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Monday, December 05, 2005

Orwell's Dog

by digby

President Bush is disturbed by the U.S. military's practice of paying Iraqi papers to run articles emphasizing positive developments in the country and will end the program if it violates the principles of a free media, a senior aide said Sunday.

"He's very troubled by it" and has asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to look into the pay-to-print program, national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.

That's because he had ordered that all the unfriendly press operations in Iraq be bombed.

Christopher Hitchens is shocked, simply shocked to find out that we are doing this.

This time, someone really does have to be fired. The revelation that Defense Department money, not even authorized by Congress for the purpose, has been outsourced to private interests and then used to plant stories in the Iraqi press is much more of a disgrace and a scandal than anyone seems so far to have said.


... sometimes a whole new line is crossed and "propaganda" corrupts the whole process by becoming a covert operation against one's "own" side. The worst violation so far has been the spreading of a falsified story about the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. Not only was he slain by "friendly fire" instead of by the foe—which is a tragedy in far more ways than just as a setback for recruitment—but the family and friends of this all-American hero were purposely deceived about what had really happened. It would be trivial to add that they were also pointlessly deceived (how long do the geniuses at DoD imagine that such a thing can be kept quiet?) except that it greatly added to the callousness of the thing, and except that this same pointlessness and moral idiocy are now apparent in the "good news" scandal in Iraq.


[J]ust picture the scene for a moment. An Iraqi family living in, say, Anbar Province, picks its way down the stoop to collect the newly delivered newspaper. This everyday operation is hazardous, but less so than going down to the corner to pick it up, because there are mad people around who do not believe that anything should be in print, save the Quran, not to mention nasty local potentates who do not like to read criticism of themselves. Further, the streets are often dark and littered with risky debris. The lead story, however, reports that all is well in the Anbar region; indeed, things are going so well that there is even a slight chance that they will one day get better. Who is supposed to be fooled by this? The immediate target is, one supposes, the long-suffering people of Iraq. But over time, the printing and dissemination of cheery reportage must have been intended to be picked up and replayed back into the American electorate. If done from state coffers, that is probably not even legal.

It is, anyway, not so much a matter of fooling people as of insulting them. The prostitute journalist is a familiar and well-understood figure in the Middle East, and Saddam Hussein's regime made lavish use of the buyability of the regional press. Now we, too, have hired that clapped-out old floozy, Miss Rosie Scenario, and sent her whoring through the streets. If there was one single thing that gave a certain grandeur to the change of regime in Baghdad, it was the reopening of the free press (with the Communist Party's paper the first one back on the streets just after the statue fell) and the profusion of satellite dishes, radio stations, and TV programs. There were some crass exceptions—Paul Bremer's decision to close Muqtada Sadr's paper being one of the stupidest and most calamitous decisions—but in general it was something to be proud of. Now any fool is entitled to say that a free Iraqi paper is a mouthpiece, and any killer is licensed to allege that a free Iraqi reporter is a mercenary. A fine day's work. Someone should be fired for it.

For a guy who models himself on George Orwell he sure is a naive little thing, isn't he? Where has he been?

The Bush administration doesn't just believe this will work in Iraq. They think they can bullshit the American people into believing they are better off economically than they really are, too. Their entire agenda boils down to convincing the American people that they can believe them or they can believe their lying eyes. They've been doing this from the beginning and it worked for a while after 9/11 when Bush was riding around like country on his white charger and the press was holding his codpiece. It doesn't seem to be working anymore.

The '05 Campaign

by digby

Atrios wonders why Bush is doing the happy talk thing about the economy when it won't make anyone change his or her mind about it:

There are things which make sense in the context of a first term, a presidential campaign, a major policy to sell, or if there is an heir apparent (like Gore in 2000). But basically either people are happy with the economy or not and no speechifying by Bush is going to change their minds

I thought the same thing and then realized that he was just repeating his stump speech, slightly updated. (He even had the usual applause lines --- tort reform! YEAHHHHHHHHH!) I should have known what was going on when he mentioned "his opponent" in a speech a couple of weeks ago.

Bush is running for president again. It's really the only thing he knows how to do successfully. (And even then, only 50% of the time.) This time he's running against himself --- Bush the 35% loser.

Talk about the lesser of two evils.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

She Initiated It

by digby

A lot of bloggers have written today about the rape case in Oregon in which a young woman was found guilty of falsely reporting the rape based upon a judge's impression that the "boys" were more credible and because the accuser allegedly didn't act properly traumatized according to a detective and two friends. (Kevin Hayden has more here.)

I'm quite sure that rape is falsely reported from time to time. It only stands to reason that it would happen. However, this judge was apparently not relying on the kind of evidence that could have supported the charge -- like testimony from a "co-conspirator" or a friend to whom she confessed to making it up, a blackmail attempt, stalking, a fight, nothing that concrete.

Despite what he describes as inconsistencies on both sides, he must have believed this in order to find her guilty:

The three men testified Thursday that the acts were consensual and at the girl's initiation.

How likely is that? Here in the real world, how often does it happen that a 17 year old girl initiates group sex with a bunch of her boyfriend's pals?

Again, I'm sure it happens. But this "porno star" defense is more common that you think and it works even in the face of documentary evidence. Here's a similar story that played out along similar lines, although it was tried as a rape case:

The jury announced Monday that it was "hopelessly deadlocked" on all 24 counts.

Defense attorneys and a middle-aged male juror told CNN that 11 jurors voted "not guilty" on the first four counts -- two counts of rape by intoxication and two counts of oral copulation by intoxication.

The alleged rape was videotaped by Haidl July 5, 2002, during a party at the home of his father, Don Haidl, a top-ranking sheriff's official in Corona del Mar.

Prosecutors relied on the tape as the most critical piece of evidence, telling jurors throughout the trial that all of the crimes can be seen on tape.

The prosecution doesn't feel it overestimated the impact the tape had with the jury, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Tuesday.

"It's very clear what's happening on the tape," Rackauckas said. The alleged victim is "unconscious, she's flopping around, out of control, being manipulated by these three individuals."

But, Haidl's attorney Peter Scalisi said "science and medicine backs" the defense's contention that Jane Doe was conscious during the incident.

A neurologist hired by the defense testified that in reviewing the tape, he found her to be alert and with the presence of mind to say "no," and yet she said "yes," Scalisi said in an appearance with Rackauckas on CNN.

During the trial, defense attorneys portrayed Doe as a promiscuous, aspiring porn star who agreed to be videotaped.

Scalisi called the depiction "very fair" because that's the way "she truly is."

I don't remember where I saw the footage, but I saw it, (with the body parts made hazy.) It was obvious that the poor girl was unconscious. She was like a rag doll, only making rare muffled sounds. And the criminals who were assaulting and humiliating her were laughing through the whole thing. I don't care if she'd made a thousand porno movies, in this one she was clearly not capable of consenting. It was one of the most disturbing videos I've ever seen.

But there were people on that jury who were able to look at that footage and be convinced that she was consenting--- evidently persuaded by her sexual history that even though she was clearly unconscious when the men inserted a lit cigarette, a pool cue and a Snapple bottle into her orifices, that somehow she wanted what was happening.(The case was retried and the punks were found guilty.)

I don't know all the particulars in this case in Oregon, but I think it's probably a good rule of thumb that when the defendant is a 17 year old girl accused of not only falsely reporting a rape but enticing her accused rapists into group sex, and there is no proof that she did all this other than the word of the boys and a vague observation that she didn't "act right" then the burden of proof has not been met.

The lesson here for young girls is, don't bother reporting a gang rape if you know the rapists. A good many people will believe that you are a sexually depraved black widow spider who lured the poor young fellas into your web and then tried to "kill" them with a false charge.

Kipmas Is Coming

by digby

Everyone needs to go and over to The Poorman and vote for the Soggy Biscuit award for the year's best circle jerk and the Purple Teardrop with Clutched Pearls cluster award for wounded feelings. The competition is very tough this year, vote early and vote often.

Also, seriously, throw some money to the gang at Wampum so that they can sponsor another great Koufax awards this year. It's great fun and helps build the liberal blog community by introducing us to new blogs and overlooked posts. I'm the incredibly lucky recipient of two of those babies and am ridiculously proud of the achievement.

Credibility Gap

by digby

A few people have e-mailed me today to tip me to this story in the NY Times about the NSC pollster who wrote the first draft of the president's "victory" speech last week.

