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Tuesday, February 21, 2006


by digby

Both Kos and Atrios linked to this post about how Rove smeared John Kerry fior allegedly being in cahoots with Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed. It was bullshit, of course, and now we find out that Rove's buddy Abramoff was selling Bush face time and cut a deal for a meeting with Mahathir for 1.2 mil. (And to think the Republicans had coronaries about those silly "white house coffees.")

This post also notes some other dirty tricks from the last electionthat I was unaware of. From a Miami Herald article dated november 1, 2004:

The visits came as the ground war escalated. The National Jewish Democratic Council reported Sunday that Kerry campaign signs were defaced with stickers reading, ''Arafat Endorses,'' suggesting Kerry has the backing of the ailing Palestinian leader.

Bush's campaign has looked to siphon off traditionally Democratic-leaning Jewish voters, and the stickers echo a Republican Party of Florida mailer that also suggests Kerry is being supported by Arafat.

Kerry supporters have pointed to the senator's 100 percent pro-Israel voting record to rebuff the Republican claims that Bush is a stronger supporter of the Jewish state.

Republican voters received a torrent of negative anti-Kerry campaign mailings Saturday, some from an organization with strong Republican ties, the Florida Leadership Council.

The group is headed by Cory Tilley, a former aide to Gov. Bush, and David Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida.

The mailings range from images of the party's stalwart leaders -- like Ronald Reagan -- to more ominous pieces that equate a vote for Kerry as the first step in leading to a terrorist attack on South Florida.


The most negative mailing from the Florida Leadership Council has a fake newspaper story from the year 2007 underneath a photo of children in a classroom wearing gas masks.

The dateline is ''Florida Red Zone,'' and the fake story reads: 'President John Kerry warned parents and children in South Florida that mandatory radiation and chemical gear would be required to be worn `for the foreseeable future' since the Suitcase Dirty Bomb terrorist attack on South Florida in the spring.''

On the reverse side of the mailing, it says ``The last line of defense must be stronger than John Kerry.

These are the people who run and win on "moral values."

Sometimes I get criticism from my readers for suggesting that the Democrats must play on the same playing field as the Republicans. They say, "we shouldn't become them." But I never suggest that the Democrats should lie, cheat or play dirty as the Republicans do. I suggest that they wise up and stop pretending that Republicans are anything but ruthless adversaries and adjust accordingly. They can be beaten with smart strategies, but not unless the Democrats internalize the connection between the nice men and women they are working with on capitol hill every day with the thugs they hire to get elected. They are all cogs in the same cutthroat political machine.

Update: When I went to put up the links, I realized that Atrios had written "Always project. Always." it reminded me of a post I did before the election called "Projection Politics" in which I noted that Rove doesn't actually attack the strengths of his opponents, as he like to say he does:

Rove has developed a campaign of projection in which he tars his opponents with his own candidates' weaknesses and then attacks them.

He attacks Kerry for phony heroism thirty years ago when just last year his own candidate had himself filmed in a little costume prancing around on an aircraft carrier pretending he'd won a war that had only begun. But, by tarring Kerry with using war as a PR stunt for his own personal gain, people can process the uncomfortable feelings they are experiencing about Iraq as not really being caused by Junior, but by his rival who is the real shallow opportunist who only pretends to be a man of proven leadership and experience.


What is interesting about Rove is that his way of dealing with his own candidates' even more glaring deficiencies is to build a Kerry straw man in Bush's exact image and then set it afire. I don't know if it will work, or even if he's aware that he's doing it, projection being epidemic in GOP circles. But, it's disarming and confusing and it makes it difficult to effectively counter attack. You end up with some defensive version of "I know you are but what am I" which doesn't really advance your position.

It's projection/innoculation. And they are very good at it. Of course, you always run the risk that it will circle right back on you, which it seems to have done.

Empty Veto

by digby

So Bush says he'll veto any legislation to block the port deal. He says that his government knows what it's doing and wouldn't have ok'd the deal if it would harm the nation's security. This is the same government that did such a great job with Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.

Assuming that we aren't seeing some sort of kabuki here, it appears that the Eunuch Caucus is getting an earful from their constituents and see no margin in working with the lame albatross right now. He's threatened vetoes before and the invertebrate Republicans have always fallen into line. This time appears to be different.

If this is true, the Bush administration may be effectively over.

Update: Dan Bartlett is going on and on about the "rigorousness" of the process the administration undertook with this port deal. He keeps saying that they have a lot of experience with this company and that the department of Homeland Security will be in charge of security. Apparently, they have no idea that they have lost the trust of the people on exactly these kinds of things. The rigor of their planning, the "experience" with private companies and the ineptitude of Homeland Security.

They have fear mongered their way to victory for four long years, going on and on about how "the oceans don't protect us" anymore and now they act as if port security is just another contract and claim it's important for "our image" to give security contracts to state owned middle eastern companies with ties to terrorism. Wow.

They are left with nothing but the president's "resolve" to govern. They believe that if he digs in his heels everyone will capitulate out of sheer admiration for his machismo. At 39%, the power of his machismo has shrunk to a fraction of what it once was. He's in very icy water now.

Mixed Signals

by digby

On CNN earlier today:

NGUYEN: Well, it wasn't quite an apology, but it was an admission. Three weeks after his State of the Union address calling for energy independence, President Bush acknowledged today that his administration has been sending some mixed signals.

Mr. Bush visited one of the nation's top renewable energy labs in Colorado. He praised the work that's being done there and acknowledged that just two weeks ago the government laid off 32 workers there. Those jobs have now been restored, just in time for the president's visit.

I'm sure those 32 workers are grateful, but really. This is becoming embarrasing. I don't know if you saw him, but he was draped so far forward on the podium he looked like he was trying to crawl over it. Maybe there was a copy of "My Pet Goat" lying open on the floor.

Update: Here's the full story from the WaPo:

President Bush, on a three-state trip to promote his energy policy, said Tuesday that a budgeting mix-up was the reason 32 workers at one of the nation's premier renewable energy labs were laid off and then reinstated just before his visit.

Bush addressed the funding problem as soon as he began speaking here at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is developing the sort of renewable energy technologies the president is promoting.

"Sometimes, decisions made as the result of the appropriations process, the money may not end up where it was supposed to have gone," Bush said.

Right. He never meant to cut those jobs. The money just ended up where it wasn't supposed to go.

Born Again Con Man

by digby

The Book Of Ralph

It'll make you you hurl.

The Trifecta

by digby

If there are three hallmarks of this failed Bush administration, it is hubris, incompetence and cronyism. This port deal features all three.

The hubris is illustrated by the fact that they actually thought after years of fear mongering and beating of Islamic terrorist war drums, they wouldn't be questioned about a United Arab Emirates contract for port security. The king shall not be questioned. The incompetence feature is that they believe it is smart to outsource security, of all things, to another country. If there is one thing all sides can agree upon, it's that the US should control its own borders and ports. It's common sense.

And finally, as we should have known, via FDL, it turns out this is also another crony cock-up:

The Dubai firm that won Bush administration backing to run six U.S. ports has at least two ties to the White House.

One is Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose agency heads the federal panel that signed off on the $6.8 billion sale of an English company to government-owned Dubai Ports World - giving it control of Manhattan's cruise ship terminal and Newark's container port.

Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to DP World for $1.15 billion in 2004, the year after Snow left for President Bush's cabinet.

The other connection is David Sanborn, who runs DP World's European and Latin American operations and was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Bush Buddies: Doing a heckuva job, as usual.

The Anti-Sentimental American

by digby

Knowing I have a penchant for Chayefsky, Arthur sent me a link to his discussion of "The Americanization of Emily" a film I'm embarrassed to say I've never seen. I'm going to get it today:

Many of the propagandists for war, 40 years ago and ever since -- and up to and most definitely including today -- consider Emily to be "anti-American" and "anti-war." It certainly is all that and more -- if your view of war is the mythic one. But Chayefsky rejects the myth and all its various aspects totally and across the board. It is unjustified to conclude that Chayefsky is "anti-war" in the sense of advocating pacifism: such a view finds no support in the film. But what Chayefsky does convey is just as threatening to the war lovers: while he may view some wars as absolutely necessary and required, that still does not make any war a "good" one, in the affirmative sense. Any war, even one dictated by the demands of self-defense, is immensely destructive and causes untold suffering. Much of that suffering is endured by people who are entirely innocent.

