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Monday, December 12, 2005

Bada Bing

by digby

The reporter editor who raises questions about the appropriateness of Dan Froomkin's column is John Harris --- the same guy featured in this interview:

Paul McLeary: You covered the Clinton presidency for the Washington Post from 1995 to 2001, and during that contentious second term, what was your general take on the mood of the press corps in response to Clinton and his policies?

John F. Harris: The mood of the press corps was oftentimes kind of sour -- sour in both directions. People tend to forget, for understandable reasons because the Lewinsky scandal was such a sensational affair, that 1997 was in its own way a very sullen, snippy, disagreeable year in the relationship between the White House and the press. Most news organizations -- the Washington Post included -- were devoting lots of resources, lots of coverage, to the campaign fund-raising scandal which grew out of the '96 campaign, and there were a lot of very tantalizing leads in those initial controversies. In the end they didn't seem to lead anyplace all that great.But there were tons of questions raised that certainly, to my mind, merited aggressive coverage.

Now who exactly, was asking all those "questions" do you suppose? And who, exactly, is giving John Harris and the rest of the Washington Post a hard time about Dan Froomkin today? If you guess that it's Republicans, you'd undoubtedly be right.

Here's a fun example of how this works:

Russert: Libby called me to complain about something he had seen on MSNBC...

Imus: What did he complain about on MSNBC, do you remember?

Russert: I haven't gone into it,--you know-publicly-cause I just didn't want to get involved with all that viewer complaints, but I do remember it because of his language that he chose and that's why- I actually called Ben Shapiro, the president of NBC news and said I just gave your direct line to this guy named Lewis Scooter Libby, who is upset about something he watched on TV and you may hear from him.

I understand that the press comes under tremendous pressure when they write negative things about the administration. Their access dries up. They are frozen out of the scoops. Their bosses are called and they are asked to explain themselves. The other day when all the news outlets were gleefully reporting that Bush had come back up in the polls a bit, I could understand that the reporters were tremendously relieved to get the Republican attack dogs off their backs with a little good news for their boy.

That's how things work. We get that. But please don't blow smoke up our asses about "credibility" ok? We know what's going on. The Republicans operate like the Sopranos. And they're just as dumb. If the media would report this crap up front, we could put an end to this nonsense.

Update: Harris shakes out his lace cuff, takes a long whiff of snuff and puts Froomkin in his slaggardly, bloggy place.

Fine. Fuck it. Change the name if it bothers the "real" white house reporters so much. Call it The Whorehouse Report. It amounts to the same thing.

Novakula Rises

Via Kos, I see that Bob Novak is reporting that Republicans are begging Katherine Harris to drop out of the Florida senate race. Wasn't that the issue that old Bob and James Carville were bantering about when Novak lost it on the air?

ED HENRY: katherine harris went onto the house of representatives. now she wants to move over to the united states senate. today she got the news that the speaker of the florida house won't challenge her for the republican nomination. she is blaming unnamed newspapers for tarnishing her image by doctoring her makeup with photo shop. that computer program. bob, have you been investigating this story?

BOB NOVAK: no, but i've had the same experience that she did. a lot of my trouble in the world is they've doctored my makeup and the colorized me in a lot of newspapers on my picture. i sympathize with her.

HENRY: who did it?

NOVAK: i can't tell you.

JAMES CARVILL: yeah, the two happiest people in america today about this decision is bill nelson and jay leno. i mean --

HENRY: bill nelson the democratic senator.

CARVILLE: and jay leno. they're going to go nuts over this. they're messing with my makeup. you don't know who it is. i mean, let's say this. she's going to be good for the humor circuit and the speech circuit. she's good for a lot. i think that nelson, it's no secret the white house wanted the speaker to run. i suspect the nelson people are feeling pretty good here today.

NOVAK: a couple of points here. the first place, don't be too sure she's going to lose. all the establishment's against her. i've seen these republican -- anti-establishment candidates do pretty well. ronald reagan, i guarantee you the establishment wasn't for him. we just elected a senator from oklahoma, senator tom colebert, everybody in the establishment was against him. she might get elected. [CROSS TALK]

NOVAK: let me finish what i'm going to say, james. i know you hate to hear me

CARVILLE: he's got to show she is right wingers he's got backbone. show them you're tough.

NOVAK: i think that's bullshit and i hate that. just let it go.

I don't know that this has anything to do with anything. I just thought it would be fun to relive the moment when Novak was forced to go back into his coffin for the duration.

Transcript via Wonkette.


I have turned off all the cable news stations for the rest of the day. Watching the macabre death watch of Stanley Williams gives me the same sick feeling in my gut that seeing those videos of hostages in Iraq does. The endless slide show of pictures of the guy while a little clock in the corner counts down the hours until he will be killed is beyond my ken. I just don't see how this helps anything. Life without parole sounds like civilized justice to me. This state sanctioned cold-blooded execution stuff is something else entirely.

In other news, Mexico just outlawed the death penalty, leaving the United States among the following countries that allow it:

* Afghanistan
* Antigua and Barbuda
* Bahamas
* Bahrain
* Bangladesh
* Barbados
* Belarus
* Belize
* Botswana
* Burundi
* Cameroon
* Chad
* China (People's Republic)
* Comoros
* Congo (Democratic Republic)
* Cuba
* Dominica
* Egypt
* Equatorial Guinea
* Eritrea
* Ethiopia
* Gabon
* Ghana
* Guatemala
* Guinea
* Guyana
* India
* Indonesia
* Iran
* Iraq
* Jamaica
* Japan
* Jordan
* Kazakhstan
* Korea, North
* Korea, South
* Kuwait
* Kyrgyzstan
* Laos
* Lebanon
* Lesotho
* Liberia
* Libya
* Malawi
* Malaysia
* Mongolia
* Nigeria
* Oman
* Pakistan
* Palestinian Authority
* Philippines
* Qatar
* Rwanda
* St. Kitts and Nevis
* St. Lucia
* St. Vincent and the Grenadines
* Saudi Arabia
* Sierra Leone
* Singapore
* Somalia
* Sudan
* Swaziland
* Syria
* Taiwan
* Tajikistan
* Tanzania
* Thailand
* Trinidad and Tobago
* Uganda
* United Arab Emirates
* United States
* Uzbekistan
* Vietnam
* Yemen
* Zambia
* Zimbabwe

Interesting company, isn't it? With the exception of Belize, Guatamala and some Caribbean islands we are the only country in North America, South America or Europe to have the death penalty.

Can someone explain to me again about how we are defending western civilization against the barbarians. I don't think I quite understand it.

Update: Guyana is in S. America and Belarus is in Eastern Europe. My bad. Point stays the same.

Push Back

by digby

Is it really true that it's ethical for one journalist to reveal a colleague's confidential source to a third source?

I'm in desperate need of an emergency panel on blogger ethics because I'm confused. David Corn says that Viveca Novak screwed up by not telling her editors that Luskin was using a conversation she'd never mentioned to anyone as a get out of jail card for Karl Rove. That sounds right to me. She really should have told her editors. This was a big story and had they known about Luskin's reaction perhaps they would have pursued the story differently and gotten the truth out to the public.

But Corn also says that she did nothing wrong when she told Luskin that Rove being Matt Cooper's source was all over TIME magazine, which I really don't understand at all. Novak herself admits that it was a mistake:

Toward the end of one of our meetings, I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt." I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, "Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around TIME." He looked surprised and very serious. "There's nothing in the phone logs," he said. In the course of the investigation, the logs of all Rove's calls around the July 2003 time period--when two stories, including Matt's, were published mentioning that Plame was Wilson's wife--had been combed, and Luskin was telling me there were no references to Matt. (Cooper called via the White House switchboard, which may be why there is no record.)

