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Monday, December 19, 2005

Crying Wolf

by digby

Can someone please tell the Republicans that even if the NY Times had printed the NSA story next month instead of last week that there would not have been a great swelling of Bush love over the Iraqi elections last week?

The reason the story didn't capture the public's imagination is not because the other one stepped on it; it's because we've heard it all before. The public has lost count of how many of these "milestone elections" have taken place. Each time, we are supposed to have a big group hug and congratulate ourselves for our great generosity. And then each time shit starts blowing up again in Iraq almost immediately.

The American public can hardly keep its attention on its own elections. Getting all excited about Iraqi elections that happen every few months and don't seem to mean anything just isn't going to interest them. The proof is in the pudding. Either the violence stops or it doesn't. Either we get out or we don't. The magic of the purple finger wore off months ago.

Countering The Threat

by digby

Glen Greenwald takes the time to rebut Hewitt's ridiculous argument that
United States v. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan et al
gives the president the power to wiretap Americans at will, when the case actually does the exact opposite. Apparently, the right blogosphere is chattering about this absurd claim like a bunch of drunken magpies.

I have nothing to add except to point to my post yesterday, when I referenced the same case, to point out again the great irony in the fact that the author of that opinion was Lewis Powell, the man who inspired the Great Republican Political Machine.

Powell was not some bleeding heart liberal. He believed that the nation was under serious threat from the New Left:

William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the "American lawyer most admired," incites audiences as follows:
"You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear."2 The New Leftists who heed Kunstler's advice increasingly are beginning to act -- not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses: "Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists." Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.

A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:

"Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of 'the politics of despair.' These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans." A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: "Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries."

A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled "The Ideological War Against Western Society," in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: "It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack -- not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote."

But nonetheless, he still didn't believe that the threat was so overwhelming that you needed to discard the constitution and give the president dictatorial powers. He had another idea:

The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival -- survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.

The day is long past when the chief executive officer of a major corporation discharges his responsibility by maintaining a satisfactory growth of profits, with due regard to the corporation's public and social responsibilities. If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself. This involves far more than an increased emphasis on "public relations" or "governmental affairs" -- two areas in which corporations long have invested substantial sums.

A significant first step by individual corporations could well be the designation of an executive vice president (ranking with other executive VP's) whose responsibility is to counter-on the broadest front-the attack on the enterprise system. The public relations department could be one of the foundations assigned to this executive, but his responsibilities should encompass some of the types of activities referred to subsequently in this memorandum. His budget and staff should be adequate to the task.

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

Clearly, they listened and created the most formidable national political machine in this country's history.

And despite his clear antipathy to everything that the left stood for, Powell went on to rule in the above cited case that the president did not have the unilateral power to eavesdrop on American citizens, no matter what "national security" reasons were cited. Guys like him understood that protecting America meant protecting the constitution above all. The Federalist Society? Not so much.

The President's Program

by digby

Well now. Bush personally called the publisher and the editor of the NY Times in to the oval Office to get them not to publish the wire tapping story. Here's Jonathan Alter in Newsweek:

I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president’s desperation.

The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference. His comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious; any Americans with ties to Muslim extremists—in fact, all American Muslims, period—have long since suspected that the U.S. government might be listening in to their conversations. Bush claimed that “the fact that we are discussing this program is helping the enemy.” But there is simply no evidence, or even reasonable presumption, that this is so. And rather than the leaking being a “shameful act,” it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab.

No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

We know that Cheney was intimately involved with this what with his closed briefings to certain members of congress and all. But this is the first of these scandals that really lands right on Bush's desk. It's his baby. This one's personal.


Check out the handwritten letter from 2003 that Jay Rockefeller just released which completely obliterates the ridiculous defense that members of congress "approved" this action.

He makes it clear that he has very serious reservations about this program and says that since he is not a technician or a lawyer, and is prohibited from speaking with staff, experts or colleagues, he cannot properly evaluate this program.

He evokes Poindexter's TIA.

And he concludes with this:

I am retaining a copy of this communication in a sealed envelope in the secure spaces of the Intelligence Committee to ensure that I have a record of this communication.

Efficiency Expert

Atrios and First-Draft have posts up highlighting one of the most egregious explanations for the NSA spying from this morning's briefing by Gonzales and NSA chief General Hayden: they didn't ask congress for permission because they were told by "certain" congressmen that they couldn't get it passed.

Gonzales:...We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.

That's not Brownie It's not even Karl Rove. That's the Attorney General of the United States talking.

But there's more:

Q General, when you discussed the emergency powers, you said, agility is critical here. And in the case of the emergency powers, as I understand it, you can go in, do whatever you need to do, and within 72 hours just report it after the fact. And as you say, these may not even last very long at all. What would be the difficulty in setting up a paperwork system in which the logs that you say you have the shift supervisors record are simply sent to a judge after the fact? If the judge says that this is not legitimate, by that time probably your intercept is over, wouldn't that be correct?

GENERAL HAYDEN: What you're talking about now are efficiencies. What you're asking me is, can we do this program as efficiently using the one avenue provided to us by the FISA Act, as opposed to the avenue provided to us by subsequent legislation and the President's authorization.

Our operational judgment, given the threat to the nation that the difference in the operational efficiencies between those two sets of authorities are such that we can provide greater protection for the nation operating under this authorization.

Q But while you're getting an additional efficiency, you're also operating outside of an existing law. If the law would allow you to stay within the law and be slightly less efficient, would that be --

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALEZ: I guess I disagree with that characterization. I think that this electronic surveillance is within the law, has been authorized. I mean, that is our position. We're only required to achieve a court order through FISA if we don't have authorization otherwise by the Congress, and we think that that has occurred in this particular case.

Yes, the Bill of Rights is hell on efficiency. We really should do something about that.

They knew they were circumventing the law as written, that the congress would not agree to change it and they used a very dicey theory of presidential infallibility in wartime. They are saying that the president is re-authorizing "his program" every 45 days solely so that shift supervisors don't have to waste time with paperwork.

The original NY Times article said

Several senior government officials say that when the special operation first began, there were few controls on it and little formal oversight outside the N.S.A. The agency can choose its eavesdropping targets and does not have to seek approval from Justice Department or other Bush administration officials. Some agency officials wanted nothing to do with the program, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation, a former senior Bush administration official said. Before the 2004 election, the official said, some N.S.A. personnel worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president.

I find that interesting, don't you?

In mid-2004, concerns about the program expressed by national security officials, government lawyers and a judge prompted the Bush administration to suspend elements of the program and revamp it.

For the first time, the Justice Department audited the N.S.A. program, several officials said. And to provide more guidance, the Justice Department and the agency expanded and refined a checklist to follow in deciding whether probable cause existed to start monitoring someone's communications, several officials said.

Now, what do you suppose these "concerns" were all about?

Here's a hint:

Those involved in the program also said that the N.S.A.'s eavesdroppers might need to start monitoring large batches of numbers all at once, and that it would be impractical to seek permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court first, according to the officials.

I would guess that these large batches of numbers were very large indeed. So large that it would be "inefficient" go to the FISA court and seek permission after the fact.

I would further guess that these large batches of numbers include a whole shitload of Americans who have nothing to do with al Qaeda. And since they had to suspend some areas of the program in 2004, I would suspect that those numbers include some people who are of interest to the administration for reasons other than terrorism.

If I were one of those "shift supervisors" (especially if I was one who had worried about John Kerry becoming president) I'd get myself a lawyer.

Passion Of The Cowboys

by digby

Will "Brokeback Mountain" play in Plano? In the movie's first weekend in the Dallas suburb where the 2004 Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ" earned some of its biggest grosses, the answer appeared to be yes.

After setting a record for the per-theater average for a dramatic movie in limited openings in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, critically acclaimed "Brokeback Mountain" faced its next obstacle as Focus Features expanded the so-called gay cowboy movie to strategically selected smaller cities.