Chayefsky's target is the one identified by Charlie: it is the glorification of war, and the countless ways in which all of us "honor the institution." We build statues of our war heroes and name streets after them; we erect shrines to the dead. We insist on the "ideals" for which we fought, and the "goodness" of our intentions. Many of us do this in the misdirected and destructive search for "meaning" in our lives: our own stunted souls prevent us from finding fulfillment and happiness in our individual lives, so we look for "glory" by climbing over endless piles of corpses.

And what is lost in all of this is the unbearable horror and pain inflicted on individual human beings, and the particularized, specific costs of our quest for glory, or meaning, or "national greatness," or honor.

Read the whole thought provoking essay.

On The Internet No One Knows You're A (Singing) Dog

by tristero

Thanks, folks, for all the nice comments about my music - including the ones that that truly were LOL. Just a few things before once again scooting back, more or less, into the closet.

I sent Digby the Times review and he asked if he could mention it. I said it was fine with me. The main reason I don't write more about what I do is that I'm really not trying to promote my musical career in my blogging.* It's not that I'm above promotion; no one is. Even Stravinsky was shameless when it came to hyping his work. It's rather that it seems like a blog is the wrong place to flack external reputations.

For me, the most interesting aspect of blogging has nothing to do with anyone's accomplishments but rather the present quality of their thought and the extent of their knowledge. While it is much less true now than it was in the olden days five years ago, it is still the case that prior reputation counts for much less in the blogosphere than it does Out There. You are read, or not read, based entirely on your ability to persuade from post to post. And in order to be persuasive, not only must you be a decent writer, but you damn well better know how to back up your assertions with convincing, relevant, links. Whether you've got a doctorate in political science from Stanford or are an 11 year old afraid to come out of your bedroom really is besides the point.

That is how it should be. If it does anything, blogging can make hash of the rhetorical fallacy of appealing to authority. One's authority as a blogger, to the extent anyone has any, comes entirely from the merit of the posts. And that is wonderful. You don't read Josh Marshall's blog because he's got a reputation as an ace reporter. You read his blog because with every post, he reports. He is actively making a reputation in a way that, say, a NY Times reporter doesn't have to. The mere act of being hired by the Times confers (even now, of course) an authoritative reputation, whether or not it is deserved. To put it into big words: At its best, blogging transmutes reified power - authority - back into something contingent. Authority is no longer a noun, but a verb. You earn your reputation with every word. It's never assumed.

And brother, do we need to stop listening to unearned authority.

In 2002, the experts in the press gave the experts in the Bush administration a free pass to market an insane, unnecessary war. It was so obviously a mistake that even a musician immediately could understand it was doomed to catastrophe. During 2002 and early '03, I went all over the world for concerts of my music. It was an exciting time, and I loved every minute of it. But there was one thing that was quite striking, wherever I went. Everyone, and I mean I everyone from cab drivers to diplomats, thought the United States had gone insane in its advocacy for an Iraq invasion. And yet, back home the experts assured us it would be a cakewalk.

A few weeks after returning from Sydney, Australia where, John Howard aside, everyone was as alarmed as I was at the impending war, I began blogging in February, 2003. I figured that, artist or no, I knew an imminent foreign policy disaster when I saw one. And to my horror, I was right. I have never wanted to be more wrong than I was about the Bush/Iraq war, but I never doubted that it would end up, more or less, where it has.

And so here I am, still blogging and hoping against hope that this country I love will no longer heed the advice of people who understand the world a lot less well than a fellow who's spent most of us life composing. It's not that I know so much, although I'm not stupid or uneducated. It's that the Bushites know so very, very little.

What the present crisis teaches us, a crisis in which the country is being led by clowns posing as experts, is that the opinions of ordinary citizens are vital to the running of a major democratic power. It's not that expertise isn't essential. Of course it is. But political expertise in a democracy must always confront the full range of public opinion in a meaningful manner. Otherwise, there lie monsters.

Today, the public discourse is so clotted and constrained, so limited to the right and far right, that it really is imperative for those of us who object to the direction the country is going to speak out, strongly and often. Not because we all deserve a prominent media role but rather in the hopes that eventually the media will be forced to broaden its coverage of political opinion to acknowledge voices like ours. Voices expert and persuasive enough to articulate alternatives to Bushism. Heaven knows we need them, and fast.


*When I first started to blog, I was a bit concerned about how my politics would affect my career, but didn't care that much. If anything, I care more now. By which I mean that I think it is extremely important to stand up and be counted in opposition to Bush. But I like being Tristero, it's part of who I am, and I don't see any reason to bump the guy off, any more than there's a reason to promote my music.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Democrat Libre

by digby

Matt Stoller has a fiery exchange going with Hotline Blogometer and Washington Examiner opinion writer, William Buetler, about the normally navel gazing subject of the blogosphere's influence on politics. I don't have a lot to add, except to take issue with one little bit that Buetler writes in his piece:

The phrase [Vichy Democrats]was timely, punchy, and summed up the anger I saw directed against moderate and conservative Democrats.

No, no, no and no. The anger was not and is not against moderate and conservative Democrats. Paul Hackett is a conservative Democrat. It is against those who seek to either make deals with or capitulate to Republicans, particularly on issues of fundamental principle. "Vichy" is a term I don't use because I think the Republicans do such a fine job of demeaning Dems that I don't need to help them. However, it is a particular term of art that means something quite specific: to sell out your own people to the enemy.

The grassroots of the Democratic Party see something that all the establishment politicians have not yet realized: bipartisanship is dead for the moment and there is no margin in making deals. The rules have changed. When you capitulate to the Republicans for promises of something down the road you are being a fool. When you make a deal with them for personal reasons, you are selling out your party. When you use Republican talking points to make your argument you are helping the other side. When you kiss the president on the lips at the state of the union you are telling the Democratic base that we are of no interest or concern to you. This hyper-partisanship is ugly and it's brutal, but it is the way it is.

It's not "left" and "right" or "liberal," "moderate," or "conservative" that animates the grassroots. We argue some amongst ourselves on policy, of course, but that's not the rap on the establishment. It's the desire that our representatives wake up and recognise that we are in a new political era in which these designations take second place to "Democrat." That's the environment we are in whether we like it or not --- a country sharply divided by party, not ideology.

The Democratic party did everything it could to alleviate the culture war and the partisanship in the 90's by electing southern moderates to the white house and helping the Republicans pass a lot of legislation born of major compromise of Democratic principles. Nothing was good enough. The culture war raged, not on the basis of policy --- there was much in Bill Clinton's policies for a Republican to love. It was based purely on the tribal instincts of the culture warriors who insisted that liberals not only be marginalized (fair enough in politics) but that they be annihilated. They gave no quarter unless public opinion absolutely forced them to.

The grassroots believe that after all that, after moving to the right, after offering to compromise, after allowing our "red state Democrats" to run with the other side who then treated them with nothing but bad faith, now is the time for politicans to make a choice. Submit to them or stand with the resistance.

What You See Is What You Get

by digby

I was just watching Bush give a speech and he said "it makes sense for the government to incent people."

I've never really subscribed to the great man theory, but I have to say that in my experience organizations do take their cues from the person at the top. When you have a president who says things this ridiculous every single day, for more than five years, I think it's safe to say that he is a boob. And his government is a perfect reflection of him: incompetent, arrogant, short-sighted, impulsive, secretive. A failure. That is the story of Bush's life. let no one ever say again that it doesn't matter who the president is becuase he'll have great people around him. Bush's government is as bad as anyone could have predicted when we saw him flub that answer about foreigh leaders back in 1999 --- he was clearly unprepared and unqualified. And he's proven it.

Filling In The Blank Check

by digby

Be sure to read Glenn Greenwald's piece today about the undercurrent in DC that suggests that the Republicans aren't so sanguine about the NSA scandal accruing to their benefit after all. This is clearly becauase of the pressure coming from within, but I think that mostly has to do with Bush's unpopularity generally (as I write below.) The bottom line is that the Eunuch Caucus needs some viagra, and quick.

Glenn links to this very revealing editorial in Pat Roberts' home paper:

Many Kansans, including members of The Eagle editorial board, have long admired Sen. Pat Roberts for his plainspokenness and reputation for fair brokering of issues.

So it's troubling that Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is fast gaining the reputation in Washington, D.C., as a reliable partisan apologist for the Bush administration on intelligence and security controversies.

We hope that's not true. But Roberts' credibility is on the line. . . .

What's bothering many, though, is that Roberts seems prepared to write the Bush team a series of blank checks to conduct the war on terror, even to the point of ignoring policy mistakes and possible violations of law.

That's not oversight -- it's looking the other way.

This is Kansas we're talking about.

