The Sideshow

Archive for December 2005

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Saturday, 31 December 2005

Last links of the year

UK human rights case brings problem with McCain bill into focus

Atrios picks his Wanker of the Year: Joe Lieberman.

Cernig's Top 2005 Lists You WONT See.

Mike Keefe's Christmas return

Saturday Editorial Cartoons

23:23 GMT

More stuff to read

At Unclaimed Territory, Glenn Greenwald has a good post explaining why The New York Times did nothing illegal, but the Bush administration broke the law: Threatening Administration critics with criminal prosecution. (Thanks to Kent Kaltman for the tip.)

John Dean, George W. Bush as the New Richard M. Nixon: Both Wiretapped Illegally, and Impeachably: There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.

Der Spiegel asks, Is Washington Planning a Military Strike?: German diplomats began speaking of the prospect two years ago -- long before the Bush administration decided to give the European Union more time to convince Iran to abandon its ambitions, or at the very least put its civilian nuclear program under international controls. But the growing likelihood of the military option is back in the headlines in Germany thanks to a slew of stories that have run in the national media here over the holidays. More at Liberty Street.

King of Zembla reminds us of The Other Terrorist Attack - the attempted assassination of the Democratic leadership with anthrax.

I agree with Bill Maher, except that it's him. Bill, I told you so. You took too long to get there.

On the other hand, I hope Alec Baldwin is right about the turnover in Congress.

18:49 GMT

News, views, and chews

Joel Bleifuss at In These Times, Ghosts in the Voting Machines: Jonathan Winer, a former longtime Kerry adviser and a former deputy assistant secretary of state, told Parry, "Kerry heard all the disquieting stories, but he didn't have the evidence to do more." Winer said that "disquieting stories" include Republican election officials in Ohio providing an inadequate number of voting machines to heavily Democratic precincts and reports from voters who said that when they cast their ballots on DRE machines they saw their vote transferred to Bush. On top of that, Winer said, Kerry was mindful of what happened after Gore won the popular vote but lost the election, when five Supreme Court Republicans stepped in and stopped the recount. "Do you think they're too ethical to steal an election?" Winer said. "In 2000, they did steal an election."

The NYT tells us, Justice Dept. Opens Inquiry Into Leak of Domestic Spying. This really comes as no surprise - they hate whistle-blowers, and they hate whistle-blowers because whistle-blowers expose bigshot criminals - in other words, the administration itself, and their chums. Steve Soto at The Left Coaster says: But, let's just play this out and see what could happen. For the sake of argument, let's say that the "investigation" actually finds one or several people inside the administration who have been talking to the NYT since 2004 on this program. Do they really want to make a public deal about who these people are, and have a trial with discovery requests on alleged national security violations while Patrick Fitzgerald is looming? Do they really want it to go public that these people had an agenda to reveal this operation because of concerns over the program's legality? And for an administration to be so concerned about the alleged damage done to our intelligence gathering efforts by this story, doesn't their own talking about this program since the revelation and any investigation and trial of the leakers stand to do even more damage, if in fact there is damage to be done on something that Al Qaeda probably already knew?

Also from Soto, Hillary Chills A Key Supporter With Her "Centrism": I wanted to point you to an interesting piece in Professor David D. Perlmutter's blog POLICYbyBLOG. Perlmutter posts a piece about Hillary Clinton's troubles with the center-left blogosphere, an area that the Clinton team seemingly treats with ignorance at best and indifference or contempt at worst. Perlmutter posts an open letter to Hillary Clinton from liberal activist Bob Kunst, who has headed since 2003 and has been touting her candidacy around the country. Without having an official position with her or being her blog/internet coordinator, Kunst has taken it upon himself to be an advance person, but now finds his dedication waning given Clinton's determination to stay in the middle and miss opportunities to call attention to Bush's many failings. Perlmutter's piece brings up the question of how far the front running Clinton can get in 2008 if the "netroots" are lukewarm if not disappointed in her willingness to chill the base and appeal to the DLC crowd. The piece is Hillary Clinton's Blog Dilemma: Are the Grassroots Burning?

Craig Murray's public outspokenness on Uzbekistan has hit some - but not all - of the UK papers, with Ex-envoy to Uzbekistan goes public on torture at the Indy: The first document published by Mr Murray contains the text of several telegrams that he sent to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful". The second document is the text of a Foreign Office legal opinion which argues that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture is not a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture. Do I hear an echo? Auntie Beeb has some background on Murray, a man who made the US "uncomfortable" by speaking out about human rights. Lenin's Tomb has more (via Ken MacLeod).

And speaking of that troubling country, the Media Guardian, reports that Uzbekistan pulls plug on Radio Free Europe: Authorities in Uzbekistan have silenced the last independent foreign news outlet in the country - just weeks after the BBC closed its Tashkent office citing government harassment. Of course, these are our friends, the countries we don't invade and "liberate". Because we're so good.

Ezra Klein sucker-punched by Jonah Goldberg. I can't believe you're still falling for this stuff, Ezra - the idea that this is about whether our government is allowed to spy on bad guys is just an RNC talking point meant to deflect our attention from the fact that no one is objecting to spying on bad guys, something the government can already do legally. What we want is to know that they have some reason to spy on the people they're spying on other than just, "I don't like the guy." We already know they spy on people they have no good reason to spy on. (Patrick and I both left comments.)

Weird story of the day from TChris: Woman Sues After Arrest For Carrying Flour in Condoms.

Jane Hamsher sees a high-concept movie in search of a hero. (Also: Nominations are open for The 2005 Golden Crony.)

13:07 GMT

Friday, 30 December 2005

Open windows

This is what our garden looked like the other day after our heaviest snowfall in years. No, really, it hadn't had time to melt yet when I took that picture - that's it. Pathetic.

Ex-envoy unleashes blog-based attack on UK's torture denials: Web rings to cries of 'I'm Spartacus'... Former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has harnessed the Internet in his long-running feud with the UK Government. A forthcoming book covering his time as ambassador is currently being blocked by the Foreign Office, which has demanded he remove references to two documents from the book and his web site. Murray has responded by publishing the documents in full there, and by encouraging bloggers to disseminate the documents as widely as possible.

The ACLU's Nixon/Bush ads in the NYT, here and here.

Hm, Shrillblog has finally noticed that Bruce Schneier "is one of us now." Bruce has been reality-based all along, though. Maybe that's because he can still remember Project Shamrock: A lot of people are trying to say that it's a different world today, and that eavesdropping on a massive scale is not covered under the FISA statute, because it just wasn't possible or anticipated back then. That's a lie. Project Shamrock began in the 1950s, and ran for about twenty years. It too had a massive program to eavesdrop on all international telegram communications, including communications to and from American citizens. It too was to counter a terrorist threat inside the United States. It too was secret, and illegal. It is exactly, by name, the sort of program that the FISA process was supposed to get under control.

Oh my God - Jeff Jacoby has discovered the Oreo story.

