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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saturday Night At The Movies

Release Me

By Dennis Hartley

Although the DVD format has been with us now for a good ten years, there is still a surprising amount of “back catalogue” that remains unreleased, for one reason or another.

In many cases, I’m sure lawyers are involved; estate wrangling, music soundtrack publishing issues, etc., but I suspect the biggest problem is the disconnect between the powers that be at the major releasing studios and the true movie buff zeitgeist .

There are some companies that “get it” (Criterion, Anchor Bay, Blue Underground, HVE, Kino, Rhino and New Yorker Video come to mind) but they seem few and far between.

I could easily list 100 titles, but here are my top ten desires on the “wish list”-

"Mickey One" - 1965 film from director Arthur Penn stars Warren Beatty as a stand up comic on the run from the mob. A Kafkaesque, noirish vision filmed in exquisite B&W.

"The Friends of Eddie Coyle" - I’ve discussed this lost 70’s noir gem before; Robert Mitchum at his world-weary best as an aging hood. Great support from Peter Boyle.

"O Lucky Man!" - The late Lindsay Anderson’s masterpiece remains MIA, despite a huge cult fan base. Thankfully, Alan Price’s magnificent soundtrack is available on CD.

"The New Age" - Overlooked yet brilliant mid-90’s social satire from writer-director Michael Tolkin (“The Rapture”). Great performances from Judy Davis and Peter Weller.

"Serial" - Another social satire, targeting a group of self-absorbed California trendies living in Marin county in the late 70’s. Hilarious stuff. With Martin Mull and Tuesday Weld.

"Dreamchild" - Unique 1985 entry blends Jim Henson’s muppetry with the poignant real-life story of the relationship between Lewis Carroll (Ian Holm) and young Alice Liddell.

"Stardust" - 1974 film starring British rocker David Essex in a stunning “rise and fall” portrait of a decadent, self indulgent rock star. (BTW its “prequel”, “That’ll Be The Day”, is in print.)

"Liquid Sky" - Sci-fi/androgynous alien love story/punk rock/ heroin chic/downtown NYC art scene satire has to be seen to be believed! (Was briefly available but went quickly out of print.)

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains" - Another cult favorite, starring a very young Diane Lane as the nihilistic leader of a feminist punk rock band. (Beware of the DVD-R bootlegs!)

"The Decline of Western Civilization" - Penelope Spheeris’ vital document of the early 80’s LA punk rock scene remains curiously unavailable. Darby Crash lives!

And now for some Good News: A few gems scheduled to see the light of day in 2007 -

April 3: Bedazzled and Royal Flash.

April 10: Brute Force (Film noir classic)

April 17: Thieves Like Us (Overlooked Altman) and Bye Bye Brazil

May 15: Vengeance Is Mine (Classic Japanese crime thriller)

May 22: Prince of the City , Straight Timeand Steelyard Blues

Sometime in June: According to their website, Criterion is releasing Lindsay Anderson’s If..., which I hope indicates that “O Lucky Man” (see above) could be in the works!

So what titles are you lusting after? Do tell!

"Base" Motivation

by digby

So President Bush's former pollster, Matthew Dowd has publicly repudiated his old boss in an intereview in the New York Times because he is so dissapointed that bush has not been the kind of uniter he thought he would be:

Ex-Aide Details a Loss of Faith in the President

In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.

A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.

Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

Boy, aint it the truth. And where would he have gotten that idea that was a good idea, do you suppose?

A former Democratic consultant, Matthew Dowd was the chief campaign strategist for Bush-Cheney 2004 and director of polling and media planning for Bush-Cheney 2000. Here, he describes how, even as the Florida recount was progressing, he and Karl Rove were already thinking about a re-election campaign in the event that Bush won. Dowd tells FRONTLINE that while most of the resources in the 2000 campaign were devoted to trying to win over independents, his post-election analysis showed that only 6 to 7 percent of the electorate was truly "persuadable."

This is a transcript of that interview conducted on Jan. 4, 2005.

Let me go back to 2000 for just a minute. ... Where did this idea of a base strategy come from? And was it as revolutionary then as it was reported as being when we all look back? When did you first hear about it? Is it your idea?

Well, it's interesting. Obviously, as you looked at 2000, approached 2000, motivating Republicans was important, but most of our resources [were] put into persuading independents in 2000. One of the first things I looked at after 2000 was what was the real Republican vote and what was the real Democratic vote, not just who said they were Republicans and Democrats, but independents, how they really voted, whether or not they voted straight ticket or not. And I took a look at that in 2000, and then I took a look at it, what it was over the last five elections or six elections.

And what came from that analysis was a graph that I obviously gave Karl, which showed that independents or persuadable voters in the last 20 years had gone from 22 percent of the electorate to 7 percent of the electorate in 2000. And so 93 percent of the electorate in 2000, and what we anticipated, 93 or 94 in 2004, just looking forward and forecasting, was going to be already decided either for us or against us. You obviously had to do fairly well among the 6 or 7 [percent], but you could lose the 6 or 7 percent and win the election, which was fairly revolutionary, because everybody up until that time had said, "Swing voters, swing voters, swing voters, swing voters, swing voters."

And so when that graph and that first strategic imperative began to drive how we would think about 2004, nobody had ever approached an election that I've looked at over the last 50 years, where base motivation was important as swing, which is how we approached it. We didn't say, "Base motivation is what we're going to do, and that's all we're doing." We said, "Both are important, but we shouldn't be putting 80 percent of our resources into persuasion and 20 percent into base motivation," which is basically what had been happening up until that point, because of -- look at this graph. Look at the history. Look what's happened in this country. And obviously that decision influenced everything that we did. It influenced how we targeted mail, how we targeted phones, how we targeted media, how we traveled, the travel that the president and the vice president did to certain areas, how we did organization, where we had staff. All of that was based off of that, and ultimately, thank goodness, it was the right decision.

That is a huge part of why the "compassionate conservative" turned into a total wingnut. Dowd is very modest these days about his part in that. In fact, he didn't mention it at all in the NY Times article and the reporter didn't bother to mention it either. But let's just say that I'm a little bit skeptical about Matthew Dowd's sincerity about anything. He went from being a Democrat in 1999 to jump on the Bush train, advised him that he pretty much didn't need to bother trying to answer to anybody but his rabid wingnut base and now that it's all fallen apart he's boo-hooing to the NY Times about he feels betrayed.

He claims to be a believer so maybe he can have a conversation with his priest or pastor about where he might have gone wrong in all this. I don't think the rest of us can give him absolution.

Update: Julia sends along this little tid-bit from Adam Nagourney in the NY Times, back when Dowd was strutting in 2003:

This shift signals that the 2004 election will have a much greater reliance on identifying supporters and getting them to the polls. That would tip the balance away from the emphasis on developing nuanced messages aimed at swing voters, who make up 10 percent to 20 percent of the electorate, pollsters said.

The change has the potential, several strategists said, of encouraging the presidential candidates to make the kind of unvarnished partisan appeals that they once tried to avoid out of concern of pushing away independent-minded voters. "If both sides are
concerned about motivating their base, the agenda difference between the two is much more dramatic," Mr. Dowd said. "I actually think it could make for a much more interesting election."

Oh my yes.

Piss Donohue

by digby

I'm sorry to have to say this because I am generally pretty tolerant of religion and try to be respectful of others' beliefs. But until the Catholic Church steps up and says that this screaming nutcase Bill Donohue and his band of freaks don't speak for them, I'm going to have to assume that the Catholic Church agrees with his lunatic ravings. This is getting completely ridiculous:

A planned Holy Week exhibition of a nude, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ was canceled Friday amid a choir of complaining Catholics that included Cardinal Edward Egan.

