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Monday, December 26, 2005

Southern Fried

Atrios links to Novakula's column today in which he discusses Trent Lott's agnizing over whether to seek another term. I think we've all wondered if Katrina would have an impact on the GOP in Mississippi and Alabama and this may be the test. (New Orleans' African American disapora is very likely to result in a stronger Louisiana GOP) I suspect he thinks it's time to cash out. They'll never be a better opportunity.

Atrios also highlights Novak's last line which I also think is the most interesting aspect of the piece:

When George W. stood aside while Trent Lott was tossed out, I wrote on Dec. 23, 2002, that the secret liberal theme behind his defenestration was that "the GOP's Southern base, the bedrock of its national election victories, is an illegitimate legacy from racist Dixiecrats.

Now, three years later, that bedrock may be eroding.

I don't know why he thinks it was secret. That view is right out in the open and it happens to be true. Both the Republicans and Democrats have been talking about the southern strategy for decades. (Perhaps Novak thinks the mass defections from Democrat to Republican in the south directly on the heels of the voting rights act of 1964 was a coincidence?)

In any case, that's not what's interesting. It's that he thinks the "bedrock" of the southern GOP base may be eroding. Personally, I doubt it, at least in any significant sense. However, many of the structural problems conservative writer Christopher Caldwell predicted in his famous contrarian article "the Southern Captivity of the GOP" from 1998 could be coming to fruition.

9/11 obscured them but the problems remain. Here are some excerpts from that article:

The party's 1994 majority came thanks to a gain of nineteen seats in the South. In 1996 Republicans picked up another six seats in the Old Confederacy. But that only makes their repudiation in the rest of the country the more dramatic. The party has been all but obliterated in its historical bastion of New England, where it now holds just four of twenty-three congressional seats. The Democrats, in fact, dominate virtually the entire Northeast. The Republicans lost seats in 1996 all over the upper Midwest -- Michigan, Wisconsin (two seats), Iowa, and Ohio (two seats). Fatally, they lost seats in all the states on the West Coast. Their justifiable optimism about the South aside, in 1996 it became clear that the Democratic Party was acquiring regional strongholds of equal or greater strength.


The Republican Party is increasingly a party of the South and the mountains. The southernness of its congressional leaders -- Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Georgia; House Majority Leader Dick Armey and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, of Texas; Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, of Mississippi; Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, of Oklahoma -- only heightens the identification. There is a big problem with having a southern, as opposed to a midwestern or a California, base. Southern interests diverge from those of the rest of the country, and the southern presence in the Republican Party has passed a "tipping point," at which it began to alienate voters from other regions.

As southern control over the Republican agenda grows, the party alienates even conservative voters in other regions. The prevalence of right-to-work laws in southern states may be depriving Republicans of the socially conservative midwestern trade unionists whom they managed to split in the Reagan years, and sending Reagan Democrats back to their ancestral party in the process. Anti-government sentiment makes little sense in New England, where government, as even those who hate it will concede, is neither remote nor unresponsive.


Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, ... and insists that libertarians and moralists can still cohabit. And since Norquist is a key -- if not the key -- adviser to Newt Gingrich, his interpretation can be taken as a semi-official Republican understanding of what's left of Ronald Reagan's electorate. "The Reagan coalition is the Leave Us Alone coalition," Norquist says. "Tax activists want their paychecks left alone. Pro-family people want their kids left alone. Ralph Reed's constituents are not interested in running other people's lives. They don't care what odd people do in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon."

For his part, Reed, formerly the executive director of the Christian Coalition and now a Georgia-based political and public-affairs consultant, thinks the two wings get along as well as ever. Looking at the Republican field for President in 2000, he says, "Traditional supply-siders like Steve Forbes are enthusiastically embracing the social dogma of the party. Lamar Alexander is moving to the right, guys like John Ashcroft are picking up steam, John Kasich is talking about faith in God. I see a holistic message developing." To an extent Reed is right: this is not 1963 or 1964, when the Rockefeller wing and the Goldwater wing fought an intraparty civil war. Yet there is something more troubling going on. Every Republican candidate now has to "make his bones," to prove his good faith by declaring his unequivocal willingness to alienate the "elites" of the country. Describing the Christian right to a reporter last fall, the former Washington congressman Randy Tate, who is now the executive director of the Christian Coalition, said, "They don't just want to be given crumbs off the table and taken for granted." Far from proving Republican tolerance, the rapprochement Reed points to is merely the sound of the Republicans' cosmopolitan wing crying "Uncle."

This southern takeover is part of a natural, if paradoxical, transformation. It parallels the way the Goldwater debacle of 1964 destabilized the Democratic Party -- by sending alienated northern Republican progressives into the Democrats' ranks. These progressives joined with northern urbanites to forge a party that was more to their liking, though it was too liberal for the Democratic Party's stalwart southern conservatives -- and, eventually, too liberal for the nation as a whole. In like fashion, Democratic excesses since the seventies may have destabilized the Republican Party by chasing those southerners into the fold, transforming the Republican Party into a machine that is steadily becoming too conservative for the country.

There has always been tension between the Republicans' constituent wings. What long masked it was the Cold War. The Reaganite party was never a two-part but always a three-part coalition, of social conservatives, economic conservatives, and foreign-policy hawks. The hawks' group was minuscule, but it happened that their passion (anti-communism) was shared by Christians and capitalists alike.


When the Republicans can no longer promise tax cuts, they're left with only the most abrasive aspects of the Reagan message, kept under wraps throughout the 1980s: the southern morals business. If the Republicans didn't believe in shrinking government, they didn't believe in the freedom that it was supposed to promote -- which made it much harder to argue that their moral agenda was being advanced in the name of live and let live. And what did they have besides the moral agenda?

The Republicans are too conservative: their deference to their southern base is persuading much of the country that their vision is a sour and crabbed one. But they're too liberal, too, as their all-out retreat from shrinking the government indicates. At the same time, the Republicans have passed none of the reforms that ingratiated the party with the "radical middle." The Republicans' biggest problem is not their ideology but their lack of one. Stigmatized as rightists, behaving like leftists, and ultimately standing for nothing, they're in the worst of all possible worlds.