If It Wasn't So Outrageous It Would Be Funny, Parts I and II. (But I like Russ Feingold in the Senate and I want him to stay there. The fact that your constituents aren't disgusted by you doesn't force you to run for president, you know.)

I missed this item earlier this week: The Vatican might want to take the immortal souls of babies and nice people who don't happen to be Christians out of Limbo.

22:41 GMT

Listening for the new-told lies

This piece of apologist crap appeared in The New York Times earlier this week:

After all, even the administration's sternest critics do not deny the compelling need to collect intelligence about Al Qaeda's plans so we can thwart future attacks. So instead of challenging the program on policy grounds, most have focused on its legal propriety, specifically Mr. Bush's decision not to follow the framework established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Yes, a lot of us have wondered why Bush chose an extra-legal route to supposedly collect information that everyone would agree needs to be watched. The FISA court is certainly not going to deny a warrant that legitimately asks to monitor a real terrorism suspect. The trouble is that without a warrant, we have no evidence that it is a real terrorism suspect - and this administration has already given us good reason to doubt it. Refusing oversight is another one.
In an effort to control counterintelligence activities in the United States during the cold war, the surveillance act established a special court, known as the FISA court, with authority to issue wiretapping warrants. Instead of having to show that it has "probable cause" to believe criminal activity is taking place (which is required to obtain a warrant in an ordinary investigation), the government can get a warrant from the FISA court when there is probable cause to believe the target of surveillance is a foreign power or its agent.
But not, say, an American citizen who is a reporter for The New York Times, or a member of a Quaker prayer group, or a Catholic nun who is working for peace. Because the FISA court might not fall for that.
Although the administration could have sought such warrants, it chose not to for good reasons. The procedures under the surveillance act are streamlined, but nevertheless involve a number of bureaucratic steps. Furthermore, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp and may well decline to issue warrants even when wartime necessity compels surveillance.
And, of course, no evidence is presented that the FISA court has ever denied a warrant in a case where "wartime necessity compels surveillance," so we have no reason to believe this piece of claptrap.
More to the point, the surveillance act was designed for the intricate "spy versus spy" world of the cold war, where move and countermove could be counted in days and hours, rather than minutes and seconds. It was not drafted to deal with the collection of intelligence involving the enemy's military operations in wartime, when information must be put to immediate use.
Yes, it was, actually. Wars have been going on for thousands of years and no one has ever claimed they work to some kind of sedate timetable. Why, even terrorism is not a new idea - even in the United States.

Don't you get sick of being told that our Founding Fathers, who had just been through a war on their own home ground, were a bunch of naive, ivory-tower types who could not have anticipated the needs of wartime?

Op-ed cartoon: Wasserman's Christmas return

16:21 GMT

Blogger's notes

On Christmas Day we wandered past a shopfront where there were a number of Betty Boop items on display, but since of course the place was closed, the security grill made it a bit hard to get a good shot. And thus we have: Boop Behind Bars! And her side-kick, Tweety.

It's my birthday. I am thousands of years old and have received cool stuff like this.

One reason I continue to recommend Atrios' Eschaton, despite copious open threads and sometimes what seems like days and days of light posting and obscure one-liners, is that he still frequently has something to say and can usually deliver it pretty concisely. And why I'd recommend that even your representatives in Congress should be reading him is that he's very good at grabbing hold of and dissecting media spin that comes from the GOP and becomes part of the "mainstream" discourse. He did a lot of it yesterday - for example, when he asked how the media determines that an issue is "controversial" or "divides the nation". He also links us to other such discussions, like Stranger's post about the way CNN keeps trying to sell us on the style of security that is "normal" in Israel, as if we need it at home. It's nice to know that the number of people who still believe the WHIG's myths about 9/11 and WMD is significantly lower than it was back when I noted that only 17% of Americans understood that no Iraqis had been responsible for 9/11. And that even a couple of people on the right are trying to get past the "let's you and him fight" style of "balance" on television talk shows. (And I did tell you this was happening, didn't I?) No one person could get it all, but Duncan Black is a hero at making his weblog a portal to the things you need to know to understand just how the public discourse is being continuously corrupted. You can't intelligently report on what's going on without knowing this stuff.

Matt Taibbi has a gratifying eye-witness report in Rolling Stone on the fink in action: Bush in person always strikes me as the kind of guy who would ask a woman for a hand job at the end of a first date. He has days where he looks like she said yes, and days where the answer was no. Today was one of his no days. He frowned, looking wronged, and grabbed the microphone. I pulled out my notebook . . . Via A Tiny Revolution.

Eric Alterman says The Poorman's Poker With Dick Cheney (20 June 2004) is The Greatest Blog Post Of All Time. (That's from the Altercation special holiday religious edition.)

D.E.D.'s Things that really ticked me off in 2005.

13:49 GMT

Uh oh

A letter in the International Herald Tribune:

The other Iraq analogy

The present quagmire in Iraq is often likened to the Vietnam debacle, in terms of lessons to be learned. But to my mind Iraq is looking more and more like Germany's Weimar Republic after World War I: political parties fighting it out in the street with their militias; awfully weak central government, police forces, army and economy; a misconstrued Constitution; an alien, ineffective Parliament; sharply resented foreign oversight and partial occupation, which hurt national pride.

Will Iraq also yearn, as Germany did, for a "strong man," who is eventually installed, as Hitler was, through a democratic procedure?

Malte Möhr, Verl, Germany

Oh, God.

00:19 GMT

Thursday, 29 December 2005

A moving paper fantasy

Just when I think I am unforgivably lazy, I see something like this: The Army cannot account for $68 million in parts and tools shipped to contractors for repairs in 2004 because it does not demand receipts, congressional auditors said yesterday. It doesn't? Wow.

If you ever needed proof that David Broder is a jackass, you can find it in his round-up of goofs for the year: How do you match the trio of Republican misjudgments summoned up by the names Katrina, Harriet Miers and Terri Schiavo? How do you top the Democrats' decision to entrust their party leadership to that itinerant verbal blunderbuss, Howard Dean? Yes, that's right, he equates the Republican leadership's willingness to let an American city die (not to mention uncounted numbers of American citizens) with the choice of Democrats to choose a party leader who speaks up and has raised far more money than his predecessor. What are your priorities, man? (Well, at least he admits he was a dope for trusting Bush to actually do anything for New Orleans. But you had to be stupid to think this time would be any different.)

Exploiting Fear and Insecurity - James Zogby on a stupid proposed law on restricting drivers licenses only to American citizens, and the possibly even more stupid phone-in questions he received on the subject - and the interesting confusion between undocumented workers and terrorists that the right-wing is promoting.

From a letter to the editor in the WaPo: Instead of grasping for balance, The Post should have pointed out Judge Alito's record of hostility toward civil rights and urged the nominee to be straightforward about his core beliefs and philosophy on civil rights when he appears before the Senate.