I was taken aback that he seemed so surprised. I had been pushing back against what I thought was his attempt to lead me astray. I hadn't believed that I was disclosing anything he didn't already know. Maybe this was a feint. Maybe his client was lying to him. But at any rate, I immediately felt uncomfortable. I hadn't intended to tip Luskin off to anything. I was supposed to be the information gatherer. It's true that reporters and sources often trade information, but that's not what this was about. If I could have a do-over, I would have kept my mouth shut; since I didn't, I wish I had told my bureau chief about the exchange. Luskin walked me to my car and said something like, "Thank you. This is important."

She says she was uncomfortable. She hadn't intended to "tip Luskin off." If she had a do-over, she would have kept her mouth shut. Yet Corn insists that she did nothing wrong.

Although Corn expends a great deal of energy lighting up the straw man, I haven't seen anyone accusing her of being a right wing operative. It's not her politics that are at issue. It's her ethics. "Pushing back" shouldn't include exposing her colleague Matt Cooper's source to a third party. She ended up becoming part of the story and the investigation because of that. It's a major screw up that shines yet another bright light on the curious ethical habits of the DC establishment.

Apparently others at TIME magazine, not just Cooper and his editors, knew that Karl Rove was personally blabbing to the press that Plame was CIA. (Half of Washington seems to have known it.) Viveca Novak knew and blabbed it to Karl Rove's lawyer over drinks at Cafe Deluxe, Lawrence O'Donnell knew and kept it secret for months because he didn't want to be subpoenaed and God knows how many other people knew it and passed it on to other privileged insiders or kept it to themselves for selfish reasons. Can't reporters like Corn understand why we poor hapless rubes out here in the hinterlands (not to mention the Justice department) find their shrieking for the last year and half about the sanctity of the confidential source just a little bit self-serving?

I've never quarrelled with Matt Cooper taking his promise to keep Karl Rove's name confidential all the way to the Supreme Court. (I wondered about Judith Miller being entitled to the reporter's privilege when it was clear that she had not written a story and had not been assigned one, however.) I understand that reporters need to keep their sources identities secret at times. What I don't understand is the practice of going back to powerful sources who lie to you again and again and granting them anonymity so that they can spread scurrilous stories without having to take responsibility for them. I don't understand why it's ok for a reporter to spill the name of a colleague's confidential source over drinks at Cafe Deluxe or why the public should accept that a newsroom and friends and cocktail party guests should know the names of these confidential sources, but the people (even "the people" as represented by the government) should not. I don't know why a reporter can keep important information on ice for months and years because they want to break the news in a book long after it has any relevance. It seems to me that the Beltway press corps wants it both ways. They don't want to be forced to tell the law or the public who their confidential sources are but they reserve for themselves the pleasure of blabbing it to their friends, other sources and each other.

The DC press corps has no idea how they look to the rest of the country after more than a decade of running with GOP trumped up scandals, pimping for impeachment, trivializing the effects of an unorthodox presidential election in 2000, and then saluting smartly and following Dick Cheney over the cliff on Iraq. We liberals never thought of the press as particularly partisan. We thought of it as competent or incompetent. But for a lot of reasons, for the last 15 years the DC press corps have far too often aligned themselves with a manipulative GOP political establishment to the point where it's been hard to see where one ends and the other begins. It's not a matter of political preference. It's insiderism. And when you become an insider in a corrupt system, for money, access, fame, fun whatever ... you become corrupt yourself.

I'm not surprised that the WaPo staffers don't like links to bloggers and others on the WaPo site. We are very critical. And I'm sure that we are often unfair and often flat wrong. But it would behoove these guys to stop consoling themselves with the notion that they "must be doing something right" if both sides are mad at them, and take a good look at the nature of these complaints. The right has spent the last quarter century in an organized campaign to work the refs and push the dialog to the right. The complaints coming from the left are the result of pent-up frustration at the tabloidization, the celebrity chasing, the insiderism. We have no organized campaign and we don't see the media as being politically biased. We see it as abdicating its duty to sort out the important from the trivial and connect the dots in these confusing times that are ruled by spin, PR and marketing on all sides.

This country cannot survive without proper journalism. Blogs can't do it. We need newspapers and news broadcasters who keep foremost in their minds the fact that they are indispensible to a functioning democracy. For the last fifteen years Washington politics have been covered as if they are high school with money. The DC press corps needs to reacquaint themselves with the idea that their purpose is not to have drinks with powerful insiders so they can keep their confidences. Their job is to have drinks with powerful insiders so they can get to the truth and write about it.

Update: Firedoglake has more on the WaPo ombudsman letter linked above that discusses the dissatisfaction of the staffers about linking and Dan Froomkin. Jane sets the story straight as only she can.

Crooks and Liars weighs in too.

Update II:

Thank you Dan Froomkin:

There is undeniably a certain irreverence to the column. But I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable. And he should be able to easily withstand that scrutiny. I was prepared to take the same approach with John Kerry, had he become president.

This column’s advocacy is in defense of the public’s right to know what its leader is doing and why. To that end, it calls attention to times when reasonable, important questions are ducked; when disingenuous talking points are substituted for honest explanations; and when the president won’t confront his critics -- or their criticisms -- head on.

The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so -- not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do.

Update: For those who don't understand why it is wrong to reveal Cooper's source to the source's lawyer, it's called the law of unintended consequences, which I think this story illustrates quite well. She had no way of knowing how blurting that information out would affect the story, or the case, but she does now. The rule of thumb is that if you know the name of your colleague's source, keep your mouth shut. Period. She could have "pushed back" in any number of ways that didn't include revealing Rove's name. It was careless and cavalier and she's paying for it (and the proverbial cover-up) now.

UpdateII: More here


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Father Knows Best

Aside from being a bad son (like his hero, Junior Bush) and publicly disrespecting his much more accomplished father, Chris Wallace is an idiot. Via Americablog:

Asked about DNC chair Howard Dean's recent prediction that the U.S. would lose the war in Iraq, Wallace told Carr:

"We are in a war. We do have 150,000-plus American soldiers over there. I mean, it's Tokyo Rose, for God sakes, going on radio saying we can't win the war."

I guess he's unaware of Tokyo Rose's story (which is typical because he's a rightwing moron):

Iva Ikuko Toguri is the woman who was tried as Tokyo Rose. She is a first-generation Japanese-American who happened to be visiting a sick relative in Japan in 1941. When war was declared between Japan and the U.S., Toguri was trapped in Japan and pressured by Japanese military police to renounce her American citizenship. She refused. Instead, she learned Japanese and took two jobs to support herself while she sought a way to return home.

One of her jobs was as a typist for Radio Tokyo. There she met American and Australian prisoners of war who were being forced to broadcast radio propaganda. Toguri scavenged black-market food, medicine, and supplies for these POWs. When Radio Tokyo wanted a female voice for their propaganda shows, the POWs selected Toguri. She was one of many female, English-speaking voices on Radio Tokyo, and she took the radio name of "Orphan Ann." Her POW friends wrote her scripts and tried to sneak in pro-American messages whenever possible.

After the war, several reporters went to Japan to find and interview the infamous Tokyo Rose, offering a large cash payment for an interview. A woman at Radio Tokyo pointed the reporters to Iva Toguri, and Toguri, thinking that she and her new husband, Felipe d'Aquino, could use the money, agreed to be interviewed. She even signed a contract stating that she was the infamous Tokyo Rose. A reporter gave the interview notes to U.S. Army Counter Intelligence, and in 1945, the U.S. arrested and imprisoned Toguri in Japan. She was released in 1946, but was arrested again in 1948, and taken to the U.S. to be tried for treason.