The movie, directed by Ang Lee and starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two ranch hands who develop an enduring emotional bond, "Brokeback Mountain" took in an additional $2.36 million in its first foray outside those three metropolitan cities, rising to No. 8 at the box office, Focus Features estimated Sunday. Its 10-day total is $3.3 million.

The closely watched debut in Plano, Texas, "was a revelation about the accessibility of this movie," said Focus head of distribution Jack Foley. "This is not gay-dependent. Attendance at those theaters indicates the film has the attention of suburban moviegoers."

It was the first time since Disney's animated "Pocahontas" in 1995 that a movie in fewer than 100 theaters cracked the top 10 box office ranking, according to tracking service Nielsen EDI Inc.

Real America watches "Desperate Housewives" and drinks Starbucks and votes Democratic some too. Keep your eye on what people actually do, not what they tell some pollster they think. Popular culture is an excellent window through which you can view how people actually think and live. Right wing evangelical Christians are not a monolith, even in the red states. It's a mistake to assume they are.

Checks And Balances

by digby

I'm hearing various pundits discuss how bold-yet-cadid, manly-yet-sensitive the preznit is today after finally going on offense, hitting it out of the park and turning the corner. His numbers are shooting back up and he's on firm ground.

They just love it when he spanks them:

QUESTION: I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a president during wartime.

And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

BUSH: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of unchecked power.


BUSH: Hold on for a second, please.

There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters.

There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time.

And on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

This is an awesome responsibility, to make decisions on behalf of the American people. And I understand that. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor a program such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States.

To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject.


BUSH: I just described limits on this particular program, and that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do and, at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country.

He's not actually lashing out at the masochistic media, no matter how much they enjoy it. He's lashing out because this is where his argument is weakest. He's trying to make the case that the congress somehow "approved" this action as a check to executive power.

This is not true. Notifying members of congress in a classified briefing they cannot disclose publicly is not a check. Intelligence committee members cannot give authorization to the president to break the law in the first place And to say that "telling" them what they are going to do and then classifying the information so they cannot reveal it amounts to a check on executive power is to invoke dictatorial powers.

As an exasperated Carl Levin just pointed out, the check on executive power in these circumstances is written into the law. It's called the FISA court. And they have not yet given any reasonable explanation as to why they could not have applied for a review within the 72 hour period they are alotted after initiating the intercepts. They keep saying that they have to move fast and cannot wait and other gibberish about "long term monitoring" none of which adequately explains why they had to break the law.

The only thing we can assume from the information we have is that they didn't want anyone, not even a rubber stamp secret court, to know who they were monitoring. Now why would that be?

The NY Times withheld certain tchnical information about this program in their story last week because of alleged national security concerns. Now that the president has admitted to authorizing it and he and his flunkies have been babbling incoherently about "moving fast" and "long term monitoring" I think it's now imperative that they tell the public the whole story.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hot Dick On Bush Action

I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country – victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.

Somebody give Richard Cohen a cigarette. (Let's hope he didn't watch this speech in public.)

I have one question for the media. Why is everyone so impressed that Bush is taking responsibility for going into Iraq? Has there ever been any question about that? We know he made the decision. He has made a fetish of taking responsibility for doing it. indeed, we watched him do it in defiance of virtually the whole world and half the country. This is not an admission of a mistake.

Likewise, admitting that there were no WMD is like admitting that the sun came up this morning. It's true, yes, but saying it is not "candor" --- it's stating the obvious.

Saying that the intelligence was wrong is not taking responsibility for getting it wrong. We know it was wrong.

These are cheap rhetorical tricks and they fall for it every single time. Some GOP hack hands them a sheet talking up the president's newfound "candor" and they all gobble it up like hungry little baby birds.

Clear And Present Danger

by digby

The president says he is operating within the law because his appointed lawyers have interpreted the law to say that he has. He says that the US does not torture and he believes it. He believes it because his lawyers have told him that torture is defined as pain equal to that experienced by organ failure or death. Therefore, waterboarding, which only replicates the experience of drowning is not torture. Being shackled in unusual positions for long periods of time subject to extreme heat and cold likewise is not torture. One could argue that pulling someone's fingernails out as is shown in the film "Syriana" is not torture.

Spying on Americans is likewise legal because the president's lawyers have said that he has the authority under the constitution to spy on Americans during wartime. In fact, they have said the executive has the authority to do anything he feels is necessary during wartime, a war which he has sole authority to wage, a war which he alone defines and which has no set definition of victory.

You might think that this redefinition of what constitutes war applies only to the GWOT. But redefining war and victory also applies to the more conventional invasion and occupation of Iraq as well, which Bush also defines as a "different kind of war."

Here's how he put it in his interview with Jim Lehrer:

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think that this is a different kind of a war. I mean, in World War II we think of the USS Missouri and Japan-- We surrender. However, if you think about World War II, there was still a mission to be accomplished, that Harry Truman saw through, which is to help an enemy become a democracy. We achieved a, by kicking Saddam Hussein out, you know, a milestone. But there's still work to help this country develop its own democracy and there's no question there's difficulties because of the past history and the fact that he starved an infrastructure and the reconstruction efforts have been uneven.

But victory is, against a guy like Zarqawi, is bringing him to justice. Victory is denying safe haven to al-Qaida, and victory is marginalizing those who would destroy democracy.

He compares Iraq to WWII and even discusses the surrender on the USS Missouri, which everyone in the world accepted as the end of the war. When Harry Truman went on to "accomplish the rest of the mission," he didn't do it under the auspices of the country still being at war because it wasn't. Bush has always liked this analogy, however, going back to his famous strut on another aircraft carrier when he declared "Mission Accomplished." Unfortunately, his advisors forgot to tell him that in Germany there was no insurgency, although for months Condi and Rummy were spreading lies about the Werewolf "dead-enders" in Germany, so maybe that's what they were telling him too.

In any case, the ridiculous WWII analogy should have been put on the shelf a long time ago. Yet Bush evidently continues to believes that he is saving the world from the existential threat of the Axis powers. And in his usual incoherent fashion, while seeing himself as Harry Truman he also says that "victory" in this war, which is a "different kinda war," will be won when we bring a guy like Zarqawi to justice. Or deny a safe haven to al-Qaeda. Or "marginalize those who would destroy democracy." Victory may even depend upon how the Iraqi people 'feel." In other words, we will have achieved victory when he says we have achieved victory.

Keep in mind that we are not talking about the Big Boogeyman, terrorism, here. We are talking about Iraq, a country in the middle east that we invaded and are occupying. We could just as easily be the Romans or the Turks or the British. There's nothing "different" about it. But even in Iraq we don't know what constitutes victory or defeat. Therefore, we could, theoretically, always be at war.

This is the most troubling aspect of the Yoo Doctrine. It is offensive enough that he contends that the president has completely unfettered powers during wartime. But the fact that he also believes that the president can "make war" at his discretion, define war in any way he chooses, consider "victory" to be any one or all of a thousand of unknown conditions that we may or may not be able to discern, is the truly unique factor here. And the fact that the administration is applying this vague definition of war and victory even to a conventional war like Iraq is very dangerous. It gives imperial powers forever to any president who simply says we are "at war."

It's probably important to draw some distinctions here between a legal theorist like John Yoo and Ted "Arkansas Project" Olsen, both of whom have promulgated this theory of unfettered executive power for years. In Yoo's case I have no reason to believe that this is a purely political view; he is certainly a Republican, but his belief is philosophical and academic. I would be surprised if he would come out against these powers in the hands of a Democrat. (I could be wrong.) Ted Olsen, on the other hand, is nothing more than a cheap GOP operative who will change his tune on a dime when the presidency changes parties.

Events of the last couple of days show that for most of the Republican party this is purely a political game that they will support as long as the president is a Republican. (See: Kosovo) Judging from John McCain's dodging of the question this morning, I assume that if he or any other Republican president will continue with this doctrine. He may not like torture, but he didn't seem too troubled by spying on Americans --- or the idea that the president has unfettered powers during wartime. (If anything, he looked a little bit excited by the prospect.)

