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Monday, June 30, 2008

Does Anyone Have A Spare Lace Hankie?

by digby

...the Village is running short.

This is getting really comical. The LaVyrle Spencer Book Review And Ladies Circle Jerk Society had a conference call today. And they were utterly shocked *SHOCKED, I TELL YOU* to the point of near delirium:

"I was utterly shocked," Sen. John Warner, R-Va., told the conference call, "... that he would in such a disrespectful way attack one of his fellow career military officers."

"Beyond comprehension ... further erosion of our nation's political discourse," said former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., in a written statement.

"Complete silliness," retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Carl Smith said on the call.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Orson Swindle said Clark was "denigrating the character and the experience and the integrity and the performance" of McCain.

"A very indecent thing," said retired Air Force Col. Bud Day.

You are no Officer or Gentleman, General Wesley Clark! I shall have my butler escort you from the parlor and remove you from the company of these well bred gentle ladies before you further erode the discourse with your shocking indecency. The honor of her Grace the Duchess of Sedona shall not be besmirched by your kind, sirrah!

James, burn some feathers and fetch my salts immediately. The Dowager Lady Swindle just fainted dead away!

And bring us some tea and cream cakes. We're feeling peckish.

What About Lieberman's Remark?

by dday

The unquestionably worst thing about this Wes Clark incident is how it has obscured the rather remarkable statement uttered by a different guest on the very same episode of Face The Nation yesterday, Joe Lieberman.

Joe Lieberman, appearing on Face the Nation today, made the case for McCain with a blunt reminder.

"Our enemies will test the new president early," said Lieberman. "Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration. 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration."

The White House, by the way, endorsed this today. Being the kinder, gentler party of the two, I don't think a single important Democrat went after Joe Lieberman for these comments. But they are procedurally similar to Charlie Black's statement that a terror attack would unquestionably help Republicans. This is the comment that the Beltway press navel-gazed last week, only to come to the conclusion that it was probably true. Therefore, when Lieberman says something like "Presidents get tested early by Al Qaeda" (as if Al Qaeda ties all of their potential attacks to the American political calendar) there's no doubt how the media receives that, how it colors their reporting, and how it's fed to the public - there will be more terrorist attacks, and we can't have on-the-job training, and so we must stick with the same failed policies, etc.

Sen. Barack Obama and his surrogates continued to criticize Charles R. Black Jr., a top adviser to Sen. John McCain, on Tuesday for saying a terrorist attack before the November election would help the presumptive Republican nominee. But behind their protests lay a question that has dogged Democrats since Sept. 11, 2001: Was Black speaking the truth? [...]

McCain has distanced himself from Black's comments, saying, "If he said that -- and I don't know the context -- I strenuously disagree."

But radio host Rush Limbaugh said aloud what other Republicans have been saying privately for months. Black's comments were "obvious," Limbaugh said yesterday on his program as he criticized McCain for distancing himself from them.

Limbaugh said in no uncertain terms that Obama would be weak in the face of terrorism. "We know damn well it's Obama who would seek to appease our enemies. We know damn well it's McCain who won't put up with another attack," Limbaugh said.

A propagandist like Rush Limbaugh is allowed to present the dominant opinion in one of the nation's paper of record on this question of whether terrorism helps Democrats. If you wonder why media stars flub Obama and Osama over and over, this is the reason. They're subliminally meant to conflate them.

Importantly, the substance of the argument here is never discussed - it's always about who among the political parties terrorism or a more dangerous world benefits, not which political party can bring about less terrorism or a less dangerous world. Because given the primary evidence, there is no possible way that answer can be Republicans.

Late last year, top Bush administration officials decided to take a step they had long resisted. They drafted a secret plan to make it easier for the Pentagon’s Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda [...]

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.

The Keystone Kops would actually be an IMPROVEMENT from these clowns. The most basic initiative in this so-called war on terror, to any reasonable individual, would be to seek out those who actually committed the act. Seven years later - seven years - they have been allowed to escape, rebuild, launch attacks, nearly take over large towns in Pakistan and most of the Afghan countryside, and generally return their operation to roughly the same level of force as it was before the 9-11 attacks. There has been no comprehensive strategy in seven years to counteract this.

And I'm supposed to believe that's the party who ought to benefit from a future terror attack?

But we're too focused on whether or not a distinguished retired general hurt John McCain's feelings to grapple with this. And Democratic fecklessness in the face of the hissy fit just ensures that such a conversation never takes place. Joe Lieberman, who will speak at the 2008 RNC, probably in a starring, prime-time role, will never face pressure for the comment he made. Wes Clark, who worked to elect his opponent and is as credible a national security voice as there is in the Party, gets the legs cut out from him by its leaders.

I'm going to need a new laptop. This one's acting all screwy from the 18,000 I've banged my head against it today.

The Grand Hissy Redux

by digby

I suppose everyone remembers waiting for The Man Called Petraeus to come home from the front and give us all a report on the Grand Surge Campaign of The Great Iraq War. We were told for months in advance that all judgment in Iraq vested in him, The Man who Knew Everything and for whom we must show our Utmost Reverence. He was a General, which according to the gasbags was only slightly less worthy of worship than Jesus and Tim Russert. In fact, when Move-On ran an ad criticizing the General, the senate took up a resolution that called for the body to "strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces." Seventy Five senators voted for it.

The point of that hissy fit wasn't to uphold the honor of General Petraeus or even the armed forces. It was shut down any criticism of the war in Iraq. That's what today's hissy fit against Wes Clark is all about too, with the added bonus of shutting down all criticism of John McCain's truly embarrassing ignorance on foreign policy in general.

The idea that Clark doesn't respect the military or was dishonoring a POW's service is absurd. The man spent a lifetime serving his country. He, of anyone, has the standing to combat this ridiculous conventional wisdom that says John McCain is a great world leader because he was a POW. It doesn't take anything away from his war record to to point that out. But now Clark has been repudiated. I'm sure the full spectrum of very serious people, from David Broder to David Brooks, are greatly reassured.

This was a case where the Art Of The Hissy Fit became a thing of enduring, classic beauty --- the Mona Lisa of fits, the Parthenon of hissies. They so cowed the political establishment around that General Petraeus pageant that now even a retired four star general and former CIC of NATO can't call McCain's military leadership credentials into question without the entire village media reflexively calling for the smelling salts. (And the Democratic leadership helped them do it, which makes it all the more lovely and perfect.)

Wes Clark is a very special person in the Democratic Party and should be highly valued. They don't have many people like him. He not only brings national security credibility and experience in a unique way, he has proven himself to be a tireless worker for Democratic candidates and causes for the last four years. He is very, very smart and would be an asset in any Democratic administration. Indeed, I think it was assumed that he would be in any Democratic administration. Certainly, one would think any Democrat would want him.

As I wrote yesterday, I think the Obama campaign is working overtime to prove to the Village that he isn't "dangerously" radical. At least that seems to be the campaign's overriding message at the moment. I have little doubt that everyone who's anyone has decided that Clark "screwed up" and that he had to be cut loose. The gasbag reviews are sure to be glowing. Everyone knows that you are not allowed to assail the military record of a war hero, right? (Oh wait .... only certain war heroes. I forgot.)

Again, it's all very convenient for Republicans. There's one less super smart,liberal military expert to contend with, paving the way, no doubt, for someone a little more ... reliable.

It's depressing, but predictable.

For those who need to come up to speed on what Clark said and how the hissy fit was written, Media Matters has the whole sordid rundown. And Columbia Journalism Review also looks at the right's phony meme pulling the media's strings.