The ``My Sweet Lord'' display was shut down by the hotel that houses the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan, said Matt Semler, the gallery's creative director. Semler said he submitted his resignation after officials at the Roger Smith Hotel shut down the show.

The six-foot sculpture was the victim of ``a strong-arming from people who haven't seen the show, seen what we're doing,'' Semler said. ``They jumped to conclusions completely contrary to our intentions.''

But word of the confectionary Christ infuriated Catholics, including Egan, who described it as ``a sickening display.'' Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was ``one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever.''

Here is what Donohue actually wrote on his website, via feministe:

Catholic League president Bill Donohue outlined his game plan today:

“The Roger Smith Hotel is located in the heart of New York City, and it boasts on its website that its Lab Gallery ‘is a high traffic, fast paced’ venue. Indeed it is: the gallery is located on street level, easily accessible to the public. But it is sure bet that in the years to come there will be little in the way of high traffic coming from the Christian community.

“As I’ve said many times before, Lent is the season for non-believers to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus. What’s scheduled to go on at the Roger Smith Hotel, however, is of a different genre: this is hate speech. And choosing Holy Week—the display opens on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday—makes it a direct in-your-face assault on Christians.

“All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don’t react the way extremist Muslims do when they’re offended—otherwise they may have more than their heads cut off. James Knowles, President and CEO of the Roger Smith Hotel (interestingly, he also calls himself Artist-in-Residence), should be especially grateful. And if he tries to spin this as reverential, then he should substitute Muhammad for Jesus and display him during Ramadan.

“I am contacting hundreds of organizations about this assault. Our allied list contains scores of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu organizations, as well as secular groups, that share our concerns about religious hate speech and the degradation of our culture. The only thing that those who operate the Roger Smith Hotel understand is when they get hit in the pocket book. So that’s exactly where we’ll hit them. The boycott is on.”

The "boycott" was successful:

The hotel and the gallery were overrun Thursday with angry phone calls and e-mails about the exhibit. Semler said the calls included death threats over the work of artist Cosimo Cavallaro, who was described as disappointed by the decision to cancel the display.

``In this situation, the hotel couldn't continue to be supportive because of a fear for their own safety,'' Semler said.

Yes, it's a good thing these conservative Christians aren't like those horrible Muslims.

So, what did this horrible example of Catholic hate speech look like?

Oh, wait, that's not it. That's from the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. (Ooops. How embarrassing.)

Here it is:

Oh, heck. Wrong again. That's the statue of David, the most famous sculpture in the world. My bad.

Here's the offending sculpture:

Since the Vatican itself is a veritable sausage fest, and its most renowned artist, Michaelangelo, sculpted the most famous nude Biblical figure in history, it simply cannot logically be the nudity that's the problem for the Catholic League. (Lord knows, the Catholic League is nothing if not logical.)

So it must be the medium. The fact that it is sculpted in chocolate is so offensive to Donohue's thugs that they are issuing death threats to those who display such alleged blasphemy. I don't exactly understand why that would be. Chocolate is no more meaningful than clay or bronze or marble. It doesn't carry any scatalogical meaning nor is it thought of as derisive in any way. Perhaps the Catholic League could distribute its list of approved artist materials so that they won't run afoul of the rules and cause themselves to be threatened with death and boycott or accused of hate speech.

It's really too bad the artist didn't think to do it in cartoon form because the entire right wing would be in a frenzy defending his right to free speech. Indeed, he would have become a martyr for all of western civilization. Unapproved sculpting materials, on the other hand, are so far out that death threats are entirely appropriate.

Why is it that I have such a problem understanding the alleged principles the religious conservatives lives by? And why am I so unimpressed with the leaders of a great religion who allow people to act like cretins in their name and yet cover up much more serious crimes against actual human beings?

I'll have to think about that some more.

Update: Crooks and Liars has the video of Donohue "debating" the artist on Anderson Cooper's show. This guy is Joe McCarthy on steroids .


Friday, March 30, 2007

Christian Soldiers

by digby

The other night I wrote a post about the Bushie Best and Brightest in which I noted that more than 150 Pat Robertson U (Regent university) graduates had been hired by the admnistration. In doing some research on the post below, I once again came across this article from last fall in the New York Review of Books by Gary Wills called "A Country Ruled By Faith" that further illuminates how this came about:

The head of the White House Office of Personnel was Kay Coles James, a former dean of Pat Robertson's Regent University and a former vice-president of Gary Bauer's Family Research Council,[2] the conservative Christian lobbying group that had been set up as the Washington branch of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. She knew whom to put where, or knew the religious right people who knew. An evangelical was in charge of placing evangelicals throughout the bureaucracy. The head lobbyist for the Family Research Council boasted that "a lot of FRC people are in place" in the administration.[3] The evangelicals knew which positions could affect their agenda, whom to replace, and whom they wanted appointed. This was true for the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and Health and Human Services—agencies that would rule on or administer matters dear to the evangelical causes.[4]

The White House was alive with piety. Evangelical leaders were in and out on a regular basis. There were Bible study groups in the White House, as in John Ashcroft's Justice Department. Over half of the White House staff attended the meetings. One of the first things David Frum heard when he went to work there as a speech writer was: "Missed you at the Bible study."[5] According to Esther Kaplan:

Aside from Rove and Cheney, Bush's inner circle are all deeply religious. [Condoleezza] Rice is a minister's daughter, chief of staff Andrew Card is a minister's husband, Karen Hughes is a church elder, and head speechwriter Michael Gerson is a born-again evangelical, a movement insider.[6]

Other parts of the administration were also pious, with religious services during the lunch hour at the General Services Administration.[7]

Faith-Based Justice

The labyrinthine infiltration of the agencies was invisible to Americans outside the culture of the religious right. But even the high-profile appointments made it clear where Bush was taking the country. One of his first appointments, for the office of attorney general, was of the Pentecostal Christian John Ashcroft, a hero to the evangelicals, many of whom had earlier wanted him to run for president— Pat Robertson had put up money for his campaign. As a senator, Ashcroft had sponsored a bill to protect unborn life "from [the moment of] fertilization." As soon as he was nominated to be attorney general, the Family Research Council mobilized women to lobby at Senate offices for his confirmation.[8] The evangelicals had long been familiar with Ashcroft's piety. He told an audience at Bob Jones University that "we have no king but Jesus," and called the wall of separation between church and state a "wall of religious oppression."[9]

After his nomination but before his confirmation, Ashcroft promised to put an end to the task force set up by Attorney General Janet Reno to deal with violence against abortion clinics —evangelicals oppose the very idea of hate crimes. The outcry of liberals against Ashcroft's promise made him back off from it during his confirmation hearings. In 2001, there was a spike in violence against the clinics —790 incidents, as opposed to 209 the year before.[10] That was because the anthrax alarms that year gave abortion opponents the idea of sending threatening powders to the clinics—554 packets were sent. Nonetheless, Ashcroft refused for a long time to send marshals to quell the epidemic.[11]