A wonderful post full of links from Twistedchick's Free Speech Zone includes the link to a spot where you can find that column* from MoDo, Vice Axes That 70's Show, Fred Clark's WWAD (What Would Aslan Do?), Molly Ivins' Bush must admit he has done something very wrong, Mr Jalopy's love/hate relationship with the Complete New Yorker at Boing Boing, and the highly entertaining Cows With Guns, plus a bunch of other stuff I haven't checked out yet.

16:31 GMT

Feed your head

Chris Floyd, Clowntime is Over: The Last Stand of the American Republic: So now, at last, the crisis is upon us. Now the cards are finally on the table, laid out so starkly that even the Big Media sycophants and Beltway bootlickers can no longer ignore them. Now the choice for the American Establishment is clear, and inescapable: do you hold for the Republic, or for autocracy?

Sisyphus Shrugged: You'd want to keep in mind that the reason the union went on strike is that Mr. Bloomberg's flunky in the negotiations, a gentleman named Kalikow, threw the pension demands in literally at the eleventh hour when the TWU was ready to sign, and told the transit union they were non-negotiable. [...] Mike Bloomberg shut down the city. Mike Bloomberg shut down the city because it would put him in a better position in future contract negotiations, and Mike Bloomberg shut down the city because he doesn't much like unions.

Scott Lemieux, Grow Up To Be A Debaser - The only thing worse than people debating torture is people coming down in favor of it. From the academic left, no less.

ReddHedd at Firedoglake (recommending "an exceptional piece" in The Washington Post): As the rest of the nation has moved forward from the haunting images of Katrina's immediate aftermath, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have had to wake up to the destruction day after day. Don't let them think that the rest of us have forgotten them.

The Christmas Invasion, the trailer, the killer tree, and Doctor Who. Via Kung Fu Monkey.

Rolling Stone interview with George Clooney.

60 Second Interview with George Romero in Metro.

Chimpeach. Pass it on.

11:58 GMT

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

You might want to know

My thanks to Taylor Marsh (of) for sending me that article I was looking for, and to Chuck Dupree (of) for providing a link to an accessible version of William Greider's The Rise of the Rebels: Intraparty challenges are one of the most effective ways to get the attention of risk-averse politicians and force them to change their thinking. Even if the targeted politicians are not defeated, they hate intrusions from meddlesome citizens messing with their job-for-life security. And nothing upsets members of Congress like seeing a few of their colleagues abruptly taken down by outsiders with supposedly marginal issues the Washington Club didn't take seriously. Incumbents will do quite a lot to avoid the same fate.

Another great thing our government is in favor of is slavery. There's no hyperbole anymore, is there? Read this thread.

The excellent King of Zembla draws our attention to the compelling What I Heard about Iraq in 2005. It's hard to believe it was only one year.

Max Sawicky sits in at TPM Cafe to explain that Democracy Is Not Arithmetic, and it isn't adding up to a neocon victory in Iraq.

The WaPo's The Debate is on an important issue this week: Domestic Surveillance (and whether Bush's excuse flies). You might want to jump in - the wingnuts have already found it.

In Chapter 11 of Left Behind, LaHaye and Jenkins offer what they say is a blueprint for getting saved, but Slacktivist says the real route is mapped by Huck Finn.

Yes, I know this is a cheap shot. (Thanks to Dominic (of) for the tip.)

Tom Tomorrow's Year in Review 2005, Part Two: The Center Cannot Hold.

23:00 GMT

Gifts of the web

Digby takes note of another angle Karl & Friends are playing in order to suppress Democratic representation - by changing the way the census is counted. They have a number of irons in this fire, some of which we've discussed earlier, but I hadn't noticed this one before.

John Aravosis: But there's a larger question. If Bush is now telling the truth about who these people are, then pray tell, what the hell was Bush doing letting hundreds if not thousands of people "who have a history of blowing up trains, wedding and churches" run around free inside the US for the past 4 years? Or maybe this is just another lie. Via Eschaton.

Cather at DKos, My Republican Family Discusses Impeachment: This brings me to today's sermon: Talk with your families about this, folks. Ask your Republican uncle if an impeachment would be successful given the evidence available, or would more be needed. Ask your Ann Coulter quoting sister-in-law if she has heard any buzz about a possible impeachment. That's my favorite question, because she just heard some buzz. The more I find out on this issue, the more willing I have become to talk about it, and the one thing I have found that everyone in my family can assent to is that the Constitution is a sacred document to this country. Via Lawnorder.

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, It's good to be King George: As I was saying to a fellow peasant just the other day, it is ironic that this country should rebel against one King George only to bow down before another monarch of the same name more than 200 years later. Via Maru.

Why else would he hire them?

Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff

13:33 GMT

Taking note

The Nation has a whole nifty pack of impeachment-related stuff up right now:

  • An editorial on Bush's High Crimes says: And given the palpable outrage among Republicans as well as Democrats at the President's contempt for basic constitutional law, is it impossible to imagine illegal wiretaps leading to the final undoing of the Bush presidency?
  • Jonathan Schell says in The Hidden State Steps Forward that: There is a name for a system of government that wages aggressive war, deceives its citizens, violates their rights, abuses power and breaks the law, rejects judicial and legislative checks on itself, claims power without limit, tortures prisoners and acts in secret. It is dictatorship.
  • John Conyers makes a case for A Motion for Censure.
  • Elizabeth de la Vega says we should Shoot the Moon.
  • Katrina Vanden Heuvel says The I-Word is Gaining Ground, and has numerous examples.

(And I wish I could read the rest of this story.)

Elsewhere: The I-word is giving Krauthammer the willies.

And in other news: Taylor Marsh reviews the reviews of Munich.

Brokaw and Kopel: Proof that the media should stop interviewing itself.

Everyone is linking Wolcott's Headhunters for a reason: He makes a really good point about the lust for violence that erupts from the right-wingers when they talk about liberals.

02:41 GMT

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

In Blogtopia
(Yep, Skippy etc.)

Via Maru.

I'm not done with Christmas, by the way, what with coming from an Armenian family and all. It's a long holiday season for me from Halloween to January 6th.

The UnCapitalist: The Dark Wraith awaits a time when the nation has leadership that does not defend its mismanagement by claiming a better President's results were a mirage. Via a link-rich post at NewsHog.

Christmas After Katrina, at Echidne of the Snakes.

Jonathan Singer at MyDD on Voting Rights and the Republican Party (they're agin' 'em). And Matt Stoller points out that McCain is a Pandering Dork.

Angry Bear gives Two cheers for wonkery.

Whatever you can do: Jeanne D'Arc woke up Thursday and found her computer had died, and put up an RIP message for her weblog. But readers weren't happy with the idea of killing Body and Soul, and she's been talked into putting up a Tip Jar. You can't let this weblog die! Give her all the help you can.

Digby has more on the truthiness of Deborah Howell, although kinder to her than I was.