There is messaging "gold" in that article now that it is crystal clear that the Republicans are not the party of small government and it lies here:

If the Republicans didn't believe in shrinking government, they didn't believe in the freedom that it was supposed to promote -- which made it much harder to argue that their moral agenda was being advanced in the name of live and let live.

How can Norquist's "leave us alone" coalition exist in a party that supports the government spying on its citizens and supports intrusion into a family's most difficult medical decisions? How can a "leave us alone" coalition support a president who acts like a king? How can decent people who believe in moral values continue to work hard and support a party that is corrupt to its core?

They can't.

Caldwell concluded with this:

Their party is now directionless, with only two skills to recommend it: first, identifying and prosecuting the excesses of its opponents; second, rigging the campaign-finance system to protect its incumbency long after it has ceased having any ideas that would justify incumbency. The Republican Party is an obsolescent one. It may continue to rule, disguised as a majority by electoral legerdemain. But it will be a long time before the party is again able to rule from a place in Americans' hearts.

They gave up trying to rule from a place in America's heart some time ago and are now ruling from some place in America's gut. Fear (or the fun "horror movie" version of it anyway) is what they use to keep the disparate threads of Norquist's coalition together. I think, however, Bush's misdhandling of Iraq and Katrina -- not to mention the ridiculous overplaying of the terrorist threat --- may have dampened their prospects for a repeat of their successful communist fearmongering of the past.

I think that Caldwell's thesis is proven by the fact that Bush won so narrowly in 2004 and that they were unable to gain any Senate seats outside of deep red territory. They couldn't win any house seats outside of the rigged Texas gerrymander. Bush's popular vote margin came from turnout in the deep south, not because of any gains elsewhere. I ask you, if a Republican incumbent couldn't win big in that election, when we were just three years from a major terrorist attack and deeply engaged in wars in two countries, then what will it take?

They've got the south for the time being. The question for them is if they can legitimately win anywhere else. If Novak is right and they are starting to lose their grip a little bit there then they've reached their high water mark.

Jeanne D'Arc needs a new computer.

I can't imagine a blogosphere without Body and Soul, can you?

It's common wisdom that this administration has, from the outset, and right up to the present, made a habit of accusing others of what it is guilty of. I've always thought of that as just an effective technique -- put your opposition on the defense, so that, at best, no one notices what you're doing, and, at worst, people excuse your crimes because the other side supposedly does it too.

But when self-described Christians are choosing to replicate the history of their faith in reverse, casting themselves in the villains' place, while somehow still claiming the innocence of holy victims, it looks more like pathology than political spin. They remind me of Alex in A Clockwork Orange, aroused by Christian iconography, fantasizing himself as a Roman soldier. Then throw in something too twisted for Alex --fantasizing himself, simultaneously, as a martyr.

Sick. Just sick, these Clockwork Christians.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Guest Post

Bush's Head

by Poputonian

James Wolcott’s recent reference to Digby’s blog as “a Paul Revere gallop through the pitched night of the Bush years” reminds me of this passage from Paul Revere's Ride, a 1994 book by the great historian David Hackett Fischer. The passage seems relevant to the recent discussion (triggered by the Kos article in WM) about the role blogs play in political discourse. Fischer sees Revere in relationship to the overall Revolutionary movement and debunks the myth that he was a "just a messenger." He describes Revere as an important cog *in a liberal movement* that was "open and pluralist" and made up of "an alliance of many overlapping groups." Revere was a silversmith by day, but away from his trade he was doing much more for the rebel cause, and it was more than a poetic midnight ride. This has a feel to it, like maybe this is what bloggers did before computers, in a day when everything was closer, within physical reach, and people did their politics face to face.

Paul Revere's Role in the Revolutionary Movement

The structure of Boston's revolutionary movement, and Paul Revere's place within it, were very different from recent secondary accounts. Many historians have suggested that this movement was a tightly organized, hierarchical organization, controlled by Samuel Adams and a few other dominant figures. These same interpretations commonly represent Revere as a minor figure who served his social superiors mainly as a messenger.

A very different pattern emerges from the following comparison of seven groups: the Masonic lodge that met at the Green Dragon Tavern; the Loyal Nine, which was the nucleus of the Sons of Liberty; the North Caucus that met at the Salutation Tavern; the Long Room Club in Dassett Alley; the Boston Committee of Correspondence; the men who are known to have participated in the Boston Tea Party; and Whig leaders on a Tory Enemies List.

A total of 255 men were in one or more of these seven groups. Nobody appeared on all seven lists, or even as many as six. Two men, and only two, were in five groups; they were Joseph Warren and Paul Revere, who were unique in the breadth of their associations.

Other multiple memberships were as follows. Five men (2.0%) appeared in four groups each: Samuel Adams, Nathaniel Barber, Henry Bass, Thomas Chase, and Benjamin Church. Seven men (2.7%) turned up on three lists (James Condy, Moses Grant, Joseph Greenleaf, William Molineux, Edward Proctor, Thomas Urann, and Thomas Young).

Twenty-seven individuals (10.6%) were on two lists (John Adams, Nathaniel Appleton, John Avery, Samuel Barrett, Richard Boynton, John Bradford, Ezekiel Cheever, Adam Collson, Samuel Cooper, Thomas Crafts, Caleb Davis, William Dennie, Joseph Eayrs, William Greenleaf, John Hancock, James Otis, Elias Parkman, Samuel Peck, William Powell, John Pulling, Josiah Quincy, Abiel Ruddock, Elisha Story, James Swan, Henry Welles, Oliver Wendell, and John Winthrop). The great majority, 211 of 255 (82.7%), appeared only on a single list. Altogether, 94.1% were in only one or two groups.

This evidence strongly indicates that the revolutionary movement in Boston was more open and pluralist than scholars have believed. It was not a unitary organization, but a loose alliance of many overlapping groups. That structure gave Paul Revere and Joseph Warren a special importance, which came from the multiplicity and range of their alliances.

None of this is meant to deny the preeminence of other men in different roles. Samuel Adams was especially important in managing the Town Meeting, and the machinery of local government, and was much in the public eye. Otis was among its most impassioned orators. John Adams was the penman of the Revolution. John Hancock was its "milch cow," as a Tory described him. But Revere and Warren moved in more circles than any others. This gave them their special roles as the linchpins of the revolutionary movement -- its communicators, coordinators, and organizers of collective effort in the cause of freedom.