That was one of many signs that this administration thought of abortion as a sin, not as a right to be protected. The President himself called for an amendment to the Constitution outlawing abortion. He called evangelical leaders around him to celebrate the signing of the bill banning "partial birth abortions." The signing was not held, as usual, at the White House but in the Ronald Reagan Building, as a salute to the hero of younger evangelicals. Ashcroft moved enforcement of the ban to the Civil Rights Division, a signal that evangelicals appreciated, implying that the fetus is a person with civil rights to be protected.[12] Then, in what was called a step toward enforcement, Ashcroft subpoenaed hospitals for their files on hundreds of women who had undergone abortions —Democrats in Congress called this a major invasion of privacy.[13]

Ashcroft's use of the Civil Rights Division for religious purposes was broader than his putting partial-birth abortion under its jurisdiction. Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, two critics of Republican policies, write in One Party Country:

In 2002, the department established within its Civil Rights Division a separate "religious rights" unit that added a significant new constituency to a division that had long focused on racial injustice. When the Salvation Army— which had been receiving millions of dollars in federal funds—was accused in a private lawsuit of violating federal antidiscrimination laws by requiring employees to embrace Jesus Christ to keep their jobs, the Civil Rights Division for the first time took the side of the alleged discriminators.[14]

Little did he know that the Regent brigade were also down and dirty Justice Department party loyalty enforcers. Apparently blind fealty to Bush and the GOP is the way you show your love for Jesus.

The Daily GOP Crook

by digby

I think I'm going to institute a feature called The Daily GOP Crook. Obviously, it will not be comprehensive because there are so many of them to choose from. But I will struggle to weed through all the news stories about corruption, lying, malfeasance and ineptitude in this admnistration to find one special Bushie to highlight.

My pick today is our old friend Dr. Eric Keroack. Dr. Keroack, you'll recall, is the freakish rightwing anti-birth control zealot who Bush naturally chose to head the Health and Human Services office of Population Affairs. Both tristero and I wrote about him repeatedly, but you may remember him more for his unusual views about sexual abstinence as illustrated by this little hand-out he used at meetings and seminars:

And this:

Of course Bush would appoint someone like that to head the family planning department at HHS. Unfortunately, something seems to have gone wrong with Keroack's own practice:

The head of the federal office responsible for providing women with access to contraceptives and counseling to prevent pregnancy resigned unexpectedly yesterday after Medicaid officials took action against him in Massachusetts.

The Health and Human Services Department provided no details about the nature of the Massachusetts action that led to Dr. Eric Keroack's resignation.


"Yesterday, Dr. Eric Keroack alerted us to an action taken against him by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Office of Medicaid. As a result of this action I accepted his resignation," Dr. John Agwunobi, assistant secretary for health, said in a statement last evening.

Massachusetts Medicaid officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.


Keroack told his staff in a letter yesterday that he became aware of the action being taken against his private medical practice in Massachusetts. He said he immediately hired a lawyer to initiate an appeal. He did not elaborate on why the action was taken.

How shocking. Another conservative Christian member of the Bush administration seems to have some sort of ethical problem. I have no idea what the details of these alleged ethical problems are except that it is Medicaid related. Kerouack's practice was described in this Alternet article:

He's the full-time medical director for A Woman's Concern, a chain of Boston area crisis pregnancy centers, where he spreads all the usual lies about abortion and uses ultrasound scans as a tool to influence the decisions of women who might be considering abortion.

(You can read all about it, here.)

We can only imagine why Keroack had to resign. But it does bring to mind an earlier scandal with a rightwing Christian doctor and medicaid: Dr Tom Coburn, Senator from Oklahoma:

According to records obtained by Salon, Coburn filed an apparently fraudulent Medicaid claim in 1990, which he admitted in his own testimony in a civil malpractice suit brought against him 14 years ago by a former female patient. The suit alleged that Coburn had sterilized her without her consent. It eventually was dismissed after the plaintiff failed to appear for the trial. In his sworn testimony, Coburn admitted he sterilized the then 20-year-old woman without securing her written consent as required by law. He blamed the omission on a clerical error, but maintained that he had her oral consent for the procedure. (Salon has been unable to contact the woman and is withholding her name out of respect for her privacy.) Coburn also revealed under oath that he had charged the procedure to Medicaid -- despite knowing that Medicaid, also known as Title 19, does not cover the cost of sterilization for anyone under age 21.

Coburn was elected in spite of this revelation and I think we know why: good conservative Christians have no problem with sterilizing bad poor women without written permission and charging the taxpayers for it.

Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that Keroack has done that specific thing. But let's just say that it's been proven over and over again that good Christian conservative "doctors" have as "flexible" a sense of medical ethics as they do of political ethics. Nothing would surprise me.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Legal Sweetie

by digby

The Wapo has some insight into our previously obscure young walküre:

When a college intern in the Justice Department whined that all he was doing was filing and answering phones, Monica M. Goodling took him aside. If he wanted to do "substantive work," she told him, he was going to have to prove himself first.

The intern walked out of the office in a huff, and when he returned an hour later, Goodling took him aside again. "You're fired," she said.

"Some people in the office thought: 'Wow! That was tough,' " said Mark Corallo, her former boss in Justice's Office of Public Affairs, who recalled the incident. "But I thought, 'Good for her.' "


This week, Goodling, 33, became the most prominent federal official to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress since Lt. Col. Oliver L. North refused to answer questions -- until he received immunity -- during the 1986 Iran-contra hearings.

Goodling, now on an indefinite leave, most recently served as senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and as Justice's liaison to the White House. Her name appears on several e-mails about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are eager to ask her about those dismissals.

Explaining why she invoked her right against self-incrimination, her lawyer, John M. Dowd, called the investigation "hostile" and said that some committee members "have already reached conclusions."

At yesterday's Judiciary hearing, senators questioned why she was still employed at Justice. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former U.S. attorney, noted that the department encourages corporations to fire employees who refuse to cooperate with government investigations.

"I'm a little surprised that she's still there after taking the Fifth," he said.

To her supporters, Goodling's only mistake -- if she made one at all -- was not anticipating the political peril before the 2006 midterm elections.

"The young conservatives who came off the campaign and were new to town with this administration, they've never seen lean times," said a veteran Republican political appointee who declined to be quoted by name saying anything critical of Goodling. "They had no appreciation for what would happen after the Democrats took control and how tough it would be."

To her detractors, Goodling was an enforcer of political loyalty who was not squeamish about firings -- of interns or of senior officials.

"She forced many very talented, career people out of main Justice so she could replace them with junior people that were either loyal to the administration or would score her some points," said a former career Justice official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

I guess clawing your way up the ladder on the backs of others is an example of those wonderful traditional values that she learned at Pat Robertson U.

Machiavelli's Inbred Children

by digby

It seems that every day we hear of another example of the Bush administration politicizing the Justice department. Today we hear from a former career prosecutor in the civil rights division, filling in another piece of the puzzle:

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

Here's another article debunking the "voter fraud" trope.

No surprise there. What is a surprise is how nobody seems to have seen this coming. The rough outlines were available when I wrote about what I saw as an emerging "illegal aliens are voting" theme almost a year ago. I thought they were preparing to use it for last November but I was a premature anti-purger.

But since I first started writing on-line, one of my recurring themes is that the modern Republican party has become fundamentally hostile to democracy.(And we already knew they were crooks.) This was first made obvious to me back in 1994, when Republican leader Dick Armey famously stated "your president is just not that important for us." They went on to impeach that president against the clear will of the people.