I'll just put this up again so that everyone can see what a real fighting Democrat looks like for what might be the final time in this campaign. I would have thought the Democrats could use a fellow like this. Apparently not:

Update: I wonder if Rand Beers is going to have to be cut loose too?

Update II:
Bowers has a similar take on why this is happening: to discredit an important liberal foreign policy and national security voice.

Update III: For those of you who insist that this is some kind of super-duper jiujitsu, well --- if it is, it's not very effective. When you have a "surrogate" go out and say something which you want to "repudiate" but need to get "out there" you don't send one of the most important and credible voices on the left. You send some lowly factotum or political operative whose job it is to be publicly slapped down and whose credibility is irrelevant. You don't repudiate someone of Clark's stature unless you are prepared for him to be damaged and undermined in the future.

I don't believe the Obama campaign sent out Clark to say this. I think Clark was speaking for himself as a Democrat and respected four star General. And what he said was perfectly reasonable and uncontroversial. The establishment reflexively turned it into one of their little pearl clutching pageants. It isn't real. One of these days Democrats will learn that the hissy fit is designed to make them look weak and unprincipled.

Here's Clarks statement:

Statement by General Wesley K. Clark (ret)

"There are many important issues in this Presidential election, clearly one of the most important issues is national security and keeping the American people safe. In my opinion, protecting the American people is the most important duty of our next President. I have made comments in the past about John McCain's service and I want to reiterate them in order be crystal clear. As I have said before I honor John McCain's service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.

John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as President. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country - but it doesn't include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed - he not only supported going into a war we didn't have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, non-military elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America But as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn't have sound judgment when it comes to our nation's most critical issues.

St. John Is Absolutely Right

by tristero

McCain is 100% right. The nature of his wartime service "doesn’t reduce the price of a gallon of gas by a penny” or, as the Times put it, "do anything else to help Americans."


Oh, did I possibly misconstrue what St. John was talking about? Imagine that!

Don't Want to Say I Told You So...

by dday

...but I told you so.

I was pretty sure that the press would deliberately misinterpret, intentionally clip and generally get wrong Wes Clark's statements about John McCain's military service. Egged on by the conservative noise machine, they ginned up this controversy and set their outrage meters to 11. There must be a run on pearls in Washington today with all of them being clutched. Joe Klein actually went ahead and called it "bad manners." In a political campaign. Good Jeebus. Josh Marshall sums it up pretty well.

The McCain campaign's claim that there's any attack here on McCain's war record is simply a lie -- a simple attempt to fool people. This is an essential point to this entire campaign -- does McCain's military record mean that even the Democrats have to concede the point that he's more qualified to be commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, that his foreign and national security policy judgment is superior to Obama's? It's simply a fact that McCain has a record of really poor judgment on a whole list of key foreign policy and national security questions.

This is one of those moments in the campaign where the nonsense from the chief DC press sachems is so palpable and overwhelming that everyone who cares about this contest needs to jump into the breach and demand that they answer why no one can question whether McCain's war record makes him more qualified to be president and whether he has good foreign policy and national security judgment.

What I wanted to see was how the Obama campaign would handle this. McCain and the conservative outrage machine wanted to pick a fight, divide Clark from the Democratic Party, make his comments radioactive and allow his opponent to once again fold like a cheap suit. They didn't disappoint.

Sure enough, just as I was about to publish this blog post, I got an email from Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."

And this is why people get upset with politics. Wes Clark makes a perfectly legitimate statement and can't find a single national Democrat to back him up because they're all a bunch of scared little kittens. They got used by the combination of the conservative outrage machine and the media. It's a filthy little game and they fall for it time after time, and seemingly never learn. Even if we have a victorious Presidential election and a larger majority in Congress, we're going to be dealing with this. As long as conservatives can flip a switch and get Democrats to crumble, whatever the context, the idea that we can make any progress legislatively is laughable.

...even richer, apparently the head surrogate McCain sent out as an attack dog on this today was Bud Day, one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Surely he's completely fit to judge anyone's military service.

“I think we’ve all been demeaned.”

by tristero

Indeed we all have,, whether or not we ever saw a Swift Boat. But this is what movement conservatives do with emotionally weighty situations or actions. They demean everyone involved.

In Schiavo, they took one of the worst moral dilemmas a family has to face - a decision which clearly must be private and for which definite legal guidelines are established - and put the family and the country through hell in the most cynical fashion imaginable, running roughshod over the Constitution for no reason whatsoever except to make the point that they had the power to do it. They took Katrina - where the fault was clearly an incompetent federal government, ie the Bush administration - and blamed the victims for their own suffering, even while they were still up to their necks in sewage. They characterized the tortures endured at Abu Ghraib as mere schoolboy pranks, demeaning the suffering of numerous totally innocent men, women, and children.

And they regularly demean the achievements of heroes, dismissing or laughing at them when they don't like their politics and dragging everyone into the mud in their desperate, psychotic propensity to do anything and everything to gain power.

I have no doubt, by the way, that during the heyday of the Kerry swiftboating, many of these guys were trying like hell to get their objections heard, but no one in the press would listen to them. And that many more were intimidated into silence, unwilling to subject their families to the raging, Rovian fury of O'Neill's thugs.

I'll repeat what I've said many times. Whatever the faults of American politics - and they are numerous - there still is simply no excuse for goons like the self-styled Swiftboat Veterans for "Truth" to have national influence. The typical explanation for their gaining such power in the public discourse is that occasionally the US goes a little mad, especially when it becomes fearful. But that's wrong, or rather, that's the least of it. Among other things, we liberals were grossly underprepared for the assault on American values that the extreme right unleashed in the fall of 2000 and following.

Well, as far as this liberal is concerned, never again. That is one reason why none of us here in the liberal blogosphere put any stock in the notion that McCain is some kind of moderate. We've seen all this before and it smells like Bush.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Get Ready For The Mother Of All Hissy Fits

by dday

So Wes Clark went on Face The Nation today and "went there" - challenging John McCain's constant referrals to his wartime biography which are standing in for his doctrinaire ideological stances on foreign policy. Let's first give the snippet that you're going to be seeing crawl across the screen and on the lips of every Republican strategist tomorrow:

“I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”

Now, let's add one sentence of context:

CLARK: He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not, do you want to take the risk, what about your reputation, how do we handle this publicly? He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Can I just interrupt you? I have to say, Barack Obama hasn't had any of these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.

CLARK: I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.

So Schieffer kind of led him in that direction. Furthermore, Clark has been saying this for a few weeks now; Digby highlighted it on June 16.

The right is going to go after Wesley Clark tomorrow with everything they've got. The press releases from the McCain campaign have already started flying.

If Barack Obama's campaign wants to question John McCain's military service, that's their right. But let's please drop the pretense that Barack Obama stands for a new type of politics. The reality is he's proving to be a typical politician who is willing to say anything to get elected, including allowing his campaign surrogates to demean and attack John McCain's military service record.

John McCain is proud of his record of always putting the country first — from his time in the Navy, in Vietnam and through to today.

Rick Sanchez apparently termed it "Wesley Clark tried to Swiftboat John McCain today."

Just so you know what's coming. A couple points:

1) Clark is right. He's not blatantly lying about McCain's political service or even disparaging it. Earlier in the interview he called McCain a hero to "all of us in the service." He's making the simple point that military service and executive experience aren't the same thing. Because we've been saturated with this "commander-in-chief" stuff for the last 7 years, and this false notion that criticizing the President's policies equals "criticizing the troops," this dangerous blurring has occurred.

2) I seem to remember a post about the media seeing in McCain a certain honor that they recognize as lacking in themselves and that's why they constantly feel inadequate in his presence and continuously looking up to him. That's what this is going to be about. Bob Schieffer literally couldn't believe anyone would take on McCain's perceived strength, and now that Clark has done so the rest of the media herd will take it the same way.