I try not to do this too much because, well, it's stupid, but I can't help but point out that I've been harping on this for months, as my regular readers know. In fact, I wrote about it again the day before Bush's speech last week when I heard him say "We wanna WIN" at that press conference at the border. I am not in the least bit surprised that the speech originated with this fellow: they are desperate to believe that he's right and all they have to do is sell victory to get their poll numbers back up.

This advisor, Peter Feaver and a partner Christopher Gelpi produced a study that purports to prove that Vietnam wasn't "lost" because of mounting casualties; it was because the American people became convinced we were losing when the political leadership became irresolute. I'm not qualified to comment on the data which I haven't seen anyway, except to say as someone who was there at the time that this is bullshit. The problem was the "credibility gap." Ordinary citizens just didn't believe a word the government said about the war after a certain point because it had been pumping the country full of horseshit happy talk for years. Nobody knew what the truth was, except that the war just seemed to go on and on forever, kids were dying in great numbers with no real progress and no real purpose.

Mr Feaver seems to believe that the country still trusts George W. Bush. But they have to be delusionary to believe they could sell a war on a "grave and gathering danger" of "a smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud" and then think that they could maintain their credibility when it turns out that there was actually --- nothing. They shot the moon and lost.

In that respect, Iraq is quite different from Vietnam. Vietnam wasn't based on one big huge lie, but a succession of lies over a long period that only came into focus over time. Iraq was sold as a dramatic necessity in a big, brash marketing campaign with slogans and theme songs in a very short period of time for specific and memorable reasons that still echo loudly just two years later.

THE PRESIDENT: This is a guy who was asked to declare his weapons, said he didn't have any. This is a person who we have proven to the world is deceiving everybody -- I mean, he's a master at it. He's a master of deception. As I said yesterday, he'll probably try it again. He'll probably try to lie his way out of compliance or deceive or put out some false statement. You know, if he wanted to disarm, he would have disarmed. We know what a disarmed regime looks like.
I heard somebody say the other day, well, how about a beefed-up inspection regime. Well, the role of inspectors is to sit there and verify whether or not he's disarmed, not to play hide-and-seek in a country the size of California. If Saddam Hussein was interested in peace and interested in complying with the U.N. Security Council resolutions, he would have disarmed. And, yet, for 12 years, plus 90 days, he has tried to avoid disarmament by lying and deceiving.

Yes, John, last question, then we've got to go swear the man in.

Q Sir, if the Security Council doesn't go along with you, what happens then?

THE PRESIDENT: I have said that if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. And I mean it.

You can't convince the country that we are winning against all evidence to the contrary once you have been proven an ass on that scale. The game was up for Bush as soon as people fully realized that the WMD threat didn't exist. Either Bush was a liar or an idiot. Unfortunately, it didn't happen until after the last election.


by digby

General Dempsey also said a key part of the training for the Iraqi forces involves how to operate in a democratic society. He said the troops and police need to develop loyalty to the government, rather than local tribes, militias or ethnic groups. They are also taught respect for human rights, and they are educated about the need to avoid corruption, which experts say is widespread in Iraqi society. In that regard, General Dempsey says the newly trained troops are doing better than the government ministries that are supposed to be supporting them. "They are taking an honest shot at corruption, and our intervention into these ministries in significant numbers I think is helping in that regard. But, you know, there are some bad habits that have to be overcome here," he said.

Oh sure, some people may carp that it's difficult to "train" the Iraqis in human rights when you legalize torture, cover up systemic prisoner abuse, contractor shootings and innumerable cases of innocent people being caught up in sweeps and imprisoned and harshly interrogated for months with no due process. And some bedwetters will complain that by buying off the press and installing friendly politicans and negotiating sweetheart deals for oil that we are actually embedding corruption in the new government before it's even formed.

But this is war, right? We can't pussy foot around. We have to win. We have to use these harsh wartime methods so we can stand down and the Iraqis can stand up. Which they will do just as soon as we train them to believe in loyalty to the government and human rights and honest politics.

Why is it that everyone keeps saying that Bush's strategy won't work?


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Alito Night Music

by digby

Samuel Alito is a real piece 'o work:

From TChris at Talk Left:

If a police officer doesn’t know why a suspect is fleeing, it’s reasonable for the officer to shoot the suspect to death and ask questions later. As you pause to consider the absurdity of that proposition, ask yourself why a government lawyer would consider it reasonable for an officer to shoot and kill an unarmed teenager who had just stolen $10 in a burglary. And then ask whether a lawyer who expressed that belief should serve on the Supreme Court.

As an assistant to the Solicitor General, Judge Alito weighed in on a case involving an officer who was investigating a possible burglary. The officer heard a door slam, then went to the backyard where he “shined his flashlight on a youth who appeared to be unarmed and who was trying to climb a six-foot-high chain link fence to escape.” The officer “seized” the kid by shooting him in the head.

"I think the shooting [in this case] can be justified as reasonable," Alito wrote in a 1984 memo to Justice Department officials. Because the officer could not know for sure why a suspect was fleeing, the courts should not set a rule forbidding the use of deadly force, he said. "I do not think the Constitution provides an answer to the officer's dilemma," Alito advised.

When in doubt, blow their brains out. That's the kind of thoughtful, deliberate analysis we need on the Supreme Court.

When the case was decided, we had a majority of non-psychos on the court:

The 4th Amendment forbids "unreasonable searches and seizures" by the government, and the high court said that killing an unarmed suspect who was subject to arrest amounted to an "unreasonable seizure."

"It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape," wrote Justice Byron White for a 6-3 majority in Tennessee vs. Garner. "Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so."

Said White: "A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead."

The burglar who stole $10.00 was only 15 years old.

Keep Up Your Campaigning Chops

One of my readers sent this in and I thought I'd pass it along so that anyone so inclined could do a little phone banking for a good Democrat here in California.

I'm looking for people who can use their free cellphone minutes for
an hour this weekend to help elect a Democrat to Congress from my
district. We're making phone calls to remind people to vote in the
special election this coming Tuesday, December 6. You can do the
whole thing from your home, using a cellphone and an Internet
connection. Here's what you do.

Write to ca48@easyco.com and say that you want to do "virtual
phonebanking for Steve Young." You'll be sent a user ID, password,
and a URL. Go to that URL and log in, and you'll see two scripts (one
for live people and one for messages) and a list of 50 Democrats to

It takes very little time since some of the numbers are disconnected
and others are just voicemail. It's unlikely you'll get more than 1
or 2 live people.

The main points to get across are:

1) There's a special election this coming Tuesday and your vote is
2) There's a terrific Democrat in the race and he can win if you
3) There are over 100,000 Democrats in our district and if just half
of them vote we can send a Democrat to Congress.
4) Please send Bush a message -- vote on Tuesday for Steve Young.

Check out his web-site, here. He's a good guy.

As The Army Stands Down, The Contractors Will Stand Up

Crooks and Liars is featuring a story today about yet more murdering contractors. Bookmark it for your burgeoning "why America is becoming a rogue nation" file.

Has anyone bothered to ask whether withdrawal of the military would mean withdrawal of contractors? Somehow, I doubt it. Our private army that answers to no one but its owners so it doesn't have to deal with all these messy old fashioned "laws" and "regulations" is going to be in Iraq for a long, long time.

I have little doubt that Rummy and Cheney have realized that it's a little more expensive since you have to pay the soldiers more than a hundred grand a year, but they're worth it. They're not hung up on all this honor and tradition crap. They know how to get the job done. But they aren't really mercenaries because they only torture, abuse and kill for America. They are patriots. Plus, we pay really well. So that's good.

Thinking Outside The Box

by digby

I was reading this incisive post on corruption at the Poorman and had a revolutionary idea. The Editors:

Imagine that. Elect gangsters, get gangsterism. Look, it’s a great thing that DeLay and Abramoff & Co. are getting in a bit of legal trouble now, but don’t pretend that this is some example of the system working and the balance being restored, because it isn’t. The worst case scenario for these guys is to spend a few years in a the nicest prison on Earth, followed by a career as an absurdly well-compensated and influential lobbyist, and kickbacks galore for you and yours. You can get a few years in prison for downloading mp3’s on the internets, and your chances of getting a trashbag full of cash and a cake job when you come out the other end are very, very, very slim. And a decade or so of federal legislation is arguably worth even more than kelis_milkshake.mp3. Justice for these people, and for us, would be massive jail sentences for everyone involved, a mass nullification of nearly every piece of legislation and every judicial appointment since 1994 (at least), and the guilty parties and their bagmen paying us restitution with interest. That would make things right. Lots of luck. Whatever slap on the wrist these guys get, we got taken.