But the biggest clue about what they were up to came in 2000 with the Florida recount. I know it seems like ancient history to go back to that but it is extremely important to remember just how outrageous their tactics were: the Gore campaign used legal tactics and the Bush campaign didn't. There was the "bourgeois riot" and dirty trickster Roger Stone directing the street theatre from a van. (Here's a list of what the Village Voice termed the five worst Bush recount outrages.) They used every lever of power they could to count illegally cast overseas ballots. They operated a hypocritical and situational media campaign that the press completely failed to properly analyze until it was too late. And after they did they helpfully told those who objected to "get over it." And I guess we did.

The Republicans have been remarkably good about keeping their mouths shut about the Florida shennanigans, pretending that Jeb Bush's electoral apparatus gave them no unusual help. Still, I was surprised to see a former Florida recount icon show up on the Lehrer News Hour last week to argue that the US Attorney firings were completely above board. His name is Michael Carvin and he was the lawyer who argued the Bush case before the Florida Supreme Court. Here's his picture. I'm sure many of you will remember him:

The Newshour failed to identify him as one of the Florida recount team and instead named him merely as a former Reagan official. But he didn't fail to carry the Bush water one more time:

MICHAEL CARVIN: I really think this is much ado about very little. I'm not saying that they haven't mishandled this from a public relations perspective. They clearly have.

But the notion that firing eight U.S. attorneys with White House personnel involved is somehow shocking is like saying you're shocked to discover there's gambling in Casablanca. I don't know where these people have been.

There's not one member of that Judiciary Committee who hasn't called the White House or the Justice Department and said, "My cousin or my law school roommate wants to be a U.S. attorney."

So the notion that these kinds of appointments and removals in Walter's administration -- they fired all 93 in one slot -- the notion that is isn't influenced by the fact that the president needs his team in place, both at the main Justice Department and in the field, is really quite silly and quite counterfactual.

This would be typical Carvin. For instance, here's something he said after Bush v Gore was decided:

The new deadline for all recounts to be submitted to Katherine Harris was 5 p.m. Sunday, November 26. Now, that Sunday afternoon you could watch any of the television coverage and see that Palm Beach was still counting. And by late afternoon you heard various officials in Palm Beach acknowledging that they were not going to be finished by five. Now, we maintain that was completely illegal, because the law said you had to manually recount all ballots. [See Village Voice top five outrages for why this is such a slimy position for him to take.]

But as five o'clock approached, we heard that the secretary of state was going to accept the Palm Beach partial recount --- even though the Palm Beach partial recount was blatantly illegal. We were told that the secretary of state's view was that unless Palm Beach actually informed her --- in writing or otherwise --- that the returns were only a partial recount, she could not infer that on her own.

So we made some calls to a few Republicans overseeing the Palm Beach recount. We told them to gently suggest to the canvassing board that it might as well put PARTIAL RETURN on the front of the returns that were to be faxed up in time for the deadline. The reason we gave was clarity --- that the words PARTIAL RETURN would distinguish those returns from the full count that would be coming in later that night. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I think the Palm Beach board did in the end write PARTIAL RECOUNT on the returns. We all know that the Secretary of State, in the end, rejected them. [By rejecting them, he means that she said that a partial return missed the deadline altogether and all the previously uncounted votes that were counted in the partial recount were never added to the tally. This had the effect of never allowing Gore to take the lead.]

I think the board members probably agreed to write the PARTIAL RECOUNT notation for two reasons. First of all, I think they hadn't slept in 48 hours, so I think they'd sort of do anything. Second of all, I don't think they or anybody else would have suspected that it would actually make any difference. Who would imagine that without the simple notation of PARTIAL RETURN the partial count would have been accepted as a complete count by the secretary of state? Even while the television showed them still counting?

But I don't think it was Machiavellian to suggest to the board that it write PARTIAL RECOUNT, because that is what it was. I think it would have been sort of Machiavellian to suggest to pretend they were not partial returns. [Talk Magazine, March 2001, p. 172

I know that virtually nobody cares about this anymore, if they ever did, but this was so full of nonsense that it amazed me that he got away with saying it. And the tale he tells, bad as it is, is still obviously not the whole story.

They were clearly colluding with Katherine Harris' office throughout and they determined that she could reject all of the Palm Beach county votes they had counted by 5pm with this little gambit. Everything depended on not allowing Al Gore to ever take the lead or their whole PR campaign would start to fall apart.

It's a small thing, I know, and probably one of thousands of such small acts of illegal and inappropriate collusion between Jeb Bush and the campaign during the recount. But it happened and we knew it happened. And it was done by people like Michael Carvin, former Reagan Justice Department official who now implies that the US Attorney scandal is nothing because everyone knows that the Bush Justice department is an enforcement arm of the Republican Party and that's perfectly normal.

That is just how these people think. It's why they hunted Clinton and Reno like dogs for eight years, determined to find evidence of wrongdoing. They either assume everyone does it because they do or they know they can innoculate themselves against accusations of their own bad acts by getting to the punch first. (And harrassing Democrats is rewarding in and of itself.)

I wrote to reporters Don Van Atta and Jake Tapper about this Carvin tid-bit when they were covering the media recount for the NY Times and Salon (and Tapper was writing a book about it.) Tapper was uninterested, but Van Natta called me and I told him where to find the quote. (Talk Magazine is not on lexis-nexis.) Then came 9/11, the recount story was pretty much shelved and the entire country was told we had to gather around the president.

But then, we had been told that from the beginning, hadn't we? The media were complicit in this, helping the Republicans along every step of the way during the recount with constant rending of garments about a constitutional crisis and fantasies about tanks in the streets if things weren't settled instantly. (The deadlines! My god, the deadlines!) And when it was all done, they told us repeatedly to get over it.

And here we are, six years later, actually debating whether the Bush White House has been manipulating the electoral system. For god's sake --- of course they have been. This administration was installed through crude manipulation of the rigged levers of power in the Bush family's political machine and they see such outrageous conduct as perfectly legitimate. Indeed, I'm sure they believe "it's not Machiavellian" to use the Department of Justice to rig the vote --- it would be Machiavellian not to.

Update: Here's a nice little update from 2005 on the Bourgeois Rioters.

Update II: And lest we forget, Tim Griffin, the houseboy Rove insisted replace the Arkansas US Attorney was on the Florida recount team. So was Kyle Sampson.

Oh. My. God.

by digby

This one, from TBOGG, is only for bloggity, blog-blog obsessives, but for those of you who are aware of the Ann Althouse oeuvre: just - oh. my. god.

The message is clear. Don't drink and vlog.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kissing The Ring

by digby

Speaking of James Dobson's proclamation that Fred Thompson is not a Christian and therefore cannot be considered for the presidency, Andrew Sullivan says:

A religious test for public office - clearly stated by the GOP's most powerful base figure. Catholics aren't real Christians either, according to Dobson. Now maybe people will take the threat to secular politics seriously. Here's the acid test: see if any of the other Republican candidates or a leading figure in the Bush administration attacks Dobson's position. This is getting interesting.

I doubt very seriously if that will be necessary. Thompson will make a pilgrimage to one or more of the high priests and proclaim his hostility to activist judges and everybody will get along just fine. That's how St John, Rudy and Newtie did it and matinee idol Fred has to do the same thing.

They will inevitably give dispensation to anyone who can win and exert their influence once they have someone in the white house. They know how to play power politics as well as any professional politicians. Better, actually.

Republican On Paper

by digby

David Iglesias gave an interview with GQ today. He's obviously quite disillusioned by what happened and is pulling no punches. Here's one little bit I thought was interesting:

Are you at all interested in running for office some day?


Had you ever been?