Bill Scher says Filibusters Are Back In Style: Not that they ever took it off the table. They just treated it like a disgusting abhorrent tactic that should never be spoken aloud. But in the past several days, Dems have not only filibustered twice. They filibustered on behalf of the public. They filibustered not to obstruct, but to force Republicans to enact better legislation. And they filibustered successfully.

Another GOP lie that will never die - the one about Clinton and FISA.

Frank Rich's War on Christmas column at Nevada Thunder. Via Amygdala.

Juan Cole has Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005.

Celebrate the new year by singing Auld Lang Impeachment with MadKane.

20:59 GMT


My thanks to Julia (who hasn't quite got this send-a-link thing down) for a heads-up on two WaPo editorials this morning, one of which actually skates mighty close with the title White House Prevarications:

GIVEN ALL THE fuss about what government officials in Washington say off the record, it's surprising how little attention is paid to some of the things they say on the record.
They're talking about greehouse gas emissions, but trust me, guys, we do pay attention to all those on-the-record lies - it's just that you don't.

The other, Firing Offenses, notes the massive corruption Maryland's Republican governor has brought to the state:

FOR NEARLY a year, venomous partisan sniping in Maryland over the Ehrlich administration's personnel practices has partly obscured an underlying truth: It is illegal to fire mid- or low-level public employees solely because of their political beliefs. That tenet of constitutional law, affirmed by the Supreme Court and reflected in Maryland statute, is what's at issue in hearings of a special legislative committee that are finally underway in Annapolis, months after the controversy erupted. That, and the ruined careers of state employees who were fired or forced from their jobs after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took office nearly three years ago.
Ehrlich has been firing Democrats routinely, and Republicans perceived as disloyal. In the piece I had to search for because Julia didn't send a link to her own work, Julia says:
Are we clear? Has everyone got that? For nearly a year, the fact that Democrats have been saying that it is illegal to fire mid- or low-level political public employees solely because of their political beliefs has partly obscured the fact that it is illegal to fire mid- or low-level political public employees solely because of their political beliefs, because of course Mr. Ehrlich said that it was all a big coinkydink that the people he happened to have his fixers make up a "death list" and fire as soon as he got into office were Democrats and that Democrats were just bringing it up because they don't like him, so it was clearly a partisan cat fight and we lost sight of the blatantly illegal thing, especially since the Democrats were being all venomous about it.
Yes, that's right, it's venomous to say that breaking the law is breaking the law, just like it's venomous to call prevarications lies.

Elsewhere, Julia points out that:

MB caught what slipped by the rest of us - Senator Frist finally managed to push his thimerosol get-out-of-liability-free legislation into law tucked into the Defense Appropriation Bill.

What makes it even more fragrant: this version gives blanket protection from lawsuits to pretty much any drug the Secretary of Health and Human Services wants to give it to.

Republicans: They stink to high Heaven.

14:14 GMT

Verdict on Howell: She's a Kool-Aid drinker

I certainly had my problems with former Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler, but I'm used to the idea that the mainstream media was always (always) pretty status quo. However, his replacement, Deborah Howell, is deep in the right-wing, to the point that any minute I expect to see her writing things like "Democrat Party".

This week's article could only have been written by someone who is completely in thrall to the right-wing machine. Observe:

Ann Scott Tyson, a respected military reporter just back from Iraq, wrote in a front-page story Nov. 4 that "newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war."

The story said that more than 44 percent of military recruits come from rural areas, most from the South and West. "Many . . . are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income."

Now, you'd think this one fell into the category of "not even news" - after all, you don't expect your average middle-class or upper-class kid to look at their options and say, "You know, I think it would be best for me to go someplace where I'm likely to get paid peanuts and be maimed or killed rather than, say, go to college or take a job with high-earning potential."

But in winger-land, this kind of analysis sets all the alarm bells ringing, apparently.

In looking at the story, I talked to Curt Gilroy, who, as director of accession policy for the secretary of defense, has oversight of all active-duty recruiting; Tim Kane, a Heritage researcher; Betty Maxfield, demographer of the Army; Bruce Orvis, director of the Manpower and Training Program at the Rand Corp.'s Arroyo Center, and Robert Brandewei, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center in Monterey, Calif.
We have noted before that Ms. Howell thinks that right-wing "think tanks" that make up excuses are equivalent to mainstream think tanks (original usage) that do actual research - and that she regards the latter as "liberal". In this case, she is equating Heritage with the organization that did the research in question, National Priorities Project (NPP), "a liberal-leaning think tank that questions the war in Iraq." Note here that she apparently presumes that any group that questions the war is "liberal", having failed to absorb the fact that at this juncture many Republicans and right-leaning libertarians are also questioning the war. Come to think of it, anyone who isn't far-right does so.

Howell doesn't tell us, by the way, why she felt the need to research this particular story. Getler used to refer to letters from readers, but one gets the impression here that Howell just saw this article and felt she automatically needed to fact-check it. I'd like to know why, because the facts presented in the article are pretty uncontroversial. And I'd also like to know why Ms. Howell takes for granted that Heritage's own evaluation of NPP's methodology is more accurate than NPP's.

Maybe the real skinny behind this article is that Howell is looking for something else to talk about, since she surely must know that what her readers are really interested in is why she opened the can of worms she did by airing stupid White House sniping about Dan Froomkin on the Ombudsman's page in the first place.

(More from Firedoglake.)

12:45 GMT

Under the skin

Mahabarb: I did a Technorati search, and it seems Jazz is right - as of now the Right Blogosphere is ignoring the unfortunate post-election turmoil in Iraq. After whining at us that we ignored the glorious election, now they're ignoring the inglorious side-effects of an apparent religious Shiite victory. I noticed that, too - the right-wingers were playing up the election as usual, but letting slide the fact that maybe this election didn't quite accomplish anything much like a free democracy.

Steve Bates: I admit I am glad the PATRIOT Act extension was reduced from six months to one month, but I admit I'm surprised the change was initiated by Sensenbrenner. [...] What's up? Is there going to be another last-minute substitution at the end of the one-month extension, the way there was a blindsiding substitution of the current PATRIOT Act for the carefully crafted compromise version back in 2001? Is Sensenbrenner pushing the schedule... fine with me; get it done... or are we being set up again?

Bush v. Choice: It just keeps getting worse with this guy! How much more convincing do folks need that Alito is dangerous for women? Via The Daou Report.

Paul Bigioni on The real threat of fascism: Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: the vast bulk of legislative activity favors the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and US governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the last 25 years.

Susie Madrak: So NBC (aka GE) just bought up most of the MSNBC stock and a "major restructuring" has been announced. Wonder what'll happen to Keith Olbermann now?

Salam Pax's video diary, year-end round-up.

01:19 GMT

Monday, 26 December 2005

Cheese and chocolate

Bob Somerby says: All politics is yokel! It's the great liberal uber-tale of our time. It's time that we libs started telling it. (Here's the Krugman column he's referring to.)