There can be no doubt about where this is going. This administration has asserted a doctrine of unfettered executive power in "wartime" that will not confine itself to "suspected terrorists" as we understand them. Everything we know about human nature --- and particularly about the nature of this modern Republican party --- says that these powers will be used for domestic political purposes. That they felt they had to do this (even though they can monitor anyone they choose immediately as long as they make an application for a FISA review within 72 hours) can only raise suspicions that this is what they were doing. Coming on the heels of the pentagon spying story, you have to have overdosed on kool-aid not to wonder why they refuse to show the secret FISA court who they are monitoring. (Somebody needs to shake loose that list of NSA intercepts of American citizens John Bolton requested.)

The architect of the modern Republican Political Infrastructure, Justice Lewis Powell, said in an earlier case:

National security cases ... often reflect a convergence of First and Fourth Amendment values not present in cases of 'ordinary' crime. Though the investigative duty of the executive may be stronger in such cases, so also is there greater jeopardy to constitutionally protected speech. 'Historically the struggle for freedom of speech and press in England was bound up with the issue of the scope of the search and seizure power. History abundantly documents the tendency of Government—however benevolent and benign its motives—to view with suspicion those who most fervently dispute its policies. Fourth Amendment protections become the more necessary when the targets of official surveillance may be those suspected of unorthodoxy in their political beliefs. The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect 'domestic security.' Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent. Senator Hart addressed this dilemma in the floor debate on § 2511(3):

"'As I read it—and this is my fear—we are saying that the President, on his motion, could declare—name your favorite poison—draft dodgers, Black Muslims, the Ku Klux Klan, or civil rights activists to be a clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government."

The administration may even be fooling itself that it needs all this "wartime" power to "protect America." But the real purpose of a government spying on its own citizens is only really about one thing --- political power. If there's anything we know about the modern Republican party it's that everything that can be done to feed the machine will be done. They are the very definition of why the founders created this ridiculously byzantine system of checks and balances --- to keep people like Ted Olsen and Karl Rove from turning this country into the tyranny like the one from which we had just freed ourselves.

Has Christopher "I heart Orwell" Hitchens weighed in on this yet? I'll be anxious to hear him try to defend this new front in the fight against Oceania.

Spiking The News

Jane notes that aside from the NY Times and the NSA spying issue there were quite a few other examples of the press withholding stories before the election. I can think of a couple more that she didn't mention.

First there was the fact that 60 Minutes never showed the Niger uranium story (which they had bumped for the ill-fated National Guard expose.) They have never shown it to this day even though it has turned out to be much more relevant than the Dan Rather fiasco. And the NY Times wouldn't run the story about the suspicious bulge in Bush's jacket even though there was credible, scientific evidence that he was wearing some sort of ususual device on his back during the presidential debates (not to mention the incontrovertible evidence that we could see it with our own eyes.)

Karl Rove had blamed Bush's loss in the 2000 race on the DWI story in the final days of the campaign and complained bitterly that the press had conspired to sandbag them. (It was nonsense, of course, because the story had come from a local FOX affiliate in Maine, but no matter.)We know that the press has often bent over backwards for the Republicans since the early 90's to prove they are not politically biased. And after 9/11 they bent over backwards to prove they are not soft or unpatriotic. Withholding this story was a natural result of all those pressures.

The media need to stop rationalizing their behavior and recognise that they have, in many small and large ways, capitulated to GOP pressure for some time now and they lost their perspective. I am sympathetic to how difficult it must be to deal with the Republicans. They are aggressive, hostile and relentless. But it's gone way too far. The havoc they wreaked on domestic politicsin the 90's was bad enough. We survived a partisan impeachment circus and a dubious presidential election, but it weakened our system.

Now we are talking about national security and very serious constitutional issues. The president is openly admitting that he did things that were illegal --- and he and his supporters are asserting a defense that the president has no obligation to follow the law in wartime.

The press simply has to step up. This is serious shit; it's not about ancient land deals in Arkansas or lying about infidelity. This isn't about "sending a message." It's real and its dangerous. This democracy is dying the death of a thousand cuts and in this world of too much information, over stimulation and endless distractions we must depend upon the press to wake up and start telling the American people what they know. The president is asserting a new interpretation of the constitution and unless this country makes it very, very clear that we will not stand for it, we are in deep trouble. This won't happen unless the media does its job and tells the country the truth:

The president broke the law, admitted it and says that he will continue to do so. He did this because he believes that the president has the right to break any law he chooses in his capacity as commander in chief.

Does that sound like America?

TV Guide

In case you missed it, John Amato of Crooks and Liars will be on CNN's
About the Story"
again today at 1-2 p.m. ET.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush's Bitches

Democrats on the committee said the panel issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration and the Democratic Party between 1997 and 2002, at a cost of more than $35 million. By contrast, the committee under Davis has issued three subpoenas to the Bush administration, two to the Energy Department over nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, and one last week to the Defense Department over Katrina documents.

Some experts on Congress say that the legislative branch has shed much of its oversight authority because of a combination of aggressive actions by the Bush administration, acquiescence by congressional leaders, and political demands that keep lawmakers out of Washington more than before.

Yah think?

People say the Democrats are spineless, but they are nothing to the invertebrate GOP congress who have willingly abdicated their constitutional duty to enhance the power of the president and the Republican Machine. No pride, no integrity, no standards.

The Larger Truth

by digby

ReddHedd at firedoglake highlights this passage in the WaPo story about the NY Times' NSA story:

The paper offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.

It was the following that I found truly interesting however:

The decision to withhold the article caused some friction within the Times' Washington bureau, according to people close to the paper. Some reporters and editors in New York and in the bureau, including Risen and co-writer Eric Lichtblau, had pushed for earlier publication, according to these people. One described the story's path to publication as difficult, with much discussion about whether it could have been published earlier.

As it happens, this very same thing happened a few months ago --- at the Washington Post. Only the reporter wasn't lobbying to report the news. In fact, he tried very hard to persuade his editor to hold back the news until his book came out.

Guess who:

Downie was insistent that the paper be adequately prepared for the death of Deep Throat --- whoever he was. During the past year he'd pressed Woodward to tell him the name, arguing that the current editor should know the identity of our source. Woodward had resisted.


In March Bradlee told Woodward that Downie was right; the time had come to tell the current post editor who Deep Throat was; then appropriate plans could be made to cover Felt's death. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at the paper, consented uneasily.


Woodward told Downie that the book should come out several weeks after Felt's death, and that the Post could run a pre-publication excerpt and break the news at that time.

In retrospect it was a ridiculously haphazard plan, given the excitement that would inevitably and imediately follow Felt's death without a confirmation or denial from Woodward and myself. Too much speculation was already focused on Felt.


[Downie] was adamant that the Post make the disclosure immediately after receiving the news of Felt's death. First of all, it might leak, and he didn't want to get scooped. Second, now that he knew Deep Throat's identity for certain, he could not foresee allowing an obituary of Felt to appear in the Post that did not include this rather vital news. The Post, Woodward, Bradlee, myself --- and now Downie --- would be criticized severely if Felt's identity as Deep Throat was withheld for more than a few hours after he died.

Among other considerations, it would appear that the delay was related to a commercial proposition --- the marketing of a book --- and Downie declared that he would have no part in that. He would not hold news, "and this would be news," he said. Period. Frankly, he said, he could not comprehend how Woodward could consider any delay. "You have always said that the identity of Deep Throat would be disclosed upon his death," he said, implying strongly, and perhaps in this instance correctly, that Woodward was losing touch with the daily flow of news.

("Watergate's Last Chapter" Carl Bernstein, Vanity Fair October, 2005,

No kidding. As we all learned a few weeks ago, Woodward does not particularly care about whether something is news or not.