I was interested. Now, I cast a jaundiced eye towards the political process.

Because of the firing?

Oh sure. Yeah. Because if running for office means you’re willing to cheat, you’re willing to lie, you’re willing to slander people, then I’m not interested. And, frankly, I’ve got a practical matter. I’ve got four kids—all girls—so I’m going to have four weddings and four college educations in the next 15 years, and based on what members of Congress make…just do the math! It’s not very encouraging.

That's a bit of a cop-out. It doesn't have to be that way and usually isn't --- unless you are a modern Republican. He even says, in another part of the interview:

I’d heard that things had gotten more political under Bush from career people in Justice. My first assistant has been around since the Carter administration, and he told me that he’s never seen anything like this, that politics historically don’t play any role in our prosecutive decision-making.

But it hasn't really sunk in yet.

Do you still consider yourself a Republican?


Do you consider the people in the White House to be Republicans?

I think they’ve lost their way. They’ve lost their moral compass. On paper, we would probably be in agreement on most of the major issues, but in terms of actual practice and treating people fairly and respectfully and decently, I’ve lost my faith in our leadership.

In the interview he says that he's against torture and that the justice department is the most political anyone can remember. He complains that the executive branch overreached because there was one party rule. But while this stuff was going on, the entire Republican establishment as well as a large number of the press and the entire base were not just supportive, they were ecstatically enthusiastically supportive. Bush was being lauded as a new Winston Churchill. Not everyone agreed, of course, but we were called traitors.

At some point you have to look past the leadership and ask why people were so willing to follow them over the cliff. It wasn't the system that failed --- it was every single Republican (like Iglesias) who looked the other way because their boy was on top and they wanted to be in the winners circle. Many of them knew that something was very wrong and yet they said nothing. They need to think about that.

It's kind of sweet that he's lost his faith in Bush and the boys, but it's an illness that goes all the way to the bottom. All he has to do is look at those local fellow Republicans who proudly swiftboated him today to know that the Republican party is rotten to the core. And the "philosophy" itself,such as it is, is part of the problem --- all that talk about responsibility and independence and rule of law are just talking points. This is about loyalty to a party which, when you strip all the marketing away, really exists solely as opposition to its enemy. They hate liberalism. Everything is in service to that single animating idea and has been for a long, long time.

When Iglesias failed to go after the enemy regardless of the evidence, he became that enemy. It didn't matter how much he agreed with the party "on paper." All that mattered was that he wasn't loyal, period.

New Mexico Swift Boats

by digby

Well it looks like the Rovian character assassins have decided it's time to go after the US Attorneys. Here's a new attack ad playing on New Mexico radio stations:

Former US Attorney David Iglesias wonders why he was fired. He says it was politics. Well, let's look at the facts.

Iglesias brags he won a huge corruption case but he cut sweetheart deals with those involved and then lost 23 of 24 counts at trial (voices: NOT GUILTY!)

In 2004 3000 suspect voter registration forms turned up. But Iglesias did nothing even when a crack dealer was busted with them and even when political operatives took the fifth and refused to testify about their fraud. David Iglesias just looked the other way.

No wonder a criminal defense lawyer just praised him. He let her client walk.

While he looked the other way on fraud, Iglesias did prosecute a girl for putting bubble gum on a speeding ticket and he did find time to take dozens of taxpayer funded junkets around the world.

Meanwhile his own prosecutors criticized him and a former state supreme court judge publicly called him an ingrate.

Now Iglesias is even trying to play the race card.

David Iglesias. He still can't figure out why he was fired.

C'mon David, isn't it obvious?

This was put together by a group called New Mexicans For Honest Courts. (You can hear the ad at the web site.) They appear to have been around since 2004 and look to be one of those rightwing groups that have sprung up in states all over the country to protest "activist judges." It's hard to know where they got the money for this ad since it looks like they didn't file a PAC report since July of 2006. Maybe some "angel" just came to town.

The message is clear. If you speak out against the family, you'll get whacked.

H/T QW, via DKOS
Thumbsucking Gopers

by digby

The poor, little Republican boo-boos are all tuckered out with "scandal fatigue" since the Democrats took over five minutes ago:

Goodling's announcement, some senior Republicans felt, strengthened the Democrats' charge that the Justice Department had something to hide.

All of which added up to scandal fatigue inside the caucus, the senators said.

Specter's appeal to the caucus received "a lot of head shaking, a lot of eye-rolling," said one senator who attended and spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was private.

It's been six long years of mindlessly rubber stamping that embarrassing excuse for a president and divvying up the spoils so they aren't used to having to defend his miserable record of failure. Seems they don't like it much. Well, those big macho conservatives had better toughen up right quick because this is only the beginning.

To shamelessly rework a famous movie speech written by Paddy Chayevsky:

That is the natural order of things today, Republicans! That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and


Or, perhaps it's better to put it this way: how can you expect the Republicans to defend this country if they can't even defend their own Attorney General?

But that would be the essence of rightwing chickenhawkery, wouldn't it? They're all talk. Always have been.

Still Wondering

by digby

Back in the day I wondered on this blog if Pat Tillman might have been fragged. (I was disabused of that when a reader reminded me that fragging was something that was done only to officers, so I stood corrected on the terminology.) But, I always wondered if he might have been killed on purpose because of this:

Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author.

I got some grief for saying it around the blogosphere and even among some of my commenters:

Guys, it's sad that Pat Tilman is dead, and brutal that he was killed by friendly fire. Certainly the facts surrounding his death were covered up. But to use such slim evidence to jump to the conclusion that Tilman was murdered or "fragged" is pure paranoia. Get a grip. There are plenty of concrete problems for you to deal with.

Last night, Keith Olberman asked Pat Tillman's mom about it:

OLBERMANN: Do you have clearly in your mind what you think happened in Afghanistan to your son? Not what they‘re saying, not what they told you the first time, not what they told you the second time, not what they told you the third time, not what they told you the umpteenth time, and not what they said yesterday. Can you go through this, because I don‘t want to leave any doubt in anybody‘s mind, what do you think happened and why to your son?

TILLMAN: I don‘t know. I think there‘s three scenarios possibly, and I‘d rather not get into them, but I really don‘t know what happened, because we have been told so many different things. I can‘t say that I really do know ultimately what happened to him.

OLBERMANN: But you have included among those three things the possibility that someone deliberately shot him?

TILLMAN: I‘m not excluding that.


TILLMAN: I don‘t think we can at this point.

I don't know any more today than I did then. It was probably an accident that the government tried to cover up and then twist to make into a heroic tale for PR purposes. But I frankly still wouldn't find it altogether surprising if it turned out that the most famous recruit in the Army might have been purposefully killed at that time if he was becoming radicalized. US triumphalism and arrogance was at its zenith and they thought they could get away with anything. Media manipulation and control was always thier first priority. (Jessica Lynch anyone?)

It's an awful thought but this is an administration that says they believe Islamic terrorism is the most serious existential threat in human history, so much so that they must ignore or repudiate all constitutional protections, international treaties and common law that might inhibit them from conducting it however they choose. At the time Tillman was killed, they were fully engaged in a torture and indefinate detention regime, so let's just say it's not beyond the realm of imagination that they could go this far. I'm sure it sucks not to get the benefit of the doubt on something like this, but that's the price you pay for thinking it's a good idea to ignore civilized norms and base your strategy on appearing to be ruthless and mercilesss. People tend to lose faith in your decency and good intentions.