Her trial was considered the most expensive in American history at that time. The U.S. government stacked the deck against Toguri and her meager defense, and the judge later admitted he was prejudiced against her from the start. Toguri was found guilty of only one of the eight treason charges -- "That she did speak into a microphone concerning the loss of ships." She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $10,000. Because she was a model prisoner, Toguri was released early in 1956, although she was served with a deportation order which took two years to fight.

In 1976, the TV news show 60 Minutes told the Tokyo Rose story from Toguri's point of view. This led to a full pardon for Toguri from President Gerald Ford in 1977.

Chris should have listened to his father. He might have learned something.

CRS* Disease

by digby

In the spring of '04, responding to to Karl Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin saying out of the blue over drinks one night, "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt," Viveca Novak just happened to let it slip that it was all over TIME magazine that Karl Rove was the leaker. Luskin said "thank you. This is important."

She didn't tell her editors or the public during the entire time a first amendment challenge was being waged against her magazine all the way to the Supreme Court. She said nothing as her colleague Cooper faced jail time up until the last possible moment, not even when Rove's lawyer essentially AGAIN, more than a year after she told him otherwise, said those magic words --- this time to the Wall Street Journal ("If Matt Cooper's going to jail, it's not for Karl Rove.")

She didn't tell her editors or the public when Luskin informed her that she was going to be called by the prosecutor nor did she tell them when she hired a lawyer and gave the prosecutor a statement. It was only when she was actually called to give a deposition under oath that she decided that she needed to reveal that Luskin had proferred her as Rove's alibi.

She made no notes of her numerous conversations with Luskin even though she claims that she was working on the Rove story. And she can't remember when the conversations specifically took place. Apparently, she didn't think it was important to make a note of it, even though she was allegedly working on the story at the time.

She wishes she could have a do-over. She says she would do it differently. Like, for instance, she wouldn't go around revealing Matt Cooper's sources. Cuz, it's like mortifying. Totally.

Most amazingly, after she had already talked to the prosecutor for the first time and still not told her editors of her own involvement (or had told them that day) she wrote her story about about Bob Woodward:

But he said nothing then or in the months that followed as Fitzgerald launched his investigation and all Washington was consumed by a debate over spies and secrets and sources. Woodward kept what he knew secret even from Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. But as the case heated up this fall and Woodward joined in the reporting, "I learned something more" about the leak, he told TIME, which prompted him to finally tell Downie of his 2003 conversation.


Challenged on his public statements as well as his private conduct, Woodward explained that he had "hunkered down" out of fear of being subpoenaed at a time when reporters like Miller and TIME's Matthew Cooper were being jailed or threatened with jail unless they revealed their sources. Elsewhere in the newsroom, Post colleagues were none too happy. On an internal chat board, columnist Jonathan Yardley argued that "this is the logical and perhaps inevitable outcome when an institution permits an individual to become larger than the institution itself."

I can guess what the internal TIME chat board will be saying tomorrow: "Oh, and fuck you very much Viv. Your glass house needs cleaning."

She continued:

It was a rough week all around. The White House confronted another twist that could only prolong a politically damaging case. Fitzgerald confirmed that he would be presenting evidence to a new grand jury. Other possible targets had to be worried that there is still an aggressive investigation going on with the possibility of further indictments to come. And Fitzgerald, a tireless prosecutor with a reputation for thoroughness, had to wonder, after two years and millions of dollars and countless hours of hunting, what else is out there that he missed.

Yes, Fitzgerald was being uncharacteristically sloppy. Clearly, he should have rendered the entire press corps to Gitmo and injected them with sodium pentathol. After all, nobody in Washington takes any notes or has any conscious memory of any conversations they ever have, so there really isn't any other way to get the facts.

Truthfully, I suspect that Fitzgerald was as sadly mistaken about how the media functions in this country as the public was. We all thought that journalists were chomping at the bit to reveal news and when they got a tip they worked hard to find a way to report it. In Viveca Novak's case, had she just shared what she knew with her editors, for instance, they might have put it together with other information they had from other reporters and maybe found a way to publish a story.

I suppose we were all led astray by "All The President's Men" (ironically) which showed journalists using anonymously sourced information as a tip to pursue stories further or confirmation of facts they already knew, not as social currency or exclusive information for a book to be published long after the information means anything. Our bad. Apparently, it's fine for reporters to "gossip" freely among their fellow insiders about their sacred anonymous sources, but a federal crime to tell the public about it. We rubes are supposed to uncritically read their dispatches and buy their books so they can be well paid --- and leave the democracy business to our betters.

*Can't Remember Shit

Update: In retrospect, TIME should have pulled that story she wrote on Woodward or reported immediately that she had been called to testify. It looks bad. She was writing that story on November 18th and she knew she was even more implicated than Woodward. She told her editor on Sunday the 20th so perhaps they couldn't pull it back by that point. I'm surprised she wasn't fired on the spot, to tell you the truth. Her behavior is more egregious than Miller's.

(And once again, why in the hell did Woodward pick her to talk to?)

Update II: James Wolcott calls for another panel on blogger ethics

Who's Wanking Now

In case anyone still wonder why the cheese eating surrender monkeys and the ungrateful bastards we liberated from Hitler didn't join in our war party, here's the reason:

More than a year before President Bush declared in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Africa, the French spy service began repeatedly warning the CIA in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation.

The previously undisclosed exchanges between the U.S. and the French, described in interviews last week by the retired chief of the French counterintelligence service and a former CIA official, came on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002.

The French conclusions were reached after extensive on-the-ground investigations in Niger and other former French colonies, where the uranium mines are controlled by French companies, said Alain Chouet, the French former official. He said the French investigated at the CIA's request.

Chouet's account was "at odds with our understanding of the issue," a U.S. government official said. The U.S. official declined to elaborate and spoke only on condition that neither he nor his agency be named.

However, the essence of Chouet's account — that the French repeatedly investigated the Niger claim, found no evidence to support it, and warned the CIA — was extensively corroborated by the former CIA official and a current French government official, who both spoke on condition of anonymity.

The repeated warnings from France's Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure did not prevent the Bush administration from making the case aggressively that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons materials.

It was not the first time a foreign government tried to warn U.S. officials off of dubious prewar intelligence.

In the notorious "Curveball" case, an Iraqi who defected to Germany claimed to have knowledge of Iraqi biological weapons. Bush and other U.S. officials repeatedly cited Curveball's claims even as German intelligence officials argued that he was unstable and might be a fabricator.

And remember, even our closest ally in the coalition of the willing was saying this at the time:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Let's hear again about how every foreign government agreed with our assessment that Iraq had WMD.

Oh, and not that it matters, but let's also remember what Karl Rove was telling Time magazine in July of 2003 about this:

"not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger ... "


Saturday, December 10, 2005

R.I.P. R.P.

by digby

If you would like to have a surreal experience akin to the effects of downing ten shots of cheap tequila, tune in to FoxNews as they eulogize Richard Pryor. Apparently he invented dirty words. (It's going to come as a helluva surprise to Lenny Bruce --- not to mention Redd Foxx.) He rejected the comedy of the good comedian, Bill Cosby, and went down the "wrong path" that led us to where we are today with all this R rated badness. One of the commentators said that when he went on TV in the mid 70's he "wasn't ready for prime time." (Actually, prime time wasn't ready for him.) Another said that "every black comic owes him something."

(Is it possible that right wingers are all actually zombies who died sometime before the 60's and have been walking among us as the undead ever since then? I just don't know what else can explain their terminal cultural obtuseness.)