It's also a sign that Rovism may have run its course. His MO, after all, is to entirely dominate the party from the top down, something that only works if the "top" can wield the whip. The Cheney episode was a window into the inner workings of the white house in this respect and it's quite clear that Rove does not have the clout he once did. He couldn't control Cheney. It's going to be harder and harder for him to control this nervous congress. All lame ducks have a hard time retaining control -- a lame duck at 39% is an albatross around his party's neck.

Of course, Rove is probably a little bit distracted by certain personal matters too. And that's one very good reason to keep the pressure on. Even if we can't advance our own agenda, we can certainly help make it difficult for them to advance theirs. That's just as important to successful politics as anything else.


Ombusdman On The Runway

by digby

This is rich. Julia catches Daniel Okrent, erstwhile "public editor" of the NY Times, being critical of the war coverage after he vociferously defended it in his column a while back:

He said poor press coverage lead to the Iraq war, because “in a time of war, editors being [sic] to wear epaulettes on their shoulder” and The Times' were not exceptional in jumping on the bandwagon.

I think Julia's being much to hard on poor Mr Okrent. When he was defending the media's coverage of the war, the Iraq invasion was the all the rage. Epaulettes were the new little black dress of imperialism. Sadly, it's now as out of date as stone washed jeans. He's just keeping himself on all the best invitation lists for fashion week.

Institutional Apostasy

by digby

Kevin Drum has written a review of Bruce Bartlett's "Imposter" (the heretical consrevative anti-Bush tract for the Washington Monthly.

Here's an excerpt:

Put in plain terms, Bartlett's charge is simple. George W. Bush, he says on page one, is a “pretend conservative.” Philosophically, Bush actually has more in common with liberals than he does with true conservatives.

Now, there's not much question that this is overstated. Bush won't be getting an invitation to join The New York Times editorial board any time soon. Among other things, he's appointed hundreds of conservative judges, cut taxes repeatedly and dramatically, signed into law a ban on partial-birth abortions, and committed America to its biggest and costliest war of choice since Vietnam.

And yet, in a narrower but still provocative way, Bartlett makes a persuasive case. I'm a pretty conventional FDR liberal myself, but several years ago, I came to the same conclusion Bartlett did: Bush may be a Republican—boy howdy, is he a Republican—but he's not the fire-breathing ideologue of liberal legend.

Kevin may be right that Bush has not governed like a doctrinaire conservative. But what's important here is that it's not the lack of conservatism that makes a guy like Bartlett jump ship. It's the failure. As long as Bush was riding high you heard almost nothing from these people. Oh sure there was a column or two from iconoclasts like Paul Craig Roberts or the occasional jab from Pat Buchanan. But there was no real outcry over the prescription drug benefit or the steel tariffs or the deficit during the entire time Bush has been in office. Certainly the anti-conservative notion of nation building, which Bush ran on, was totally jettisoned from conservative discussion. (We are all Wilsonians now.) Conservatives supported him so enthusiastically that they frequently compared his oratory(!) to Winston Churchill's:

To a greater extent than any politician since Churchill, President Bush has set forth and defended his policies in a series of speeches that combine intellectual brilliance and philosophical gravity. Today's speech in Latvia was the latest in this series, and, like the others, it will be studied by historians for centuries to come.

This was the cult of Bush. But, as with all modern Republican presidents who become unpopular, he will be ignominiously removed from the pantheon. They did it to Nixon, they did it to Bush Sr and they are now doing it to Churchill the second. It's always the same complaint. They failed not because of their conservatism, but because they were not conservative enough. It's nonsense, of course. Even St. Reagan was no more "conservative" than the others --- highest tax increase in history, remember?

Kevin discusses this and has a great insight about why liberals loathe Bush so much:

Although the popular perception of Nixon is still that of an archconservative who infuriated liberals, Bartlett reminds us that on domestic policy Nixon routinely caved in to public opinion and betrayed his conservative principles—for example, by creating the EPA, supporting enormous increases in Social Security, and proposing a guaranteed-incomes policy. Likewise, Bush spent nearly his entire first term talking tough but then caving in with barely a whimper to any interest group that might help him win a few more precious votes in 2004. Tariffs were enacted in order to appeal to steelworkers; the Medicare bill was designed to buy the votes of the elderly; and McCain-Feingold was signed in the hope that it would provide a temporary fundraising advantage for the Republican Party. If all of these actions were precisely the opposite of what a real conservative would do, so what? As Nixon might have said, don't you know there's an election coming up?

As far as all this goes, Bartlett's argument is a good one, and the Nixon comparison even provides a neat and underappreciated explanation for why liberals hate Bush so much. After all, it's possible to respect someone with whom you have a principled disagreement, but not so easy to respect someone whose only real principle is to crush anybody who gets in his way. (Bush's alter-ego, Karl Rove, summed up this philosophy within earshot of journalist Ron Suskind when he yelled to an aide about someone who had displeased him, “We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!”) As with Nixon, it's not really Bush's conservatism that gets liberals seething. In fact, it's just the opposite. It's precisely his lack of political principle, combined with a vengeful ruthlessness so dark it's scary, that makes liberals break out in hives.

Exactly. He's the perfect president for Limbaugh Nation (the successor to Nixonland.) But then, that's really what the modern Republican party is all about --- the big money boys and the ruthless operatives. Everybody else in the party are just dupes:

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees...Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." Michael Scanlon, former communications director to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff's first lieutenant

(And by the way, so-called principled conservatives are just another brand of "wackos" to these guys.)

Rick Perlstein knows this terrain very, very well. In the course of interviewing various ideological leaders of the movement over the years he came to see that the activists and intellectuals have an amazing capacity for compartmentalization in which they quite willingly adopt the "ends justify the means" strategy of the ruthless operatives. But they are, unsurprisingly, incredibly dishonest about it. Perlstein writes:

This past year, I interviewed Richard Viguerie about conservatives and the presidential campaign. I showed him an infamous flier the Republican National Committee had willingly taken credit for, featuring a crossed-out Bible and the legend, "This will be Arkansas if you don't vote." "To do this," Viguerie told me, "it reminds me of Bush the 41st, and not just him, but other non-conservative Republicans."

Republicans are different from conservatives: that was one of the first lessons I learned when I started interviewing YAFers. I learned it making small talk with conservative publisher Jameson Campaigne, in Ottawa, Illinois, when I asked him if he golfed. He said something like: "Are you kidding? I'm a conservative, not a Republican."

But back to Viguerie's expression of same. With a couple of hours' research I was able to find a mailer from an organization that was then one of his direct-mail clients that said "babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood."

Why not cut corners like this, if you believe you are defending the unchanging ground of our changing experience? This is what many Americans of good faith seem to be hearing conservatives telling them.

It is what they are telling us. But, ofcourse, the modern Republican party is not conservative by any definition of conservatism. I'm not even sure it's ideological at all, but to the extent it is, it's radical. Yet the allegedly conservative party has enthusiastically supported a president who believes that you can wage wars, lower taxes and expand government all at the same time. That's not just radical, it's magical. And they can hardly raise their heads even today to oppose an administration that is radically expanding the police powers of the federal government. But it's starting to happen. They can adjust their principles to anything except failure. A president at 40% simply cannot be a conservative. Conservatism is, after all, supposed to be tremendously popular in this country.

Here's a little preview from the ultimate Bush worshippers, Powerline:

For reasons I don't fully understand, there is something about "leaders," especially self-appointed leaders, and most especially those who are drawn to intensive participation in organizations, that tends toward liberalism. We see this in politics all the time, of course: it is one thing to vote for conservatism, something else entirely to get it from our elected leaders.

All of which makes me especially thankful, this year, for democracy, limited government and free enterprise: the best measures yet devised to protect us from our leaders.

By the time it's all over Bush is going to be seen as a coke-sniffing, frat boy hippy by the movement conservatives. This is how they do it. And then they'll go back to doing the same things they always do --- whatever it takes to win.

"Go after 'em like a son of a bitch" Richard Nixon

"I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around a campfire but are lousy in politics." Newt Gingrich

"This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS - Not only do you kick him - You kick him until he passes out - then beat him over the head with a baseball bat - then roll him up in an old rug - and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below!!!!!"Michael Scanlon, former communications director to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff's first lieutenant


Sunday, February 19, 2006


by digby

Jane is admirably doing battle with the WaPo again. Deborah Howell's column today is the usual bizarre mixture of harsh theatre critic and sycophancy. I don't get it.

