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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Journalistic Venereal Disease

by digby

Glenn has another great post up today in which he throws down the gauntlet to the right wing bloggers like the Old Perfesser who are all quick to require that Democrat purge the party of radicals while they cheer and applaud the eliminationist fascists in their own midst.

Republicans have been playing this game for years. They wildly inflate the importance of fringe, extremist figures and then -- every time one of those individuals makes an intemperate remark or comment that can be wrenched out-of-context and depicted as some sort of demented evil -- they demand that Democrats ritualistically parade before the cameras and either condemn those individuals or be branded as someone who is insufficiently willing to stand up to the extremists "in their party."

I've written dozens of posts on this topic myself and it never fails to amaze me how deeply the right believes in its own righteousness. We on the left are not perfect, but by God, when leftist radicals start talking wistfully about killing Republicans we don't make them into best selling authors and cheer them like rock stars.

But I think there is another dimension to Glenn's observation and one that lets the right wing bloggers off the hook just a little. You can't really hold them responsible for Ann Coulter when the woman is profiled on the cover of TIME magazine and characterized as some sort of kicky, ascerbic comic. The writer of that article said:

"the officialdom of punditry, so full of phonies and dullards, would suffer without her humor and fire."

Here are a few more choice quotes from that article, (gathered by the incomparable Howler:)

CLOUD: Coulter's speech was part right-wing stand-up routine—she called Senator Edward Kennedy "the human dirigible"—and part bloodcurdling agitprop. "Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism," she concluded. "I say, let's give them some. They've had intellectual terror on the campus for years ... It's time for a new McCarthyism." Curtain.

CLOUD: [S]he told me several times that, as she put it in an e-mail, "most of what I say, I say to amuse myself and amuse my friends. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about anything beyond that."

CLOUD: So which is it? Is she a brave warrior or a shallow hack? Or is Ann Coulter that most unlikely of conservative subspecies: a hard-right ironist?

CLOUD: [A]s Coulter herself points out in Is It True What They Say About Ann?, "I think the way to convert people is to make them laugh or to make them enraged ... Even if I could be convinced that if I had gone through 17 on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hands, I might convince one more liberal out there, I think I'd still write the way I write, because it gives me laughs." Coulter told me that when her editor suggests cutting a line from a column to save space, "I'll ask him, 'But is it funny?' And if he says it's funny, I'll cut an actual fact [instead]."

CLOUD: People say that Jon Stewart has blurred the line between news and humor, but his Daily Show airs on a comedy channel. Coulter goes on actual news programs and deploys so much sarcasm and hyperbole that she sounds more like Dennis Miller than Limbaugh.

CLOUD: One theory about Coulter is that she is less Joe McCarthy and more a right-wing Ali G, acting out a character who utters what the rest of us won't.

Why Coulter is just a female Ali G! Hilarious!

When Eric Alterman had the temerity to call Cloud on this utter swill, the author fell back on journalism's tedious false equivalency crutch:

Eric Alterman calls my piece on Ann Coulter a "moral, professional, and intellectual abomination" as well as, redundantly, a "moral and intellectual scandal." He says Time has "a journalistic venereal disease." This is the left-wing equivalent of an Ann Coulter attack: callous and intended to create as much friction as possible (words I use to describe Coulter in my alleged puff piece). But that's really what my story was about--the kind of take-no-prisoners dialogue that Coulter has helped create and popularize. Now Alterman, it would seem, is trying to out-Coulter Coulter.


What Alterman wants is for people to ignore Coulter, to pretend as though she doesn't exist and isn't one of the most loved--and hated--figures on the public scene. I would rather engage her, examine her ideas and her popularity, and challenge her. My story does all of those things. It's true that I don't list every single mistake Ann Coulter has ever made, although I do print some new ones. My job was not to fact-check all of Coulter's 1,000 columns, the 1,300-odd pages of her books and the hundreds of TV appearances; it was to profile her. Nonetheless, I do list several Coulter errors and also correct the record on some mistakes by others who have written about her--including Alterman. In his book on the media, Alterman asserts that Coulter said to a Vietnam vet, "People like you caused us to lose that war." She did not. In fact, the vet had just gotten his facts wrong, and Coulter responded sarcastically, "No wonder you guys lost." Harsh words, yes--sort of like saying Time has a venereal disease--but Alterman got the quote wrong.

Yes the phrase "TIME has journalistic venereal disease" (meaning that this rhetoric is passed along through intimate contact) is equivalent to "my only regret is that he [McVeigh]didn't blow up the NY Times building. Right. Exactly the same.

I wrote about this nonsense last spring when the Coulter profile was published:

Ann Coulter is not, as Howie Kurtz asserts today, the equivalent of Michael Moore. Michael Moore is is not advocating the murder of conservatives. He just isn't. For instance, he doesn't say that Eric Rudolph should be killed so that other conservatives will learn that they can be killed too. He doesn't say that he wishes that Tim McVeigh had blown up the Washington Times Bldg. He doesn't say that conservatives routinely commit the capital offense of treason. He certainly doesn't put up pictures of the fucking snoopy dance because one of his political opponents was killed. He doesn't, in other words, issue calls for violence and repression against his political enemies. That is what Ann Coulter does, in the most coarse, vulgar, reprehensible way possible.

Moore says conservatives are liars and they are corrupt and they are wrong. But he is not saying that they should die. There is a distinction. And it's a distinction that Time magazine and Howard Kurtz apparently cannot see.

I have long felt that it was important not to minimize the impact of this sick shit. For years my friends and others in the online communities would say that it was a waste of time to worry about Rush because there are real issues to worry about. Likewise Coulter. Everytime I write something about her there is always someone chastizing me for wasting their time. Yet, here she is, being given the impramatur of a mainstream publication of record in a whitwash of epic proportions. Slowly, slowly the water is heating up.

It's kind of funny that I and others spent last week arguing whether Democrats ought to be encouraging Hollywood to stop selling sex, (which even David Brooks agrees doesn't seem to correlate to any real negative change in the way kids behave.) But, here we have a real problem, a real coarsening of the discourse which has resulted in our politics becoming so polarized and rhetorically violent that it's as if we live on two different planets.

While Ann Coulter makes the cover of Time for writing that liberals have a "preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason," her followers actually side with Iraqi insurgents against an American charity worker. At freeperland and elsewhere they laughed and clapped and enjoyed the fruits of the enemy's labor. This is because if you listen to Ann and Rush and Sean and Savage and all the rest of these people you know that there is no greater enemy on the planet than the American liberal. That's what Ann Coulter and her ilk are selling and that is what Time magazine celebrated with their cover girl this week.

Ann Coulter and her violent, racist eliminationist rhetoric is considered funny and mainstream by the Washington post and TIME magazine. Considering that, why should the right wing bloggers believe they have any responsibility to hold themseloves to the standard to which they hold liberals with an outlying provocateur like Ward Churchill? In thier view, and most of the poltiical establishment, Ann Coulter is perfectly respectable.

I ended this post on the same subject with this comment from the racist website RedState:

Ann Coulter doesn't go on television ranting and raving like the liberals do. Remember Lawrence O'Donnell? Paul Begala? James Carville? Try Maureen Dowd. Ann is nothing like these losers but she does have a sharp wit and biting tongue and knows how to dish it out. These conspiracy theory wingnuts deserve nothing less.

That is the problem with Republicans. They don't know how to go for the throat while the Democrats are pros at aiming for the head.

I hope Ann keeps it up and never gives an inch. She is a strength for us conservatives, not something to be ashamed of.

Here's a cute little quote from that fun little minx's biting tongue:

"Liberals hate America, they hate flagwavers, they hate abortion opponents. They hate all religions except Islam post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do; they don't have the energy; if they had that much energy they'd have indoor plumbing by now."


He Stands Ready To Assist

by digby

Yesterday McClellan kept saying that the vice president and his staff couldn't get all the facts together because they were concentrating so hard on making sure Whittington was ok. The implication was that Cheney must have been intimately involved, pressing down on an artery or administering CPR for hours since he didn't bother to even call Bush until much later.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the first priority was making sure that Harry Whittington, Mr. Whittington was getting the medical care that he needed, and I think that's where everybody's attention should have been focused and was focused when the hunting accident took place. And in terms of here in Washington, there was information that we were continuing to learn about throughout the course of that evening and into early Sunday morning. The initial report that we received was that there had been a hunting accident. We didn't know who all was involved, but a member of his party was involved in that hunting accident. And then additional details continued to come in overnight.

