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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sorry for the light posting. Blogger was bloggered.

Culture War Surrender

by digby

Lawrence Kudlow has apparently written some stupid rehash of every Clinton scandal that is, as they all were, completely full of shit. Media Matters has set the record straight here if you want the details.

But really. The country (with the exception of professional Clenis stalker, Chris Matthews) has left this stuff far behind. They know that the taxpayers spent more than $70 million and came up with exactly zilch on every single one of those charges. They know that the press went inexplicably mad for a period and they have moved on, even if the Republicans are hitching their pathetic wagons to limp hopes of a reprise of interest in Clinton's personal life. After the Starr Report, we found out far more than anyone ever wanted to know about that, and yet Bill Clinton had a 60% approval rating when he left office and remains incredibly popular today.

But here's a bit of a puzzle:

In the Republican race, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who recently made clear his intentions to seek the presidency, has expanded his lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Giuliani holds a 2 to 1 advantage over McCain among Republicans, according to the poll, more than tripling his margin of a month ago.

The principal reason was a shift among white evangelical Protestants, who now clearly favor Giuliani over McCain.

Odd, don't you think, considering these people are the ones who were so horrified by Bill Clinton's affair. Evidently, this is just fine and dandy, however:

“It would be one thing if Giuliani could say, ‘I’m a strong social conservative in my private life’, but he can’t even say that,” said Ramesh Ponnuru, a conservative commentator and author of The Party of Death, an attack on social liberalism. “It’s not just the fact of his multiple marriages, it is the way the Hanover marriage melted down. It was operatic.”

When Giuliani met Hanover on a blind date in the early 1980s, his first marriage to Regina, his second cousin, was already over. Hanover, who went on to appear in the television series Ally McBeal, was a glamorous soulmate who seemed to enjoy the spotlight as much as he did.

They had two children, Andrew, 21, and Caroline, 17, but in 1996 Hanover stopped calling herself by his last name and a year later Vanity Fair magazine said that he was having an “intimate relationship” with a senior member of his staff.

In 2000, without telling Hanover first, Giuliani announced at a press conference that he was separating from her. She retaliated by accusing him of being unfaithful with the employee, but he was already with Nathan.

Maggie Gallagher, a family values campaigner, was outraged by Giuliani’s “scummy” performance, accusing him of making Bill Clinton “look good as a husband and father”.

New Yorkers learnt during the divorce case that their cancer- afflicted mayor was temporarily impotent and Hanover demanded a huge settlement, including £760 a month to care for Goalie, the family’s golden retriever.

Felder struck back, accusing Hanover of being an “uncaring mother” who was “howling like a stuck pig”.

In the end Giuliani, who was beginning to earn big consultancy fees after September 11, agreed to a settlement of $6.8m to avoid the full horror of a court case.

Hanover has married Ed Oster, her university sweetheart, and written a book, My Boyfriend’s Back, about rekindling an old romance. Even if she stays mum, there is enough in the public domain to rattle conservatives. Yet however vicious the personal attacks on Giuliani, they are unlikely to dent his reputation for competence. He did, after all, handle the September 11 attacks while bunking with gay friends in the midst of an affair and a divorce battle.

The Freepers are more concerned about the marriage to the second cousin than the adultery, divorce and cross-dressing, which I find surprising. They seem like the types to be quite tolerant of in-breeding.

I agree that he didn't fall apart on 9/11 the way George W. Bush did (although his overall competence on that day has been highly overrated.) And I can't help but happy that his newfound conservative evangelical fans aren't offended that their favorite politician isn't afraid to be himself.

But let's be honest here. Lawrence Kudlow and Chris Matthews can drool and grunt all they want about Bill Clinton's phantom mistress, but if Rudy Giuliani becomes the GOP nominee it means the culture wars are as fake as William Shatner's hair. Once people realize that, perhaps we can stop talking about how so many people are allegedly against choice, gay rights and other progressive values in this country. Clearly, they don't care much about any of that, nor do they care about Lieberman's nonsense about setting a good example for the children. The Christian Right supporting Rudy Giuliani proves that the culture war is nothing but a GOP scam and we can stop obsessively worrying about offending these people with our godless, fancy-pants, big-city ways.

Good for Rudy Giuliani for(inadvertantly) pulling back the curtain on this hoax.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Evergreen Slime

by digby

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the media's narrative about the Democratic Party -- a narrative I would have thought would have gone out of fashion by now, but which appears to have reached classic, evergreen status:

I know this is all boring, arcane history now, but it's important to note that we are seeing similar stuff happening already with respect to various "deals" that are being reported in the press about Harry Reid and John Edwards. So far they are thin, nonsensical "exposes" written by one man, John Solomon, formerly of the AP and now of the Washington Post. Solomon is known to be a lazy reporter who happily takes "tips" from the wingnut noise machine and faithfully regurgitates them. He holds a very important position at the paper that was second only to the Times in its eagerness to swallow Ken Starr's spin whole.

We are also seeing some similar reporting begin to emerge on Obama, much of it generated by hometown political rivals, just as we saw in the Clinton years. Today the LA Times implies that Obama is exaggerating his activist past. A couple of weeks ago we saw a truly egregiously misleading report on a deal he made to buy some land from a supporter.

These are patented Whitewater-style "smell test" stories. They are based on complicated details that make the casual reader's eyes glaze over and about which the subject has to issue long confusing explanations in return. They feature colorful and unsavory political characters in some way. They often happened in the past and they tend to be written in such a way as to say that even if they aren't illegal they "look bad." The underlying theme is hypocrisy because the subjects are portrayed as making a dishonest buck while pretending to represent the average working man. Oh, and they always feature a Democrat. Republicans are not subject to such scrutiny because a craven, opportunistic Republican isn't "news." (Neat trick huh?)

No single story will bring down a candidate because they have no substance to them. It's the combined effect they are looking for to build a sense overall sleaziness: "Where there's smoke there's fire"

We have another one from Solomon today. It is a thrilling expose in which it's revealed that Hillary Clinton failed to report a charitable foundation on her Senate disclosure forms.

It discusses the foundation in some depth and discloses that many people have them. They are, apparently, a common tax break for wealthy people who give to charity. But we know there just must be more to it than that. There are lots of very spicy little tid-bits in the article, like this one:

Private family foundations vary in amounts they give away each year. The Clintons have given away a quarter of their money. The family foundation of record producer David Geffen, by comparison, has been giving away most of what it takes in -- roughly $1 million a year -- leaving it with a balance of $400,000 at the end of 2005.

Do you meant to tell me that those cheap assed Clintons are refusing to give all the money away while that nice billionaire David Geffen does? What are they doing with all that money? Is that why they tried to hide it by having its address in Chappaqua?

The smaller family foundation lists as its address a post office box in Chappaqua, N.Y., where the Clintons live. Hillary Clinton is listed as secretary and treasurer, Bill Clinton as president and the couple's daughter, Chelsea, as a director. None takes any compensation.

And to which cronies and crooks are they laundering or funneling their ill-gotten gains? Oh my, this looks very suspicious:

One Arkansas recipient was the Diane Blair Foundation. Diane Blair is the late wife of James Blair, the businessman who helped Hillary Clinton with controversial commodities trades in the late 1970s that netted her about $100,000. There are two foundations in Diane Blair's name. One is a private family charity; the other funds a center for the study of Southern politics at the University of Arkansas.

The Clintons' tax form indicates the money went to the private charity, but James Blair said in an interview yesterday that the Clintons "miscoded" the entry. The check actually went to the university fund, he said.

Oh boy. Clinton is giving money to charitable foundations run by the man who helped her net $100,000 almost 30 years ago in a nefarious commodities trade that the entire press corps and even an independent counsel investigation were never able to nail down. But we know she's a crook anyway, right? She "miscoded" something saying it went to the private charity when it actually went to the University. Or did it?

I think we need another independent counsel investigation to determine why they "miscoded" the entry. let no stone go unturned. It's true there's no reason on its face to suspect anything but that makes no difference. The questions is why is Hillary Clinton donating to these "charities" in the first place? It doesn't pass the smell test.