I remember fondly the work of Geneva Overholser who actually worked as the readers representative and honestly attempted to analyse and assess the paper's performance. Here was her take on the Lewinsky scandal (after she left the job):

“We allowed ourselves to be used by leakers, and we gave people cover — and encouraged their underhanded methods — by constantly quoting people anonymously.”

Here was Downie's take:

In the deposition story, Downie said, the Post was asking readers to trust the paper, “which is why it is very important not to make mistakes. At the moment, I’m pleased to say to readers, look at our track record. Everything has been shown to be accurate and fair.”

That, of course, was utter crap. Read this study conducted by the Committee of Concerned Journalists, about the behavior of the press during the Lewinsky scandal:

"The findings of the study, conducted by the Committee of Concerned Journalists, raise questions about whether the press always maintained adequate skepticism about its sources. There were occasions, moreover, when the press got ahead of the facts in its basic reporting. Others then used that work to engage in sometimes reckless speculation and propaganda. ... Overall, the research paints a picture of a news media culture that in breaking stories usually relied on legitimate sources and often was careful about the facts in the initial account. But even in these careful stories, the press at times tended to accept interpretations from those sources uncritically and may have had a penchant to emphasize the perspective of investigators over those being investigated. ... At other times, reporting was based on sources whose knowledge was second hand, and this occasionally got journalists into trouble. ... On occasion, the press also ferried speculation, some of which could have been construed as threats, from investigators into news accounts, raising questions about whether the press was sufficiently wary of being used by sources, especially law enforcement sources."

Now we are supposed to take the reporting by people like Susan Schmidt, a primary Republican leak recipient, at face value on the Abramoff story. Sorry, fool me once ... won't get fooled again. There is no more "trusting the paper." (Not to mention that she appears to have simply worked off the report of a dead man.)

Jane links to one terrific point that Paul Lukasiak made in her comments (which was inexplicably purged from the new WaPo comments section):

Paul said (among other things):

... I mean, personally, I stopped asking for the documents that Harris, Howell, Willis, Schmidt, and the rest of the Post claims provides proof that Jack Abramoff "directed" contributions to Democrats. When I looked into what little Howell and her cohorts did provide, I discovered that their "evidence" actually disproved their assertions. So I did further research.....and there is literally nothing which in the public record that suggests that Jack Abramoff was personally and directly involved in getting any of his clients to contribute to a single Democratic candidate. Zero. NADA. NOTHING.

Now, Howell, and Brady, and Schmidt, and Willis know this as well as I do. But the more we keep asking this question, the more likely it is that they will come up with a new "spin" on the meager facts that they do have that can indirectly tie Jack Abramoff to contributions made to Democratic politicians. Of course, those "ties" are no more solid than the "ties" that connect Jack Abramoff to the 9-11 attacks because some of the terrorists visited a casino owned by Abramoff.

If Susan Schmitt and the Post wanted to build a circumstantial case implicating Abramoff with the 9-11 attacks, she could do so. If Schmitt and the Post wanted to tie Jack Abramoff to Mafia hit men involved in the murder of the former owner of his casino, she could do so. But Schmitt and the Post have decided to tie Abramoff to the Democratic Party --- with the same level of circumstantial and indirect evidence the Post could use to tie Abramoff to the 9-11 attacks and a mafia hit.

After everything they did during Lewinsky, they are back at it again without missing a beat. To make such assumptions about Abramoff's "ties" to Democrats truly is not much different than tying Abramoff to the 9-11 attacks. And in this case there is evidence of the opposite being true. The tribes had long been Democratic constituents yet gave less to Democrats than Republicans once Abramoff began representing them. Abramoff was a long time Republican operative. There is documentary evidence that Abramoff was frustrated with his clients for failing to do everything he told them to do.

As Paul points out, the only documentary evidence ever used to back up the claims of the Post and elsewhere that Abramoff "directed" funds is the fact that funds went to Democrats. That is meaningless circumstantial nonsense.

Until there is something more substantial on which to base this claim of Abramoff "directing" funds, it is nothing but rank speculation. Susan Schmidt (who actually got an award for this nearly plagiarized coverage!) is particularly not credible on any speculative reporting. I simply do not trust her unless all the facts and all the sources are on the record. Her history requires it.

Pounding the Washington Post on this issue is a good idea. We may find that Abramoff did personally direct some money to Democrats. But it is outrageous that they continue to assert this as fact when they have none. If bloggers "look bad" somewhere down the road that's a chance we'll have to take. The Post "looks bad" right now and they should have to explain why they are continuing to assert something for which they can offer no proof.

Teaching Them A Lesson

by digby

I got a very interesting trackback from "Right Thinking From The Left Coast" to my post "haters vs haters" that was unfortunately zapped when blogger deleted posts and comments.

Here's an excerpt:

Sully’s got an interesting post up about how the left is more hateful than the right. First read this post, then this one. In the second post Sully links to this leftie blogger who disagrees, saying the right is more hateful.


In support of his assertion of Limbaugh’s “hatred” he offers this quote.

I said at the conclusion of previous hours—part of me that likes this. And some of you might say, “Rush, that’s horrible. Peace activists taken hostage.” Well, here’s why I like it. I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality.


Okay, a few comments here, if I may. I’ll preface my remarks by stating that I’m not a regular Limbaugh listener, though since Howard Stern has gone off the air I have found that I’ve tuned in to him a lot more during my ten minute morning drive. I’ll also stipulate that you could very reasonably make the argument that Michael Savage and Ann Coulter speak hatred. But Limbaugh? He’s always struck me as being provocative and opinionated, but I’ve never heard anything from him that I would consider “hatred.”

Take the quote above, which the leftie blogger has taken totally out of context. He’s not cheering the fact that people have been kidnapped. What he’s saying is that he likes the fact that, because of their own actions, these “peace” activists are being forced to deal with the consequences of their own stupid beliefs. It’s like when you have a guy who makes a living sticking his head into the mouths of alligators, and the alligator chomps down on his head. Can anyone really look at the guy with sympathy? He voluntarily stuck his head into the mouth of an alligator. Would it be “hateful” for someone like me to come along and say, “See? This is why you shouldn’t stick your head into an alligator’s mouth.” So when some raving moonbat “peace” activist assumes a haughty air of moral superiority and goes to where the Islamists are, and then the Islamists capture them and hold them for ransom, it’s not hateful at all to then say, “See? This is what your lofty ideals of peace get you.”

There is nothing hateful about enjoying the suffering of other people when that suffering is due to their own stupidity. We do this all the time. Some dumbass climbs an electricity tower and gets electrocuted. He had to climb over fifty signs warning him of the danger, telling him to keep out, yet he did it anyway. Most pragmatic people would say, “Let this be a lesson to everyone else.” I remember a story a few years back about a protest over a ban on BASE jumping off Half Dome here in California. The park service banned it because it was unsafe. To demonstrate how safe it was a bunch of jumpers climbed up there and began jumping off. One of the jumpers leaped off the edge, her chute failed to open, and she plunged to hear death. The less on to be learned here is that BASE jumping is indeed unsafe, and those who engage in it run the very real risk of dying from it. Such is the case with the peace activists.

I had a friend once a few years ago, a die hard leftie, an admitted capital-S socialist. We were discussing the situation in the Middle East, and I referred to the Islamists as our enemies.


He simply refused to recognize the fact that the Islamists would hate him simply by virtue of being who and what he was. He honestly believed that, if he had the chance, he could convince the Islamists that he was not their enemy, that they could peacefully coexist with his kind. He steadfastly refused to believe in the concept of enemies. The peace activists suffer from the same delusion. So, when people on the right say “These people hate you and will kill you,” and the lefties subsequently get kidnapped, how is this substantively different from a guy who voluntarily sticks his head into an alligator’s mouth and expects nothing bad to happen to him?

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether it's hateful to enjoy the suffering of others regardless of how "stupid" they are. (Psychologists would call it sociopathic.) Let's just say that I think it's cold and inhuman and leave it at that.

But there is a leap of logic here that's worth exploring. If it is true that this suffering and death serves as a sort of teachable moment, we should also "kind of like" the beheadings of the other civilians captured in Iraq and Pakistan. They are dead at the hands of the same people who are teaching those peace activists a lesson. And they too were told that it is dangerous to do what they did and they did it anyway.They jumped off the same cliff as the peace activists. Of course they did it for different reasons. One did it purely for money. Another lived there for years working for Lockheed. One did it to tell "a story." Another was there for decades doing humanitarian work. Should the lesson we take from their deaths be that they deserved what they got because they were too stupid to know that they might be killed?

Do soldiers deserve to die forbeing soft and doing good deeds in a violent war zone?