I don't know all the facts about the NY Times, obviously; by all accounts the reason for withholding the story was because the paper capitulated to administration arguments about national security. But it looks bad. Tony Blankley used the impending book release to deride the story on Mclaughlin.

Franklin Foer and the Columbia Journalism Review seem to agree with the John Harris contention that the blogosphere's criticism of the mainstream media is a partisan crusade on both sides. It simply isn't. The left blogosphere doesn't complain that the media is too conservative or Republican. We see it as being cowardly in the face of Republican thuggishness and that's something else entirely. And it's not just editors like John Harris or Tim Russert kow towing to Republican complaints or the reporters adherence to the ridiculous conventions of "he said/she said." Those are just the obvious. The more insidious type of cowardice is that which takes scurrillous Republican tips and runs with them under the guise of "it's out there" or that simply lets them stick without bothering to put resources to debunking them. It's derisively giggling on Imus at the puerile bitchiness of GOP talking points like "earth tones" and "flip-flop" like a bunch of teen-age Heathers. It's mainstreaming rightwing hatemongers by putting Ann Coulter on the cover of Newsweek and giving Rush Limbaugh a slot on election night coverage.

This isn't about policy or partisanship. It's about a press corps that takes the easier path and capitulates to the aggressive, hostile (and sometimes seductive) Republican machine or gets so lost in their arcane standards of objectivity and journalistic ethics that the truth no longer matters.

The Bernstein article goes on to describe a ridiculous tug of war that ensued when Vanity Fair broke the Felt story a few months later and Woodward insisted that the paper not confirm the story. He believed they couldn't be sure that Felt really wanted to be released from the confidentiality agreement because he was old and couldn't be relied upon to know his own mind. He argued that it would be dishonorable to confirm it even if the whole damned world already knew about it. Keeping the secret had become a singular virtue so important that it superceded all journalistic values.

Bernstein agreed at first and then was persuaded otherwise. He wrote:

In our conviction to uphold one fundamental principle (protecting our sources) we risked violating another --- loyalty to the larger truth --- and offense that would damage the reputation of all involved: The Post, felt ourselves.

It's that --- the loyalty to the larger truth --- that we are looking for.


As far as I'm concerned, this tears it. Josh Marshall says

It turns out that FISA specifically empowers the Attorney General or his designee to start wiretapping on an emergency basis even without a warrant so long as a retroactive application is made for one "as soon as practicable, but not more than 72 hours after the Attorney General authorizes such surveillance." (see specific citation, here).

"Timliness" was stated over and over again yesterday by administration apologists as the reason that they could not take the time to apply to the FISA cout for permission. That is obviously crap. They simply do not want to have to apply for permission from FISA.

As far as I'm concerned there is only one reason for that. They do not want FISA (who has only been known to deny permission one time since its inception) to find out who they are surveilling.

Wanna guess why?

Maybe we should ask John Bolton.

Mao Was An Islamofascist

by digby

This is the problem with a surveillance society --- and makes me nervous as hell. I research this kind of stuff all the time. Can anybody explain why a student who has traveled abroad should be visited by the FBI because he requests "The Little Red Book" from the library?

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."

Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times.

The professors had been asked to comment on a report that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to spy on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country.The eavesdropping was apparently done without warrants.

The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung. In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.

The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.

I keep hearing that there have been no abuses of the system, that the governemnt would never spy on people who don't deserve it. But can there be any good reason why, in the name of protecting the country from terrorism, that Mao's "Little Red Book" would be considered worthy of monitoring? Unless the Justice Department is using the Patriot Act to monitor citizens for Chi-Com sympathizing (which is entirely possible) I can only assume that a terrorist somewhere read the book and quoted from it, so reading it is considered a sign of terrorist activity.

If that's the case, then I would assume that reading any revolutionary, historical or political tract that a terrorist has been known to read makes one a terrorist suspect. That's an extremely broad brush and the only way that anyone could ensure that he or she is not going to come into the cross hairs of the government would be to not read any of those books, not criticize the government, not study terrorism, marxism, or even the American and French revolutions since a terrorist somewhere may have read about those things too.

And, in typical Bushian blowback this will result in less understanding of terrorism:

Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.

Update: Rick Perlstein reminds me that there is one powerful American political movement that studies Mao quite closely:

In Before the Storm, p. 396 and 31, I quote from "How To Win An Election" by Barry Goldwater's campaign manager Steve Shadegg, who cites Mao Tse-tung's "valuable book on the tactics of infiltration" as an inspiration for one of his specific organizing tactics for getting Barry elected. He quotes Mao: "Give me just two or three men in a village, and I will take the village."

He also notes:

Paul Weyrich wrote, Cultural Conservatism, Theory and Practice:
"Perhaps the model for Cultural Conservatism as a political force is Chairman Mao in reverse. His theory for taking over China was to capture the countryside; isolated the cities would fall. If we think of America outside Washington as the countryside and "Inside the Beltway" as the city, his theory is right."

Perhaps the NSA heard something dicey at one of Grover Norquist's Wednesday meeting that prompted them to follow-up on anyone reading "The Little Red Book."

Grover, after all, is the connection between the movement conservatives and the Taliban.


Friday, December 16, 2005

If The President Does It It's Not Illegal

by digby

Oh for Gawd's sakes. Tom Brokaw is on Matthews boo-hooing that this NSA story stepped on Junior's wonderful Iraq triumph. He explains that when you are at war you need to do things that are difficult and believes that most people in the country will agree that the administration needed to spy on Americans after 9/11. He agrees with analyst Roger Cressy (who I used to think was sane) that once the "window" of a possible impending attack closed they should have gone up to the hill and sought permission to keep spying on Americans with no judicial oversight. (I haven't heard about this "window" before. Tom and Roger both seem to have a fantasy that the administration would not simply say that the "window" remains open as long as evil exists in the world.)

Look, the problem here, again, is not one of just spying on Americans, as repulsively totalitarian as that is. It's that the administration adopted John Yoo's theory of presidential infallibility. But, of course, it wasn't really John Yoo's theory at all; it was Dick Cheney's muse, Richard Nixon who said, "when the President does it, that means it's not illegal."

This was not some off the cuff statement. It was based upon a serious constitutional theory --- that the congress or the judiciary (and by inference the laws they promulgate and interpret) have no authority over an equal branch of government. The president, in the pursuit of his duties as president, is not subject to the laws. Citizens can offer their judgment of his performance every four years at the ballot box.

After the election, George W. Bush said this:

The Post: ...Why hasn't anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election.

He, like Nixon, believes that the president has only one "accountability moment" while he is president. His re-election. Beyond that, he has been given a blank check. And that includes breaking the law since if the president does it, it's not illegal, the president being the executive branch which is not subject to any other branch of govenrment.

John Yoo, the former deputy attorney general who wrote many of the opinion undergirding these findings (on torture as well as spying) explains that the congress has no right to abridge the president's warmaking powers. Its only constitutional remedy to a war with which they disagree is to deny funding; they can leave the troops on the field with no food or bullets.

I suspect that there are many more of these instances out there in which the administration has simply ignored the law. They believe that the constitution explicitly authorizes them to do so.

After 9/11 these people went crazy and convinced themselves that the country was in such mortal, exitential danger that this theory of imperial presidential perogative was a necessity. They say they are doing it to protect the citizens of this country. But one thing that American conservatives used to understand was that our system of government was forged by people who understood that too much power invested in one place is dangerous and that sometimes the people needed to be protected from their own government. That's fundamental to our laborious process of checks and balances and a free press. (Indeed, it was that principle on which they based their absolutist stand on the second amendment.)

Now we hear conservative commentators like Ronald Kessler, who was just interviewed (alone) on FoxNews, opining that the president did nothing illegal and was completely within his rights to spy on Americans. There is no longer any question that the government would ever abuse its power by, for instance, spying on Americans for political purposes and even if it did, we're fighting for our lives and we have to accept these infringements for our own safety. I'm quite sure he'll agree that a President Howard Dean should be given the same level of trust, aren't you?