And it's important always to work to make sure you get information out like this as quickly as possible, but it's also important to make sure that the first priority is focused where it should be, and that is making sure that Mr. Whittington has the care that he needs. And the Vice President went to the hospital yesterday to visit him. The Vice President was pleased to see that he was doing well and in good spirits. And the President is, as well.

Today,post heart attack, they are again saying the the Veep is standing by (waiting to be called into the operating room to monitor his vital signs orsomething.)

A statement from Cheney's office said, "The vice president said that he stood ready to assist. Mr. Whittington's spirits were good, but obviously his situation deserves the careful monitoring that his doctors are providing."

The funny thing about all this is that during the long night that Cheney was supposed to have been rolling bandages and mopping Whittington's fevered brow, he was actually "focused" on having his dinner:

She said Cheney stayed “close but cool” while the agents and medical personnel treated Whittington, then took him by ambulance to the hospital. Later, the hunting group sat down for dinner while Whittington was being treated, receiving updates from a family member at the hospital. Armstrong described Cheney's demeanor during dinner as “very worried” about Whittington.

"Man I hope that old bastard doesn't kick. Can you pass the butter?"

I have to say that judging from the cable gasbags today, this is the first scandal I've seen handled by the press like the Lewinsky scandal --- with everyone sitting around breathlessly speculating about what really happened and "what it all means." I suspect it's because it fits a larger narrative, as this diary on Kos, only partly tongue in cheek, shows. In fact, I just heard Bob Shrum say on Hardball that this story is a metaphor for the entire Bush administration: the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

But, seriously. What in the hell are they hiding? What?

Update: Ok. I think something very serious is happening behind the scenes. There is simply no way that a normally functioning white house would let their most powerful propaganda voice say this:

"Would you rather go hunting with Dick Cheney or riding in a car over a bridge with Ted Kennedy?” Limbaugh asked. "At least Cheney takes you to the hospital.”

Is that really where they want to go with this? Yow.

Laziness Doesn't Begin To Explain It.

by tristero

Dear Kevin, You're wrong. I was there. I remember.

Laziness doesn't explain why George Stephanopoulos failed to mention on the proceeding Sunday show in February that millions of people in the United States marched the day before to oppose Bush's insane plans for war. Oh he mentioned Europe but not a word about the US marches. That's right, Kevin: Stephanopoulus failed to mention what was almost certainly the largest US demonstration in history the day after it happened. That wasn't laziness. And it's not laziness that the February and March '03 marches been all but eliminated from the official memories of 2002/2003. (Except to bring up ANSWER's involvement in organizing them and dismiss all those millions of mothers, fathers, and kids as green-haired goofballs.)

Kevin, I read somewhere that at least one of the networks began planning a year before the invasion to cover it (I'll try to look it up if you don't believe me). Meanwhile the voices opposed to war - and there were millions - were systematically excluded. Think about it. "Fuck, Saddam. We're taking him out," Bush joked (haha) a year before. It was in no one's interest in the media to include serious dissent to rush to war. Not only on Sunday bloviations, but throughout the week, the token representatives of opposition to Bush that were permitted on the major shows were ridiculed and smeared. Hey remember Scott Ritter, that shrill, hysterical, obnoxious guy who seemed slightly crazed? Laziness doesn't explain why Ritter's personal problems suddenly followed him whenever he confidently asserted that Saddam couldn't possibly have wmd - problems that, while no doubt truly ugly, didn't in any way disqualify his expertise. Remember when a liberal meant Michael Moore and only Michael Moore, a comic filmmaker who voted for Nader? The genuine major voices opposed to war weren't permitted anywhere near an effective microphone, but they were known. When Jessica Mathews of Carnegie Endowment - as sober an American as one could ask for and certainly known within the media - started to make a convincing case on NPR that democracy by invasion was a crazy pipe dream, even that relatively unimportant network was too big. William Kristol personally called up and horned in on her time with ludicrous assertions designed to prevent the conversation from touching upon the substantive issues at stake.

Hey, do you remember the Turkey angle, Kevin? Boy, I do. By that time, I was trying full time to understand why my country had gone insane. In the months before invasion, the press in the US was reporting a "coalition" attack - i.e. US - from Turkey was a done deal. But I smelled a rat. I asked friends for translations of articles overseas, including from Turkey. My, my what a different picture one got of that done deal! We were lied to and laziness doesn't explain that. It couldn't possibly happen given some 95% of the country was opposed to the US invading from Turkey. We were lied to. The press lied to the American people.

That is the truth. Oh yes, the press was, and is lazy. In booking guests on Sunday or reporting the news from Turkey. But that was hardly what uniquely characterized 2002/2003. What happened was that the press became an active collaborator in the single worst decision ever made by a United States president. Ever. A decision my 9 year old daughter will have to endure the consequences of, in ways large and small, every day for the rest of her life.

Laziness excluded anti-war voices on Sunday shows? After what we've all seen of the Bush/Cheney obsession with information control? Laziness? Please, Kevin. You're smarter than that. And you know you're smarter than that, as your half-hearted attempt to make nice all-but-concedes.

Before Bush/Iraq, it may have seemed cleverly political - cute - to take your tack, to not blame the press but ever so gently suggest they are getting bored with the same tired faces. It lets them save face after all and accomplishes the same thing. But after Bush/Iraq, it's gonna take a lot more than kind gentle suggestion to make sure that the US press never, ever deliberately abandons its gadfly role out of fear of retaliation from any presidency whose lust for power and control is well-nigh psychotic. As the current presidency is. And was particularly successful at enforcing in the prelude to disaster... sorry, I meant the war.

It's going to take an angry, assertive polis fully prepared to take on the establishment press and hold both its lazy foot AND its sycophantic foot to the fire. And do whatever it takes - even if it leads to resignations and reorganizations - to ensure the American people get the information it must have to govern itself.

Laziness. Yeah, right.



{Update: Kevin examines whether ratings tipped the balance in the run up to war}. Why does the name Howard Beale come to mind when I hear this argument? And why do phrases like, "we're talking about war, goddammit not a popularity contest" keep going throught my head? As for blaming Democrats for being boring, that is NOT what happened. That is NOT what makes the run up to war one of American journalism's most shameful period. What happened, what is still happening, is that voices that were right about Iraq in 2002 are still systematically excluded. They were/are not excluded because they are boring, but because they are unwanted. There's a difference.]
Cheney's Victim Has Heart Attack.

by tristero

Okay, the official reports - which only a fool would believe are telling us how badly Whittington was shot or what actually happened - are getting less and less funny. Let's just hope he recovers and Cheney's weapons are confiscated.
Oooooh Baby

by digby

The Poorman spends Valentine's day with the ladies of Wingnuttia. He knows what they need and gives it to them.

A Difficult Public Face

by digby

Via Kevin and Atrios I see that Media Matters has released more data today about the cable news networks' partisan imbalance:

* The balance between Democrats/progressives and Republicans/conservatives was roughly equal during Clinton's second term, with a slight edge toward Republicans/conservatives: 52 percent of the ideologically identifiable guests were from the right, and 48 percent were from the left. But in Bush's first term, Republicans/ conservatives held a dramatic advantage, outnumbering Democrats/progressives by 58 percent to 42 percent. In 2005, the figures were an identical 58 percent to 42 percent.

* Counting only elected officials and administration representatives, Democrats had a small advantage during Clinton's second term: 53 percent to 45 percent. In Bush's first term, however, the Republican advantage was 61 percent to 39 percent -- nearly three times as large.

* In both the Clinton and Bush administrations, conservative journalists were far more likely to appear on the Sunday shows than were progressive journalists. In Clinton's second term, 61 percent of the ideologically identifiable journalists were conservative; in Bush's first term, that figure rose to 69 percent.

* In 1997 and 1998, the shows conducted more solo interviews with Democrats/progressives than with Republicans/conservatives. But in every year since, there have been more solo interviews with Republicans/conservatives.

* The most frequent Sunday show guest during this nine-year period is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has appeared 124 times. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) has been the most frequent guest since 2003.

* In every year examined by the study -- 1997 - 2005 -- more panels tilted right (a greater number of Republicans/conservatives than Democrats/progressives) than tilted left. In some years, there were two, three, or even four times as many righttitled panels as left-tilted panels.

