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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Happy Codpiece Day Everyone

by digby

It seems like only yesterday that the country was enthralled with the president in his sexy flightsuit. Women were swooning, manly GOP men were commenting enviously on his package. But there were none so awestruck by the sheer, testosterone glory of Bush's codpiece as Tweety:

MATTHEWS: Let's go to this sub--what happened to this week, which was to me was astounding as a student of politics, like all of us. Lights, camera, action. This week the president landed the best photo op in a very long time. Other great visuals: Ronald Reagan at the D-Day cemetery in Normandy, Bill Clinton on horseback in Wyoming. Nothing compared to this, I've got to say.

Katty, for visual, the president of the United States arriving in an F-18, looking like he flew it in himself. The GIs, the women on--onboard that ship loved this guy.

Ms. KAY: He looked great. Look, I'm not a Bush man. I mean, he doesn't do it for me personally, especially not when he's in a suit, but he arrived there...

MATTHEWS: No one would call you a Bush man, by the way.

Ms. KAY: ...he arrived there in his flight suit, in a jumpsuit. He should wear that all the time. Why doesn't he do all his campaign speeches in that jumpsuit? He just looks so great.

MATTHEWS: I want him to wa--I want to see him debate somebody like John Kerry or Lieberman or somebody wearing that jumpsuit.

Mr. DOBBS: Well, it was just--I can't think of any, any stunt by the White House--and I'll call it a stunt--that has come close. I mean, this is not only a home run; the ball is still flying out beyond the park.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what, it was like throwing that strike in Yankee Stadium a while back after 9/11. It's not a stunt if it works and it's real. And I felt the faces of those guys--I thought most of our guys were looking up like they were looking at Bob Hope and John Wayne combined on that ship.

Mr. GIGOT: The reason it works is because of--the reason it works is because Bush looks authentic and he felt that he--you could feel the connection with the troops. He looked like he was sincere. People trust him. That's what he has going for him.

MATTHEWS: Fareed, you're watching that from--say you were over in the Middle East watching the president of the United States on this humongous aircraft carrier. It looks like it could take down Syria just one boat, right, and the president of the United States is pointing a finger and saying, `You people with the weapons of mass destruction, you people backing terrorism, look out. We're coming.' Do you think that picture mattered over there?

Mr. ZAKARIA: Oh yeah. Look, this is a part of the war where we have not--we've allowed a lot of states to do some very nasty stuff, traffic with nasty people and nasty material, and I think it's time to tell them, you know what, `You're going to be help accountable for this.'

MATTHEWS: Well, it was a powerful statement and picture as well.

A Cod-piece can fool them all
Make them think you're large
Even if you're small
Just be sure you don't fool yourself
For it's still just imagination
And to be sure it works like a lure
And will raise a wench's expectations
But have a care you have something there
Or the night will end in frustration

Quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere

by digby

Oh fewgawd's sake. Last week Joe Klein said:

Klein: And, by the way, we're very much well liked among the young, educated Iranians. But this is not Iraq we're dealing with here. This is an ancient country, a very strong country, and a very proud country. And so, yeah, by all means, we should talk to them, but, on the other hand, we should not take any option, including the use of nuclea-....tactical nuclear weapons off the table.

Stephanopoulos: Keep that on the table?

Klein: It's absolutely stupid not to.

Stephanopoulos: That's insane.

Klein: Well I don't think we should ever use tac-...I think that...

Stephanopoulos: Well, then why should they be on the table?

Klein: Why?

Stephanopoulos: Why do we want that specter of crossing that line?

Klein: Because we don't know what the options on the other side...what their options are on the table.

Stephanopoulos: Well we know that they've got 40,000 possible suicide bombers but I also think that line is one that we have to be very, very careful to cross.

Klein: Listen. I don't think. I think the use of force here would be counterproductive. But I think that when you're dealing in a negotiation you can't take stuff off the table before it starts.

In this week's TIME magazine Klein writes A Mea Culpa, Sorta:

A few weeks ago, I made a mistake while bloviating on the Sunday morning television program This Week With George Stephanopoulos. I said that all military options, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons, should remain on the table in our future dealings with Iran. I was wrong on three counts.

First, my words were a technical violation of a long-standing protocol: A diplomat friend tells me that while it is appropriate to say, "All options should remain on the table," the direct mention of nukes — especially any hint of the first use of nukes — is, as Stephanopoulos correctly said, "crossing a line." If George had asked, "What about nukes?" the diplomatic protocol would have been to tapdance: "I can't imagine ever having to use nuclear weapons," or some such, leaving the nuclear door open, but never saying so specifically.

In truth, I was trying to make the same point, undiplomatically — which comes easy for me: If the Iranians persist in crazy talk about wiping Israel, or New York, off the face of the earth, it isn't a bad idea if we hint that we can get crazy, too.

One can easily imagine the unthinkable: a suitcase nuclear weapon, acquired from the former Soviet Union by Iranian agents, detonated in New York, London or Tel Aviv. A nuclear response certainly would have to be on the table then — and the military would be negligent if it weren't studying all possible nuclear scenarios.

No, he was not making the same point as his diplomat friend, undiplomatically or otherwise. The friend said that one should say "I can't imagine ever having to use nuclear weapons." That is the oppsite of hinting that we are going to "act crazy."

Now, not explicitly ruling out nuclear retaliation against a nuclear attack is not "crazy." It's called "deterrence." It's worked for decades.

But Klein is still talking about a tactical nuclear first strike:

But I can't imagine a first use of nukes, and certainly not the unilateral use of nuclear weapons — or military force of any kind — against Iran by the Bush administration now. This was the second level on which I was mistaken: I failed to give the proper context for my remarks. I should have said, "Look, I believe the President has squandered our credibility in the world, and it would be disastrous for us to act unilaterally, given our unwarranted — and tragically incompetent — invasion of Iraq." (I did get around to saying something like that a few sentences later.)

One can only assume by this statement that he believes that a more credible president could launch a first strike with tactical nuclear weapons. But then, doing that would actually be crazy, so that makes no sense either. That would make the invasion of Iraq look like child's play.

(He does go on to write, "As a general principle, I'm opposed to the unilateral first use of U.S. force in all but the most extraordinary circumstances." That's reassuring.)

Here comes the "sorta":

Let me give credit where it's due: I probably would not be writing this were it not for all the left-wing screeching. The Stephanopoulos moment came and went ephemerally, as TV moments do, leaving a slight, queasy residue — I knew that I hadn't explained myself adequately, but that happens a lot on television. So thanks, frothing bloggers, for calling me on my mistake. You can, at times, be a valuable corrective.

How touching. And a nice place to end this. But no:

At other times, though, your vitriol just seems uninformed, malicious and disproportionate. You seem to believe that since I'm not a lock-step liberal — and we can talk about what a liberal actually is some other time — I'm some sort of creepy, covert conservative. Of course, most conservatives consider me a liberal. I call myself a moderate — a radical or flaming moderate, take your pick — because in this witlessly overheated political environment, you've got to call yourself something. But the conservatives do have a point: I disagree with Ronald Reagan's famous formulation, "Government is part of the problem, not part of the solution." I believe that government action can, when judiciously applied, make life better for people — and that we, as a society, have a responsibility to provide equal opportunity for all. I've had some problems with the methods liberals use to accomplish those goals, especially when they do not recognize the corrosive effects of entrenched bureaucracies and special interests, like the public employees unions, on the lives of the poor. I've also had problems with the reflexive tendency of Democrats to oppose the use of U.S. military power, even when that power has been sanctioned by the UN or NATO; I have absolutely no patience for those who believe the United States is a malignant or immoral force in the world.

Ok. Let's take this one step at a time.

Creepy, covert conservative? Why ever would we think that:

Hugh Hewitt: Joe, as I was reading the credits, because I love credits, and it seems that you don't know any Republicans, but I love the credits anyway. You single out as your pals...

Joe Klein: (laughing) You think I don't know very many Republicans?

HH: (laughing) Well, we got Elaine Kamarck, William Galston, Mandy Grunwald, Adam Walinksy, Richard Holbrooke, Leslie Gelb. They get the first paragraph. I said wow, you run in that East side circle that you talk about in here.

JK: Well, you know, I also run in the kind of faith based circle. In fact, one of Bush's nicknames for me is Mr. Faith Based.