I think the president said it best:

"If this were a dictatorship we'd have it a lot easier. Just so long as I'm the dictator."


A commenter to Larry Johnson's post over at TPM (reminding us that John Bolton was involved in some doing about NSA intercepts and American citizens) gives a nice historical view of the Yoo Doctrine:

Re: Spying on Americans and John Bolton (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by JamesW on Dec 16, 2005 -- 06:23:50 PM EST

The second part of the Yoo Doctrine is critical: it's the President, not Congress, who decides whether the country is at war or not.

In an extreme Tory argument, Yoo can just about argue that this was English 18th-century doctrine, but since Parliament rigorously controlled the purse-strings, it surely wasn't practice after 1688. [Yoo does make this argument --- ed] I doubt if English Whigs like Fox accepted the theory either, let alone American rebels.

Where Yoo surely parts company with any sane constitutional thinking since the Roman Republic is the extension that the monarch/president gets to decide what counts as a war. For George III, George Washington, Lincoln. Woodrow Wilson and FDR, war is an organised conflict between societies or social groups. Police actions against pirates, slavers, and terrorists are not war. By treating the rhetorical "war on terror", infinitely redefinable, as a real war with war's legal consequences, the Bush administration has entered the 1984 terrain of totalitarianism.

Making Rove Happy

by digby

Murray Waas has a very interesting article up today that reveals that the Plame smear happened concurrently with another smear job against Francis Townsend. It's pretty clear that the cabal around Cheney has been operating as a shadow government within the White house agitating for its own policies from the beginning. (And Scooter Libby is a real piece 'o work.)

The senior staff in the Office of the Vice President adamantly opposed Townsend's appointment. The staff included two of Cheney's closest aides: Libby, then the chief of staff and national security adviser to the vice president; and David Addington, who at the time was Cheney's counsel but who has since succeeded Libby as chief of staff.

Among other things, Libby and Addington believed that Townsend would bring a more traditional approach to combating terrorism, and feared she would not sign on to, indeed might even oppose, the OVP's policy of advocating the use of aggressive and controversial tools against terror suspects. One of those techniques is known as "extraordinary rendition," in which terror suspects are taken to foreign countries, where they can be interrogated without the same legal and human-rights protections afforded to those in U.S. custody, including the protection from torture.

Libby's opposition to Townsend was so intense that he asked at least two other people in the White House to obtain her personnel records. These records showed that she had been turned down for two lesser positions in the Bush administration because of her political leanings, according to accounts provided by current and former administration officials. Libby also spoke about leaking the material to journalists or key staffers or members on Capitol Hill, to possibly undercut Townsend, according to the same accounts.

I am going to take a great speculative leap here and suggest that Rove helped Libby with the Wilson smear at least partially as a way to smooth things over after he was ordered to support Townsend. Maybe that's what led him to take that walk down the hall and tell Scoot that he'd gotten the job done with Novak.

After all, "Official A" not only mentioned that he had spoken with Novak --- he told Libby that Novak was going to write a story about it.

Libby: Junior must have blown a gasket on that Novak column about Townsend. You're slipping old man.

(High fives Addington)

Rove: Hey, you owe me one, dude. I got him to run with the Wilson thing.

Libby: Awesome!

(high fives all around.)

There have been reports that Rove was seriously pissed that he got caught up in one of Cheney's little bag jobs without having all the facts (for instance that Plame was a NOC.)

According to Waas, Novak and Rove corroborate each others' version of events in the Plame matter. Novak happened to be pursuing this story on Townsend and Plame came up at the end of the conversation:

The papers on Frances Townsend that Rove had on his desk on July 9 appear to have corroborated Rove's and Novak's accounts to prosecutors that the principal focus of their conversation was Townsend's appointment. But on the issue of Valerie Plame, prosecutors have been unable to determine whether in fact Novak was the one who first broached the subject, and whether Rove simply confirmed something that Novak already knew. Sources close to the investigation say this uncertainty is one of the foremost reasons Fitzgerald has not decided yet whether to bring criminal charges against Rove.

I'm not sure why that's relevant, actually, unless Fitz has been trying to nail Rove on a conspiracy charge. As far as I know (and contrary to an earlier Waas story) Rove apparently admitted the Novak conversation from the beginning. His problems stem from his strangely vague recollection of where he got the information and repeatedly lying about the Cooper conversation, doling out the truth only in dribs and drabs as he was absolutely forced to do so.

I wouldn't necessarily be able to prove it in a court of law, but it's obvious to anyone who's followed this story that there was a concerted effort to out Plame. This story today actually serves more as supplemental proof that the White house is a cauldron of intrigue and double dealing, a place in which it's perfectly believable that outing a CIA agent for political purposes or because of interagency pique is common practice. That's the type of people we are dealing with. But then we knew that.

But there is a little tid-bit in this article that I find very, very interesting:

Novak indicated to Rove that he was still going to write a column that would be critical of Townsend. But according to an account that Novak later provided of his conversation with Rove, he also signaled to Rove that Wilson and Plame would be the subject of one of his columns. "I think that you are going to be unhappy with something that I write," he said to Rove, "and I think you are very much going to like something that I am about to write."

On July 10, Novak's column appeared in newspapers across the country, with a headline suggested by Novak's syndicate: "Bush Sets Himself Up for Another Embarrassment."

The column referred to Townsend as another potential "enemy within." Novak opined that Townsend would likely prove disloyal to Bush, because she had been "an intimate adviser of Janet Reno as the Clinton administration's attorney general," and he pointedly noted that earlier in her career, "Townsend's boss and patron ... was [then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York] Jo Ann Harris, whose orientation was liberal Democratic."

Four days later, on July 14, Novak wrote his now-famous column on Plame, in which he outed her as an "agency operative."

According to the article, Rove had not been in favor of her appointment originally, but he'd been tasked by Bush to defend her in the press and by all accounts he followed orders and did that. If Novak's statement is true, then the column that Novak thought Rove was going to be unhappy about was the Townsend article. That means that Novak knew that the column about Wilson was going to make Rove happy.

In order to understand why this is significant, you have to go back and look at the column in which Novak outs Plame. It quite mildly states that the Vice President didn't send Wilson (which Wilson had never claimed) but it is not particularly critical of Wilson --- the man with whom both Rove and Libby are reported to have been obsessed. In fact, it is surprisingly complimentary:

Wilson's mission was created after an early 2002 report by the Italian intelligence service about attempted uranium purchases from Niger, derived from forged documents prepared by what the CIA calls a "con man." This misinformation, peddled by Italian journalists, spread through the U.S. government. The White House, State Department and Pentagon, and not just Vice President Dick Cheney, asked the CIA to look into it.

That's where Joe Wilson came in. His first public notice had come in 1991 after 15 years as a Foreign Service officer when, as U.S. charge in Baghdad, he risked his life to shelter in the embassy some 800 Americans from Saddam Hussein's wrath. My partner Rowland Evans reported from the Iraqi capital in our column that Wilson showed "the stuff of heroism." President George H.W. Bush the next year named him ambassador to Gabon, and President Bill Clinton put him in charge of African affairs at the National Security Council until his retirement in 1998.

Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me.

If Novak told Rove that he would be happy with that column there can be only one reason ---- Plame. And you can see why. After all, Rove has admitted to coordinating a campaign to circulate the information about Plame after Novak's column was published.

Newsweek reported:

Wilson told NEWSWEEK that in the days after the Novak story appeared, he got calls from several well-connected Washington reporters. One was NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell. She told NEWSWEEK that she said to Wilson: "I heard in the White House that people were touting the Novak column and that that was the real story." The next day Wilson got a call from Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC show "Hardball."? According to a source close to Wilson, Matthews said, "?I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game.Â" (Matthews told NEWSWEEK: "I am not going to talk about off-the-record conversations."?)