I saw Richard Pryor in concert in 1974 at the Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos, California. I just realized that he was only 34 years old at the time. (Of course, I was only 18, so everyone seemed pretty old to me then.) He was on the cusp of achieving huge mainstream fame that year from his album "That Nigger's Crazy."

I'd never seen anything like Pryor before. It was more than comedy, and it sure as hell was more than "R" rated. It was cultural observation so universal and so penetrating that I saw the world differently from that night on. He didn't just talk about race, although he talked about it a lot and in the most bracing, uncompromising terms possible. He also talked about men and women, age, relationships, family, politics and culture so hilariously that my jaw literally ached the next day. He was rude, profane and sexist. But there was also this undercurrent of vulnerability and melancholy running beneath the comedy that exposed a canny understanding of human foible. His personal angst seemed to me to be almost uncomfortably plain.

I looked around me in that theatre that night, in which I and my little friend Kathy were among a fair minority of whites, and I realized that we were all laughing uproariously together at this shocking, dirty, racially charged stuff. As someone who grew up in a racist household (and had always had a visceral reaction against it) it was an enormous, overwhelming relief. I understood Richard Pryor, the African Americans in the audience understood Richard Pryor and Richard Pryor and the African Americans understood me. He was right up front, saying it all clearly and without restraint. He wasn't being polite and pretending that race wasn't an issue. And it didn't matter. Nobody, not one person, in that audience was angry. In fact, not one person in that audience was anything but doubled over in paroxysms of hysterical laughter. He had our number, all of us, the whole flawed species.

He's been sick a long time and so it's no surprise that he died a a sadly early death. I've been missing him for quite a while. If you haven't ever had a chance to see him in concert when he was in his prime, check it out on DVD. Maybe it won't be funny or salient to people today, I don't know. At the time, it was a revelation.

Who's In Disarray?

by digby

In its relentless quest to abdicate global leadership and assume the role of rogue nation, the Bush administration is making a complete ass of itself in the global warming talks:

In a sign of its growing isolation on climate issues, the Bush administration had come under sharp criticism for walking out of informal discussions on finding new ways to reduce emissions under the United Nations' 1992 treaty on climate change.

The walkout, by Harlan L. Watson, the chief American negotiator here, came Friday, shortly after midnight, on what was to have been the last day of the talks, during which the administration has been repeatedly assailed by the leaders of other wealthy industrialized nations for refusing to negotiate to advance the goals of that treaty, and in which former President Bill Clinton chided both sides for lack of flexibility.

At a closed session of about 50 delegates, Dr. Watson objected to the proposed title of a statement calling for long-term international cooperation to carry out the 1992 climate treaty, participants said. He then got up from the table and departed.

Environmentalists here called his actions the capstone of two weeks of American efforts to prevent any fresh initiatives from being discussed. "This shows just how willing the U.S. administration is to walk away from a healthy planet and its responsibilities to its own people," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate change project at the World Wildlife Fund.

In the end, though, some adjustments of wording - including a shift from "mechanisms" to the softer word "opportunities" in one statement - ended the dispute.

Hey, I like breathing dirt and I assume that everyone else in the world likes breathing dirt too. Good for us.

But that's not all. This is downright absurd:

In his Friday speech, Clinton blasted the Bush administration’s opposition as “flat wrong.”

But the speech almost didn’t happen.

The contretemps started late Thursday afternoon, when the Associated Press ran a story saying that Clinton had been added at the last minute to the gathering’s speaking schedule at the request of conference organizers. According to the source, barely minutes after the news leaked, conference organizers called Clinton aides and told them that Bush-administration officials were displeased.

“The organizers said the Bush people were threatening to pull out of the deal,” the source said. After some deliberation between Clinton and his aides, Clinton decided he wouldn’t speak, added the source: “President Clinton immediately said, ‘There’s no way that I’m gonna let petty politics get in the way of the deal. So I’m not gonna come.’ That’s the message [the Clinton people] sent back to the organizers.”

But the organizers of the conference didn’t want to accept a Bush-administration dictum. They asked Clinton that he go ahead with the speech. “The organizers decided to call the administration’s bluff,” the source said. “They said, ‘We’re gonna push [the Bush people] back on this.’”

Several hours went by, and at the Clinton Foundation’s holiday party on Thursday night, the former president and his aides still thought they weren’t going to Montreal. “The staff that was supposed to go with him had canceled their travel plans,” the source said.

At around 8:30 p.m., organizers called Clinton aides and said that they’d successfully called the bluff of Bush officials, adding that Bush’s aides had backed off and indicated that Clinton’s appearance wouldn’t in fact have adverse diplomatic consequences.

Karl had a bad week. You can always tell.


Friday, December 09, 2005

So, Like, Totally Funny

by digby

Via Wolcott
I see that the spokesmodel of Open Robe Media, Atlas Shrugged, has a hilarious picture of Howard Dean up photoshopped as Hitler. But it's ok because it's totally funny:

Hey guys, its a joke. Helllllllllllllllllllllo, its F-U-N-N-Y (even if Dean's remarks were far from funny, futile maybe, treasonous maybe, stupid for sure, humorous - not). Actually, the pic is hysterical. I never said he was Hitler, never even called him a Nazi. A clown for sure. That's a clown pic - this is a clown pic too. Conversely, when the left calls Bush Hitler, they are dead serious. You can not compare the two. The above picture is hysterical. You clowns are as bad as the one in the picture. Sheesh.

Smart as a whip.

Update: For some real fun, read the comments. This one, I thought, was particularly insightful:

The country is driven by Cindy Sheehan. We republicans haven't got a chance....until election day. You dheminnocrats are sure simple minded. You make up the news and then believe it. Then, you take a phony poll and declare victory. The only thing missing is reality.

But don't worry, when the train of life is leaving you behind at the station of stupidity, I'll fart in your general direction.


by digby

I can't stand this baby panda anymore. He is so cute it is almost painful to watch. He's so cute I want to kill him. It's just too much.

You can watch him live on the PandaCam at Animal Planet --- if you dare.

Oh man, the San Diego Zoo has a cub too.

Just Don't Call Them Special Interests

A Washington truism: Conservatives do meetings better than liberals. They get more done. They coordinate better. When it’s time to rally around John Roberts or Samuel Alito (or torpedo Harriet Miers), they know how to make it happen. Here’s a look at the conservative insider roundtables:

The Wednesday Meeting

HOST: Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform.

LOCATION: Americans for Tax Reform office, 20th and L streets, downtown DC.

TIME: Wednesdays, 10 am sharp.

SETUP: Norquist, flanked by invited guests, presides over a large conference table. Others sit in auditorium chairs.

FOOD: Delicious bagels, not-very-delicious coffee.

PHILOSOPHY: Leave-us-alone conservative crowd: Big government is bad; taxes are bad; liberal bureaucracy is bad.

PARTICIPANTS: 80 to 100 people, including elected officials looking for donations, Hill aides, state officeholders seeking tax-fighting help, even representatives of free-market think tanks in Europe and Asia.

KARL FACTOR: White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove has attended many meetings, including a “buck up the troops” visit before election 2004. Rove sends White House aide Tim Goeglein to take flak when he’s not there.

MEDIA: Conservative and some mainstream media attend with the proviso that the session is off the record.

CLAIM TO FAME: Seeded the 1994 Gingrich revolution. In time Newt’s informal policy shop became the connection between grasstops conservative activists and official Washington. The meeting helps the White House discern the mood of the movement.

NOTABLE GUESTS: Past speakers include Christopher Hitchens, Ralph Nader.