HH: Well, that's good.

JK: And at the very end of the book, I acknowledge Bill Bennett as giving the best advice on how to judge a presidential candidate.

HH: At a Christian Coalition meeting. Yeah, it's a great anecdote.

JK: And Bill's a good friend of mine. But I've kind of got to give these guys cover.

You don't want to be praised by what you call a traditional liberal, do you?

Traditional liberal? He writes in TIME:

I call myself a moderate — a radical or flaming moderate, take your pick — because in this witlessly overheated political environment, you've got to call yourself something.

"Radical" or "flaming" moderate is is a cute little appellation that means nothing. Moderate, by definition cannot be radical --- or flaming. It is a perfectly respectable political position, but Klein doesn't seem to be one. Moderates don't support privatising social security, as Klein does. Nor do they hate public employee unions. Social conservatives, which Klein calls himself, are certainly not moderates.

When people say they don't understand what Democrats stand for, it's Joe Klein they are thinking of. Sadly, he and others like him speak for us in the media. That's what's killing us.

And I don't actually see what Klein finds objectionable about Reagan's famous dictum of the government being the problem. It's boilerplate GOP bullshit and the same boilerplate GOP bullshit he spews all the time. For instance:

The Great Society was an utter failure because it helped to contribute to social irresponsibility at the very bottom.

Klein has "problems" with the methods liberals use to accomplish their goals, especially when "they do not recognize the corrosive effects of entrenched bureaucracies and special interests, like the public employees unions, on the lives of the poor." Yet, the Great Society which lifted vast numbers of Americans out of poverty was a failure. (But hey, it makes for great cocktail party chatter by a "liberal" doesn't it?)

I don't know what this pernicious effect the public employee unions are having on the poor is, but I've read his critique of bureaucracies and it's completely incomprehensible. He wrote:

In the Information Age, Clinton knew that the paradigm was the computer, that the government had to be more decentralized, that bureaucracies had to become more flexible, and that our social safety net had to reflect that--the fact that people had more information and have to have more choices about where they get their health care, where their money for their retirement is held, and so on.

Klein has never explained why the social safety net has to reflect the fact that people have "more information and more choices" about where their money is held for retirement or where they get their health care. You can use medicare anywhere, and most people are very happy to have part of their retirment income secured by the full faith and credit of the US treasury. It gives them some ability to take some chances with the rest of their money. Klein simply makes assertions that he seems to have formulated sometime around 1994 and never revisited after the tech bubble burst.

I have absolutely no patience for those who believe the United States is a malignant or immoral force in the world

I have to say that when the US starts "acting crazy" and torturing people and threatening to launch a nuclear first strike it is very hard to argue that it's not becoming a malignant force.

Civilized people don't talk about torture and nuclear war like they're just another form of muscle flexing. That's Dr Strangelove shit and the fact that gasbags like Klein throw this stuff around like it's yesterday's news is a big fat clue that this country has taken a wrong turn somewhere.

Are we a malignant force? Sometimes. Nobody's perfect, not even the great USA. It's not unpatriotic to admit that. Indeed, it's necessary if we aren't to be taken in by hucksters and despots like the Bush administration and their enablers in the press.

Klein winds up with a typical mushy centrist's arrogant assertion that his politics are the only way anything ever gets done, which is total nonsense.

George W. Bush has proven that governing from the right can't work; but governing from the left won't work either. The only way that real change — a universal health-care system (along the lines enacted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts), a real alternative energy plan, progressivity in taxation and entitlement reform, a cooperative non-toxic foreign policy—will come is through coalitions built from the center out.

Here's the "real change" that Klein envisions:

You know, I'm pretty much a social conservative on a lot of stuff. I'm certainly opposed to late term abortion, and I think the deal to be made is morning after pill is legal, anything after that probably shouldn't be...in the past year, I've stood for the following things. I've taken the following positions. I agreed with the President on social security reform. I supported his two Supreme Court nominees, and I support, even though I opposed this war, I support staying the course in Iraq, and doing whatever we have to do in order to stabilize the region.

Klein and his ilk have been hanging around the far right so long that it looks like the center to them now.

"one of the problems that I have with being called a liberal by someone like you is that there are all these people on the left in the Democratic Party who are claiming to be liberals, and I don't want to be associated with them."

That goes both ways. Guys like Klein give liberalism a bad name in my mind --- meaningless, mushy, split-the-baby dreck with no intellectual consistency except an arrogant belief that those who muddy their hands in the daily dog-eat-dog of a partisan era we didn't create are uncouth for fighting to survive. Klein's ineffectual political style hasn't been relevant for quite some time; it's just that nobody's called him on it until now.

Constitutional Crisis

by digby

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.


Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.


Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Phillip Cooper, a Portland State University law professor who has studied the executive power claims Bush made during his first term, said Bush and his legal team have spent the past five years quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

''There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government," Cooper said. ''This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."

For the first five years of Bush's presidency, his legal claims attracted little attention in Congress or the media. Then, twice in recent months, Bush drew scrutiny after challenging new laws: a torture ban and a requirement that he give detailed reports to Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act.


...Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files ''signing statements" -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.

At what point does this country begin to recognise that we are in the midst of a constitutional crisis?

Somebody asked Howard Dean the other day whether he thought Bush should be impeached and I wished that he had answered by pointing out that the Republicans lowered the bar so low that it's difficult to see how he could NOT be impeached. Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we, and revisit what House Manager and head of the judiciary committee, Henry Hyde, had to say about the "rule of law" just eight years ago:

The rule of law is no pious aspiration from a civics textbook. The rule of law is what stands between us and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state. The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties. The rule of law is what allows us to live our freedom in ways that honor the freedom of others while strengthening the common good.


Senators, the trial is being watched around the world. Some of those watching, thinking themselves superior in their cynicism, wonder what it's all about.

But others know, political prisoners know, that this is about the rule of law, the great alternative to arbitrary and unchecked state powers. The families of executed dissidents know that this is about the rule of law, the great alternative to the lethal abuse of power by the state. Those yearning for freedom know this about the rule of law -- the hard, one structure by which men and women can live by their God-given dignity and secure their God-give rights in ways that serve the common good.

Unless, of course, the president is a Republican who is creating a new constitutional theory of presidential infallibility. Henry doesn't seem to have a problem with that. But then, he pretty much said it then:

Senators, as men and women with a serious experience of public affairs, we can all imagine a situation in which a president might shade the truth when a great issue of national interest or national security is at stake. We've been all over that terrain.

We know the thin ice on which any of us skates when blurring the edges of the truth for what we consider a compelling, demanding public purpose.

Morally serious men and women can imagine the circumstances at the far edge of the morally permissible when, with the gravest matters of national interest at stake, a president could shade the truth in order to serve the common good.

But under oath for a private pleasure?

That is what the leadership of the GOP believes. We are watching it in action. A president can be impeached for lying about a private sexual matter but "morally serious men and women" understand that a president could "shade the truth" in order to serve the common good.

Are we all clear on how this works now? Lying about fellatio leads to lethal abuse of power by the state. Flatly refusing to obey the laws he signed and lying about national security serves the common good. This is your modern Republican party in a nutshell: A dictatorship of puritanical busybodies.

As I watched the White House Correspondents dinner this morning, I couldn't help thinking about all those shrieking harpies and stone faced journalists who spent months pursuing an impeachable crime in president Clinton's pants. It was one of the most hallucinatory events in modern history --- shocking, freakish and bizarre. They believed along with Henry Hyde that this was the most serious of offenses --- so serious that it merited removal from office.

Here's an example of how the White House press corps functioned during the 90's when confronted with purported lawlessness on the part of the president:

According to Starr himself, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke on Jan. 21, 1998, Starr's top deputy, Jackie Bennett, spent the day talking "extensively" with a handful of reporters, including ABC's Judd, the one TV reporter on the shortlist at Starr's office...On Jan. 25, 1998, Judd appeared on ABC's "This Week" and reported, "Several sources have told us that in the spring of 1996, the president and Lewinsky were caught in an intimate encounter in a private area of the White House." The revelation set off a month's worth of cable TV chatter, but the report that Clinton and Lewinsky were found out proved to be fictitious.

Or how about Michael Isikoff who wrote:

"I was convinced Clinton was a far more psychologically disturbed individual than the public ever imagined."