Another list (too long to be included here) survives of 355 Sons of Liberty who met at the Liberty Tree in Dorchester in 1769. Once again, Paul Revere appears on it. There were at least two other Masonic lodges in Boston at various periods before and during the Revolution; Paul Revere is known to have belonged to at least one of them. In addition to the North Caucus, there was also a South Caucus and a Middle Caucus. Paul Revere may or may not have belonged to them as well; some men joined more than one. No definitive lists of members have been found. But it is known that Revere was a member of a committee of five appointed "to wait on the South End caucus and the Caucus in the middle part of town," and that he met with them (Goss, Revere, II, 639). Several Boston taverns were also centers of Whig activity. Revere had connections with at least two of them-Cromwell's Head, and the Bunch of Grapes. The printing office of Benjamin Edes was another favorite rendezvous. In the most graphic description of a gathering there by John Adams, once again Paul Revere was recorded as being present.

In sum, the more we learn about the range and variety of political associations in Boston, the more open, complex and pluralist the revolutionary movement appears, and the more important (and significant) Paul Revere's role becomes. He was not the dominant or controlling figure. Nobody was in that position. The openness and diversity of the movement were the source of his importance. Appendix D, page 301, Paul Revere's Ride, by David Hackett Fischer, New York, 1994.

People will use blogs as they wish, but their important role in directing the actions and messages of a political movement is becoming more and more undeniable. The liberal blogs that I read *usually make their assertions* in an open and pluralist way, not in a top down hierarchical fashion; independent and distributed, yet coordinated and overlapping. This is quite the opposite of our *conservative* adversaries. [I changed rightwing to conservative because the real conservatives hate to be painted with the Bush brush. Tough shit.]

Fischer's description of Revere as a 'linchpin, communicator, coordinator, and organizer of collective effort' seems also seems apropos (heh). It's pure teamwork, where each role is small, even miniscule, but in the aggregate can lead to an essential outcome, which in today’s political environment is the shedding of authoritative conservatism in favor of an open pluralism.

And wouldn't you give just about anything to sit in a place called, Bunch of Grapes? Or how about The Green Dragon Tavern or Cromwell's Head? With luck, maybe someday there will be an establishment called Bush's Head.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Radioactive Muslims

Glenn Greenwald sees through the new "leak" about the government being forced (gosh darn it to heck) to monitor Muslims for nukes. Similar to how the convenient color coded terrorist warnings leading up to the election last year were designed to keep the president's poll numbers from falling, this one is designed to muddy the waters of the NSA spying scandal. After all, if Muslims are suspected of building nuclear devices right in our backyards (God Save Us ALL!) why in the hell are we worried about a little harmless phone tapping?

The Administration’s purported efforts to find radiological activity in Muslim mosques is now supposed to be thrown onto the pile along with its lawless NSA eavesdropping program, so that the whole confusing controversy is aggregated into nothing more than the same tired, irrational terrorist-defending fetish of trying to impede George Bush in his valiant crusade to protect us from The Terrorists. And sure enough, like puppets on cue, the most blindly loyal of the Bush defenders are spitting out exactly this scary tale.

And with the images now darkly dancing around in our heads of Muslims hiding in their mosques in Los Angeles and Queens and Georgia suburbs and maybe in your own backyard, standing over a toxic brew of radiology and TNT ready to zap us all with their mushroom clouds, all of this annoying chatter about FISA and the Fourth Amendment and the NSA is supposed to meekly fade away, drowned to death by nightmares of our children with their hair on fire and glowing in the dark and George Bush trying to save them.

He asks if they will get away with it again. I dunno. At some point you have to wonder if the citizens of the US will tire of playing this little fantasy of being a nation under seige (while they shop til they drop) and want to switch the channel to little "Morning in America."

I heard a stranger in a line at the book store say the other day that he was tired of hearing the president talk about "protecting us" like he's some kind of super hero. It's possible that they've gone to the well with this one too many times. We'll see.

Update: I see that I was unclear. (Eggnog?) This looks like it was leaked because it is the kind of thing that some people will find reasonable. (I doubt that it's any more effective than making grandma take off her slippers at the airport, but whatever.) The point is that the administration likely leaked this themselves for the purpose of obscuring the seriousness of the NSA spy scandal.

If this is true, it is another case of the administration leaking classified information for political purposes. How surprising.

Little Red Data Miner

It turns out the Little Red Book Story was a hoax. Thank Goodness. But lest anyone think that this means anything, check this out:

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.


"There was a lot of discussion about the switches" in conversations with the court, a Justice Department official said, referring to the gateways through which much of the communications traffic flows. "You're talking about access to such a vast amount of communications, and the question was, How do you minimize something that's on a switch that's carrying such large volumes of traffic? The court was very, very concerned about that."

Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.'s domestic surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

That's what we all thought. TIA Redux. Which means they have likely been sifting through millions of Americans' communications, with the acquiescence of your friendly neighborhood phone and internet provider, looking for keywords, patterns ... well, we don't know, now do we, because it's all done with no oversight. They could be looking for signs of illicit blow jobs, which is, as we all know, a major threat to the republic.

I would not expect that this mining is quite as sophisticated as we might like. After all, we are surveilling Quakers and PETA because they are terrorist threats so I wouldn't look for the NSA to have some mind boggling, science fiction level capabilities to sort out the person who is discussing current events from the terrorist trying to kill us all.

Oh well. If you don't want to be a suspect, just don't use your phone or computer. Or the US mail. Or an airplane. Or a library. And if you do use those things, just don't say anything that a computer might interpret to be a threat. Is that so hard? Use your heads, people. This is what we have to do to preserve our freedom.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Meme of Fours

by digby

Kevin passes the torch of this new meme to me thinking that it will reveal something interesting about me. I doubt that it will, but here goes:

Four jobs you've had in your life: pizza cook, Alaska pipeline worker, medical transcriber, VP of business affairs.

Four movies you could watch over and over: The Godfather, Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, Dr Strangelove.

Four places you've lived: Fairbanks Alaska; Ankara Turkey; Bangkok Thailand; Bay St Louis, Mississippi.

