based military operations. Murtha, GO FUCK YOURSELF!

Somebody needs a nap. The Republican caucus needs a nap too. Mean Jean Schmidt called John Murtha a coward on the House floor and then had to withdraw her remarks. As we speak they are staging a strange enraged kabuki vote supposedly designed to embarrass the Democrats. And according to Roll Call they are going to go after Murtha on ethics:

Republicans acknowledge that Murtha's Iraq statement — coming from a Member with strong military credentials — is driving their renewed focus on the ethics questions surrounding the veteran Democratic lawmaker.

"It strikes at the heart of his credibility on [military] issues," said the GOP lawmaker. "He's put himself on the frontline."

Murtha's statement has completely driven them round the bend, from LGFers to members of congress. It's interesting because it's not like others haven't been saying this stuff. He's just one congressman from Pennsylvania. Why all the drama? I think it's because he symbolizes a particular constituent --- the war hawk who recognizes that we aren't winning and that the "war" is, in fact, unwinnable. They are suddenly sweating and agitated because they know that if they are losing guys like him, they are losing the whole enchilada.

Just Trying To Help

by digby

So it was Woodward who picked up the phone after Fitzgerald's press conference and reminded his White House insider source that, contrary to Fitzgeralds apparent belief that Libby was the first to spill the beans to a reporter, the source had told Woodward about Plame sometime earlier.

In his press conference announcing Libby’s indictment, Fitzgerald noted that, "Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson." Woodward realized, given that the indictment stated Libby disclosed the information to New York Times reporter Miller on June 23, that Libby was not the first official to talk about Wilson's wife to a reporter. Woodward himself had received the information earlier.

According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me [about Wilson's wife] in mid-June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid-June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor. I said, 'If you do, am I released?'", referring to the confidentiality agreement between the two. The source said yes, but only for purposes of discussing it with Fitzgerald, not for publication.

Kevin Drum wonders why Woodward would do such a thing since it doesn't legally impact Libby's case. My guess is that he and his source thought it would impact the Libby case and that they were consciously tripping up the shameful junkyard dog prosecutor. After all, the entire DC press corps dutifully reported that it had tripped up Fitzgerald when it was revealed --- even though it didn't.

Woodward believed that Fitzgerald was on a Ken Starr fishing expedition:

Woodward expressed some surprise that Fitzgerald hadn't contacted him earlier in the probe, but had high praise for the prosecutor whose investigation he has openly criticized on television. During his time with the prosecutor, Woodward said, he found Fitzgerald "incredibly sensitive to what we do. He didn't infringe on my other reporting, which frankly surprised me. He said 'This is what I need, I don't need any more.'"

This should not have surprised him. Fitzgerald has not been reported to have coerced any journalists to talk about anything but the Plame case and within strict agreed upon limits (despite many of our fondest hopes.) Woodward thought he was out of control because he has been listening to administration spin. But then, that's what he does.

Churl Girl

by digby

I just had a very unpleasant experience. I watched Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd have the most fatuous discussion of gender and politics I've ever had the misfortune to witness. Don't cry for poor Maureen being taken to task for her shallow interpretation of modern sex roles. She deserves every bit of disapprobation she gets.

I knew that Matthews was a masculine virtues obsessed sexist, what with his endless carping about how Hillary comes off as cold and humorless and how real men will lie to their wives and say they support her but won't have the stomach to do the dirty deed when they get in the voting booth. I did not know that Maureen agreed with him.

Here was her adorable sign-off (approvingly quoting someone else) as Matthews drooled into his cuffs, making the point that women don't necessarily vote for women:

"Take 11 men and you get a football team. Take 11 women and you get a riot."

Dizzy broads. Next thing you know they'll be driving and everything.

Chicken Or The Egg

by digby

From FAIR:

During an interview with conservative MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, Wright responded to Carlson's question about offering a left-leaning channel by saying that progressives "don't listen to a lot of radio and they don't watch a lot of television" (Broadcasting & Cable, 11/13/05).

I don't know where he gets his information, but I suspect he's relying on some absurd stereotype. It's also likely that his impression that "the left" isn't relevant comes from the statistics that only 20% of the country identifies as liberal while everyone else is a moderate or a conservative. This is not true. That is branding, something a Network TV guy should know all about.

The Republicans have spent decades branding the word liberal (and now progressive) as bad and the word conservative as good. "Moderate" has become a default self-designation in situations where you don't want to carry the baggage of the GOP's demonization of the words liberal or progressive in public. (I've done it myself.) It is useless to use those words to designate anything of substance and I wish that people would even stop trying. Many people who think of themselves as moderate aren't and many people who think of themselves as liberal, progressive or conservative are actually moderates. These are value laden terms that have little actual function anymore. They mean too many different things. The only useful designations at this point are from voting patterns and party ID --- Democrat, Republican and Independent.

Considering the political divide as it really is, Bob Wright, the president of NBC News is saying that the 50% of the public who vote for the Democrats don't watch television or listen to the radio. That's ridiculous. The only logical explanation as to why "the left" doesn't watch his news programs is because they are dominated by screaming Republican shills.

I'm such a ridiculous political junkie, I even watch FOXNews. But if I didn't write this blog I wouldn't bother. I don't blame any Democratic voter for not tuning in --- it's like watching people from another planet most of the time.