"When he got to Iraq, one captain was telling us that you were trained not to get out of your vehicle," said his father, James McGaugh of Springdale. "He said he looked over and Dustin was out giving candy to a bunch of kids."

Their commander in chief's stated motivation is to "help the Iraqi people" because "freedom is the Almighty's gift to each person in this world." How earnest and naive is that? Perhaps he needs to be taught a lesson about war and killing and violence too.

These enjoyable teachable moments get complicated, don't they? You really have to delve into people's minds to be able to figure out whether it's ok to enjoy their suffering or become enraged. Peace activists are easy. The right knows that they are putting their hands into the fire and deserve to get burned so they'll understand that being a peace activist in a war zone is stupid. They can't help but "kind of like it." The kidnapping and beheading of the kid who went over to build satellite towers, on the other hand, made everyone crazy with anger. But it certainly appears that he quite stupidly put his head into the alligator's mouth for no good reason at all. And the soldier who gets killed because he gives candy to children --- well, he's a hero, isn't he?

It's a good thing the right doesn't believe in moral relativism or they might really get confused.

BTW: They are still threatening to kill the four Christian peace activists.

"The Beltway's Madwoman of Chaillot*

by digby

You really have to wonder who is ever going to be dumb enough to ever hire Mary Matalin again? This shooting mess was clearly her deal and she couldn't have fucked it up worse than she did. She couldn't handle her client and she's still out there spinning like a top --- and badly --- when she should just shut the hell up. What a fun, fun day it was on Press the Meat.

Crooks and Liars has the full catastrophe on his web-site. Wolcott documents the strange facial expressions of the Madwoman of Chaillot.

But I haven't heard anyone comment on Paul Gigot, GOP good ole boy who apparently lives somewhere in rural Nebraska:

Not looking at this, by the way, David, from—you know, I didn’t speak to anybody from the White House or the vice president’s office all week on this. It was looking at it from outside the Beltway and saying where did this story stand on the relative scale of importance? Looked to me to be a human tragedy, the vice president made a mistake, it was probably in not disclosing it himself, letting someone else do it. But that’s a relatively minor mistake. I think scandal standards are declining in Washington if this becomes another big, huge scandal which this is supposed to be a metaphor for for governing, a bunker of secrecy which is, I think, what some of the Democrats in the Senate were saying. This is a metaphor for the way this administration operates. I just don’t think that’s true. And so I think mockery was appropriate.


Well, I think—well, let’s make some distinctions between stories that really matter ...

Yes, let's do. For instance, let's remember what it was like back when standards for scandals were much higher:

"Mr. Blumenthal’s [grand jury] testimony reveals a president doing much more than hiding an affair. He was using the powers of his office to create a false story that would destroy Ms. Lewinsky... Mr. Clinton was telling his most fervent supporter that his president was the victim of lies and a gross injustice. Wouldn’t Mr. Blumenthal want to tell everyone in the White House and around the world why his hero was innocent? If Mr. Clinton didn’t want his chief political communicator to broadcast this phony tale, he could have said so. There’s no record he did... In her interview with House managers on Sunday, Ms. Lewinsky seemed surprised when they asked her about Mr. Blumenthal’s testimony and the ‘stalker’ line. Maybe this explains the furious Democratic opposition even to videotaping her testimony."

Now that's a scandal with standards. About issues that really matter.

Gigot, I recall, was, at one time, none too pleased with those "outside the beltway" who didn't seem to be too interested in impeaching the "evil" Bill Clinton. He didn't think the American people's standards were high enough:

The good news is that Mr. Hyde can finally step back and laugh about such nonsense, which he did in an interview yesterday. With impeachment ending, the 74-year-old chairman reflected on the duty he never wanted, his errors along the way and the meaning of Senate acquittal. He's more cheerful than he has a right to be.

"I had a naive, utopian hope that as we documented the record, people who paid only passing attention would come to the conclusion that this was serious," he says. "That just never happened."

Like many others, he isn't sure why. "I'm a little bewildered by the American people," says the World War II Navy man. "I just don't know if our standards have got so low that this behavior is tolerated." He acknowledges that "this was a culture war," and maybe the 1960s' generation "revels in this guy's success. I don't know."

One culprit Mr. Hyde is certain of is modern polling, which he now believes can be politically self-fulfilling. Snapshot polls are taken and then echoed by politicians and the media until their biases harden into concrete, if not wisdom. "Nobody wants to be the oddball," he says.

Mr. Hyde won't say so, but he also wasn't helped by Ken Starr or his fellow GOP leaders. Mr. Starr waited too long to cut a deal with Monica Lewinsky, declined to indict anyone in the case, then dumped a referral on Congress that was only about Monica's case and two months before an election at that.

"You're right, we got sex, and that was the least viable topic for us to run on," he concedes, after praising Mr. Starr for his perseverence.

Gigot won the Pulitzer prize for that. And it wasn't for fiction.

Everybody let Gigot and Hyde down. The people, Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in the senate --- they all failed to remove the evil Clinton from office. Now Gigot is on television complaining that our standards for scandals have been lowered.

How do these people manage to live normal lives with this lack of self awareness?

Genius Over Genius

by digby

The New York Times

Should the composer Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" be heard as an oratorio that accompanies the 1928 silent film classic "The Passion of Joan of Arc"? Or is it the film, by the Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, that accompanies Mr. Einhorn's 80-minute musical work?

That is the question raised by Mr. Einhorn's ambitious score. In any event, the audience that packed the Winter Garden in Lower Manhattan on Thursday night for a free performance seemed too swept away by "Voices of Light" to care about its category.

Presented as part of the World Financial Center's Arts + Events series, "Voices of Light" brought together the Ensemble Sospeso, a contemporary-music group beefed up here to an orchestra of 37, the New Amsterdam Singers, four fine vocal soloists, and Anonymous 4, the officially disbanded early-music vocal quartet, which reunited for this performance. As intended, Mr. Einhorn's work was performed while the film that inspired it was screened.

"Voices of Light" has been performed more than 100 times around the world over the last 10 years, providing a nice income source for Mr. Einhorn, who has also been a record producer. If nothing else, the composer deserves thanks for introducing new audiences to Dreyer's masterpiece, which was nearly lost.

Shortly after its premiere, the film was destroyed in a fire. Though shattered, Dreyer reconstructed an acceptable version using negatives from outtakes. Incredibly, the replacement film was lost in a second fire. For decades the work was known only through various bastardized versions. Then, in 1981, as Mr. Einhorn explained to the audience, an intact copy of the original film was discovered in a janitor's closet in a mental hospital in Oslo. When Mr. Einhorn saw this wonderfully restored print, he was moved to compose his score.

"Voices of Light" has a libretto of Latin and French texts assembled by Mr. Einhorn. Anonymous 4 sing quotations of Joan's words from the transcript of her trial for blasphemy in 1431. The chorus and soloists sing a patchwork of writings from medieval mystics, mostly women. Mr. Einhorn's sensitive score deftly shifts styles from evocations of neomedieval counterpoint to wistful modal murmurings over droning pedal tones, from bursts of Minimalistic repetitions to moments of piercing modern harmony.

While never getting in the way, the music heightens the impact of this pathbreaking film, which tells the story of Joan's trial at the hands of French clerics who supported the occupying English forces in 15th-century France. Most of the characters are shot in discomfiting close-ups. You see the faces of officious and accusing priests, with warts, creviced skin, bad teeth and bulbous noses. You are riveted by the face of Joan (Renée Maria Falconetti), which conveys an eerie mix of wide-eyed fear and delirious elation.

David Hattner conducted a calmly authoritative performance that featured Susan Narucki (soprano), Janice Meyerson (mezzo-soprano), Mark Bleeke (tenor) and Kevin Deas (bass) as the vocal soloists. The score can be heard on a Sony Classical CD. But ideally this music should be experienced as a live complement to Dreyer's stunning film.

The performance was taped for broadcast on the WNYC-FM (93.9) show "New Sounds" on March 2.

I thought you all should see this because I imagine most of you don't know that the brilliant "tristero" is also the brilliant Richard Einhorn.

If you haven't had the opportunity to see this film on DVD, accompanied by Richard's amazing score, then I urge you to get it. It's not like any silent film you've ever seen --- and of course it's not actually silent. The score speaks more eloquently than any dialog short of Shakespeare could match.