Four TV shows you love to watch: The Daily Show, The Family Guy, Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Four places you've been on vacation: Mykonos, Greece; Chitna Alaska; Pismo Beach California, Avignon, France

Four websites you visit daily: Atrios, Firedoglake, The Sideshow, Alicublog (and gawd knows how many hundreds of others ...)

Four of your favorite foods: sourdough bread, salami, soft cheese, chocolate (and Zocor)

Four places you'd rather be: Amsterdam, Kauai, San Francisco, Lake Como

Peter Daou, the ball is in your court.

Here it is.

Something To Believe In

the digby

Lots of people are discussing this article about Kos in the new Washington Monthly and wondering whether we need more wonkery and less partisanship in the blogosphere.

It seems to me that there is a lot of great accessible policy analysis in the left blogosphere. Max Sawicky notes that that wonkery rises to the occasion when needed, as in the social security debate (and, I would argue, Juan Cole and other foreign policy specialists when Iraq debates have raged.) Specialists abound. There is political wonkery in the form of analysts like Ruy Teixeira at Donkey Rising. Nathan Newman is the go to on labor issues. PZ Myers and Chris Mooney on science. Economists and lawyers abound, Maxspeak, Angry Bear, Balkinization, Talk Left, Scotusblog, the list goes on. TPM Cafe is a salon devoted to wonkery.

And within the wonkosphere there are generalists and specialists, more often the latter, for obvious reasons. Kevin Drum is a generalist wonk. He has many interests that he enjoys exploring with graphs and data. Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias do too. Most blogwonks aren't like that. (You'll notice that all three of those guys are employed by liberal magazines that specialize in popular wonkery.)

These and the many great blogwonks are essential to the left blogosphere. They are a tremendous resource that I (a card carrying partisan crank) treasure and I link to them more often than anyone else. They are often compelling writers who effectively convey complex information to the lay reader and offer excellent analysis. So I'm not sure I see the beef. I rarely find it difficult to get educated on any number of subjects when I need to (which is often.)

Having said that, I disagree that the rest of the blogsphere is a bunch of screaming hysterics who engage in nothing but "agitation" or partisan catcalling. They all discuss politics --- you're not a member of the left blogsphere if you don't --- and they discuss the subject in different ways with analysis, humor, polemic, grassroots activism, criticism and historical perspective. The big blogs like Kos and Atrios have created virtual communities within the larger community for people to gather and talk about the issues of the day. And that, believe it or not, is the essence of politics.

In the Politics Aristotle said:

"That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain, and man alone among the animals has speech....[S]peech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful and hence also the just and unjust. For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and other things of this sort; and partnership in these things is what makes a household and a city."

Politics is way more than wonkery, although wonkery is essential. And the partisan catcalling is a natural part of it, particularly in highly polarized times such as this. It's human, for better or worse. People need to find solidarity and they need to express their fears, frustrations, desires, needs and beliefs. People turn to bloggers and each other to connect the dots and connect to others.

Wonkery is reason. The comaraderie we find among those of our online political tribe is heart. Successful politics requires both. I've often felt that one of the problems with liberalism is that we lost touch with that side of ourselves --- as Ezra has called it, our "inner RFK" --- the part that gets inspired (or angry) because we deeply believe in something.

Our technocratic side is far superior for actual governance, as we've recently been shown in spades. But it is a grave mistake to think that politics is, or ever has been, fueled by a concept like "competence." It's fueled by much bigger concepts like "leadership" and "inspiration" and "committment." We need some of that stuff, badly.

So I say hooray for the wonkosphere and the crankosphere. I know that each side sometimes offends the sensibilities of the other but we should warmly embrace our bretheren no matter what our temperaments incline us to. Robust progressive politics requires both.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

He Said/She Said

by digby

Speaking of media malfesance, here's a barn burner of a post by Avedon Carol on the alleged "even-handedness" of the press.

The so-called "objectivity" we are seeing today is very different from what we saw 30 years ago, for the simple reason that when you refuse to acknowledge that one side is telling the truth while the other is lying, that's not objective. Objectively, Bush lied and Gore didn't, but you'd never have known that from the mainstream media's coverage of the 2000 campaign. Objectively, there is no more important thing to do in an election than make sure everyone can vote and then count all the ballots, but you wouldn't have known that, either.

In that regard, I have to give some props to Andrea Mitchell today sitting in for Chris Matthews. She actually did call glassy-eyed Governor Bill Owen of Colorado out on his RNC mandated stream of consiousness blather about "Aldrich Ames - Brooklyn bridge - Jamie Gorelick - known terrorists - protecting America - 9/11 - Clintoncarterdemocrats." She said outright that what he was saying wasn't true.

The problem is that the Republican machine is like the Borg. They only have one brain. Owen did not compute her factual rebuttal; he just repeated his mantra, calmly and cooly, because he doesn't really know what he's saying --- he's just reading from the approved script. He has no idea what's true and what isn't and he doesn't care.

I'd like to welcome Andrea Mitchell into the reality based community. Maybe she'll stay awhile.

Down Boy

by digby

Commenter francesangeles spotted this article by Richard Morin, the angry WaPo pollster, from just the other day:

Finally, an explanation for why bar bets sometimes escalate into bar fights: Levels of a "high-octane" form of testosterone soar when men think others don't trust them.

When I saw the picture attached to the article, I realized that I had seen Richard Morin interviewed by Fox's Bill Hemmer yesterday about the president's exciting new poll numbers. I commented to the cat how bizarre it was that the guy appeared to be so happy, almost giddy, about it. (Fleaber agreed that the guy's affect was downright euphoric.) If anyone has footage, let me know.

I think we might be dealing with a straight-up kool-aider.


Protect Us

by digby

For a connect-the-Bush-atrocities, with heavy linkage, check out this post at HuffPo by Joshua Bearman. It makes a nice Christmas e-mail for your Republican relatives:

It would be one thing if we were safer. But our modern day Sun King cloaks his seizure of power in so much poll-tested national security language despite that he is not, in fact, protecting us at all. The residents of the three cities Bush cited voted overwhelmingly against him because they rightly sensed that Bush's reckless foreign adventures and lack of a real domestic security policy MAKES US ALL LESS SAFE. It doesn't take much critical analysis to figure out why. Here is a guy who, after September 11, failed to increase funding for nuclear non-proliferation, which the non-partisan commission the President himself appointed called the single greatest threat to our safety. Collecting the world's loose nukes was the first thing on my mind on September 12th, 2001, so I'm a little confused as why it's taken the President four years to catch on.