You can certainly see why Rove would be "happy" that Novak had taken the bait. It gave them the hook they needed to really go after Wilson. They were running a double game with Tenet publicly falling on his sword to calm down the yellowcake story while they were prodding the press throughout to taint Wilson as a henpecked loser who needed his wife to give him something to do.

In the end the case against Rove does appear to turn on his rolling disclosures to the prosecutor about Cooper. We pretty much knew that. But the more you hear about how this all came about the more you see what a devious, paranoid atmosphere pervades this White House. I think perhaps the country would be far better off if they were all getting blow jobs from interns instead of expending all this energy plotting against their rivals and enemies, both perceived and real.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ain't She Sweet

by digby

Here's a beautiful woman, brimming with ambition, warmth and joie de vivre:

Irreverent humanitarian Anna Benson is not just another pretty face; she is a woman to be seen and heard. With countless magazine layouts hitting the stands, she balances her time between photo shoots, interviews, and charitable endeavors.

Anna will be featured on VH1’s highest rated show, the Fabulous Life, this summer. She has been featured in several publications, including FHM, Sports Illustrated, and The New Yorker. Her sharp wit and bold assertions make her a New York Post Page 6 and US Weekly favorite. And most recently, Anna has discovered a new hobby: Texas Hold’em. After a crash course on the game and only thirty days of practice, Anna competed in the 2005 World Series of Poker. Anna The Gold Digger Benson outlasted more than half the field of experienced poker players. WPT Champion Tuan Le acquiesced that, “Anna has a natural instinct for the game; I think she will develop into a great poker player.”

But this pretty poker diva donates more than mere good looks. Her namesake charity, Benson’s Battalion, is a nonprofit organization devoted to fighting terrorism in local communities. Founded in October of 2001 with her husband, New York Mets pitcher Kris Benson, the Battalion has assisted numerous police departments, fire departments, and Emergency Medical Services through funding for equipment, supplies, and education. The Battalion was created in response to September 11, 2001. After donating $50,000.00 to the United Way, Anna and Kris still wanted to do more, and the Battalion allows them to stay actively involved in the protection of their communities. Senator Melissa Hart honored Benson’s Battalion in congress in the early part of 2004.

The minimal time that Anna has left is dedicated to managing her husband’s career, raising her three children, and contributing countless hours to several local charities, such as The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and St. Barnabas Hospital, where she has presided over “Presents for Patients” for the past four years. However, it is The Children’s Hospital that remains particularly close to Anna’s heart because it allows her to bring joy to children who have otherwise experienced so much pain. This love for children inspires Anna’s newest endeavors, including lobbying for children’s rights on Capitol Hill. She is a true humanitarian with a heart of gold and is always trying to make life better for society.

She's as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Here are some of her humanitarian writings:

I honestly have to tell you…I hate your fucking guts. Forget about how un-American you are, how politically retarded you are, or how fat you look while slobbering your political garbage all over everyone, mainly, I despise you for the fact that you make money off of influencing the young minds of America to be Bush-haters.

You are a pariah to our nation…a fat kid that got beat up by the jocks at school, and this has formulated your hatred of America. If I didn’t know any better, I would thing George W. himself went to school with you and kicked the shit out of your pie-hole everyday for being such a candy-ass. If you are so passionate about politics, use some of your blood-making money to make it a better place instead of making movies that only benefit your fat-ass fanny-pack. No one likes to see Hollywood try to engage our minds with their ridiculous and one-sided political rants during award ceremonies. Your “movies” are just a façade for your own political agenda, which, by the way, is fucking warped.

You are a selfish, pathetic excuse for an American, and you can take your big fat ass over to Iraq and get your pig head cut off and stuck on a pig pole. Then, you can have your equally as fat wife make a documentary about how loudly you squealed while terrorists were cutting through all the blubber and chins to get that 40 pound head off of you. I dare you to go to Iraq and diarrhea all over our soldiers; they would love to strip you naked in the streets and leave you so that the terrorists can pick you up and dispose of you the way terrorists do. If you believe that Iraq and Al-Queda were not together, go over there and see for yourself.

Perhaps someone should ask for her thoughts on how the coarsening of the culture affects children the next time she testifies before congress. She's an expert.

Link care of Tom Watson via James Wolcott.

Tom Delay and Charlie Manson

by digby

Matthews mentioned the fact on his show today that Nixon got in trouble for saying that Charles Manson was guilty while he was still on trial. It's true. It was a big brouhaha because it used to be considered very inappropriate for a president to weigh in on the guilt or innocence of a defendent because of the possibility he might taint the Jury Pool.

As most of you know, Rick Perlstein is currently writing a book about Nixon's America. He tipped me to this fascinating little blast from the past. As he was exhorting the nation to respect the judicial system, here's what Nixon said:

I noted, for example, the coverage of the Charles Manson case when I was in Los Angeles, front page every day in the papers. It usually got a couple of minutes in the evening news. Here is a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.

Here is a man, yet, who, as far as the coverage was concerned, appeared to be rather a glamorous figure, a glamorous figure to the young people whom he had brought into his operations and, also, another thing that was noted was the fact that two lawyers in the case--two lawyers who were, as anyone who could read any of the stories could tell, who were guilty of the most outrageous, contemptuous action in the courtroom and who were ordered to jail overnight by the judge--seem to be more the oppressed, and the judge seemed to be the villain.

The response was fierce. Here's Ron Zeigler trying to spin his way out of it:

"The President, in his remarks to you in this room earlier, was, of course, referring to the focus of attention and the dramatics that are oftentimes put on various criminal acts, alleged criminal acts.

"Quite obviously, the President in his remarks regarding the trial now underway was referring to allegations that had been raised and are now in a court of law.

"If you take the President's remarks in the context of what he was saying, there is no attempt to impute liability to any accused. The gist of his statement was just the contrary.

"I think when he concluded his statement in reference to the system, in concluding his remarks to you, he made it very clear that it is important that in our system, as it does exist, that individuals have the right of fair trial, although, apparently, many of you understood it to mean something other than as the President intended it in his total remarks, to suggest that he was referring to something other than the obvious, and that is the fact that he was referring to the allegations against Mr. Manson and the others on trial in Los Angeles."

You can see why the Republicans later decided to simply go ahead and make a robot the press secretary.

Yesterday, Bush said he unequivocally believed that Tom Delay was innocent. Now one could make a case that a president should always go with a presumption of innocence. But he didn't do that with Duke Cunningham who he said should be condemned if he did the things he is accused of. When asked about DeLay, Bush's jaw just clenches and he says outright that he thinks he's is innocent.

Here's the tape at Crooks and Liars You have to see how he looked when he said it to appreciate how bizarre it was. He looks as though he's just been goosed with an electric cattle prod. (I think perhaps the best explanation for Bush's inappropriate jury tampering is that old Hot Tub Tom has some fond memories (and pictures) of Junior during his pre-Jesus years.)

Of course, the conservative base has intensely rallied around Delay from the beginning:

Morton Blackwell, Republican National Committee member from Virginia and a member of ACU's board, said Republicans are being told support for Mr. DeLay is mandatory if they want future support from conservatives.

"Conservative leaders across the country are working now to make sure that any politician who hopes to have conservative support in the future had better be in the forefront as we attack those who attack Tom DeLay," he said.

And then we all know that the christian right has, for reasons that are unclear, decided that a man named "the hammer" is a quasi-religious figure. Karl is desperate to keep the conservative evangelicals in the republican column, so supporting this criminal, power mad thug could also be seen as a small battle in the War on Christmas.

Still, it is a little bit unusual for a president to utter such unequivocal support for someone under indictment and in the crosshairs of a very serious justice department probe. But then if he didn't he wouldn't have any friends or supporters at all, would he. Remember this presidential pal and criminal defendent?

Soon heading to trial, the former Enron CEO implores -- before a wealthy crowd -- company employees to "stand up" for him.