And this, of course, is more proof of the cover-up:

"She was Hillary's closest friend," Blair said of his wife, who died in June 2000.

And even worse than the clearly suspicious "miscoding", they are obviously supporting terrorists:

At least three beneficiaries were from the Middle East,[My God!] where the former president worked to forge an elusive peace agreement during the 1990s. They include $50,000 to the King Hussein Foundation, named in honor of the late Jordanian king, who was a key player in Clinton peace talks; $50,000 to American Friends of Yitzhak Rabin, honoring the assassinated Israeli prime minister; and the American Friends of Peres Center, honoring former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.

Where there's a smoking mushroom cloud there's a terrorist sympathizer in my book.

As the article concludes:

Such omissions deprive the public of the right to scrutinize their political leaders' financial dealings and identify possible conflicts of interest, the former chief of disclosure for the Federal Election Commission said.

I certainly concur.

But now that we've seen the full rundown of the Clinton Family Foundation, what exactly was the point of this article? The reporters outline donations to charities founded by Hillary's best friend, her alma mater, some Arkansas Children's programs, the tsunami fund, and some thoroughly respectable middle eastern charities. We found that wealthy people often have these charitable foundations and that some of them, including the Clintons, don't spend every penny of the money each year. We also know that this foundation is run by a Senator and presidential candidate, her husband the ex-president of the United States and that their highly accomplished daughter is a director, which would be a dream masthead on any charity in the United States.

There is no evidence that they cheated on their income taxes or that this foundation has contributed to anything that could even remotely be construed as a conflict of interest or even slightly hypocritical. Indeed, after all this investigation, there is not even the slightest hint of irregularity in the foundation and certainly no illegality, merely that she failed to report this on her disclosure form. had she reported it, it would have reveald exactly nothing of interest to anyone.

So,why all the breathless hinting around about some unnamed nefarious deed? It's the classic bogus Whitewater narrative that never actually turns up anything but makes the country think that there just must be "something" there or the media wouldn't report it. We saw a very similar report recently on John Edwards from the same reporter and even the WaPo's limp ombudsman thought it was questionable and said "accurate stories can be misleading." It appears the editors have no intention of reining Solomon in.

One final thought: if the press had applied the Clinton Rules to George W. Bush's strangely enriching-for-him-and-losing-for-others oil business schemes during what turned out to be the closest election in history, we might not be saddled with this godforsaken presidency today. But they didn't. Why do you suppose that is?

Update: And then there's this egregious piece of garbage. Jayzuz.

My apologies for spelling Solomon's name incorrectly. It has been corrected.

It Wouldn't Be Tuesday Without Another Bush Lie Exposed

by tristero

Now, cynical minds want to know, "What's no special about Tuesday?"

And the answer is: Nothing.

And so it goes. It turns out much to the surprise of maybe one or two Bush dead-enders that the "Iran is making those nasty explosively formed penetrators are killing our soldiers" story so breathlessly hyped a couple weeks ago is, how do I put this, either a baldfaced lie or the delusions of a major league hysteric. Or both, duh.

Let me let you in on a little secret. Y'know the Bush administration? They're bad news. Seriously bad news.

Bush-League Social Psychology

by tristero

Here we learn that narcissism among the young is increasing. Goodness Gracious, Great Balls Afire! This is serious!!!

But wait a minute, what exactly is a narcissist, after all?
[Jean] Twenge, the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled _ and More Miserable Than Ever Before," said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.
That descriptiion remind you of anyone? Someone who has demonstrated a pathological inability to show other than the most crocodilian of tears for wounded and dead soldiers, or poor people flooded out of their homes? Someone so thin-skinned and insecure, he cannot tolerate even the slightest disagreement and has difficulty taking responsibility for a single mistake?

Why yes, I can think of someone. And it also fits his vice-president, many of his advisers, his former Defense Secretary, and many of his political bedfellows, people with names like Donohue, DeLay, Dobson, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Rove.

Sounds to me like the "cohort" of middle-aged Americans has quite a few world-class narcissists already.

But this isn't about politics. The kids, our precious children! They're at risk!

And I'll bet you can't guess what's causing all that increasingly toxic narcissism in this here America. Go ahead, take a wild stab in the dark:
The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the "self-esteem movement" that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far...

Campbell said the narcissism upsurge seemed so pronounced that he was unsure if there were obvious remedies.

"Permissiveness seems to be a component," he said. "A potential antidote would be more authoritative parenting. Less indulgence might be called for."
Indeed. Goddamm permissive liberals. And what are the consequences of too much fucking - oh, sorry, a slip of the pixel, I mean, too much narcissism?
"Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others," he said.

The study asserts that narcissists "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors."
Hmm... Now where did I come across a similar list before? Oh, yeah, that Borat clone, Dr. Eric Keroack and the problems that stem from the depletion of vital bodily fluids:
Last June, Keroack was a featured speaker at the 10th Annual International Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas City, where he provided his somewhat unorthodox insights into the role of hormones in relationship failure.

Oxytocin is a hormone whose actions are associated with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and maternal-infant bonding -- and, according to Keroack, it's the tie that binds in marriage, as well. People don't fall in love, but into hormonal bondage. Therefore, the most important rationale for sexual abstinence isn't faith-based at all, but purely physiological. Unfaithful men and promiscuous women are created by misuse of the "emotional glue" of attraction, an abuse leading to a "perpetual cycle of misery."
For the benefit of those of you whose permissive youth has led to problems with your short-term memory, let me remind you that you are paying Dr. Eric Keroack's salary. He's the guy Bush put in charge of family planning but of course, he doesn't believe in contraception. Just bodily fluid depletion.

Sounds to me like Dr. Keroack and the Narcissistic Personality Inventory doc should hook up. They could certainly waste plenty of taxpayer dollars - sorry, I meant conduct some very insightful federally-sponsored research.

Yessirree, liberal-generated narcissism is a very serious problem among the youth of America. And it's growing! Oh, wait:
Some analysts have commended today's young people for increased commitment to volunteer work...

Yet students, while acknowledging some legitimacy to such findings, don't necessarily accept negative generalizations about their generation.

Hanady Kader, a University of Washington senior, said she worked unpaid last summer helping resettle refugees and considers many of her peers to be civic-minded. But she is dismayed by the competitiveness of some students who seem prematurely focused on career status.

"We're encouraged a lot to be individuals and go out there and do what you want, and nobody should stand in your way," Kader said. "I can see goals and ambitions getting in the way of other things like relationships."

Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered.

"People are worried about themselves _ but in the sense of where are they're going to find a place in the world," she said. "People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn't mean they're not concerned about the rest of the world."

Besides, some of the responses on the narcissism test might not be worrisome, Dalane said. "It would be more depressing if people answered, 'No, I'm not special.'"
Huh? Well, no problemo. If the facts don't fit, just make up reasons why the facts don't matter:
But Twenge viewed even this phenomenon [community service among youth] skeptically, noting that many high schools require community service and many youths feel pressure to list such endeavors on college applications
I wonder, does Twenge have a Pressure To Do Community Service Inventory follow-up "instrument" for her NPI?

"A Bunch Of Old Tires Is Worth More Than Billy Ray"

by digby

I'm always so interested when I hear that racism is dead in this country. When you look around, you certainly don't see the kind of institutional racism you saw when I was a kid. And young people today certainly do seem to be less racist than my generation --- popular culture is an amazing multicultural amalgam.

But, I also know that there is a certain kind of racist bully in American culture who is always present. And there are a lot of them out there. And when they do express their hate, a whole bunch of other people either turn away or come crawling out of the woodwork to defend them --- and that's when society's enduring bigotry comes right to the surface.