This is why I'd like to call your attention to this diary over at Daily Kos by JustWinBaby that points out that Keith Olbermann's show is now the highest rated show on MSNBC. If you don't watch it already, give it a try. He's found the sweet spot between The Daily Show's fake news and the absurdity of the Real News. He tells the stories that need to be told --- and he understands the difference between humor and Rovian character assassination.

If Robert Wright is in the business of making money instead of kissing the GOP establishment's ass on behalf of GE, perhaps he will reevaluate his belief that "liberals don't watch TV" and see that there is a rather large cadre among the 50 million Democratic voters who are dying to see their politics well represented --- and the real stories of what's happening in our political system -- on television. Up until now all we've had is a choice of GOP fiction to choose from. Might as well watch the good looking actors instead of the ugly ones.

Missing The Story

by digby

This little chat with Len Downie from the Post this morning is far less revealing than the "water-cooler" message board of yesterday, but it's interesting in one respect. (Check out this excellent analysis of that embarrassing inside look at the WaPo social and professional hierarchy from Glen Greenwald.)

Downie does a great Scott McLellan impression by being robotically unresponsive, but nobody really asks the right question either. Woodward's public statements were egregious but not because he was stating his personal opinion and breaking the Washington Post's rules --- they were egregious because of the opinions themselves. It's clear that he's on the side of the social climbing tut-tutters like that mincing fop Richard Cohen:

COHEN: I‘ve said for a long time—I‘ve agreed with Bob on this. I didn‘t know why Bob was feeling so strongly about it.

But no matter what, it‘s a silly case—it‘s a silly case about nothing much and it‘s doing a lot of damage. I mean, you now have to worry about getting subpoenaed for doing routine reporting, you have to worry about your sources worrying that they‘re going to be revealed. It‘s done nobody any good.

The prosecutor didn‘t bring an indictment relating to the original underlying crime. It‘s an indictment about a cover-up. I mean, it‘s the Martha Stewart thing all over again. It‘s not the crime itself, it‘s not admitting to the crime or the alleged crime or whatever it is...

think in this case—I mean, maybe then I‘m as ignorant as the next guy, but I read that original Novak column and I said so. I didn‘t think a big deal about it. So she was a CIA operative. It didn‘t jump out at me that there was a possible violation of the law.

I think there were a lot of people in Washington, clearly there were a lot of people in Washington and at the White House who were saying, “Hey, if you really want to know why Wilson went to Africa, it was because his wife sent him.”

It seems to me routine dirty politics. It is what Washington does all the time.

Pittsburgh used to do steel; Washington does character assassination.

I'm surprised he didn't pull out a snuff box and take a big 'ol snort right there on TV. Not since Leona Helmsley have we seen such bored contempt for bourgeois notions like open government and honest political discourse. (Cohen agrees with his soul mate Karl Rove on that,by the way, who testified before the grand jury that "discrediting" Wilson with a full on character assassination was SOP.)

If politicians and the press want to know why they get no respect from the people, this is why. They openly defend dirty politics, pooh-pooh our outrage against it, and then expect us to look up to them.

Bob Woodward and Richard Cohen think that Fitzgerald is some sort of obsessed Javert chasing down the poor journalists and their sources over a little loaf of DC's staff of life --- the politics of personal destruction. To the rest of us, it's clear that the law is the only institution left capable of sorting out the truth now that the press and the politicians are so cozy that it literally takes a threat of jail to get journalists to report important stories about our most powerful leaders.

Bob Woodward very likely knew on the day that Novak revealed that Wilson's wife was CIA that this was a coordinated leak, not idle gossip. He most certainly knew that it was a coordinated leak when he found out that Libby and Rove had both "idly gossipped" about this to other reporters. Yet in his media appearances he made it quite clear that he believes that it was a trivial matter. I think we must take him at his word.

The elite press corps see the Nixonian dirty politics that have completely distorted our political discourse over the last 30 years as social currency. Swift-boating and McCain's black daughter and Linda Trip's tapes and Al Gore's suits are entertainment to them and the dissemination of this entertainment buys them access for what they think are their "serious" stories. We are told to just "get over" partisan impeachments, stolen elections and even lying about nuclear weapons.

Richard Cohen and his ilk believed that dirty politics are what Washington "does" the way that Hollywood makes movies or Detroit makes cars while the rest of us rubes maintained the strange belief that Washington is supposed to serve the people. That's the heart of this crisis in journalism. The elite press corps have completely missed the biggest political story of the last quarter century because they were having so much fun laughing and cavorting with their Republican sources that they failed to see that a powerful, criminal political machine was built upon the "trivial" acts of character assassination they found so amusing.

Update: I just realized I got a little nod in Howard Kurtz's column this morning on this point. I guess I won't be getting any invitations to the Christmas party at the Bradlee's. (Just the thought of that ever even being considered makes me chuckle.)


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Testy Woody

by digby

Here's an interesting account of a close encounter with Bob Woodward on November 6th (after Libby was indicted and before the Woodster testified) by a reporter with the Toronto Star:

Interestingly, on Sunday, Nov. 6, Woodward was in Toronto, giving a speech to major donors to the UJA. Before the gala dinner at the Royal York Hotel, he spoke to half a dozen reporters, including myself. Here's my treeware column about it.