The Arlington Group

HOST: Donald Wildmon, American Family Association.

LOCATION: Family Research Council conference room in DC. Formerly based in the condo of Sandy Rios of Concerned Women for America.

TIME: Every-other-month sessions last up to several days.

SETUP: Conference tables arranged in a square allow participants to look each other in the eye.

FOOD: Sandwiches, chips, and drinks.

PHILOSOPHY: Savvy Christian political action.

PARTICIPANTS: 30 to 45 social-conservative leaders, ranging from Focus on the Family’s James Dobson to the National Association of Evangelicals’ Reverend Ted Haggard, ex-presidential candidate Gary Bauer, influential South Florida pastor D. James Kennedy.

KARL FACTOR: He has briefed the meeting—and listened to complaints—several times via telephone.

MEDIA: None, though details often leak to New York Times conservative-movement chronicler David Kirkpatrick.

CLAIM TO FAME: Conservatives frustrated at the pace of social-conservative legislation convened the group in 2003, and it was instrumental in garnering grassroots support for the Federal Marriage Amendment.

NOTABLE GUESTS: Reporters would love to know.

The Weyrich Meetings: Lunches, Family Forum, and Stanton Group

HOST: Paul Weyrich and staff, Free Congress Foundation; Bob Thompson, Coalitions for America.

LOCATION: Free Congress Foundation, 717 Second Street, Northeast.

TIME: Wednesday Weyrich lunches; biweekly Family Forum meetings; every other Friday for the Stanton Group.

SETUP: Varies.

FOOD: Family Forum serves doughnuts; Weyrich lunches are catered; the Stanton Group offers box lunches.

PHILOSOPHY: American conservatism, broadly construed.

PARTICIPANTS: 20 to 25 social-conservative activists, Hill staffers, and occasionally administration officials.

KARL FACTOR: Rove has attended several meetings.

MEDIA: None.

CLAIM TO FAME: First established in 1979, the Weyrich meetings helped bridge the gaps between the Washington GOP establishment and conservatives backing Ronald Reagan. Coalitions for America, a group linked to Weyrich, coordinates all three meetings.

NOTABLE GUESTS: George W. Bush attended during his father’s presidency.

The Monday Meeting

HOST: PR executive Mallory Factor and hedge-fund director James Higgins; affiliate of the Free Enterprise Fund.

LOCATION: Grand Hyatt, 42nd Street, New York.

TIME: One Monday a month.

SETUP: Chairs face a dais at the front of the room. Factor uses an egg timer to keep things moving.

FOOD: Water.

PHILOSOPHY: Free markets, free minds, but uncertain about cultural issues.

PARTICIPANTS: 200 guests, ten invited speakers.

KARL FACTOR: He hasn’t visited yet, but several allies have.

MEDIA: Conservative writers and a few others attend with the proviso that sessions are off the record.

CLAIM TO FAME: A participant says, “If you’re a conservative and you want to tap into New York money, you have to go there.” Potential 2008 Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Sam Brownback have already stopped by.

NOTABLE GUESTS: Fernando Ferrer, onetime Democratic New York mayoral candidate, once spoke on taxes.

Campaign Troops

by digby

Via Dan Froomkin, I see that Fox News (of all places) is following this story of Bush making political speeches before military audiences:

... lately the president has been saying more than just "hello" to troops. Twice last month in speeches to military audiences, the president attacked Democrats and fired back at their accusations that pre-war intelligence was manipulated by his administration.

"It is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim we misled them and the American people," Bush said.

On Nov. 11 at the Army Depot in Tobyhanna, Pa., Bush told the audience of servicemen and women that some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq have attempted to rewrite the past.

"The national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," he added.

The attacks against critics at military settings may have put troops in the awkward position of undermining their own regulations. A Department of Defense directive doesn't allow service members in uniform to attend "partisan political events."

Questions have been raised about the military's attendance at events where Bush says something like "they spoke the truth then, they're speaking politics now." Several members of the military told FOX News that Bush is inviting the troops to take sides in a partisan debate in his speeches.

"This is a very bad sign," said retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, who led Central Command in the early 1990s and is an administration critic. "This is the sort of thing that you find in other countries where the military and political, certain political parties are aligned."

Bush often appeared with troops in his 2004 campaign. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., endorsed him before hundreds of cheering soldiers.

"Where you have our uniformed members being put in a position where it looks like they're rooting for one side or another is very disconcerting," said Greg Noone, a former Navy lawyer.

Presidents have generally avoided such military settings due to the chance for attacks from opponents.

"They could be divisive," said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. "And as commander-in-chief, he represents all the people as does the military defend all the people."

I wrote about this a few days ago. It's not only the president, of course, who is doing this. The VP spoke before the troops this week as well. It's done for the specific purpose of giving the impression that the military backs the administration politically. It's inappropriate to give speech after speech before these captive audiences in the first place, but to take pot shots at the political opposition is really beyond the pale. There are Democrats among the troops, but they are not allowed to give their political opinion in this situation (by booing, for instance) the way a regular citizen could (theoretically, at least.)

And, as Stephen Hess points out, when Bush dons his Commander in Chief hat he's no longer supposed to be partisan. In that capacity, he's supposed to represent all the people. The military is always supposed to represent all the people.

Meanwhile, Dan Bartlet proves once again that the White House believes that they can speak gibberish and everyone will just let it slide:

"They're the ones who are defending our freedom," said White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett. "They should be able to listen to the debate, they should be able to hear both sides."

I'll be looking forward to seeing John Kerry and John Murtha addressing the troops every couple of days. After all, they should be able to hear both sides.

Thanks Bill

by digby

I'm not religious but I've always loved Christmas --- the food, the lights, the tree, the music, the whole thing. Now the right wing pricks have gone and made it a cause in their goddamned culture war and I can't enjoy it anymore. One sniff of fruitcake and a picture of Bill O'Reilly enters my mind. I'm instantly nauseated.

Everywhere I go, even here in the very heart of godless secular humanism, the People's Republic of Santa Monica, there are carolers on the sidewalk (singing songs like "Oh Holy Night" no less) "Merry Christmas" is written on store windows, decorated trees and twinkling lights are all over the place. And all I can think is "what in the hell are these wingnuts going on about? Christmas is everywhere! Are they nuts???" And then the pure, simple, childlike enjoyment I usually feel for the holiday just slips away.

I resent the hell out of these wingnut bastards turning Christmas into a political football. Is nothing sacred to these people?

Update: Oh, and please tell me again how secularists are declaring war on Christmas:

Many American "megachurches", huge Christian ministries with thousands-strong congregations, have horrified traditionalists by closing on Christmas Day.

Sunday services on Dec 25 are being cancelled because clergy fear attendance will be poor. Worshippers are instead being encouraged to spend the day with their families.


Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, one of the six largest US churches with a weekend attendance of nearly 22,000, is among those closing its doors.

"At first glance it does sound contrarian," the Rev. Gene Appel, its senior pastor, said. "We don't see it as not having church on Christmas. We see it as decentralising the church on Christmas: hundreds of thousands of experiences going on around Christmas trees.

"The best way to honour Jesus's birth is for families to have a more personal experience on that day."

Christmas Sunday services were not the most effective use of staff and volunteers, a spokesman said.

Other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are in Kentucky, Texas, Georgia and Michigan.

"We feel that Christmas is definitely a time that should be spent with family,"said Kris McNeil of Michigan's Mars Hill Bible Church.

Cindy Willison, a spokesman for the evangelical Southland Christian Church, near Chicago, said at least 500 volunteers were needed, plus staff, to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 worshippers. Many volunteers appreciated the chance to spend Christmas with their families.