Another sighting of the I-Word, in On Bush: It's time to say 'enough' , from a former state assemblyman in The Ithica Journal. (Via The Smirking Chimp.)

The Heretik on what the stone heads think of it all, and says the good news is that John Yoo probably won't be a Supreme Court nominee.

Tom Tomorrow's Year in review 2005 (Part One)

Fiore: Get Smarter - which is, by the way, a pretty good little tutorial on the illegal-spying-on-Americans issue.

23:22 GMT

Reviving a tradition

Media Matters has chosen the 2005 Misinformer of the Year, and that makes me think about Media Whores Online.

I'm not sure Tweety Matthews would have made Whore of the Year in the old MWO sweepstakes. Maybe Bob Woodward? Although I think I'd be pumping for Bill Keller - he may be an editor, but he sure did the job for Bush, and I don't think the reporters are even remotely responsible for the NYT's choice not to run the story on Bush's law-breaking until a year after the election. I invite you to make your own nominations in comments.

14:16 GMT

Happy Boxing Day

I ate too much and enjoyed every bite. Also, as usual, I made out like a bandit. I haven't been happy with the tree itself but yesterday we were out for a walk and saw some Sideshow-color Xmas balls and put them on up, and now it looks much better. (I like my tree to have lots of trashy decorations.)

In this morning's WaPo, Howard Kurtz reports:

President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security.
And they've gone, too. I couldn't help but notice something in this paragraph:
After Bush's meeting with the Times executives, first reported by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, the president assailed the paper's piece on domestic spying, calling the leak of classified information "shameful." Some liberals, meanwhile, attacked the paper for holding the story for more than a year after earlier meetings with administration officials.
Thank you, Howie, for admitting that people who expect newspapers to deliver news in a timely fashion are liberals. You putz. (More from TalkLeft. And I see Jane Hamsher had the same reaction I did to that "liberal" business.)

What Ashcroft did to the immigration court system is so egregious that even Posner objects: In one decision last month, Richard A. Posner, a prominent and relatively conservative federal appeals court judge in Chicago, concluded that "the adjudication of these cases at the administrative level has fallen below the minimum standards of legal justice." Ashcroft slashed the number of judges hearing the cases - by getting rid of all the more liberal judges. And you know what you get when you do that. Via TalkLeft.

The NYT is covering David Horowitz's program to dumb down universities by suppressing liberalism. Blondesense has a good answer to it all: What of German physics teachers who were required to inject the tenants of national socialism in their classrooms? And when they refused to teach only German ideas, college students ran professors off campuses and burned libraries. What of the Russian mathematicians who were required to teach Stalinist algorithms for the creation of the new Soviet Man? Their personal mail was opened and they were imprisoned for criticizing Stalin in it. It isn't wrong for secondary teachers like Aleskandr Solzhenitsyn or university professors like Albert Einstein to criticize their nation's leaders. An educated populace demands it.

Atrios posted even less than I did yesterday, but he did post a link and some quotes from Steve Chapman's Beyond the imperial presidency in the ChiTrib noting that Bush's theory of government seems to have nothing to do with whether big government is good or bad, or whether you should or shouldn't trust the government: But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

13:25 GMT

Sunday, 25 December 2005

I'm in a protein coma

An Xmas card

23:58 GMT

Republican Christmas

They've got so much to hide:

Senate Republicans late Wednesday blocked the authorization bill that guides the country's intelligence programs. It was the first time in 27 years that the bill had failed to pass before the end of the calendar year.
Democrats were informed last week that Republicans would clear the bill if three amendments, two by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and one by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), would be stripped from the consent agreement.

But Democrats balked because Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, had agreed to the amendments. Roberts's staff did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Kerry's amendment would require the director of national intelligence to give the intelligence panels information on secret CIA prisons in several Eastern European democracies and in Asia.

Kennedy's amendments would require the White House to turn over copies of daily intelligence briefs that President Bush and former President Bill Clinton reviewed on Iraq.

Democrats have accused administration officials of exaggerating Iraq's weapons capabilities and terrorism ties to win public support for the war. No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

Via Firedoglake.

More proof that Alito hates the Constitution:

One troubling memo concerns domestic wiretaps - a timely topic. In the memo, which he wrote as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, Judge Alito argued that the attorney general should be immune from lawsuits when he illegally wiretaps Americans. Judge Alito argued for taking a step-by-step approach to establishing this principle, much as he argued for an incremental approach to reversing Roe v. Wade in another memo.
In a second memo released yesterday, Judge Alito made another bald proposal for grabbing power for the president. He said that when the president signed bills into law, he should make a "signing statement" about what the law means. By doing so, Judge Alito hoped the president could shift courts' focus away from "legislative intent" - a well-established part of interpreting the meaning of a statute - toward what he called "the President's intent."
Hentoff: In a few of the stories, those readers going beneath the headlines found harsh revelations of the shell game that McCain and Bush are playing. These discoveries add to the accelerating exposure of how George W. Bush-with the cooperation of the once principled John McCain and of other members of Congress-is engaging in the cruel and inhumane debasing of the values we are fighting for against homicidal terrorists. Via The Arizona Eclectic.

The Holiday Dump ... On Your Liberties: You can count on it. Every Friday, every holiday, news that would embarrass the Bush Administration if it weren't the Bush Administration gets dumped.

15:12 GMT

Traditional Christmas Post

Merry Christmas, and here's our tree this year with a better camera.

Our usual annual items for the day:

Mark Evanier's wonderful little Christmas story about Mel Tormé.

Tom Robinson's song about the 1914 Christmas Truce, and the truces we make every year at this time.

And The Daily Brew's post of the letter about the truce from someone who was there.

From Jo Walton, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years.

And I just like this.

Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol from an ancient Xmas edition of Ansible. (For the last few years, I start getting hits on this link off Google at a rapid rate starting in late November.)

And a bit of Marley's speech:

"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
"You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"

"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"

Scrooge trembled more and more.

"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

And the blessings of the season to you all.

02:02 GMT

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Stocking stuffers

Bob Novak says he had better sources than Bush on Iraq. And so did I. So did anyone who was paying attention. But we should let Bush, who knows less than anyone, decide who is an "enemy combatant"? Please.

Go read What's In The Brown Paper Bag? A Story From Death Row at Jeralyn's place right now.

The Saturday Cartoons at Bob Geiger's place.

Mark Morford on Xmas Cards From Famous People, via Biomes Blog.


Blog at the WaPo.

A t-shirt.

Yes, we are.

23:41 GMT

Boiling frog notes

You know, I still can't quite convince myself that I'm seeing this in a story about legislation passed by the US Congress:

But the measure awaiting President Bush's signature also would limit the access of detainees held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to federal courts. And it would allow the military to use confessions elicited by torture when deciding whether a detainee is an enemy combatant.
And, of course, you can beat confessions out of pretty much anyone, you can get them to say anything - and, having done so, you can "prove" that no innocent person has been incarcerated and tortured. Don't you feel safe?