3) I have few doubts that Clark will handle this head-on. Let's see how the rest of the Democrats handle it. Will they run for the hills screaming? Undercut Clark at the knees?

Should be an interesting Monday.

Some Nerve

by digby


It was probably inevitable that John McCain would abandon his pledge to focus exclusively on the issues, and steer clear of personal attacks, I just didn’t expect it as early as June.

John McCain, in his sharpest attack yet against rival Barack Obama, said the Democratic presidential candidate’s word “cannot be trusted.”

“This election is about trust — trust in people’s word, McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told several hundred donors at a $2 million GOP fundraiser in Louisville, Kentucky yesterday. “And unfortunately, apparently on several items, Senator Obama’s word cannot be trusted.”

McCain, a four-term Arizona senator, said Obama has gone back on his word by pledging to take public financing during the general election and then deciding not to do so. Obama on June 19 announced he won’t accept public financing for his presidential campaign, calculating that he can raise far more than the $84.1 million he would get in government funds. […]

[U]ntil yesterday McCain hadn’t accused Obama, 46, a first-term Illinois senator, of being untrustworthy. “I’ll keep my word to the American people. You can trust me,” McCain said.

Mr Straight Talk seems to be daring the Democrats to get nasty. And with McCain it's not that hard. Seems the maverick isn't all that trustworthy about paying taxes:

When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona.

Oh, and did you know that the McCains own "at least seven homes through a variety of trusts and corporations controlled by Cindy McCain." Seven?

God Save This Honorable Court!

by dday

The Washington Post has an article today about the implications of a McCain victory on the federal judiciary. I don't think they needed to write it, they could have just used the same amount of column inches and printed this graphic:

(h/t CAF for the graphic.)

The federal bench has been overwhelmingly appointed by Republicans because they've held the White House for 20 of the last 28 years. And while there are exceptions, Republican Presidents have used the Federalist Society and conservative legal organizations as a judge factory. Everyone knows this and it's very clear. However, I don't think one truly appreciates the shift to the right of the judiciary on one of the signature issues they end up deciding in bulk - corporate issues. The lead editorial in today's LA Times is about the "return to consensus" on the Roberts Court, despite the high-profile 5-4 decisions. That's true, but it's a function of what cases the Court is selecting to decide. It has nothing to do with, as the LAT suggests, some sort of judicial comity or bipartisanship. It's because forty percent of the cases this term involved business interests, and the Republican - actually, all - appointees on the Court are of one mind on them.

Though the current Supreme Court has a well-earned reputation for divisiveness, it has been surprisingly united in cases affecting business interests. Of the 30 business cases last term, 22 were decided unanimously, or with only one or two dissenting votes. Conrad said she was especially pleased that several of the most important decisions were written by liberal justices, speaking for liberal and conservative colleagues alike. In opinions last term, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter each went out of his or her way to question the use of lawsuits to challenge corporate wrongdoing — a strategy championed by progressive groups like Public Citizen but routinely denounced by conservatives as “regulation by litigation.” Conrad reeled off some of her favorite moments: “Justice Ginsburg talked about how ‘private-securities fraud actions, if not adequately contained, can be employed abusively.’ Justice Breyer had a wonderful quote about how Congress was trying to ‘weed out unmeritorious securities lawsuits.’ Justice Souter talked about how the threat of litigation ‘will push cost-conscious defendants to settle.’ ” [...]

Business cases at the Supreme Court typically receive less attention than cases concerning issues like affirmative action, abortion or the death penalty. The disputes tend to be harder to follow: the legal arguments are more technical, the underlying stories less emotional. But these cases — which include shareholder suits, antitrust challenges to corporate mergers, patent disputes and efforts to reduce punitive-damage awards and prevent product-liability suits — are no less important. They involve billions of dollars, have huge consequences for the economy and can have a greater effect on people’s daily lives than the often symbolic battles of the culture wars. In the current Supreme Court term, the justices have already blocked a liability suit against Medtronic, the manufacturer of a heart catheter, and rejected a type of shareholder suit that includes a claim against Enron. In the coming months, the court will decide whether to reduce the largest punitive-damage award in American history, which resulted from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.

And they did reduce that punitive-damage award, as we know. David Souter, one of the court's "liberals," wrote the opinion.

The hot-button issues of gun rights and Roe get all the ink, but ex-corporate lawyer John Roberts has really revolutionized the nation's highest Court, and on issues with business interests at the forefront he have shown himself and his Court extremely willing to ignore precedent and to act in an activist fashion. This is the real agenda of any Republican nominee - you have to look past the so-called "litmus tests" to get to the meat.

As for Sen. Obama's opinion on these issues, he's (surprise, surprise) kept it pretty close to the vest. But we can look to why he opposed both Roberts and Alito:

Obama, like Clinton, voted against both Bush nominees to the Supreme Court, citing their tendencies to favor government and corporate interests—"bullies" in Obama's words—over the rights of individuals.

He wrote, "The bottom line is this: I will be voting against John Roberts's nomination. I do so with considerable reticence. I hope that I am wrong. I hope … that Judge Roberts will show himself to not only be an outstanding legal thinker but also someone who upholds the Court's historic role as a check on the majoritarian impulses of the executive branch and the legislative branch. I hope that he will recognize who the weak are and who the strong are in our society."

Casting his vote against Alito, Obama noted similar concerns about the nominee's voting record, "The Judicial Branch of our government is a place where any American citizen can stand equal before the eyes of the law. Yet, in examining Judge Alito's many decisions, I have seen extraordinarily consistent support for the powerful against the powerless, for the employer against the employee, for the President against the Congress and the Judiciary, and for an overreaching federal government against individual rights and liberties."

In his votes against Roberts and Alito, Obama shared much of the same reasoning with Clinton, noting that the nominees' steadfast support for government and corporate powers—and disinterest in the rights of individuals—concerned him. One point he emphasizes more than Clinton, however, is Roberts's and Alito's tendency to favor the "unitary executive" theory, which supports fewer limitations on presidential authority.

We know that McCain would appoint a corporate whore. I think past precedent suggests otherwise for Obama - and certainly 4-8 more years of Federalist Society knockoffs throughout the judiciary is unacceptable. But the Supreme Court's ideology on corporate issues is pretty rigidly set for perhaps the next generation, and barring a massive change in personnel I don't see that changing. Building progressive power outside of government that will hit businesses in the wallet and hold them accountable to their customers - BuyBlue.org and the stock sell-off of Sinclair Broadcasting in 2004 being some recent examples - may be more effective than relying on John Roberts and his cadre.

The Center Fetish

by digby

Glenn Greenwald takes on the beltway conventional wisdom which says that Democrats must move to the center on national security or risk being painted as weak. He summons all the evidence from the 2006 election which shows that "the center," that political nirvana, isn't where the pundits say it is. Moreover, he points out that poll after poll shows that voters are less concerned with how closely a candidate hews to the conventional line on these issues, than whether the candidate has strong convictions.

Back in 2005, I wrote:

As much as I appreciate all these Republicans offering us advice about how we are endangering our political prospects by not supporting illegal NSA spying, I have to wonder if they really have our best interests at heart. I just get a teensy bit suspicious that it might not be sincere.

The truth is that I have no idea where the NSA spying scandal is going and neither do they. The Republicans would like it to go nowhere for obvious reasons and so they are trying to psych out timid Dems. What I do know is that the most important problem Democrats have is not national security; it's that nobody can figure out what we stand for. And when we waffle and whimper about things like this we validate that impression.

