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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Who Are The Radicals Again?

by digby

It has long been my contention that Rudy was playing a strongly racist primary campaign to try to signal to the base that he was one of them even though he doesn't have social conservative credentials. In fact, I think the four front runners --- none of whom are pure --- have been skipping these debates with Hispanics and African Americans for that very reason. They have to signal their hatred a little bit more obviously than usual because they don't have the right conservative bona-fides(except Thompson, who has other problems)to send code to the racist conservative neanderthals and be believed. They need to be direct. Especially Rudy, who is the fron trunner only by dint of his sadistic, bloodthirsty rhetoric with its not-very-subtle appeal to racism.
It seems to be working out fine with the rank and file, but it may not turn out to be as easy to soothe the religious right pooh-bahs as I thought. I assumed they would toe the line. They threw their lot in with the Republicans a long time ago. But they seem to feel somewhat insulted that the Big Money Boyz have allowed a (comparatively) social liberal a chance at power purely for practical reasons.

Salon reports:

A powerful group of conservative Christian leaders decided Saturday at a private meeting in Salt Lake City to consider supporting a third-party candidate for president if a pro-choice nominee like Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination.

The meeting of about 50 leaders, including Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who called in by phone, took place at the Grand America Hotel during a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a powerful shadow group of mostly religious conservatives. James Clymer, the chairman of the U.S. Constitution Party, was also present at the meeting, according to a person familiar with the proceedings.

"The conclusion was that if there is a pro-abortion nominee they will consider working with a third party," said the person, who spoke to Salon on the condition of anonymity. The private meeting was not a part of the official CNP schedule, which is itself a closely held secret. "Dobson came in just for this meeting," the person said.

The decision confirms the fears of many Republican Party officials, who have worried that a Giuliani nomination would irrevocably split the GOP in advance of the 2008 general election, given Giuliani's relatively liberal stands on gay unions and abortion, as well as his rocky marital history. The private meeting was held Saturday afternoon, during a lull in the official CNP schedule. Earlier in the day, Vice President Dick Cheney had traveled to Utah to deliver a brief address to the larger CNP gathering. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also addressed the larger group.

The decision has also been reported in an unsigned article by WorldNetDaily, a conservative online news service. "Not only was there a consensus among activists to withhold support for the Republican nominee, there was even discussion about supporting the entry of a new candidate to challenge the frontrunners," the article said. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, WorldNetDaily's editor, Joseph Farah, attended the larger CNP gathering.

I'm certainly looking forward to all the stories about the Republicans being held hostage by their far right "activists" who stupidly refuse to compromise and are ruining their party's chance for victory. I'm especially looking forward to the insightful piece in the NY Times that posits that the 60's narrative that so animates the whole political establishment is now turned on its head: the war is unpopular with a vast (somewhat) silent majority, but the social radicalism and upheaval that fueled the Republican rise back in the day is now all on the conservative side.

You tell me which party should have more to fear that its base is alienating the American people? Which party really needs to be running from the "crazies" of its base and which one's "crazies" are actually average Americans from all walks of life whose most radical proposal is to ensure that all Americans have access to a doctor?

Sadly, you will never hear this from the mainstream press since the radical clerics of the CNP are members in good standing of the Village. They don't have long hair and they don't take drugs and they aren't the crazed anti-war Move-On hippies who are destroying American society. Of course, those hippies are a figment of the fevered imaginations of the Villagers, but that hasn't stopped their dutiful stenographers from writing the narrative of this election as if the activist base of the Democratic party were all dropping acid in the Haight like it was the Summer of Love.

Meanwhile, they ignore the crazed radical religious right which is threatening a third party run against the most conservative Republican party in history and blandly portray a bunch of bloodthirsty billionaire war profiteers as "outsiders" and "activists."

For those who think you have caught me being naive and foolish once again, please re-read the post and you'll notice that I didn't say that the radical religious right was going to actually break off or that they wouldn't make some sort of a deal. I actually think they are applying political power in a pretty effective way.

My point is that a significant conservative constituency is actually threatening to run a third party candidate if they don't get their way and yet all we ever hear about is how the Democrats are being led down the path to perdition by the Move-On hippies who are pushing them to respond to the large majority of Americans who want the US to begin withdrawing from Iraq.

Meet The Villagers

by digby

From the "you can't make this stuff up" files:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, what about a World Series Yankees and Cubs?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I’ve worried about that because I think, given the Cubs’ record, which of course I, I hope it happens, but it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse were that to ever occur. It would be so out of history that you’d have the Cubs vs. the Yankees, then I’d be really in trouble. But I...

MR. RUSSERT: But who would you be for?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Well, the Cubs are in the playoffs, David.


MR. RUSSERT: Cubs, Yankees. You going to seat—sit behind each dugout?

MR. GREGORY: You can’t have it all. In the sports world, you can’t have it all.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, Tim...

MR. GREGORY: That reeks of calculation, which is a potential downside for her.

MR. BUCHANAN: The term “Nixonian” comes to mind on that response.

MR. RUSSERT: How so?

MR. BUCHANAN: In the good sense of the word.

MR. RUSSERT: How so, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, which—“on the one hand, on the other.”

MR. SMILEY: That sounds like Romney is what it sounded like.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Dan Balz, it’s been tough getting these candidates to, to one, one, talk to the press and take real positions. They want to hide out in the Internet, they want to hide out on their blogs, they want to put out prefab commercials and brochures. But when you say to them, “Where are you on Social Security? How are you going to save that program? Where are you on Iraq? Where are you on immigration?” sometimes you get answers like that.

MR. BALZ: You know, it’s interesting. The, the Republicans have gotten a lot of criticism for not coming to Tavis’ debate the other night, and I think justifiably so, for all the reasons that have been discussed here this morning. But, as you point out, all of the candidates on all sides of this race are finding ways to avoid real interaction with the press.


MR. BALZ: Senator Clinton has had one real press availability out on the campaign trail since she announced. Most of them—she did all the Sunday shows last week. She’s basically not doing any others. Obama is very much the same way. They’re all using friendly sources. As you say, they’re trying to get their message out through the Internet. The Republicans go on Sean Hannity all the time. They’re looking for ways to avoid tough follow-up questions.

Right. The tough follow up question to "what would you do if the Cubs and the Yanks meet in the World series" would be ... what?

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick these people are insufferable sometimes. How deep must your massively inflated ego and lack of self-awareness be to not know that your silly, Dr Phil pycho-babble "character" coverage is what makes candidates look elsewhere to talk about substantive issues. These people won't allow them to. Everyone in the corporate press is obsessed with trivia and focused like a laser on any utterance that will "prove" the person fits their pre-conceived narrative. (Read this bucket full of utterly useless lightweight psycholanalytical drivel, if you don't believe me. Hillary the Empty Bore --- just like Gore! Awesome.)

The candidates are "hiding" from their tough questions like Russert's penetrating query on Cubs vs Yanks (or the equally stupid Russertesque "gotcha" questions calling them on something they said in 1978 or his mind-numbing hypotheticals about ticking time bombs and sanctuary cities) because they know that it doesn't matter what they say, the approved narrative will be advanced. Why the hell should any of them bother answering the corporate media's questions anymore?

The bigger problem is that they haven't stopped listening to them.