This one was particularly good:

MATTHEWS: And also I’m told today that one of the reasons Republicans are voting for impeachment is that they know more than we do. There’s more in this report that’s over at the Ford Building on Capitol Hill that contains dirty stuff about this president that for whatever reason wasn’t formally released but is apparently infecting the thinking of a lot of Republicans and a lot of the borderline guys are gonna vote for impeachment tomorrow because of what they’ve read

That was then. This is now:

MATTHEWS: Bob, can you promise that if the Democrats win the majority of House seats this fall, they get to the 218 magic number, that they will not use the subpoena power to go after the president?

Something is very wrong with our political system. And part of what is wrong is the political press corpse who are so insular and socially embedded with the players that they can't see how this looks to us rubes outside the beltway.

I'm grateful that at least some reporters are coming around on this story. It's long overdue (although I suspect that the administration's antipathy for unapproved leaks might have something to do with it) But you really have to wonder why they were so rabidly and openly anti-Clinton, to the point of trying to affirmatively help the Republicans drive him from office, while this time trying to extract promises that the Democrats won't hold Bush accountable for anything he has done.

Today we are in a real constitutional crisis and it seems the press are only belatedly beginning to focus. And, once again, the American people are way ahead of these elitist snobs who always seem to misjudge what they really care about.

Glenn Greenwald has more on this.

Heavens To Betsy

by digby

... I think Stephen Colbert forgot his place.

At last year's White House Correspondent's dinner, you'll remember that when the president joshed and giggled about not finding the weapons of mass destruction, the press laughed and laughed. They just love it when the president makes fun of himself. It reminds them of why they love him --- and why they are better than he is.

I sorry to report that this year, in an alarming lack of decorum, Stephen Colbert went way over the line --- he lampooned the press corps itself in such a way as to make it seem as if they might be partly responsible for why 70% of the nation feels the country is on the wrong track. Making fun of politicians is one thing. They are a slightly lower life form. But the press itself? Implying they are complicit in all this unpleasantness with war and what not? Well, that simply isn't done.

I'm sure Joe Klein was appalled. Colbert, with his horrible little parody was no better than a left wing blogger from the fever swamp who doesn't respect his betters. He even had the temerity to ask the question that dare not be asked in polite circles:

Why did we invade Iraq?

That will not do. Why if anyone asks that question the public might notice that the White House press corps behaved like bunch of lovelorn eunuchs until about 20 minutes ago --- at which point their hilarious, down-home moron of a president began to threaten to throw them in jail.

All hail Stephen Colbert --- the man who coined the word for what the Washington press have been feeding us for the last decade. The truthiness hurts, doesn't it kids?

Crooks and Liars has the video. I think it may be one of the most revealing moments I've ever seen in American politics.

Peter Daou has some thoughts and recommends Eric Boehlert's book "Lapdogs" which I'm sure is as popular as Stephen Colbert's video with Helen Thomas --- the only person with guts in a whole room filled with pearl clutching little old ladies.

Update: Atrios checks into the "Why did we invade Iraq?" question and finds that Bill Kristol's answer to Colbert last week was truthiness. I'm stunned.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Honoring Culture and Heritage

by digby

A reader writes in to ask:

Please tell us again why the Spanish translation of the National Anthem is making wingnut heads explode when they all but genuflect at the waving of the Confederate Rebel flag?

Tell me please, which of these was meant to turn hearts to America, and which is meant to tear the country apart?

I don't know the answer to that. Apparently honoring the confederate flag is ok because it's a tribute to the heritage and culture of some Americans' forebears.

But that's the only culture and heritage to which Americans are allowed to pay such tribute. The one that seceded from the United States and created its own country.

Those whose forebears didn't secede from the US to form their own country but rather came to America to become Americans should not be allowed to honor their culture in any way shape or form. That would be un-American.

I can't explain this.

"I'm The Delegator"

by digby

If anyone has fantasies of what it would be like to see George W. Bush on the witness stand in his own trial, check out his good friend Kenny Boy's performance:

Enron Corp. founder Kenneth L. Lay — Kenny Boy to his friend President Bush — is renowned for his courtliness, his philanthropy, his rise from a dirt-poor boyhood in the Missouri Ozarks to a nine-digit fortune.

Codefendant Jeffrey K. Skilling, who invented Enron's most profitable business and ran the company during most of its heyday, also is known for getting in a bar fight while under indictment and for publicly calling an investment analyst by another name for a sphincter.

At the start of their federal fraud and conspiracy trial three months ago, the betting was that the volatile Skilling's performance on the witness stand might drag Lay down, not the other way around.

Former Chief Executive Skilling, 52, shares some of the obsessiveness of Queeg, the Navy skipper of "The Caine Mutiny." But unlike Queeg, Skilling didn't unravel on the stand. Where mastery of Enron's finances was at issue, he overpowered co-lead prosecutor Sean M. Berkowitz. When the nimble Berkowitz pushed certain buttons, Skilling showed flashes of anger and arrogance, but he generally kept his head.

For Lay, however, it's been a rockier ride. Although nobody knows what the 12 Texans in the jury box are thinking, during his first four days on the stand, Lay, 64, has shown some attributes that clash with his reputation as affable, openhanded and shrewd.

His worst moment came Wednesday, when prosecutor John C. Hueston jolted Lay with questions about his attempts to reach actual or potential witnesses in the case — efforts that persisted even after Lay's lawyers told him to stop.

"You've got to question the judgment of the person," said Mark C. Zauderer of New York law firm Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer. "No lawyer would have his client in the dock calling potential witnesses. It could be very suspect in the minds of the jury."

Lay probably didn't help matters by responding to Hueston's blitz with sarcasm. The jury of eight women and four men has hardly been immune to humor during the trial — even Skilling's mordant wit sometimes connected — but nobody cracked a smile at Lay's comebacks Wednesday.

Noting Lay's $120,000 investment in a company whose main customer was Enron, Hueston asked whether he had made conflict-of-interest filings required by Enron's code of conduct.

"I don't know," Lay shot back. "Have you checked it? I imagine you have. You guys are pretty thorough."

After describing himself in early testimony as "more of a delegator" than a micromanager, Lay quickly proved himself adept at delegating blame. If something worked out, it was his idea. If it blew up, it was somebody else's.

Asked to name his biggest mistakes at Enron, Lay unhesitatingly listed "hiring Andy Fastow" and promoting him to chief financial officer.

Andrew S. Fastow turned out to be a crook who secretly stole millions from Enron and allegedly helped cook the books. Lay didn't mention it, but he had to know the jury would recall that hiring and promoting Fastow was entirely Skilling's doing.

It wasn't the only time Lay subtly undercut his codefendant. He cited Skilling's surprise resignation in August 2001 as a source of uncertainty in the financial markets that set the stage for the investor and creditor panic that Lay said ultimately brought Enron down.

Moreover, by praising Skilling as an executive who "really gets into the details, the guts of how things work," Lay may have signaled that Skilling, far more than Lay, would have grasped the intricacies of Enron's accounting and financial reporting — the things at the heart of the criminal case.

Lay blamed two aides for what turned out to be one of the biggest PR gaffes of the century: rebuffing the Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2001 when the paper had questions about Fastow and his mysterious LJM partnerships — complex financial structures that the government says let Enron hide problem assets and falsely pump up profit.

With Enron offering only a brief statement written by its lawyers, the company lost any control over the debate and was powerless when the resulting stories eviscerated its stock. A livid Skilling even called from retirement to ask why Enron wasn't defending itself.

In Lay's view, his own instincts had been right all along. Stonewalling the Journal, he testified, went "against every bone in my body."

One of the witnesses whom Lay admitted trying to reach was a former Enron risk manager named Wincenty "Vince" Kaminski. Jurors would remember him as a professor type with a Polish accent and a healthy ego who testified that he tried vainly to warn higher-ups that Fastow's LJM partnerships were a stupid idea and that Enron shouldn't be involved with them.

In testimony Tuesday, Lay seemed to impugn his former colleague's courage. He acknowledged that Kaminski had been an early skeptic of the LJM deals, but added that it was only after the Journal stories hit and the partnerships blew up in scandal that "his level of dislike intensified."

Can't you just see Bush stabbing Cheney and Rove in the back and blaming them for all his troubles? Being snotty to the prosecutor? The whole thing sounds like a typical Bush press conference to me.