While most people accused of corporate crimes keep a low profile before going to trial, former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay defended himself in the court of public opinion on Dec. 13 at a luncheon in Houston. Lay portrayed himself as a martyr persecuted by overzealous federal prosecutors more intent on getting a conviction than seeking the truth. He said prosecutors were engaged in a "wave of terror," intimidating potential witnesses who could clear his name and prove that Enron "was a real company, a substantial company, an honest company."

Lay pointed the finger of blame at Andrew Fastow, Enron's former chief financial officer, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and securities fraud last year. Fastow is expected to testify against Lay and two other former Enron executives, Jeffrey Skilling and Richard Causey, when the three are tried together for various corporate crimes next month. Lay said he was guilty only of being "too trusting" of Fastow. He said it was the "stench" of Fastow's misconduct that led the investing public to lose confidence in Enron.

UNUSUAL VENUE. And Enron's fall? Lay argued that it was "public hysteria" that doomed the company rather than its business fundamentals. "Enron's bankruptcy was caused by liquidity problems, not by solvency problems. The company's on- and off-balance-sheet assets exceeded its liabilities by billions of dollars," he said. Indeed, he claimed that Enron would still be a going concern if investors hadn't panicked.

Lay chose to argue his case before the Houston Forum, a well-heeled group that engages prominent speakers like Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It certainly was an unusual venue. Others charged with corporate crimes like, Tyco's (TYC ) Dennis Koslowski and ImClone's (IMCL ) Samuel Waksal, stood stoically behind their lawyers in public and couldn't be brought to utter even "no comment."

Says Houston attorney, David Berg, who defends white-collar criminals and follows the Enron case: "I'd never let a client make a speech like that because his words can and will be used against him."

"AGAINST THE WALL." It reminded Berg of Skilling's testimony during congressional hearings in 2002: "It's the ultimate in hubris for these guys to spout off like that," Berg says, adding that for Lay to deliver his speech before a wealthy crowd in a ballroom at an expensive hotel didn't help him, either.

Lay's attorney Mike Ramsey says the speech wasn't intended to influence jurors, which have already been selected, since the people attending the luncheon "are too smart to get on a jury that's going to last six months." Rather, Ramsey says, "Our backs are against the wall" in getting witnesses to help with Lay's defense. "We're trying to get Enron employees to speak out."

I guess down there in texas juries like being called stupid. Interesting defense tactic.

Bush doesn't defend Lay, of course. He just denies that he ever knew him. The bubble gets smaller and smaller.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Losing His Woody

ReddHedd at Firedoglake noticed something in the Novak story this morning that I missed. It says:

Woodward, a Washington Post editor, recently disclosed that he, too, had been told by an administration figure about Plame's secret identity -- probably, he said, by the same source who told Novak.

ReddHedd explains:

This passage was a little mystical for me, so I confirmed with Rob Christenson that, indeed, that was what was intended, and was told that "Novak made the comment in his speech -- referring to earlier remarks by Woodward."

I haven't heard that before either. If that's true, we can assume that the prosecutor had already spoken with Woodward's source since it's clear that Novak named his sources. And if that's so then it's clear that this source (who Novak described as "not a partisan gunslinger") was not forthcoming with the prosecutor.

I have thought that it was possible that Woodward could have actually heard this as gossip if it came from Armitage at the end of a conversation. But if this source (whether Armitage or someone else) told more than one reporter, then that's obviously ridiculous. Woodward and Novak have both simply refused to admit that they were spun like tops.

Woodward has behaved as if Fitzgerald was a Ken Starr zealot trying to frame innocent administration officials and dig willy nilly into reporters' address books so they could charge whistleblowers with a crime. Now, I don't know where he got that impression, but it certainly wasn't from prosecution leaks. Other reporters had testified under the waivers and none of them had complained that the prosecutor was out of line in his questioning. Woodward was one of the very few, even among the press and the strong defenders of the reporter's privilege in the Miller/Cooper case, who seemed to think that Fitzgerald personally was some sort of zealot.

Therefore, Woodward must have been talking to people who thought it was in their best interest to give that impression to good old Bob, the faithful transcriber. People who had something to gain by making Bob Woodward think that Fitzgerald was out of control. People who knew that Bob Woodward was writing the official history of the White house during this period.

And Bob dutifully believed those people. He believed they were just gossiping, not leaking. And he believed that Fitzgerald was a junkyard dog going way beyond his mandate seeking any reason he could to indict members of the administration and jailing reporters for refusing to spill every secret they hold.

Woodward now says that he was very surprised that the prosecutor wasn't searching madly for any possible crime with which he could charge the administration. In fact, he was quite professional and respected the reporters' privilege, keeping narrowly to the area of questions they'd agreed to discuss. One can only hope that Woodward has had his eyes opened a little bit about how he has been played for a fool by this administration (although I doubt it.)

Novak is just mad that the administration didn't shut down this silly investigation. He knew what was going on from the get. Woodward actually seems to have thought his sources always tell him the truth.

Breaking News

by digby

CNN is reporting live at a motor vehicle accident in Los Angeles. Fire trucks and ambulences are on the scene. The whole nation must be riveted.

In other breaking national news, a reservoir broke in Lesterville, Missouri. One home was flooded and five people are in the hospital. So far the Dam is holding.

Oh, and the terrorists are still trying to take over the world.

Gotta go. The governor of Missouri is speaking live.

Run For Your Lives!

by digby

I don't know why he's never told us this before, but the president just said that the terrorists are trying to expell the US from the middle east so that they can establish an Islamic Empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia! And then they want to use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America!

The terrorists are trying to take over the world!

If ever there was a time for the 101st Fighting Keyboarders to suit up and g-o, it is now. The American way of life is at stake.

(Alternatively, you could just keep buying cheap useless shit. That's another good way to sacrifice.)

Ask Junior

by digby

Newspaper columnist Robert Novak
is still not naming his source in the Valerie Plame affair, but he says he is pretty sure the name is no mystery to President Bush.

"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh on Tuesday. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."

"So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.' "


Novak said his role in the Plame affair "snowballed out of proportion" as a result of a "campaign by the left."

But he also blamed "extremely bad management of the issue by the White House. Once you give an issue to a special prosecutor, you lose control of it."

And here I thought the president believed that they would never know who it was because reporters always protect leakers.

I also wonder exactly how Novak's role in the Plame affair snowballed out of proportion because of a campaign by the left. Last I heard, Novak was the preferred wingnut Karl Rove used to out a CIA agent for revenge so that he could "get it out there" and then circulate the story all over town. Was his "role" actually less significant than that? What does Bob think worked the best for "the left's" non-existent campaign ---all the non-existent Democratic congressional hearings or the non-existent non-stop coverage by the liberal cable networks? I know the lefty blogs are very, very heavy duty political players and all, but as I recall they were the only form of "media" that cared about this story for more than five minutes. IIRC, the guy who really kicked things off was a senior administration official who told the washington post that the outing was done purely for revenge. Unless he or she is a lefty plant, the "campaign" really took off from there.

Once again, it's comforting to see that right wing victimology hasn't been diminished by its enormous power.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Deep Throat

by digby

Something has gone terribly wrong at the Washington Post. And I'm not just talking about pauvre tinkerbell.

Get a load of Cohen:

To read George Packer's "The Assassin's Gate" is to be reminded that the Iraq war is not the product of oil avarice, or CIA evil, but of a surfeit of altruism, a naive compulsion to do good. That entire collection of neo- and retro-conservatives -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and particularly Paul Wolfowitz -- made war not for oil or for empire but to end the horror of Saddam Hussein and, yes, reorder the Middle East.

They were inept. They were duplicitous. They were awesomely incompetent, and, in the case of Bush, they were monumentally ignorant and incurious, but they did not give a damn for oil or empire. This is why so many liberals, myself included, originally supported the war. It engaged us emotionally. It seemed . . . well, right -- a just cause.