And, by the way, did David Gregory get too much sun this summer when he was vacationing with his fellow aristocrats in Martha's Vineyard? This has to be the most vapid piece of "analysis" I've seen in many a day:

MR. GREGORY: I think there’s a couple of issues. One, she, she will constantly fight this issue of being her own president, her own woman, and, and is Bill Clinton, the former president, lurking in the shadows, influencing policy? And the way he wrapped his arms around her answers say she’s her own woman, and she’s thought this through, and that’s what she should really be doing. It’s a land mine he’s always going to be walking through.

The second thing is that I think Republicans—all these Republicans that say she is the inevitable nominee, they want her to be the nominee. The only thing they could get Republicans excited right now in their doldrums is the idea of the Clintons running for president, the notion that it’s two-for-one again. And I, I was thinking about George W. Bush in 2000, ending every stump speech saying “When I put my hand on the Bible, I’ll restore honor and digerty—dignity to the White House.” They’d like to, to rehash some of those themes.

Yah think?

I guess that's why these top Village stenographers make the big bucks. Their superior "access" gives them unusual insights like that.

Update: Sommerby has more on the "important questions" that Russert posed during the debate:

PART 2—IT TAKES A VILLAGE BURGHER: Tim Russert didn’t ask about climate change at Wednesday night’s Democratic debate. We had no time for a topic like that. But we did have time for these ruminations. To Russert, these things really mattered:

1) Russert found time to ask John Edwards (for the ten millionth time) about his troubling haircuts.

2) He found time to present the latest 24-style hypothetical—and to play “gotcha” with Hillary Clinton, employing an old Sean Hannity trick. (You get your guest to disagree with a quote. Then, you try to embarrass your guest when you reveal who said it!)

3) He found time to bore the world with a question (to Dennis Kucinich) about a municipal problem in Cleveland—a problem which occurred in Cleveland in 1978.

4) He found time to collect a Bible passage from each of the hopefuls—after leading with the latest RNC-scripted suggestion about the troubling lack of faith among these bad vile Democrats. (“Before we go, there’s been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question...”)

“There’s been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values!” And yes, that’s true, there has been such discussion—among the nation’s pseudo-conservative hacks. But then, Russert has increasingly become a parody of a corporate-selected, multimillionaire mogul.

There's more.

Brass On Board

by digby

The story of the day is surely Seymour Hersh's latest in which he says that the administration seems to have convinced the generals that it needs to attack Iran to protect the troops in Iraq:

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.

“Cheney’s option is now for a fast in and out—for surgical strikes,” the former senior American intelligence official told me. The Joint Chiefs have turned to the Navy, he said, which had been chafing over its role in the Air Force-dominated air war in Iraq. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need—even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” There are also plans to hit Iran’s anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites. “We’ve got to get a path in and a path out,” the former official said.

A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called “short, sharp incursions” by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, “Cheney is devoted to this, no question.”

And the good news is that Britain seems inclined to go along in order to get back their manly pride after that incident with the sailors last spring. (The neocon bullies taunted them relentlessly on that and it worked.)

So, there we have it. All the months of screaming into he void by many bloggers and others on this subject, culminating last week in the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment in which many Democrats, including our presidential frontrunner, signed on to the fundamental premise Cheney is using to justify the attack. (What an excellent move on their part.)

Read the article. It has that sickening stench of a done deal, just like that roll-out in the fall of 2002.

At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”

Cheney isn't really a politician anymore and hasn't been one for a long time. He represents the people who really run things at times like this, the big money boyz, and their concerns are not so parochial as a Republican win. They run things no matter who's in office. (And anyway, they've set certain things in motion, pillaged the treasury so thoroughly and solidified their hold on the media and the Democrats sufficiently enough that they think a few years of GOP R&R is probably a good idea. They need to allow the Democrats just enough power to be blamed, in any case.)

Hersh has been reporting on this impending Iran attack for some time. He has excellent sources inside the military. Until now he has said that there was sufficient resistance among the top brass to doing this, which sounded right to me. It's hard to believe that the military would want to start a new front at this point. This article indicates that they have been persuaded. And it also indicates that the argument they used is the argument they have also seized upon to sell the war to the American people.

John Amato caught Hersh on Blitzer this morning:

Hersh: You can also sell counter-terror, it’s much more logical. You can say to the American people, we’re only hitting these people that are trying to kill our boys and the coalition forces and so that seems to be more sensible, The White House think s they can actually pitch this, this would actually work…

The subtext of that, of course, is that they will browbeat the American people into either stifling their dissent against this action or risk being called traitors to the troops. Only treasonous betray-up bloggers would dare say a word.

And in case anyone's wondering about how they plan to sell this to the American people, we have our answer. Their spanking new "grassroots" group of bloodthirsty billionaire profiteers are on the case:

Its next target: Iran policy.

Instead of the mushroom cloud fear mongering to get the people to accept this action they are going to use the more subtle form of emotional blackmail: harming the troops. When we object to this action we will be accused of not wanting to protect our boys from harm. And it will probably work, at least long enough to flummox the politicians and tie the rest of us in knots trying to explain what's wrong with that picture, until it's far too late.

(Imagine if the Democrats had really gone to the mat on the Webb Amendment...)

And just in case anyone is wondering what the fallout of this insane action is likely to be, well, nobody knows. And nobody in the administration is thinking much about that, other than once again, I suspect, relying on puerile schoolyard logic that says the Iranians will tuck their tails between their legs and run like a bunch of shrieking little weenies once they realize that mighty Big Daddy isn't joking around anymore.

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.”

It would seem that Cheney and the Big Money Boyz have decided that we can't take any chances on a premature withdrawal from the middle east. And that takes precedence over the possibility of things hurtling out of control. Or perhaps, for inscrutable reasons, they want thing to hurtle out of control. Maybe they are just like so many rich, short-term thinkers who apparently don't love their children or their country or they would care more about the future. (History? We'll all be dead.) Maybe they're just insane. Whatever the case, hitting Iran seems to be more likely than it has been up to now and the political establishment seems to be either on board or paralyzed.

So, how's your week-end going?

The Difference

by tristero


Much has been, and will be, said about the far-right group of zillionaires operating under the paranoid name of "Freedom Watch." Of course, they're a propaganda outlet of the White House, and they're crazy as bedbugs. But I would like to draw attention in the Times article to one of my ongoing concerns: the problem of modern rhetoric.

Please understand: I love Eli. I'm pointing this out simply to make it clear how, even today, rightwing nuts with reputations of respectability deploy the most vacuous of cliches coupled Neanderthalian vitriol and still retain a sense of "seriousness." Here's some of what the crazies say in the article:
“Ideologically, we are inspired by much of Ronald Reagan’s thinking — peace through strength, protect and defend America, and prosperity through free enterprise,” Mr. [Ari] Fleischer said...

“A bunch of us activists kept watching MoveOn and its attacks on the war, and it just got to be obnoxious,” said Mr. [Mel] Sembler, a friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. “We decided we needed to do something about this, because the conservative side was not responding.”
The emptiness of Fleischer's comment is self-evident (although, at a different level, the association of Reagan with all these "goodies" is more subtle than you might think). But Sembler's are rather interesting.

Notice the colloquial, ungrammatical "A bunch of us activists." You'd think he was some kind of stringy-haired student with a denim jacket full of "Peace Now" buttons. In fact, as the Times puts it, he's "a shopping center magnate based in St. Petersburg, Fla., who served as the ambassador to Italy and Australia."