Just as a reminder, Kenny Boy Lay was Bush's biggest contributor in 2000. His presidential campaign received $1.14 million from Enron. And Enron got its money's worth until the whole thing imploded:

Shortly after taking office, President Bush waged a battle against the imposition of federal price controls in California that allowed Enron to price-gouge consumers by extending the energy crisis in California, costing the state billions of dollars. Enron reported increased revenues of almost $70 billion from the previous year.

Two peas in a pod, Lay and Bush. Arrogant losers who drove their organizations into the ground.

Venting The Hatred In Their Hearts

by digby

More sexual sadism from racist pigs:

Prosecutors won't immediately seek hate-crime charges against two white teens accused of brutally beating and sodomizing a 16-year-old Hispanic boy, who was clinging to life after being left for dead, authorities said.

The two attacked the boy after he tried to kiss a 12-year-old girl at an unsupervised house party Saturday night in suburban Spring, authorities said.

The attackers apparently were offended at the age difference between the victim and the girl, who is also Hispanic, and shouted racial slurs at him during the 10- to 15-minute attack, investigators said.

Authorities said the two dragged the boy from the party and into the yard, where they sodomized him with a plastic pipe from a patio table umbrella and poured bleach on him.

"After they got him down on the ground, they stomped his head with (steel-toed) boots," Harris County Sheriff's Lt. John Denholm said. "They actually kicked the pipe further into him with the boots."

County prosecutor Mike Trent described the pipe as being sharpened at one end. At one point, the teens tried to carve something on the boy's chest with a knife, he told CNN Friday.

"I don't know that the very beginning of the attack was racial," Trent said, "but there's no question that they were venting quite a bit of hatred in their hearts."

Oh really. He must have gotten the story from the young sadists themselves and bought their assertion that they were trying to protect this girl rather than the obvious fact that they are violent racists. And that is likely why they aren't charging these predators with a hate crime. They actually feel some sympathy for these guys. "They have quite a bit of hatred in their hearts" they say. Do they have hearts?

Of course "the beginning of the attack" was racial. Did they just become racists half way through their brutal rape and beating? They are racist psychopaths who poured bleach on the victim and called him racial epithets, for crying out loud. I somehow doubt that they would have done the same thing to a white kid.

And once again, I have to ask about the forced sodomy. Is it that men were always raping other men with objects and nobody talked about it, or is this becoming more common? This particular form of violence is showing up everywhere from Abu Ghraib to the less physically brutal but equally terrifying "hazing" of grade school kids. And the common denominator in all of this is that it's being excused by the rightwing moralists. What in the hell is up with this?

And don't be surprised if we start seeing more of this racial violence toward Latinos. The wingnuts are getting their hate on and reviving some of their favorite propaganda techniques:

AN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The creators of a video game called "Border Patrol" won't win any awards for graphics or creativity, but could take home a prize for bad taste.

(on camera): This isn't some expensive game for the Xbox. It's simple, free and on the Internet and, according to the Anti-Defamation League, dangerous.

JONATHAN BERNSTEIN, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: It puts in the mind of the player that they should be resorting to violence.

SIMON (voice-over): The objective? To shoot and kill Mexicans crossing into the U.S. The game's targets? Mexican nationalists, drug smugglers and most outrageous, breeders, pregnant women running with children. The more you kill, the higher your score.

CRIS FRANCO, COMEDIAN/SATIRIST: You're killing a pregnant woman, and if you can feel good about that, well, have at it.

SIMON: Sarcasm comes naturally to Latino comedian Cris Franco. All joking aside, though, Franco was concerned when we showed him the game.

FRANCO: What sort of makes it innocuous is sort of the thing that makes it so very dangerous, is that you might have kids getting up there and they're killing Mexicans. You know? And now that's a fun thing to do I gather, in our world. I think most people of conscience would not think this was a good way to spend your time.

You can see this "game" here on a CBS News affiliate web site. The blood spattering the pregnant woman with kids when the bullet hits is especially "fun."

These video games and other violent racist paraphernalia are sure to be part of our culture forever, whether we like it or not. (In this post about rightwing "humor", Maha provides some fine examples of the kind of "jokes" that used to be prevalent during Jim Crow.) But when you have major politicians race baiting you normalize this stuff --- and that leads bigoted psychopaths to lose their inhibitions and feel that they have the support of the mainstream.

Just read Orcinus for how this works.

FYI: As I was gingerly tip-toeing through the racist "gamers" sludge online researching this game, I noticed a new epithet: "Mexcriments"

Neil Young Sings For Free

by tristero

Neil Young's Living With War. What a great album! And you can listen to the thing for free here. It's everything rocknroll should be: angry, beautiful, dirty, dangerous, lyrical, sloppy, emotional, coldly-calculated, and indispensable for sanity in a world gone mad.

It's on my must-buy list. Speaking of which, My Smart Spouse got me The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, a collection of genuine rarities from the 20's and 30's wrapped up in some great R. Crumb artwork. Perhaps the rare Son House tracks will convince you. Perhaps the reputation of the Georgia Potlickers. But as flat-out great as the individual cuts are, it's the cumulative effect that's so overwhelming. I'm more of a very knowledgeable amateur than a professional when it comes to folk music, but I'm certain that this is the finest compilation of real American folk music since The Anthology of American Folk Music. The Anthology, in case you don't know it, is essential, and I mean that the way water and air are essential.

Getting back to Neil for a moment, be sure to see Jonathan Demme's documentary about the old coot. It's a great film. But best of all, it sets up Living With War perfectly because of the contrast with it. The concert is reflective, personal, country music (sort of). The album is uncompromisingly social, rocknroll (definitely).

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It's Getting Hot In Here

by digby

Oooh. This is too good. Could Porter Goss be caught up in the developing Duke Cunningham hooker scandal? Justin Rood at The Muckraker thinks it's possible.


Actually, make that a double-yowzah: Remember that Goss is the one who plucked one of Wilkes' old San Diego friends, the unusual and colorful Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, out of CIA middle-management obscurity to be his #3 at the agency. At the time of Foggo's appointment, no one could figure out where he came from, or how Goss knew him.

But if Goss was at the "parties," I wonder, was Foggo there too? Did they see each other? Is this where Goss had an opportunity to gauge Foggo's abilities, and determine he was qualified for the CIA executive director post

Ken Silverstein at Harper's blog describes the parties:

As to the festivities themselves, I hear that party nights began early with poker games and degenerated into what the source described as a "frat party" scene—real bacchanals. Apparently photographs were taken, and investigators are anxiously procuring copies.

My, my, my.

But there's more to it than that. Remember what we have all heard about old Duke:

What you won’t read about in these mainstream press accounts is the other double life led by the closet case, Duke, the anti-gay conservative.

Cunningham, who is married with grown children, has admitted to romantic, loving relationships with men, both during his Vietnam military service and as a civilian. That was the remarkable story that this publication reported two years ago, when Elizabeth Birch, the former Human Rights Campaign leader, inadvertently outed Cunningham at a gay rights forum.

Birch never mentioned Cunningham’s name, but she talked about a rabidly anti-gay congressman who asked to meet privately with her in the midst of a controversy over his use in a speech on the floor of the House the term "homos" to describe gays who have served in the military.

Alone with Birch and an HRC staffer, the unnamed congressman shared that he had loved men during his life. In telling the story, Birch offered up a few too many details about the closeted congressman.

A few Google searches later, the Blade reported that it had to be Cunningham, whose career was pockmarked with bizarre gay pronouncements, including a reference to the rectal treatment he received for prostate cancer, something he told an audience "was just not natural, unless maybe you're Barney Frank."

There’s every reason to believe Birch’s inadvertent outing, even as Cunningham denied it through a spokesperson.

This is, after all, a man without principles, who could "love men" in private, all the while condemning gays in speeches and in congressional votes. Little surprise that he could live a second double life, in which he sold those unprincipled votes to the highest bidder

The Dukestir and Porter Goss can hire Jimmy Jeff Gannon and perform a country version of "I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair" in the House gym for all I care. But the massive fraud and corruption involved are unacceptable. If the Dukestir takes Goss down it would be a beautiful bit of poetic justice. I have a feeling that there are plenty of people at the CIA who will be happy to help the FBI with anything they might need to prove that case.