Then there's Iraq, where Bush has decided to throw away $200+ billion -- money that could have paid for an entire wish list of domestic security programs. Right now, our own military, fueled by Bush's swaggering cowboy routine has become the most effective recruiting tool for anti-American sentiment and insurgents in Iraq. If you find that to be a subjective assessment, here's a joint study by the Israeli and Saudis (!) that quantifies the Iraq Effect. And who doesn't recall Rumsfeld accidentally wondering aloud if the insurgents weren't replacing their numbers faster than our troops could ever kill them?

"To protect us"?

Is that why the 9/11 Commission's report card earlier this month had a single "A" out of 41 categories, while the bottom was filled out with 12 "D"s and 5 "F"s? The President got a "D" on Securing WMD's, the supposed reason we're stirring up the hornets' nest in Iraq. Commission member and former republican governor of Illinois James Thompson said it straight: "Are we crazy? Why aren't our tax dollars being spent to protect our lives?"

Repentant Republicans

by digby

Last night I wrote post called "Adults Wanted" and a reader sent me a link to this essay called "Confessions of a Repentant Republican" which is an extremely cogent, precise and lucid critique of the current administration's policies from the perspective of someone who understands the enlightenment principles that undergird our system. He speaks in terms that transcend politics and go far beyond our current partisan obsessions.

Here's an excerpt:

Americans, with broad bipartisan support, have not only embedded our unambiguous rejection of torture into American law (establishing legal constraints which the Bush administration is now determined to dismantle), but have for generations been in the forefront of establishing such standards worldwide through treaties including the Geneva Conventions.

Similarly, previous generations of Americans - left, right, and center - have been unified in the belief that not only is such conduct essential for the safety of our own captured servicemen and women, but that any nation which does not adhere to its own basic values (regardless of any self-proclaimed virtue) would cease to possess the moral prerequisites for genuine success.

Our present need for "the decent respect for the opinions of mankind" is no less compelling than it was for our founders. But the primary need for realigning our actions with our values is not improved public relations. The most compelling need is, for the benefit of our own society, to reaffirm moral constraints upon our actions, individual and collective, without which the character of our nation will be diminished.

Accomplishing this can only be done by reframing the issues in a manner which befits our Judeo-Christian and American values.

This will be contentious. The unifying values implanted by America's founders - values of liberty, non-aggression, and antipathy to authoritarian government; have historically prevailed only despite significant opposition from Americans with less honorable priorities. Indeed, the very eloquence with which Jefferson, Madison, and other founders defended civil liberties and warned repeatedly of the dangers of unrestrained executive power and the pernicious consequences of war and empire is primarily because their views were not universal. Their beliefs in liberty, defended by non-aggressive, anti-imperial foreign policy, and the right of dissent have survived to become the "common ground" of the American civic vision only after bitter and divisive political battles. During such times these cherished principles - now universally claimed (even those whose oppose the substance of their beliefs claim them rhetorically as their own) and taken for granted have not infrequently been severely threatened.

Today the rhetoric of this consensus American vision of liberty and non-aggression remains unscathed. But the substance of the beliefs of our founders (which constitutes the basic common ground of our political compact) is under assault. Certainly no one overtly challenges our commitment to liberty and democracy. Yet we witness proponents of freedom at home and abroad advocating perpetual military occupation, rationalizing permanent detention of American citizens without charges or trial, and those who claim to respect the rule of law remaining silent while administration lawyers concoct methods for the president to evade American legal prohibitions of torture and promote the legal theory that the president has the inherent authority to set aside American law.

This being the web, it's always possible that this person is a Democrat in disguise but I don't think so. His critique hinges on the idea that isolationsim is inherently American, and that is bedrock conservative of the old school, not liberal of the new school.

His critique is something that I had expected more "adult" Republicans to come to by now, to tell you the truth --- the people I think many of us expected were peppered throughout the ruling class and who would step up if the kids got out of hand. Sadly, it seems that most of them are either dying out or have become consumed by the partisan war that saps so much strength from all of us.

I urge you to read his entire essay. Even though he considers himself part of the "anti-war" majority, progressive intellectuals will undoubtedly disagree with some of it. But he lays out the argument around which people of good will who value the basic fundamental principles of our constitutional system might be able to find consensus. I just don't know how many of those people are out there.

Public Scorn

by digby

Following up the post below about the White house polling operation, Paul Lukasiak in the comments notices another dimension to this problem that I missed and it's very interesting:

The Post had no problem asking this question as far back as March 2005

17. (IF DECREASED, Q16) Should all U.S. forces in Iraq be withdrawn
immediately, or should they be decreased, but not all withdrawn immediately?

Now, at that time (and to this day) NO Democratic Congressional Leader or Serious Presidential Candidate was advocating "immediate withdrawal" --- this was just the Bush "cut and run" straw man representation of the Democratic position.

The Post does not bother to formulate questions based on proposals advanced by leading Democrats --- there is no question about Murtha's actual proposal (phased redeployment over 6 month period when "practicable with a significant "over the horizon" presence) or withdrawal formulas offered by people like Kerry (withdraw 10,000 american troops for every 30,000 Iraqi troops that are trained.)

Furthermore, the Post is quite comfortable advancing White House straw man arguments using the "some people" method, as in this question asked starting in August...

"18. Some people say the Bush administration should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further casualties. Others say knowing when the U.S. would pull out would only encourage the anti-government insurgents. Do you yourself think the United States should or should not set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq?"

This was a truly insidious question --- "some people say" that the presence of US forces only exacerbates and strengthens the insurgency, and that apparently includes the vast majority of Iraqis who want us out. But you don't get that information in the question -- the only "reason" for setting a deadline is "reduction of casualties." (Not to mention the fact that no Democratic leader was saying "set a firm deadline" in August 2005....)

The reality is that the Post doesn't ask about impeachment because asking the question legitimizes the idea of impeachment -- and the Post is too beholden to the White House to permit that to happen.