Getting Warmer

by digby

Emptywheel's at it again --- she's deep in the weeds and figures out the probable reason why Gonzales abruptly ended his press conference today:

If you click through and watch the video, you will see precisely what question got Abu Gonzales so scared he ran away: When did you approve the final list of USAs to be sacked?

"It was sometime in the Fall of 2006," Abu Gonzales answered, then showed Chicago the hand and walked away.

It's a curious answer and an equally curious moment to abandon the Press Conference. After all, as I pointed out just after the most recent document dump, the November 27 meeting, at which Abu G purportedly approved the list, does not answer the outstanding questions--not about the gap, and not about the decision to fire the USAs. Most importantly, that November 27 meeting still doesn't explain how we go from wondering whether Harriet's boss needs to approve the firings on November 15 (just as Bush left town for two weeks) to when the WH says "we're a go" on December 4, just after Bush has returned to DC.

I had wondered the same thing. Do they actually think they can get away with saying that the gap is perfectly reasonable and pretending that the November 27th meeting answers the questions?

His dashing away at the press conference was just strange.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Straight Talk In Neverland

by digby

On The Situation Room earlier today, St John McCain told us all to clap our hands:

(C&L has the video, here.)

BLITZER: Senator John McCain suggests that crackdown is already working.

I asked him about that in the last hour.


BLITZER: Here's what you told Bill Bennett on his radio show on Monday.


BLITZER: "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today."


BLITZER: "The U.S. is beginning to succeed in Iraq."

You know, everything we hear, that if you leave the so-called green zone, the international zone, and you go outside of that secure area, relatively speaking, you're in trouble if you're an American.

MCCAIN: You know, that's why you ought to catch up on things, Wolf.

General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee. You want to -- I think you ought to catch up. You see, you are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don't get it through the filter of some of the media.

But I know for a fact of much of the success we're experiencing, including the ability of Americans in many parts -- not all. We've got a long, long way to go. We've only got two of the five brigades there -- to go into some neighborhoods in Baghdad in a secure fashion.


BLITZER: Senator John McCain, a Republican presidential candidate, speaking here in THE SITUATION ROOM within the past hour.

Let's go live to Baghdad right now.

CNN's Michael Ware is standing by -- Michael, you've been there, what, for four years. You're walking around Baghdad on a daily basis.

Has there been this improvement that Senator McCain is speaking about?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'd certainly like to bring Senator McCain up to speed, if he ever gives me the opportunity. And if I have any difficulty hearing you right now, Wolf, that's because of the helicopter circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing just a few blocks down the road.

Is Baghdad any safer?

Sectarian violence -- one particular type of violence -- is down. But none of the American generals here on the ground have anything like Senator McCain's confidence.

I mean, Senator McCain's credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, has now been left out hanging to dry.

To suggest that there's any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I'd love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.

And to think that General David Petraeus travels this city in an unarmed Humvee. I mean in the hour since Senator McCain has said this, I've spoken to some military sources and there was laughter down the line. I mean, certainly, the general travels in a Humvee. There's multiple Humvees around it, heavily armed. There's attack helicopters, predator drones, sniper teams, all sorts of layers of protection.

So, no, Senator McCain is way off base on this one -- Wolf.


Michael, when Senator McCain says that there are at least some areas of Baghdad where people can walk around and -- whether it's General Petraeus, the U.S. military commander, or others, are there at least some areas where you could emerge outside of the Green Zone, the international zone, where people can go out, go to a coffee shop, go to a restaurant, and simply take a stroll?

WARE: I can answer this very quickly, Wolf. No. No way on earth can a westerner, particularly an American, stroll any street of this capital of more than five million people.

I mean, if al Qaeda doesn't get wind of you, or if one of the Sunni insurgent groups don't descend upon you, or if someone doesn't tip off a Shia militia, then the nearest criminal gang is just going to see dollar signs and scoop you up. Honestly, Wolf, you'd barely last 20 minutes out there.

I don't know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad.

Ware went on to say that the Senate vote would help Al Qaeda (he's an iconoclastic oddball) but I think his reporting is pretty clear. Baghdad remains hell on earth. John McCain is either delusional or lying.

Imperial Life On The Potomac

by digby

Last night I noted that Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzales' senior counsel and white house liason graduated from Pat Robertson's Regent Unicersity law school. Apparently, she did her undergraduate work at someplace known as Messiah University, so it's pretty clear that this 33 year old is a dyed in the wool social conservative who was likely hired for that reason. Apparently, the Bush Emerald City hiring practices were more systemic than we thought: there are more than 150 graduates of Regent University serving in the Bush Administration

It sure does make you wonder about the ethical and moral instruction at these conservative Christian colleges, doesn't it?

Update: Chris Hayes did a very interesting piece on Regent some time back for the American Prospect. Check it out, it's fascinating:

At a school designed explicitly to produce influential professionals, worldview plays an especially crucial role; it is the bridge from inner spiritual beliefs to public action in the professional sphere. It’s for this reason that Regent’s professors are required to integrate “biblical principles” into every subject area, and it’s the reason that law students take a class their first year in the Christian foundations of law. Regent Law School Dean Jeffrey Brauch calls the result a “JD-plus.” Students take the standard canon of legal education -- torts, property, constitutional law -- but supplement discussions of what the law is with discussions of what the Bible and Christian tradition say the law should be, reading Leviticus, the Gospel of Matthew, and Thomas Aquinas alongside their case law. The same model extends throughout Regent’s nine schools, which offer courses like “Redemptive Cinema” and “Church-based Counseling Programs,” while infusing standard professional training with insights and injunctions from the Judeo-Christian (read: Christian) tradition.

I wonder what book in the Bible blesses vote rigging? Did Jesus preach that lying to is a good thing or that ruining someone's reputation in order to cover up ethical misdeeds (and potential crimes) is godly? I hadn't heard that. But then, I don't share the conservative Christian "worldview" so what do I know about morality?

Faith Based Straight Jacket

by digby

Atrios brings up an interesting point about the new Pew Poll that shows the country rather dramatically trending Democratic (and John Quiggins fascinating take on it, here.)

He says that the whole conservative "wordview" is getting harder and harder for moderates to wrap their minds around and I think that's true. I was reminded of this from a couple of years ago, in which the highly educated conservative intelligensia were asked about the subject of evolution:

William Kristol, The Weekly Standard

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I don't discuss personal opinions. ... I'm familiar with what's obviously true about it as well as what's problematic. ... I'm not a scientist. ... It's like me asking you whether you believe in the Big Bang."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I managed to have my children go through the Fairfax, Virginia schools without ever looking at one of their science textbooks."

Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I've never understood how an eye evolves."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "Put me down for the intelligent design people."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "The real problem here is that you shouldn't have government-run schools. ... Given that we have to spend all our time crushing the capital gains tax I don't have much time for this issue."

David Frum, American Enterprise Institute and National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I do believe in evolution."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "If intelligent design means that evolution occurs under some divine guidance, I believe that."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."

Stephen Moore, Free Enterprise Fund

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I believe in parts of it but I think there are holes in the evolutionary theory."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I generally agree with said critique."

Whether intelligent design or a similar critique should be taught in public schools: "I think people should be taught ... that there are various theories about how man was created."

Whether schools should leave open the possibility that man was created by God in his present form: "Of course, yes, definitely."