There's no relief in sight, if the courts can't do anything:

U.S. District Judge James Robertson criticized the government's detention of Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim, who have been jailed at Guantanamo for four years; they have been cleared for release because the government has determined they are not enemy combatants and are not a threat to the United States. But Robertson said his court has "no relief to offer" because the government has not found a country to accept the men and because he does not have authority to let them enter the United States.
And, of course, in the newspaper of the nation's capitol, crackpot right-wing mouthpiece Charles Krauthammer provides the latest defense of a presidential right to use the Constitution as toilet paper, calling the suggestion that such lawlessness should qualify as a high crime "nonsense".

Scalito revelation of the day: Alito Urged Wiretap Immunity:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. once argued that the nation's top law enforcement official deserves blanket protection from lawsuits when acting in the name of national security, even when those actions involve the illegal wiretapping of American citizens, documents released yesterday show.
And I can't quite believe someone like this has actually been nominated to the Supreme Court, either.

11:17 GMT

Friday, 23 December 2005

Blogitty blog

Factesque: No member of the flock followed up with the obvious: If the intelligence was so convincing that it was able to warrant starting a war and yet so flawed, doesn't that mistake then make the provisions set up in FISA even more important when we're talking about spying on American citizens? Isn't it possible for flawed and convincing evidence to be used against innocent Americans?

Does Dick Cheney think the Constitution is just a regulatory statute?

Brendan Nyhan says David Brooks is a man who was for the rule of law before he was against it.

Meteor Blades at The Next Hurrah has a neat discussion of the virtues of the blogosphere (and why you should get into the Koufax Awards), and touches on a few issues I've been meaning to talk about myself, and maybe I'll get around to expanding on in the future.

The spirit of conservative Santa.

I don't recall this seasonal photo being on their site when I first linked the thing, but thanks to Scaramouche for reminding us of an old friend.

14:57 GMT


Digby: Because the beltway press corps has conditioned itself to respond only to Republicans. They've trained themselves not take Democrats seriously, either the rank and file who inconvenience them with e-mails they do not want to read, or the leadership they simply disdain. Unpopularity obligates them to criticize Bush at least mildly, but the relief they feel when his numbers edge up a bit is palpable. They don't seem to know this about themselves. (Read this follow-up post, too.)

Mark Schmitt: I'm kicking myself because several weeks ago, various people sent me things encouraging me to comment on the possible inclusion of welfare reform in the budget reconciliation bill. And I got distracted and didn't do anything with it. And now here it is, almost passed into law, and I finally start looking at it. It's outrageous.

Kevin Drum: Of course, their argument is not that the president has the inherent power to authorize domestic surveillance anytime he wants, only that he has that power during wartime. And as near as I can tell, that's the elephant in the room that no one is really very anxious to discuss: What is "wartime"? Is George Bush really a "wartime president," as he's so fond of calling himself? Conservatives take it for granted that he is, while liberals tend to avoid the subject entirely for fear of being thought unserious about the War on Terror. But it's something that ought be brought up and discussed openly.

Thomas Nephew: We've thrown our reputation in the Muslim world into the wastebasket for the near future with Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo. With a little bad luck and plenty of 'hard work' from our leadership, we can do the same with our fellow Muslim citizens. Let's roll up our sleeves like Bush likes to do -- and keep that from happening.

The Republican base.

03:37 GMT

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Morning tip

You could do worse than to read:

Jim Henley on what's goin' on, and especially The Connection. And via Henley, Radley Balko on The Folly of Knock-and-Announce.

Scrutiny Hooligans on the definition of victory, heads rolling at the Veteran's Administration, and a bunch of other stuff.

Americablog, especially an uplifting little story for the holidays. (Via Wally Whateley's House of Horrors.)

The Enigmatic Paradox on Bill O'Reilly vs. Nicholas Kristof.

11:27 GMT

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Good stuff

It's the darkest day of the year, and we need bright lights and warmth and smiles. So happy Solstice, boys and girls.

One of the things I like about the WaPo website these days is that as soon as you've read something really stupid like William Kristol's offensive defense of the monarchy of King George, or Ralph Nader's stirring advocacy of one more way to make elections confusing and even more of a crapshoot, you can instantly find links from the same page to weblogs, some of which you've never even heard of before, that entertain you with a good pliers and acid job on this crap.

The Mahablog on weenies who are so scared of terrorism that they will give up everything in order to have George Bush to soothe their fears: Just call them cowards. That's what they are. I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and saw the worst that terrorism can do, and I am not crawling around under rocks screaming that we must compromise everything America stands for to keep us safe. And I've never considered myself especially brave; just put me in a dentist's chair, and I'll confess to anything. But as I wrote yesterday, righties are so terrified of the jihadist boogeymen they'll make excuses for anything Big Brother does, in the opinion - unjustified, I say - that Big Brother is keeping them safe. And they call themselves patriots. It's too pathetic.

Atrios has a pile of good links up which you should read:
Katherine at Obsidian Wings: Look. We have a President here who is making a claim of unlimited power, for the duration of a war that may never end. Oh, he says it's limited by the country's laws, but they've got a crack legal team that reliably interprets the laws to say that the President gets to do whatever he wants. It amounts to the same thing. I am not exaggerating. I am really and truly not.
Matt Stoller at MyDD: The problem is, there will not be good government, government by principle and character, until we look George W. Bush and the extreme right in the eye and say 'we cannot and will not do business with you'. This is not a partisan issue. You can do business with some Republicans, like John Sununu and Lincoln Chafee, and yes, John McCain. Even Tom Coburn will vote against pork, though he's crazy. [...] So it's not that he is a good man or a bad man, but that you cannot get anything done with him or his people in charge. You cannot do business with George W. Bush and his ilk, and talking him up undercuts the goal that all of us, including Senator Obama, seek. He is a figure to be demonized, because while it is not Bush alone it is Bush's fraud-riddled politics that are at the core of what is ruining what Senator Obama and all progressives want.
Peter Daou at the Daou Report - I won't try to pick a quote but this is a description of the way the news cycles have worked to protect Bush. There's not much we can do about some of it, but if the Democrats would show a bit of agility and staying power, the cycle could be broken. (Matt's and Peter's pieces might make a nice little Christmas fax to your Dem reps so they have something to read over the holidays.)

18:53 GMT

Gay marriage starts today - civilization destroyed!

The legal partnership of Elton John to David Furnish is big news today, reminding me that I intended last week to write about the first such "marriage" here, between Matthew Roche and Christopher Cramp. They were given a special waiver of the waiting period because Roche, a cancer patient, was only expected to live a few more days.

I was touched by the decision to grant the waiver - which, it turned out, was just in time, as Roche died on December 7th.

(I was amused by the distinction between civil partnership and marriage described in the article: "The procedure is an exclusively civil one in Britain, with the partners signing certain documents, whereas a marriage becomes binding when partners exchange spoken words in a civil or religious ceremony." The only words I recall exchanging when we got married were an agreement not to be married to anyone else while we were married to each other, and then we signed our names.)