The film and score are great artistic achievements, but they are also extremely interesting for their sociological insight. Based as it is on the transcripts of Joan's trial for heresy, I never thought this film would have such resonance to events in my own lifetime --- but it does. Same as it ever was.


by digby

Blogger ate the comments below, so I'm going to post this in response to those who felt I had gone "insane" and they would never read this blog again because I said "Bill Clinton was the best Republican president in my lifetime."

First of all, it was not meant as a slur. Perhaps I should have added that he was also the best Democratic president in my lifetime, which he was, but that was not my point. I'm a great fan of Clinton's and voted for him happily both times.

"Republicanism" is not inherently evil. Before we became ridiculously polarized by the right wing ideologues, it was common to split tickets in this country. I've done it myself a time or two and I consider myself to be a hard core liberal. And there were times that if forced to vote for certain Democrats back in the day there's no way I could have done it. A whole bunch of racist assholes used to be Democrats. The lablels are only useful up to a point.

The fact is that Bill Clinton governed in the only way he could with an out of control GOP congress and a hostile press: as a moderate centrist. All successful presidents pragmatically survey the political terrain and move forward the best way they can and Clinton was admirably successful at getting things done through a centrist triangulation strategy. I'm not criticizing him for it. I'm amazed that the man was able to pass any legislation at all. It's a testament to his gifts that his presidency wasn't a total failure considering what he had to work with.

I'm a Democrat and always have been. To call me a Naderite is absurd. But in my lifetime Republicanism wasn't always a dirty word, which is why I always couch my extreme criticism with the words "modern Republicans." Looking back, Dwight Eisenhower was a good president who moved this country forward in ways that would make any modern progressive proud. That tradition of Republicanism is good for this country. I only wish we had some today. It is in that sense that I called Bill Clinton the best Republican president in my lifetime.

Blogger ate comments again. Sorry.

Political Religion

by digby

Following up on my earlier post, I just realized that Andrew Sullivan entitled his piece "Religious Left" which is very interesting. This latest dialog began with Glenn Greenwald's great post earlier this week in which he proclaimed modern Republicanism a Bush cult. It was widely read and discussed on the right as well as the left blogopshere. I disagreed a little bit with Glenn's analysis and called it a Republican Authoritarian Cult because I can already see beginning to detach from Bush and prepare the ground for whoever the next object of their authoritarian passion turns out to be.

The other day Elizabeth Bumiller did an article on Bruce Bartlett, who was portrayed as being "out in the cold;"

What happens if you're a Republican commentator and you write a book critical of President George W. Bush that gets you fired from your job at a conservative think tank?

For starters, no other conservative institution rushes in with an offer for your superb analytical skills.

"Nobody will touch me," said Bruce Bartlett, the author of the forthcoming "Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy." He added, "I think I'm just kind of radioactive at the moment."

Bartlett, a domestic policy aide at the White House in the Reagan administration and a deputy assistant Treasury secretary under the first President Bush, talked last week at his suburban Washington home about his dismissal, his book and a growing disquiet among conservatives about Bush.

Although "Impostor" is flamboyant in its anti-Bush sentiments - on the first page Bartlett calls Bush a "pretend conservative" and compares him to Richard M. Nixon, "a man who used the right to pursue his agenda" - its basic message reflects the frustration of many conservatives who say that Bush has been on a five-year government spending binge. Like them, Bartlett is particularly upset about Bush's Medicare prescription drug plan, which is expected to cost more than $700 billion over the next decade.

He is unhappy, too, with the president's education and campaign finance bills and his proposal to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, which many Republicans call a dressed-up amnesty plan. The book, to be published by Doubleday on Feb. 28, also criticizes the White House for "an anti-intellectual distrust of facts and analysis" and an obsession with secrecy.

"The Clinton people were vastly more open and easier to deal with and, quite frankly, a lot better on the issues," Bartlett said in the interview, in the kitchen of his pared-down modern house on a street of big new homes in Great Falls. Bartlett hastened to add that although he admired Clinton's economic policies, that did not mean he had changed sides.

"I haven't switched to the Democratic Party," he said. "I wrote this for Republicans."

Bartlet's true apostasy is in saying that Clinton was better on the issues. (I certainly would agree that Clinton was the best Republican president of my lifetime.) As for the rest of his criticsm, he's just laying the groundwork for the eventual purge of Bushism --- a purge that is already gaining steam.

Bill Schneider had this report today on CNN:

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Cracks are beginning to appear in President Bush's conservative base. One leading conservative characterizes the view of Bush this way.


SCHNEIDER: But what? Well, consider this. Nearly half of self- described conservatives say President Bush has done something to make them angry. Like what? Many conservatives have problems with the Bush administration's expansive view of government. They're outraged by the deficit.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: It's simply morally wrong for us to allow the expansion of government and pass that bill along to our children and grandchildren.

SCHNEIDER: This week, an all-Republican congressional committee examining the government's response to Hurricane Katrina issued a scathingly critical report. REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: The president or the secretary or Andy Card or someone who'd say, "Do you have everything you need?" And he'd say yes. But there was no supervision. And they were just not engaged.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush's immigration policies have angered many conservatives.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: And if the president of the United States really wanted to, he could secure the border tomorrow.

SCHNEIDER: Some conservatives are asking, should the U.S. be engaged in nation building in Iraq?

KEENE: Part of the base belief of conservatives is that the people in Washington have neither the confidence nor the ability to tell the people of Peoria, Illinois, how to order their lives. It therefore sort of seems inconsistent to say that, "Well, we may not be able to do that, but we do know how to organize societies halfway across the globe."

George W Bush has won two elections with the unquestioning support of conservatives. In his first term he made it quite obvious that he was not a conservative in any sense that I understood conservative. From out of control spending to federalizing education to nation building and messianic foreign policy, he has simply not been conservative by any common definition of the term. None of that stopped conservatives from virtually worshipping the man. It is only now that he has become unpopular and his policies are failing that his brand of conservatism is being criticized on the right. And he's being criticized for being

George W. Bush will not achieve a place in the Republican pantheon. Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed. (And a conservative can only fail because he is too liberal.)

Dave Neiwert chimed in on this discussion yesterday and wrote a very intriguing post in which he posits that the modern Republican party might more aptly be called a political religion, which, as it happens, is an acknowledged sociological designation. He writes:

I wonder if there isn't another way of framing this that can help progressives get a handle on what we're dealing with. Particularly, I wonder if it wouldn't help to think of the discrete conservative movement as a political religion.

Here's the Wikepedia entry, which is actually rather accurate on the subject:

In the terminology of some scholars working in sociology, a political religion is a political ideology with cultural and political power equivalent to those of a religion, and often having many sociological and ideological similarities with religion. Quintessential examples are Marxism and Nazism, but totalitarianism is not a requirement (for example neo-liberalism can be analysed as a political religion).

... The term political religion is a sociological one, drawing on the sociological aspects of religion which can be often be found in certain secular ideologies. A political religion occupies much the same psychological and sociological space as a theistic religion, and as a result it often displaces or coopts existing religious organisations and beliefs; this is described as a "sacralisation" of politics. However, although a political religion may coopt existing religious structures or symbolism, it does not itself have any independent spiritual or theocratic elements - it is essentially secular, using religion only for political purposes, if it does not reject religious faith outright.

Obviously, this movement embraces religious faith outright, which may give it certain advantages over more secular political religions, since it so readily taps into ordinary people's deeply held beliefs and exploits them.

Nonetheless, when we begin to run down the various aspects of political religions, the resemblance becomes even sharper:

Key memetic qualities often (not all are always strongly present) shared by religion (particularly cults) and political religion include:


-- differentiation between self and other, and demonisation of other (in theistic religion, the differentiation usually depends on adherence to certain dogmas and social behaviours; in political religion, differentiation may be on grounds such as race, class, or nationality instead)

-- a charismatic figurehead, with messianic tendencies; if figurehead is deceased, powerful successors;

-- strong, hierarchical organisational structures

-- a desire to control education, in order to ensure the security of the system


-- a coherent belief system for imposing symbolic meaning on the external world, with an emphasis on security through purity;

-- an intolerance of other ideologies of the same type

-- a degree of utopianism and the aim of radically transforming society into an end-state (an end of history)

-- the belief that the ideology is in some way natural or obvious, so that (at least for certain groups of people) those who reject it are in some way "blind"

-- a genuine desire on the part of individuals to convert others to the cause

-- a willingness to place ends over means -- in particular, a willingness to use violence

-- fatalism -- a belief that the ideology will inevitably triumph in the end

David Brooks says that the left is Stalinist. I assume that's what Sullivan's title refers to as well. Communism is often considered a secular religion, although that clearly underestimates the huge power of state coercion. If the American left is Stalinist, it certainly has been extremely ineffective. After all, conservatism now dominates all three branches of government. And I can't help but find this argument amusing considering that the primary critique of Democrats is that we have no convictions and are constantly fighting amongst ourselves. We are remarkably undisciplined totalitarians.