This is another one of those un-unshittable beds, I’m afraid, so it makes a lot more sense to concentrate on not shitting it in the future. Step one, obviously, is to get rid of the crooks, or, as they are known in polite company, “the Republicans”. But as long as the system is what it is - as long as you can gainfully set up a blatantly corrupt political machine like DeLay’s, and make money hand-over-fist for years in exchange for a possible plea bargain down the road - this kind of behavior is going to continue. While it may be a little hard to imagine the Democrats (or the Greens, or the International Society of Con Men and Embezzling Liars) ever being able to top the standard set by these current Republicans, I’m sure they’d be willing to give it the old college try. Because if they won’t, someone else will.

Since I see little hope that the system is going to be reformed, it occurs to me that we liberals should just hire ourselves some lobbyists. Really. We spend many, many millions on political campaigns that get us zilch. Nada. We should just raise funds to buy congressmen yachts or send them to Australia on vacation or hire their wives at 5 grand a month to survey what congressmen like for dinner. These guys go cheap when you really think about it. They'll do pretty much anything you want for a golfing trip. We'd actually save money just by buying them all French commodes. In exchange we get them to vote for national health care and legal gay marriage and a $15.00 minimum wage.

I think we should consider it. At this rate, it's going to be 2100 before we ever get a chance to renact any true progressive legislation the old fashioned way, if then. It's time we in the reality based community faced the music. If you want something done in our government, you have to pay top dollar for it.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Heckuva Job

by digby

I can't believe what I'm seeing. CNN is reporting yet another propaganda boondoggle --- FEMA's "Recovery Channel" in New Orleans. One segment even features a military officer talking about all the good work that FEMA is doing rebuilding the schools. CNN investigated and found out the school in question was really two hours away from new orleans and that virtually all the schools in new orleans are in shambles.

My favorite part was the story about how "our Commander In Chief lent a hand" in the rebuilding.

Apparently, when FEMA realized that CNN was asking questions about this taxpayer funded propaganda operation, they issued a statement saying that they were going to revamp the whole thing and remove all editorial content.

The question now is what department of the Bush administration isn't using tax dollars to promote the President and the Republican party's political agenda?

Update: Here's the transcript

PHILLIPS: Chances are you've never heard of it, but Recovery TV is spreading the word about this year's devastating hurricanes and the federal government's response. And whether you think it warrants cheers or jeers, you're paying the bills.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Far from the cleanup, the debris and the angry public meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need some answers.

FOREMAN: Seventy miles from Washington in the Maryland countryside, it's show time for FEMA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In times of crisis, the best help is often just a source of reliable information.

FOREMAN: This is the "Recovery Channel," produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and airing around the clock via satellite and the Internet.

DIANNA GEE, RECOVERY CHANNEL ANCHOR: It could be the best day and the worst day. The day you finally get to go back to your storm- damaged home.

FOREMAN: FEMA conceived the channel years ago to spread important information after disasters. Following Katrina, it was on in shelters, a plain display about rebuilding, financial aid, help and more. But now, with FEMA accusing the mainstream media of failing to provide enough of that info, the "Recovery Channel" has undergone a makeover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay with us. Together, we can build a bright future.

FOREMAN: And at the Annenberg School of Communication, Professor Joe Turow says it's turned into propaganda.

JOE TUROW, ANNENBERG SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION: Most of the information was really not the specific kind of factual information one might think, but rather feature and fluff pieces that seemed designed to aggrandize FEMA, and actually the Bush administration, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to thank FEMA for all they've done for us.

FOREMAN: Certainly, the channel conveys no public frustration with FEMA. When the channel was airing this,

JAMILAH FRASER, RECOVERY CHANNEL ANCHOR: The massive effort to clean up Louisiana is still topping our coverage. And to speed up this process, our commander in chief steps in with some additional assistance.

FOREMAN: CNN was airing this: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's wrong with you, Uncle Sam? You drunk? Huh? What you doing with our tax money? Come on, you need to go to rehab, brother.

FOREMAN: Consider this "Focus On Education" report.

FRASER: But one New Orleans school refused to let the doors of education close on them. They just rolled in the wheels of knowledge.

FOREMAN: This segment, this week was about FEMA bringing trailers to a school where a tree destroyed several classrooms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And all of us without FEMA would not be able to be standing here today.

FOREMAN: But this school is not in New Orleans. It's two hours north and there was no information about more than 100 devastated schools actually in the city, where by the way, almost 8,000 school employees have just been told they've officially lost their jobs.

FRASER: Good information for good decisions.

FOREMAN: Another concern. The FEMA logo appears often, but much of the language on the channel suggests it is independent of the very government agency that is running it.

FRASER: Today our lead story is FEMA's top priority: Housing. A two-week extension for those evacuees in hotels. That's what FEMA is saying today.

FOREMAN: Critics on Capitol Hill have repeatedly suggested the administration is misusing public funds for domestic propaganda. Senator Frank Lautenberg is one of them and he watched the channel at our request.

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: The way this is being done, it's a fakery. And it shouldn't -- it should be identified as a government product.

FOREMAN: When we contacted FEMA, a spokesperson defended the channel, but after reviewing the questions CNN raised, sent this statement: The agency, it says, is taking immediate measures to ensure that all programming is unmistakably labeled as an official FEMA resource. And it's eliminating any editorial content.

They just can't help themselves.

Political Grease Monkeys

by digby

If a partisan impeachment, unprecedented recall elections, bogus voter roll purges, uncheckable voting machines and Supreme Court chosen presidents didn't convince you that the Republicans are trying to undermine the fundamental electoral processes of our Democratic system, this one should lay any questions you have to rest:

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.


The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule. The memo was provided to The Post by a person connected to the case who is critical of the adopted redistricting map. Such recommendation memos, while not binding, historically carry great weight within the Justice Department.


The Texas case provides another example of conflict between political appointees and many of the division's career employees. In a separate case, The Post reported last month that a team was overruled when it recommended rejecting a controversial Georgia voter-identification program that was later struck down as unconstitutional by a court.

Mark Posner, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who now teaches law at American University, said it was "highly unusual" for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

"In this kind of situation, where everybody agrees at least on the staff level . . . that is a very, very strong case," Posner said. "The fact that everybody agreed that there were reductions in minority voting strength, and that they were significant, raises a lot of questions as to why it was" approved, he said.

There have been many reports of career civil service employees leaving the government because of this behavior. If the Republicans' corruption and greed manages to lose them the congress, (and hopefully the presidency) there is going to have to be a massive investigation into who has replaced these employees to make sure that a permanent patronage machine hasn't been put in place in the Federal Government. That is, of course, what they wanted to do, but it's likely that they haven't had enough time to fully implement it.

If, on the other hand, they are not brought low by their corruption and ineptitude in the very near future, we may not get another chance to fix this. The best news I've heard all week is this NY Times article in which it's shown that the Justice Department is finally taking a close look at the crooked K Street Project:

Investigators are said to be especially interested in how Tony C. Rudy, a former deputy chief of staff to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, and Neil G. Volz, a former chief of staff to Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, obtained lobbying positions with big firms on K Street.

The hiring pattern is "very much a part of" what prosecutors are focusing on, a person involved in the case said. Another participant confirmed that investigators were trying to determine whether aides conducted "job negotiations with Jack Abramoff" while they were in a position to help him on Capitol Hill.

Prosecutors are trying to establish that "it's not just a ticket to a ballgame, it's major jobs" that exchanged hands, the participant in the case said. Also under examination are payments to lobbyists and lawmakers' wives, including Mr. Rudy's wife, Lisa Rudy, whose firm, Liberty Consulting, worked in consultation with Mr. Abramoff, people involved in case said.

What began as an inquiry into Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff's lobbying has widened to a corruption investigation centering mainly on Republican lawmakers who came to power as part of the conservative revolution of the 1990's. At least six members of Congress are in the scope of the inquiry, with an additional 12 or so former aides being examined to determine whether they gave Mr. Abramoff legislative help in exchange for campaign donations, lavish trips and gifts.

It may be difficult for prosecutors to translate certain elements of the case into indictments. Bribery, corruption and conspiracy cases are notoriously difficult to prove. But the potential dimensions are enormous, and the investigation, at a time of turmoil for the Bush administration, threatens to add a new knot of problems for the party heading into the elections next year.

Let's hope so. The K Street project is the heart of the big money and ihnfluence machine that built the party since the 1990's.


Here's Steny Hoyer's statement on the redistricting issue.