The closures contrast starkly with Roman Catholic parishes, which see some of their largest congregations at Christmas, and Protestant ministries, such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are hardly ever cancelled.

The number of megachurches in America, defined as non-Catholic congregations of at least 2,000 people, has soared from 10 in 1970 to an estimated 800 today.

Many function like corporations, running businesses such as publishing houses.

I didn't know that the Christmas tree actually functioned as an alter, but I'm not surprised. This is America and that's where the presents are.

I'm awfully impressed by the piety of the conservative evangelicals who attend these churches and lord their superior religiosity over the mainline churches.

Update II: I missed this Atrios post yesterday making essntially the same point.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

The System Worked

by digby

Kevin Drum is asking some questions about what happened on that flight in Miami yesterday. It all sounds a little "screwy" to me too, but not just because the witness accounts sound as if the marshalls may have overreacted. There's something else screwy about this.

The marshalls were obviously persuaded that it was quite possible that this man had a bomb in his carry on bag. And apparently, the marshalls went through the plane after the fact, looking for accomplices, pointing guns at the passengers and knocking cell phones out of their hands ostensibly because they thought they might contain guns.

Now I know that the marshalls are taught to shoot first and ask questions later and all that, so no lectures please. But I still find it amazing that after all this time, they automatically assume that a group of people could get a bomb and "cell phone guns" through the gate security in a US airport. Goes to show you how useful all that boarding gate crap really is, doesn't it?

My favorite comment on this matter is Monica Crowley this morning saying that the good thing about all this is that "the system worked."


by digby

In the latest installment of the "Democrats are in Disarray" show, Fred Barnes just did a reverse triple axel that would make Michelle Kwan weep. After going on and on about how the Democrats are all over the map, they don't know what they are doing, they are rudderless and lacking in ideas, he said that Nancy Pelosi has got the democrats voting in "lock-step" which is empowering the (apparently useless) GOP moderates. (Then he pouted and stomped his tiny foot in frustration.)

I assume that everyone can see the problem with Barnes' statement, even if he is so unaware of his own illogic that he makes both of these statements in the same breath.

The best moment today, however, was watching these rich, privileged, middle aged fucks sit around chuckling at the prospect of Stanley Williams asking for clemency. I don't know what it is these Republican assholes find so amusing about executions but they can't seem to contain their mirth when someone suggests the possibility of redemption.

These are the same people complaining about a war on Christianity.


by digby

Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory heard Howard Dean's shocking shocking comparison between Iraq and Vietnam and was led to do a rather unusual thing. He went back and read what our leaders were saying during Vietnam and compared it to what they are saying to today. What he found was quite interesting.

Howard Dean, unsurprisingly, is not full of shit after all.

Great Game

by digby

I had meant to review "Syriana" when I saw it over the Thanksgiving week-end, but with one thing and another, I let it slide. Now I see that the reviews are coming in fast and furious and I'm left in the dirt. Typical.

I'm not going to bore anyone with a synopsis, because anyone who is reading this can go to the web-site and see the trailer and read all about it right now. (God I love these internets.)

I happened to have loved "Traffic" (written by the same screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, who also directed "Syriana") so this frenetic, multi-tentacled, highly textured plot line was right up my alley. I like thrillers that I can't figure out until the end and which require me to go back and review the entire movie in my mind, seeing certain scenes through the prism of the climax and understanding them entirely differently than I did the first time. And I especially like it when a film's confusing plot is almost a character of the story, as this one is.

On a cinematic level it is not as polished or interesting as "Traffic" which had the brilliant Steven Soderberg at the helm. He used light and color to differentiate the varying threads of the plot to keep things straight in the audience's mind. This film is less dazzlingly directed, so the complicated plot becomes more challenging. Nonetheless, I found it gripping from start to finish mainly because it is about something that we here in the blogosphere have been talking about since the war began and it asks a question that everyone's asking (why are we in Iraq?) without ever bringing Iraq up at all.

The film observes various American and middle east actors running about with idealistic, nihilistic, greedy and personal agendas, bumping into each other sometimes at random and at others by design. But the single most important player is oil (which in real life, for reasons that are mystifying, is widely considered to be a tin-foil hat, loony-left explanation, even among liberals.) I don't normally consider myself a cynic, but on this topic, it's very hard not to be. In the final analysis, this really is a modern version of the Great Game. When we ask ourselves "why are we in Iraq?" it makes more sense to refine the question and ask whether we would be in Iraq if it weren't for oil. I think it's fairly obvious that we would not be. Terrorism, in the grand scheme of things, is not an existential threat no matter how hard the warbloggers wank. Invading Iraq was actually counter-productive to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and may end up creating another Islamic state. Even the Bush administration knew that this was not an adequate rationale for invading Iraq so they pimped the WMD threat.

Atrios has posted an interview with ex-CIA agent Robert Baer, on whom the George Clooney character was based, that is quite interesting. Here's another interview from Baer on Chris Matthews that I think speaks to my point:

MATTHEWS: What‘s the future look like?

BAER: I‘ll tell you what the Saudis are doing. They are building a fence to keep the chaos in Iraq from moving south, and so are the Jordanians. They‘ve put out contracts.

MATTHEWS: If you had to choose now between Americans forces staying in that country for two more years or getting out now, what is better?

BAER: Chris, the problem is oil. Muslims sit on 70 percent of oil. We cannot afford to see Saudi Arabia destabilized. We‘re going to have to keep troops in the area. I don‘t know where you are going to keep them, on the border, in the rear bases, but we cannot let the chaos in Iraq spread.

MATTHEWS: It would?

BAER: Absolutely. Look at the bombings in Jordan. That came directly from Iraq.

MATTHEWS: You say we have to stay, but when can we come home, ever?

The vice president today sounded like we‘re never really coming home.

That we have to fight for American influence in that part of the world.

BAER: We have to come home one day, it‘s $5 billion a day. We‘re going to run out of money. And we‘re going to run out of soldiers and run out of tolerance from the American people.

We have to find a way to remain the policemen of the Gulf and however you do that, leave that up to the military. But we cannot keep our troops as they are deployed now in Iraq forever.

I would suggest that what Baer says is worth considering as we contemplate what the meaning of "withdrawal" or "victory" or "bringing home the troops" really means. I think that we are going to be in the middle east for a long, long time, the only question is on what terms.

The powers that be in the US (and the United Kingdom of British Petroleum) believe they must control this region's valuable resource. Indeed, some of the big thinkers like Zbigniew Brzezinski (in "The Grand Chessboard") and the PNAC nuts believe that the US must control "Eurasia" or risk being shut out of the future. There is nothing new under the sun and the pursuit of precious necessary resources that belong to others has been going on forever.

Oil is certainly not the only reason we are in this mess. It is, perhaps, the fundamental reason we are in this mess. And it's the reason that this mess isn't going to be solved by either bringing the boys home or creating a "democracy" in the middle east. We may leave Iraq as an occupying force due to a lack of domestic support, or we might be chased from the region by violent events. But if we have any illusions that the United States is not going to be deeply involved in the middle east for the forseeable future, we need to wake up. Sadly, whether we know it or not, by our blind and profligate actions the American people lend credence to the insane ramblings of that miniskirted harpy, Ann Coulter:

"Why not go to war just for oil? We need oil."

Why not, indeed? I wonder what would happen if the question was posed just that starkly? At this point, the Great Game players, the oil companies and the politicians who dance to their tune are unwilling to put it that way. They work to keep citizens in the dark about what is at stake, encouraging them to guzzle cheap gasoline at a fantastic pace while droning out messianic statements about good and evil and spreading freedom.