* Congressional opponents of the Iraq war were largely absent from the Sunday shows, particularly during the period just before the war began.

Again, none of this is surprising to those of us who have been watching this stuff from our side of the aisle for the last decade or so.

Kevin and Atrios both focus on the interesting fact that there was a total lack of anti-war voices in the run-up to the war. Kevin says:

Why did the anti-war side get shunned so badly by the talk shows?

I suspect the chart on the right contains the answer. Aside from documenting the insane love affair that Sunday hosts have with John McCain, it shows that eight of the ten most popular Sunday talkers were senators and every single one of them voted for the war resolution. The reason that anti-war senators didn't get much air time was just simple laziness: the talk show bookers kept booking their favorites regardless of what was happening in the outside world and regardless of whether that meant they were shortchanging their viewers. They were on autopilot.

Actually, it was not just laziness at all. We have evidence that this was a conscious decision on the part of the news networks:

While "Donahue" does badly trail both O'Reilly and CNN's Connie Chung in the ratings, those numbers have improved in recent weeks. So much so that the program is the top-rated show on MSNBC, beating even the highly promoted "Hardball With Chris Matthews."

Although Donahue didn't know it at the time, his fate was sealed a number of weeks ago after NBC News executives received the results of a study commissioned to provide guidance on the future of the news channel.

That report--shared with me by an NBC news insider--gives an excruciatingly painful assessment of the channel and its programming. Some of recommendations, such as dropping the "America's News Channel," have already been implemented. But the harshest criticism was leveled at Donahue, whom the authors of the study described as "a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace."

The study went on to claim that Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war......He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." The report went on to outline a possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

And wave it they did. Just as a refresher, let's recall how the networks actually ended up covering the war:

Networks quickly scrambled to give names to their war coverage, with corresponding graphic logos that swooshed and gleamed in 3D colors accompanied by mood-inducing soundtracks. CBS chose "America at War." CNN went with "Strike on Iraq." CNBC was "The Price of War," while NBC and MSNBC both went with "Target: Iraq"—a choice that changed quickly as MSNBC joined Fox in using the Pentagon's own code name for the war—“Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The logos featured fluttering American flags or motifs involving red, white and blue. On Fox, martial drumbeats accompanied regularly scheduled updates. Promo ads for MSNBC featured a photo montage of soldiers accompanied by a piano rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” All of the networks peppered their broadcasts with statements such as, "CNN's live coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom will continue, right after this short break.” Every time this phrase came out of a reporter’s mouth or appeared in the corner of the screen, the stations implicitly endorsed White House claims about the motives for war.

The networks also went to pains to identify with and praise the troops. Fox routinely referred to U.S. troops as "we" and "us" and "our folks." MSNBC featured a recurring segment called "America's Bravest," featuring photographs of soldiers in the field. Regular features on Fox included "The Ultimate Sacrifice," featuring mug shots of fallen U.S. soldiers, and "The Heart of War," offering personal profiles of military personnel.

Much of the coverage looked like a primetime patriotism extravaganza, with inspiring theme music and emotional collages of war photos used liberally at transitions between live reporting and advertising breaks. Bombing raids appeared on the screen as big red fireballs, interspersed with "gun-cam" shots, animated maps, charts and graphics showcasing military maneuvers and weapons technology. Inside the studios, networks provided large, game-board floor maps where ex-generals walked around with pointers, moving around little blue and red jet fighters and tanks.

"Have we made war glamorous?" asked MSNBC anchor Lester Holt during a March 26 exchange with former Navy Seal and professional wrestler turned politician Jesse Ventura, whom it had hired as an expert commentator.

"It reminds me a lot of the Super Bowl," Ventura replied.

Never mind all the dead people and the hundreds of billions of dollars flushed down the toilet.

This article has more about NBC's directives in the run up to the war. Disgusting.

The Times Gets Off One Of Its Knees

by tristero

The NY Times coverage of "intelligent design" creationism is improving somewhat from the days when Jodi Wilgoren (who has since changed her name to Rudoren) cheerfully fellated Christian Reconstructionists - the folks behind "intelligent design" - as they, along with other wackos, pursued the Wedge Strategy to inflict their racist, theocratic trash on the rest of us.

Today, Neela Banerjee and Anne Berryman turn in a good article on church celebrations of Darwin's 197th birthday:
The event, called Evolution Sunday, is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project, started by academics and ministers in Wisconsin in early 2005 as a response to efforts, most notably in Dover, Pa., to discredit the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools.

"There was a growing need to demonstrate that the loud, shrill voices of fundamentalists claiming that Christians had to choose between modern science and religion were presenting a false dichotomy," said Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the major organizer of the letter project.

Mr. Zimmerman said more than 10,000 ministers had signed the letter, which states, in part, that the theory of evolution is "a foundational scientific truth." To reject it, the letter continues, "is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children."

"We believe that among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator," the letter says.
There are nuances in the descriptions a scientist might quibble over, but the article's approach is quite reasonable.

And this morning, Rudoren herself has a mediocre article on the rapid collapse of "intelligent design", mere mediocrity being quite an improvement for her. Rudoren does a pretty good job summarizing how quickly "intelligent design" is collapsing:
A majority of members on the Board of Education of Ohio, the first state to single out evolution for "critical analysis" in science classes more than three years ago, are expected on Tuesday to challenge a model biology lesson plan they consider an excuse to teach the tenets of the disputed theory of intelligent design.

A reversal in Ohio would be the most significant in a series of developments signaling a sea change across the country against intelligent design — which posits that life is too complex to be explained by evolution alone — since a federal judge's ruling in December that teaching the theory in the public schools of Dover, Pa., was unconstitutional.

A small rural school district in California last month quickly scuttled plans for a philosophy elective on intelligent design after being challenged by lawyers involved in the Pennsylvania case. Also last month, an Indiana lawmaker who said in November that he would introduce legislation to mandate teaching of intelligent design instead offered a watered-down bill requiring only "accuracy in textbooks." And just last week, two Democrats in Wisconsin proposed a ban on schools' teaching intelligent design as science, the first such proposal in the country.
Unfortunately, Rudoren wastes space, and the reader's time, passing on a stupid quote from the Christian Reconstructionist beard group, the Discovery Institute, without correction or comment. This is just one of several faux-balance quotes that maintain the fraud that there actually is a legitimate controversy over "intelligent design."

Still, it's something of an improvement from her Grand Canyon days.

Monday, February 13, 2006

If It Ain't Broke

by digby

Three former associates of Jack Abramoff said Monday that the now-disgraced lobbyist frequently told them during his lobbying work he had strong ties to the White House through presidential confidant Karl Rove.

The White House said Monday that Rove remembers meeting Abramoff at a 1990s political meeting and considered the lobbyist a "casual acquaintance" since President Bush took office in 2001.


Abramoff was a $100,000 fundraiser for Bush and lobbying records obtained by the AP show his lobbying team logged nearly 200 meetings with the administration during its first 10 months in office on behalf of one of his clients, the Northern Mariana Islands.

The contacts between Abramoff's team and the administration included meetings with Attorney General John Ashcroft and policy advisers to Vice President Dick Cheney, the AP reported last year.

Abramoff's former assistant, Susan Ralston, went to work for Rove in 2001. Abramoff's legal team declined comment Monday night.


Asked about the three former Abramoff associates' account, the White House said Rove shared a common past with Abramoff as leaders of a young Republicans group decades ago.

"Mr. Rove remembers they had met at a political event in the 1990s," White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said. "Since then, he would describe him as a casual acquaintance."

I can't quite put my finger on it, but that reminds me of something. Darn it. I hate when that happens.

Oh well. In other news, I see that Kennyboy Lay's trial proceeds apace.

Oh right:

When Governor Bush—now President Bush—decided to run for the governor's spot, [there was] a little difficult situation—I'd worked very closely with Ann Richards also, the four years she was governor. But I was very close to George W. and had a lot of respect for him, had watched him over the years, particularly with reference to dealing with his father when his father was in the White House and some of the things he did to work for his father, and so did support him."

—Interview with Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay for Frontline's 2001 documentary, "Blackout: What Caused the Power Crisis in California? And Who's Profiting?"