Jonah Goldberg, National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Sure."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I think it's interesting. ... I think it's wrong. I think it's God-in-the-gaps theorizing. But I'm not hostile to it the way other people are because I don't, while I think evolution is real, I don't think any specific--there are a lot of unknowns left in evolution theory and criticizing evolution from different areas doesn't really bother me, just as long as you're not going to say the world was created in six days or something."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't think you should teach religious conclusions as science and I don't think you should teach science as religion. ... I see nothing [wrong] with having teachers pay some attention to the sensitivities of other people in the room. I think if that means you're more careful about some issues than others that's fine. People are careful about race and gender; I don't see why all of a sudden we can't be diplomatic on these issues when it comes to religion."

Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Of course."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "At most, interesting."

Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "The idea that [intelligent design] should be taught as a competing theory to evolution is ridiculous. ... The entire structure of modern biology, and every branch of it [is] built around evolution and to teach anything but evolution would be a tremendous disservice to scientific education. If you wanna have one lecture at the end of your year on evolutionary biology, on intelligent design as a way to understand evolution, that's fine. But the idea that there are these two competing scientific schools is ridiculous."

William Buckley, National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I'd have to write that down. ... I'd have to say something more carefully than I can over the telephone. I'm a Christian."

Whether schools should raise the possibility that the original genetic code was written by an intelligent designer: "Well, surely, yeah, absolutely."

Whether schools should raise the possibility--but not in biology classes--that man was created by God in his present form? : "Yes, sure, absolutely."

Which classes that should be discussed in: "History, etymology."

John Tierney, The New York Times (via email)

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I believe that the theory of evolution has great explanatory powers."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I haven't really studied the arguments for intelligent design, so I'm loath to say much about it except that I'm skeptical."

Pat Buchanan, The American Conservative

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Do I believe in absolute evolution? No. I don't believe that evolution can explain the creation of matter. ... Do I believe in Darwinian evolution? The answer is no."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "Do I believe in a Darwinian evolutionary process which can be inspired by a creator? Yeah, that's a real possibility. I don't believe evolution can explain the creation of matter. I don't believe it can explain the intelligent design in the universe. I just don't believe it can explain the tremendous complexity of the human being when you get down to DNA and you get down to atomic particles, and molecules, atomic particles, subatomic particles, which we're only beginning to understand right now. I think to say it all happened by accident or by chance or simply evolved, I just don't believe it."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "Evolution [has] been so powerful a theory in Western history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and often a malevolent force--it's been used by non-Christians and anti-Christians to justify polices which have been horrendous. I do believe that every American student should be introduced to the idea and its effects on society. But I don't think it ought to be taught as fact. It ought to be taught as theory. ... How do you answer a kid who says, 'Where did we all come from?' Do you say, 'We all evolved'? I think that's a theory. ... Now the biblical story of creation should be taught to children, not as dogma but every child should know first of all the famous biblical stories because they have had a tremendous influence as well. ... I don't think it should be taught as religion to kids who don't wanna learn it. ... I think in biology that honest teachers gotta say, 'Look the universe exhibits, betrays the idea that there is a first mover, that there is intelligent design.' ... You should leave the teaching of religion to a voluntary classes in my judgment and only those who wish to attend."

Tucker Carlson, MSNBC

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I think God's responsible for the existence of the universe and everything in it. ... I think God is probably clever enough to think up evolution. ... It's plausible to me that God designed evolution; I don't know why that's outside the realm. It's not in my view."

On the possibility that God created man in his present form: "I don't know if He created man in his present form. ... I don't discount it at all. I don't know the answer. I would put it this way: The one thing I feel confident saying I'm certain of is that God created everything there is."

On the possibility that man evolved from a common ancestor with apes: "I don't know. It wouldn't rock my world if it were true. It doesn't sound proved to me. But, yeah I'm willing to believe it, sure."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't have a problem with public schools or any schools teaching evolution. I guess I would have a problem if a school or a science teacher asserted that we know how life began, because we don't so far as I know, do we? ... If science teachers are teaching that we know things that in fact we don't know, then I'm against that. That's a lie. But if they are merely describing the state of knowledge in 2005 then I don't have problem with that. If they are saying, 'Most scientists believe this,' and most scientists believe it, then it's an accurate statement. What bothers me is the suggestion that we know things we don't know. That's just another form of religion it seems to me."

Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "To the extent that I am familiar with it, and that's not very much, I guess what I think is this: The intelligent designers are correct insofar as they are reacting against a view of evolution which holds that it can't have been guided by God in any way--can't even have sort of been set in motion by God to achieve particular results and that no step in the process is guided by God. But they seem to give too little attention to the possibility that God could have set up an evolutionary process."

Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "I guess my own inclination would be to teach evolution in the public schools. I don't think that you ought to make a federal case out of it though."

You can find more dancing on the head of a pin at the link.

All of these people are obviously professional GOP whores and have a huge personal interest in trying to thread the wingnut. Some are willing to buck the base straightforwardly, notably Krauthammer, who went to medical school, but as I wrote when I first posted on this, the discomfort and dissonance is palpable among most of these people:

What do you suppose it's like to be intellectually held hostage by people who you know for a fact are dead wrong on something? It must be excruciating.

I suspect this is the biggest problem with conservatism today. As Atrios says, you have to buy the whole worldview (or at least be willing to publicly whore for it) in order to truly be part of the movement and that is becoming untenable.

But the professional Republicans soldier on, losing adherants of all stripes as they continue to pretend their worldview is coherent, as Jonathan Chait pointed out last week:

Only 13% of [congressional]Republicans agreed that global warming has been proved. As the evidence for global warming gets stronger, Republicans are actually getting more skeptical. Al Gore's recent congressional testimony on the subject, and the chilly reception he received from GOP members, suggest the discouraging conclusion that skepticism on global warming is hardening into party dogma. Like the notion that tax cuts are always good or that President Bush is a brave war leader, it's something you almost have to believe if you're an elected Republican.


A small number of hard-core ideologues (some, but not all, industry shills) have led the thinking for the whole conservative movement.

National Review magazine, with its popular website, is a perfect example. It has a blog dedicated to casting doubt on global warming, or solutions to global warming, or anybody who advocates a solution. Its title is "Planet Gore." The psychology at work here is pretty clear: Your average conservative may not know anything about climate science, but conservatives do know they hate Al Gore. So, hold up Gore as a hate figure and conservatives will let that dictate their thinking on the issue.

Reflexive rightwing hatred of hippies is certainly part of it. But their superstitious, primitive base requires that they repudiate science generally (stem cells, abortion, evolution etc) or the entire worldview starts to fall apart. This is unsustainable in the modern world and people are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with people who think like this --- or are held hostage to people who think like this --- in positions of power. The results of faith based governance have been pretty stark.


Monday, March 26, 2007

The Best And The Brightest

by digby

It seems that former white house justice department liason Monica Goodling may be stretching her right not to incriminate herself to mean a right not to talk to people who may be mean to her. Josh has the lowdown here.

Ms Goodling is a lawyer so people might think it's unusual that she wouldn't know the law. But I'm frankly not surprised Ms Goodling would have some rather unconventional, out of the mainstream, legal views. She's a graduate of Regent University law school (class of 1999) --- Pat Robertson's very own college.

Apparently the president of the United States hires the finest legal minds in the Christian Coalition to work in the highest reaches of his administration. I'm not sure he's getting what he prays for.

David Iglesias was on CNN earlier today and had this to say about Alberto's best and brightest:

LEMON: Mr. Iglesias, much has been made of the e-mails that supposedly went back and forth with members of the department. What do you make of these emails about you and your colleagues?