Syriana's "confusing" plot speaks to that. It's conveys the sense of drugged vagueness we all feel when we try to unravel the motivations behind these actions. There are a thousand different reasons why we could be doing what we are doing, but nobody knows for sure what is the real one.

There is only one character in the film who holds all the disparate threads in his hands --- the James Baker (Christopher Plummer) character who walks freely among the politicians, the oil companies, the ruling sheiks, the spooks and the regional puppets. He is the Grand Master of the Great Game. He ensures that none of the players know what the others are doing, each kept in the dark, flailing about with everything from torture to idealism to pragmatic everyday power politics without ever knowing that they are being manipulated by greater forces.

I suppose that we could prosaically assume that he represents a worldly reality like The Carlyle Group (or in an earlier time, The Trilateral Commission.) But I think he simply symbolises Power and Arrogance. He is fundamentally anti-democratic, amoral and relentless in his quest for more of what he is made of. He is America's id, perfectly represented as an elderly Texan with his steely talons dug deeply into every consequential player in the New Great Game.

The only character who sees through the subterfuge is the ex-CIA agent, abandoned by his country, whose life of dirty deeds on behalf of The Company prepares him alone to understand his role and dig his way out. That is the most out-of-sync Hollywood moment in an otherwise completely cynical film. (But then, it's George Clooney who can't help but be seen as a hero.) In reality, there can be no such neat denouement. The claws would turn deadly if he were to do what he does.

I've read a number of reviews in which the writer finds this movie a simple-minded portrayal of evil corporate masters holding the puppet strings of great nations and vast empires. It's the same complaint about the slogan "No blood for oil", as if those who see our presence in the mideast in such terms are silly dupes and fools. But I would submit that it is the jaded sophisticates who are missing the point. "Syriana", for all its "confusion" really does get to the heart of the matter and forces you to deal with the one simple fact that nobody wants to accept. This planet really is running out of oil --- and we are entering an era in which our nation is going to be asserting our power to get it.

Rather than finding "Syriana's" plot confounding, by the end I thought its multiple plotlines led to a bracing clarity: Oil. I don't know that it's all that important to understand anything else and if America sees this movie and comes away with that understanding then I think it succeeds as both a film and a political statement.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Atrios has a post up this morning about Mel Gibson the holocaust denier. If the California Republican Party has its way, it could soon be Governor Mel Gibson, the holocaust denier:

With segments of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political base rising in revolt, directors of the California Republican Party have demanded a private meeting with the governor to complain about the hiring of a Democratic operative as his chief of staff.

The request comes as Schwarzenegger faces a sustained wave of opposition from both moderate and conservative Republicans over the choice of Susan P. Kennedy. Before serving as a state public utility commissioner, Kennedy was Cabinet secretary to former Gov. Gray Davis. She also was an abortion-rights activist and former Democratic Party executive.

In appointing Kennedy last week, the governor praised her as an effective administrator who could "implement my vision" and work cooperatively with Democrats who control the Legislature.

But Republican operatives said grass-roots volunteers are so disturbed by the appointment that they are threatening to abandon Schwarzenegger during his re-election bid next year. Others said Schwarzenegger is risking a nasty fight that could cause the party to rescind its endorsement during February's convention in San Jose.

There is even a movement to draft Mel Gibson, the actor and director, to run against Schwarzenegger in the Republican primary next year -- in part because the success of Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ," could help his chances among religious conservatives. Raised in Australia, Gibson was born in New York and is a U.S. citizen. He has not expressed an interest in elected politics.

"We need to have a good backup," said Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly, a grass-roots organization that is separate from the state party. Spence's group has already set up a Web site, melgibsonforgovernor.com. "He seems to be more consistent with the Republican message than the governor does."

Gibson could not be reached, and his spokesman, who was traveling Tuesday, did not return an e-mail and call for comment.

Let's hope that the old saw "as California goes, so goes the nation" holds true. The Republican party in this state has become a sad, pathetic joke. And it was a power house not so long ago. After all, it sent two favorite sons to the white house in the last 35 years. (And, once again, I'd like to apologise for that. We'll try not to let it happen again.)


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Moral Foundations

by digby

I see that Senator Lieberman is concerned about partisanship poisoning the atmosphere in Washington and he has some stern words for Democrats who insist on criticizing the president.

"It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more years. We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."

For instance he really hates it when Democrats say things like this:

After much reflection, my feelings of disappointment and anger have not dissipated, except now these feelings have gone beyond my personal dismay to a larger, graver sense of loss for our country, a reckoning of the damage that the president's conduct has done to the proud legacy of his presidency and, ultimately, an accounting of the impact of his actions on our democracy and its moral foundations.

The implications for our country are so serious that I feel a responsibility to my constituents in Connecticut, as well as to my conscience, to voice my concerns forthrightly and publicly. And I can think of no more appropriate place to do that than on this great Senate floor.


The president's intentional and consistent statements, more deeply,may also undercut the trust that the American people have in his word. Under the Constitution, as presidential scholar Newsted (ph) has noted, the president's ultimate source of authority, particularly his moral authority, is the power to persuade, to mobilize public opinion, to build consensus behind a common agenda. And at this, the president has been extraordinarily effective.

But that power hinges on the president's support among the American people and their faith and confidence in his motivations and agenda, yes; but also in his word.

As Teddy Roosevelt once explained, "My power vanishes into thin air the instant that my fellow citizens, who are straight and honest, cease to believe that I represent them and fight for what is straight and honest. That is all the strength that I have," Roosevelt said.

Sadly, with his deception, the president may have weakened the great power and strength that he possesses, of which President Roosevelt spoke.

I know this is a concern that may of my colleagues share, which is to say that the president has hurt his credibility and therefore perhaps his chances of moving his policy agenda forward.


That's what I believe presidential scholar James David Barber (ph) in his book "The Presidential Character" was getting at when he wrote that the public demands quote, "a sense of legitimacy from and in the presidency. There is more to this than dignity -- more than propriety. The president is expected to personify our betterness in an inspiring way; to express in what he does and is, not just what he says, a moral idealism which in much of the public mind is the very opposite of politics."

Just as the American people are demanding of their leaders, though, they are also fundamentally fair and forgiving, which is why I was so hopeful the president could begin to repair the damage done with his address to the nation on the 17th. But like so many others, I came away feeling that for reasons that are thoroughly human, he missed a great opportunity that night. He failed to clearly articulate to the American people that he recognized how significant and consequential his wrongdoing was and how badly he felt about it.

Lieberman thinks that speeches like that are wrong --- that Democrats should not go before the senate and speak about how the president has failed the nation, been dishonest, misled the people and undermined the nation's moral authority. Unless, of course, there's a blow job involved in which case Lieberman himself would feel compelled to lead the stampede to condemn and chastise him publicly.

But then, that was an issue of prime importance, unlike lying the country into a useless war of faux masculine vanity in which we are becoming a pariah nation known for torture, kidnapping, and disappearance. As long as Bush keeps his codpiece zipped and doesn't let anybody see him playing Grand Theft Auto, he's got Joementum on his side.


Vote For The Good Guys

by digby

I'm not sure what to make of this, but this blog seems to be nominated for a Weblog Award for "the best of the top 250 blogs" (I'm losing badly to that upstart whippersnapper, Jane Hamsher.) I had thought these were conservative awards, but apparently not. Anyway, there are a bunch of really good liberal bloggers nominated in various categories and you can vote once a day (!!?)

Check it out.