"Land-grabbing Yids"

by digby

I've written before about the possibility of an impending implosion in the Christian Right. You don't put behind thousands of years of sectarian competition just because Paul Weyrich needs a voting block. One of the oddest marriages of convenience in this block has always been the fundamentalist armagedonists and the right wing Jews, seeing as the gleeful worldenders view the destruction of the Jews as a requirement for the rapture. But it's been a convenient political alliance among certain Republicans so that's been overlooked.

But guess what. When the "yids" don't behave, here's what you get on Tim LaHaye's web site. From Max Blumenthal:

The Christian right sure gets its panties in a bunch when Jews act without their permission. Recently, a speech by the ADL's Abe Foxman denouncing the Christian right's theocratic agenda provoked a Gangland-style threat from James Dobson minion Tom Minnery -- "If you keep bullying your friends, pretty soon you won't have any." Then, in response to Ariel Sharon's Gaza pullout and subsequent formation of a new, centrist party, Tim LaHaye's Left Behind Prophecy Group leapt into the fracas with some good, old-fashioned anti-Semitic slurs.

In an article entitled "Will the Goyim Win?" published on the official site of best-selling author Tim LaHaye (who also operates an annual Holy Land tour for evangelicals), "Christian journalist" Stan Goodenough takes Israel and the Sharon government to task for trading land for peace. In breathless prose, Goodenough bemoans the Israelis' supposed surrender of "the cradle of their nationhood, the burial places of their national patriarchs and heroes."

Then, he proceeds to pile it on:

But do you know what, Jews of Israel - and those Jews still in exile who so fervently support this way? You may think that in so acquiescing, you are setting a glowing example to the nations of the world.

But as far as these nations are concerned, the last thing they will want to do is emulate you. All you are doing is proving them right in their long-held belief that you are illegitimate, land grabbing, not-to-be-trusted Yids. And, as far as the Muslim world is concerned, your actions only confirm their view of you as a dhimmi nation, fit only to be ruled over by, and subdued under, Islam.

Ah yes, more of that sophisticated right wing geopolitical strategy. Chest thump and bellow your way to "victory." (I don't know what happened to them in the schoolyard, but it stunted their intellectual growth.)

And apparently if the Israelis don't follow their edict to blow themselves up for Jesus, they will be seen as "land-grabbing yids" and lily livered cowards too. That was a short trip from A to B wasn't it?

Get ready for more of this as various Christian sects come in to conflict as well. It's only a matter of time before they start fighting among themselves.

Leftist Scandalmongers

by digby

A fascinating Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley show today in which the topic is how the Democrats are failing everyone on Iraq because they are spineless and unfocused and in disarray and can't speak with one voice and have no leadership. I can't get enough of blaming Democrats for the mess the Republicans have made.

But, this is a doozy. I just heard David Limbaugh say the following in response to Arianna Huffington saying that there needs to be a bi-partisan Truman Commission to sort out how much of the 200 billion we've spent has been lost to graft and corruption:

"I just wish the left would stop focusing on all these scandals."

They. Are. The. Most. Shameless. Unself-aware. Obtuse. People. On. The. Planet.

Babes In Arms

by digby

I can't remember who it was, but somebody involved with the Open Robe Media project (thanks TBOGG) said that the reason they went with them is because Republicans know how to run a business. Heh. Kevin at Catch has all the latest on their troubles and links (via Juan Cole) to an impressive professional liberal news portal run by Robert Sheer. They must have kept their expensive launch party under wraps.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Friends With Benefits

by digby

This Lincoln Group story is amazing. I have nothing to add to the substance that Laura Rozen and Billmon haven't already covered with great insight. Psyops is one of Rummy's favorite little hobbies. It's no surprise that he's been using it in every way he can get away with.

But I am interested in the fact that General Pace is on the record being against it saying "I would be concerned about anything that would be detrimental to the proper growth of democracy." This is the second time in two days that Pace is playing the straight arrow to Rummy's sleaze. Bob Fertik sent me an e-mail pointing out something interesting that I overlooked in that Pace-Rummy public disagreement the other day.

Here's the whole passage
(and the video at C&L):

QUESTION: Sir, taking on his question a bit -- and I can give you actual examples from coalition forces who talked to me when I was over there about excesses of the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense; and that is in dealing with prisoners or in arresting people and how they're treated after they're arrested -- what are the obligations and what are the rights of U.S. military over there in dealing with that?

Obviously, Iraq is a sovereign country now, but the United States is responsible for training and expects to turn over the security mission to them.

So, what is the U.S. obligation in addressing that, preventing that, and what can we do? And what are we doing?

RUMSFELD: That's a fair question. I'll start and, Pete, you may want to finish. But we are working very hard to train and equip the Iraqi security forces. So is NATO. So are some neighboring countries.

There are a lot of people involved in this, dozens of countries trying to help train these Iraqi forces. Any instance of inhumane behavior is obviously worrisome and harmful to them when that occurs. Iraq knows, of certain knowledge, that they need the support of the international community. And a good way to lose it is to make a practice of something that is inconsistent with the values of the international community.

RUMSFELD: And I think they know that.

He doesn't even know what he's saying, does he?

Now, you know, I can't go any farther in talking about it. Obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility when a sovereign country engages in something that they disapprove of. However, we do have a responsibility to say so and to make sure that the training is proper and to work with the sovereign officials so that they understand the damage that can be done to them in the event some of these allegations prove to be true.

QUESTION: And, General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if -- like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail?

PACE: It is absolutely responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening, but you're told about it, is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago. There was a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was a possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it.

So they did exactly what they should have done.

RUMSFELD: I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it, it's to report it.

PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

QUESTION: Let me follow up. To what extent do you think these allegations of abuses by the Iraqi security forces, particularly some of the complaints and allegations from Sunni Iraqis that the largely Shia security forces are engaged in abuses, to what extent do you think that's an indicator that the Iraqi military, Iraqi security forces are not yet ready to assume control of the country?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't think it is. I mean, you're going to have allegations back and forth.

We were deeply concerned that there could be conflict among the various elements in that country after the end of major combat operations, and there hasn't been, and that's a good thing.

RUMSFELD: First of all, what we're doing is we're prejudging these remarks and allegations and reports. And I just can't do that. And what's going to happen is the Iraqi government is going to be formed after the December 15th election -- two weeks, whatever -- and it will be seated by the 31st of December...

QUESTION: So your sense is that these abuses are not a widespread problem that threaten the...

RUMSFELD: My sense is I don't know. And it's obviously something that one has to be attentive to. It's obviously something that General Casey and his troops are attentive to and have to be concerned about.

I am not going to be judging it from 4,000 miles away -- how many miles away?

Rummy quite clearly wants to deal with "reports" of "allegations back and forth" that can be "investigated" and then "more reports" can be issued saying that it was a bunch of "bad apples." Why mess with success?

He doesn't want American forces doing anything to stop abuses --- because he wants the Iraqis to do this dirty work. Why, if we play our cards right, we will have another friendly country willing to accept our illegal renditions and torture them for us! Maybe they'll even house a secret CIA prison or two. This nation building makes friends with benefits.

But, unlike that drooling sycophant Richard Myers, who slobbered all over Rummy like he was Elvis, Pace doesn't seem to be following the script. What's up with that?

Update: One other thing about the "blowback" aspect of the planted stories business. It's quite obvious that it's a Republican PR job because it's the same M.O. they used in the Clinton scandals. They planted lies or rumors in the much looser foreign tabloid press, who would then print it so that Drudge could link it and Cokie would report it because "it's out there." This "blowback" is just standard GOP psyops.

Tear Down That Wall

by digby

Here's a provocative post on immigration by Brad Plumer: The Case for Open Borders. Click through to all the links and you will find some very informative data. (I especially recommend this article by Daniel Drezner.) It's not a plan I'm necessarily endorsing, but it's a different way of looking at things. With problems this complicated and politically treacherous we need to be open to fresh thinking if only to question whether some of our assumptions are still valid.

Memory Hole

by digby

Jane is reporting that Rove's lawyer Luskin told Fitzgerald that "inveterate gossip" Viveca Novak told him that Rove was Matt Cooper's source, which sent him and Karl rummaging frantically through the e-mails to refresh Karl's sketchy memory. Apparently, it took them five months to find it, but whatever.

If Novak confesses that she did this, it certainly gives the lie to all this high minded posturing we've heard from all the journalists about their do or die committment to their promises of confidentiality. This little scenario requires that Cooper or his editor blabbed to Novak who then blabbed to Rove's lawyer! Oh Lord, bless the majesty of the First Amendment that guarantees Freedom of the Press and Anonymous Juicy Gossip.