Here's a harrowing story in the Texas Monthly about one of those cases where some bullies decided to have some fun --- and a bucn of their friends and families either watched, turned away or defended them and in the process showed the great white underbelly of sickening American racism:

What the investigation unearthed was a story that no one in Linden wanted to believe: Billy Ray, who is mentally disabled, had been taken to a party, ridiculed, called racial slurs, knocked unconscious, and then dumped by the side of the road. Even the strangers who had come to his aid were not Good Samaritans but two of the perpetrators. Had the town’s white residents condemned what had happened to Billy Ray, the incident might have faded into memory; the crime pivoted on a single punch.

Instead, they closed ranks, and juries in both criminal trials that followed declined to give the defendants more than a slap on the wrist. Now Morris Dees, one of the nation’s preeminent civil rights lawyers, has taken up Billy Ray’s case, and Linden—a place most Texans have never heard of—will likely become the focus of national attention when the wrongful-injury lawsuit goes to trial this spring. Whether a new jury will see things differently depends on how Linden perceives its own role in this drama: as a community that must redeem itself or as a small town unfairly maligned by outsiders.

It was quite a party that night:

... When they looked to see who Wes had brought from town, they burst out laughing. One girl overheard twenty-year-old Colt Amox snicker, “Wes has a crazy nigger with him.”

Wes would later say that he had never intended for Billy Ray to become the night’s entertainment, but from the moment they arrived, the joke was on Billy Ray.Wes introduced him to his friends, making up nonsensical names for them as he went. Colt was “Bolt,” while others were “C’mon,” “We-pee,” and “Casey Macaroni.” Guileless, Billy Ray nodded and told each of them, “You can just call me Bill.” Wes turned on some music and handed Billy Ray a beer, and soon he had Billy Ray dancing to Lil’ Kim’s “Magic Stick.” Wes passed an imaginary stick back and forth to him while the group looked on and laughed. When the fire began to fade, Wes had him unload wood from the bed of his truck, and the errand became a game to see how much firewood he could pile on as he raced to and from the pickup. “Come on, Billy Ray, you can get more than that!” people shouted. Someone suggested that he reach into the fire and pull out one of the burning logs, and as Billy Ray bent down to comply, Wes stopped him. “Don’t be stupid,” he said.

The teasing had started to make some people uneasy, and before long, more than half the group decided to go home. Erica Hudson, a freshman at Tyler Junior College, told Wes as she was leaving, “It’s not right.”

Corey Hicks, who had recently gotten off work at the jail, drove up as the party was thinning out. He lived with Wes’ sister, with whom he had two children. When Corey arrived, he turned to a heavy-lidded eighteen-year-old named Dallas Stone. “Why did Wes bring this stupid nigger out here?” he asked.

Dallas shrugged. “For a joke,” he said.

Only six people remained at the party, including Billy Ray, and everyone was drinking heavily. As the night wore on, a pretty twenty-year-old student named Lacy Dorgan—the only woman left at the party—wandered off to throw up, and Wes followed her. The dome light inside her Mustang was on when she and Wes started having sex a few minutes later, and Corey watched them from a distance.

Bored and drunk, Corey, Colt, and Dallas nursed their beers while Billy Ray sat alone by the bonfire. Dallas would later claim that Corey said, “I wish someone would beat this nigger up.”

They were caught and some people were outraged. Othere were not:

Linden residents who braved the media did little to burnish the town’s image when they tried to downplay the crime, talking about the “good boys” involved who had been remiss only in letting things get “out of hand” and who deserved “a slap on the wrist.” Wilford Penny told the Chicago Tribune one month after stepping down as Linden’s mayor that the incident had been “an unfortunate and senseless thing” but that “the black boy was somewhere he shouldn’t have been.”

The "boy" was 42 years old.

And yet, after Corey, Wes, Colt, and Dallas were each arrested and charged that October with aggravated assault (Lacy, who cooperated with investigators, was not charged), they were seen, by some, to be victims as well. “These boys’ names are ruined for life,” Corey’s mother, Martha Howell, later told one reporter. “And [Billy Ray] is better off today than he’s ever been in his life. He roamed the streets, the family never knew where he was. Now in the nursing home he’s got someone to take care of him.”

Barbara Bush would agree, no doubt. She said similar things about all those "black boys" living in the Houston astrodome after the Hurricane:

"...so many of the people in the arena here, you
know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she
chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

The DA put on a lousy case and the jury gave the men suspended sentences. (The judge stepped in and gave them a couple of months jail time):

When I met with the jury foreman, a warehouse manager named John Reed, he explained that some jurors had thought Billy Ray—who had taken the stand to give a few halting answers—had faked his symptoms and had practiced seeming slow and walking poorly. “As far as I’m concerned, everyone’s to blame,” Reed said. “Wes Owens shouldn’t have carried him out to that party, and Billy Ray should have known better than to go drink beer with a bunch of white boys.”

Now I realize that most people don't think this way in their every day lives. But there remains a strong, undercurrent of such thinking among a larger number of people than most of us realize. It is hidden and covert most of the time these days. In fact, most people who think this way don't think of themselves as racist. But when the chips are down, this is where the racist American lizard brain rises up to the surface and shows its ugly face.

African Americans say that racism still exists and whites across the political spectrum argue that it doesn't. They say it's either gone entirely (in the view of self-serving conservatives) or it's really a matter of class not some deeply buried tribal hatred that will take many, many eons to completely work itself out. Even the fact that the prison system is obscenely overrepresented by African Americans isn't even seen for what it is and is often excused as a result of poverty or education or some social pathology. It isn't.

“The verdicts sent a message: ‘It’s okay to treat a black man that way,’” Lue said when I visited him last fall. He showed me a small item he had clipped from the Cass County Sun, which he had glued to a piece of loose-leaf paper for safekeeping, about a black man named Burks Mack, who had illegally dumped some tires near Old Dump Road. For his crime, Mack had received six months in the county jail. “The only way I can figure it, a bunch of old tires is worth more than Billy Ray,” he said.

H/T to reader M.O.

by digby

Following up on my post below:

Think Progress

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “looked awfully cozy nestled between Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in the Senate press gallery this month, talking up their counterproposal to Democratic legislation critical of President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq,” The Politico reports. “‘Reid doesn’t want to create holy hell in the Democratic blogger world,’ Graham said, speculating why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was refusing to allow votes on certain Republican amendments. The dig at Lieberman’s Internet nemeses hit his funny bone. The trio giggled in unison.“


Monday, February 26, 2007

Dancing With The Leadership

by digby

Ok, so Joe Lieberman is threatening to bolt the party. Everybody's talking about how he's swinging his weight all over town:

... Lieberman has fought Democrats with the pluck of a third-grader in a dodge-ball tournament, advancing the view of him as a rogue ready to bolt the Democrats, where he caucuses, for the Republicans. And in a Politico interview last week, he once again refused to rule out the possibility.

He used that clout today. CongressDaily reports:

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Lieberman is making it clear he does not want Iraq-related amendments attached to a bill scheduled for floor action this week that would implement unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Democratic leaders seemed inclined today to hold off introducing Iraq-related amendments to the bill, possibly to avoid upsetting Lieberman and moving him closer to switching party affiliations, which would swing the Senate back to GOP control.

Think Progress adds:

One Democratic aide quoted by CongressDaily says it “depends on whether Republicans push to attach language supportive of President Bush’s so-called surge in U.S. troop strength in the most dangerous areas of Iraq. ‘The Democrats won’t [offer Iraq amendments] if Republicans don’t,‘ this aide said.” Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) say they have not decided how to proceed with the Iraq proposals.

And this is ostensibly because Joe Lieberman has all this power because he could cost the Democrats their majority. Oh dear!

Lieberman says leaving the Democratic Party is a "very remote possibility." But even that slight ambiguity -- and all his cross-aisle flirtation -- has proved more than enough to position Lieberman as the Senate's one-man tipping point. If he were to jump ship, the ensuing shift of power to Republicans would scramble the politics of the war in Iraq, undercut the Democrats' national agenda and potentially weaken their hopes for the White House in 2008. Those stakes are high enough to give Lieberman leverage with both parties no matter how slim the chance of his crossing the aisle. Which means Senate leaders aren't worrying only about whether Joe Lieberman will switch parties. They're wondering what, if anything, he plans to do with the power that comes from keeping that possibility alive

That Joe Lieberman is leading everyone around by the nose, isn't he?