But I left stuff out.

You see, I had come loaded for bear, wondering why Woodward had been minimizing the Plame investigation in the previous week. So, while we were waiting for Woodward, who was more than half an hour late, I asked the other reporters if they had prepared ''a line of attack." None of them had. It was a Sunday, a slow news day, there was no real news hook, and these were fairly young general assignment journos not particularly immersed in these matters. None of them protested against my wanting to dominate the non-news news conference.

So I pounced, firing off three questions at the top, asking about Libby and Plame and the scandal. Among the questions was, knowing what he knows now, would anything have changed in his book about the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Plan of Attack? He replied:

None of the facts that I know of I would change.

The indictment against Scooter Libby has to do with things he told the Grand Jury and the FBI in an investigation that took place really after all of the decision to go to war had been finalized, and I think after I had finished my book.

Not quite, since the book wasn't published until 2004, some ten months after Woodward and his unnamed administration offical had that conversation about Plame, and nine months before the scandal broke.

Still Woodward continued:

How would I have known that Scooter Libby allegedly lied to the FBI?
There’s nothing in that if it was possible to know, you know, it doesn’t change anything.

I guess that, strictly speaking, that's accurate -- but there's no doubt that Woodward knew that the White House was spinning like mad about members of the Bush administration not being ''knowingly'' involved.

Anyway, Woodward bristled at my questions, and actually accused me of ''conducting an interrogation." He pointedly asked the others if they had any questions. I politely backed off, only to return later to ask about how he felt about the recent blog attack regarding his brushing aside of the Plame case. He said he paid no attention to blogs. He cut off the Q&A and made a super-patronizing comment about us being happy little reporters. (No, I did not like him.)

He made these comments on November 6th. He says in his "statement" to the Wapo yesterday:

The interviews were mostly confidential background interviews for my 2004 book "Plan of Attack" about the leadup to the Iraq war, ongoing reporting for The Washington Post and research for a book on Bush's second term to be published in 2006. The testimony was given under an agreement with Fitzgerald that he would only ask about specific matters directly relating to his investigation.


I was first contacted by Fitzgerald's office on Nov. 3 after one of these officials went to Fitzgerald to discuss an interview with me in mid-June 2003 during which the person told me Wilson's wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction as a WMD analyst.

You can understand why Woodward was so testy. He was three days into the realization that his reputation was about to be flushed down the toilet.

And he was being dishonest about the timeline. He knew very well he'd been interviewing the players for his book.

I continue to find it amusing that these journalists get so testy when they find themselves on the receiving end of hard questions. You'd think they, of all people, would know what to expect and know how to handle it. Of course, the WoodMill types are above all that. They just tell the stories their confidential sources give them. If their sources are wrong, what has that to dow with them?

Fool You, Shame On You

by digby

Garance Franke-Ruta over at TAPPED says:

Did fear of being sent to jail keep Woodward from coming forward? If so, this may be an instance of Patrick Fitzgerald's aggressive approach to journalists backfiring on him in the worst possible way. If subpoenaed, Woodward, given his historic commitment to protecting sources, would almost certainly have refused to testify before the grand jury without a waiver of confidentiality from his source, whom he reports repeatedly refused to give him one. (The source continues to deny Woodward permission to name him publicly.) Which means that Woodward, had he come forward, may well have found himself imprisoned like Judith Miller.

I'd be extremely sympathetic to Bob's fear of jail time, intrepid reporter that he is, except for this

If the judge would permit it, I would go serve some of her jail time, because I think the principle is that important, and it should be underscored. It's not a casual idea that we have confidential sources. It is absolutely vital. And I'll bet there are all kinds of reporters out there, if we could divvy up this four-month jail sentence -- I suspect the judge would not permit that, but if he would, I'll be first in line. It's that important to our business.

It just breaks my heart that top reporters need to fear jail time for protecting powerful white house officials from being held accountable for their actions. I can hardly hold back the tears. The only thing I can think of for them to do is stop agreeing to listen to the White House's lies under confidentiality agreements and force them to go on the record with their smears and character assassination. I know that's a bold step in a new direction but it would alleviate all this fear and trepidation journalists like WoodMill feel when they are forced to "protect" the most powerful peopple on the planet from public disapproval and legal accountability for their actions.

Here's a good rule of thumb. Don't shield powerful government officials who use the press for sleazy partisan activity they know the public would disapprove of. Oh, and write the real story, not the sleazy partisan smear job your valued "sources" are feeding you for the privilege of future access. It will pay off in the long run. You'll find yourself facing subpoenas and jail time far less often.


by digby

Paul Begala:

I want to see Dick Cheney in his fat tuxedo on TV all day long.


by digby

I urge everyone who can to tune into Hardball today. John Murtha is one of Tweety's favorite manly pin-ups. He'll be slavering all over the fact that Murtha has called for immediate withdrawal. (Count how many times he says "stand-up guy.")

In all seriousness, this may be a turning point. Murtha has said the unthinkable: "It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region." Yep. We've made a mess alright. But our continued presence is making things worse --- for everybody.