If you really love me, you'll want to stuff your little stocking with some postage stamps or ornaments and shirts with a Digby snowman on them. I'm not kidding. Apparently you can now design your own stamps and Bo Zartz has done up a "holiday blog homage" featuring various liberal bloggers. (And naturally Jane Hamsher gets to be the angel.)They're all fun, but I particularly like the one that says "Merry Fitzmas" which is guaranteed to piss off Bill O'Reilly six ways to Kwaanza.

Aggrieved Conservatives

by digby

I have hesitated to link to Rick Perlstein's Princeton speech, published here on Huffington Post, because he makes a very kind statement about me in it, and I sound like I'm tooting my own horn by posting about it. But, I decided to post about it anyway, because what he says is so important for people to understand: Republican intellectuals like to promote themselves as the party of Goldwater the principled conservative and Reagan the optimistic conservative, but they are actually the party of Richard Nixon, the aggrieved conservative. Their penchant for secrecy, their disdain for democratic processes, their lawless political tactics and their belief that might makes right are best understood by looking at them in that light.

The modern Republican party set about ruthlessly building a political machine while wearing the mantle of principle and morality after Nixon's fall. A machine is all they really are, but they persist in this fiction that they have a deep intellectual philosophy -- "the party of ideas" and all that. I assume that many of them believe this. But any person of ideas is only welcome as long as he or she is useful, after which he is thrown on the ever increasing pile of liberal traitors.

Here's one example of a conservative intellectual (one of the fathers of the neoconservative movement, Irving Kristol) making the Straussian argument that religion is necessary to keep the masses in line, but unnecessary for the highly educated mandarins who actually run things:

Because of Strauss' teachings, Kristol continued, "There are in Washington today dozens of people who are married with children and religiously observant. Do they have faith? Who knows? They just believe that it is good to go to church or synagogue. Whether you believe or not is not the issue -- that's between you and God -- whether you are a member of a community that holds certain truths sacred, that is the issue." Neoconservatives are "pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers."

This noble hypocrisy on the part of intellectuals is required in order to encourage religious belief in ordinary people who would otherwise succumb to nihilism without it. In other words, Kristol believes that religion, which may well be a fiction, is necessary to keep the little people in line. This line of thinking has led him and other neoconservative intellectuals to attack Darwinian evolution because they fear it undermines religious belief.

(The author of this companion article writes, "ironically, today many modern conservatives fervently agree with Karl Marx that religion is "the opium of the people"; they add a heartfelt, 'Thank God!'")

I'm sure that the DC Neocon elites feel very secure that they are the ones running things. But as with so many other intellectual conceits of the conservative movement, it is awfully convenient that their "ideas" track with the needs of a Repubublican political machine. Here's how the man who identified the evangelical community as an untapped voting block, Paul Weyrich, saw it:

"We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of the country," he declared. Weyrich describes his views as "Maoist. I believe you have to control the countryside, and the capital will eventually fall." (David Brock, "Blinded by The Right" p.54)

I would submit that the Neos like Kristol and Podhoretz are just beltway pundit fodder for the Nixonian political machine. They think they are the mandarins but they are dupes too, of another sort, lending a phony intellectual heft to a movement that isn't intellectual at all. Nixon would have hated them. Weyrich is his man. (Until he isn't.)

I urge you to read Perlstein's speech and description of what it was like to go into the belly of the beast and talk about this among the faithful. He's got more guts than I do. Clearly he understands them better than they understand themselves:

The response to my address was, understandably, defensive. My co-panelist Stan Evans retorted that my invocation of Richard Nixon was inappropriate because Nixon had never been a genuine conservative. He added: "I didn't like Nixon until Watergate." I responded: "Thanks for making my point."

Everyone understands, I assume, that Bush, Delay, Norquist and Reed too, are morphing into liberals as we speak.

Update: I couldn't, for thel ife of me remember where I had recently seen this Kristol article, so I Googled it. thanks to a reader, I was reminded that it was in this great post by James Wolcot.

Nation Building

by digby

I was only half listening a minute ago as NBC's Jim Meceda in Bagdad was describing how a woman was stripped and tortured and then taken to Abu Ghraib and terribly abused. I turned quickly to see who this latest person was who had come forward to accuse the US of inhumane treatment --- only to find that it was a witness testifying at Saddam's trial. Wow.

Until the past two years I never would have made that assumption, never, even though I'm quite aware of all the nasty things we've done around the world over the years, including My Lai. But when you read things like this, it's natural to assume that any news of torture, Abu Ghraib etc. are reports of US behavior. These days, sadly, it usually is:

ABC News, citing unidentified current and former CIA agents, reported Monday night that 11 "high value" Al Qaeda terrorists had been held at a former Soviet air base in Eastern Europe and were spirited to a site in North Africa just before Ms. Rice's arrival in Europe.

Of the 12 high value targets housed by the CIA, only one did not require water boarding [what the CIA describes as "an enhanced interrogation technique"] before he talked. Ramzi bin al-Shibh broke down in tears after he was walked past the cell of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational planner for Sept. 11. Visibly shaken, he started to cry and became as cooperative as if he had been tied down to a water board, sources said.

The problem for the US has been that, along with the disclosure of the existence of the "secret prisons," there have been several high-profile cases that have highlighted US mistakes, such as US agents grabbing the wrong person, wrongly imprisoned subjects of rendition alleging they had been tortured in the countries where they had been taken, and allegations that the CIA lied to a European ally about a rendition.

The Washington Post reported Sunday on the case of Khaled Masri, a German citizen who had been the subject of a rendition and then wrongfully imprisoned for five months. When the US ambassador to Germany finally told the German interior minister about the mistake, the Post reports that he asked the German government not to disclose that it had been told about the US mistake, even if Mr. Masri went public with what happened to him. Apparently US officials feared exposure of the rendition program, and also possible legal action.

The Post reports that the Masri case shows how pressure on the CIA to apprehend Al Qaeda members after 9/11 led to an unknown number of detentions based on slim or faulty evidence, and just how hard it is to correct these mistakes in a system "built and operated in secret."

One [US] official said about three dozen names fall in that category [those mistakenly detained]; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by Al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the Al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said.

"They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many, many cases there was only some vague association" with terrorism, one CIA officer said.

And there have been many other innocent people who have been rendered to countries and tortured, sent to Guantanamo or were wrongly imprisoned in Iraq since we began this practice. And the practice has led to more innocent people being imprisoned and tortured because those who are tortured tend to say anything they think you want to hear to make it stop. It builds on itself.

Saddam used this practice to terrorize the population to keep it in line. That is the only rational (if evil) purpose for such practices. I can't figure out why in the hell we are doing it.

Addressing The Legion

by digby

Watching these mini Nuremberg rallies with the president, and now the vice-president, using the troops to make political points I'm uncomfortably reminded that going back to Rome (and probably earlier) the point of having the troops assembled before the leadership was to make it clear that the military backed the leadership against all comers. Today this is slightly more subtly accomplished, but the motivation is the same. It is shamelessly done not just to convey the point that the military will follow the orders of the administration (which it is constitutionally required to do) but that it also politically backs the administration against its critics. These are political speeches done for the purpose of answering political critics.

If I didn't know better and were to watch the majority of speeches from afar for the last six months, I would assume that the United States is a military dictatorship, so many uniforms have been present. Even the speech that Bush gave the other day on the economy featured a bunch of people dressed in the same clothes in the standard tableau behind him.

This is becoming a bit disturbing. The administration is giving the appearance of having control of the military in an inappropriate political way and they are doing it more and more. My only consolation is that, if press reports are true, the military brass does not seem to be as enthralled by Republican leadership as they once were. A badly conceived and executed war by fanatics will do that to you.


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.