"I got to know Ken Lay when he was the head of the—what they call the Governor's Business Council in Texas. He was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994 ... And she had named him the head of the Governor's Business Council. And I decided to leave him in place, just for the sake of continuity. And that's when I first got to know Ken. …"

—President George W. Bush, answering reporters' questions in the Oval Office Jan. 10.

What A Shame

by digby

I didn't have a dog in the Hackett Brown fight, but I can't help but be disappointed that Hackett is checking out. That man has the shinin' and we have precious little of that in Democratic circles. I have to think that the powers that be may have failed to comprehend that some people have to be dealt with differently than your average pol. That's why they call them "authentic" and it's important to handle them like the thoroughbreds they are. They are always high maintenance, like most stars, but they are very, very useful in projecting an appealing national image for the party. Ask the best bet to be the Republican nominee in 2008: John McCain.

Dispatches From The Fever Swamp

by digby

Jason Zengerle over at the Plank gives Mickey Kaus props for being wrong and then discusses every Joementum Democrat's favorite new theme: the "fever swamp" of the liberal blogosphere. He quotes Kaus:

Much of Democratic politics seems to now consist of embracing and fanning similarly comforting, but ultimately deceptive, liberal memes. Enron has fatally damaged Bush, Abu Ghraib has fatally damaged Bush, Katrina has fatally damaged Bush, Abramoff has fatally damaged Bush, the Plame investigation will fatally damage Bush--you can catch the latest allegedly devastating issue every day on Huffington Post or Daily Kos (and frequently in the NYT).

And then adds:

I'd add a few other suspects to that last. But I think Kaus is on to something here. The drip-drip-drip of scandals and screw-ups should, collectively, take a toll on the Bush administration. But liberal bloggers have too often viewed and hyped each individual scandal as a silver bullet; and when that bullet misses--picking off, say, Scooter Libby instead of Karl Rove--they inevitably experience a letdown, and simply move onto the next supposed silver bullet, failing to capitalize on what, were it not for their unrealistically inflated expectations, would have been considered a significant scandal.

That is a very interesting observation and it makes me quite proud to be part of the liberal blogosphere. It means we are doing our jobs. The president's approval rating is stuck at around 40% and I think it's pretty clear that it isn't the reporting in the mainstream media or by the "reasonable" Democrats at the New Republican that brought that about. If left up to them the Republicans would be coasting to another easy re-election.

I don't say this because I think that liberal blogs are taking over the world and have changed the face of politics as we know it. I say it because I know that without us there would have been virtually no critical voices during the long period between 2001 and the presidential primary campaign during 2003. We were it. The media were overt, enthusiastic Bush boosters for well over two years and created an environment in which Democratic dissent (never welcome) was non-existent to the average American viewer. In fact, it took Bush's approval rating falling to below 40% before they would admit that he was in trouble.

I believe that if it had not been for the constant underground drumbeat from the fever swamps over the past five years, when the incompetence, malfeasance and corruption finally hit critical mass last summer with the bad news from Iraq, oil prices and Katrina, Bush would not have sunk as precipitously as he did and stayed there. It literally took two catasprophes of epic proportions to break the media from its narrative of Bush's powerful leadership. And this after two extremely close elections ---- and the lack of any WMD in Iraq.

Kevin Drum and Atrios both have featured posts today highlighting new data about about the dearth of liberal voices in the mainstream media. From Paul Waldman's article in the Washington Monthly:

This ideological imbalance isn't only evident in the "official" sources that are interviewed: the elected officials, candidates, and administration officials who make up most of the shows' guests. It is even clearer in the roundtable discussions with featured journalists, [where] it has been a frequent practice for a roundtable to consist of a right-wing columnist or two supposedly "balanced" by journalists from major newspapers.

....The consequence of all this is that in every year since 1997, conservative journalists have dramatically outnumbered liberal journalists, in some years by two-to-one or more. Why would the producers of the shows believe that a William Safire (56 appearances since 1997) or Bob Novak (37 appearances) is somehow "balanced" by a Gwen Ifill (27) or Dan Balz (22)? It suggests that some may have internalized the conservative critique of the media, which assumes that daily journalists are "liberal" almost by definition, and thus can provide a counterpoint to highly partisan conservative pundits.

Yes, it does suggest that. We in the fever swamps have observed this phenomenon for many years so it comes as no surprise to us. The liberal point of view has pretty much disappeared from the mainstream discourse. And yet, if one were to poll the grassroots, one would find that their views are not out of the mainstream at all. Indeed, on many more issues than not, we are in line with the vast majority of Americans.

And as much as we are unsurprised to see that the statistics bear out our observations that liberals aren't represented on news programs, neither are we surprised that right wing talk radio, right wing publishing and right wing cable news dominate the media and that we have nothing like it on our side. This is why we shake our heads in wonder when David Brooks says there are more "nuts" on our side or that we insist upon "Stalinist" discipline. (Ask Bruce Bartlett about Stalinist discipline.)

Rush Limbaugh gets paid 25 million dollars a year to say things like this:

OK, folks, I think I got enough information here to tell you about the contents of this fax that I got. Brace yourselves. This fax contains information that I have just been told will appear in a newsletter to Morgan Stanley sales personnel this afternoon.... What it is is a bit of news which says...there's a Washington consulting firm that has scheduled the release of a report that will appear, it will be published, that claims that Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton, and the body was then taken to Fort Marcy Park.

This is, of course, the same Rush Limbaugh who interviews the Vice President on his show.

And while it is true that the producers of news programs may have internalized the "liberal" media meme and therefore book journalists who are required to be as objective as possible to spar with overt Republlican partisans, the greater problem is that the journalists themselves internalize the criticism and go out of their way to avoid being called liberal. This also explains journalists' somewhat overheated hostility to liberal bloggers: they have a target to prove to conservatives that they aren't liberals after all.

I actually think this is a good thing. We bloggers can take it. We're openly partisan and extremely aggressive. We aren't right wingers so we don't have their natural gift for organized top-down character assassination, but we have our own methods and we are learning. The mainstream media are, for the first time in memory, being pulled by both sides of the ideological spectrum. And maybe, just maybe, we might just save them in spite of themselves.

I have written before about this and made it clear that I do not wish to destroy the mainstream media. I do not believe that this country can do without a credible press. But after waiting in vain for more than a decade for the press to shake off its torpor and exert its perogatives as the fourth estate, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that our (and their) only hope was to join the fray and pull as hard as we can on the opposite end of the rope.

I see that the press does not know what to make of this. And I see that many Joementum Democrats don't get it either. They remain convinced that the country will wake up one day and see that our arguments are superior. They are wrong. This political era will be remembered for its brutal partisanship and sophisticated media manipulation in a 50/50 political environment. Democrats have been at a huge disadvantage because of the Republican message infrastructure and the strange servility of the mainstream press. So, we are pushing back with the one tough, aggressive partisan communication tool we have: the blogosphere.

The mainstream press is going to have to get used to us because we aren't going anywhere. I suspect they are actually somewhat relieved that somebody on our side has stepped up to take the slings and arrows of the vast right wing conspiracy and provide them with some cover. (No need to thank us. Just report the truth.)

Joementum Dems, on the other hand, need to recognize that we are in a partisan time and that requires a partisan strategy. We are going to hit them hard every time they repeat Republican talking points and otherwise enable the opposition to dominate the media discourse. There is no more room for bipartisan gestures that only benefit the GOP side of the equation. David Gergen said yesterday on This Weak that Republicans are much better at message than Democrats but they aren't so good at governing. Nobody knows this better than those of in the grassroots who have been forced to watch this trainwreck from the sidelines for more than a decade. It's why Bush is at 39% today and yet there is no guarantee that Democrats will win in the fall or any sense in the media that the Republican Party has failed. We cannot afford any more Democratic complicity with Republican memes and we are going to work against those who do it.

It's a new day. We angry denizens of the fever swamps have emerged from the slime to fight back. We couldn't wait any longer for the professionals to get the job done. At the rate they're going we'd be extinct within the decade.

Do The Hustle

by digby

Scottie is making things much worse than they already were. He keeps saying that it took all that time to "gather the facts" and that their priority was to "help the victim." I guess we're supposed to believe that Cheney was so busy monitoring the man's vital signs that he couldn't pick up as phone and tell anybody what happened until the following morning.

Apparently, it took 12 hours to inform even McClellan that Cheney was the shooter. Both Card and Rove were involved very early. And Big Dick himself is said to have spoken to Armstrong about releasing it to her local paper, contrary to what she already said. A rather crude and bizarre press strategy for this group wouldn't you say? Why?