This far removed from the fake erudition of an old-style conservative like William F. Buckley who could demand, in perfect Miss Grundy grammar, that those diagnosed with HIV should have their "buttocks" - his word- tattooed. But don't kid yourself: The use of "us activists" is quite deliberate, setting up the equally grammatically crude putdown "it just got to be obnoxious." Sembler may actually talk like a stoner in real life - who knows or cares? - but clearly he's doing so on purpose here. Remember: this is coming from an ambassador, not some Motley Crue fan slurping on a bong.

Here is what Eli said in response:
“This is the fourth or the fifth group that intends to be the right-wing MoveOn,” Mr. Pariser said, naming other fledgling groups like TheVanguard.org and Grassfire.org. “So far, it’s not clear that this group is anything other than a big neoconservative slush fund. They are a White House front group with a few consultants who are trying to make a very unpopular position on the war appear more palpable [sic]...”

I think people see that Freedom’s Watch is a few billionaires, and not a large, mainstream constituency,” [Pariser] said.
This is all perfectly fine, but it's not great, and that is my point.

Wingers got the following emotionally-laden phrases and words in their comments; "Inspired; Ronald Reagan; thinking; peace; strength; protect; defend; America; prosperity; enterprise; obnoxious; do something about this." (To their audience, Reagan is a positive.) Eli got in "right-wing MoveOn; big neoconservative slush fund; White House front group; few consultants; unpopular position; a few billionaires."

We can quibble about this, adding or subtracting a few words here and there but the difference is quite clear. The wingers' language is simple and direct, filled with monosyllabic feelgoods, and a nasty one-word putdown. The response was hedged ("So far"), polysyllabic, included words with complex structure and meaning ("palpable," but "palatable" is meant), and unjustifiably restrained. Certainly both Fleischer and Sembler can easily be characterized as "obnoxious," and that's the least of it.

So yes, Eli made his point (and of course, he's right: I'm talking only about the use of rhetoric here) but it was nowhere near as memorable as "us activists" and "obnoxious." Nor did it have the levels of association embedded in Fleischer's words. Again, this isn't about Eli Pariser, but about the extent of the problem we all face with modern rhetoric.

I am not - repeat, NOT - advocating a Rhetoric of Stupidity - monosyllabic and contentless. The rightwing has a lock on that. What I am saying is that until normals can find a truly persuasive style of presentation, we will continue to fight an uphill battle, rhetorically speaking, against rightwing extremists. And that ain't real good.

[UPDATE: Some of us have been trying, in comments, to come up with what we think Eli should have said. But, thanks to Nell, we have a topper. From WaPo, and don't you just love it when wingers sue each other?
Larry Klayman, the conservative lawyer best known for repeatedly taking the Clinton administration to court in the 1990s, sued supporters of the Bush administration yesterday, claiming they appropriated the name "Freedom's Watch" for use in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in support of the Iraq war.

Klayman, who supported the initial invasion but now says he is against the "chaotic" war, accuses what he says is an "arrogant Washington elite" of adopting a name he has used for nonprofit work since 2004.
Freedom's Watch is made up of an arrogant Washington elite." I like it, I like it! ]

[Updated to take notice that "palatable," not "palpable" was meant.]

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday Night At The Movies

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

By Dennis Hartley

I thought we’d take a spin around the solar system tonight, via two new films; one that gets my vote for the best documentary of 2007, and the other…well, we’ll get to that.

Normally, I make a conscious effort to not shamelessly gush about films in this column (it’s so unseemly) but pardon me while I gush over a new documentary about the Apollo space program, “In The Shadow of the Moon”. Admittedly, I walked into the theater with a bit of trepidation; it would seem that the NASA legacy has already been milked for all its worth, from a slew of hit feature films (“The Right Stuff”, “Apollo 13”) and popular IMAX documentaries, to highly lauded TV fare ("From the Earth to the Moon”).

But somehow, director David Sington has managed to take this very familiar piece of 20th century history and infuse it with a sense of joyous rediscovery. In the process, it offers something rarer than hen’s teeth these days-a reason to take pride in being an American.

The premise is simple enough; surviving members of the Apollo moon flights tell their stories, accompanied by astounding mission footage (some previously unseen). There are a few of the “tumultuous 60s” clichés tossed in (clips of student demonstrations, political assassinations, etc) but they remain onscreen just long enough to provide brief expository reference. The film is beautifully scored (Philip Sheppard) and edited (David Fairhead).

The term “hero” is glibly tossed about with reflexively wild abandon in our post 9-11 world; but as you listen to these astronauts recount their extraordinary experiences with such eloquence, fierce intelligence and self-effacing candor, you realize that these people truly do represent our best and our brightest, they are “heroes” in every sense of the word.

It’s interesting to hear the astronauts expound on the pragmatic geo-political perspective that results from being in a position to “blot the entire earth out with (your) thumb”, as one gentleman puts it. Several marvel at how truly fragile the Earth looks hanging “like a jewel” in the vast blackness of space; one interviewee ponders incredulously as to “how we can worry more about paying three dollars for a gallon of gas” than we do about attending to the health of the planet. I lost count of my “amens” halfway through the film.

This is also the first time (to my knowledge) that these men have been given a public forum to extrapolate at some length on the profound spiritual, metaphysical and philosophical questions that arise following such literally out of this world experiences as walking on the surface of another planet; it’s fascinating and extremely moving at times.

I don’t say this about a lot of films, but I am prescribing that you run out and see it immediately. “In the Shadow of the Moon” is a perfect tonic for the Bush blues. It reminds us that there was a time not too far gone when the rest of the world looked to this country for inspiration; a time when people were NOT ashamed of hailing from the great state of Texas, because it was then better known as the home of Mission Control.

We move now from science fact, to science fiction. For his new sci-fi thriller “Sunshine” (currently available on PAL DVD only), director Danny Boyle teams up again with writer Alex Garland, who provided the screenplays for both 28 Days Later and its sequel (Garland also penned the original novel that inspired Boyle’s film "The Beach”).

Ostensibly about a team of astronauts on a mission to salvage the dying Sun and save the Earth, “Sunshine” ambitiously aims to take its protagonists on a Homeric journey, by way of Tartovsky (“Solaris ”) and Kubrick ("2001 - A Space Odyssey”). Unfortunately, after a fairly successful liftoff, the film quickly veers off course and loses its trajectory.

The story is set in 2057, when the Sun is suffering from a condition that, as near as I was able to tell from the rather sketchy scientific exposition, is akin to some type of solar constipation. There’s something blocking the star’s ability to generate its own nuclear fusion…uh, I think. Well, whatever “it” is, there ain’t no sunshine when it’s gone…okay?

Anyway, the highly specialized 8-member crew of “Icarus II” is mankind’s last hope (the crew of “Icarus I” apparently stopped sending postcards some months back). It is up to them to launch and detonate a powerful bomb that will presumably jump-start the Sun back into its preferred central heating mode for our solar system.

I know what you’re thinking-sounds a tad familiar? Yes, it is pretty much a glorified rehash of “Armageddon”. Well, “Armageddon” for philosophy majors. Because, you see, things get “deep” between the requisite scenes of stuff blowing up real good. There’s an awful lot of brooding and gnashing of teeth going on amongst the crew members once they set the controls for the heart of the sun. It is also implied that there are metaphysical conundrums afoot, but the screenplay fails to extrapolate on the significance. By the time the third act disintegrates into a cheesy “Alien” rip-off, you probably won’t care anyway.