This cuts to the heart of the matter. When the Washington Post (or others) ask a question, it legitimizes the question. Back in that poll in 1998, just five days after the story broke. The imnpetus for taking it was not that "serious" people were talking impeachment, it was just that "some" people were talking impeachment. And those people, with te exception of the silly George Stephanolopulos, were beltway Republicans.

Matt at MYDD today notes another example of egregious WaPo polling:

From the Washington Post's polling director Richard Morin's online chat yesterday:

New York, N.Y.: When a newspaper like The Post commissions a poll, it gives the result prominent play, usually on the front page. But when a different organization conducts a separate poll, that poll's results are given much less prominent play, and often not mentioned at all. The implicit assumption is, "Our poll is better than theirs." Is this sound journalism?

Richard Morin: See the last answer. It would be unsound journalism to ignore other survey results, particularly if they offer insights your own may lack. But to give them as prominent play? No, and I think it is unreasonable to expect us to

The Washington Post put on their front page a story by Richard Morin titled 'Majority of Americans Support Alito Nomination'. A Fox News poll just showed Alito with cratering approval ratings. Morin's story clearly ignores other survey results which present completely different findings, something he just called unsound. It's clear this is not an isolated incident - Chris just documented Morin's failure to live up to standards he sets for himself.

The Washington Post polling operation has a problem. They are clearly responsive to GOP pressure in their questioning and yet they get angry at what they see as coordinated Democratic pressure. Morin even insulted a member of the public for using a copy and paste e-mail to complain about polling.

Most recently, a psychology professor from Arizona State University sent me the copy-and-paste e-mail, not a word or comma was changed. I only hope his scholarship is more original.

We first laughed about it. Now, four waves into this campaign,we are annoyed. Really, really annoyed.

Some free advice: You do your cause no service by organizing or participating in such a campaign. It is viewed by me and others with the same scorn reserved for junk mail. Perhaps a bit more.

First they laugh and then they get angry. Does he assume that these aren't real people, that they are fakes, paid shills, that they don't believe what they are saying because the language has been cut and pasted? If each e-mail were originally composed would it make a difference? It doesn't seem so. It's the fact that a web-site encouraged average people to complain to the Washington Post about something those people clearly agreed was a problem. Why is that deserving of laughter and annoyance? Did he take the time to think, even once, about the substance of the complaint? If it had been lodged by a high level Republican would he have laughed and then been annoyed?

A parade of operatives and politicians go on television every day spouting robotic talking points ad nauseum and nobody says that they are illegitimate. And nobody does it more effectively than the GOP. Frank Luntz proudly and openly discusses the fact that he tells his GOP clients exactly how to phrase things. Newt Gingrich wrote the book on repeating emotional phrases over and over to paint the opposition in derisive terms.

It's quite obvious that the Republicans have staged a quarter century "campaign" to sway media coverage. Now that they are in power they marshall very heavy hitters to lodge complaints and they go right to the top. John Harris and Len Downie admitted last week that high level Republicans and the White House complain all the time and they go out of their way to allay those complaints.

I*'ll use the same example of how this works that I used in a post last week. I'm sure the same thing happens at the Post:

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

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

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

So when a "viewer" from the White House complains it gets referred to the president of NBC News. WaPo editor Len Downie says "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion."

Yet when readers and viewers from around the country complain via a web campaign, the recipients view their complaints with the "same scorn that is reserved for junk mail, maybe more."

It's quite clear that the mainstream media think that their readers are irrelevant when it comes to political coverage. Perhaps this explains why so many people find the mainstream media increasingly irrelevant.

Update: Here's the link to the Democrats.com post that asked people to contact the major media outlets and ask why they were refusing to ask the question when the Rasmussen and Zogby polls were showing a rather large number of Americans supporting impeachment. I don't know why this should be considered illegitimate --- especially when political editor John Harris uses a friend's enjoyment of Dan Froomkin's column as evidence of Froomkin's liberal bias.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Madder Still

Jane reports on Richard Morion pollster for the Washington Post actually had the temerity to write this drivel yesterday in an online chat:

Naperville, Ill.: Why haven't you polled on public support for the impeachment of George W. Bush?

Richard Morin: This question makes me mad...

Seattle, Wash.: How come ABC News/Post poll has not yet polled on impeachment?

Richard Morin: Getting madder...

Haymarket, Va.: With all the recent scandals and illegal/unconstitutional actions of the President, why hasn't ABC News / Washington Post polled whether the President should be impeached?

Richard Morin: Madder still...


[W]e do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion --witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls.

Jane points to this Media Matters report:

A January 1998 Post poll conducted just days after the first revelations of Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky asked the following questions:

"If this affair did happen and if Clinton did not resign, is this something for which Clinton should be impeached, or not?"

"There are also allegations that Clinton himself lied by testifying under oath that he did not have an affair with the woman. If Clinton lied in this way, would you want him to remain in office as president, or would you want him to resign the presidency?"

"If Clinton lied by testifying under oath that he did not have an affair with the woman, and he did not resign, is this something for which Clinton should be impeached, or not?"

Morin was the Post's polling director at the time, and he wrote the January 26, 1998, article reporting the poll results.

I just have to expand on this a little because this is a truly unbelievable example of media bias. In an impeachment story in the Washington Post written the same day as the poll was released, January 26, Ruth Marcus breathlessly reported:

In the whirlwind five days since the story first broke, nothing has been conclusively proven about the truth of the allegations that Clinton had an affair with Lewinsky, urged her to lie about it in an affidavit in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, and then lied about it himself under oath when questioned by Jones's lawyers.

But it is a measure of the political and legal explosiveness of the allegations that they immediately provoked discussions of impeachment, a prospect raised the morning the story broke by former presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos and discussed at length on yesterday's TV talk shows.

It was discussed on all the talk shows because useful idiot George Stephanopoulos brought it up five days before and the Republican Borg immediately fanned out across the airwaves and pretended that this sexual affair was a threat to the Republic. And the Washington post ate it up with a spoon, sending out their pollster post-haste to take the public's temperature on this trumped up piece of tabloid garbage.