Book Bags

by digby

Jane is righteously taking on the wingnut liars today (as she does every day) but this time on the subject of this dumb pissing match about liberal book sales. Just read it. it's so ridiculous it makes you want to laugh.

As she points out, the right has subsidized these lousy writers and thinkers for decades. They buy their crappy books for their crappy book clubs (whining all the way about totalitarian leftists bookstore owners who refuse to sell their crappy crap) and give the impresion that they are successfully indoctrinating the country with their crappy propaganda. From the numbers of rightwing propagandists who are allegedly great authors and thinkers, you would think that the Republicans would rule with an 80% majority. The truth is they have always rigged the numbers.

As Jane points out, what has them upset is that we managed to push Greenwald's book to number one on Amazon in a day. It drove them into such a tizzy that they are now outright lying about Kos and Jerome's book sales in an attempt to discredit it. (Sigh. Why do I feel like I am dealing with kids all the time?)

"Crashing the Gate" is the most discussed book about Democratic strategy in decades. The review on the NYRB is almost ecstatic. Very influential people are reading and discussing it. Its sales are great and they are only half way through their book tour. It is, by all possible measures, a success. And it's a success on its own merits. I don't think George Soros and Barbra Streisand bought the book in bulk so that it will be selling for a dollar in remainder bins by the middle of summer. Real humans are reading the book.

If you haven't yet bought CTG, do it. It's an easy read, humble and insightful. Supporting liberal writers and thinkers like Kos and Jerome and Greenwald are one great way to make sure that our ideas penetrate the media industrial complex. And, if nothing else, it really seems to freak out the wingnuts. Consider it part of your entertainment budget.

Update: Patrick Neilsen Hayden has more on this. So does Greenwald.

Kos suggests a new marketing slogan and I think it's brilliant: "Buy 'Crashing the Gate.' Make a conservative cry."

Failing For Jesus

by digby

So now they want to dismantle FEMA. Isn't that just perfect? It worked great not five years ago but since the republicans got their hands on it, it's completely gone to shit.

Avedon Carol reminds us that this is, in fact, the plan:

We can still get the story if we dig deep enough in the papers, but you won't see the front page telling us that the purpose of this administration is to eliminate any competence in government to serve the public. No, let's just make sure the EPA doesn't do it's job so Republicans can say, "See? Government can't do anything! You pay taxes for this and you don't get it!" After which they can safely eliminate the programs without lowering your taxes. Eventually, the programs will be gone and you won't be hearing all that anti-tax rhetoric anymore - it will be patriotic to pay taxes, again.

In the meantime, they'll demand that we fork over huge amounts of money in the name of national security (or "fighting terror", she laughed bitterly), while making sure that any measure that would actually protect our security is round-filed. I mean, it's not like we should worry about nuclear materials being illegally imported into our country, undetected, by people whose purposes are not friendly to our citizens.

So first you wreck the program, then you claim its failures are the result of the fact that "government programs don't work" - relying on amnesia about the fact that it worked just fine before they started "fixing" it - and then they decide we need to abolish it rather than putting it back the way it was when it used to work.

Oh, and just to make it seem like it's coming from sensible people, we have some specially-labelled "moderates" - one from each party - to make a proposal to abolish, oh, say, FEMA. Like Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Leiberman (R-DLC). And the start of hurricane season just a month away, too!

Read the whole rant. It's great.

I fear that she has hit the nail on the head. We are going to be dealing with the fallout of these horrible eight years for a long time to come. As each failure reaches critical mass, they will say that it proves their point --- government doesn't work. They have spent more than a quarter century pounding that mantra and it's going to sound very "true" when people hear it.

It's quite a scam. Run on government being incompetent and stealing your hard earned money. Take power. Make government incompetent while lining your pockets with as much taxpayer money as possible. Lose office. Make Democrats clean up your mess. Rinse repeat.

Portrait of The Racist As A Young Man

by digby

Ezra points to this fascinating profile of George Allen in the New Republic by Ryan Lizza. You really have to read it to believe it.

I know little about Allen except that he sounds even dumber than George W. Bush every time I see him speak on television. Yesterday he was blathering on about something and I was struck by how his rosy cheeks and strange purplish hair made him look a little like Reagan. So he has Reagan's looks and Bush's brains. Oh Jesus.

What I didn't know was that he was a racist, sadistic prick. I now understand why he is such a Republican favorite. I had heard that he kept a confederate flag around and that he had a cute little "noose" hanging from a ficus tree. I didn't know that he had been a neoconfederate since he went to Palos Verdes High, right here in LA. (He didn't live in the south until he was a sophomore in college.)

George saw himself as disconnected from the culture in which he lived. He hated California and, while there, became obsessed with the supposed authenticity of rural life--or at least what he imagined it to be from episodes of "Hee Haw," his favorite TV show, or family vacations in Mexico, where he rode horses. Perhaps because of his peripatetic childhood, the South's deeply rooted culture attracted him. Or perhaps it was a romance with the masculinity and violence of that culture; his father, who was not one to spare the rod, once broke his son Gregory's nose in a fight. Whatever it was, Allen got his first pair of those now-iconic cowboy boots from one of his father's players on the Rams who received them as a promotional freebie. He also learned to dip from his dad's players. At school, he started to wear an Australian bush hat, complete with a dangling chin strap and the left brim snapped up. He wore the hat for a yearbook photo of the falconry club. His favorite record was Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison. Writing of her brother's love for the "big, slow-witted Junior" on "Hee Haw," Jennifer reports, "[t]here was also something mildly country-thuggish about Junior that I think George felt akin to."

In high school, Allen's "Hee Haw" persona made him a polarizing figure. "He rode a little red Mustang around with a Confederate flag plate on the front," says Patrick Campbell, an old classmate, who now works for the Public Works Department in Manhattan Beach, California. "I mean, it was absurd-looking in our neighborhood." Hurt Germany, who now lives in Paso Robles, California, explodes with anger at the mention of Allen's name. "The guy is horrible," she complains. "He drove around with a Confederate flag on his Mustang. I can't believe he's going to run for president." Another classmate, who asks that I not use her name, also remembers Allen's obsession with Dixie: "My impression is that he was a rebel. He plastered the school with Confederate flags."

Politically, Allen's years in Palos Verdes were dominated by the lingering racial tensions from the riots in nearby Watts in 1965--when that neighborhood was practically burned to the ground--and the nationwide riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, which left other parts of Southern California in flames. It is with that context in mind that four former classmates and one former administrator at Allen's high school described to me an event for which Allen is most remembered--and the first glimpse that the château-raised Californian might grow up to become a defender of the South's heritage.

It was the night before a major basketball game with Morningside High. The mostly black inner-city school adjacent to Watts was coming to the almost entirely white Palos Verdes High to play. When students arrived at school on game day, they found graffiti spray-painted on the school library and other places. All five people who described the incident say the graffiti was racially tinged and meant to look like the handiwork of the black Morningside students. But it was actually put there by Allen and some of his friends. "It was something like die whitey," says Campbell. The school administrator, who says he is a Republican and would "seriously consider" voting for Allen for president, says the graffiti said, "burn, baby, burn," a reference to the race riots.

Karl Rove and Lee Atwater would no doubt high five such smart thinking. What a fine preparation for southern GOP politics. But then, Allen always played hardball:

...when his father was on the road, young George often acted as a surrogate dad to his siblings. According to his sister Jennifer, he was particularly strict about bedtimes. One night, his brother Bruce stayed up past his bedtime. George threw him through a sliding glass door. For the same offense, on a different occasion, George tackled his brother Gregory and broke his collarbone. When Jennifer broke her bedtime curfew, George dragged her upstairs by her hair.

George tormented Jennifer enough that, when she grew up, she wrote a memoir of what it was like living in the Allen family. In one sense, the book, Fifth Quarter, from which these details are culled, is unprecedented. No modern presidential candidate has ever had such a harsh and personal account of his life delivered to the public by a close family member. The book paints Allen as a cartoonishly sadistic older brother who holds Jennifer by her feet over Niagara Falls on a family trip (instilling in her a lifelong fear of heights) and slams a pool cue into her new boyfriend's head. "George hoped someday to become a dentist," she writes. "George said he saw dentistry as a perfect profession--getting paid to make people suffer."