McClellan said that he knew about the shooting the evening it happened but didn't know until the next morning that it was Cheney. Asssuming he's telling the truth, I think it's fair to assume that they spent about 12 hours deciding whether Cheney or "someone else" actually fired the gun. I can't think of any other (believable) reason they would have waited --- unless there's even more to this story than we already know.

And how about that little bit about the deputy down in Texas who was told to back off asking any questions by the Secret Service? What's up with that?

developing super duper hardlike....


the digby

The Republicans really hate this shooting story. Hate it. The future ex Mrs Rush Limbaugh looks like she just sucked a lemon as she reported that Cheney went postal over the week-end. It isn't easy being a gargantuan right wing gasbag's girlfriend and having to pretend that you are unbiased. Sometimes it's impossible. She appeared to be barely able to keep her disgust in check contemplating what the comedians are going to say tonight.

So get your jokes on, moonbats. Let's torture us some wingnuts.

Just to get you started, here are the Top Ten Cheney Excuses For Shooting that Guy, courtesy DallasDem at Kos.


Then again, they aren't really quick enough to know a joke when they see one. I wrote this yesterday and Hilzoy over at Obsidion Wings did a fine riff on it last night. Sadly, it was a little bit too subtle for the folks apparently. I won't say it...

Cheney's Law

by tristero

Always blame the victim:
"This all happened pretty quickly," Ms. Armstrong said in a telephone interview from her ranch. Mr. Whittington, she said, "did not announce — which would be protocol — 'Hey, it's me, I'm coming up,' " she said.

"He didn't do what he was supposed to do," she added, referring to Mr. Whittington. "So when a bird flushed and the vice president swung in to shoot it, Harry was where the bird was."

Mr. Whittington was "sprayed — peppered, is what we call it — on his right side, on part of his face, neck, shoulder and rib cage," she said, noting that she, too, had been sprayed on her leg in a hunting accident.

"A shotgun sprays a bunch of little bitty pellets; it's not a bullet involved,"
Must news reporters always exaggerate and say Vice President Cheney "shot" someone? That's just not true!

It's not as if he actually fired a big bad bullet. Just little bitty pellets. Couldn't harm a fly. And, good heavens, Harry wasn't even "sprayed" with little bitty pellets. He was just peppered. You ever pepper steak tartare? Oh, dear, that wasn't in good taste, was it? Tee hee!

Now run along like a good little girl and don't you dare go talking to anyone else who was there. Just do what you're supposed to do, write what I said, and you won't get hurt. Like Harry.

Besides, my child, it was his own fault, now, wasn't it?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bad Jack

by digby

The Democratic Daily has a scoop. Here's a taste:

There was a good Jack and a bad Jack. Most people today only know the bad Jack. I didn’t know that man at all. The Jack I knew was funny engaging and after hours he was decent and true to his beliefs. Apparently he had some misguided impression of how to influence government

There is something terribly wrong with our nation's capital.

Here's a little more about "the bad Jack."

Edgy New Media

by digby

It was awfully good to see Jim Brady finally come forth with the scholarly, meditative disquisition about the effects of blogging on modern media for which we've all been waiting. We were in desperate need of some lucid, unimpassioned analysis of what happened in the Deborah Howell affair.

My career as a nitwitted, emasculated fascist began the afternoon of Jan. 19 when, as executive editor of the Post's Web site, washingtonpost.com, I closed down the comments area of one of our many blogs, one called post.blog. Created primarily to announce new features on the Web site, the blog had become ground zero for angry readers complaining about a column by Post ombudsman Deborah Howell on the newspaper's coverage of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. If I had let them, they would have obliterated any semblance of civil, genuine discussion.

As it was, things got pretty ugly, and it's worth figuring out why. In her Jan. 15 column, Howell erred in saying that Abramoff gave campaign donations to Democrats as well as Republicans. In fact, Abramoff directed clients to give to members of both parties, but he had donated his own personal funds only to Republicans.

Howell's inadvertent error prompted a handful of bloggers to urge their readers to go to post.blog to vent their discontent, and in the subsequent four days we received more than a thousand comments in our public forum. Only, the word "comments" doesn't convey the obscene, vituperative tone of a lot of the postings, which were the sort of things you might find carved on the door of a public toilet stall. About a hundred of them had to be removed for violating the Post site's standards, which don't allow profanity or personal attacks.

To my dismay, matters only got worse on Jan. 19 after Howell posted a clarification on washingtonpost.com. Instead of mollifying angry readers, the clarification prompted more than 400 additional comments over the next five hours, many of them so crude as to be unprintable in a family newspaper. Soon the number of comments that violated our standards of Web civility overwhelmed our ability to get rid of them; only then did we decide to shut down comments on the blog.

So was I suppressing free speech? Protecting the Bush administration? That's what you'd think, judging by the swift and acid reaction to my move. They couldn't get to post.blog, but they sure let me have it elsewhere in the blogosphere. I was honored as "Wanker of the Day" on one left-wing blog. Another site dissected my biography in order to prove that I was part of The Post's vast right-wing conspiracy.

It's so refreshing, isn't it, to see real journalism in action instead of the snide, snippy attitude displayed so often by sophomoric bloggers?

Now contrast that dry piece of expository writing with this wild, insane drivel written by one of the bloggers Brady so justifiably takes to task in his article: (From Alternet, naturally.)

When Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell published the false claim on Jan. 15 that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats, the paper got a loud, swift and public lesson in the new realities of online interactivity and instant accountability. It was like watching a woolly mammoth being hauled shrieking and dripping with ice-age detritus into the 21stt century.

This lesson came in large part from the blogosphere, in the form of comments made on the newspaper's website and in posts made to political weblogs, such as DailyKos, Eschaton, and my own blog, Firedoglake. The collective daily readership of the largest political blogs now runs in the millions. We are news and politics junkies, instantly able to recite the last six jobs of Senate staffers and the names of reporters who cover every beat. We follow politics in real time and have zero tolerance for the kind of sloppy mistake Howell made. Hundreds of us swarmed to the site and immediately made our feelings known.

The paper's insistence on remaining silent in the wake of this was a clear indication that management did not understand that the days of one-way "we speak, you listen" information flow are over. It is no longer possible for a newspaper to simply publish erroneous information and then stonewall critics as they wait for everything to blow over.

Mercy! Can't someone put a muzzle on that crazy shrew? Can she not control her acid tongue and name calling even for a minute to explain her position? Apparently not. (Wooly Mammoths!!!? My God. Has she no decency? )

Unlike the wise, level-headed analysis you see in the first piece, here we have a writer who is so angry and hysterical she can't even begin to explain her position.

In these two pieces we have seen the contrast: crazed, hysterical demagoguery based purely on one's personal, emotional reaction to a story vs a sober, rational explanation of the events at hand. This is what separates "journalism" from "blogging." Perhaps someone would like to invite Mr Brady to the next blogger ethics panel to show us how it's done.


by tristero

Jeebus. Cheney shot someone. Let's hope the victim fully recovers. Meanwhile, TalkLeft discusses the legal issues.

Regardless, obviously Cheney just can't be trusted with the responsiblity of handling firearms. For God's sakes, confiscate the sumbitch's guns. Now. Before he kills someone.
Find Me A Watermelon Immediately

by digby

We've got some ballistic tests to do. This doesn't pass the smell test:

The shooting was first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The vice president's office did not disclose the accident until nearly 24 hours after it happened.

OK, folks, I think I got enough information here to tell you about the contents of this fax that I got. Brace yourselves. This fax contains information that I have just been told will appear in a newsletter to Morgan Stanley sales personnel this afternoon... What it is is a bit of news which says... there's a Washington consulting firm that has scheduled the release of a report that will appear, it will be published, that claims that this shooting took place in an apartment owned by Lynn Cheney, and the body was then taken to the ranch.

This needs to be looked into. And if it's determined to be an accident it needs to be looked into again. And again.

Fallen Statues

by digby

Way back in November of 2000, people were chattering online about government overreach, specifically the rubber stamp FISA court:

"Franz Kafka would have judged this to wild to fictionalize. But for us - it's real"


"As quietly as possible (although it sometimes breaks out into the open, usually with the sound of gunfire and the death of innocents), a "shadow government" has been set up all around us my friend. It's foundation is not the constitution, but Executive Orders, Presidential Procalamations, Secret Acts, and Emergency Powers.