IGLESIAS: Well, they are shocking, because they are unprofessional, they are sophomoric, they are snide, they're sarcastic. You want to believe that people running our federal system are professional and dealing are with facts. If you look at the tone and tenor of a lot of these e-mails especially regarding Carol Lam and Ms. Chiara, Margaret Chiara, it's just unprofessional and it's depressing to see a bunch of 30-year-olds with no real prosecution background casting judgment on us.

Who needs experience when you have a law degree from Regent U?

Update: Nitpicker writes about another one 'o those best 'n brightest Bushies.

Where would we be without our Crooks and Liars?

by digby

Give early and often to the worlds first and best video blogger:

Here's an interesting little tid-bit. Four of the most popular posts of the year were by Crook and Liars. In fact, the most popular political post of the year was C&L's post of the Stephen Colbert White House Correspondent's dinner. And the second most popular was C&L's post of Keith Olbermann's Rumsfeld commentary.

What a nice little bit of liberal synergy that is --- the blogosphere, the alternative cable media and video blogging. C&L's been ahead of the curve on all this from the beginning.

John Amato --- Blogger of the year?

Who Are They Kidding?

by digby

Gonzales appeared with softball pitcher Pete Williams today and babbled the usual about how he didn't know nothin' bout birthin' no babies. But this struck me:

Gonzales: The president — the White House has already confirmed that there was a conversation with the president, mentioned it to me in a meeting at the Oval Office — in terms of concerns about — about the commitment — to pursue voter fraud cases in — in three jurisdictions around the country. I don't remember that conversation, but what I'm saying is during the process there may have been other conversations about specifically about the performance of US attorneys. But I wasn't involved in the deliberations as to whether or not a particular United States attorney should or should not be asked to resign.

I have been following this fairly closely, but I haven't heard about three jurisdictions. I thought it was just New Mexico.

Perhaps I'm wrong about that, but I'm not wrong about the insult to my intelligence when wingnuts persist in saying that it's perfectly normal that the president of the United States took an unusual interest in alleged Democratic voter fraud that certain party members said weren't being aggressively enough pursued by the Republican prosecutors he himself appointed. Why would he put any credence into such complaints? His prosecutors weren't Democrats --- they had no agenda. And the inappropriateness of a president interfering in such things is so obvious that any man with integrity would have dropped that hot potato the instant it was put to him --- it just doesn't get any more wrong than him putting the heat on his Justice department to prosecute members of the opposite party on trumped up electoral fraud. After all, there is no evidence that the president or anyone else took an interest in the issue of electoral integrity in general or were concerned about the numerous issues raised by Democrats during the last two presidential elections, so no one can reasonably claim that this was about policy.

What this white house appears to have done goes to the very heart of our democratic system. It's true that he can fire anyone he wants but being party to a plan to rig elections is impeachable.

Tabloid Auto De Fe

by digby

Many people are wondering what in the hell was up with Katie Couric when she hammered John and Elizabeth Edwards last night on 60 Minutes. (Taylor Marsh wrote the definitive post on her egregious conduct, here.)

K-Drum thinks she was just trying to prove her "serious journalist" bonafides, which it seems to me should have been a pre-requisite for her current job, but there you go.

I think she's just a mean, gossipy, twit who likes to put sick people in the dock. Why do I make such a harsh accusation?


Fox told Couric, "At this point now, if I didn't take medication I wouldn't be able to speak."

The portion of the interview they broadcast was quite decent. But you can see the whole interview here --- and listen to Katie Couric push him over and over again on the burning question of whether he manipulated his medication and ask him whether he should have re-scheduled the shoot when his symptoms were manifested as they were. And she does it while she's sitting directly across from him watching him shake like crazy. Her questions imply that it was in poor taste or manipulative as if he can magically conjure a film crew to catch him in one of the fleeting moments where he doesn't appear too symptomatic. The press seems to truly believe that it is reasonable to be suspicious of him showing symptoms of a disease that has him so severely in its clutches that if he doesn't take his medication his face becomes a frozen mask and he cannot even talk.

Sorry. The woman is an insensitive, ratings-hungry tabloid gossip, not a journalist. That's why she makes the big bucks.

Setting The Example

by digby

Iran said Monday it was interrogating 15 detained British sailors and marines to determine whether they intentionally entered Iranian waters — an indication the country might be seeking a way out of the confrontation with Britain.

Britain denies its personnel had left Iraqi territory when they were captured and detained by Iran — a contention backed by Iraq's foreign minister, who called on Iran to release the group.

In comments read out by a newscaster, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehzi Mostafavi did not say what Iran plans to do with the British sailors, but he said they were being interrogated.

Golly, I wonder who's interrogation rules they are using --- the US, China, Egypt, and Saudi's --- or the civilized world's? Unfortunately, there's a little proceeding going on down in Gitmo today that makes the abuse of these British soldiers all the more likely.

The potential for very serious consequences from this is quite high. I can't believe we are in the position of having to hope the Iranians show more restraint and good sense than Dick Cheney, but we are.

H/t to BB.

Wanton Removal

by digby

Via Avedon Carol, I was reminded of this speech by James Madison on the subject of impeachment. (I say "reminded" not because I am a constitutional scholar but because impeachment was discussed at great length recently, as I'm sure you'll recall, and the founders "intent" was debated ad nauseum.)

...let us consider the restraints he will feel after he [the president]is placed in that elevated station. It is to be remarked that the power in this case will not consist so much in continuing a bad man in office, as in the danger of displacing a good one. Perhaps the great danger, as has been observed, of abuse in the executive power, lies in the improper continuance of bad men in office. But the power we contend for will not enable him to do this; for if an unworthy man be continued in office by an unworthy president, the house of representatives can at any time impeach him, and the senate can remove him, whether the president chuses or not. The danger then consists merely in this: the president can displace from office a man whose merits require that he should be continued in it. What will be the motives which the president can feel for such abuse of his power, and the restraints that operate to prevent it? In the first place, he will be im-peachable by this house, before the senate, for such an act of mal-administration; for I contend that the wanton removal of meritorious officers would subject him to impeachment and removal from his own high trust.

Yes, impeachment was considered the remedy for such high crimes and misdemeanors as the promotion and protection of incompetent government officers and the "wanton removal" of good ones. The founders didn't anticipate that serving and pleasuring the president would be casually accepted as politics as usual.

Instead, we now have a political party and pitiful press corps who think that all this manipulation of the justice system for partisan gain is just adorable, while this was worthy of impeachment:

The four House prosecutors who spoke for five hours on Friday painstakingly reviewed the chronology of alleged misconduct against the president — charges with which the public has long been familiar.

They detailed Monica Lewinsky's affidavit in the Paula Jones case, her suprisingly successful job search after an interview she said went poorly, Betty Currie's retrieval of the president's gifts and excerpts of testimony and more testimony.

The prosecutors also produced more charts highlighting alleged contradictions in sworn statements from the president and the other participants in the drama. Lewinsky said the president touched her breasts many times, Clinton said he didn't and many more examples.

I think it's quite clear that when it comes to impeachment the Republicans and the media believe in a living, breathing, moaning and grunting constitution.

The Republicans are very good at innoculation and I think they were very lucky or very prescient in impeaching a president over trivial matters that had nothing to do with his performance in office. They turned impeachment into a crude partisan tool and effectively removed it as the only instrument that can be used to stop a crazed and incompetent president from doing whatever he chooses once he's elected. These people really know how to plan ahead.