And the Republicans are predictably lashing out wildly with shrill accusations of "surrender." They are getting very nervous. This isn't 2002 and the codpiece isn't riding an 80% approval rating. The GOP still haven't yet absorbed the fact that his manufactured popularity was always a mile wide and an eighth of an inch thick.

Their patented jingo schtick is suddenly as starkly out of fashion as The Macarena. Woodwardian Bushism is revealed to be nothing more than a fad that people are now vaguely embarrassed to have embraced in public.

What a shame about all the death and destruction. Thanks Bob.

Update: Uh oh. That hot manly flyboy, JJ McCain, is on. Tweety is squirmy --- McCain is defending the administration on Iraq. It's so hard to love a man when he's full of shit.

What Does One Wear To Armageddon?

by digby

It appears that Sally Quinn is more than just a society martinet. She's DC's Doyenne of Doom:

On the evening of Nov. 14, Quinn took her message to the grass roots, addressing approximately 70 folks at a meeting of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. Speaking from the pulpit of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Quinn said that she had gathered enough information to “scare you a lot.”


Your N95 Mask: The Building Block of Emergency Prep. At her talk, Quinn held this particle-filtering device to her mouth and said that she’s “never without it.” She also stuffs one into the briefcase of her husband, former Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, who she says “grouses” about the precaution.

Pick a Room and Stock It. You need water and food to last a week, a battery-powered radio and flashlight, planned emergency routes, contact numbers for the family, the antibiotics Cipro and doxycycline, a first-aid kit, and plastic sheeting and duct tape. Quinn herself keeps all these things in her home’s laundry room, because it’s “easy to seal off.” Also, her food supply is heavy on the beans, “because they’re nutritious.”

Watch That Gas Gauge. If Quinn’s Georgetown neighbors have spotted her frequently at the gas station recently, it’s not necessarily because she’s doing a lot of traveling. The Postie always keeps her tank full in case catastrophe strikes. In practice, that means that when the needle on her Mercedes-Benz station wagon drops by a fourth, it’s back to the filling station. “Three-quarters is pretty much the rule,” she says.

Two Words: Peanut Butter. Along with a supply of water, Quinn keeps a “large jar” of peanut butter in her car, primarily for the protein. Even a small amount of this staple, says Quinn, will sustain the terrorism victim for quite some time.

Keep the Kayak in the Garage. In a 2003 Post piece, Quinn advocated the use of inflatable kayaks as an evacuation mode for those who live near water. The mass hysteria following Hurricane Katrina, though, has apparently soured Quinn on riparian retreat. “Somebody would stick you up with a gun,” said Quinn of an evacuee headed to the river with a portable craft.

Don’t Bother Putting Masks on Your Dog. At the Georgetown speech, an audience member suggested placing masks on pets to keep them from spreading contagions. Quinn responded that she’d tried putting an N95 on Sparky, her now-deceased Shih Tzu, but it didn’t work.

Don’t Trust Public Officials. In a wide-ranging critique of local and federal preparations for terrorist attacks, Quinn made the following contentions:

•Police and fire officials in the District don’t want to warn residents about the hazards posed by chlorine tankers on D.C. railroad tracks out of fear of causing hysteria.

•Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson’s contention that the nation is prepared for a biological or chemical weapons attack is “the biggest lie.”

•Federal emergency authorities “not only lie, they don’t tell the truth.”

My oh my. Somebody's speaking a little bit out of turn on that lying business. I have it on good authoirity that all the best administrations lie to the little people for their own good. (Oh, and if Barney and Spot have trouble with their gas masks you can always wrap your pashmina over their little faces and rush them to the heli-pad. Paris and Nikki say it works like a charm.)

I'm a bit surprised that Sally didn't share with her little Georgetown ladies club the single greatest terrorist precautionary device all the better people have --- advance notice.

Hat tip to reader chicken little


by tristero

Via The Daou Report, I learned that courageous investigative journalist and Bush-fluffer Stephen Hayes is trying to obtain access to documents in Harmony, a database of purported Saddam-era documents from Iraq that was developed by the Pentagon. The documents have some very intriguing titles as they appear to be evidence of efforts by Saddam to hide wmd before the Bush invasion. Here are a few, according the intrepid Mr. Hayes:
Possible al Qaeda Terror Members in Iraq
Money Transfers from Iraq to Afghanistan
Iraqi Intel report on Kurdish Activities: Mention of Kurdish Report on al Qaeda--reference to al Qaeda presence in Salman Pak
Locations of Weapons/Ammunition Storage (with map)
Iraqi Effort to Cooperate with Saudi Opposition Groups and Individuals
Formulas and information about Iraq's Chemical Weapons Agents
Denial and Deception of WMD and Killing of POWs
Fedayeen Saddam Responds to IIS regarding rumors of citizens aiding Afghanistan
Document from Uday Hussein regarding Taliban activity
Chemical Gear for Fedayeen Saddam
Memo from the IIS to Hide Information from a U.N. Inspection team (1997)
Chemical Agent Purchase Orders (Dec. 2001)
Correspondence between various Iraq organizations giving instructions to hide chemicals and equipment
Cleaning chemical suits and how to hide chemicals
Secret Meeting with Taliban Group Member and Iraqi Government (Nov. 2000)
Now, I know, folks, you think this is just moonbat nonsense. We'd have heard of this stuff by now if there was any there there and even Hayes admits that "most" of the documents retrieved in Iraq were forgeries. And I'll bet some of you are even thinking, "Don't let Hayes pollute the discourse any more than it's already been by reprinting this trash."