Except there one little detail that nobody seems to know about, even though it appeared in the Washington Post.

Republican leaders decided not to seek special language spelling out the terms of a transition in case of a power shift -- say, if Johnson vacates his post and his state's GOP governor appoints a Republican to replace him. Under that scenario, power would effectively shift to Republicans, because Cheney would provide the tiebreaking 51st vote. But for Republicans to take parliamentary control, the Senate would have to vote for new organizational rules, a move Democrats could filibuster.

A similar scenario unfolded in January 2001, when a 50-50 Senate convened. In 2001, Democrats demanded a "kick-out clause" in organizing negotiations that would automatically scrap agreements on committee ratios and funding levels and force new organizational rules. But Republicans decided this month against a confrontation that would come from demanding a similar clause.

"Nobody over here talked about that at all," said Don Stewart, spokesman for McConnell.

Media Matters has more on this.

You'll have to excuse me if I'm too cynical here, but I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that Harry Reid and Chuck Shumer aren't aware of all this. Which means that all this tip-toeing around Joe Lieberman is a very fancy kabuki dance. Which also means we really have to question whether they mean to pass any legislation at all.

I don't know how you can read this any other way. We pesky anti-Iraq war liberals are happy to blame him for everything and so we aren't looking at this closely enough. And Lieberman is likely very happy to play the independent maverick and doesn't mind being the Democratic Martyr of Iraq.

But I have to say that I'm just a teensy bit disappointed in the Democrats. This is a war we're talking about not some tax cut legislation. They don't have to do anything that unctuous creep tells them to do. He is holding nothing over their heads and yet everyone is pretending that they are worried about appeasing Old Joe and so they can't actually get anything done on Iraq.

You can't help but wonder if Lieberman and the Senate Dems aren't working the same side after all.

That Other War

by digby

Does everyone know about the big Taliban offensive slated for the spring? Did you know that we needed to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan in anticipation of it?

Here's an excerpt from The Situation Room today:

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) HENRY (voice-over): In a surprise visit to Pakistan, Vice President Cheney put private pressure on President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on al Qaeda and Taliban militants. But in public, White House Spokesman Tony Snow struck a much more cautious tone.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not been saying it's a tough message. What we're saying is we're having -- the vice president is meeting with President Musharraf because we do understand the importance of -- of making even greater progress against al Qaeda, against the Taliban.

HENRY: What's really going on here is a delicate diplomatic dance. While Musharraf has helped the U.S. capture hundreds of terrorists in urban areas of Pakistan, he has been much less helpful in remote areas, where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It is simultaneously one of our best partners against terrorism and at the same time, to a degree, a safe haven against -- a safe haven for terrorists.

HENRY: President Bush needs the cooperation of his Pakistani counterpart more than ever, after sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in advance of an expected spring offensive by terrorists.

If this is true then the decision to surge in Iraq is even worse than we thought, particularly in light of this story today:

Just last week, the nation’s highest-ranking officer, Gen. Peter Pace, secretly upgraded to “significant” the risk the military faces this year in carrying out its full national security mission. He unwaveringly stated that the armed forces would succeed at any mission ordered by the president; the response would just be slower, less elegant, more dangerous.


“At the end of the day, strategy is the management of risk, whether personal or military strategy,” said Jeffrey D. McCausland, a retired Army colonel now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council in New York. “The question is, how much risk are we willing to live with? We are taking a significant amount of strategic risk today because, if you look at our ground forces, we have pulled almost everything out of the box already. So if a major problem arises somewhere else, what do we turn to?”

As a consequence, he said, the United States has lost much of its historic military flexibility. “We know that,” he said. “So do our adversaries. To some degree, Iran and North Korea can play this round of poker more boldly.”

I suspect that we are seeing the results of a Strangelove Strategy on the part of Crazy Cheney and the rest of the kooks in his cadre. They figure they can always use nukes if they have to. No options are off the table, after all.

This is dangerous leadership. The Iraq surge is a waste of time and effort, especially when Afghanistan, which truly does harbor terrorists, (particularly those who have been plotting against Great Britain) is being lost. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is rattling its limp sabres against Iran and putting aircraft carriers like sitting ducks in the middle of the strait of Hormuz just hoping that the government (or some deluded individual) miscalculates.

Cheney is in Pakistan exerting pressure on Musharraf, after the US has spent the last five years working as hard as it can to radicalize as many Muslims as possible. (It takes some real chutzpah to go over there and play the good cop now and try to blame the Democrats for wanting to pull the rug out from under him, but what else is new?) The fact is that if we hadn't take our eye off the ball in Afghanistan we probably could have solved the problem without needing more than Pakistan's tepid help. As it is, we are well and truly screwed. If we push too hard, Musharref goes down and the radicals may very well take over. If we don't, al Qaeda runs around freely plotting their next attack.

I'm sure glad the grown-ups are in charge aren't you?

The stupid ... It buuurns™

by digby

So I happen to see Wolf Blitzer and Jeff Greenfield studying the Schwarzenegger phenomenon since he made the penetrating observation today that Republicans and Democrats really should try to get along. They both marvelled at the tremendous response Schwarzenegger gets when he's in public. Wolf commented that when he was in Las Vegas recently for a sporting event, Schwarzenegger turned up with Maria and "he was greeted like a rock star!"

Uhm no. He was greeted like a fucking movie star, which is what he is. The man was one of the highest grossing box office attractions in the world for a couple of decades and yet Blitzer and Greenfield seem to think the fact that the public gets excited in his presence has something to do with his politics. In fact, they think he's a "star" because of his great skill at reaching across the aisle.

Here's the exact exchange:

BLITZER: I saw him at the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas. He showed up with Maria Shriver. And I got to tell you, he was a rock star there. He was widely applauded. You have just come back. You have spent some time in California.

Is that the general reception he gets when he travels around the state?

GREENFIELD: Yes, it is, particularly after he was declared politically dead in 2005.

Right. Nobody wildly applauded him in public before 2005.

Dogging Gitmo

by digby

I have been remiss in failing to highlight this series of interviews with lawyers and others who are involved with Guantanamo and other issues pertaining to the military commissions over at The Talking Dog. He's talked to a variety of people who offer great insight into the miscarriage of justice and moral blight that is our system of military detentions in the Great GWOT. I recently read them all again as a piece and the big picture that emerges is just horrifying (scroll to the bottom of this post to see them all.)

Most recently he interviewed David Rose, the first journalist to pull the curtain back on Guantanamo in his early articles in Vanity Fair (from which I quoted liberally when they came out) and author of Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights.

The Talking Dog: Have you had a chance to return to Guantanamo since he publication of your book, Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights?

David Rose: I tried to go to Guantanamo last June (of 2006). I was all set to cover the first military commission trials, when the news broke of the suicides of three detainees. The Pentagon suddenly revoked my clearance. Then, as I was in Washington, I managed to get a new clearance, faxed to my hotel, and we arranged transport by a circuitous route on civilian aircraft via Miami and Kingston, Jamaica, but ultimately, the Defense Department refused to let me in at that time, and I have not been back.

The Talking Dog: Do you have a comment on why, to this day, American detention policy, whether at Guantanamo, Bagram, Kandahar, Iraq, or elsewhere, including the ghost prisons and rendition program, remain a much bigger issue in Europe and outside of the United States than they do inside of the United States?

David Rose: In all fairness, it has become a far bigger issue in the United States since I wrote the book. Of course, John Kerry did not mention this at all when he ran for President– not one mention of Guantanamo. Large numbers of Americans think it is just perfectly fine to hold people this way. They don’t see the broader issues– that Guantanamo and America’s treatment of detainees is virtually a recruiting sergeant for terrorists, and that the policy is misguided ethically and counterproductive in achieving the supposed goals of fighting terrorism.

It makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

Rose is the guy who first profiled the man who was brought in to toughen up Guantanamo, the psychopathic artillery officer named Geoffrey Miller who they subsequently sent over to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and praised as an "innovator" when he retired.


by digby

Some of you have noticed that I'm having a problem with the links to individual posts. The blogger "BlogItemNumber" is repeating for some inexplicable reason and it makes all links go to the top of the page instead of the individual post. I checked it against my old template and nothing has changed.

I'm getting no response from the Googleboys or the blogger help group yet but I remain hopeful that someone out there will have a clue. In the meantime, I'd be grateful to those of you who are kind enough to link to our posts, if you'd lop off that repeated number when you do the link.


thanks --- digby

Update: Fixed by the Mighty Atrios, Lord of all things blogger.

Lindsay On Edwards And Bloggers

by tristero

Lindsay Beyerstein of the great blog Majikthise has an article in Salon about why she turned down the gig of blogging for the Edwards campaign before Amanda and Shakes were hired and then "scalped" by the extreme right. Great streetsmarts on display and an excellent analysis of the role independent bloggers can/do/should have in political campaigns.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Thanking The Academy

by digby

I'm going to be gravely disappointed if Scorcese doesn't finally win. And I'm looking forward to seeing Etheridge sing her great song and (hopefully) seeing "An Inconvenient Truth" get even more exposure to the world. It's not hyperbole to say it may be the most important movie ever made.

Every Oscar night I think about the time years ago that I went to a party that was attended by Satcheen Littlefeather, the woman Brando designated to receive his oscar and give a speech about Native American rights. My ditsy sis-in-law was introduced to her and said, "Oh right, you're the woman who accepted the award for Marlo Thomas!"

The opening was great. Everyone present who was nominated got a moment to be applauded by their peers. Very nice.

Happy Oscars.


Congratulations to President Gore!
Congratulations Melissa Etheridge!!

C&L has the video of Al's speech here.

by digby

US Vice-President Dick Cheney has raised the possibility of military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

He has endorsed Republican senator John McCain's proposition that the only thing worse than a military confrontation with Iran would be a nuclear-armed Iran.

In an exclusive interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Cheney said: "I would guess that John McCain and I are pretty close to agreement."

The visiting Vice-President said that he had no doubt Iran was striving to enrich uranium to the point where they could make nuclear weapons.

He accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of espousing an "apocalyptic philosophy" and making "threatening noises about Israel and the US and others".

He also said Iran was a sponsor of terrorism, especially through Hezbollah. However, the US did not believe Iran possessed any nuclear weapons as yet.

"You get various estimates of where the point of no return is," Mr Cheney said, identifying nuclear terrorism as the greatest threat to the world.

"Is it when they possess weapons or does it come sooner, when they have mastered the technology but perhaps not yet produced fissile material for weapons?"

Mr Cheney also condemned Kevin Rudd's plan to withdraw all Australian combat troops from Iraq. Although he did not mention the Opposition Leader by name, Mr Cheney said the withdrawal of Australian troops "would clearly be a disappointment from our standpoint".

He encouraged further Australian involvement: "The more allies we have and the more committed they are to the effort, the quicker we can anticipate success."


Earlier, in an address in Sydney to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, Mr Cheney had emphasised the importance of the challenge of defeating Islamist terror, underlining the long-term nature of the struggle for the US and its allies.

"We have never had a fight like this, and it's not a fight we can win using the strategies from other wars," he said.


"The world's better off now that (Saddam Hussein) is dead and there's a democratically elected Government in his place in Baghdad," he said.

"The Iraqi people are well on the road to establishing a viable democracy.

"In the long term when we look back on this period of time that will be a remarkable achievement. We're not there yet. We've still got a lot to do."

In Dick Cheney's upside-down world, the fearsome GWOT is akin to the "War of the Worlds" and we have to be prepared to blow up the planet rather than submit to the aliens. And Iraq is a huge success.

Arthur Silber puts this in perspective, here and here.

Meanwhile, Cheney is running all over the world prattling on like Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane", Bush is robotically grunting some nonsense about "pertecktin' the troops" and pundits are trying to make us believe that this is some sort of extremely clever ruse that will end with Iran metaphorically falling to the ground and crying uncle. As if "extremely clever" and Dick 'n George can ever be mentioned seriously in the same breath.

Zero Tolerance

by digby

Not that I advocate operqating like this because it smacks of fascism and makes me sick, but if you want to see how an extremely effective right wing advocacy group works, this is how its done:

'Terrorist' Remark Puts Outdoorsman's Career in Jeopardy

Zumbo's Criticism of Hunters Who Use Assault Rifles Brings Unforgiving Response From U.S. Gun Culture

SEATTLE -- Modern hunters rarely become more famous than Jim Zumbo. A mustachioed, barrel-chested outdoors entrepreneur who lives in a log cabin near Yellowstone National Park, he has spent much of his life writing for prominent outdoors magazines, delivering lectures across the country and starring in cable TV shows about big-game hunting in the West.

Zumbo's fame, however, has turned to black-bordered infamy within America's gun culture -- and his multimedia success has come undone. It all happened in the past week, after he publicly criticized the use of military-style assault rifles by hunters, especially those gunning for prairie dogs.

"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," Zumbo wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life Web site. The Feb. 16 posting has since been taken down. "As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. . . . I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles."

The reaction -- from tens of thousands of owners of assault rifles across the country, from media and manufacturers rooted in the gun business, and from the National Rifle Association -- has been swift, severe and unforgiving. Despite a profuse public apology and a vow to go hunting soon with an assault weapon, Zumbo's career appears to be over.

His top-rated weekly TV program on the Outdoor Channel, his longtime career with Outdoor Life magazine and his corporate ties to the biggest names in gunmaking, including Remington Arms Co., have been terminated or are on the ropes.

The NRA on Thursday pointed to the collapse of Zumbo's career as an example of what can happen to anyone, including a "fellow gun owner," who challenges the right of Americans to own or hunt with assault-style firearms.

In announcing that it was suspending its professional ties with Zumbo, the NRA -- a well-financed gun lobby that for decades has fought attempts to regulate assault weapons -- noted that the new Congress should pay careful attention to the outdoors writer's fate.

"Our folks fully understand that their rights are at stake," the NRA statement said. It warned that the "grassroots" passion that brought down Zumbo shows that millions of people would "resist with an immense singular political will any attempts to create a new ban on semi-automatic firearms."

Kevin says the message is that there's no point in apologizing in America today. But I have never seen any liberal advocacy group completely destroy one of their own's livlihood over one remark with which they disagree, apology or not. I'm not saying some wouldn't want to, or haven't tried even, but they just don't have the clout with their followers or that kind of killer instinct. The NRA is the most effective lobbying group in American history because of its savvy political lobbying and its take no prisoners attitude. They are totalitarian gun nuts who have completely cowed the political system of this country. If that doesn't keep you awake night, nothing will.

Thus, The Gates Of Hell

by tristero

[UPDATE: Digby discusses the same article below that I do here. I apologize for the inadvertent duplication (I was finishing up my post and didn't realize Digby had already discussed it), but I hope our combined interest will serve to pique your curiousity about the comlete article, one of Hersh's greatest, and a deeply important read.]

Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker has a concise article explaining only a fraction of the fiendishly complex twists and turns of the political situation in the Middle East right now. As you read it - and you'll have to read it several times even to begin to understand the vertigo-inducing complexities - perhaps, like me, you will shudder to remember that the US is led by a "gentleman's C+" and a demented flake who shot his friend in the face, neither of which have had a lick of genuine experience in the Middle East, not to mention a glimmer of understanding as to how the world works. These are the people who deliberately are sending your children, your friends, and your neighbors to mutilation and death in a faraway desert for no sensible purpose whatsoever.

I've excerpted some quotes from the article. But really, it bears reading in full. The situation makes the study of string theory seem like beginner's Sudoku :
“The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them...

...the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours...