I actually find it hard to believe that she really told Luskin this. I'm going to withhold judgment until she writes her story. (Check out Jeralyn for the explanation of the legal ramifications of Novak telling Luskin.)

I think that the NIH should be looking into something else right away, however. There seems to be some sort of terrible medical condition that's taking over Washington. Libby didn't remember Cheney telling him that Plame was CIA. Rove didn't remember telling Cooper. Woodward's source is reported to have forgotten that he told Woodward. Miller forgot that Libby told her and couldn't remember why she wrote down the name Plame. Pincus couldn't remember Woodward telling him about Plame. Woodward can't remember if he mentioned Plame to Libby. Mitchell doesn't remember what she had for lunch.

And of the people who could have looked through their notes or checked their phone logs or even rattled their memory once the shit hit the fan --- and it hit the fan within days or a week of hearing about all this --- none of them did. Here we had this huge brouhaha, with Joe Wilson talking about frog-marching and claiming that the administration had outed his wife to punish him, and none of these officials and journalists remembered that they had spoken to one another about the very subject that was under discussion. It was only years later when confronted with documentary proof, jail time or someone coming forward that they decided to search their records or think back, and in most cases it was just too late.

These are elite journalists and the highest government officials. And they all seem to have some sort of serious memory defect. This explains a lot about what has gone wrong in our political system.

What do you think? Lead? Mercury? Huffing Glue?


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"Cultural Discomfort"

by digby

The New Republic
and The LA Times this week both feature articles about the Minutemen of Herndon, Virginia. The TNR piece is framed as a cautionary tale for liberals who think that the Minutemen are out of the mainstream:

Bill explains that he "slid into the Minutemen" because he was disturbed by the way his neighborhood was changing, and the other Minutemen standing with him nod in agreement. "Dormitory-style homes" have popped up on their streets, Bill says, and the residents come and go at strange hours. Their neighbors' children are intimidated and no longer like to play outside, in part because "we've got about 17 cars coming and going from our neighbors' houses." Matt, another Minuteman who lives in nearby Manassas, claims that the police have busted prostitution rings operating out of nearby properties. Bill doesn't want his name printed, he tells me, because he worries about retaliation from the local Hispanic gang, MS-13. Pointing to the cluster of day-laborers across the street, he explains to me that the Herndon 7-11 is "a social gathering place, too." Taplin has publicly objected to a regulated day-laborer site set to open in Herndon on December 19--proposed in order to combat the trespassing, litter, and nuisance complaints that have arisen in conjunction with the informal 7-11 site--because he worries that even a regulated locale wouldn't change "their behaviors." Even on the coldest mornings, more than 50 workers often convene at the 7-11, and Bill judges that sometimes only 10 or 20 get hired. "When," he asks me, "is it ever a good thing for 40 men to hang out together?"

These anxieties may be overblown, in some cases borderline racist; but they are not, unfortunately, outside the mainstream. In Mount Pleasant, the predominantly Hispanic, rapidly gentrifying Washington neighborhood where I live, complaints have begun to surface about the groups of men that congregate on stoops or outside of convenience stores at night. Those who have complained call it loitering, but one Hispanic resident told the Post that when the men gather outdoors, "[t]hey're having coffee; they talk about issues. ... It's part of our community." For the neighborhood's Hispanic population, this practice is a cultural tradition; for its newer batch of hip, ostensibly liberal urbanites, it is disturbing, and too closely resembles something American law designates a crime.

These are people who would never admit they share anything in common with the Herndon Minutemen. But like it or not, the Minutemen are acting on anxieties many Americans share--anxieties about the challenge of enforcing the law in towns that are swelling in size due to immigration; anxieties about the challenge of integrating and accommodating an immigrant culture. Border states like California have been grappling with these issues for years, in court battles about day-laborer sites and debates over concepts like bilingual education. Often in these conflicts those who have presented cultural, as opposed to legal, objections to uncontrolled immigration are condemned as xenophobic or racist. But as my Mount Pleasant neighbors have shown, it can be tricky to disentangle legal from cultural discomfort.

Not really. People legally assembling in public is not criminal and this "cultural discomfort" is simple xenophobia. And just as xenophobes (and their close cousins, racists) did in the past, they couch their "cultural discomfort" in narrow interpretations of the law and property rights.

Notice that the neighborhood in question is a Hispanic neighborhood being gentrified. These complaints are coming from yuppies moving into neighborhoods where their "culture" isn't dominant. Who's the immigrant, anyway?

Rick Perlstein reminded me of this passage from Thomas Geoghegan's wonderful book "The Secret Lives of Citizens:"

It was Massey, again, who pointed it out to me. "Why in Chicago," he asked, "is there no anti-immigrant movement as there is in California?"

Because the white ethnics here have their own, uh, "mexicans," to protect. White European immigrants. The Romanians, Russians ... but above all, Poles. From Poland. Many Poles. Tens of thousands. So how can the whites here complain about the latinos? We've got our own illegals to hide.

That kind of clarifies things a little, doesn't it? The eastern Europeans are often highly skilled tradesmen, not day laborers like the Mexicans, who really do take high paying jobs away from citizens. It's a major issue in Europe and would be here too except for the fact that in the cities where large numbers of Poles and Russians overstay their visas and live here illegally, they are in the bosom of their well assimilated ethnic group. "Illegal immigration" is a much more complicated issue than it seems in our multi-ethnic culture.

The LA Times tells a similar story of Herndon and the Minutemen but had the added feature of the residents complaining about their property values being lowered while George Bush and the Republicans are catering to the Hispanic vote at their expense.

The retired social studies teacher said she got involved because houses in her neighborhood had become packed immigrant dormitories. She suspects that most tenants in the rooming houses, including the one next door, are illegal. She deals with roosters crowing and men urinating in the yard, loud parties and empty beer cans dumped outside. She fears it's driving down the value of her house.

"I'm angry," said the 60-year-old widow. She said the fight against illegal immigration was deeply personal and broadly political.

"George Bush is in it for the Hispanic vote, and we're on the receiving end," she said. "That's not fair. Before, everybody looked out for everybody else; no one locked doors," she said of her neighborhood. "Now we all have security systems."

Jeff Talley, 45, an airplane maintenance worker who lives across the street from Bonieskie, also joined the Minuteman chapter. "When you start messing with the value of people's houses, people get really upset," he said.

As Talley sees it, illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans  whom it would cost companies more to employ and that will have long-term effects on American society.

"There's a disappearing middle class," said Talley, a Republican. "George Bush is a huge disappointment to this country. The Republican Party used to be for ordinary people, but no more."

This is an old, old populist rant. The Republican moneyed elites are against the little guy --- and it's because of the immigrants.

The TNR article goes on to explain:

Our national debate on immigration tends to focus on economic issues, namely job loss, and scrupulously to avoid the kind of cultural anxieties that the Herndon Minutemen, the residents of Mount Pleasant, and Bill O'Reilly are bringing to the fore. After all, anxieties about how immigration will affect national culture seem like more of a European thing, springing from a deep-seated and distinctly un-American nativism and yielding byproducts like the headscarf dispute and Jean-Marie Le Pen. But on this side of the Atlantic, little Le Pens are beginning to flourish.


Only a few years ago, the European political establishment largely ignored concerns about an immigration wave overwhelmingly originating from one region--only to be stunned as fanatics rose to prominence by championing an issue that mainstream politicians had refused to touch. To prevent the same thing from happening here, liberals will have to recognize that immigration, often considered a "conservative" topic, is now a potent political issue. Concern is no longer confined to California, Arizona, and Texas; nor is it confined to Republicans. Liberals will need to make an affirmative case for immigration as a concept--but also concede that our current system is deeply flawed. They will have to acknowledge that many Americans have legitimate worries about immigration--but that there are better ways to approach the issue than skulking around day laborer sites with a camera. Wherever they come down on the issue, and whatever they propose, liberals will have to acknowledge that immigration is not a fringe concern. And telling the Minutemen to "go home" isn't going to make it go away.

Ok. But let's not bullshit ourselves while we are making our political argument about how to deal with this issue. This is not a uniquely European problem, for crying out loud. It's as American as McDonald's apple pie. We've been doing this shit for centuries --- and we do it to Mexicans pretty regularly because we share a border and there are always handy illegals to kick around when necessary. This is not new. It's a symptom of economic insecurity.

And the problem for these Minutemen and those liberal hipsters is not "cultural discomfort." There's are other, older, better words. Xenophobia. Nativism. Racism. The dark underbelly of populism.