Today, the same pollster gets mad when people bring up the idea of impeachment in the context of a hugely unpopular president lying about national security. He gets madder still at regular Americans who annoy him with mass e-mails which he obviously considers less legitimate than a gaggle of paid GOP shills marching in lockstep on Press The Meat. This, even though the current polling already shows that 52% of the public believe that Bush deliberately misled the country on Iraq and 56% think that it is very important for congress to question the Bush Adminstration about the way the intelligence was used. (Clinton had a 59% approval rating in that 1998 poll.)

Media Matters asks:

Please explain WHY a question asking if President Bush should be impeached if he lied to the country about war is "biased".

Please also explain how this is consistent with polls the Post ran -- under your direction, I might add -- in 1998 asking whether then-President Clinton should be impeached if he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Do you now believe those questions you asked -- and reported on -- throughout 1998 were "biased"? If so, do you believe you and The Post owe Clinton an apology?

Why does The Post think it is appropriate to raise the spectre of impeachment when there is a Democratic president, but not when there is a Republican in office?

Because the beltway press corps has conditioned itself to respond only to Republicans. They've trained themselves not take Democrats seriously, either the rank and file who inconvenience them with e-mails they do not want to read, or the leadership they simply disdain. Unpopularity obligates them to criticize Bush at least mildly, but the relief they feel when his numbers edge up a bit is palpable. They don't seem to know this about themselves.

And although they will likely continue to choose to avert their eyes, impeachment is on the table.

Adults Wanted

by digby

Kevin Drum has a whole bunch of good posts up today discussing the right wing reaction to the spying scandal. A more reprehensible group of moral and intellecutual cowards I have never seen.

There are the typical lies and obfuscations to which we've all become accustomed, of course, such as selectively citing passages of Supreme Court opinions that actually came to opposite conclusions and purposefully misconstruing Clinton and Carter's executive orders to imply that they had done the same thing. That's just par for the course.

But there are two things about this that do chap my hide and they are related. The first is that for 40 years --- and certainly for the last 25 since Reagan became president --- we have had to listen to endless blathering about how the Republicans want to "get the government out of your lives." "If someone says 'we're the government and we're here to help you' you should run." Rugged individualist Republicans, taking care of their own, not looking to the state to solve their problems like the betwetting girly men and manly girls on the left.

During the 90's the atmosphere was redolent with militia fevered, anti-government rhetoric that echoed throughout the right wing message infrastructure. Here's a snippet of the zeitgeist of the Gingrich revolution:

My books, such as Circle of Intrigue, Big Sister is Watching You, and Project L.U.C.I.D., tell the absolute truth about the evil powers of intimidation. It documents the crimes and schemes of the black-hooded, jackbooted thugs of the BATF and many other federal Gestapo, alphabet agencies. This hidden elite constitute the true Nazis. In fact, as fascists, they are worse than Nazis. They are "CommuNazis!"

Once upon a time, America had law enforcement of which it could be proud. No more. Today, the BATF, CIA, FBI and other federal bureaucracies continue to drag the good name of law enforcement through the gutter. As my friend, Officer Jack McLamb, recently said in a World of Prophecy interview, "The scum of law enforcement has risen to the top."

"The problem," says McLamb, "is that God is gone from government."

These were extremists, to be sure, but the language on the floor of the congress often echoed this kind of thinking. Tom Delay, for instance, called the EPA the "Gestapo of government ... a bunch of jack-booted thugs.”

They won elections in the west and the south by swaggering around extolling the blessed Bill Of Rights and the need to keep the federal government at arms length because Real Men and Women don't need no Democrat sissy nanny state and her Big Brother taking away their rights.

9/11 changed everything. Suddenly the he-men of WalMart and the NRA leaped into Big Brother's arms and shrieked "save me, save me! Do what ever you have to do, they're trying to kill us all!" They now look to Daddy Government not to discipline the children, but to check under the bed for them every night, reassure them that the boogeyman won't hurt them and then read them a nice bedtime story about spreading freedom and democracy. It turns out that underneath all this swaggering bravado, the Republicans aren't the Daddy party --- they're the baby party.

This article in the Boston Globe from yesterday (via Maha in this terrific post) gets to what I think is the central problem with this country's response after 9/11; the alleged super-hawks who were leading this country wet their pants with fear and behaved like frightened children:

In march of 1933, Franklin Roosevelt, facing the crisis of the Great Depression, said in his inaugural address that ''the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

The fear people felt then was not nameless, unreasoning, nor unjustified, as Roosevelt well knew. In fact, his address went on to say that ''the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone . . . Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment."

What Roosevelt meant was that fear can distort judgment and cloud the mind's ability to perceive right turns from wrong turns in the road to safety.


The Bush administration's predilection to torture was clearly a result of mind-clouding fear caused by the greatest terrorist attack in history on Sept. 11th, 2001. The same can be said of the excesses of the Patriot Act, and, too, the decision to use the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without benefit of warrant as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The Bush administration has shamelessly used fear to get its way. Both the president and vice president have tried to picture a withdrawal from Iraq as resulting in an Al Qaeda takeover of Iraq, and an Al Qaeda-led Caliphate stretching across the Muslim world. In reality al Qaeda hasn't the remotest chance of taking over Iraq, not with 80 percent of the population either Kurdish or Shi'ite, and a timely end to American occupation might sooner lead to an Iraqi-Sunni disenchantment with foreign terrorists.

Of course, the right has traded on fear for so long that we can hardly remember a time when they didn't. If it isn't the commies, it's the hippies or the ATF or the terrorists. And as Kevin points out they make these ridiculous decisions over and over again because they are essentially afraid of their own shadows:

The fact is, superhawks always claim their programs are vital to American security, and they almost always turn out to be wrong. We didn't need to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II, we didn't need Joe McCarthy's theatrics during the Cold War, and we didn't need COINTELPRO during the Vietnam War. And when the Church Committee outlawed the most egregious of our intelligence abuses in the 70s, guess what happened? The Soviet Union disintegrated a decade later. Turns out we didn't need that stuff after all. America is a lot stronger than its supposed defenders give it credit for.