..the former senior intelligence official said that the current contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring. He added, however, that senior officers on the Joint Chiefs were counting on the White House’s not being “foolish enough to do this in the face of Iraq, and the problems it would give the Republicans in 2008...

...In the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction. At least four main elements were involved, the U.S government consultant told me. First, Israel would be assured that its security was paramount and that Washington and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states shared its concern about Iran

Second, the Saudis would urge Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party that has received support from Iran, to curtail its anti-Israeli aggression and to begin serious talks about sharing leadership with Fatah, the more secular Palestinian group. (In February, the Saudis brokered a deal at Mecca between the two factions. However, Israel and the U.S. have expressed dissatisfaction with the terms.)

The third component was that the Bush Administration would work directly with Sunni nations to counteract Shiite ascendance in the region.

Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria...

During a conversation with me, the former Saudi diplomat accused Nasrallah of attempting “to hijack the state,” but he also objected to the Lebanese and Saudi sponsorship of Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. “Salafis are sick and hateful, and I’m very much against the idea of flirting with them,” he said. “They hate the Shiites, but they hate Americans more. If you try to outsmart them, they will outsmart us. It will be ugly...”

In an interview in Beirut, a senior official in the Siniora government acknowledged that there were Sunni jihadists operating inside Lebanon. “We have a liberal attitude that allows Al Qaeda types to have a presence here,” he said. He related this to concerns that Iran or Syria might decide to turn Lebanon into a “theatre of conflict...”

The Bush Administration has portrayed its support of the Siniora government as an example of the President’s belief in democracy, and his desire to prevent other powers from interfering in Lebanon...

The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, a earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became know as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)

Rube Goldberg Policy Contraption

by digby

After you watch a presidential admnistration for a while you begin to see shifts in policy or different phases of the old ones by the way the officials all speak. In the case of the Bush administration, it's remarkably easy because they robotically and fanatically follow talking points. They are, as we've seen many times, more concerned with marketing than subtance and place a very high premium on properly "rolling out their product."

So, when president Bush used the phrase "protect our troops" followed by everyone from Gates to Rice, my antennae were way up; it was obvious that it was a potential cassus belli for an attack on Iran. January 11, 2007:

SEC. RICE: Well, I think General Pace has spoken to what we think the necessity is and what it is we intend to do. We've made very clear to the Iranian government and the Syrian government, for that matter, that we don't expect them to continually engage in behavior that is destabilizing to the Iraqi government but also that endangers our troops, and that we will do what is necessary for force protection.

But we leave to those who deal with issues of force protection how these raids are going to be taken out (sic). I think you've got an indication of that in what has been happening, which is the networks are identified, they are identified through good intelligence, they are then acted upon. It is without regard to whoever is in them, whatever the nationality. And we're going to protect our troops.

Then in her appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month:

“Obviously, the President isn’t going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq.I do think that everyone will understand that—the American people and I assume the Congress expect the President to do what is necessary to protect our forces.”

Today we have a new article from Seymour Hersh that is so mindblowing that you must do yourself a favor and go and read the whole thing right now. It's called "The Redirection" and it starts like this:

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”

After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Think about this for a moment. The crackerjack Bush administration --- which failed to anticipate the rise of Iran once they removed its dangerous enemy from the scene --- is supposed to be able to recognize who's who among these various Muslim players and deftly play all the factions against one another in a very discrete and high stakes game in which they finesse a final outcome that brings about peace and security.

Oh. My God.

But apparently we needn't worry because Prince Bandar is on the scene helping Dick Cheney sort everything out:

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”

In case anyone forgot, Al Qaeda are Sunni radicals. And most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. But let's assume they weren't. Can anyone believe that this administration is capable of playing such a delicate geopolitical chess game? Dear God, these are people whose idea of playing checkers is to up-end the board and do a victory dance. Let's just say that subtlety isn't their stong suit.

This is what Bush and Cheney are talking about when they say that history will vindicate them. The believe that by tearing the middle east to pieces, when it finally settles down after years of carnage and bloodshed, they will get credit for the clever plan that set it in motion.

Read it all. There's much more and it's fascinating stuff. And frightening.

This is the part that gets me. When Bush brought that war criminal piece of garbage Elliott Abrams back in to the government we all should have known they were going down this road:

The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)


The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House’s policy goals but “wanted to do it by the book.” The Pentagon consultant also told me that “there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn’t fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.” It was also true, he said, that Negroponte “had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.”

The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.

“This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me. “And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it.” He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, “The C.I.A. is asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re concerned, because they think it’s amateur hour.”

It is amateur hour and these zombies must be stopped. Until the Democrats, and the country, recognize this undemocratic and criminal element in our politics it is going to continue every time the Republicans take power. When they have a congressional majority with a Republican president they steal the country blind and when it's a Democrat they harrass him so badly that its a miracle he is able to function. When they have the presidency they become despotic criminals. This has been true for the last 30 years.

And now the Bush administration has spawned untold numbers of future war criminals who will claw their way back into power so they can "prove" they were right the first time. This pattern is repeating itself over and over again and we simply have to figure out a way to put an end to it.

Today we have the DOD equivalent of Brownie running around with boatload of cash making deals with Muslim extremists and Saudi princes, whom the administration has divided up into completely useless designations of "reformer" and extremist." Nobody knows who's talking to who or what agenda they really have. Liberals think up complex plots like this and make them into movies. Republicans steal billions from the taxpayers and actually try to implement their hare-brained schemes.

Meanwhile, in case you've been away from the media for a while, Anna Nicole Smith is still dead and Chris Matthews and Cokie Roberts are desperate to find out if Bill Clinton is "being a good boy." We're in trouble.

Update: John Amato has the footage of Seymour hersh this morning on Wolf Blitzer. It's a corker:

HERSH: ...And in looking into that story, and I saw him in December, I found this. That we have been pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia is putting up some of this money, for covert operations in many areas of the Middle East where we think that the — we want to stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.

They call it the "Shiite Crescent." And a lot of this money, and I can't tell you with absolute certainty how — exactly when and how, but this money has gotten into the hands — among other places, in Lebanon, into the hands of three — at least three jihadist groups.

There are three Sunni jihadist groups whose main claim to fame inside Lebanon right now is that they are very tough. These are people connected to al Qaeda who want to take on Hezbollah. So this government, at the minimum, we may not directly be funneling money to them, but we certainly know that these groups exist.


We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11, and we should be arresting these people rather than looking the other way…

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday Night At The Movies

They’re gonna crucify me: Mayflower in reverse

By Dennis Hartley

Back in 1972, the U.S. government handed a certain British émigré a rather abrupt eviction notice, informing him and the missus that they had 60 days to get out of the country or face deportation proceedings.

This event would likely have not caused much of a ripple in anyone else’s life, had the folks in question not been a married couple known to millions simply as “John & Yoko”. And so began a highly politicized, four-year legal battle for citizenship, chronicled in the documentary The US vs. John Lennon, now available on DVD.

You know the back story: After a very public and controversial courtship, John Lennon and Yoko Ono marry in 1969, the Beatles break up, and the couple begin making their own headlines with a series of mildly political “performance art” media stunts (starting with the relatively benign “Bed-In For Peace”) and then move to NYC in the early 70’s, where they begin to openly sympathize with the “radical” American political groups of the time, much to the chagrin of the Nixon administration. The apparent last straw for Tricky D.& Co. was John and Yoko’s 1972 appearance at a charity concert to help cover legal fees for White Panther Party founder John Sinclair, who had been jailed ostensibly on drug charges, but was considered by many at the time to be a political prisoner.

Declassified documents now prove that, from day one, there was direct inter-agency manipulation of John and Yoko’s deportation proceedings, from the FBI all the way up to the Oval Office, resulting in a nearly four-year long persecution that was probably best described by Lennon himself, who referred to the machinations as “Kafkaesque”.