I agree that this is a potent issue right now for reasons I set forth earlier. But please, no soft-peddling the reasons, at least in our own minds. No creating nice little code words for confused working class whites who are looking for easy scapegoats or narrow-minded urbanites to excuse their "discomfort" with law abiding people who are doing nothing more than legally assembling in public. Let's call a Mexican a Mexican and go from there.

I wrote a post some time back called Populism Tango, wherein I discussed the dangers in jumping into populism. It's a perfectly good, and often correct, political philosophy. But it does have this ugly tendency to scapegoat immigrants, blacks and ethnic minorities. In that post I quoted Democratic strategist Mudcat Saunders who has a lot of advice about how to attract those elusive white males:

"Bubba doesn'?t call them illegal immigrants. He calls them illegal aliens. If the Democrats put illegal aliens in their bait can, we're going to come home with a bunch of white males in the boat."

Why would that work?

[W]hat he is suggesting is a tried and true method to get rural white males to sign on to a political party. Bashing immigrants and elites at the same time has a long pedigree and it is the most efficient way to bag some of those pick-up truck guys who are voting against their economic self-interest....And that's because what you are really doing is playing to their prejudices and validating their tribal instinct that the reason for their economic problems is really the same reason for the cultural problems they already believe they have --- Aliens taking over Real America --- whether liberals, immigrants, blacks, commies, whoever.

That's a problem for us because no matter how tempting it might be to go and grab those Virginians who are so disenchanted with George Bush and promise to close the borders and solve their problems: nobody has yet figured out how (short of an economic catastrophe so huge that people will disregard everything else) we can keep a coalition of liberals, workers, urbanites, racial minorities and nativist immigrant bashers in the same tent.

Blaming the "culturally discomfitting" Mexicans during one of these periods of economic insecurity is a temptation for political strategists, I have no doubt. But today, it's playing with fire. There is a reason why Karl Rove has been handling this issue with kid gloves. It's not just the agriculture lobby, which could be persuaded to keep its powder dry for a period of time until the frenzy dies down (as it always does.) No, this time, there is a huge voter block at stake. They saw what happened in California when Pete Wilson let his id run free in an earlier period of economic insecurity and he ran ads saying "they just keep coming." He destroyed the Republican party in this state.

Demographics show that the Hispanic vote is essential for future majorities. Ruy Teixiera reported last August:

As two recent reports document, the Hispanic population of the United States continues to increase rapidly, especially in areas that we now think of as "solid red." The Pew Hispanic Center report describes and analyzes the extraordinary growth of the Hispanic population in six southern states, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, down to the county level. The Census report shows that Texas has now become a majority-minority state (joining New Mexico, California and Hawaii), primarily due to its burgeoning Hispanic population.


In this survey just completed, Hispanics had swung back to the Democrats with a vengeance, giving them a 32-point margin in a generic race for Congress (61 to 29 percent). The Republican vote today is 10 points below what Bush achieved just six months earlier. These voters are deeply dissatisfied with the Bush economy and Iraq war; they are socially tolerant and internationalist; they align with a Democratic Party that respects Hispanics and diversity, that uses government to help families, reduce poverty and create opportunity, and that will bring major change in education and health care. This is even truer for the growing younger population under 30, including Gen Y voters, who support the Democrats by a remarkable 46 points (70 to 24 percent).

The country is experiencing economic and social insecurity and as has always happened in the past at such times, the focus turns to immigration (illegal and legal) as a cause. But this time that same immigrant group (that has always been here, by the way) is a huge, growing voting block and a big prize for the political party that recognizes and respects it. People like Mudcat Saunders think that you can scapegoat the "illegal aliens" without any spillover into the large legal Hispanic community. But as we saw in that gentrifying neighborhood in Virginia, it isn't really about illegals per se. And California proved that if you go too far with the "illegal alien" business you lose the Hispanic population altogether.

Democrats can look to the future and find a populist message that doesn't cater to white fear and tendencies to scapegoat minorities. And we can add the Hispanic community permanently into our coalition, denying Karl Rove his most coveted goal. Or we can take the easy way out and catch a few Bubbas until the economy turns around, at which point they'll go right back home to the party that really knows how to feed their worst instincts on regular basis --- the Republicans.

And then of course, there's this: if we succumb to the temptation to re-marry the twin pillars of populism for the umpteenth time, economic resentment and nativism, we will not only continue to lose elections we will lose our souls as well.

Update: Alice in the comments points out that Herndon, the home of the militiamen in the two articles quoted above, voted decisively for Tim Kaine in the last election. It's not a mainstream as the authors would have people believe.

Update II: Greg at The Talent Show offers up some thoughtful advice on how to handle this.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nice Tries

by digby

Josh Marshall is collecting "nice tries,"
which are the brownnosing, he said/she said statements by the media implying that all this nasty corruption business is a bi-partisan matter.

It's obvious that the "culture of corruption" charge is scaring the GOP because they've clearly put the hammer down on the media to portray the looming scandal tsunami as something "everybody does." This, of course, is utter bullshit. As Marshall says, it comes from the proximity to power and the Democrats are way out of that game.

All DC reporters know about the K Street Project:

[B]eginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street. And Santorum's Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each one is filled by a loyal Republican--a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors. "The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that was the purpose of what we were doing," says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. "It's been a very successful effort."

If today's GOP leaders put as much energy into shaping K Street as their predecessors did into selecting judges and executive-branch nominees, it's because lobbying jobs have become the foundation of a powerful new force in Washington politics: a Republican political machine. Like the urban Democratic machines of yore, this one is built upon patronage, contracts, and one-party rule. But unlike legendary Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, who rewarded party functionaries with jobs in the municipal bureaucracy, the GOP is building its machine outside government, among Washington's thousands of trade associations and corporate offices, their tens of thousands of employees, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in political money at their disposal.

Political machines are not unprecedented. Patrick Fitzgerald is dismantling both a Republican and Democratic one in Chicago as we speak. We've seen "heckuva-job-Brownies" before. We've seen politicians and business work together to rip off the taxpayers and cheat the little guy many times. We've seen greedy politicians before. But this current national GOP machine is unique in its blatant, in-your-face arrogance and the swiftness with which it descended into utter, all-out corruption such that even a Republican run Justice department cannnot ignore it.

As the Abramoff scandal unfolds, it's important to remember that Jack Abramoff is not just another lobbyist or even just another Republican. He and Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed all ran the college Republicans during the Reagan years. He is a "movement conservative" of the innermost circle of movement conservatives. This is not a fluke. It's endemic to the modern Republican party.

As for Marshall's collection, I would suggest that he check out the first 15 minutes of Hardball today. Tweety could hardly stop talking about how corruption is totally non-partisan in any way. Tony Blankley at least had the good graces to say that if he were a Democratic operative he'd be wearing a bib --- to catch the drool.

However, my winner of the day is from Wolf Blitzer's 'The Situation Room" today in which Bruce Morton went all the way back to the 70's Wilbur Wayne Hays and his mistress-on -the-payroll-who-couldn't-take-dictation, Elizabeth Ray, to demonstrate how corrupt the Democrats were. (The only corrupt Republicans mentioned in the piece were Cunningham and ... Gingrich, who it was claimed had to leave office in part because of his crooked book deal, which isn't actually true.)

The kicker was a poll showing that 63 percent of the public consider most Democratic representatives are honest compared to 57 percent who think that most Republican representatives are honest. Morton said that means it's a tie.

Dancing With The Mediawhores

by digby

In case anyone missed this funny, revealing piece on Mike Isikoff by John Amato of Crooks and Liars, check it out.

Woodward called Isikoff a Junkyard Dog reporter. But I don't think that's right. He's more of an Upskirt Dog. You know the kind.

Victory Strategy

by digby

Here's Bush today

I'm giving a speech tomorrow that outlines the progress we're making in training Iraqis to provide security for their country. And we will make decisions about troop levels based upon the capacity of the Iraqis to take the fight to the enemy.

And I will make decisions on the level of troops, based upon the recommendations by the commanders on the ground. If they tell me we need more troops, we'll provide more troops. If they tell me we've got a sufficient level of troop, that'll be the level of troops. If they tell me that the Iraqis are ready to take more and more responsibility and that we'll be able to bring some Americans home, I will do that. It's their recommendation.

Secondly, we want to win. The whole objective is to achieve a victory against the terrorists. The terrorists have made it very clear that Iraq is the central front on the war on terror. See, they want us to leave before we've achieved our mission. You know why? Because they want a safe haven. They want to be able to plot and plan attacks.