It has all the tools to be an absolute tyranny and those behind it (on both sides of the aisle) who crave power and their form of "governance" continue to move towards it while we are distracted by so many other goings on."


"The article strives to make it clear that the targets of the Kafka Kourt are foreign nationals, but then it also reveals that once a "target" is "approved" all of his or her contacts are also investigated.


Outlandish? Yes. But then, so is this whole Kafka Kourt outlandish."


"This is one of those ideas that has a valid purpose behind it, but is wide open to terrible abuse. And there's no way to check to see if it is abused.

Like all things that don't have the light of day shining on them, you can be sure that it is being twisted to suit the purposes of those who hold the power."


"The targets need not be under suspicion of committing a crime, but may be investigated when probable cause results solely from their associations or status: for example, belonging to, or aiding and abetting organizations deemed to pose a threat to U.S. national security.

This was discussed previously on FreeRepublic along with a Justice Department list of organizations to target. I saved it but unfortunately have lost it.. there were a lot of pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment groups on the list if I recall correctly. One group they targeted was a pro-life organization run by Catholic priests!"

Yes, that was from a Free Republic thread. It would appear that 9/11 changed the liberty loving, bill of rights supporting, self-sufficient freepers into a gaggle of snivelling little babies who were so traumatized by the terrorists that they now think this jack-booted FISA court is too much oversight and the president actually has the power to spy on any damned citizen he wants to. (Or they are partisan robots, you be the judge.)

I got that link from a great post by Glenn Greenwald about the new authoritarian cult conservatives (reminding me of my own little bon mot: "Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.")

He writes:

Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is. Whether one is a "liberal" -- or, for that matter, a "conservative" -- is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush.

I think the cult of Bush is actually representative of something else. A few months ago Rick Perlstein gave a talk about Barry Goldwater at a gathering of conservative intellectuals on the subject of The Conservative Movement: Its Past, Present and Future. To a room filled with the biggest thinkers on the right he said:

As an unabashed ideological liberal in the depths of the age of Clintonian triangulation, I found the recollections of the risks you all took for a cause absolutely inspiring.

In a sense, I considered you political role models.

The name that came up over and over in my interviews with these veterans of Young Americans for Freedom was "Richard Nixon." They came to the 1960 Republican National Convention determined to draft Barry Goldwater for vice president. They left after making a breathtaking ad hoc run at drafting Goldwater for president instead, and taking down the presumptive nominee as an unprincipled sellout.

Richard Nixon once instructed a new staffer, Richard Whalen, "Flexibility is the first principle of politics." The conservative movement has understood itself to be the people who unflaggingly answered back to Nixon: "Principle rises above politics." That's a quote from Alf Regnery, in a profile of him this fall in the Washington Post. In the same article, David Keene related his answer to someone who criticized the ACU for attacking congressional spending, because Republicans were the ones in charge of it: "Well, that's too bad." The man here to my right, Lee Edwards, got the money quote: "What we have here is the principled conservatives vs. the pragmatic conservatives."


What to make of the fact that some of the names who pioneered this anti-Nixonian movement of principle showed up in the dankest recesses of the Nixon administration? People like Douglas Caddy, of course, the co-founder of the effort to draft Goldwater for vice-president in 1960 and YAF's first president, who was the man the White House called on to represent the Watergate burglars in 1972. And people like the guy inaugurated as YAF's chair in the 1965 with those stirring words about truth: Tom Charles Huston--who, as the author of the first extra-legal espionage and sabotage plan in the Nixon White House, can fairly be called an architect of Watergate.

It is a thread one finds throughout the annals of the Nixon presidency. The notion that what they were doing was moral, the eggs that need be broken in the act of redeeming a crumbling West. Jeb Magruder told the Senate Watergate Committee: "Although I was aware they were illegal we had become somewhat inured to using some activities that would help us in accomplishing what we thought was a cause." That message came straight from the top. "Just remember you're doing the right thing," the president told Bob Haldeman on Easter Sunday, 1973. "That's what I used to think when I killed some innocent children in Hanoi." Then he briefed him on how to suborn perjury from an aide concerning the blackmailing of the Watergate burglars.

I would argue that the lawlessness of the Reagan administration was similarly couched in moral terms. Yes, the congress may have explicitly prohibited the president from aiding the Nicaraguan contras, but helping the contras was an act of redeeming a crumbling west (saving the world from communism), so more eggs had to be broken. I don't think I need to point out the huge fluffy omelette this administration is cooking up --- to redeem the crumbling...well, you know the drill.

So, it isn't precisely a cult of George W. Bush. It's a cult of Republican power. We know this because when a Democratic president last sat in the oval office, there was non-stop hysteria about presidential power and overreach. Every possible tool to emasculate the executive branch was brought ot bear, including the nuclear option, impeachment. Now we are told that the "Presidency" is virtually infallible. The only difference between now and then is that a Republican is the executive instead of a Democrat.

This must be a function of psychology more than ideology. David Gergen said this morning on This Weak, that the Republicans are much better at "messaging" than the Democrats, but that they aren't good at governing. This is true. They win by selling a fantasy of freedom and riches ---- and govern as despots. You can see from the examples cited above that there is no real conservative ideology. If they can jettison their most cherished ideals (small government, balanced budgets, checks and balances, states' rights, individual liberty etc.) whenever a Republican holds office, it is quite clear that what they care about is the power, not the "message" on which they ran.

Today I read that Bob Barr, a man who made his bones by calling for Clinton's impeachment even before the Lewinsky scandal broke, is now being booed by a room full of arch-conservatives for suggesting that the president saying "trust me" is not adequate. We know very well that if the president were a Democrat, everyone in that room would not find it adequate.

Perlstein ended his speech with this:

For the stations of the cross of a conservatism in power include not merely Sharon, Connecticut, but Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; not merely Mont Pelerin, but the competing Indian casinos whose money was laundered by conservative groups on Jack Abramoff's behalf. Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson's ties to Bobby Baker. Now Republicans have made Bobby Baker their majority leader. His K Street Project is a lineal descendant of the attitudes and actions that constituted Watergate: Richard Nixon calling for the heads of Democratic donors and howling, "We have all this power and we're not using it." The American Conservative Union has made defending him to the death a point of conservative honor.

Ask yourself, What would Barry Goldwater say?

I believe now that Goldwaterism was nothing more than public relations and the "conservative movement" that sprang from his failed presidential campaign was nothing more than an elaborate con job. Throughout all the years that they decried Stalinism, it wasn't an idealistic belief in human rights and democracy that drove them. It was quite the opposite, in fact. It was envy. All that control over other people. The huge police and military apparatus. The forced conformity. The only thing they genuinely hated about the Soviet Union was its economic philosophy. The totalitarian system, not so much. When you read about the "conservative movement" you find over and over again that the anti-communists immersed themselves in Stalinism and modeled their organizational style on it, often quite openly admiring its efficient application of power. And as we know, one of totalitarianism's most obvious features is the cult of personality that always grows up within it.

The modern Republicans do show all the hallmarks of an authoritarian cult. But I believe that the metaphorical statue of George W. Bush will be toppled very shortly after he leaves office after an "election" based on a message of "reform." They must restore the fantasy. His statue will be replaced, of course, with another infallible leader. That's how it works.

The Princeton Symposium is now available online. Check out the whole line-up of thinkers on the Right. Perlstein really went into the belly of the beast.

Update: Kevin coincidentally finds a very nice illustration of what I'm talking about.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Educational Week-end

by digby

I am going to be out most of the day so I want to leave you all with some good reading from around the blogosphere:

This article by Arthur Silber about the inevitability of action in Iran is spot on. We are not dealing with rational actors. And he's not talking about the Iranians.

This post by Pastordan at Street Prophets about heresy in the Evangelical church is quite instructive. As usual the media gets it wrong.

Eric at Wampum answers my question about how the Democrats should answer the Republicans on national security with a fascinating reminder that there are still sharks in the blue water.

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution informs us of other things that Al Qaeda forgets.

Bill at Liberal Oasis tells the opposition party how to be an opposition party.

Gavin at Sadly No! writes about how it might happen here.

Gary Farber discusses datamining.

Assparrot (apparently still hungover) holds a "Digby nailed it ..." contest.