This idea that we are living in a unique time that calls for special measures is what they always say. (And this current fantasy about the unique threat that proved our oceans couldn't protect us is particularly rich considering they fearmongered a communist threat of total annihilation for decades.) Often cooler heads are able to quell the worst excesses (like the fervent belief that we needed to launch a tactical nuclear war against the commies) and satisfy the right wing's other ongoing paranoid fantasy --- the left as a fifth column --- with silly, wasteful surveillance of animal rights groups or Quakers or former Beatles (along with pernicious surveillance of their partisan opponents.)

They are rhinestone cowboys who are scared to death and don't know how to contain their fear. So they lash out at their domestic political enemies, who they can bluster about and pretend to be tough, while hiding behind the military uniforms of their Big Brother and Preznit Daddy (which is a real stretch when it comes to Junior.)

The fact that they continue to win elections as being the tough guys perhaps says more about our puerile culture than anything else. They lash out like frightened children and too many people see that as courage or resolve.

Violent Islamic fundamentalism is a serious problem, not an existential threat. And it's a difficult problem that requires adults who can keep their heads about them when the terrorists put on their scary show, not big-for-their-age eight year olds staging a temper tantrum.

Christmas Morning

Thank you all so much for your kind contributions. I am quite overwhelmed. All I want now for Christmas is well ... Fitzmas. I knew the readers and writers of the left blogosphere were top shelf, super smart, generous and kind. What I didn't realize was how brave you are: you must realize that the NSA Shift Supervisor assigned to this blog is harried beyond belief today tracking all those transactions, some of them from .... overseas. Merry Christmas, NSA supervisor.

Special thanks to the Mensches Who Saved Christmas, my fellow bloggers who linked to my post yesterday and sent readers over here, some of whom said "I've never read your blog, but here's some money anyway, because (fill in the blank) told me I should." Now that's clout. Democrats take heed:

Jane at Firedoglake, Jeralyn at Talk Left, TBOGG, The Cunningrealist, Dave at Seeing the Forest, Kevin at Catch, A Tiny Revolution, Kevin at Lean Left, Fallen Monk and various commenters were kind enough to put out the word on the their blogs and in comment threads throughout the blogosphere. (Perhaps others who I failed to catch as well.) It's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me. And I mean that.

And thanks especially to Atrios, my blogfather, for using his valuable real estate to exhort readers to send me turkee. There are Democratic candidates out there who envy me today.

Thanks also to Sean-Paul over at the Agonist and Jake and Ellwood's dad, who heard my plaintive cry and bought ads. Kos and Jerome too. Click through, people. It'll be worth your while.

I will be sending you all individual thanks, of course, but there are quite a few of you so it will take a little time. (High class problem, eh?) I will also compile all the great advice and criticism about the site and will take it into account as I contemplate a redesign. Thanks for taking the time to let me know your thoughts and sending me your great graphic ideas. And thanks also to my pal (you know who you are) for insisting that I do this even though I was reluctant.

Finally, many of you requested a snail mail address and here it is:

Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Checks can conveniently be made out to Digby's Hullabaloo, as well. I have also been reliably informed that some of the Paypal problems may be related to stale old cookies. A few people have said that they had better luck when they cleared out their cache.

Thanks again for all of your donations and especially your kind words. They mean more to me than you will ever know.



More Mensches Who Saved Christmas:

John at Crooks And Liars

My good friend Peter Daou

Ian at BopNews

Da Man: James Wolcott

The fabulous Julia!

Matt at MYDD

Sadly No

The Moquol

The great Tom Tomorrow

Low and Left

Pastor Dan at Street Prophets

Three Bulls


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Stocking Stuffer Request

While everybody has their credit cards out buying a "secret Santa" moustache mug for their most hated colleague at the office, I wonder if some of you might want to throw a little cash my way while you're at it? For reasons I haven't figured out, this blog is doing miserably at selling blog-ads. Indeed, if it weren't for my friend Michael Shaw at BagNews notes (whose great graphics make any blog look better than it already does) I would have no ads at all today. During the biggest shopping season of the year, no less.

I do not know how others sell blogAds on their blogs. I belong to the
"Advertise Liberally" blog-ad network which is designed to sell across the liberal spectrum. I don't think my problems are because my ads are too expensive. I charge what everybody else charges. There have been some months that I collected a few sheckles and they really came in handy. But now, not so much.

I don't have the kind of regular community that a lot of the more popular bloggers have (although I would argue that my commenters are among the sharpest in the blogosphere) but my traffic is within the top 20 of all liberal blogs, which isn't bad for a solo blogger like myself. I've won awards, even. But one week shy of my third anniversary and I'm back to doing this for free. I may be a raving leftist, but I have to live in this capitalist world.

There is an element of the Bataan death march to daily blogging when you do it for three years running. I write slowly and do a lot of research and reading, so it takes more time than is readily evident. Every minute of it is fun, of course, but it's still ridiculous. In fact it's so much fun that I would never expect to make serious money doing it. Life could not possibly be that sweet. But I can't justify doing this without any compensation at all either. I wish to gawd that I were an eccentric billionaire who blogs psuedonymously in order to see how the little people live. Unfortunately, that is very far from the truth. (Look at it this way. If I were an eccentric billionaire, I could afford to buy my own bandwidth instead of blogging for free on blogspot, right?) No, sad to say, like most people I have those boring financial needs --- for things like shelter and food. And books. And MaxCat Senior in chicken and lamb flavor. In a blogging world where money is to be made, I just can't justify to myself that I would do it for free. I can't justify to my family that I continue turn down work for no other compensation either.

I've never asked for money on this blog before, and I will probably not ask again.(As you can gather, this embarrasses the hell out of me, which is why I'm rambling like a lunatic.) But, if you like what I do and have gotten something out of what I've written these past three years, a couple of bucks in the tip jar (in the left column over there) would be very greatly appreciated.

Oh --- and if you don't have any extra money, you could do me a big favor by just clicking on the ads I run. (I suspect that part of my problem is that I don't get much click through.) So, if you want to support me but you don't have any extra change (which I completely understand) just use my page to check out the ubiquitous blog ads. In fact, go over right now and click on BagNews notes and read what he is saying today. You won't regret it.

And Happy Hollandaise to everyone.


Update: And many, many thanks to the folks who have thrown me a tip already this year, a couple of you more than once. I am very grateful.


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.