According to Lizza, Allen explains "It's the perspective of the youngest child, who is a girl."

I am tempted to make a big deal out of Allen's phoniness, as Lizza does. After all, from the non-Virginian cowboy boots to the tobacco spitting, he has self-consciously adopted these neo-confederate affectations. He's not a real son of the south. But as a good friend explained to me some time ago, it would do no good to attack him on that basis. Despite Joe Klein's fantasy about "authenticity" being the lodestar of winning politics, George W. Bush has proven that being a phony southerner is better than not being a southerner at all. Indeed, a phony southerner can be better than a real one as long as they put their whole heart and soul into it as George W. Bush and George Allen do. It shows respect.

In Mudcat Saunders' new book about how the Democrats can win the south, he and his co-author go to great lengths to explain that politicians must have southern cultural tastes in order to win the presidency. Presumably a guy like Allen (who during his teen-age years in Southern California had a confederate flag on his mustang and wore a rebel flag pin in his graduation picture) is a man who has lived his bona fides even better than the the Yale fratboy, Junior Bush. Nobody can assail his good ole boy pretentions. Allen truly loves southern culture even if he has no blood ties to the south and his mother is (gasp!) French.

If winning the presidency in the country really rests on relative good ole boy-ness, then it's hard to see how anyone can beat Allen. Aside from his total immersion in southern culture, the article is full of examples of his youthful (and not so youthful) racism and I can only assume that this will help him when he goes up against John McCain in the south. The racist voters of the GOP will catch all his winks and nods with no problem.

The only question is whether the big money boys will get behind him. He is, after all, even dumber than George W. Bush and they may be having some second thoughts about running another empty suit:

...although Allen is undoubtedly the hot new thing within the Beltway's conservative establishment, some denizens of K Street and right-wing newsrooms have begun doubting whether he represents their best hope to snuff out the burgeoning campaign of their enemy, McCain. "If my choice is, 'Who do I want to go out with to a fun dinner to drink our brains out,'" says one of the party's top fund-raisers who has met with Allen many times, "there's no question, it'd be Allen. He's a guy's guy, but he didn't blow me away in terms of substance."

It's hard to believe that they can't find a southern Republican who isn't a sadistic idiot to run for president, but I'm beginning to think that's the real problem. Guys like Bush and Allen are the best they can do. Clearly, all the smart southerners are Democrats.

No Double Clicking The Mouse

by digby

Lucy’s Love Shop employee Wanda Gillespie said she was flabbergasted that South Carolina’s Legislature is considering outlawing sex toys.

But banning the sale of sex toys is actually quite common in some Southern states.

The South Carolina bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Ralph Davenport, would make it a felony to sell devices used primarily for sexual stimulation and allow law enforcement to seize sex toys from raided businesses.

"That would be the most terrible thing in the world," said Ms. Gillespie, an employee the Anderson shop. "That is just flabbergasting to me. We are supposed to be in a free country, and we’re supposed to be adults who can decide what want to do and don’t want to do in the privacy of our own homes."

Not according to RepresentativeRalph who doesn't want the women of South Carolina to have unapproved orgasms.

Perhaps he feels that if he takes away women's sex toys they might want to have sex with him instead. Here is his picture.

I don't think it will work.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There Were No Limits

by digby

Via Salon, I see that General Geoffrey D. Ripper has skated once again. He baldfacedly lied to the congress and nothing happens. Seems there's a difference between "briefing " someone and "directly discussing" something:

The Army inspector general has concluded that Miller, who set up detention operations at Abu Ghraib just before the infamous abuse there, did brief a top Pentagon intelligence official about his work at the Iraqi prison. Miller had been accused of lying under oath to Congress in May 2004, when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had "no direct discussions" with Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone. He later admitted to delivering a briefing to five senior Pentagon officials, including Cambone.

In a report obtained by Salon through the Freedom of Information Act, the inspector general found that the two seemingly contradictory statements were both true, a distinction that has a Senate Democrat crying foul.

"Maj. Gen. Miller's apparent position that he did not discuss the subject with Undersecretary Cambone but that he briefed Cambone on the same subject is a distinction without a difference to me," said Sen. Carl Levin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Miller is a central player in the detainee abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib and at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he was previously the commander. A separate Army investigation found Miller should be admonished in connection with the "degrading and abusive" treatment of so-called 20th hijacker Mohammed al-Kahtani at Guantánamo in late 2002. Miller's superior later rejected that recommendation.

Miller, you may recall, is the artillery officer who was sent in to Gitmo to "take off the gloves." He knew nothing about interrogation or prisons, but Rummy thought he was his kind of sadist. He did such a good job of torturing prisoners at Guantanamo that they sent him to Iraq when the "terrorist" Iraqis they were capturing by the thousands weren't giving over --- mostly because they were just poor schmucks who'd been captured in sweeps and knew fuck all about anything. We know what happened then.

For reasons we can only speculate about, Miller seems to be getting a lot of protection in the Pentagon. I don't suppose it could be because of this:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was personally involved in the late 2002 interrogation of a high-value al-Qaida detainee known in intelligence circles as "the 20th hijacker." He also communicated weekly with the man in charge of the interrogation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the controversial commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center.

During the same period, detainee Mohammed al-Kahtani suffered from what Army investigators have called "degrading and abusive" treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved. Kahtani was forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, and was forced to wear women's underwear and to perform "dog tricks" on a leash. He received 18-to-20-hour interrogations during 48 of 54 days.

Little more than two years later, during an investigation into the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantánamo, Rumsfeld expressed puzzlement at the notion that his policies had caused the abuse. "He was going, 'My God, you know, did I authorize putting a bra and underwear on this guy's head?'" recalled Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, an investigator who interviewed Rumsfeld twice in early 2005.

These disclosures are contained in a Dec. 20, 2005, Army inspector general's report on Miller's conduct, which was obtained this week by Salon through the Freedom of Information Act. The 391-page document -- which has long passages blacked out by the government -- concludes that Miller should not be punished for his oversight role in detainee operations, a fact that was reported last month by Time magazine. But the never-before-released full report also includes the transcripts of interviews with high-ranking military officials that shed new light on the role that Rumsfeld and Miller played in the harsh treatment of Kahtani, who had met with Osama bin Laden on several occasions and received terrorist training in al-Qaida camps.

In a sworn statement to the inspector general, Schmidt described Rumsfeld as "personally involved" in the interrogation and said that the defense secretary was "talking weekly" with Miller. Schmidt said he concluded that Rumsfeld did not specifically prescribe the more "creative" interrogation methods used on Kahtani. But he added that the open-ended policies Rumsfeld approved, and that the apparent lack of supervision of day-to-day interrogations permitted the abusive conduct to take place. "Where is the throttle on this stuff?" asked Schmidt, an Air Force fighter pilot, who said in his interview under oath with the inspector general that he had concerns about the length and repetition of the harsh interrogation methods. "There were no limits."

If I were Miller I wouldn't plan on taking any trips to foreign countries during my retirement. Many of them tend to be testy about sadistic war criminals.

Preturnaturally Confident

by digby

Jane has a great Karl Rove Plamegate primer up tonight in case you've forgotten all the minutia of the case and want to get back up to speed.

Karl has now testified before the grand jury five times, which most lawyers say would never happen in a normal case. Karl, however, believes he can wiggle out of this so he keeps volunteering to go back to the grand jury and explain himself.

He has always thought he was very, very good at this kind of thing:

Rove was no lawyer but he carried a kind of preturnatural confidence in court cases. Like in his high school debates, he always felt better than anybody in the room. He could beat anybody with the strength of his argument or the weight of his will. When a team of blue-chip lawyers in a tobacco case grilled Rove for a deposition some years earlier, he was not just confident, but arrogant, fending off their questions with playful insults. On the stand in the Kay Bailey Hutchison trial, he was masterful in frustrating the prosecution. Now he had a former U.S. Attorney General in his cross hairs, and as Rove sat at the table in the federal courthouse, he turned his head slowly and looked over at the defense table with the thin sliver of a smile. It was a dark smile, determined, and there was not mistaking the message: You are my enemy and you will pay.(Bush's Brain p. 190)

Waddaya think? Does the recently demoted Karl still have that kind of mojo? Or was it his "preturnatural confidence" that led him to think he could lie his ass off to the FBI and the Grand Jury and nothing would happen?