Oh, and in case you have been in a coma for the last four decades, this article in the Washington Post may help you understand that you are not crazy for noticing that all the racists are now Republicans.

Wet Dreams

by digby

Uhm, would anybody care to speculate about why William Donohue, president of the Catholic league is so obsessed with incest and sodomy? Yesterday he said:

DONOHUE: Well, look, there are people in Hollywood, not all of them, but there are some people who are nothing more than harlots. They will do anything for the buck. They wouldn't care. If you asked them to sodomize their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face. You know, it's such a cop-out to talk about freedom of expression.

My he has quite an imagination doesn't he? Don't blame Hollywood. I don't think they've been making any movies featuring such scenes. I don't even think the porno industry has been making movies featuring such scenes. That lovely image came right out of that sick fuck's twisted subconscious.

(In case you didn't catch the show, Donohue was talking about Muslim intolerance, by the way.)

Apparently, he just can't stop thinking about it:

After all, 15-year-olds, they go to abortionists. They get their babies killed without parental consent. The new Puritans [those criticizing The Passion of the Christ] don't seem to worry about that. They like gay sex. They like [the film] The Dreamers, a brother and sister who bathe together and stuff like that. The same people in The New York Times who say this movie, I don't think it's not really right for kids, they have no problems when it comes to sodomy. It's smoking they don't like and Catholicism. [MSNBC, Scarborough Country, 2/25/04]

Mothers, brothers, sisters. (What, no dear old Dad?) Yeah, it's Hollywood that's got a problem.

Literary Terrorism

Guest post by Thumb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush disclosed new details on Thursday of a thwarted al Qaeda plot to use shoe bombs to hijack a plane and fly it into a Los Angeles building, as he sought to justify his tactics in fighting terrorism.

With critics questioning the legality of his authorization of a domestic spying program, Bush used newly declassified details of a previously revealed plot to show that the threat of terrorism has not abated.

"America remains at risk, so we must remain vigilant," Bush said.

He said that in early 2002 the United States and its allies disrupted a plot to use bombs hidden in shoes to breach the cockpit door of an airplane and fly it into the tallest building in Los Angeles.

But he got the name of the building wrong, saying the "intended target was Liberty Tower." He meant Library Tower, now the US Bank Tower, that at 1,017 feet (310 metres) high is the tallest building in the United States west of the Mississippi River.

It seems Bush wasn't the only one confused by the name of the tower. This shocking leaked NSA intercept of two of the shoe-bombers shows even the terrorists were confused:

AQ#1: Have you received our target yet?

AQ#2: Yes. The Literary tower in Los Angeles.

#1: The Literary Tower?

#2: Yes. You know, the really tall one.

#1: Fool, you mean the LIBERTY Tower, not the...

#2: No no no, the Literary Tower, I remember specifically. That's the big one. With all their books.

#1: Their books?? Who cares about the infidel's books? The plan is to strike down their liberty. That makes our target the Liberty Tower, not the Literary tower. Are you sure we're talking about the same tower? Do you have a map? We are talking about Los Angeles, aren't we?

[paper shuffling]

#2: Um... uh... I can't figure this out. Oh, who cares what it's called. It's the tallest one. How many tallest buildings can there be in Los Angeles, anyway?

#1: Three? Four?

#2: ...Well, it doesn't matter. Any one of them will do. Do you have the information on our weapons?

#1: Yes, I am told we will hide high explosives in our shoes, and then...

#2: Uh, say that again? It sounded like you said "high explosives" and "shoes."

#1: Yes. Explosives. In our shoes. We'll use them to gain access to the cockpit...

#2: Uh, Mohammed?

#1: Yes Mohammed?

#2: Something, um, doesn't sound right. Are you quite sure...

#1: Of course I'm sure. It says right here [sounds of more paper shuffling] that we are to use high explosives to gain access to the cockpit, where we then threaten to blow up the rest of plane if they don't fly it into the Liberty...

#2: Literary...

#1: Liberty, Literary... I don't... [sighs] Look, just tell the pilot "The tall one." I'm quite sure they'll know which building you're talking about. Just tell them that if they don't immediately fly the plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles, you'll blow them up with your Sneakers of Mass Destruction. They won't want that, I can assure you.

#2: Uh... there's something I don't understand.

#1: Yes?

#2: How do we explode our way into the cockpit and still threaten to blow up the plane?

#1: Fool, that's why we hide the explosives in our shoes. Just use one shoe on the cockpit door. That way we still have the other shoe to threaten to blow up the rest of the plane with.

#2: Ooooh. That makes sense. Sort of. [long pause] We get to take them off first, right?

#1: I assume. Let me check [paper shuffling]. Well, I don't see where it says we can't. So I suppose it should be okay. [pause] Wait. Did you hear that?

#2: Yes, I did. Is there somebody else on the line? You don't have a party line, do you? Please tell me you paid for a private line...

#1: Yes, of course this is a private line. Now shut your hookah-hole, I'm trying to listen. ["if you'd like to continue this wiretap for another --ten-- minutes, please insert an additional --75-- cents"] ACK! I think this line is being tapped!

#2: Do Americans have such technologies?

#1: Damn. I once read where they did, but I completely forgot about that.

Ah, Brownie.

by tristero

I didn't see the hearings but if this description of what he said is accurate, one can only wish he had been half as good a FEMA chief as he is a Republican loyalist:
Mr. Brown said that he told a senior White House official early on of the New Orleans flooding, and that the administration was too focused on terrorism to respond properly to natural disasters...

The Bush administration, as a whole, he said, did not seem to care enough about natural disasters and had relegated natural disasters to a "stepchild" of national security.

"It is my belief," Mr. Brown told the senators, that if "we've confirmed that a terrorist has blown up the 17th Street Canal levee, then everybody would have jumped all over that and been trying to do everything they could."
Did they actually let him get away with that nonsense? Did nobody point out the obvious which Atrios immediately saw? That there is no essential difference between a response to a terrorist blowing up the levee or a hurricane blowing it? That you cancel your vacation and get your butt in gear 'cause you got a serious, serious emergency - thousands of lives are at stake - that requires the full attention of the fucking president?

Was Brown forced to concede that the Bush "intense focus on terrorism" is really a perverse obsession with the publicity at the expense of reality? Those of you who saw Brown testify - did anyone make that point?

Apparently not. Yes, Brown blamed the White House for the failure in Katrina rather than his own ineptitude; given the amount of trouble he's in, he had no choice. Even so - this is incredible! - he re-emphasized, without contradiction or explanation, THE single most important Republican talking point:

Republicans make national security and fighting terrorism Priority 1.

And while he spewed this partisan bullshit, Democrats "gently" urged him to keep his chin up and "keep fighting!" Brownie, you truly have done a heckuva job.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Testy, testy

by digby

Mr Victoria Toensing just had a hissy fit on Wolfie because his co-pundit Richard Ben-Veniste agreed that Cheney didn't break the law but pointed out that it was hypocritical for Cheney to lecture people about leaking when he was authorizing his staff to selectively leak to reporters under cover of anonymity.

Mr Toensing rose up and bared his claws at Wolf because he had apparently agreed to come on to only discuss the "legal" issues and not to get into a partisan discussion. He's just an old non-partisan, country lawyer, you know. He doesn't do politics.

Born Yesterday

by digby

White House aides had arranged for only the first few minutes of the session to be open to reporters. But an apparent mistake left a microphone on for longer than anticipated.

In the interim, he said, "I support the free press, let's just get them out of the room. ..."

"I want to share some thoughts with you before I answer your questions," he went on to the Republican House members. "First of all, I expect this conversation we're about to have to stay in the room. I know that's impossible in Washington."

He then moved to a defense of the NSA program that allows wiretaps without court warrants as part of certain terrorist investigations.

"I wake up every morning thinking about a future attack, and therefore, a lot of my thinking, and a lot of the decisions I make are based upon the attack that hurt us," Bush said.

Referring to the controversy surrounding whether the program is legal, he said, "We put constant checks on the program."

"I take my oath of office seriously. I swear to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States," Bush said.

Isn't he terrific? Even in private he is exactly the same as he is in public. Boy oh boy, it sure is a good thing he didn't say anything controversial, though. That "technician" (who is coincidentally named Karl Rove --- go figure) would have been given a first class ticket to the woodshed. But our preznit is the same stalwart patriot no matter who he is speaking to so that technician knew he had nothing to worry about.