The film features great archival footage, with recollections from the likes of Bobby Seale, John Sinclair, Geraldo Rivera, Noam Chomsky, Ron Kovic, Paul Krassner, George McGovern, and, er, G. Gordon Liddy (guess whose side he’s on). The most insightful comment comes from the ever-glib Gore Vidal, who, when asked what it was about Lennon that made him such a threat to the Nixon cabal, says: “He (Lennon) represented Life, and was admirable. Mr. Nixon, and (for that matter) Mr. Bush, represent Death, and that’s bad.” (Perhaps that is a bit of an over-simplification, but so true.)

The film is a tad dry in its execution (it was produced by VH-1, which likely accounts for the rote “Behind the Music” approach) but it’s still a compelling tale, and an important one. It has much to say about what is going on right now with the “dissent vs. disloyalty” issue (Dixie Chicks, anyone?) and the dangers of being governed by an administration that parcels up the Bill of Rights like customized selections from a dim sum cart.

Enemies of the State: Dixie Chicks - Shut Up & Sing, Don't Look Back, Panther, Steal This Movie!, Steal This Movie!, Berkeley in the Sixties, Sir! No Sir! - The Suppressed Story of the GI Movement to End the War in Vietnam,Nixon - Collector's Edition, Born on the Fourth of July (Special Edition), Strawberry Statement, Medium Cool, Sympathy for the Devil. And for that “Kafkaesque” context…start with Orson Welles’ The Trial.

Xenophobes R Us

by digby

There has been very little discussion of this issue, but I predict it's going to rise to the surface in the future and it's not going to be pretty. The other day the new Dem governor of Ohio made some waves by saying that Ohio wouldn't be a welcome place for Iraqi refugees. He changed his mind a couple of days later.

Right now, Iraq is experiencing one of the most serious refugee crises in modern history.Millions of people are fleeing the country, most of whom are in the professional and middle class. In Vietnam we were faced with a similar situation that resulted in a terrible exodus with many thousands of boat people winding up in refugee camps, some of whom were eventually allowed to come to th US. This is going to end up being a very different situation. We are more
culpable for this crisis even than that in Vietnam and yet there is almost no chance that we will allow more than a handful to come into the US, despite the fact that many of them were helpful to the US occupation and therefore, probably need the protection of the US government after what we've done.

The right hasn't settled yet on whether they are going to make their argument agianst settling Iraqis in the US on that basis of the GWOT or on immigration. I'm sure they'll have arguments prepared for both sides. You can bet they will not want these arabs over here. After all, aren't we fighting ("liberating") them over there so we don't have to fight them over here?

Tom Tancredo is getting out in front of course, firing the first salvo:

COOPER: Well, we've been talking about the growing humanitarian crisis that the war in Iraq has created, forcing millions of Iraqis from their homes.

Almost 2 million are in Iraq and homeless. Many others have fled to Arab countries. One million are in Syria; 750,000 are in Jordan; and somewhere between

80,000 and 130,000 are believed to be in Egypt; and 40,000 are in Lebanon.

Only a few hundred are actually here in the United States. Now before the break, we told you about the Bush administration's new plan to allow some 7,000 Iraqi refugees into the U.S. this year. People who have helped the U.S., worked as interpreters or who face real threats.

The plan is facing fierce opposition from both sides of the aisle and sparked an intense debate. I saw just how passionate people on either side of the issue are when I spoke with Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council earlier tonight.


COOPER: Congressman Tancredo, some of the Iraqis are applying for refugee status. These are people who have risked their lives working for U.S. forces as translators, doing intelligence work, as drivers. There are those who say, look, why shouldn't we help those?

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: I'll tell you one reason why we shouldn't. Not too long ago we found out about a number of Iraqis here in the United States that had committed some other crimes. That is to say, they committed -- they were aliens here. They committed a crime. They were tried, convicted. They were supposed to be deported under those kind of conditions.

Come to find out, Iraq is a country, one of about 20, that refuses to accept their aliens back to their country after they've committed other crimes in the United States.

I don't care what they've done in Iraq before. There is a law, actually on the books today, Anderson, that says that if a country refuses to take back its aliens that have committed crimes in the United States, we should not give them any visas.

Well, there's always Gitmo.

COOPER: All right, you know what about this? The congressman is saying, look, there's a law in the books, which we're not supposed to allow Iraqis in if they're not willing to accept Iraqis who have committed crimes back into Iraq.

EDINA LEKOVIC, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Well, look, that seems like a bit of political maneuvering and selective application of the laws, given that the Iraqi people should not be standing there to pay the price for this type of selective application.

What we're talking about is a humanitarian crisis on the scale that certain humanitarian organizations are saying could soon rival the crisis in Darfur.

COOPER: Well, Congressman, if they did decide to change that law in Iraq, if Iraq did accept it, would you then be in favor of allowing some 7,000 Iraqi refugees into America?

TANCREDO: I would be in favor of accepting those that can be actually identified as coming here under humanitarian conditions and as refugees. That policy we've already established.

But I'll tell you that, you know, it isn't as if these people, first of all, are trapped in Iraq. That's another situation. Where they are today, for the most part, is not in Iraq. They have gone to other countries. And now we are thinking about being pressured to take them from the countries where they are presently occupying.

LEKOVIC: Hold on there, with all due respect, Congressman, there are over 100,000 Iraqis who are fleeing Iraq each month, according to the U.N. There are over 2 million refugees from Iraq, as well as 1.7 million internally displaced people. There is a huge crisis on our hands here.

And right now, that burden is unfairly being shouldered by nations in the region like Jordan and Syria, which haven't even signed onto the U.N. convention on refugees. And our own nation has.

COOPER: What Edina seems to be arguing is that there is a moral obligation, given that we went to war, that we take care of a certain number of refugees since this war has created.


COOPER: Do you believe that?

TANCREDO: We have done that in the past, certainly in Vietnam and other places. And I understand that. And I'm telling you that we have a refugee policy. It is the most liberal in the world. There are no caps on it. I understand that.

My complaint here and concern is with the Iraqi government today. The fact is, we should use this as pressure to get them to accept back their people who have committed crimes when they're here.

COOPER: What do you think should be done with -- with that huge tide of refugees?

TANCREDO: Well, what should be done with them is being done. And that -- in the case of what we can do. That is to try and construct -- help construct an Iraqi government in which those people can feel safe to return to the country of origin. That is the real task here.

COOPER: Edina, I'll give you the last word.

LEKOVIC: Well, that's just a part of the picture: 7,000 is a very paltry number. And we can't forget the fact here that there are people involved. There are people whose lives have been devastated. We have promised that we would save -- we would rescue them from malnutrition, from mayhem, from murder.

And that is precisely what they are facing every day and why they are leaving the country in large droves.

Congressman Tancredo is the same man who a few years ago said that we should consider taking out Mecca in order to send a message to the terrorists. So...

TANCREDO: Whoa -- that is absolutely...

LEKOVIC: ... this gentleman is not the man to be...

TANCREDO: You have no respect, ma'am, because you would say a thing like that.

LEKOVIC: ... discussing this type of problem to preserve all human life.

TANCREDO: Well, that is absolutely untrue that I said we should take out Mecca in order to send a message.

LEKOVIC: Sir, you said we should consider it.

TANCREDO: It was never to, quote, "send a message." And that is an entirely inaccurate way...

LEKOVIC: Sir, did you say that we should consider taking out Mecca?

TANCREDO: What I said was, well, do you want to fight that battle again? I'm happy to. But what I'm telling you is what you just said is not only inaccurate, but I think it's disingenuous.


COOPER: Well, as always, we care about the facts on 360. We checked the transcript of Congressman Tancredo's interview with talk show host Pat Campbell.

When asked how he would respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons, he said, quote, "If this happens in the United States and we determined that it is the result of extremist fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites."

Campbell said, "You're talking about bombing Mecca?"

And Tancredo responded, "Yes."

Tom Tancredo proves that he is just an all around xenophobe armed with an excuse for deomnizing foreigners no matter who they are. This is not a big surprise. He hasn't fully developed his argument yet, but he will.