Boyle regular Cillian Murphy stars as the brooder-in-chief, the crew’s egghead physicist, ‘Robert Capa’ (I’ve racked my mind over that one…why is a fictional nuclear physicist named after a famous war photographer? I invite your speculation. These are the types of things that keep me awake at night, folks.) To his credit, Murphy maintains a compelling presence, even though you suspect that he doesn’t have much more of a clue about what is going on in this film than the viewer does. Michelle Yeoh does an earnest turn as ‘Corazon’ a biologist who nurtures the onboard green houses, reminiscent of Bruce Dern in "Silent Running” (hmm…if Capa is the ship’s Brain, then I assume she is the Heart?)

Some have hailed this as a masterpiece. I am not one of them. Granted, it is handsomely mounted, with some nice set designs and impressive special effect work; but it lacks a cohesive story. It’s like someone reached into a hat full of interesting ideas, threw the scraps of paper up in the air, and just let them blow about the room while trying to follow them with a camera. For a story that flies so close to the Sun, “Sunshine” left me cold.

Is it hot in here, or is the world ending? When Worlds Collide, Last Night, The Day the Earth Caught Fire (personal fave!), Deep Impact. Just for campy fun: Meteor

Well, At Least They Didn't Call The CIA And US Army Upstarts

by tristero

When you act like you're cuckoo, no one should be surprised when others act the same way. This would be funny if not for the fact that if this sheer idiocy doesn't stop immediately, people in both countries who deserve to live long, happy, and peaceful lives will likely die horrible deaths. All because their governments are hellbent on proving to each other that they are the biggest assholes:
Iran's parliament on Saturday approved a nonbinding resolution labeling the CIA and the U.S. Army "terrorist organizations," in apparent response to a Senate resolution seeking to give a similar designation to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Oh, and for the benefit of the young'uns amongst us who don't quite get the title of this post, quack here.

Deny The DNI

By digby

What in the hell are the Democrats going to do about DNI Michael McConnell? I understand that spooks, by nature and profession, are liars, but this fellow is not supposed to be political, and we are ostensibly in a democracy in which government employees --- all government employees --- work for the people. They are not allowed to lie to the people's representatives, even if they think it's for our own good.

McConnell's position is supposed to be non-partisan and apolitical. And yet he is known to have consciously misled the congress, threatened them with "being responsible for American deaths" if they don't do what he says and, it's quite clear, strategized the FISA bill abortion last August with the White house, which is a big no-no. It's a bad idea to trust anyone with the kind of power this man wields without strenuous oversight. It's political malpractice to trust a man this manipulative and dishonest. He is a problem.

Here's the latest example of his blatant (and disturbingly sloppy, which explains why our intelligence agencies can't find water if they fall out of a boat) misleading of the congress:

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told Congress last week that a May wiretap that targeted Iraqi insurgents was delayed for 12 hours by attempts to comply with onerous surveillance laws, which slowed an effort to locate three U.S. soldiers who had been captured south of Baghdad.

But new details released this week portray a more complicated picture of the delay, which actually lasted about 9 1/2 hours and was caused primarily by legal wrangling between the Justice Department and intelligence officials over whether authorities had probable cause to begin the surveillance.


McConnell has been criticized by Democrats for selectively disclosing classified information and for claiming that "some Americans are going to die" because of public debate over surveillance laws. Earlier this month, McConnell retracted Senate testimony that the new intelligence legislation had helped lead to the capture of terrorism suspects in Germany.

Many Democrats and civil liberties advocates have complained that McConnell and other administration officials exaggerated or misrepresented the Iraq wiretapping episode to score political points, largely by playing down how bureaucratic problems contributed to the delay.

"The idea that this incident has something to do with these soldiers getting killed is just outrageous," said Michael German, a former FBI counterterrorism agent who now works as policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is all internal bureaucracy. It has nothing to do with the law."

It really was below the belt. McConnell owes the country an apology for that implication:

Administration officials began highlighting the Iraqi case as a problem in classified briefings with lawmakers over the summer, officials said. McConnell elaborated on the episode on Sept. 20 when he testified before the House intelligence committee. He said that it took "in the neighborhood of 12 hours" to obtain the emergency surveillance order.

"So we had U.S. soldiers who were captured in Iraq by insurgents, and for the 12 hours immediately following their captures, you weren't able to listen to their communications," asked Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M). "Is that correct?"

"That's correct," McConnell answered.

Except, that is a lie:

In fact, the timeline released this week shows that officials in Washington did not begin seeking the warrant until 10 a.m. on May 15 -- more than 86 hours after the three soldiers from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division were reported captured. Authorities had already received approvals for other wiretaps in the case, the timeline shows.

Maj. Webster M. Wright III, public affairs officer for the 10th Mountain Division, said in an e-mail that he was unaware of the wiretap discussions that occurred in Washington.

"We were given everything at the tactical level that we asked for, to include extra troops, intel assets, aviation, CID investigators, analysts and [human intelligence] specialists," Wright said.

This is why all this "trust us, we're keeping the boogeyman rom killing you in your bed" is so dangerous. Michael McConnell has repeatedly lied to congress. You can't trust liars. If they needed this power for legitimate reasons they would have no reason to make up scenarios to justify it. They can always go behind closed doors and share classified information with the people's representatives who are authorized to receive it. Indeed, we expect them to o it. The only conclusion you can come to is that they are using this power for nefarious reasons.

Michael McConnell has given interviews that call his judgment into question. He is a proven liar. He has shown himself to be a tool of the Bush Administration. What in the world is this man doing in charge of some of the most delicate intelligence functions in the government? He had a reputation for rectitude before took the job. but he either became tainted by the Cheney/Addington paranoid vision or he was highly overrated. Either way, the congress should never take his word for anything. There's something very wrong with him.

They Like The Dark Ones

by digby

If you're a racist, vote Republican:

In the transcript, translated from Spanish by The Washington Post, Bush said that Europeans were insensitive to "the suffering that Saddam Hussein has inflicted on the Iraqis" and added: "Maybe it's because he's dark-skinned, far away and Muslim-- a lot of Europeans think he's okay."

Right. The Europeans are insensitive to the suffering of Iraqis because they're "dark-skinned Muslim" lovers.( Of course that makes no sense because the suffering Iraqis are "dark-skinned Muslims" themselves but this is Junior we're talking about,after all.)

It revealing that he characterizes Saddam as "dark-skinned" at all and further that he thinks the Europeans thought he was "okay" because of the fact. Apparently, he

Everyone says that Bush isn't a racist. Whatever. But he has a little habit of letting his little white worldview slip every once in a while. My personal favorite is this one:

There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern.

The Outsiders

by digby

According to the AP, Move-On, the much loathed liberal grassroots group of nearly three and a half million members is being met with a similar group of grassroots conservative outsiders:

Outsiders Aim to Frame Political Debate

WASHINGTON -- They raise millions of dollars, conduct provocative ad campaigns, work with a vast network of like-minded allies and have the power to frame the presidential election going forward as much as the candidates themselves.

That used to define only the liberal MoveOn.org, an organization of 3.3 million members that has raised $25 million in the past 18 months and is helping spearhead an anti-war coalition.

Now, a group of conservatives and Republicans with close ties to the White House have formed their own enterprise, Freedom's Watch, landing on the political scene with a $15 million ad campaign to defend President Bush's Iraq war strategy.

As such, Freedom's Watch and MoveOn.org could be the left and right bookends not only on the war, but on a number of issues that will decide the 2008 elections and shape congressional debate beyond. Freedom's Watch organizers said they are considering whether to create a political subgroup, like MoveOn has, that could directly play a role in elections.