But I agree with Hayes for once, especially since most of these docs, he says, are unclassified. Let's see them, all of them. Let's see the originals. All the originals.

Now I'm not saying we will find copies of the Niger forgeries among these documents - I frankly doubt it. Nor am I saying that the Harmony database is evidence of a conspiracy to forge massive documentation to "prove" the Bush case for war, documentation which was never, or only partly, deployed. Or that Harmony was simply an organized campaign of disinformation. Or that the name of the collection supports that kind of interpretation as it sounds like one of those spy jokes: documents in "harmony" with the "case for war."

But I wouldn't dream of distrusting my Pentagon that much. I'd just like to see exactly what's in Harmony. And if it turns out they are a collection of Pentagon forgeries - or more likely, simply category titles with no or little reliable or interesting documentation collected under them, I expect Stephen to tell us in the Weekly Standard loudly and clearly. And long before the next election.

Good luck, Stephen. Keep us posted. Oh, and if you come to New York, I'd love to take you on a tour of Times Square. We can play the shell game. You can make a fortune if you guess right!

UPDATE: Stephen Hayes has now been correctly credited with the information about Harmony.
The Greatest Doughy Pantload

by digby

It's a sad day when Jonah Goldberg's shallow little musings are in Robert Sheer's space on the LA Times op-ed page. His first column features the word "moonbats" and compares FDR to Bush explaining that great presidents lie to us for our own good. He even tells us that we didn't know WWII was a "good war" until the Holocaust and Hollywood showed us this was true. History, you see, will show that George W. Bush, like FDR, will be remembered as a great president even though he lied because of his bold action in the middle east.

Apparently, he remains blind to the fact that Iraq threatened no one at the time we invaded --- and that post world war II, the main legal argument against Germany was that it engaged in a war of aggression. (Germans could have disagreed, of course, arguing that they were only following the "Hitler Pre-emption Doctrine." We would not have found that persuasive.)

I think it's rather sad that these doughy little boys dream so of being a Greater Generation that they have to pretend that Iraq, or even the threat of Islamic terrorism, is on the scale of WWII. If FDR lied about WWII, at least we knew at the time that the German and Japanese threat to Europe and China was real --- they were invading all over the place; the argument was always about whether it was real to the US until Pearl Harbor. In those days "the national interest" was a fetish for the right. Today, not so much.

Meanwhile, Outside The Beltway

by tristero

Juan Cole rounds up the latest about the consequences of all the lies and distortions that finally the msm noticed. "Noticed?" Hell, one of the most damning themes in the Woodward story is the extent to which the msm actively contributed to the lies, distortions, and serial failures of this administration. But I digress, here's the latest from Iraq:
Al-Quds al-Arabi: First, the Pentagon was forced to admit that it had in fact used white phosphorus as a weapon (and not just as a smokescreen) in Fallujah, though it insisted that it was used only against combatants, not civilians. (When you attack a civilian city, how could you be sure who was who?)

Then there was more bad news when 8 GIs were killed within 24 hours. They included 5 Marines killed while fighting in al-Ubaidi in western Iraq near the Syrian border. The Marines killed 16 guerrillas in the battle. Also on Wednesday, the US Department of Defense announced that 3 GIs were killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.

In a third wave of bad news, the scandal of the tortured Iraqi prisoners has continued to grow. The Iraqi Islamic Party demanded an international investigation, and also called on Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual guide of the Shiites, to condemn the torture.


A major contracting scandal is breaking that involves enormous graft on the part of officials of the Coalition Provisional Administration, the American government of Iraq in 2003-2004
And that's just one day's news, from just one of the monumental catastrophes this administration has created. No one can claim the past five years have been boring. Nail biting, terrifying, infuriating but never a dull moment.

And still, slightly more than 1/3 of Americans approve of Bush. Think about it, like what that number actually means, mull it over in your mind, come up with thought experiments to make 34% concrete for you. And then marvel as full understanding of how incredibly high that number really is dawns upon you.

Man, that's a shitload of ignorant morons running around.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fallen Hero

by digby

Here's a very nice essay by Will Bunch about Woodward and what he meant to a generation of reporters. I didn't become a journalist like he did, but I became a political junkie, watching the Watergate hearings that summer so long ago. I too was a Watergate geek --- and Woodstein were my heroes.

I haven't revered Woodward in a long time. And I still mourn the loss of my youthful faith in what Woodstein stood for --- that the truth will out. Woodmill (hat tip to my pal) has been the sad reality ever since.

Too Many Marts

by digby

I think it's really great that Bob Woodward is such a stand up guy who refuses to divulge his sources no matter what the consequences. He has always shown excellent journalistic judgement in these things so we can trust him to know what is important and what isn't.