This country must never forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001. And a victory in Iraq will deny the terrorists their stated goal.

Finally, a democracy in Iraq, which is now emerging, will serve as a fantastic example for reformers and others. And as democracy takes hold in the broader Middle East, we can say we have done our duty and laid the foundation of peace for generations to come.

We should listen to what Bush is actually saying here because he lays it all out. Notice that he has to predicate everything on the idea that we are winning. (In the press conference he said it very emphatically: "secondly .... we wanna WIN) He deeply believes, for both political and ideological reasons, that winning is the only thing that matters.

Last night I heard Newt Gingrich throwing around the phrase "surrender to the terrorists" on O'Reilly. His successor as Speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert wrote earlier:

Murtha and the Democrats ''want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world." And he said, ''We must not cower like European nations who are now fighting terrorists on their soil."

This is significant because Rove long ago convinced Bush that he can continue in Iraq as long as the American people think we are "winning." It tracks with his own belief in the bandwagon effect and it's backed up by some academics who have advised the White House that "staying the course" is possible as long as they handle the PR effectively.

In shaping their message, White House officials have drawn on the work of Duke University political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher F. Gelpi, who have examined public opinion on Iraq and previous conflicts. Feaver, who served on the staff of the National Security Council in the early years of the Clinton administration, joined the Bush NSC staff about a month ago as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform.

Feaver and Gelpi categorized people on the basis of two questions: "Was the decision to go to war in Iraq right or wrong?" and "Can the United States ultimately win?" In their analysis, the key issue now is how people feel about the prospect of winning. They concluded that many of the questions asked in public opinion polls -- such as whether going to war was worth it and whether casualties are at an unacceptable level -- are far less relevant now in gauging public tolerance or patience for the road ahead than the question of whether people believe the war is winnable.

"The most important single factor in determining public support for a war is the perception that the mission will succeed," Gelpi said in an interview yesterday.

I suspect that Gingrich and Hastert's "surrender" talk is aimed at Bush as much as the Democrats, to keep him from going soft, but it's also setting the stage for the inevitable "who lost Iraq" argument down the line. Guys like Gingrich want to clearly be on the "never give up, never give in" team after the smoke has cleared so they can pretend they are brave warriors worthy of leadership. I think Bush actually believes this crapola, however. It fits his schoolboy vision of the way the world works.

Here's Bush in 2003:

The terrorists have a strategic goal. They want us to leave Iraq before our work is done. They want to shake the will of the civilized world. In the past, the terrorists have cited the examples of Beirut and Somalia, claiming that if you inflict harm on Americans, we will run from a challenge. In this, they are mistaken.

It's one of their more ridiculous beliefs and yet it is the foundation of neocon thinking about how to deal with terrorism. They honestly think that if we stay in Iraq that we will prove to the terrorists that we are tough ... and then they will not be able to attack us anymore. As unbelievable as it is, this simple-minded psychological diagnosis of the problem is one of the main reasons why we are stuck in this quagmire.

But Bush doesn't stop with that simple delusion. He also believes that he has been called to this battle by something much more important than the mere will of the American people. As Seymour Hersh writes in this week's New Yorker:

Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.

The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”

According to this report in the NY Daily News, Bush doesn't trust his advisors anymore. (Not even his wife, after all she failed him on the Miers debacle.) He's going to stick with the simple script that has him being chosen by God to lead this battle against evil. Hardliners are going to manipulate him with that by doing what Gingrich did last night --- characterizing a withdrawal as "surrendering to the terrorists."

What he is going to do is what many in the military have long wanted to do, which is revert to a greater reliance on air power. If anyone is succumbing to political pressure it's the wild-eyed Rummy whose management of the war has turned out to be a cock-up of epic proportions. We're going back to our tried and true: Bombing the shit out of anything that moves. From Hersh:

A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.

Now that's the nice, clean, surgical kind of war the American people like. No American casualties and fun pictures of buildings going "kaboom!" And it takes the pressure off of our near-broken Army. The Air Force may have problems with Iraqis using their air power to play out old grudges against non-combatants, but the American people can be successfully snowed on that one. The Iraqis will be standing up and we'll just be enforcing the conditions of our glorious victory.

“We’re not planning to diminish the war,” Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me. Clawson’s views often mirror the thinking of the men and women around Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “We just want to change the mix of the forces doing the fighting—Iraqi infantry with American support and greater use of airpower. The rule now is to commit Iraqi forces into combat only in places where they are sure to win. The pace of commitment, and withdrawal, depends on their success in the battlefield.”

That is what we call "winning." And we will keep plenty of troops on the ground and planes in the air for years to come to ensure that the war stays "won."

Call 911

by digby

PACE: It is absolutely responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening, but you're told about it, is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago. There was a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was a possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it.

So they did exactly what they should have done.

RUMSFELD: I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it, it's to report it.

PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

Does anyone have any further doubts about how out torture regime happened?

Luskin's Friendly Chat

by digby

Since Luskin supposedly unveiled some sort of exciting eleventh hour evidence that gave Fitzgerald so much pause I wondered if maybe Viveca Novak had been called to provide exculpatory evidence for Rove. (I would have thought that Fitzgerald would have moved a little quicker with that thrilling new angle, however, if it could have closed this investigation.)

The Washington Post article today says Novak and Luskin are personal friends and:

Unlike Cooper, Viveca Novak is not seeking to protect a confidential source and was not subpoenaed to testify.

Jane thinks that this is total crap and that Viveca Novak is being called for reasons other than Luskin's 11th hour pause giving "evidence":

If Luskin is dragging in Viveca Novak to substantiate something he said, then it seems likely Fitzgerald has some piece of evidence her testimony is intended to counter. Something within the timeframe must indicate that Rover wasn't being completely honest with either the FBI or the grand jury, and they hope to prove that if Luskin was out there selling his own client's special brand of bs then Fitzgerald should buy it, too.

Luskin has a history of playing reporters.
He may very well be playing VandeHei here too (although VandeHei does report that another source says this Novak testimony has nothing to do with all this Luskin fluffing.)

The article says Novak will write a piece about her deposition, so we will soon find out what this is all about.

But this brings up a question I've long wondered about. Why in the hell did Rove hire Luskin in the first place? The article Jane references in the link above (from The New Republic) describes Luskin this way:

[S]coring Rove was a coup. Luskin is an unlikely choice for a Republican, let alone Rove. In fact, during the 1990s, a wide swath of the conservative movement spent a good chunk of its time trying to destroy his reputation. For the last ten years, Luskin has served as the in-house prosecutor for the Laborers' International Union, where he has been charged with fighting corruption. The right was miffed that the Clinton administration let the Laborers clean house on their own rather than under the tutelage of the Justice Department, as was done with the Teamsters. One gadfly conservative organization, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), turned discrediting Luskin into its own personal crusade. They produced a highly unflattering 13-page report that set off a cascade of critical stories and editorials in the conservative press. Under the headline "Luskin's Ties to the New England/Patriarca Crime Family," the report documented a fishy episode wherein Luskin was forced to return $245,000 in legal fees that he received from a client named Stephen A. Saccoccia, who was sentenced to 660 years in prison for laundering South American drug-cartel and mob money. A U.S. attorney, accusing Luskin of "willful blindness," reasoned that, when Luskin started getting paid with solid gold bars (he ultimately received 45 of them, worth $505,125) and wire transfers from Swiss bank accounts, he should have known the payments were from illicit sources, especially since his client's crimes involved gold bars and wire transfers from Swiss bank accounts.

Many of the other anti-Luskin criticisms concerned alleged conflicts of interest stemming from his defense of several clients wrapped up in Clinton-related scandals. Luskin soon became a target of The Washington Times, Investor's Business Daily, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and The American Spectator, each arguing a version of the NLPC line that he was ethically unsuited for his job at the Laborers' Union.

But, by the end of the '90s, Luskin had established himself as a top-tier defense attorney. He abandoned his boutique law firm for the gilded hallways of Patton Boggs. Still, big-name Washington lawyers say he's not really part of the small clique of attorneys that seem to pop up during every investigation--people like Jacob Stein, Abbe Lowell, Plato Cacheris, Robert Bennett, and Reid Weingarten. "Let's just say that I haven't been in a case where he represented anyone," sniffs a member of Washington's legal royalty.

These political cases require very specialized legal experience. That's why clients usually hire from the small pool of attoprneys who know how to feed the beast, protect their client's reputation to the degree possible) and deal with special prosecutors who operate under different rules and restraints than the usual US Attorney. I've never understood why Rove, the man who said he wanted to "get" Wilson purely because he was a Democrat, hired this guy.