In Rick Perlstein's book, "The Stock Ticker and The Super Jumbo" he notes that many Democrats are still reeling from the repudiation of the party by the Reagan Democrats. And while they continue to worry about being too close to African Americans or being too rigid on abortion or too soft on national security, they don't realize that the most vivid impression people have of the Democrats is this:

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

The reason people think this is because we are constantly calculating whether our principles are politically sellable (and we do it in front of God and everybody.) We've been having this little public encounter session for well over 20 years now and it's added up to a conclusion that we don't actually believe in anything at all.

Democrats are no longer the party that needs leadership or the party that is disorganized or on the sidelines. The Republicans are imploding and the country has turned its desperate eyes their way. So why are we still hearing so much about how the Democrats have to "move to the center?" It seems as though the country's center has moved to the Democrats.

Glenn marshals all the facts that prove the country isn't really moved by national security scare mongering. It's there for anyone to see, and one must assume that it's there for all the best minds in Democratic politics as well. And yet High Broderism still reigns even at the risk of perpetuating that toxic notion that Democrats have no values or principles. Why is that?

I think there are two things at work and I think they have nothing to do with the issues themselves. The first has to do with the well known propensity for Democrats to pay far too much attention to the gasbags. Neal Gabler has an op-ed in today's LA Times that will warm the heart of all blogging liberal media critics. Quoting from Nixonland (about Joseph Kraft and this phenomenon), he also discusses the way the press became self-conscious and adopted entertainment values --- turning itself into "the media," a celebrity business. He homes in on something important about that:

So what does this have to do with an illiberal streak in liberal journalists? Just this: One of the surest paths to stardom in movies, television and politics has always been the guise of Everyman -- the person who purports to be one of us and with whom we can readily identify. That guise became even more effective once Nixon had successfully rebranded the Democratic Party from one that protected the working class to one that seemed increasingly elitist and divorced from American mainstream values. Combine the two and the result seems almost inevitable: the Everyman journalist for whom career advancement trumps political loyalty.

The sainted Tim Russert, the Everyman from Buffalo, owned a seven million dollar vacation home on Nantucket. Chris Matthews makes five million dollars a year. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But they are hardly the voices of average Americans and I fear that an awful lot of powerful Democrats, similarly situated, turn to such "salt of the earth" millionaire celebrities as their touchstones to the "regular" people.

And that raises an important question: if these rich, pampered celebrities are spokesmen for the Everyman, then who are the elites? Well, they're us, the liberal base of the Democratic party. And that's what this "run to the center" is really all about --- putting as much distance between the politicians and us as they can. It's not about being "serious" on national security or crime or family values. It's not even about appealing to swing voters. It's about repudiating liberalism. You can have a right wing zealot on the team who is so out to lunch that he writes books recommending you beat your children like he beats his dog. But associations with anything remotely culturally liberal or politically progressive are considered poisonous if you care to be taken seriously by the likes of Target shopper Brian "Everyman"Williams or the policeman's daughter Maureen "Everywoman" Dowd.

Repudiating liberalism is a symbolic gesture required of Democrats by the political establishment to prove that they are not elitists. And it goes beyond mere posturing on gay marriage or abortion. The national security challenge is always not to appear to be "an appeaser." The way you prove that is by refusing to appease the Democratic base. The economic challenge is to walk very carefully on taxes because it "costs jobs" for the hard working man and the struggling businessman alike who are in this thing together against the liberal elites. The cultural challenge is to not appear to be too friendly to blacks or too unfriendly to socially conservative religion in order to prove that that you are not beholden to the "extremists." The entire construct is based upon Democrats distancing themselves from their most ardent supporters (which is quite convenient for Republicans.)

That being the case, I'm not sure it's ever been realistic to expect Barack Obama to be the guy to challenge all this. He carries with him the strongest cultural signifiers a Democrat can carry to make the political establishment freak out: he's young, he's from big city politics, he's elite educated and, of course, he's black. As much as the "Everymen" like to think of themselves as beyond something silly like race, unless a black person is a Republican like Powell or Rice, he is automatically suspect. As a Democrat whom they've already successfully, and erroneously, labeled as super liberal (and closet terrorist, which amounts to the same thing) Obama must work twice as hard as an older white male would have to do to prove to the gasbag elites that he can "connect" with Real Americans.

Under the system as it exists today, you can hardly be surprised that the first black Democratic nominee would be reluctant to break much more new ground than he already has. (The same would be true of the first woman president, by the way, so there would have been no advantage for Clinton --- indeed, less of one, since she inherited president Clinton's baggage as well.) Indeed, I always assumed that the first black or female presidents would have to be Republican for just that reason --- only a Republican can go to China and all that rot.

As the Republicans fall back and regroup, Democrats have decided to use some of their political advantage of the moment to advance something important: the full equality of African Americans. In America, with our history, the symbolism of that means something quite real. But there is a trade off involved. He has less freedom of movement than someone like a John Edwards might have had.

I wish that he would use some of his rhetorical gifts to challenge conservative assumptions more and I'm hopeful that he will, as president, work to redefine the conventional wisdom. I'm also hopeful that his approach on the big issues will not be reflexively compromising. But as of right now, there remains a strong belief among all the Democratic players that liberals are losers --- and they want to win. I don't think we're going to change that in the next four months.

We chose serious symbolic change that has deep cultural meaning over serious ideological change that has deep political meaning. There's nothing inherently wrong with that --- the effects of such things are far reaching and incredibly important for the advancement of our society. You can't forget that Barack himself was born at a time when Jim Crow was still enshrined in the south. This is huge. But nothing comes free and having a politically moderate president at a time when a more explicit progressivism might have gotten a boost is the price we pay. The Village will only tolerate so much change at one time. If we want real political change, it's time to change the Village.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Night At The Movies

In memory of George Carlin: 7 movies you can’t see on TV

By Dennis Hartley

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck-George Carlin

As I am sure you are aware by now, one of the last living legends of American comedy went up to the roof last Sunday…and got stuck. I’m still reeling (and he’s still stuck).

I can’t really add much to what was already said here on this site earlier this week in a couple of heartfelt posts by digby and dday, or to the eloquent comments they prompted from Hullabaloo readers. For what it’s worth, here was my gut reaction to dday’s post:

No, not Carlin. It's been a while since I actually teared up and got the lump in the throat upon hearing of the demise of an entertainer. It feels like the end of an era.

As a former stand up comic myself, I consider Carlin one of the Holy Trinity (along with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor). I once had the pleasure of doing a phone interview with him when I was working at a radio station up in Fairbanks AK; he was pleasantly surprised and genuinely flattered when I asked him about his very close association with the legacy of Lenny Bruce. He seemed to feel that many of his younger fans didn't "get" that part of his gestalt.

Not only a comic genius, but a true wordsmith.

71 was too soon.

One obvious recommendation would be to immerse yourself in a marathon of his HBO specials, but I thought I would do something a little different this week. I’ve assembled a “George Carlin memorial film festival”. As a tribute to his most well-known routine, I’ve chosen seven feature films for your viewing pleasure, and in his memory. Carlin only actually appeared in three of my selections, but I feel that these are films that capture some of the spirit of what he stood for (or stood against). So here are “7 movies you can’t see on TV” (as in “free” TV-where you will never to be able to view them uncensored.)

Lenny-Carlin on comedians: I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

Dogma- Carlin on organized religion: I have as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it.

Fuck-A Documentary- Carlin on obscenity: Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. (Reviewed in a previous post)

The People vs. Larry Flynt- Carlin on freedom: I think people should be allowed to do anything they want. We haven’t tried for a while. Maybe this time it’ll work.