For instance, in his examination of the presidency "Shadow : Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate" he discusses how dumb it was for Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton not to just tell what they knew right away and get it all over with:

After Watergate, I never expected another impeachment investigation in my lifetime, let alone an actual impeachment and a Senate trial. Nixon's succesesors, I thought, would recognize the price of scandal and learn the two fundamental lessons of Watergate. First, if there is questionable activity, release the facts whatever they are, as early and completely as possible. Second, do not allow outside inquiries, whether conducted by prosecutors, congressmen or reporters, to harden into a permanent state of suspicion and warfare.

Good advice, I'm sure. Yet somehow this high minded cautionary tale devolved in the second half into a full-on insider tabloid expose of President Clinton's dick. Literally:

"Bennett had tried ... to obtain the details from the statement Jones had made about Clinton allegedly having 'distinguishing characteristics' in his genital area. It hadn't worked, but Bennett wanted to make sure there were no such characteristics.

At first Bennett thought it might be a mole or birthmark. So he started asking longtime male Clinton friends who might have seen him in the shower at one point or another in his life. Had they seen anything? No one had.

Later, Bennett was in the Oval Office with Clinton, and the president had to go to the washroom. For a moment, Bennett thought of following the president into the Oval Office bathroom to see what he might see, but he decided against it. 'We can't have president of the United States' penis on trial,' Bennett finally said to Clinton directly. 'There is an ugh factor in politics.' 'It's an outrage,' Clinton replied. 'It's totally not true. Go to all my doctors. It's just false...[Bennett said]"The only step that was not taken was to ask the doctor to induce an erection to reduplicate the circumstances that Jones had alleged. That was unthinkable."'

That's the good judgment I'm talking about. Woody's very good at keeping secrets. He prides himself on it. But this particular bit of information was essential for the public to know. Apparently, he believed that if only Clinton had dropped his pants on national TV, he could have moved beyond his problems.

Frank Rich wrote a review of this book back in 1999 in which he excoriated Woodward for his insider bloviating, making the case that Woodward and the Quinn contingent were reflexive antagonists of every president. Little did he know that Woodward would take his criticism so to heart that he would become a mindless hagiographer for the most callow, vacuous leader this country would ever produce.

In his review he discusses at some length Woodward's prudish judgmentalism toward the presidents:

Ford is chastised for bringing into the White House ''a Congressional lifestyle, which often included alcohol at lunch.'' Woodward uncovers one scandalous occasion in Denver when the President ''skipped several dozen pages of his remarks because he had what his aides called a few 'marts,' for martinis, before speaking.'' You'd think that Ford's skipping several dozen pages of luncheon remarks would be a blessing for those in attendance, or at least something less than an indictable offense. But in ''Shadow,'' it's another cue for Woodward to seize the moral high ground and condemn a benighted President Who Did Not Escape the Shadow of Watergate.

Similarly, the Carter Administration becomes an excuse for Woodward to rehash ancient charges of cocaine possession against the White House aide Hamilton Jordan. Though Jordan was ultimately cleared, he was not ''totally innocent'' after all -- for he ''liked to drink beer and loved chasing women'' and ''did go to places like . . . Studio 54,'' where other patrons might have behaved naughtily, thereby making Jordan ''a magnet for allegations.'' Jordan, it seems, is guilty by association with nightspots.

Under Woodward's moral tutelage, Jordan recants his past in ''Shadow,'' belatedly seeing the errors of his partying ways of two decades ago. But Jordan's real problem back then, Woodward suggests without irony, may have been partying with noninsiders. ''Shadow'' reports that Jordan ''stiffed the Washington establishment and its dinner-party circuit with particular relish'' -- apparently a hanging offense. The punishment, Woodward reports, was a long 1977 article in The Washington Post Style section ''about the strain between the Carterites and Washington.''

And then along came Clinton's penis.

Woodward, like Broder and Sally and Richard Cohen and Cokie and the rest of the moribund DC establishment, are obsessed with the social and personal activities of their King (and their own relationships to him) and have absolutely no interest or insight into the corrupt, depraved, malevolent political force the Republican Washington establishment has become. (It's hardball politics!) As long as they are getting their due deference and nobody's slip is showing, they are more than happy to keep any behavior that the unwashed masses might find unpalatable under wraps --- things like war or institutionalized character assassination. The only scandals worth reporting are "too many marts" and "trashing the place" --- behaviors that imply the courtier's social mores are unimportant. Tsk tsk tsk.

Harper's Is Good This Month

by tristero

I'm reluctant to take the focus off Woodward's incredible behavior - and for the record, I think Digby is absolutely right regarding his suspicions as to where Woody learned Plame's name - but I want to urge folks to be on the lookout for the latest issue of Harper's on the newsstand. They usually don't post the articles online so you're gonna have to buy it (or got to a library) but it's worth it.

Lewis Lapham has a rant against the Bush Cheney administration's corruption in the Katrina reconstruction that is so blisteringly furious it makes The Rude Pundit appear like that Gautama Buddha. Lapham collects in one place all the sickening details. The corruption is endemic, and the absence of simple human decency so profound, it's enough to make a grown man weep.

In addition, Stanley Fish gives the clearest exposition I've come across of the intellectual and rhetorical hijinks behind the marketing of "intelligent design" creationism. He makes the point many of us have made, that there's a cynical hijacking (and distortion) of postmodern arguments by the rightwing, but he is able to provide far more information on how this is accomplished than I've seen before. The article is probably similar to this lecture Fish has been giving entitled "Three on a Match: Intelligent Design, Holocaust Denial, Postmodernism."