15:55 GMT

What the papers say

NYT - Sunnis Reject Early Iraq Election Results, Calling for Inquiry : Sunni Arab leaders angrily rejected early election results on Tuesday, saying the vote had been fixed in favor of Iranian-backed religious Shiites and calling for an investigation into possible fraud. Secular politicians also denounced the results and demanded an inquiry. So, American-style democracy, then.

In a week when the Grey Lady has been exposed as covering-up for the administration's egregious violation of the very substance of Constitutional law, the public editor decides to talk reviews.

WaPo - Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest: A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources. Great, but if people who have doubts about the legality of the program all resign, who does that leave?

4 GOP Senators Hold Firm Against Patriot Act Renewal: There was just one problem. Well, four problems, actually. Four of the 46 senators using the delaying tactic to thwart the USA Patriot Act renewal are members of Frist's party. It is a pesky, irritating fact for Republicans who are eager to portray the impasse as Democratic obstructionism, and a ready-made rejoinder for Democrats expecting campaign attacks on the issue in 2006 and 2008.

Clash Is Latest Chapter in Bush Effort to Widen Executive Power. Bush has been trying to be king all along.

Democrats Seek All of Alito's Writings: The documents "will be important in evaluating Judge Alito's nomination," the eight Judiciary Committee Democrats said in a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Just imagine what a treasure chest it's likely to be!

Revolt of the Professionals - David Ignatius says: The civil liberties debate is indeed a welcome sign that we are returning to normality. I assume that by "we", he means the press, having finally noticed what has been obvious to at least half the country for a long, long time.

Editorial: The belated and limited awakening we are seeing in Congress is the consequence of many Americans realizing that the administration has gone too far.

Judge Posner still an ideological nutcase. The prez is king after all!

The Christmas He Dreamed for All of Us - The all-American Christmas has been non-sectarian throughout our lifetimes: Christmas belongs to all of us. The religious content of those holidays was fine for Christian believers, but the composer of "God Bless America" preferred to celebrate a common national identity, complete with common holidays that had nonsectarian meanings.

LAT - Officials Fault Case Bush Cited: But some current and former high-ranking U.S. counter-terrorism officials say that the still-classified details of the case undermine the president's rationale for the recently disclosed domestic spying program.

Republicans Welcome Democratic Resistance on Security Matters - They think it makes them look stronger. But this is just another sign that Democrats must start talking about how Bush is not doing anything to improve national security, and that it started long before 9/11 and has not changed.

Taking the Christmas Out of Christ - The real war against Christmas, run by devout Christians.

14:05 GMT

The missing footnotes

Or maybe they are missing headlines. The newspapers and broadcast media themselves are leaving an awful lot out, so it takes some close reading and extra research to figure it out. As people who read weblogs, we already know this - it's why we're here. But between the lines, we learn.

When members of the paid media try to address this question, they fail. They never quite understand the difference between the right-wing blogosphere and the liberal blogosphere. They say things like:

By repeating conservative criticisms about the allegedly elitist, sycophantic, biased MSM, liberal bloggers have played straight into conservative hands. These bloggers have begun unwittingly doing conservatives' dirty work.

What they're attacking is the MSM's Progressive-era ethos of public-minded disinterestedness. By embracing the idea of objectivity, newspapers took a radical turn from the raw partisanship that guided them in the nineteenth century.

No, we're not. The so-called "objectivity" we are seeing today is very different from what we saw 30 years ago, for the simple reason that when you refuse to acknowledge that one side is telling the truth while the other is lying, that's not objective. Objectively, Bush lied and Gore didn't, but you'd never have known that from the mainstream media's coverage of the 2000 campaign. Objectively, there is no more important thing to do in an election than make sure everyone can vote and then count all the ballots, but you wouldn't have known that, either.

And that's just half the problem. Franklin Foer is claiming that the press gave an equal shake to "both sides of the issues", but Bob Somerby quite rightly disagrees:

In our view, the mainstream press misbehaved grievously in its coverage of Campaign 2000. Its coverage of Bush's tax cuts was part of the problem. But does Foer really think that this passage describes the press corps' general approach? According to Foer, the press corps felt "obliged to give a hearing to both sides of a debate," leading to soft treatment of Bush's misstatements. Granted, Bush routinely got soft treatment. But was this same treatment extended to Gore? On Neptune, perhaps. Not on Earth.

For one example, consider the way the mainstream press corps handled the issue of Social Security. In May 2000, Bush formally proposed his "private accounts" - making arguments that would be left for dead five years later, when Bush was president. But did the mainstream press corps feel "obliged to give a hearing to both sides" of this debate? To the contrary. As we have discussed in detail, mainstream pundits heaped praise on Bush's "bold leadership" in proposing these accounts - and savaged Gore for daring to oppose such a far-seeing plan.

Bush was out-and-out lying about his proposals, even denied the actual wording of his policy proposals on his own website during the debates, hinting that Gore was lying. But the mainstream media echoed the RNC suggestion that Gore's facts "didn't add up" while declining to point out that Bush was the guy who was subtracting two from two and getting five.
Does this slobbering nonsense make you think, in any way, of a group which felt "obliged to give a hearing to both sides of a debate" - so obliged that they were willing to cover up for a candidate's outright lying? As we've described in endless detail (links below), Bush's presentation was endlessly praised; Gore's presentation was trashed to the core. During Campaign 2000, the mainstream press covered up for lying when it was done by Candidate Bush. But to this day, gentle fellows like Foer pretend that they never have heard this.
Somerby doesn't even go over here (although it can be found all over the rest of his site) the fact that the press went well beyond this and spent quite a bit of time attacking Gore for "misstatements" it actually made up. Maureen Dowd covered a Gore event and declared him "boring" because he talked about issues, but did not mention how he electrified crowds. Was that "objective"? Howard Fineman obsessed on Gore's wardrobe, and other members of the press even invented and carried a fantasy about how Naomi Wolf supposedly told Gore to wear "earth tones" - few people understand that there is not a single shred of evidence that she ever did so. (Fineman, in fact, seemed to think it was really heroic when Bush changed his clothes, but somehow pathological if Gore wore a different suit.) The press itself lied about Gore claiming to have "invented the Internet", "discovered Love Canal", and apparently fantasizing that he was inspirational to the lead character in Love Story.

These charges were a double-whammy, because if he had made such claims, they would have been largely true - but he didn't, and by suggesting that to say so would have been false, the press was preventing him from discussing these things at all. The press did not tell you that it was Al Gore's work in Congress that made the modern Internet possible, that exposed Love Canal and similar sites. And the press did not tell you that the author of Love Story said outright that the lead character of his novel was partially based on Al Gore.