In one way both parties share the same religion: an all-American obsession with winning. In this I actually envy the right. When they fail, as everyone inevitably does at times, they don't lose their faith. Indeed, failure actually reinforces it.
Liberals, on the other hand, have nothing like that. We hate our leaders for failing us. It's a personal thing --- as if we are in a bad marriage and we have lost all respect for our partners. But then that's how most Americans are these days. You are a winner or a loser and nobody wants to be associated with a loser. The Republicans are smart enough to rid themselves of failure by always being able to convince themselves that the failure had nothing to do with their belief system. It must be very nice to live in a world in which you can never, ever be wrong.

Haters vs Haters

by digby

This week, the issue of which side of the political spectrum is more hateful is back and it's all I can do to stop myself from crawling back under the covers and staying there. Alleged apostates Andrew Sullivan and Marshall Wittman both tut-tut the barbaric behavior of the left today, saying that it is actually much worse than the unpleasantness they sometimes hear from the right.

I don't know how many ways you can say this but I'll try again: hatefulness is not confined to any particular political persuasion --- but there is only one side that makes a fucking profit at it.

How many hateful liberal books accusing Republicans of treason, slander, being unhinged or ruining the world are there out there? A couple? Probably. But let's just say that the market for accusing political opposition of capital crimes, indulging in fantasies about their extinction and musing about how someone should be killed as a way of sending a message to others has leaned heavily on the right wing side of the equation for decades.

Which liberal radio stars are given 250 million dollar contracts to talk every day about how liberals are in cahoots with al Qaeda or indulge in hate-filled rants about hurricane victims and gays? None? Right.

Which liberal TV News nework features an exclusive line-up of outwardly liberal pundits who publicly accuse conservatives of giving aid and comfort to the enemy? None? Check.

Sullivan says this:

Yes, I get homophobic hate mail from the right all the time; and many conservative blogs have blackballed or slimed or smeared me in various ways. But that's, sadly, what you get for being provocative and opinionated on the web. Bottom line: Hugh Hewitt is not as hateful as Eric Alterman, as any reader can see for themselves.

Now, I'm not going to even bother arguing the relative hatefulness of Eric Alterman and Hugh Hewitt because that's a false equivalence. Let's stipulate for the sake of argument that Eric Alterman is hateful. As hateful as a lefty can get. And let's for the sake of argument assume that he's more hateful than Hugh Hewitt. I'll even say, for the sake of argument, that he's more hateful than all the writers of the Weekly Standard put together. He's a real son of a bitch.

But can anyone claim with a straight face that he's more hateful than Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter? Is he more hateful than Michael Savage, Glen Beck, Bill o'Reilly and Sean Hannity? And, more importantly, can anyone claim that he has even a modicum of the influence these people have?

Ann Coulter was just cheered deliriously by the young conservatives assembled at the CPAC convention, where the vice president, the majority leader of the senate and many other powerful leaders of the Republican party were assembled. The same convention features bumper stickers that says things like:

"Happiness is Hillary's face on a milk carton"

The right wing has developed an entire industry of hate, where people like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are extremely well compensated and feted with adulation and esteem by the most powerful people in the political establishment. When Rush said something so bizarre and outrageous (about the revolting treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib) that even the mainstream media woke up for a moment or two to comment, the National Review raced to defend him:

Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the "facts." We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves and to the courageous young Americans who defend her.

This is the same man who said:

I said at the conclusion of previous hours -- part of me that likes this. And some of you might say, "Rush, that's horrible. Peace activists taken hostage." Well, here's why I like it. I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality.

For the record, notorious leftist hatemonger Eric Alterman has never celebrated the deaths of political rivals. Nor does any leftist hatemonger have a 250 million dollar media contract to celebrate the deaths of his political rivals. I can only assume that this is because there just isn't enough of a market to support such a thing. Before getting themselves in a tizzy about the hateful left, perhaps Wittman and Sullivan should ask why that might be so.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Scary Visions

by digby

I'm a little bit under the weather today. I think I'm hallucinating. I just tuned in to MSNBC and thought I saw a segment about ski-jumping called "Tucker In Training" featuring Tucker Carlson in a skin tight purple and yellow ski suit with a pin striped shirt under it.

I must be feverish. That can't be true, can it?

H v. H

by tristero

Via Peter Daou's excellent blog of blogs , which of course includes brilliant original posting of his own, I learned that a rightwing blog posted a link to Hugh Hewitt's interview with Helen Thomas. I suggest clicking on the mp3 link and taking a listen. The wingers obviously think that Hewitt got the better of Thomas. I truly don't hear it that way and to my mind, the transcript gives a skewed notion of the way the conversation flowed. But go and judge for yourself.

In any event, I'd like to ask you about one thing, out of many that occur to me, and "who won" is not that central a question to my immediate interest here.

I'd like to suggest that it would be very instructive for liberals and Dems to look at the rhetorical strategies used by Hewitt. I'd like us to trace how a discussion that began with a simple, easy question about what Thomas thought about the vice president shooting a 78 year old man morphed into Hewitt trying to set up a faux confrontation which - while looking obviously contrived to us - was designed to make Hewitt's dittoheads think that Thomas had been reluctantly forced to concede that Saddam was an evil man.

I think we can all agree that there seems little direct causal connection between the two subjects - unless one gets snarky, and that won't accomplish much. So really, how did Hewitt move the conversation to that point? What were the strategies he used? What did Thomas do in response? Where did Hewitt mess up? Where did Thomas? How did they recover? What do you think Hewitt's point was? Did he make that point - not to you, but to his dittoheads?

Most importantly, what can the next person who's not a card-carrying Bushite learn from this in order to make it next to impossible for Hewitt to find any red meat from using these kinds of cheap tactics? I am certain this is how Hewitt interviews all those he suspects of card-carrying liberalism no matter what the topic. Knowing exactly what he does should suggest numerous ways to make it all but impossible for him to get away with it.

Not that Thomas did poorly; as I said, I think she did quite well. But I'm curious: how can the next person do even better? What would they need to do? Also, please note that I'm NOT suggesting that a single position be changed to accommodate a clown like Hewitt (or any other conservative). I am asking, "How can the next potential victim best turn Hewitt's cynical game against him?"

I think it is more than possible to do so. This guy is a piker and I think a little bit of careful thought could make him look like a buffoon even to his own followers. Yes, folks: Even if those bias studies are right and people tend to excuse hypocrisy in those they believe in, I think it is more than possible to turn Hugh Hewitt into a joke in the eyes of the people who think he's right.

And I think it would be a very good idea to do so.
Herbert's Right. Dammit.

by tristero

I didn't post my suspicions, but My Smart Spouse will confirm that within minutes of first hearing the news that Cheney had shot a 78 year old man in the face, I suspected there was drinking involved. And unfortunately, I was right. This is a genuine catastrophe, because it means that Bob Herbert's call for Cheney's resignation is, as I see it, exactly right. Damn, damn, damn!

If it happens - and I suspect the odds are about 60/40 that it won't, which are lousy odds - then one of two things will happen. Either Bush will play the GOP loyalty card and we'll have Vice-President Rice, which will be extremely bad for Democrats for, oh, about the next geologically significant aeon or two. Or if he's feeling personally insecure, Bush will appoint a far right lunatic in the Santorum mold, confident that no one would dare to impeach Bush even if, somehow, Democrats manage to win majorities in the House and Senate.

Either way, it's bad news. Not only for Democrats but for the entire country. True, Cheney is bad news already. But never underestimate Bush's ability to make an awful situation far worse.

On the other hand...I've got a thought! Let's see where this leads:

Maybe Bush could really show he has the country's best interests at heart and just go for it! I'm saying, if he knows Cheney's resignation is inevitable, why not go for extra credit and resign along with him? And take the rest of the administration along as well?

Hmm... Well, to be honest, I do see maybe a few practical problems with that - like how to avoid a President Hastert, for one. And the worldwide collapse of confidence in the US, which would probably trigger a worldwide economic panic of mega-tsunami proportions.

Big deal. As George Packer might say, Hey, y'never know, it just might work. Let's give it a shot. So I say:

Resign, Mr. Cheney, and take the whole damn administration along with you.