Ms Lecovic is a very effective spokeswoman. She made steam come out of Tancredo's ears.

And good old Anderson did the work of a real journalist. Good for him.

If We Only Had A Pony
by digby

Last night's Shields and Brooks was a rather hallucinogenic experience as David Books told us how great things would be going in Iraq if only it wasn't Iraq.First off, Shields explained why the Brits have been so "successful" in Basra:

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, it's symbolically, I think, important, Jim. I mean, the reality behind the move is that, as Tony

Cordesman from Strategic and International Studies said, Basra was lost a year ago,and Brits have had to withdraw to the airport.
It's now just a Shia stronghold. There is no tension. There's no civil war there, because there's no Sunnis. And it's a little bit like saying that there wasn't any racial tension in Fargo or Moorehead, North Dakota, during the civil rights struggle. There weren't any racial minorities.

For some unknown reason, this led Brooks to explain that Basra was an example of how well things would be going if Iraq were more like Fargo:

JIM LEHRER: David, the idea that withdrawing -- a lot of the attention on this has been drawn to the fact, hey, wait a minute, the Brits are withdrawing troops, and we're sending more in. How do you see this?

DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times: Well, I would point to the same distinction Mark made, that Basra is not Baghdad. Basra is a Shia community, mostly Shia. It doesn't have the sectarian violence.

And, to me, what Basra is, it's a window on -- suppose there wasn't the sectarian violence in Baghdad or in Iraq. Well, where would we be? We would have our expectations not met. We would not have sort of democracy that we hoped for when going in.

Nonetheless, we would not have the sort of civil war we see in Baghdad, and we would be withdrawing, too. But Baghdad has this sectarian violence; Basra doesn't.

What a fascinating little parlor game. Why such useless specualtion is considered worthy of discussion on a new program, however,is a mystery.

But here is where I'd really like to get some of that good stuff that Brooks is smoking:

DAVID BROOKS: ... I mean, I think the Brits once had 40,000 troops. Then they went down to 7,100. And this is a drawback to 5,400, so it's not as if Tony Blair is running away.

I mean, Tony Blair has been steadfast in believing in the mission and keeping troops there, despite incredible political pressure. So, you know, I don't think he's totally answering to the pressure. I think it's a response to the reality.

So, Blair has withdrawn troops from 40,000 to about 5,000 but that means he's been steadfast in keeping troops there. Hookay.

Then Brooks went into fine whine:

JIM LEHRER: Speaking of domestic realities in the United States of America, David, what do you make of the Senate plans? They've been talking about probably going to start next week to try to reauthorize or change the legislation that originally authorized the military action against Iraq.

DAVID BROOKS: This is like "Back to the Future." They're going to go in a DeLorean back to 2002 and un-vote the vote they made.

I love this. Apparently we have a new rule in politics which says that once you've passed a bill, you are not ever allowed to revisit it, no matter what happens, even if the circumstances change significantly. I knew these people believed in the constitutional theory of "original intent" but I didn't know they had decided to apply it to current legislation. Good to know.

Moreover, Bush is stubbornly refusing to listen to the American people and that makes him a hero. Indeed, the mark of a truly great American president is his willingness to do defy the citizens of his nation:

DAVID BROOKS: You know, the big difference to me is, you know, George Bush -- you can say what you like about his operation of the war, but he took a look at what should happen in Iraq, and it was the surge. He knew it was going to be unpopular, but he was going to be for it, even though it was unpopular.

Is there any Democrat willing to stand up and be for something unpopular or even take a position? I really don't know what the Democratic positions are.

There are individual positions, but when it comes to resolutions, there's this Murtha business, which is sort of funny, reallocate the relocation of the troops, the intervals which they go in and out. Then there's the Levin-Biden plan, which is to go back to 2002 and somehow reauthorize that bill.

Why don't they take a position and say, "I'm for this. This is what we think should happen in Iraq. We think the war is lost. We think we should get out"?

Or, "We don't think the war is lost. We should do this"?

But it's all poll-driven, and that's my problem with the Democratic plans that are all evolving. They're all poll-driven. It's the party right now with the soul of a campaign manager.

But didn't we just see the results of one very special kind of poll recently?

MARK SHIELDS: I don't agree. We do have elections in this country, other than polls. We had an election last fall in which the Republicans, largely on the issue of Iraq, and largely on the issue of the stewardship of the president and vice president of that war, and the conditions and circumstances under which we got into that war, and the way it had been maintained, lost control of the Congress.

That was the reason. The Republicans say that; Democrats say that. So that's not a poll. That's not a focus group. That's the American people having expressed it, their feelings for it.

The president is apparently indifferent, immune. He has a four-year term, so he's indifferent to the plight of members of his own party, as their position becomes increasingly unpopular.

The Bush administration has always been indifferent to the will of the people. He won the presidency in 2000 on a hummer with the help of his brother's political machine and his father's supreme court judges. But he governed from the get as if he'd won all 50 states in a landslide. They see elections as a way to gain political power,(excuse me -- "political capital") and that's it. They have no interest in what the people voted for or what issues they cared about and they got away with it for six years until the people finally saw through their Rovian flim flam and judged them for their actual performance.At this point they are madly scrambling to preserve his legacy and set up his successor for the fall. The party is on its own.

Shields then took a gratuitous swipe at Move-on but I guess that's necessary to preserve his status in the punditocrisy since he was otherwise quite aggressive toward the befuddled Brooks:

DAVID BROOKS: The difference is, Bush takes a look at Baghdad. He says, "We've got to pacify Baghdad to give the Maliki government the space to do what it needs to do," so he says we're going to send in 20,000 more troops. That is a clearly understandable policy, whether you think it will work or not.

The Democrats do not have a clearly understandable policy. They've got this subterfuge about changing the schedules, which as Murtha said is just an excuse to starve the surge. Then they've got this, "Go back to 2002."

If they want to get out, and if they think it's lost, do what Governor Vilsack said, "We think we should get out. Here's our timetable. We think we should get out.'

Instead, you've got Hillary Clinton at first saying, "We're going to cap," and then changing her position a week later, and saying a 90-day withdrawal.

You've got slow withdrawal with Obama. You've got subterfuge. You've got nothing. You've just a series of dodges.

MARK SHIELDS: You don't have a party speak with a single voice, David, when you're out of power.

DAVID BROOKS: They've had resolutions coming up in the House. Put forward a resolution.

MARK SHIELDS: They put forward a resolution. It carried in the House last week. They'd like to put up a resolution in the Senate, as well.

But, I mean, the only policy the Republicans have is the president's policy. And it's increasingly winning less and less support, both in the country and in his own Republican caucus.

This is exactly correct. All this nonsense about how the Democrats have "too many plans" should be an indictment of the GOP who continue to blindly follow their ineffectual leader in spite of the fact that they know he is on the wrong track and has been repudiated by the citizenry. These people should think twice about looking down their noses at politicians who follow the will of the people and be a little bit more concerned about what their constituents will
think of their misguided loyalty to a failed president.

Brooks is very depressed these days and struggling to find some purchase on a partisan argument. But he's saddled with Junior and Cheney's magnificent failure and is beginning to sounds as incoherent as they do.

I recall that Democrats sounded very similar during the Johnson years, although there was a lot more boldness within the Democratic party that in the GOP today. But many Democrats id scramble to justify their president's policy and ended up suffering for it. Richard Nixon was certainly captive of Vietnam also but there has never been any question that it was Lyndon Johnson's war from the moment he escalated it.

Iraq is going to be even worse for the Republicans. This is Bush's war from the "moment of conception" and the longer the Republicans support him the more ownership they all take of it as well. As has been true so often during this administration, if Bush had taken yes for an answer and adopted the Iraq Study group recommendations, he could have probably succeeded in forcing some of the Democrats to take some of that ownership. (You can't underestimate the siren call of the "centrist" solution to the DC establishment). Bush and Cheney's inflated pride got in the way and now the Party can't or won't shake off his rotting albatross of a war. And they're choking on it.