Idiocracy- Carlin on ignorance: Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. (Reviewed in a previous post)

Grass- Carlin on toking up: Being a very bound-up, Irish Catholic tight-assholed person, I’ve often thought that whatever negative effects pot had on me, it probably saved me from being an alcoholic and a complete fucking brainless idiot by the time I was 25. (Reviewed in a previous post)

The Aristocrats- Carlin on the art of comedy:

…And a programming note: Depending on your age (ahem) you may or may not know that George Carlin was the guest host for the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live back in 1975. NBC is going to be airing that show in its entirety this evening as a tribute.

BTW that first show also featured Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Michael O’Donaghue, Andy Kaufman, Billy Preston and (the hands and voice of) Jim Henson; I have a feeling it will be a bittersweet viewing experience.

The end of an era, indeed.

She's My Mother And My Sister

by digby

Conservatives are very confused these days:

HANNITY: The news today brings a clear foreign policy victory for the Bush administration. But will the press report it that way? Joining us now for analysis, former ambassador to the U.N. and a Fox News contributor, John Bolton. What do you think this means?

BOLTON: I think it’s actually a clear victory for North Korea. They gain enormous political legitimacy…In return, we get precious little. I think this is North Korea demonstrating again that they can out-negotiate the U.S. without raising a sweat.

HANNITY: Boy I tell you they’ve done it time and time again, and I’m sorta perplexed, Mr. Ambassador, to understand why we keep going back to the well knowing that they haven’t kept the agreements in the past. Whatever happened to Reagan’s “trust but verify”?

Bless his heart. He doesn't know which way to turn anymore. Is the line, "Bush is a great leader for making this deal with North Korea and nobody acknowledges it" or "He just sold the country out to the commies?" Unfortunately, his first choice was the wrong one, at least as far as John Bolton was concerned. So, he just did an immediate 180, apparently assuming that nobody would notice. Wingnut central needs to have a retreat or something and get their talking points together. It's starting to get embarrassing.

(And isn't it amazing to think that John Bolton was ever in important jobs in the US government? It's like a fast fading nightmare where you can't remember all the details but your sense of fear and foreboding is still with you. Creepy.)

End Of The Quarter

by digby

We are coming to the end of the fund raising quarter and it's important for these congressional candidates we all support to be able to tell the press they have raised enough money to make a good run to the fall. If you have some extra change from your rebate check or any other spare change, you might want to put it toward your favorite candidate or a little bit across the board to all of our Blue America field.

I'm going to be sending money today to Darcy Burner. I support her because she is an extremely smart, truly progressive politician who will be a leader for our side in the congress. She's already done great work in this campaign. As Steve Clemons wrote about her:

One of the best pieces of policy work out there that I have seen done thus far was Darcy Burner's "A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq..."

This "Responsible Plan" is a big deal. Read it -- I think that this is perhaps a more important fundamental playbook for thinking through an Iraq withdrawal than what we are getting from either of the two (well, barely two) Democratic presidential candidates.

Ifthis is any guide as to where the Democratic establishment is going then we need as many people in congress like Darcy as we can get.

But as much as I like her I also want to support her because of the first class ass she is running against. Here's his ad from 2006:

It's fine to run on experience. It's not fine to portray your opponent as being a blithering bimbo in an advertisment.

Matt Stoller wrote:

Darcy Burner is a Harvard educated former Microsoft group program manager who oversaw a staff of about 40 people with a budget of $17 million, and this year, she authored a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. She is brilliant, accomplished, and a hell of a candidate, but Reichert in 2006 successfully portrayed her as a dumb ditzy blond who would do whatever Democrats told her, in contrast to the wise older experienced man.

A few days ago, Reichert joked about Hillary Clinton dying in a plane crash, a joke he's been telling since last February. He used a grossly sexist and nasty campaign in 2006 to keep his seat in Congress and vote against women's rights. And just watch him interrupt Darcy Burner during a debate, in order to argue in favor of denying birth control to women.

Needless to say, there are many positive reasons to support Burner and many substantive reasons to get that reactionary jerk Reichert out of congress. But I've reached the limits of my tolerance for this sexist crap in politics and I want to see it stopped.

Women don't run for office as often as men largely because they know they are going to face not only the usual horror show of diminished private life, constantly dialing for dollars, having their words and deeds twisted by their opponents and facing a stupid and juvenile press corps. But they have this whole other layer of bullshit and anyone would have to ask herself if it's worth it.

I admire people like Darcy and all the other women who put themselves out there to do this thing and face sexist, privileged creeps like Dave Reichert. I couldn't do it. But I can stand up for them and try to help make this kind of campaigning go the way of the minstrel show. Enough.

You can donate to all the Blue America candidates here.

It's Not Her Place

by digby

Uh oh. Melinda Henneberger takes note of an important Village social leader making a major faux pas:

For years, Catholics have been arguing about who is and is not supposed to receive Communion. Until now, these were family fights, always over abortion, and nearly always involving elected officials. After pro-choice presidential candidate John Kerry received the Eucharist at my parish in 2004, for instance, the priest was so excited, he announced the big news at a subsequent Mass, and got a standing ovation. (I know, right? Oy.) While at the other end of the spectrum, some cowboy in vestments recently refused to serve the conservative pro-life jurist Doug Kmiec, for the supposed sin of having smiled at Barack Obama. (OK, he endorsed him, in Slate.)

But then non-Catholic Sally Quinn took Communion at Tim Russert's funeral—and blogged about the body and blood in the Washington Post-Newsweek religion site "On Faith."

Last Wednesday at Tim's funeral mass at [Holy]Trinity Church in Georgetown (Jack Kennedy's church), communion was offered. I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started "On Faith" and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Last Wednesday I was determined to take it for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I'm so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him. And it was worth it just to imagine how he would have loved it. After I began "On Faith," Tim started calling me "Sister Sal" instead of "Miss Sal."

This reads a little too much like a restaurant review for my comfort; Christ Almighty: Tangy Yet Nauseating? And good as he was, we don't really take Communion to feel closer to Tim Russert.

This is a woman who writes a blog in the Washington Post on the subject of religion. You would think she'd know that communion is a fairly serious matter. But then, "Sister Sal" isn't a serious person. She's a Village socialite and trend follower. Right now, Catholicism is all the rage what with Monsignor Tim's untimely death and all. It's the hip clique of the moment and Quinn just wants to be a part of it.

Unfortunately for Quinn, that clique is a bit prickly about it's rituals:

Not surprisingly, Quinn inflamed conservative Catholics. William Donohue's Catholic League responded with the usual outrage: "Just reading what Sally Quinn said is enough to give any Christian, especially Catholics, more than a 'slightly nauseating sensation.' In her privileged world, life is all about experiences and feelings. … Moreover, Quinn's statement not only reeks of narcissism, it shows a profound disrespect for Catholics and the beliefs they hold dear."

Well, yes, but she's also brought progressive and conservative Catholics together for a minute; as a left-leaning Catholic writer I know said in an e-mail this morning, "For the first time ever, I may agree with Bill Donohue!''

Oh my goodness. When normal people agree with Bill Donohue, you know that something has gone horribly wrong. Sadly, for the allegedly deeply religious Quinn, she didn't stop with her column. Evidently she really is so uninformed about religion that she defended herself by saying that Jesus wouldn't agree with their rules and restrictions. Oh lordy:

Alas, when the New Republic reached Quinn for comment, she made things worse for herself by asking What Would Jesus Do, lecturing that real Christians wouldn't turn anyone away and confusing her situation with that of Catholic pro-choice politicians. "Sally Quinn's comments on her decision to take communion was one of those moments that makes professionals on the religion beat cringe," said David Gibson, a longtime religion journalist and former member of the board of the Religion Newswriters Association, the organization for those covering religion in the secular media. "Her explanation displayed such ignorance of the most fundamental tenets of a major faith as well as the basic proprieties of how journalists—and other guests—should conduct themselves at the services of a faith not their own."