Right. Book-ends.

When Blakeman speaks of "we," he is referring to "friends, former administration people, party leaders, decision makers." Unlike MoveOn, which has its roots in California's Silicon Valley, Freedom's Watch is clearly a Washington creature.

Many in its inner circle of strategists and donors are close to Vice President Dick Cheney or held high posts at the White House. Blakeman, whose 26-year-old nephew died when the World Trade Center collapsed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, was director of scheduling and appointments at the Bush White House.

Among those who brainstormed with him this summer was Mary Matalin, Cheney's counselor until 2003 and still an adviser to the vice president. Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman, is a member of the Freedom's Watch board.

The group's donors include Mel Sembler, a friend of Cheney's and longtime Republican fundraiser. Sembler was chairman of the legal defense fund for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff who was convicted of lying and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. Another donor is Kevin E. Moley, a former U.S. ambassador to international organizations in Geneva and a senior aide to Cheney during the 2000 presidential campaign.

The group organized itself as a nonprofit lobbying organization and, unlike political organizations that advocates for or against candidates, is not required to identify its donors. Still, when it launched its multimillion-dollar ad campaign on the war in August, Blakeman listed some of its supporters, several of them pro-Israel conservatives.

Besides Sembler and Moley, other donors are Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., who recently launched a new conservative newspaper in Israel, and several former Bush fundraisers who landed ambassadorial posts. They include Moley and Sembler, who was ambassador to Italy, as well as Howard Leach, former ambassador to France, and Anthony Gioia, former ambassador to Malta

Only in the Village could someone characterize that group as being "outsiders."

You just have to laugh.

That's The Way, Uh Huh, Uh Huh, I Like It, Uh Huh, Uh Huh

by tristero

If ever you want to know how to respond to the likes of David Brooks, I can't think of anything better to recc'd than this letter by Drew Westen in response to Brooks' review:
To the Editor:

My first response to David Brooks’s review of my book, “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation” (Aug. 26), was mild amusement. The review was playfully sarcastic, and I must admit my own appreciation for that genre. And how else could you respond to a review that argues for objectivity in politics after beginning with the words: “Between 2000 and 2006, a specter haunted the community of fundamentalist Democrats. Members of this community looked around and observed their moral and intellectual superiority.”

Then once the e-mail started pouring in, asking how I could possibly have made the arguments attributed to me, it became clear that Brooks had succeeded in inoculating thousands of potential readers against a book that some effective political communicators (e.g., President Clinton) had enthusiastically endorsed because of the ways it suggests Democrats talk about abortion, gays, guns, terrorism, taxes, race and a host of other issues that have cost them at the polls.

As summarized by Brooks, my central thesis is that Democrats should campaign using “crude emotional outbursts” and guttural noises, preferably interrupting debates by “barking” and “exploding” about their opponent’s history of drinking if he has one (or, better yet, if he doesn’t). He then wonders how I might explain Howard Dean’s failure to win the 2004 Democratic primaries against the more emotionally subdued John Kerry. (Of course, he wouldn’t have had to wonder if he’d simply gone to the index and looked under the entry “Dean, Howard.”)

Brooks never mentions that the book is a 400-page scientific and historical argument against precisely what he offers as a counterthesis, expressed in this rhetorical question: “Is it possible that substance has something to do with the political fortunes of parties? Could it be that Democrats won in the middle part of the 20th century because they were right about the big issues — the New Deal and the civil rights movement? Is it possible Republicans won in the latter part of the century because they were right about economic growth and the cold war? Is it possible Democrats are winning now because they were right about whether to go to war in Iraq?” This all sounds so, well, “fair and balanced” — until you think about it. Democrats’ stand on civil rights has cost them dearly since Richard Nixon discovered the race card in 1968. Al Gore lost despite an unrivaled period of prosperity and growth. And Democrats actually voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 (perhaps convinced by the objective arguments of none other than Mr. Brooks) and won in 2006 only when they started to talk passionately about Iraq.

But for Brooks, the “core problem with Westen’s book is that he doesn’t really make use of what we know about emotion.” As a professor of psychology and psychiatry who has been contributing to the scientific literature on emotion for over 20 years, I don’t know who exactly “we” is, but I have to hand it to him: he put that knowledge to pretty good use in leaving readers with a bad taste in their mouths about a book they hadn’t read. Which illustrates the central thesis of the book: that a little knowledge about emotion can go a long way in politics.

Drew Westen

I will say one thing about the Bush era. From Brady Kiesling's deeply moving resignation letter to Colin Powell on the eve of the Bush/Iraq war- which should be in any collection of great American documents - to Dr. Westen's wonderful letter, the Bush administration has inspired some truly wonderful writing in opposition to it.

Not Another One, Please

by digby

Joe Biden slammed Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani at Wednesday night's debate, saying he is "the most uninformed person on American foreign policy now running for president."

I don't know why he said that:

MR. VANDEHEI: Mayor Giuliani, this question comes from Eric Taylor (sp) from California. He wants to know, what is the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'a Muslim?

MR. GIULIANI: The difference is the descendant of Mohammed. The Sunnis believe that Mohammed's -- the caliphate should be selected, and the Shi'ites believe that it should be by descent. And then, of course, there was a slaughter of Shi'ites in the early part of the history of Islam, and it has infected a lot of the history of Islam, which is really very unfortunate.

Of course,technically, he didn't know he was talking about foreign policy. He thought he was speaking about religious history, a subject about which he thinks he knows a great deal:

GIULIANI: I honestly think we might have gotten tougher questions during the Fox interview, but they were substantive questions. During the MSNBC situation, we got some really good questions. But we also got some of the trick questions: Shia and Sunni.

You know, do I know the difference between Shia and Sunni? I felt like I was, you know, defending my doctoral thesis. It happens that I am a student of the history of religion.


GIULIANI: So I knew the answer to that.

He thinks he's an expert:

"I have very, very strong views on religion that come about from having wanted to be a priest when I was younger, having studied theology for four years in college," he said. "It's an area I know really, really well academically.

And the press agre:

Chris Cillizza:...Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani looked like he might stumble when asked to explain the difference between Sunni and Shia but wound up getting it exactly right...

Anonymous: You said that Mayor Giuliani aced the Sunni/Shia question. What event in history was he referring to when he said "and then of course there was a slaughter of Shiites in the early part of the history of Islam, and it has infected a lot of the history of Islam, which is really very unfortunate"?

Chris Cillizza: I don't claim to be an expert on the history of the Sunni and Shia. In the coverage I watched following the debate, it appeared as though Giuliani was factually correct about the differences between the two groups. That was all I was referencing. And, from a political standpoint, I think Giuliani dodged a major bullet with that question. I wonder how many of the ten men on that stage last night could have come up with something approximating a right answer on that question.

This is how we get arrogant morons for president. We really can't afford another one.


Friday, September 28, 2007

The Despicable John McCain

by tristero

John McCain knows this isn't true
A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.
He's lying. McCain has certainly read the Constitution and he knows it "established" nothing of the sort.

There is no reason to "engage" this trash with counter-arguments. McCain, in his desperate desire to pander to the absolute worst bottom-feeders in American political life, has stooped to the level of a Holocaust denier. Disgusting.

h/t Duncan

Show Me The Money

by digby

Why is this not a Democratic argument?