He doesn't seem quite so formidable these days does he? A 32% approval rating and massive policy failure will do that to you.

Update: According to the Washington Post, Rove is using the "it would have been stupid to lie so it's ludicrous that I would have done so" defense. It sounds like he's as arrogant as ever.

Net Neutrality Vote Today

by digby

Seeing The Forest has a list and relevant links to the representatives who can be moved on the Net Neutrality issue that comes to a committee vote today.

Click over and make a couple of calls if you have time. This issue sounds like the most boring thing in the world, but it could result in something quite terrible happening to the internet.

I saw this comment over on Political Animal yesterday that I think illustrates the issue quite well:

What the telecoms are trying to get away with is like this: suppose you ran a business, and your product was delivered by FedEx, with your customers paying FedEx for it. Now suppose FedEx came to you one day and said, "You are making a nice profit off our delivery service. Besides what your customers pay, I also want you to pay us for it, or else your deliveries are going to be a lot slower, if they make it there at all."

(If only my ISP were as reliable as Fed-ex.)

Basically this is what they are trying to do. They want to shake down the content providers like Google for a piece of their action even though they are already being paid for their service by their customers.

And, of course, once we abandon the idea that ISP's cannot decide what content to provide we open the door to them deciding they don't want to provide certain content. Some may very well decide that they don't like liberal bloggers who use the "f" word. And then where will we be?

Fantasy Wednesday

by digby

So Rove is testifying before the GJ for the fifth time. John Amato says that Norah O'Donnell is reporting that he is going to be issuing a statement later today.

Am I the only one who thinks that's strange? Has any witness to the GJ issued a statement after their testimony? Certainly, Rove hasn't.

Allow me to don my tin foil sombrero for a moment here. What if this statement (if it even happens) is something truly meaningful? They just brought in Snow. Rove was demoted. Maybe he's getting ready to ...

Ok, I'm dreaming. Never mind.

update: Sid Blumenthal connects the Snow-Rove stories too.

update II: Luskin just released the statement, which says nothing. Actually, according to Wolf, it was written earlier and "embargoed" until after the testimony was over. Why the networks went along with that is anybody's guess.

The statement:

Karl Rove appeared today before the grand jury investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity. He testified voluntarily and unconditionally at the request of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to explore a matter raised since Mr Rove's last appearance in October 2005. In connection with his appearance, the special prosecutor has advised Mr Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges. At the request of the Special Counsel, Mr Rove will not discuss the substance of his testimony.

Odd lawyerly sentence, ripe for parsing:

In connection with his appearance, the special prosecutor has advised Mr Rove that he is not a target of the investigation.

Why not just say the prosecutor has advised Mr Rove that he is not a target?

Crying Wolf

by digby

I was going to write about this Max Boot column, but Kevin beat me to it. Boot writes:

I want journalists to cover the present struggle as a fight between good and evil. And when the good guys — that would be U.S. officials — say that certain revelations would help the bad guys, I want them to be given the benefit of the doubt. So, I suspect, do most Americans.

Kevin replies:

Nice try, Max, but FDR earned the benefit of the doubt. This gang hasn't. They've made it crystal clear that they consider the war on terror little more than a good campaign topic of unlimited duration.

Can you believe it? No matter how big a fuck up (like the fact that they insisted that we needed to invade a country on the basis of its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and it turned out there weren't any!) this administration is supposed to be given the benefit of the doubt. Even when it comes to their assurances that they are only illegally wiretapping terrorists. Or that they are only torturing and imprisoning guilty terrorists. Or that they aren't agitating for another war using exactly the same set of rationales they used for the earlier war. And on and on.

Apparently Boot would march off a cliff with Bush no matter what he does. Contrary to what he says, considering the current opinion polls, it appears that most Americans do not agree with him.


by tristero

Gotta give her credit: When she's on, she's on. And in her latest column, she's on:
Trying to calm the yips in his party and the country over exploding gasoline prices, the president sounded a bit like a wild-eyed Ozone Man himself yesterday, extolling the virtues of alternative fuel derived from cooking grease, sugar, grass, wood chips, soybean oil and corn.

But then he got ahold of himself. "You just got to recognize there are limits to how much corn can be used for ethanol," he said, standing in front of a bucolic mural. "After all, we got to eat some."

You could run a fleet of S.U.V.'s on the gas that W. was spewing about fuel.


The U.S. could have begun developing alternative fuels 30 years ago if Dick Cheney hadn't helped scuttle an ambitious plan in the Ford administration.

By the time these guys get gas from cooking grease, global warming will have us cooked.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

101st Fighting Keyboarder Uniforms

by digby

Whenever you visit a rightwing site, you are sure to see "those" tshirts. I saw an ad for them on the Washington Times the other day. Now, I know that wingnuts have great sense of humor as you can tell by the huge number of successful comedians and humorists on the right. (Dennis? PJ? Are you getting tired?)I assume that these t-shirts are what passes for humor in their lives.

They are big on gun stuff and death and violence but I just can't help but notice that with only a few exceptions, these t-shirts aren't about killing terrorists or fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here. This is what they're all about:

Via TBOGG, I that Michelle Malkin, who has recently been posting the phone numbers of liberal college students on her blog and who subsequently had a full fledged fit claiming that her family was threatened in retaliation has a new web site (called "Hot Air," I kid you not) that is sponsored by these t-shirts.

I have said before that while the left has plenty of people who cannot be called angels, it's the right that makes a profit at this violent, eliminationist discourse. As long as they are selling this shit on their sites I can see no reason why we should listen to their whining about leftist incivility.

The Lying King And His Money

by digby

Matt sez:

The GOP, as we all know, is desperately afraid of the possibility that the 2006 midterms will put Democrats in a position to hold some hearings. If we do get that lucky, I worry a bit that there may be a temptation to engage in overkill -- a hundred hearings a day on a thousand subjects -- when the smart play is to focus in a few key topics. The wildly underexplored subject of what's been going on with the money being spent in Iraq strikes me as something that should be a prime candidate.

I agree with Matt that the Democrats need to be smart about how they go about investigating the Bush administration and should concentrate on the key areas that best illustrate their massive failure. I also agree that war profiteering is an overlooked subject that focuses on the corrupt crony capitalism that has fueled this administration from day one. (Jane was on this a year ago.) It's long past time people started asking where in the hell all that money went.

I would suggest that the other two issues that are ripe for investigations, and which would capture the worst of the egregious actions of the Bush administration, are presidential abuse of power and the manipulation of intelligence and strategic errors of Iraq. Those are the areas in which it is important to demand accountability from the administration and demonstrate to the American people that mature, responsible leadership will not allow such behavior to go unpunished.

Republicans are working themselves into a frenzy about these impending investigations and they are worried for very good reason. They have treated the congress like their own private fiefdom and ignored every standard of normal political decency. It's not going to be pleasant for them. But it is essential that this happen. No forgive and forget this time. It was the Democrats' failure to follow through (after a good start in the post Watergate years) when Iran-Contra happened. They got spooked by Reagan's mystique and Republican cant and it led to the revival of these pernicious, undemocratic practices that came out of the Nixon era. This time they went so far as to openly launch a pre-emptive war of aggression. We cannot allow that to happen again.

If You Build It

by digby

I've always thought that one of the perverse consequences of a libertarian utopian government that does nothing but national defense, policing and dispute resolution would be that this government would naturally seek to expand its powers in those areas. If a state's only function is policing, it functions as a ... police state.

We've watched the fake small government conservatives spend huge sums of money on war profiteering, oily pork and tax breaks for their rich contributors. But where they have really made their mark is with these ridiculously expanded executive and police powers. And they continue to suck up more of them every day:

Amid intense debate over how far the government can go to keep its secrets secret, Congress is taking up an expansive intelligence measure that proposes tougher steps in cracking down on leaks of classified information and authorizes broad arrest powers for security officers at intelligence agencies.

Provisions tucked into the legislation, which the House is expected to vote on as early as tomorrow, represent a major departure from traditional intelligence agency roles in plugging leaks and conducting domestic law enforcement, according to government watchdog groups and intelligence professionals.

If the measure is approved by Congress, the nation's spy chief would be ordered to consider a plan for revoking the pensions of intelligence agency employees who make unauthorized disclosures. It also would permit security forces at the National Security Agency and the CIA to make warrantless arrests outside the gates of their top-secret campuses.