As I've discussed numerous times, the marketing techniques on display in the "intelligent design" wars are the template for numerous other far right cultural battles. Really, you shouldn't miss what Fish has to say.

by digby

Dick Stauber, Matt Coopers lawyer, just made a very good point on Hardball.

Woodward's souce apparently came forward and told the prosecutor about their conversation. Yet Woodward still says that he is under a confidentiality agreement and needs special permission to reveal what he knows. Stauber asks, "if coming forward and admitting something to a US Attorney isn't waiving confidentiality, then what is?"

Truly, Woody no longer has to worry about crawling up on that cross with Saint Judy. His source spilled the beans to the law. Whatever jeopardy he would be in by revealing his name (and certainly the contents of the conversation) legally or professionally, no longer applies. This means that nothing other than perhaps public embarrassment or some sort of backroom deal between Woodward and the Bush administration are at stake. That is not good enough. There is no reason for Woodward not to report this story.

Matthews and everybody else seems to think that Woodward is protecting Cheney. Jane thinks it's Fleitz. Jeralynn thinks it's Wurmser. I'm intrigued by the idea that Fitz was seen visiting Bush's lawyer during this period. Among all the beltway courtiers, Woodward is the one who has the most direct access to the president. And Junior trusts him.



In his most recent book, Bush at War, Bob Woodward brags that he was given access to the deeply classified minutes of National Security Council meetings. He also noted, not long ago, that the President sat for lengthy interviews, often speaking candidly about classified information. This surprised even Woodward, who observed, "Certainly Richard Nixon would not have allowed reporters to question him like that. Bush's father wouldn't allow it. Clinton wouldn't allow it.''

Hard Target

by digby

Woodward, who has had lengthy interviews with President Bush for his last two books, dismissed criticism that he has grown too close to White House officials. He said he prods them into providing a fuller picture of the administration's workings because of the time he devotes to the books.

"The net to readers," Woodward said, "is a voluminous amount of quality, balanced information that explains the hardest target in Washington," the Bush administration.

some of that quality, balanced information from "Plan of Attack":

Rove said he wanted the president to start that February or March and begin raising the money, probably $200 million. He had a schedule. In February, March and April 2003, there would be between 12 and 16 fundraisers.

"We got a war coming," the president told Rove flatly, "and you're just going to have to wait." He had decided. "The moment is coming." The president did not give a date, but he left the impression with Rove that it would be January or February or March at the latest.

"Remember the problem with your dad's campaign," Rove replied. "A lot of people said he got started too late."

"I understand," Bush said. "I'll tell you when I'm comfortable with you starting."

And then his codpiece exploded all over the living room.

I've been hearing all the television gasbags try to explain what impact this "bombshell" is going to have on Fitzgerald's case. Victoria Toensing is on CNN pushing the Libby line that Fitzgerald is inept because he didn't know about this Woodward conversation. (She's making very little sense because she doiesn't know what to make of this revelation and can't figure out quite how to play it.)
But one thing seems obvious to me that nobody is mentioning. We know Libby leaked about Plame to reporters. We know Rove leaked about Plame to reporters. We now know that some other administration figure leaked to Woodward and another one (perhaps the same one) leaked to Novak. What is it going to take for the media to start calling this what it was --- a conspiracy?

I don't know if Fitz can prove such a thing. But common sense says that if a bunch of different White House sources are talking to the most powerful journalists in Washington about the same subject, it isn't just idle gossip. Woodward knew that. So did every other top reporter in town. They just preferred to pretend otherwise.

At the next blogger ethics panel we should call upon some of these great sages of journalism and ask them why it took a special prosecutor to back up Wilson's story that that the White House had engaged in a coordinated smear campaign. What other kinds of sleazy behavior are they covering up for their masters ... er, sources?

I do not buy the fact that Woodward didn't have an obligation to come forward publicly. He's a reporter. His job is to tell the public what he knows. With all of his great sources, you'd think that he of all people could have done some actual reporting and gotten to the bottom of the story two years ago.

It's my fervent belief that when the government is spinning the press, whether it's Ken Starr selectively leaking like a sieve or Scooter and his grubby little friends smearing Joe Wilson, it is the duty of journalists to report what they are doing. If their ever so valuable sources dry up because of that, then all the better. The sources are using them for a political agenda, not to get important information out to the public. These are not whistleblowers --- they are flaks and what they are doing is fundamentally dishonest.

If all the administration wanted to do was shed light on Wilson's alleged lack of credibility they could have called a fucking press conference and offered their evidence. It's not like they can't get anybody's attention. The very fact that they were dropping this into the ether like it was idle gossip is the reason that Bob Woodward, Judy Miller and all the rest should have written front page stories about it. It's not difficult. They could do what Matt Cooper did. He wrote that the White House was engaging in an underground war on Wilson. That is and was the story.

This crap about protecting anonymous sources is simply cover for the fact that these people are protecting their access to official lies. It's bullshit and it's why they are in trouble today.