By year’s end, the cost for both conflicts since Sept. 11, 2001, is projected to reach more than $800 billion. Iraq alone has cost the United States more in inflation-adjusted dollars than the Gulf War and the Korean War and will probably surpass the Vietnam War by the end of next year, according to the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

From what I gather, instead of using this to persuade voters that Republicans are both economic and national security miscreants, the congress is going to pass Bush's funding requests as fast as they can. I guess it's unpatriotic to question the cost of the war or even ask just what in the hell they are spending on this money on. The new thinking seems to be that not only is there a prohibition about cutting the funds, they have to give the president a blank check and are not allowed to ask any questions. The Democrats are convinced that they have no say in national security matters. Or they actually agree with the Republicans.

But what's really neat about this is that the failure of the war will be blamed on them anyway. It won't matter that they rubber stamped every crackpot Iraq strategy and signed off on the most expensive war in history. (This week they even went on record helping Bush begin the drive to Iran!) This entire "war" has been a Vietnam mulligan from the get and the Right will very likely write this part as a slightly, shopworn sequel of the standard "how the hippies ruined everything" storyline

Rick Perlstein has written an important analysis of this phenomenon in this review of two important wing nut tomes on the Vietnam War. Although these books are in complete contradiction with one another, they are revered on the right for one reason: they posit that we would have "won" the war if only the left hadn't ruined everything. The contradictory details in the two books are irrelevant since they come to the same conclusion.

As Rick points out, this is actually a psychological necessity on the part of a right wing that screws up everything it touches and is incapable of admitting its failure:

Conservatism's cherished fantasy of American omnipotence has died once again, this time in the sands of Iraq, and the grieving process has begun. But conservatives mourn differently from you and me. They begin with denial, anger and bargaining, just like everyone else. And that's where they stay--forever paralyzed by a petulant refusal to acknowledge their fantasy's passing, a simple inability to process reality.

I'm not sure how it's going to work this time, but so far they seem to quite successful in persuading the battered Dems that if they'll just stop provoking them, the manly man won't be forced to beat them up anymore. You know how well that always works out.

H/T to my old pal Kevin K from catch.com who is blogging again at a new (old) blog called Rumproast.

It Is What It Is

by digby

Everybody's asking today, "Why are the Republican front runners skipping all the debates sponsored by racial and ethnic minorities? That just doesn't seem smart." I think people just don't want to admit the obvious:

The Republicans are the party of racists.

None of the front runners are able to use the usual racial codes of being Southern good old boys, or evangelicals or even reliable "pro-life" conservatives so they are reduced to blatantly proving to the racist base of the Republican party that they are one of them by publicly snubbing blacks and Hispanics to win the nomination from the racist GOP base. They have to make explicit what others, like bush, could do obliquely by pretending to be a bubba when he was really a blue-blooded playboy. (Thompson is a good old boy, but he couldn't be seen to be pandering to the negroes when his manly white rivals were manfully telling them to shove it.)

Mudcat said it best: "If you are a racist, go ahead and vote for the Republicans."

Three Random Observations

by tristero

1. Of course, Ahmanidejad should have spoken at Columbia University. But if they set up an endowed chair for him, as they did for the utterly odious Henry Kissinger back in 1977, I might have some problems with that. (Full disclosure, I'm an alumnus.)

2. One thing's for sure. You could never accuse Limbaugh himself of being a "phony soldier".

3. I don't know why Clinton voted for Lieberman-Kyl. I think it's disgraceful.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Historic Line Of Decency

by digby

While doing research for the post below, I came across this remarkable article written in the middle of the Kosovo war in 1999:

Chicago-Sun Times ^ | May 6, 1999 | Robert Novak

Balkan failure is Clark's

Who is responsible for an air offensive that is building anti-American anger across Europe without breaking the Serbian regime's will? The blame rests heavily on Gen. Wesley Clark, the NATO supreme commander.

After 40 days, U.S.-dominated NATO air strikes no longer even pretend to aim solely at military targets. Pentagon sources admit that the attacks on the city center of Belgrade are intended to so demoralize ordinary citizens that they force President Slobodan Milosevic to yield. That has not yet happened, but diplomats believe the grave damage done to American prestige in Central and Eastern Europe will outlive this vicious little war.

"The problem is Wes Clark making--at least approving--the bombing decisions," said one such diplomat, who then asked rhetorically: "How could they let a man with such a lack of judgment be [supreme allied commander of Europe]?" Through dealings with Yugoslavia that date back to 1994, Clark's propensity for mistakes has kept him in trouble while he continued moving up the chain of command thanks to a patron in the Oval Office.

In the last month's American newspaper clippings, Clark emerges as the only heroic figure of a non-heroic war. Indeed, his resume is stirring: first in his class at West Point, Rhodes scholar, frequently wounded and highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran, White House fellow. He became a full general about as fast as possible in peacetime.

But members of Congress who visited Clark at his Brussels headquarters in the early days of the attack on Yugoslavia were startled by his off-the-record comments. If the Russians are going to sail war ships into the combat zone, we should bomb them. If Milosevic is getting oil from the Hungarian pipeline, we should bomb it.

NATO's actual air strategy did not go that far, but increasingly, it has reflected Clark's belligerence. Even the general's defenders in the national security establishment cannot understand the targeting of empty government buildings in Belgrade, including Milosevic's official residence. Civilian damage and casualties in Kosovo and elsewhere in Serbia are too widespread to be accidental.

Sources inside the U.S. high command say this week's disabling of Belgrade electrical power facilities was intended to destroy civilian morale. The Pentagon has announced NATO "area bombing" with "dumb" bombs carried by B-52s--clearly an anti-population tactic. In a highly limited war, Clark is using the methods of total war.

One American diplomat with experience in the Balkans, who asked that he not be quoted by name, told me that ground forces are needed and he is appalled by the bombing of civilian targets. "It has no military significance, and it is pointless--utterly pointless," he added. "But it has a terrible impact on us. This bombing in the heart of the Balkans is costing us."

That cost is viewed by State Department professionals as the product of Clark's deaf ear when it comes to diplomacy. His classic gaffe came in 1994 when he went off to meet Ratko Mladic, the brutal Bosnian Serb commander now sought as a war criminal, at his redoubt in Banja Luka. Mladic concluded their meeting by saying how much he admired Clark's three-star general cap. Impulsively, the American general exchanged hats with the notorious commander, who has been accused of ethnic cleansing, and even accepted Mladic's service revolver with an engraved message.

That escapade cost Victor Jackovich his job as U.S. ambassador to Bosnia. He was sacked partly for not exercising sufficient restraint on the mercurial Clark and for not preventing him from gallivanting off to Banja Luka. The sequel came at Belgrade a year later during the diplomacy leading to the Dayton peace conference. Milosevic, smiling broadly, humiliated Clark by returning his hat to him. That helps explain the general's intense personal animosity for the Yugoslav president.

Clark is the perfect model of a 1990s political four-star general. Clark's rapid promotions after Dayton--winning his fourth star to head the Panama-based Southern Command and then the jewel of his European post--were both opposed by the Pentagon brass. But Clark's fellow Arkansan in the White House named him anyway. The president and the general are collaborators in a failed strategy whose consequences cast a long shadow even if soon terminated by negotiation.

I don't know what to say.

(Even aside from the frontal attack on Clark's integrity, Novak's bitchy back-stabbing Village gossip was crap from beginning to end.)

Here is what the smarmy John Cornyn said about the Move-On vote:

“This amendment was an opportunity for every Senator to declare with not only their voices but also with their votes that they fully support our troops and our commanding General in Iraq,” Sen. Cornyn said today.