Quinn's never been much of a journalist, religious or otherwise. She's a trendy and a gossip, always at the forefront of whatever is the Village's prevailing social obsession of the moment. When loose, liberal morals were in, she was loose --- had an open affair with her married boss. When hypocritical conservative morals were in she was hypocritically conservative, looking down her nose at others' foibles. (Oh wait ... that's always in.) After 9/11, she turned herself into an "expert" on surviving a terrorist attack. She went around the DC area giving lectures on what people needed to do to keep themselves safe. When being an evangelical became all the rage in the capitol, she was there writing columns about Jesus in the Washington Post.

She never knows what she's talking about so there's nothing new about this. But it's interesting nonetheless because it illustrates that the Village is under some stress. Perhaps it's a generational changing of the guard or just simple confusion and nervousness around the idea of a different BMOC and attendant kewl kidz. But the unfortunate truth is that if Sally Quinn is replaced by the likes of her critic here, Melinda Henneberger, don't expect anything substantial to change. The new crowd is the same as the old crowd.

Still,you can't help but enjoy seeing Quinn hoist by her own petard on this. She's forever lecturing others about proper behavior and showing respect. And here she treats taking communion like it's a night out with Paris and Benji at Crown guzzling Missionary Downfalls. People who take their worship seriously don't care for that. She went to their church and trashed the place. And it's not her place.

H/T to GL

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dumbest People Alive

by dday

The right's latest hissy fit is truly a stunner. I don't know how they found out about the Addington-Yoo hearing on torture, because it certainly didn't make the news, but somehow this exchange bubbled up to them:

ADDINGTON: As I indicated to the Chairman at the beginning of this thing, I'm not in a position to talk about particular techniques, whether they are or aren't used or could or couldn't be used, or their legal status. And the reasons I give for that, I think if you look at page 9, the President's speech of September 6, 2006, explains why he doesn't talk about particular techniques...

DELAHUNT: Oh I can understand why [the President] doesn’t talk about it.

ADDINGTON: Because you kind of communicate with al Qaeda. If you do — I can’t talk to you, al Qaeda may watch C-SPAN.

DELAHUNT: Right. Well, I’m sure they are watching, and I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington.

ADDINGTON: Yeah, I’m sure you’re pleased.

This joke about Addington's famous secrecy is now being held up by the arbiters of discourse on the right, the scared little piddlies, as some example of William Delahunt "inciting Al Qaeda to violence," if you can believe it.

Are these people 6 years old? What is the expected conversation in the caves of Tora Bora:

AL QAEDA #1: My friend, come quickly, check out C-SPAN!

AL QAEDA #2: The cable is working again?

AQ #1: Yes, Waziristan Time Warner came out this morning. Look, it's Addington!

AQ #2: Cheney's Cheney?

AQ #1: Yes, finally we know what he looks and sounds like! We must begin plans for the attack now. Death to America!

AQ #2: Wait... let's exercise caution. We haven't been egged on by a Democratic Senator yet.

(voice of Delahunt offscreen: "I’m sure they are watching, and I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington.")

AQ #1: Congressman Delahunt gave the signal!

AQ #2: Release the sleeper cell! Insh'allah!

What pathetic, pathetic people. It'd be nice if they focused on the part where John Yoo wouldn't admit that a President was not allowed to order a prisoner buried alive. But I guess I'm asking too much. Feigned outrage is more their specialty.

Don't Speak The Obvious

by digby

It is a matter of conventional wisdom that liberals need to be better at "marketing" their ideas. Liberals respond by saying our ideas are complicated and meaningful so we are at a disadvantage in terms of sloganeering and elevator pitching. We can't come up with the pithy one liners and bumper stickers like they do because we are much more serious than they are.

And yet, there was one liberal slogan in the past 20 years that was completely to the point, short, pithy and spot on --- and it was vilified by nearly everyone across the political spectrum as being just too over the top. (As if "you'll take my smoking gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers" is a mild little jingle.)"Serious" people could never say such a thing.

As I've written before, that slogan was the antiwar chant, "no blood for oil." It was true and yet it was considered "all wrong." It's a testament to the conservative rhetorical dominance of our culture that it was relegated to the fringe.

Here's Bill Moyers, from tonight's Journal:

It Was Oil, All Along

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire, and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be....the bottom line. It is about oil.

Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office, confessed in his memoir,“…Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” He elaborated in an interview with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward,
"If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first gulf war."

Remember, also, that soon after the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that war was our only strategic choice. “…We had virtually no economic options with Iraq,” he explained, “because the country floats on a sea of

Shades of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous petroleum tycoon in the movie There Will Be Blood. Half-mad, he exclaims, "There's a whole ocean of oil under our feet!" then adds, "No one can get at it except for me!"

No wonder American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. They were making sure no one could get at the oil except... guess who?...

Here’s a recent headline in The New York Times: "Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back." Read on: "Four western companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power."There you have it. After a long exile, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the wings of no-bid contracts – that's right, sweetheart deals like those given Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater. The kind of deals you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war profiteers have friends in very high

Let’s go back a few years to the 1990’s, when private citizen Dick Cheney was running Halliburton, the big energy supplier. That’s when he told the oil industry that, “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

Fast forward to Cheney’s first heady days in the White House. The oil industry and other energy conglomerates have been headed backdoor keys to the White House, and their CEO’s and lobbyists were trooping in and out for meetings with their old opal, now Vice President Cheney. The meetings are secret, conducted under tight security, but as we reported five years ago, among the documents that turned up from some of those meetings were maps of oil fields in Iraq – and a list of companies who wanted access to them. The conservative group Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed suit to try to find out who attended the meetings and what was discussed, but the White House fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep the press and public from learning the whole truth.

Think about it. These secret meetings took place six months before 9/11, two years before Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq. We still don’t know what they were about. What we know is that this is the oil industry that’s enjoying swollen profits these days. It would be laughable if it weren’t so painful to remember that their erstwhile cheerleader for invading Iraq – the press mogul Rupert Murdoch – once said that a successful war there would bring us $20 a barrel of oil. The last time we looked, it was more than $140 a barrel. Where are you, Rupert, when the facts need checking and the predictions are revisited?

At a congressional hearing this week, James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who exactly twenty years ago alerted Congress and the world to the dangers of global warming, compared the chief executives of Big Oil to the tobacco moguls who denied that nicotine is addictive or that there's a link between smoking and cancer. Hansen,
who the administration has tried again and again to silence, said these barons of black gold should be tried for committing crimes against humanity and nature in opposing efforts to deal with global warming.

Perhaps those sweetheart deals in Iraq should be added to his proposed indictments. They have been purchased at a very high price. Four thousand American soldiers dead, tens of thousands permanently wounded for life, hundreds of thousands of dead and crippled Iraqis plus five million displaced, and a cost that will mount into trillions of dollars. The political analyst Kevin Phillips says America has become little more than an "energy protection force,"doing anything to gain access to expensive fuel without regard to the lives of others or the earth itself. One thinks again of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. His lust for oil came at the price of his son and his soul.


by digby

Glenn Greenwald and Keith Olbermann have gotten into a dustup over the FISA legislation in which John Dean seems to be the arbiter. (Isn't the blogosphere grand?)