Update: I just watched Wolf Blitzer try to pin Len Downie down on the fact that Woodward never bothered to write that he knew of another source. Blitzer asked him why, after Woodward revealed his information to Downie on October 28th that the paper didn't write about it then --- without revealing the source. Downie dance around, saying that the prosecutor got involved and then they couldn't talk. Blitzer pressed and said that they had several days before this "source" inexplicably (and we are apparently supposed to believe coincidentally) went to the prosecutor with the news that he had spoken to Woodward. Downie had no good answer for that and just hemmed and hawed his way through it, ending with his story that they must protect their sources.

Protecting sources in Washington apparently means not only protecting their identities, it's also means not revealing information they impart. I have to ask then --- what's the fucking point? Apparently the reporter's privilege is like a priest's or a shrink's. It's not the identity that's sacrosanct, which is what I always assumed. It's the information. And there is evidently no obligation to do more investigation so that you can get the story out.

At least until you get a big fat seven figure advance --- at which time it's ok to let the world know what you know, even as you protect your sources.

Deep Throat was misnamed. It's Bob himself who specializes in that particular act.

Woodward said today:

"I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets."

Funny, here I thought that reporters were supposed to be in the habit of revealing secrets.

Update II: Atrios has the transcript of the Blitzer Downie exchange. WTF.

All The Presidents Stooges

by digby

I can't tell you how impressed I continue to be with the elite journalists in this country. After finding out that top reporters from The NY Times, The Washington Post and NBC all withheld information from the public about their leaders, I can only wonder what else they may be keeping back because of their cozy relationships, book deals, or political sympathies. This is a crisis in journalism.

Matt Cooper was leaked to by Karl Rove in the summer of 2003 and he fought to keep from revealing his source. But he fulfilled his responsibility as a journalist by writing a story and it was the real story about what was going on. Here's the first paragraph of Cooper's first article on the subject back in 2003:

Has the Bush Administration declared war on a former ambassador who conducted a fact-finding mission to probe possible Iraqi interest in African uranium? Perhaps.

I don't know why all the other reporters who were being leaked this nasty bit of business didn't write articles with that lead, but they should have. As we all know, that was the story then and it's the story now. Instead it's only after the long arm of the law reaches into the newsrooms that we find out dozens of reporters, including some of the most famous and powerful, were involved in this little episode.

It turns out that Bob Woodward, who worked hand in glove with the administration to create the hagiography of the codpiece, has known for years that the White House was engaged in a coordinated smear campaign against Joe Wilson. Indeed, he was right in the middle of it. In the beginning he may have thought that it was idle gossip, but by the time he was on Larry King defending it as such he knew damned well that it had been leaked by Rove, Libby and his own source all within a short period of time. He's been around Washington long enough to know a coordinated leak when he sees one.

Novak took the bait and dutifully regurgitated the information. Matt Cooper smelled a rat and wrote about it. It's amazing how many other journalists heard the tale and dismissed the significance or went out of their way to "protect" sources by talking about the case on television every chance they got while pretending they were uninvolved. But none pooh-poohed the story and its significance in public with quite the same fervor as Bush's friend Woody.

I had thought that Tim Russert and Andrea Mitchell were the Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh of this story with their endless "speculation" about an investigation in which they had information that could clear up many of the questions they were fielding. Woody takes the cake. His has been an Oscar worthy performance to rival Meryl Streep. He chewed the scenery so many times on Larry King that he should be given a lifetime achievement award:

(Cue "Battle Hymn of the Republic")

WOODWARD: If the judge would permit it, I would go serve some of her jail time, because I think the principle is that important, and it should be underscored. It's not a casual idea that we have confidential sources. It is absolutely vital. And I'll bet there are all kinds of reporters out there, if we could divvy up this four-month jail sentence -- I suspect the judge would not permit that, but if he would, I'll be first in line. It's that important to our business.

I don't think they could have made a cross big enough for the both of them.

Woodward and Miller have been willing tools of this administration from the get. Bob Novak was an open partisan on television, so everybody knew that they funneled information to him and he printed it for political purposes. These two (and their supporting players in television news) were the most important journalists in Washington working for the two most important papers in the country and the national news outlets. Among all the journalistic players in this, the only one who wrote the real story, in real time, was Matt Cooper. He's the one who should be getting the journalism awards, not Judy Miller. He's the only one who fulfilled his duty as a journalist and told his readers what their leaders were doing.

Perhaps this is the natural outcome of the press corps joining the entertainment industrial complex. It's ironic that one of the men who kicked off this new celebrity journalism with Watergate should emerge as one of the major players in this era's biggest "gate" scandal. I suspect that this time he'll have it in his contract to play himself in the film. After all, he's now bigger than Redford. And he's proven over the last couple of years that he's one of the best actors of his generation.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Call Anyway

From what I gather, the two new proposed compromises to the Lindsey Graham Cojones Project are recondite and vague.

I agree with Marty Lederman at SCOTUS blog that this is surely a case for testimony from experts and a thorough discussion. Pushing through changes to the most fundamental underpinnings of our system of government in order to meet arbitrary deadlines is a very bad idea. The compromises seem to be better than what came before, but that really isn't good enough. History shows that cutting deals on fundamental liberties is dangerous business.

It looks as though it's going to happen, but it is probably still worthwhile to call your representatives and ask for a delay so that the congress can give this important legislation due consideration.