“For MoveOn.org and their left-wing allies to brand General Petraeus a traitor and a liar crossed a historic line of decency. It was a despicable political attack by a radical left-wing interest group. I’m pleased that majority of the Senate, in a bipartisan vote, has repudiated it.

We will not tolerate the patriotism and integrity of our troops and their leaders in the field being dragged down into the swamp of Washington politics.”

Yes they won't tolerate it unless it's being dragged there by a properly credentialed conservative stenographer like the "decent" Robert Novak.

Is The Village Out Of Smelling Salts Today?

by digby

Now, I don't want to say that Republicans are lying hypocrites or anything, but really:

LIMBAUGH: Another Mike, this one in Olympia, Washington. Welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.

CALLER 2: Hi Rush, thanks for taking my call.

LIMBAUGH: You bet.

CALLER 2: I have a retort to Mike in Chicago, because I am a serving American military, in the Army. I've been serving for 14 years, very proudly.

LIMBAUGH: Thank you, sir.

CALLER 2: And, you know, I'm one of the few that joined the Army to serve my country, I'm proud to say, not for the money or anything like that. What I would like to retort to is that, if we pull -- what these people don't understand is if we pull out of Iraq right now, which is about impossible because of all the stuff that's over there, it'd take us at least a year to pull everything back out of Iraq, then Iraq itself would collapse, and we'd have to go right back over there within a year or so. And --

LIMBAUGH: There's a lot more than that that they don't understand. They can't even -- if -- the next guy that calls here, I'm gonna ask him: Why should we pull -- what is the imperative for pulling out? What's in it for the United States to pull out? They can't -- I don't think they have an answer for that other than, "Well, we just gotta bring the troops home."

CALLER 2: Yeah, and, you know what --

LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.

CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq. They joined --

CALLER 2: A lot of them -- the new kids, yeah.

LIMBAUGH: Well, you know where you're going these days, the last four years, if you signed up. The odds are you're going there or Afghanistan or somewhere.

CALLER 2: Exactly, sir.

This isn't the first time Limbaugh has suggested that no good soldier could possibly be a Democrat. He said Democratic congressional candidate, marine Major Paul Hackett had gone to Iraq to "pad his resume."

His recurring disparaging name for General Wesley Clark is "Ashley Wilkes":

RUSH: The administration is calling it a war? They don't even think it is a war! There is no war! John Edwards has said it. Now Wesley Clark, "Ashley Wilkes," is saying it."
Of course, Limbaugh has a long history of disparaging General Clark:

Blast from the past, in 2003, when Wesley Clark was mulling a run for the presidency, Rush accused him of conduct unbecoming an officer (El Rushbo baselessly charged that Clark "had to beg Bill Clinton for his fourth star. Military people think that he didn't earn it--that he hasn't deserved it--that Clinton gave it to him anyway").

What makes this more interesting was that Rush got this from a Lowell Ponte article from Front Page Magazine which is run by David Horowitz who is still subject to charges of violation of the Espionage Act.

The entire Village staged a hissy kabuki over one advertisement in the New York Times. Yet this blowhard chickenhawk, who hosts the president and vice president of the United States on his show, is feted like the prodigal son when he enters the Village.

When the GOP won control of Congress in 1994, one of the first acts by many freshmen (calling themselves the "Dittohead Caucus") was to award Limbaugh the title of "honorary member of Congress" in recognition of his support of their efforts during this period

He appears on Armed Forces Radio in Iraq.

And when he got into trouble for saying that the events at Abu Ghraib were nothing more than a fraternity prank and the boys were just letting of a little steam, Republicans came out of the woodwork to defend him. Here's Mary Matalin calling in just to tell him she loves him:

[Y]ou inspired me this morning. There's no reason that I have to do that. I'm -- and at least I think I do, but when I listen to you, I get all the information I need, and I -- and I -- it is -- I have a confidence in the President, in the policies, in the goals. I have -- I know his conviction. I know he's right and I know he has the leadership to do it. What I don't have, and what I can only get from you, is the cheerfulness of your confidence --
Here's Kate O'Beirne in the National Review:

Now comes a well-financed media campaign against Rush Limbaugh in a fruitless attempt to discredit him as a forthright apologist for the detainee abuse. Conservatives should take heart. First, the un-listenable (in every sense) Air America squanders buckets of liberal cash and now the Left is generously funding David Brock as their utterly implausible media watchdog. His first big target is Rush. The Left has always regarded the most-successful radio-talk-show host in history as a malevolent propagandist, and their acolytes in the White House press corps eagerly embraced the Brock smear and badgered Scott McClellan to repudiate the phony charge. They were sensibly blown off. But, a partisan parasite finding eager hosts among White House reporters is a depressing spectacle. And, just as calls for Don Rumsfeld's resignation are aimed at President Bush, the attack on Rush is designed to discredit conservatives.


Rush's angry, frustrated critics discount how hard it is to make an outrageous charge against him stick. But, we listeners have spent years with him, we know him, and trust him. Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the "facts." We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves and to the courageous young Americans who defend her.

The conservative Claremont Institute awarded him the Statesmanship award at its annual Churchill dinner, twice. (Well, sort of. The first year he couldn't make it because he was in rehab for opiate addiction but he came the next year to accept it in person.) Donald Rumsfeld had to wait for his.

Lest anyone has been spared his non-stop bragging about the fact, Limbaugh has the highest ratings of any talk show host in America:

As of 2005, Arbitron ratings indicate that the Rush Limbaugh Show has a minimum weekly audience of 13.5 million listeners, making it the largest radio talk show audience in the United States. Such high ratings have been a consistent hallmark of his show
And yesterday, the most influential radio commentator in the country said that military people who spoke out against the war were "phony soldiers."

Like these:

On August 19, The New York Times published an op-ed by seven members of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division. They ended their assessment of the situation in Iraq with the following passage:

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

On September 12, The New York Times noted: "Two of the soldiers who wrote of their pessimism about the war in an Op-Ed article that appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 19 were killed in Baghdad on Monday."

I have little doubt we'll soon be hearing an outcry from the Village speech police about the fact that Limbaugh called those soldiers "phony" yesterday. Senate and House resolutions condemning his words are surely being prepared as we speak. Right?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Someone Had To

by tristero

I'm just glad it wasn't me.

Weigh In

by digby

If you have a minute, take this poll.

Blue America wants to hear from you.

Hit Me Baby One More Time

by digby

From TPM Muckraker:

As I reported yesterday, the Senate Rules Committee met this morning about the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Elections Commission.

This morning's result: faced with the defection of a Democrat on the committee, later revealed to be Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) chose to agree to send all four nominees, two Democrats and two Republicans, to the floor without recommendation. In other words, the committee did not vote to approve von Spakovsky, but he got through nonetheless.

Next up is a vote before the full Senate, and how that vote will occur will be determined by negotiations between the Democratic and Republican leadership. Republicans are likely to seek a vote on all four nominees at once and have threatened to spike all the Democratic nominees if Democrats seek to block von Spakovsky.

Gee, I wonder what's going to happen. I'm breathless with anticipation.

But hey, why should the Democrats want to stop a professional Republican vote stealer from being on the FEC?

O'Reilly Luther King

by digby

Billo is misunderstood:

Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly said Wednesday his critics took remarks he made about a famed Harlem restaurant out of context and "fabricated a racial controversy where none exists." He criticized the liberal group Media Matters for America as "smear merchants" for publicizing statements he made on his radio show last week.