Anyway, everyone can have their own opinion about the merits, and whether or not Keith or Glenn are taking the right tack in terms of Obama's agreement to support the compromise. Unsurprisingly, I favor Greenwald's argument on this. I just don't think it's really necessary to support this compromise in order to win this election and I think that at the very least we should have these programs examined by a new Justice department before anybody makes any more laws on the subject. It's entirely possible that an Obama administration will simply reinstate them --- the willingness to support this compromise suggests that it will. And I wouldn't support that under any circumstances. But the idea that it has to be done in order to win the election I think is wrong. You can appeal to swing voters in some other way than trashing the constitution. (Here's a novel idea. How about making a better argument?)

Having said that, Obama is the Democratic nominee and he's a far more liberal, modern, open minded leader than John McCain could ever dream of being. Indeed, he is in every respect a fine candidate who I am proud to support, despite his campaign's decision to use some moldy old tropes to offset some of the public's mistrust of a young, liberalish, African American nominee. It's going to take years of hard work on the part of progressives everywhere to make that something that politicians no longer believe is necessary or desirable.

Obama has opened up some avenues for his supporters to talk directly to him. From Jane Hamsher:

It's also interesting to note that the tools created to help organize Obama supporters against his opponents are now being used to organize themselves to communicate with him. There's a new group on "MyBarackObama.com" called "Senator Obama -- Please Vote Against FISA."

Stop by and tell the Senator that you'll be voting for him in November and hoping that in the meantime, he does the right thing.

It's unlikely to make a difference in this vote, of course, but it's necessary to go on the record and keep talking about these things if you want them to change. If we can change the political zeitgeist, someday conservatives will be the ones having to risk offending their base for a change.

Acid Flashbacks

by digby

Somerby has been doing an incredible retrospective on the Russert years at NBC this week. If you want to really dig into an interesting examination of why our media is so incredibly destructive, take a few minutes and read it all.

Here's a little excerpt from one exchange he discusses from back in 1999, featuring two of our most important gasbags in 2008:

The Clintons had recently purchased their home in Chappaqua, but they hadn’t moved into it yet. After an inane discussion about Hillary Clinton’s choice in home decor and lack of a New York driver’s license, Matthews began to offer his thoughts about a statement she had made concerning New York City homelessness policy. A taped statement by Clinton began his next segment. Mitchell snarked along with her host after that:

CLINTON (videotape): No violent or dangerous person should be on our streets threatening themselves or our community. But we don't help matters by throwing them out of shelters onto the street or putting them into a revolving door jail time where they go in and out and are on the streets again. The goal should be treating such people and, where necessary, putting them into situations where they can be treated effectively.

MATTHEWS: Boy, you've got a tough job being an objective reporter in a race like this. I don't even have to try. Here's a woman complaining about homelessness and how they're being treated when she hasn't even checked into her shelter yet!

MITCHELL: She's a—

MATTHEWS: This woman doesn't even have a home in New York!

MITCHELL: She empathized; she's a homeless person.


Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Clinton was talking about the homeless—and she didn’t even have a home yet! And then, things went from bad to worse. Jack Welch’s favorite fruitcake decided to say a few weird things about his own interactions with the homeless:

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the homeless, because the homeless—most of us men, maybe more than women, because guys reach into their pockets for change—women have to go in their pocketbook. I really think it's easier for a male to give a half a buck or a quarter to somebody on the way by because of guilt or—

MITCHELL: We still manage to give.

MATTHEWS: I know, but you could stop—and also guys, I don't know what it—

MITCHELL: And we're guiltier than you guys are.

MATTHEWS: I don't think that's true. I'm—I always feel like saying I give—in San Francisco, it's a big problem there; you give a guy a half dollar or whatever you have available or a quarter or a dollar even sometimes, if they really look in trouble, and then you feel like the next guy you get to, he doesn't have a—you had—like you had—you put a, you need to put a badge on, “I just gave at the last corner here.” HA! But you get hit with the same kind of ferocity, the same kind of—sometimes pathetic, sometimes intimidating manner. And I think people who pay taxes and, and give to church or synagogue or something, say, “Wait a minute, I do a decent job here,” and if a person comes up with a particular case, I'm gonna be open to him. But if they're just here to intimidate me—you know, that's what it's about.

MITCHELL: Well, that—that's exactly why Rudy Giuliani has sort of the right tempo of New Yorkers. He really gets that.

I think it's hard to wrap your mind around just how corrupt, trivial and downright stupid these people are when you're in the middle of a big story, particularly one in which you have a personal emotional stake. But this is typical of the way they portray our politics and it's almost always in service of some braindead rightwing worldview. In this case, you had Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell pretty much endorsing Rudy Giuliani for the US Senate based on some complete bullshit fantasy in Chris Matthews' twisted mind. It's amazing that these people are still on the air.

MSNBC is supposedly "our" network. But sometimes you have to ask if friends like this are what we really need. With the exception of a few independent intelligent voices on the network, this is pretty much representative of the level of discourse they provide. On the whole, it still serves conservatives, not us.

Wrong About Everything

by dday

Boy, the wingnuts really don't know what to do about this North Korea situation. It's really a foreign concept based on "diplomacy" and "incentives for compliance" and other fantasyland hippie stuff they must have come up with on the pot-smokers lawn in the Haight-Ashbury. Real men know that such multilateralism is excessively dangerous and will cause all of us to be blown to bits.

HEWITT: By the way, I -- I'm still trying to find two tickets to the Ohio State-USC game. And none of the USC people will give up their tickets to me. I'd pay fair price. They -- they know Ohio State's gonna slaughter the Trojans. They know that they're gonna slaughter the Trojans, and therefore they do not want me there at the bloodbath, since it's probably the last football game we'll ever get to see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama.

But this foreign policy decision was made by the Dear Leader himself - W., with a big assist from envoy Christopher Hill - and they just don't know what to make of that. Leading to the most amusing 30 seconds of Sean Hannity's career.

HANNITY: North Korea has finally handed over a long awaited accounting of its nuclear program to Chinese officials, fulfilling a key step in the denuclearization process. Although North Korea’s declaration is six months later than their deadline, the news today brings a clear foreign policy victory for the Bush administration. But will the press report it that way? Joining us now for analysis, former ambassador to the U.N. and a Fox News contributor, John Bolton. What do you think this means?

BOLTON: I think it's actually a clear victory for North Korea. They gain enormous political legitimacy....In return, we get precious little. I think this is North Korea demonstrating again that they can out-negotiate the U.S. without raising a sweat.

HANNITY: Boy I tell you they've done it time and time again, and I'm sorta perplexed, Mr. Ambassador, to understand why we keep going back to the well knowing that they haven't kept the agreements in the past. Whatever happened to Reagan's "trust but verify"?

That's fair and balanced all from the same guy.

Not even Fourthbranch, the Barnacle himself, could outmaneuver the State Department on this one, and he's not happy:

WASHINGTON — Two days ago, during an off-the-record session with a group of foreign policy experts, Vice President Dick Cheney got a question he did not want to answer. “Mr. Vice President,” asked one of them, “I understand that on Wednesday or Thursday, we are going to de-list North Korea from the terrorism blacklist. Could you please set the context for this decision?”

Mr. Cheney froze, according to four participants at the Old Executive Office Building meeting. For more than 30 minutes he had been taking and answering questions, without missing a beat. But now, for several long seconds, he stared, unsmilingly, at his questioner, Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, a public policy institution. Finally, he spoke:

“I’m not going to be the one to announce this decision,” the other participants recalled Mr. Cheney saying, pointing at himself. “You need to address your interest in this to the State Department.” He then declared that he was done taking questions, and left the room.