The new proposals, which have received little public attention, dovetail with an ongoing Bush administration crackdown on unauthorized leaks.


Critics described the potential penalties outlined in the measure as "draconian."

"In a moment when the intelligence community should be looking forward toward what it does best, the arrest powers represent a step back toward the Nixon-era abuses," said Jason Vest, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group.

The plan by Congress to target the pensions of intelligence agency employees would harm the overall spy effort, according to critics. Some, including former senior intelligence officials, warned that it would create an overly repressive environment within the agencies that could inhibit officers from speaking up, even internally, and discourage risk-taking.

The proposal to penalize leakers with loss of pension will do nothing "but keep good people from going to work in the [intelligence community] agencies," according to a senior intelligence official, who was quoted anonymously yesterday in a letter to the House Intelligence Committee from the Project on Government Oversight.


The measure also directs Congress to conduct a study of possible new sanctions against those who receive leaks of classified information, including journalists.

Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists, said that such sanctions would represent a significant departure by the government, which usually targets only the person who leaks information, not the recipient.

"That is not the prevailing understanding under the law," he said. "If it were, [Washington Post reporter] Bob Woodward would not be a wealthy, best-selling author. He would be serving a life sentence."

At the request of National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte, the legislation would allow agency security forces at the NSA and CIA to make arrests outside the grounds of those agencies. Ware said the measure is "just clarifying the authority" of agency security officers "to arrest individuals."

It would apparently overrule a written opinion by the Maryland attorney general's office, which stated that the NSA's police powers are limited to the agency's grounds and to streets within a 500-foot perimeter of its Fort Meade campus.

The June 2005 opinion concluded that, under Maryland law, NSA officers "may make a citizen's arrest" and would have no immunity from liability for their actions if they are outside their jurisdiction. It notes that NSA officers can only carry firearms within that jurisdiction. The bill would allow them to carry guns.


Loch Johnson, a top Senate aide on the Church Committee, which investigated CIA abuses in the 1970s, called it a "worrisome" expansion of power.

"That's why we have the FBI and other law enforcement officials," he said. "I don't know that this needs to be an intelligence officer's function. I wouldn't think it should be."

Aftergood termed the proposal "shocking" and said "it raises the specter of a secret police force that is unaccountable and operates outside of the normal law enforcement parameters."

I know I feel safer already, don't you?

This is the kind of stuff that's going on right now in the Congress, even as the president's approval rating sits in the low 30's and the Republicans appear to be poised to lose their majority in the fall. They are like sharks, mercilessly pursuing their agenda no matter what is going on around them. They know that it is much more difficult to reverse this kind of thing than it is to enact it. Their gargantuan, national security bureaucracy replete with gun-toting NSA "security" authorized to arrest anyone they choose will be institutionalized and anyone who tries to end it will be tarred as a Democratic sissy for the next generation. If they can sneak this one through, they will.

This letter from the Project On Government Oversight to Rep. Peter Hoekstra and Jane Harmon outlines the various issues of concern. It's hard to believe that these people would have the gall to use this leak controversy as an excuse to create two new secret police forces in the CIA and NSA, but that's what they're doing (among other heinous things.)

I will look forward to another sanctimonious lecture from intelligence chairman Pat Roberts on the horrors of unauthorized leaking when this legislation gets to the Senate. He knows wehat he's talking about. After all, he committed one of the most egregious leaks in recent memory.

Teen Sex Cults

by digby

We've discussed the strange phenomenon of wingnut fascination with bestiality, specifically sex with dogs. And recently we've been treated to the ick inducing sight of seven year old girls dressing up in ball gowns and pledging to their fathers to remain "sexually pure" until daddy turns them over to their husbands.

Via Septic Tank at Kos, here's another peek into the strange, disturbed world of rightwing moralist sexual imagination: teen sex cults. It has even infiltrated the hallowed halls of science at the FDA:

Attorneys for a New York women's group plan to grill Food and Drug Administration officials this week about their failure to decide whether an emergency contraceptive pill called Plan B may be sold without a prescription.

Former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy operations commissioner, and Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA's drug evaluation center, are to testify in court-ordered depositions to be taken by attorneys for the Manhattan-based Center for Reproductive Rights Wednesday through Friday in Washington, D.C., and Rockville, Md.

The women's group seeks to force approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse.

Simon Heller, one of the attorneys, plans to quiz Woodcock on a March 23, 2004, staff memo suggesting she was concerned Plan B might lead to teenage promiscuity.

The FDA is only supposed to consider the safety and efficacy of drugs.

In the memo released by the FDA, Dr. Curtis Rosebraugh, an agency medical officer, wrote: "As an example, she [Woodcock] stated that we could not anticipate, or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B."

Rosebraugh indicated he found no reason to bar nonprescription sales of Plan B.

"This was the level of scientific discourse," Heller said in an interview, referring to concerns attributed to Woodcock. "I find it very odd that these people who are supposed to be responsible scientists and doctors are making up wacky reasons."

Where do they come up with this stuff? I have to assume that Woodcock's dark fantasies came from her own twisted imagination because I haven't been able to find any other references to Plan B and teen-age sex cults. However, that's not to say that there isn't plenty of ludicrous paranoia out there about Plan B. The biggest purveyor of lies on this subject appears to be the Concerned Women For America (a cult if I've ever seen one) that writes volumes of misinformation and misleading blather about everything, but particularly sex.

Here are just a few of their lurid Plan B "talking points":

Rather than reducing the core problem of young people engaging in sexual activity (which carries life-long consequences), it encourages sexual activity. An official survey revealed that MAP use among teenage girls in the United Kingdom more than doubled since it became available in pharmacies, increasing from one in 12 teen-agers to one in five. Among them were girls as young as 12. A girl who said she was 10 years old told the pharmacist "she had already used it four times."


Even morning-after pill proponents agree that sexually active girls are likely victims of sexual abuse, and interaction with medical professionals is an important defense.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute reported: "The younger women are when they first have intercourse the more likely they are to have had unwanted or nonvoluntary first sex, seven in 10 of those who had sex before age 13, for example."

...The rush to choose "pregnancy outcome options" may preempt efforts to rule out sexual abuse. "Sexual abuse is a common antecedent of adolescent pregnancy, with up to 66% of pregnant teens reporting histories of abuse…. Pregnancy may also be a sign of ongoing sexual abuse…. Boyer and Fine found that of 535 young women who were pregnant, 44% had been raped, of whom 11% became pregnant as a result of the rape. One half of these young women with rape histories were raped more than once."

It should be noted that this same group enthusiastically endorsed the South Dakota abortion law that offers no exemption for rape or incest.

The Bangkok Post reported disturbing consequences of easy availability of the morning-after pill for the past 15 years, including:

Random studies showed that men are the most frequent buyers. "They buy the pills for their girlfriends or wives so that they don't have to wear condoms and feel they’re at no risk of becoming a father afterwards. Some women I've spoken to said that they didn't even know what they were taking; that the guy just said it was a health supplement," said Nattaya Boonpakdee, program assistant at the Population Council (an agency dedicated to promoting and developing contraception and abortion methods).

"Although many feminists believe that the morning-after pill gives them more control over their own bodies, it would seem, judging from the few studies conducted so far, that it is actually being used by men to exploit women."

This is more of that taking away women's autonomy is really giving them "freedom" gibberish that these robotic forced birth freaks spew. They might as well be speaking in tongues for all the sense it makes.

They believe that the morning after pill is an abortion. But they would be against it even if it weren't because it encourages promiscuity. Or it allows men to exploit women. Or it's unsafe. Or it will give women emotional problems. Or physical problems because women who have abortions are more likely to die than women who don't. Except they aren't. But no matter, even if that isn't true, there are always a thousand reasons why women should not be allowed to fuck. Pick one and run with it.

"The morning-after pill is a pedophile's best friend," Wendy Wright, senior policy director for Concerned Women of America, a public policy organization, said in a statement after learning of Galson's decision. "Morning-after pill proponents treat women like sex machines."

Pedophiles and sex-machines. Hoo baby. But hey, if it's fantasies of teen sex cults that rev these gruesome, obsessive imaginations, have at it. It would be nice if the scientists at the FDA got their jollies elsewhere, however. This is important.