Any thoughts?

Better Stop Sobbin' Now

by digby

The Duke-stir has been a prick for years. He said that the liberal leaders of congress should be lined up and shot. He calls for the death penalty for drug dealers and then cries at his son's sentencing hearing for possession of 400 lbs of marijuana and asks for mercy because his son has a good heart. Here's how the conservative San Diego Tribune editorial board described him back in 1998:

Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Escondido, responded to a heckler at a San Diego forum on prostate cancer by gesturing toward him with his finger and declaring, “(expletive) you.” During his remarks at the weekend event, the congressman also described a rectal procedure he had received as “just not natural, unless maybe you’re Barney Frank,” a reference to the openly gay lawmaker from Massachusetts.

Cunningham later apologized, saying his actions were inappropriate for a member of Congress. He certainly got that right.

But this was not the first time Cunningham let his temper get the better of him.

In 1995, Capitol Hill police had to break up a scuffle between the San Diego County lawmaker and Rep. James Moran, D-Va. A year earlier, Cunningham challenged Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., to a physical confrontation on the House floor. On another occasion, he used the degrading term “homos” to describe gays in the armed forces.

As a four-term veteran of the House, Cunningham has exerted constructive leadership on important military and education issues. But his reputation for vulgar conduct — a reputation he seems intent on reinforcing at regular intervals, despite his own repeated apologies — is an embarrassment to San Diego.

And it turns out he was a thief, too. What a big surprise, what with him being such a great guy and all.

Cunningham is a typical loud mouthed bully who fairly represents the (large) angry white male faction of the Republican party. Like Limbaugh the criminal drug addict and DeLay the thieving crook, they think they are immune from laws they seek to inflict on the rest of the American people.

Good riddance.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Clean Break

by digby

Mickey Kaus has been flogging his "scoop" about Libby calling up Russert to complain about Chris Matthews using the allegedly anti-semitic term "neocon." We would only know this for sure if Russert would reveal his conversation with Libby and he won't because he isn't a journalist, he's a talk show host. Just as Jay Leno wouldn't want to upset Jessica Simpson, Russert doesn't want to upset the White House.

Kaus brings up something interesting, however, to explain Libby's bone deep hatred for Wilson. (We know what Rove's reason was --- "he's a Democrat.") He writes:

What Wilson quote is most likely to have angered Libby? I'd nominate the following excerpt (again, via Maguire) from a discussion by Wilson at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center on June 14, 2003, about a month before Libby's call to Russert:

I think there are a number of issues at play; there's a number of competing agendas. One is the remaking of the map of the Middle East for Israeli security, and my fear is that when it becomes increasingly apparent that this was all done to make Sharon's life easier and that American soldiers are dying in order to make Sharon's life--enable Sharon to impose his terms upon the Palestinians that people will wonder why it is American boys and girls are dying for Israel and that will undercut a strategic relationship and a moral obligation that we've had towards Israel for 55 years. I think it's a terribly flawed strategy. [Emphasis added. Audio here at 13:33]

Kaus notes that there is no way of knowing if Libby had heard about this talk when he went over the edge on Wilson, but it's possible.

It reminds me that Wilson has long held that the administration's Iraq policy could most simply be explained by the "Clean Break" document which was written for the Netanyahu government in 1997. It's interesting to note how many of the current players were involved in that document:

Following is a report prepared by The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies’ "Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000." The main substantive ideas in this paper emerge from a discussion in which prominent opinion makers, including Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser participated. The report, entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," is the framework for a series of follow-up reports on strategy.

If you haven't read that document, you should. It's amazing.


It's clear that Bush is going to try to change the subject with a big push on the immigration issue. This article in TIME discusses the various pressures on both parties.

Having spent a good part of my almost 50 years in California, I have observed that the immigration issue is usually a sign of a weak economy or some other form of discontent. It's been around forever and rears its head every once in a while as people perceive a "crisis" and then it goes underground again.

It is not a partisan issue; many Democrats are very exercised about Mexican immigrants overrunning the borders and allegedly taking away jobs from Americans or at least holding wages below what they would otherwise be. On the other side are liberals who see a subtle and no so subtle racism in the border debate and feel that all this talk of cultural dissonence is a false construct. There are conflicting values of economics and human rights involved and it's confusing.

The Republican have a different set of divisive issues. TIME characterizes Bush's dilemma this way:

So far, he has not been able to bridge his party's business leaders, who need a steady supply of workers willing to do hard labor, and its cultural conservatives, who fear that something essential about the American character is vanishing under the crosscurrents of multilingualism and demographic change and ethnic pluralism.

This is clearly going to be an issue. Even up in Ohio, which I didn't know until recently has been a mexican migrant crop picking destination forever, is having a fit about illegal immigration and all the alleged problems associated with it.

My feeling is that this time we are dealing with displaced fear and frustrating impotence. The terrorist boogeyman has been fully internalized and people are afraid. But it is an ephemeral and distant enemy. Another brown hoarde is conveniently available. I think my theory is borne out by the right's increasing emphasis on the Mexican border being a national security threat and the sudden seriousness of Pat Buchanan's "fence" concept:

This latest fence proposal comes from an organization called Let Freedom Ring, and its WeNeedaFence.com project. It's funded by Dr. John Templeton, a generous supporter of a range of conservative causes.

Colin Hanna, the group's president, says we shouldn't be messing around with the flimsy and partial fences we've built so far. What's needed is a serious border fence, one modeled after what the Israelis are building on the West Bank.

What Hanna has in mind is a barrier consisting of a "pyramid" of rolls of barbed wire piled 6 to 8 feet high. Alongside it would run a deep ditch, followed by a fence, a security road, another fence, another ditch, and then another wire pyramid. Cameras and motion detectors would monitor the fence to create a formidable barrier 40 to 50 yards wide. The cost: $2 million to $4 million a mile, or $4 billion to $8 billion in total.

Hanna says his proposal is entirely consistent with President Bush's emerging proposal to legalize some illegal immigrants through a temporary guest-worker program. In fact, he says, it will complement it. Unless more illegal migrants can be kept out after Bush's guest-worker program is established, more will keep coming in. ''The fence is the sine qua non of immigration reform," Hanna argues. "If you don't have a secure border, all the rest is whistling in the wind.''

To promote his ideas, his group has lobbied on Capitol Hill and aired two television spots in the Washington area. One cites statistics of North Koreans and Iraqis crossing the Mexican border, and includes a clip of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

I'm also hearing a lot about rapes, animal mutilation and kidnapping along the border.

I understand the strong negative feelings that many Democratic populists have about illegal immigration. Disdaining the cheap immigrant labor the wealthy thrive on is an understandable populist impulse. I do hope, however, that Democrats give some long and serious thought to the underlying racist implications of some of this on the right ---- and understand the dangers of getting into bed with people whose real agenda has nothing to do with economics:

...the great migration north continues. Some 1.5 million are apprehended every year on our southern border breaking into the United States. Of the perhaps 500,000 who make it, one-third head for Mexifornia, where their claims on Medicaid, schools, courts, prisons, and welfare have tipped the Golden State toward bankruptcy and induced millions of native-born Americans to flee in the great exodus to Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, and Colorado. Ten years after NAFTA, Mexico's leading export to America is still--Mexicans. America is becoming Mexamerica.

Source: Where The Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p.166 Sep 1, 2004

Mexifornia? How silly. The word "California" is spanish. So are "Los Angeles" and "San Francisco" and "Las Vegas" and "Santa Fe" and "San Antonio." This country has always been Mexamerica. Perhaps Pat doesn't know this being from Washington DC, but those of us from the border states don't find this "alien culture" alien at all. It's always been here. And, yes, there are plenty of people who have always hated it --- the same way that some white southerners are intimately familiar with black culture and hate it at the same time. But contrary to what Pat and some of the other "American culture" hysterics are trying to promote, this isn't new. It's been literally going on for centuries. And we've been having these panics about it every so often for centuries too.

We can argue about the degree of the immigration problem and about solutions. But we should remember that populism isn't only a leftwing ideology. It swings both ways as Pat Buchanan's racist right wing populism shows. Sadly, it's been most successful when it combined both elements. I hope that liberals don't find it "useful" to subtly play to some of these sentiments no matter how tempting it might be. We should be very thoughtful about this.

Update: Kevin Drum discusses the policy implications of the immigration debate. Sadly, I don't think this debate is really about policy. It's about the boogeyman.