(Note to rightwingers and other humor-impaired readers: Everything from "On the other hand" is satire. Anyone caught taking it seriously will be peppered with pixels as soon as I put down my brewski. However, I am quite serious about this: Cheney must resign.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hiding From The Breathalyzer

by digby

He was drinking all day:

Cheney said he drank a beer with lunch the day of the shooting, according to his interview. The shooting took place about 5:50 p.m.

Armstrong had previously told CNN that she never saw Cheney or Whittington "drink at all on the day of the shooting until after the accident occurred, when the vice president fixed himself a cocktail back at the house."

Lee Anne McBride of Cheney's office referred CNN to a statement from the Kenedy County Sheriff's Office Monday, which said that the investigation "reveals that there was no alcohol or misconduct involved in the incident."

That's not exactly convincing when the secret service "made an appointment" with the sheriff's office for the next day and ran off the deputy who showed up to interview Cheney at the ranch.

She's So Relieved

by digby

It's just so awful when the kewl kidz have to report icky things about Republicans. It makes everybody feel so darned uncomfortable!

Candy Crowley just said:

"Assuming that nothing else comes up, I suspect this fades."

Now if Cheney had received fellatio and hidden it from his wife instead of drinking beer while on medication, shooting a man at close range and hiding it from the public, the story might not fade. Not because they would be concerned about his personal sex life, of course. It would be because of what it said about the his character.

On the other hand Jack Cafferty just slammed Cheney for running to his little friends at Fox News for his softball interview. "Talk about seeking a safe haven..."

Of course as one of my readers reminded me, Cheney has officially endorsed FoxNews:

Vice President Cheney endorsed the Fox News Channel during a conference call last night with tens of thousands of Republicans who were gathered across the country to celebrate a National Party for the President Day organized by the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Fox News styles its coverage as "fair and balanced," but it has a heavy stable of conservative commentators that makes it a favorite around the White House. It is unusual for a president or vice president to single out a commercial enterprise for public praise.

The comment came as Cheney took questions from supporters at 5,245 parties that were held in 50 states to energize grass-roots volunteers building a precinct-by-precinct army for President Bush's campaign.

"It's easy to complain about the press -- I've been doing it for a good part of my career," Cheney said. "It's part of what goes with a free society. What I do is try to focus upon those elements of the press that I think do an effective job and try to be accurate in their portrayal of events. For example, I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets."

Good girl Candy. Bow down to the administration AND your competition.

"I'm The Guy Who Pulled The Trigger"

by digby

ReddHedd's doing the play by play of the Fox interview with Cheney. He keeps saying it was the worst day of his life. He'll never foreget it, blah, blah, blah. Very touching, I'm sure.

In fact he was so upset that he went back to the ranch and sat down for dinner.

But he was very worried while he ate so that's ok. In fact, he was so busy worrying and eating that he couldn't even make some calls to DC to have his press office inform the public.

And then there's this. Jesus, these people are unbelievable.

Krauthamer (from yesterday):

Cheney knew he would get a lot of heat for withholding this, and I think he did the manly thing. He decided, "I'll take the heat, but I'm going to give my host and my friend, who just got shot, a half a day of reprieve." Anyway, it's a minor issue, and to make it into this -- I mean, it was a zoo at the White House yesterday. I think the public had the right reaction. It was disproportionate and unseemly.

Well yes. Blow job and semen stains are one thing --- the country has a right to know all the details of the president's sex life. But when the vice president shoots an old man in the face and then covers it up for 24 hours, it's nobody's business but his own. All this attention is disproportionate and unseemly.

Update: ReddHedd says:

Hume says Cheney said he had a beer at lunch -- that had been hours earlier -- no one was drinking. Went back to ranch, took a break for a few hours, and then went back out hunting at 3 pm. Says it was out of his system by the time they went back out. Cheney told Hume he had BBQ and a beer a lunch. (That should be an interesting point of discussion.)

OH mygoodness. I've always heard that alcoholand guns do not mix. But certianly a man who had two DUI's and had his driver's license suspended --- back in the days when you had to be really, really drunk to get popped --- now admits to drinking on the day he shot an old man in the face. And he didn't let law enforcement talk to him until the next day.

I know it's unseemly to bring this up but shouldn't there be at least a teeny-tiny little investigation about this now? People are mouldering in jail for decades for drinking and injuring people with guns.

Leaders Lead

by digby

So it looks like the Judiciary Committee is going to do the big el-foldo on the NSA spying scandal and some Democrats in the congress are going to simply vote with the Republicans make the president's illegal program legal and call it a day. Once again their losing strategists have misunderstood why Americans believe that they are weak on national security. Indeed, if they capitulate on this they will have reinforced that image much more than if they oppose it outright.

This article by Walter Shapiro on Salon discusses what is driving some Dems to play down the NSA spying issue:

Typical was my lunch discussion earlier this week with a ranking Democratic Party official. Midway through the meal, I innocently asked how the "Big Brother is listening" issue would play in November. Judging from his pained reaction, I might as well have announced that Barack Obama was resigning from the Senate to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. With exasperation dripping from his voice, my companion said, "The whole thing plays to the Republican caricature of Democrats -- that we're weak on defense and weak on security." To underscore his concerns about shrill attacks on Bush, the Democratic operative forwarded to me later that afternoon an e-mail petition from MoveOn.org, which had been inspired by Al Gore's fire-breathing Martin Luther King Day speech excoriating the president's contempt for legal procedures.

A series of conversations with Democratic pollsters and image makers found them obsessed with similar fears that left-wing overreaction to the wiretapping issue would allow George W. Bush and the congressional Republicans to wiggle off the hook on other vulnerabilities. The collective refrain from these party insiders sounded something like this: Why are we so obsessed with the privacy of people who are phoning al-Qaida when Democrats should be screaming about corruption, Iraq, gas prices and the prescription-drug mess?

Again, aside from the ridiculous fantasy that they will be able to "neutralize" the terrorism issue and move on to prescription drugs (again!), they have made a huge error in their analysis of why the Republicans have the edge on national security and every time they genuflect to the administration's wacky plans they drive the image home. The problem for Democrats isn't that they are seen as soft on national security. It's that they are seen as not believing in anything and therefore are not strong on national security.

Every time the Democrats first speak out strongly and then fall in behind Republicans on national security like this, selling out their principles and the deep concerns of their constituents, they reinforce the image that there is nothing the Democrats are willing to fight for and the national security vote goes to the Republicans who have shown they are willing to fight for everything.

Via Rick Perlstein's book "The Stock Ticker and The Super Jumbo" here are some typical focus group answers about what people think of Democrats:

"I think they lost their focus"
"I think they are a little disorganized right now"
"They need leadership"
"On the sidelines"

Republicans openly defied the polls when they impeached a president who had a 60 percent approval rating. (They had the help of the press, of course, but it never made any difference in public opinion.) They used the language of principle and "the rule of law" and paid no price for what they did beyond the loss of a few seats in 98. People do not hold it against politicians for standing up for principle even if they know there is political intent. They do hold it against politicans if they are seen as having no principles at all.

Capitulating on issues of such huge importance is even more damaging when it's clear that it's the Eunuch Caucus who are truly soft on this issue, not the Democrats. The Republicans hold both houses and have the power to defy this presumptuous administration on a matter of fundamental principle to the conservative cause: unfettered government power. The few who managed to squeak out a tiny protest just caved in response to arm twisting from president Dick Cheney. Apparently when he wasn't drunkenly shooting old men in the face, he found time to put the metaphorical shotgun to the heads of his own party who promptly fell to their knees and kissed his ring. They are invertebrate, cowardly eunuchs who cannot even muster enough courage to defy this lame duck jerk when he openly regards the US Senate as his personal pack of spayed retreivers.

The polls today show that more than half of the country believes the president broke the law with this program and that it was wrong for him to have done it. And the press is in the most danger they've been in since since the Pentagon Papers, which was the last time whistleblowers came forward with such important revelations about government secrecy and lawlessness. So Democrats do not have to fear the press on this --- particularly if they remind them who their friends are on this issue. The Republicans are split on it, with the libertarian wing and the doctrinaire conservatives finding themselves having to swallow their disgust or break with the party. Democrats are in a much better position than they think to turn this into a positive and drive a wedge through the Republican coalition while they do it.

If the Democrats in congress simply stood together on principle instead of listening to overfed, out of touch strategists who have misdiagnosed the problem for years, they would begin to crawl out of this hole on national security. In order for the nation to trust them to defend the country the first thing they must do is stop believing that going along with the Republican Eunuch Caucus will ever improve their lot. People trust leaders who lead not followers who fall in line.

Glenn has more on this, here.