O'Reilly told his radio audience that he dined with civil rights activist Al Sharpton at Sylvia's recently and "couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference" between the black-run restaurant and others in New York City.

It was just like a suburban Italian restaurant, he said. "There wasn't any kind of craziness at all," he said.

O'Reilly told The Associated Press that Media Matters had "cherry-picked" remarks out of a broader conversation about racial attitudes. He had told listeners that his grandmother -- and many other white Americans -- feared blacks because they didn't know any and were swayed by violent images in black culture.

Remember, this is exactly what O'Reilly said:

I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks.

This is not a man who lives in a small town in Minnesota that has few African Americans. He lives in New York City and yet he "couldn't get over the fact" that a restaurant run by blacks with black patrons is exactly the same as any other restaurant. He revealed himself as someone who has formed his impressions of African Americans based on racist stereotypes. And there is nothing that Bill O'Reilly hates more than revealing himself (unless it's to one of his female employees.)

He explains that he was actually being extremely color blind, because once he had this racial epiphany at Sylvia's, he spread the good word to all those who hadn't had the eye-opening experience of seeing black people behaving just like "normal" Americans, that they could finally relax:

And that’s really what this society’s all about now here in the U.S.A. There’s no difference. There’s no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment — people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you’re gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody’s skin.

Except, of course, there is a huge difference:

White Convicts As Likely to Be Hired As Blacks Without Criminal Records

Anyone claiming that racism is no longer alive and well in the United States, in addition to considering the race-driven circumstances surrounding the Jena 6, or statistics demonstrating that prosecutors are far more likely to seek the death penalty when the victim is white than when the victim is black (particularly if the defendant is black), or studies demonstrating that blacks receive harsher sentences than whites for equivalent drug crimes, or the fact that even though more whites per capita smoke marihuana than blacks, blacks are arrested and prosecuted at a far higher rate, should read a recent study by Princeton University examining employment discrimination titled “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets.”

In the largest and most comprehensive project of its kind to date, 13 young male applicants, presenting the same qualifications and experience, split into teams and went on nearly 3,500 entry-level job interviews with private companies in supposedly left-leaning, "progressive", multicultural New York City, jobs ranging from restaurants to manufacturing to financial services. After recording which applicants were invited back for interviews or were offered jobs, two sociology professors looked at the hiring practices of 1,500 prospective private employers, focusing specifically on discrimination against young male minorities and ex-offenders.

Some of the study's findings are depressingly familiar. For instance, young white high school graduates were twice as likely to receive positive responses from New York employers as equally qualified black job seekers. It also reaffirmed not only that former prisoners are at a distinct disadvantage in the job market, but also that, again, black ex-prisoners are in a much worse position: positive responses from employers towards white applicants with a criminal record dipped 35 percent, while for black applicants similarly situated it plummeted 57 percent.

However, the study revealed that our society's racism extends even deeper: black applicants with no criminal record were no more likely to get a job than white applicants with criminal records just released from prison! In other words, while whites with criminal records received low rates of positive responses, such response rates were equally low for blacks without a criminal background. Further exposing the overt racism at play was the study's finding that minority employers were more accepting of minority applicants and job applicants with prison records.

O'Reilly was speaking to African American journalist Juan Williams at the time he made the comments and Williams said this about the flap:

His radio show was a conversation with Fox News contributor Juan Williams, author of a book about the coarseness of some black culture. Williams defended O'Reilly during a Tuesday appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor."

"It's so frustrating," Williams said. "They want to shut you up. They want to shut up anybody who has an honest discussion about race."

An honest discussion about race would be nice. And it's entirely possible that if Williams had asked O'Reilly about his assumptions when he said these things, a real dialog could have taken place. But he didn't. So one must assume that Williams thinks there's nothing wrong with what O'Reilly said.

Of course, Juan Williams is an employee of Fox News who is also selling a book about how badly behaved black people are, so you have to consider the source.

We all know what we heard from O'Reilly and he knows it too. He was surprised to find that black people act just like everyone else does in a public place, even in their "own milieu" where he apparently expected the patrons to scream for another "glass of motherfucking iced tea." He thinks he is being very open minded and un- bigoted by revealing to the world on his important radio show that he's discovered that black people are just like everyone else. The problem, of course, is that only a racist thinks that this is big news.

I am expecting that we will see a motion in the House and Senate condemning Media matters for criticizing Bill O'Reilly any day now...

McCarthy Lite

by digby

The Democrats in the House docilely laid down for another round of GOPukkake today and voted to condemn MoveOn. I hope they all enjoyed the ritual humiliation.

For some reason, the many Democrats have a major problem understanding the concept of principle:

Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, a veteran Democrat, recounted how he left the Republican Party during the era of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., and said that lawmakers have an obligation to criticize their allies as well as their enemies when they go too far.

'I have got an obligation to be equally upset when that kind of juvenile debate emanates from the left,' Obey said.

Now, Obey is a confused sort who apparently thinks that because a civilian group criticized a general in a newspaper ad they are the equivalent of McCarthy using the coercive constitutional power of the US Senate to smear the Army as being riddled with communists. That's ridiculous, of course. The principle right minded Americans hold against McCarthyism is the use of government power to suppress dissent.

McCarthy would have been thrilled to have a vote like this today. Over the moon. There was nothing he liked more than forcing the Democrats to repudiate their allies and bow down like supplicants to someone they knew was completely full of shit. It set the stage for everything that has come since.

February 4th, 1954, Senator McCarthy spoke of one party's treason. This was at Charleston, West Virginia where there were no cameras running. It was recorded on tape:

The issue between the Republicans and Democrats is clearly drawn. It has been deliberately drawn by those who have been in charge of twenty years of treason. The hard fact is -- the hard fact is that those who wear the label, those who wear the label Democrat wear it with the stain of a historic betrayal.

That's what Democrats like Obey are afraid of. And that's why they acquiesced to the phony GOP hysteria on Move-On. They've been kow-towing in one way or another on this stuff since the first HUAC standing committee hearing back in 1948.

I suppose we should be grateful that Duncan Hunter and Mitch McConnell didn't hold up pieces of paper purporting to have the names of more than 500 Move-On members who are in the government today, but give it time. A Global War on Terror is the perfect vehicle for such tactics --- it's one of the reasons they insist on designating it as such.

During the height of the cold war, both parties in congress, and even President Eisenhower, were scared to death of McCarthy, allowing him to run roughshod over the entire US government with thuggish, hysterical accusations of treason against everyone from librarians to Army generals.

MoveOn, an independent political group, bought an advertisement in a newspaper expressing an opinion. And the entire right wing political machinery immediately lurched into high gear to shrilly condemn it as unpatriotic and unacceptable, leading both the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass official, government censures of the group.

Surely, any sentient being can see where the real equivalence with Joseph McCarthy lies.

Edward R. Murrow famously called out McCarthy on his national TV show See it Now with a memorable broadcast that gathered together clips of all the accusations of communism and anti-American, unpatriotic behavior he'd hurled at his fellow Americans over the years. People were shocked to see it all in one place.

Murrow made his most famous comment that night, which ended like this:

His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

The last few years of suppression of dissent and fear mongering have not reached the level of the McCarthy era, obviously. But the echoes are still there and the tactics are still being used, in symbolic form, to get the Democratic Party to submit to right wing paranoia. They just did it again today. And why not? It's been working for decades.

Update: Jamison Foser made a similar point when discussing Richard Cohen's similarly twisted McCarthy analogy last week.