It would be nice if Hollywood understood that. It would be nice if those who agree with Hollywood -- who think, as Gaghan does, that this is a brave, speaking-truth-to-power movie when it's really just an outdated cliche -- could release their fervid grip on old-left bromides about Big Oil, Big Business, Big Government and the inherent evil of George Bush, and come up with something new and relevant. I say that because something new and relevant is desperately needed. Neoconservatism crashed and burned in Iraq, but liberalism never even showed up. The left's criticism of the war from the very start was too often a porridge of inanities about oil or empire or Halliburton -- or isolationism by another name. It was childish and ultimately ineffective. The war came and Bush was reelected. How's that for a clean whiff?

I detect a whiff of something, that's for sure. And it's definitely the good shit.

I suppose you could call Bush an idealist. That whole smoking gun in a mushroom cloud thing was quite the inspiration. It's right up there with "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

How about this for a new and relevant liberal argument: anyone who supported the war was a fool or an asshole because it was patently obvious by 2002 that this country was in the hands of an insane megalomaniacal Republican machine and the braindead sycophantic mediawhores who gratefully dined on their droppings. Anyone with half a brain knew that it wasn't a good idea to give a blank check to crazed power mad freaks to start invading, torturing and killing at their discretion. Most of the world agreed. Not complicated. Not idealistic. Plain. Fucking. Common. Sense.

Clearly, Cohen is the model for a "good" liberal at the Washington Post these days. He doesn't upset the White House or Patrrick Ruffini one little bit.

November 24, 2000:

"Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse. That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush."

What a good boy. He just loves him some Junior.

Spinning Fitz

by digby

Last night it looked
as though Jim VandeHei had broken the Plame case wide open when he said on Hardball that Stephen Hadley had told Rove about Plame. Today, the WaPo is backtracking, saying that VandeHei meant Libby, not Rove. VandeHei wrote last October:

White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account said yesterday.

In a talk that took place in the days before Plame's CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV were raised, the source said. Rove told the grand jury the talk was confined to information the two men heard from reporters, the source said.

This is very likely to be the "official A" conversation mentioned in the Libby indictment:

On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House (“Official A”) who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson’s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson’s trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson’s wife.

(Assuming he isn't covering for a sourse who told him Hadley was Rove's original source) VandeHei's comment yesterday indicates that he thinks it makes sense that Rove "learned" about Plame in the very same conversation in which he told Libby he'd confirmed Plame's CIA status to Bob Novak. I think that's ridiculous and I suspect that this is one of the bizarre Rovian explanations that keeps Rove in Fitz's sites.

I was trying to explain how we got to this point to a friend who had lost the threads of this story and so I wrote a little primer, as I understand it. I thought that some readers might find it useful:

The Rove version of events seems to be that Rove heard about Plame from "someone outside the white house" whose identity he can't remember. Although he lied about it to the FBI, he admitted to the Grand Jury that he confirmed that Plame was CIA to Bob Novak and that Novak told him that he was going to write a story about it. But he also said that it wasn't until July 10th or 11th, when he happened to be chattering in the office to Libby about this Novak call, that he really learned about Plame. He then spoke to Matt Cooper (on the morning of the 11th) spilled the beans about Plame, shot off an e-mail to Hadley saying that he "didn't take the bait" --- and then forgot all about that Cooper conversation and the e-mail.

He didn't remember talking to Cooper when, just a week after the conversation, all hell broke loose in Washington when Novak's column came out and it was revealed that Plame was an NOC.

He didn't remember when he was asked to search for any documentation about Wilson and he didn't find that e-mail to Hadley either.

He didn't remember the conversation with Cooper when the FBI talked to him and he didn't remember it when he first testified before the Grand Jury.

It wasn't until the following spring when Viveca Novak "pushed back" Bob Luskin, revealing that she knew Rove was Cooper's source and Luskin then fortuitously "found" the missing e-mail, that Rove apparently remembered the conversation.

Oddly, throughout this time he apparently did remember the Novak confirmation. And it would seem (although we don't know this) that he remembered the Libby conversation from the beginning while completely forgetting he talked to Cooper or wrote an e-mail to Hadley on the very same day.

After the miracle e-mail appears, Rove testifies to the GJ in October of 2004 about his conversation with Cooper. He has no reason to worry about what Cooper might say because even though he issued a "waiver", Cooper is refusing to testify and he and TIME are fighting all attempts to get them to cooperate.

At this point, it appears that all anyone knows is "gossip" that Cooper and Rove spoke. Rove says the Plame matter was a passing reference in a conversation about welfare reform.

But TIME, surprisingly, gives up the notes the next summer when the Supreme Court refuses to take the appeal and Cooper's lawyer finds a way to get Rove to release Cooper from his promise on the day he is slated to go to jail. Unfortunately for Rove, Cooper testifies (and his notes confirm) that Rove never mentioned welfare reform and spoke at greater length and in much greater detail about Plame than he had testified to earlier.

Again,it seems that Rove has not been completely forthcoming with the prosecutor.

Fitzgerald apparently did not buy the convenient Hadley e-mail memory restoration business. (He may have been convinced that other aspects of Rove's story don't add up either.) He was ready to indict. It is supposedly at this point that Luskin comes forward with yet another piece of previously undisclosed information --- reporter Viveca Novak is the one who set him on the trail of the Hadley e-mail back in the first part of 2004, long before Karl could have known that Cooper was on the hot seat. How this is supposed to exonerate Rove, we still don't know.

According to VandeHei, Luskin says that this conversation took place in January of 2004 and Luskin told Rove about it before he went before the grand jury:

One possible explanation of why the date is so important is that Luskin could contend it would have been foolish for Rove to try to cover up his role when he knew -- because of Novak's disclosure to Luskin -- that a number of people knew he had talked to Cooper and that it probably would soon become public.

The "why would he do something so stupid" defense rarely works and Luskin knows it. If this is his story he just threw the Hail Mary to the wrong end zone. In fact, the story is so absurd that VandeHei's the only one who's reporting it.

The conventional wisdom is that Luskin claimed that he started the e-mail search after he talked to Viveca Novak in either March or May, prompting Rove to go before the grand jury in October to say the e-mail jogged his memory and he now remembered the whole thing. We all assume that this is a crappy defense because it wouldn't have taken between March and October (or May and October) to locate this e-mail. (But as Jeralyn points out, it's possible that Luskin turned this e-mail over and offered up Rove's recantation earlier than October and that Fitzgerald just didn't call him to testify before then for unknown reasons.)

I don't know how relevant it is but there seems to be a discrepancy between what Luskin and Viveca Novak told Fitzgerald. According to Novak, Fitzgerald spoke to her informally for a couple of hours on Novemnber 10th. She says that she couldn't remember when she spoke with Luskin but it was most likely May. We know that he then put Robert Luskin himself under oath on December 2, 2005. (By all acouunts, it is highly unusual to put a suspect's lawyer under oath.) Fitz then called Novak and requested she come in again to testify under oath this time. She says that she discovered by that time that that she had also spoken with Luskin in March but she still doesn't know when she spilled the beans about Rove and Cooper.

I'm sure there are missing elements in what we know of Rove's story, but this is the gist of what we know:

He lied to the FBI about being Novak's source. He says he has forgotton important conversations and when he belatedly does remember them, he remembers them very differently than others do. He only "finds" important documents months after they are subpoenaed and when they can be used to bolster his evolving explanations. At the final hour, just as he is about to be indicted, his lawyer comes forward with yet more undisclosed information.

Time after time, Rove has played Fitzgerald for a chump, doling out bits of information only as he has to as if he were playing the Washington spin game instead of dealing with a federal prosecutor. But unlike the credulous DC press corps, who seem to have trouble keeping this story straight in their minds, Fitzgerald has a cadre of prosecutors and FBI agents, as well as a memory like a steel trap, that is keeping track of all this. Rove can't spin his way out of this.