Update: Wolfie fell for it.

hat tip to FauxReal

More Angry Leftists

by digby

Uh oh, better tell the Beltway Quilting Bee and Ladies Circle Jerk Society that the Angry Left is at it again. One of them infiltrated the annual Republican Decency In Public Discourse Convention and reported on their confidential internal discussion. These leftist barbarians have no shame:

Before an overflow crowd of at least 1000 young right-wing activists, Coulter took her brand of performance art to new heights. Afterwards, I caught up with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to ask him about Coulter's characterization of Muslims as "ragheads." Before I reveal his indignant response, here are a sampling of Coulter's most memorable lines.

Coulter on Muslims:

"I think our motto should be post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'" (This declaration prompted a boisterous ovation.)

Coulter on killing Bill Clinton:

(Responding to a question from a Catholic University student about her biggest moral or ethical dilemna) "There was one time I had a shot at Clinton. I thought 'Ann, that's not going to help your career.'"

Coulter on moderate Republicans:

"There is more dissent on a slave plantation then amongst moderates in the Republican party."

Coulter on the Holocaust:

"Iran is soliciting cartoons on the Holocaust. So far, only Ted Rall, Garry Trudeau, and the NY Times have made submissions."

Coulter on the Supreme Court:

"If we find out someone [referring to a terrorist] is going to attack the Supreme Court next week, can't we tell Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalito?"

After Coulter's speech, I approached Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in the CPAC exhibitor's hall. I asked him what he thought of Coulter's characterization 15 minutes earlier of Muslims as "ragheads." HIs reply? "I wasn't there so I better not comment."

Something's going to have to be done about all these rude leftwing bloggers. They have no business sneaking around asking Senator Frist questions like that. Don't these people have any manners at all?

Update: Jane finds even more grubby angry leftists pretending to be journalists. Lock your doors and hide the wimminfolk.

Update II: Kevin at Catch reports that certain right wing blogs are unhappy with Coulter's tasteless comments. That's surprising. They never said anything before. She's been wowing 'em at the CPAC for years.

Careerist Crooks

by digby

Josh Marshall has posted an interesting piece of correspondence from a Democratic staffer regarding the Abramoff affair. There are as number of things in the letter that are worth discussing, but there is one point that offers an intriguing talking point:

The vast majority of Democratic staffers work on the Hill, despite the miserable pay and long hours, to try to achieve some measure of good. Many, many Republican staffers- convinced that government is an evil- work here in order to make money off that necessary evil. That breeds corruption. When you have a majority of members and staffers that could care less about policy ad governing and more about power/influence/money/profit Abramoff is inevitable. When the hard, tedious work of legislating and oversight is done by people motivated by careerism rather than professionalism not only do you have Abramoff, but you have Michael Brown, Halliburton, and illegal NSA wiretapping.

We need to think about ways to communicate why this "culture of corruption" is so pervasive in GOP government and why it is unique to them. This is one good way to explain it:

When Republicans are in charge, watch your wallets. Corruption and incompetence naturally stem from sending people who hate the government to Washington. They obviously aren't there to be responsive to the public because they don't believe the government can or should be responsive to the public. They are either there to exercize power for power's sake, make contacts and build their careers or they are second rate hacks who can't make it in the private sector. Democrats come to Washington to do good. Republicans come to Washington to feed at the trough.

Professional Journalamalism

by digby

Most people have already heard how poor little Brownie took down that unctuous haircut with lips, Norm Coleman, this morning. What you may not know is that shortly afterward on MSNBC, professional journalist Bob Kur used Coleman's attack as an example of bipartisan anger at poor little Brownie --- identifying Coleman as a Democrat. .

Somebody get Duncan on the phone. He's going to have to clear his schedule for another blogger ethics panel.

Call Comey

by digby

I wrote sometime back that we had reached a point with this administration that we were entirely dependent upon the integrity of a few members of the legal community to save the country. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but I think it may literally be true.

I'm not usually a big friend of tough prosecutors. I hate the drug war and I think they play fast and loose when trying to take down a target by squeezing people who are only peripherally involved. There is always tension between civil libertarians and the government and that is as it should be. It's that balance that allows us to live in a (mostly) civilized society.

When a government becomes corrupt and power mad one normally depends upon the political opposition and the press to sound the alarm --- and to some extent that has happened. But due to a corporate media that pumps non-stop sensation into people's heads 24 hours a day, the signal to noise ratio is seriously out of whack, even when something very important happens. Only terrorist attacks and catastrophic natural disasters can break through the static. As Peter Daou writes today, the sheer number of scandals makes it almost impossible for the press and the public to see any of them clearly.

And even if something begins to break through, we know from the Plame scandal and others that the administration exerts an iron grip on the media almost as painful as the one with which it chokes dissenters in its own party. After all, when Scooter Libby called Tim Russert to complain about Chris Matthews' coverage, bureau chief Russert didn't simply say that Matthews had a right to his opinion or that NBC always provided a forum for the administration to rebut any claims and leave it at that. No, he reported Libby's complaints to the president of NBC, Matthews' bosses. I think that pretty much tells the tale of the Washington press corps in a nutshell. I wouldn't count on them to help us out of this mess.

In addition, our two party tradition provides for very little real power to be invested in an oppostion party on its own --- the rules have been devised for bipartisan compromise. When you have a very disciplined majority (even if only with a slight numerical advantage) the minority party can be virtually shut out of government, as in a parliamentary system. We have little experience with this kind of government and without the open floor debate and partisan press that exists in other systems, this makes for very lopsided power structure.

The structural political imbalance, the media cacophany and the overwhelming numbers of crises and scandals both large and small have virtually paralyzed this country's ability to deal with the very serious constitutional crisis that is developing over the president's assertion of unlimited executive and warmaking powers. I think the law is our only backstop on this. It's appearing more and more that we are going to have to ask certain lawyers, cops and judges who understand that their duty to their country is bigger than their duty to this president to step up. And that brings me to James Comey.

All evidence suggests that I would not agree with James Comey's politics, but I can't be sure since he has scrupulously guarded his poltical leanings. I very much doubt that this law and order prosecutor sees the world through my ACLU lens. However, like many of the growing numbers of law enforcement officers who have grown alarmed by this administration's lawless governance, he is by all accounts a straight arrow. He was the number two man in the Justice Department when all the recent affronts to the constitution (torture, spying, the death of habeus corpus, indefinite detention, presidential infallibility) were delivered and from what we know he objected vociferously. It is, therefore, no surprise that this non-political career civil servant is no longer in government.

It is vital that he testify in a future hearing on the illegal NSA spying hearings. I do not know what he will say, and he may even defend the program on some level. But there is a reason why Comey refused to sign off on reauthorizing this program, forcing Gonzales to go to the hospital and try to strong arm a man who just had surgery to sign off on it instead. In his testimony earlier this week, Gonzales implied that it may have been a problem with another program. How very interesting.

We need to know just what in the hell was going on during the period between the time the program was instituted and the time Comey and others refused to reauthorize it. Why was it suspended? We need to know if there were other illegal spying programs. Comey is the man who can answer those questions.

Apparently, Comey believes that the administration may invoke executive privilege. Considering what poor little Brownie said this morning, I suspect that all former administration officials are told that if called before congress the president will likely invoke executive privilege. He is after all, infallible. But at the very least the committee should force the administration to invoke it. Let's get all the cards on the table.

I have no idea if there are other illegal programs out there or if this program has been used for domestic spying. But it's clear that something about all this stinks to high heaven and the Democrats know it. The smart money says that they've created a full-on datamining capability along the lines of Total Information Awareness and they are using it on US Citizens for god knows what purpose. Maybe Americans don't mind being subject to constant monitoring by the government. And maybe they really are so afraid of terrorists that they are willing to officially end our 230 year experiment in liberty by codifying an elected dictatorship rather than a carefully balanced representative government. But before we flush the constitution down the toilet, let's give democracy one last hurrah, shall we? Let's find out if these actions are legal and constitutional (and if the people of this country really are the bedwetting cowards the Republicans take them for.)

Firedoglake is collecting comments on this matter in the hopes that the powers that be on the Judiciary Committee will understand that the grassroots are engaged and knowledgeable on this issue and will back up any Democratic Senator who pushes for more testimony, specifically the testimony of James Comey. Either leave a comment here or go over to FDL and add your voice to the chorus if you agree.