The Barnacle froze because it's one of the few things that could be considered a foreign policy triumph in the history of the Bush Administration, and it happened because mindless warhawks like him were finally sidelined. Bush's North Korea policy began with a series of mishaps and belligerence, just as the neocons wished, and it led to Kim Jong-Il getting the bomb. Precisely when the State Department started guiding the policy and Christopher Hill was given leeway to negotiate in the six-party talks, the situation changes, leading to today's destruction of their nuclear facility at Yongbon. The world is still a more dangerous place because of all of the delays, and the DPRK still has about a dozen poorly-designed nuclear weapons as a result.

But the facts are that as soon as the neocon "my way or the highway" approach was abandoned, progress was made. And that's because the neocons have been wrong about every single foreign policy decision for well over 50 years, and their attitude with respect to North Korea made no dent in that unbroken record. I don't have to tell you the position John McCain has held on this issue since 1999, do I?

McCain repeated this trope throughout the speech, drawing on his personal history and adopting the rhetoric of moral seriousness about the consequences of committing American forces. But awareness of the consequences was, for McCain, no reason to avoid starting a war [...] In his view, efforts at conflict prevention are fundamentally misguided. He told the Kansas State audience that notwithstanding the Clinton administration's efforts, Korea's leaders "remain quite capable of launching in their country's death throes one final, glorious war. But now, they are much, much better armed." In short -- war is inevitable, so better to get it over with as soon as possible.

I hope I'm not surprising anyone by saying that on foreign policy, John McCain is basically to the right of George W. Bush.


by digby

This piece of tabloid trivia from a supposedly responsible news person isn't really worth commenting on except to say that we should probably expect to get more of these little tid bits. It's the kind of kewl kid gossip they furiously blackberry to each other all day long.

But I have to say that the Washington Post blog comment sections are revolting. And that's pretty surprising considering how they went completely around the bend when liberals dared to criticize ... the paper itself. Apparently, it's just fine to make stomach churning racist comments on their site, but call a reporter on the carpet and it's time to shut them down. It's an unusual standard. I would suggest an emergency blogger ethics panel immediately.

A Piece Of Ordnance In Every Pot

by dday

We in the blogosphere have been so worked up about the FISA bill that we virtually ignored the fact that the Senate confirmed what the House began, passing an enormous spending bill to fund the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan well into the next Administration. There are also provisions for a new GI Bill, unemployment benefit extension for an additional 13 weeks, and a number of domestic spending initiatives (including midwest flooding relief).

Considering that the 110th Congress was elected with a mandate to end the war, it's a little surprising that practically nobody raised their voice in so much as anger to this continued funding. It could be learned helplessness, a resigned view that Congress wasn't going to use their procedural abilities to make any effort to stop the occupation of Iraq. Or it could be that the nation has been bullied into believing that "we're winning" and "the surge is working" while the media has simultaneously taken the details about Iraq off the TV screens and front pages, which makes it that much easier for the bullies.

It's not like people aren't still dying - they are, including 13 Americans this week and scores of Iraqis, at least 70 just yesterday. They're dying at a somewhat reduced rate, but political progress is not existent and the core factors causing the violence remain unchanged. Ethnic cleansing and paying off enemies to create heavily armed militias are the main contributing factors, and those aren't recipes for stability. Yet this is considered to be success. But let me give you an example of what that success looks like, what our tax dollars have bought, and keep in mind the Heller v. DC ruling when you read about it:

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials said a U.S. airstrike killed four members of a family north of Baghdad early Wednesday. Iraqi and U.S. officials provided conflicting accounts of the incident.

Capt. Ahmed al-Azwawi, a police official in Samra, a village about seven miles south of Tikrit, said U.S. troops were conducting an operation in the area when a man fired shots in the air with an AK-47.

Azwawi said the man, who sold propane gas for a living, was afraid thieves were in the vicinity.

U.S. soldiers then retreated and called in an airstrike, Azwawi said, killing the man, his wife, and two of their children.

The kids were 6 and 8, and a separate report claims that two other kids were killed.

There's no secret, other than in the US media, that American forces are trying to secure Iraq through massive airstrikes, many of which result in trigger-happy responses anytime anyone fires a gun (and practically every adult male in Iraq owns an AK-47). The murdered families have relatives, and every incident like this engenders anger and distrust. The status of forces agreement sought by Bush calls explicitly for continued air superiority for the US military.

As usual, when America sees a war slipping away, they bomb the fuck out of the ground. And the bipartisan coalition of the United States government enthusiastically endorses and funds the slaughter. Let's be very clear - your representatives bought another year's worth of stories like the one above, with no gain in national security, a stretching of the US military to the very breaking point should anything else crop up, and no effort to manage or deal with the underlying root causes in the country we unnecessarily invaded.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Britneyizing Logan

by digby

Here we go again with another respected journalist being targeted for daring not to abide by the established village mores. As I noted earlier today, Lara Logan appeared on Jon Stewart and made some pretty harsh assessments of the news media's commitment to serious war coverage. From Will Bunch:

A number of bloggers picked up Logan's comments on "The Daily Show" and to the Times, and the video was a huge hit on the Internet. She was on with Stewart last week and was featured in the Times article on Monday. Later this week, a story appeared about Logan -- not exactly your normal A-list celebrity -- in the pages of the National Enquirer, which of couse had nothing to do with Logan's actual news coverage of Iraq or her pointed criticism of the U.S. media.

The story was strictly about allegations involving Logan's personal life. It was quickly picked up by some other outlets, some surprising, like the Huffington Post, and some not surprising at all. In fact, the story was splashed across the front page of this morning's New York Post, the tabloid that is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is also owner of (among many things) the Fox News Channel, the leading producer of braindead pro-war journalism that is the exact opposite of Logan's groundbreaking work. You'd also be shocked, I'm sure, to learn that the Post article is linked on the highly popular, conservative leaning Drudge Report. I'm not going to link to the articles -- use "the Google" if you must -- but to give you a flavor of this important news story, the Post cover shows a smiling Logan over the large headline, "Sexty Minutes."

If you do read the stories, you'd be hard-pressed to see why these allegations are suddenly rushing out now. One traces back to a court matter filed back in January. The second part of the article is old news, too -- dating back at least to last year. As the Post notes in the one part of the article that I will mention, it's a saga that "first broke on the freerepublic.com in December."

The freerepublic.com? As in, the ultraconservative Web site where reporters and photojournalists who report truthfully from Iraq are frequently attacked or smeared. Indeed, it seems that attacks on Logan in the right-wing blogopshere are nothing new -- last year, conservative Michelle Malkin falsely charged that "Haifa Street" story contained footage provided by al-Qaeda.

But this is different -- the smearing of Lara Logan is bleeding into the mainstream, more widely read media, and it's getting personal. And of course it's easy to play devil's advocate, because gossip about certain types of TV personalties -- certainly the local news anchors in a market like mine, Philadelphia -- is standard newspaper fare, especially when the personalities are good-looking, as Logan surely is. But she's not an anchorwoman, just a network war correspondent whose not even based around here, and even if these stories about her personal foibles are true, and who knows about that, it's simply not Page 1 news.

But the timing here really stinks. Is this just another low-grade tabloid scandal -- or a message to journalists who dare to criticize big corporate media's growing blackout on news from Iraq?

Well there is a precedent for sidelining anyone who dares criticize the media's war coverage, isn't there? And in this case, the journalist is highly respected with an impeccable record as a war correspondent.

After being forced to watch that unctuous, phony grief fest a week ago for a fellow everyone extolled as the ultimate newsman because he asked asked some silly questions on Sunday mornings, that someone might be trying to shut this real reporter up for speaking the truth is truly beyond the pale. They will do anything to maintain control of the narrative.

I hope this is coincidence. And, frankly, the smear is fairly innocuous celebrity gossip. But at the very least, it trivializes her, which begins to devalue her as a journalist. I guess they need to bring her down to their shallow level.