Bringing us up to date, we now have "even-handed" stories about the New York transit strike that gloss over the real causes of the strike and instead concentrate only on the inconvenience the strike represents to commuters and shoppers in the city. And we have startling revelations about administration perfidy (or insanity) hidden in buried paragraphs (just as we did in 2001 when we had to wait until the 43rd graf to find out that, contrary to the headline, Al Gore had received the most votes in Florida). Without numerous bloggers highlighting individual sections of lengthy stories - each of which deserves a headline of its own - we'd hardly be aware of the depths of the big stories the corporate media are underplaying.

Is the press being "objective" and "even-handed"? Are they hell. They called for impeachment of a president who, like most other presidents, had an affair while in office. But when the entire White House is engaged in trying to overturn our Constitution, "the I-word" is unmentionable. They had no trouble screaming about lies when it was about something trivial done by a Democrat, but lies from this White House can't even be so named. They doubted every word in defense of the Clintons in Whitewater, even though the record showed then as now that they'd done nothing wrong, but they refuse to admit that Bush has crossed a line when he is destroying everything that made America great.

And why? Because the far right might accuse them of being liberal, and gosh, we can't have that.

12:15 GMT

A few more things

Why Now? has a typescript of Jay Rockefeller's handwritten letter to Dick. Alterman has a lot more to say on the subject.

Bill Scher reminds us that without checks and balances, we don't have the moral authority to fight terrorism. It's not just a civil liberties argument, it's a national security argument.

Nice catch at Suburban Guerrilla, where Susie finds a right-winger in a right-wing rag saying: President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms. Yep, that's Bruce Fein of the Federalist Society, writing in The Washington Times. Think of it! (Also: Slouching Toward Kristallnacht.)

I Am Bored with a lesson on retouching, via Epicycle. And Dominic also tipped me off to the 1984 Grenada Comic Book, a handy piece of propaganda of the times.

Conservative Threat Level

02:43 GMT

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

A little bit of stuff

I've taken drugs to kill the pain and my brain is in space, so this'll be brief.

The good news is a defeat for "Intelligent design" in Dover, Pa: Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said. Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

Bellaciao: From all the information we have gathered on his activity, it seems clear that he holds two major political beliefs: 1. He believes he is above the law. 2. He sometimes believes he IS the law. (Via The Smirking Chimp.)

Atrios has more good discussion on the Madness of King George as discussed by almost everyone outside the White House (and the Borg). Start here and move upward.

16:46 GMT

Monday, 19 December 2005

Old new ideas

Subject Bai - New World Economy


Matt Bai seems to be saying that there is a "New World Economy" (18 December) in which employees can no longer depend on their employers. And, for some reason, this means we should not want something we can depend on, like Social Security.

But Bai has not described a new economy at all - he has described something much like the conditions that made Social Security necessary in the first place.

Nor does Bai explain why the most efficient and portable form of insurance in the world is unnecessary to these insecure times.

Asserting that we need modern remedies for modern times must sound very nice over the fourth or fifth beer, but before Mr. Bai tells us that we must reinvent the wheel, perhaps he ought to explain what was wrong with the round one, and why a square one would do the job better.

Yours faithfully,

Avedon Carol

17:31 GMT

All the news that's bits

Looks like Jess has gone all serious on me with The Iraq question: A while back I contacted two bloggers, two military veterans, one from the left side of the political spectrum, one from the right, one was a marine lawyer, one jumped out of airplanes in the army, these two men agreed to answer some of my questions.

The New York Times has finally weighed in on The Business of Voting on their editorial page: The counting of votes is a public trust. So is the reporting on how it is done. Dan Mitchell, like Diebold, has never acted as if he understood this. Via The Brad Blog.

Here's the latest post at Wampum for making your Koufax Award nominations. (And no, I don't generally campaign for these things, but yes, I like being nominated.)

Faithful Progressive is Responding to President Bush.

Jane Smiley gives us Bush's Ten-Step Program for destroying America: Or, to put it another way, the Bush administration apparently wishes for and is working toward a chaotic Iraq, a corrupt American election structure with openly corrupt influence-peddlers like Delay and Abramoff in charge of policy, a world in which people suffer and die from weather-related catastrophes, a two-tiered economic structure in the US (with most people in the lower tier), and the isolation of the US as a rogue state from the other nations of the world.

Morford on Fun Bits About American Torture.

D. Potter liked a quote from me and had a touch of inspiration, so I'm adopting it as The Sideshow Christmas Card for 2005. Feel free to pass it on.

Happy holidays, puckerbrush, sorry I missed ya.

13:39 GMT

More links I found

Viggo Mortensen: "I'm not anti-Bush; I'm anti-Bush behavior," Mortensen told Progressive magazine. "In other words, I'm against cheating, greed, cruelty, racism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, treason, and the seemingly limitless capacity for hypocrisy shown by Bush and his administration."

And speaking of Viggo, he's posted an excerpt from Kristof about Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas, and also linked to Gary Kamiya's Blood and betrayal in which he reviews a book and asks if at long last we are able to hear Robert Fisk.

Blah3 says It's all up to Republicans now: Your move. Where do you stand? Are you Republicans first, or Americans?

GOP-style democracy: Iraqi Parties Complain of Vote Irregularities: As the United States portrayed Thursday's Iraqi elections as a resounding success, political parties here Saturday complained of violations ranging from dead men voting to murder in the streets. (via)

Purposely misquoting FISA to defend the Bush Administration: This is a real case study in how total falsehoods are disseminated by a single right-wing blogger who is then linked to and approvingly cited by large, highly partisan bloggers, which then cause the outright falsehoods to be bestowed with credibility and take on the status of a conventionally accepted talking point in defense of the Administration.

Moulin Rouge updated.

Not your mother's Christmas songs.

02:16 GMT

Where we are

Maha on what's going on while everyone is Looking the Other Way:

How is it that a rich, spoiled, pampered frat boy with an affected Texas accent, who never worked a day in his life and used family connections to avoid service in Vietnam, became the heir to Andy Jackson? If that's not parody, I don't know what is.

Although we might yet go the way of the Romans. Historians tell us that as Rome fell, the Romans themselves scarcely noticed it was happening. Even as the barbarians were literally at the gates, individual Romans went ahead with their personal business with no concern that their way of life was about to end. They didn’t see it coming. And they didn’t see it because the end of Rome was unthinkable. Today the true believers in American exceptionalism cling to the idea that the virtues of our American republic are so unassailable as to justify any depravity done in America’s name. The notion that America could be in the wrong, much less fall from grace as The Land of the Free, is unthinkable.

Beware of what is unthinkable. Just because something is outside your imagination doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Please go read the whole thing.

00:31 GMT

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Things to see

Simone Perele: Granada half cup underwired bra

Bra of the Week

A post on abortion from Feministe.

Digby with a history lesson that reminds us: People say the Democrats are spineless, but they are nothing to the invertebrate GOP congress who have willingly abdicated their constitutional duty to enhance the power of the president and the Republican Machine. No pride, no integrity, no standards.

The Brad Blog says Volusia County, FL Dumps Diebold Too! Excellent.

Looks like Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas has inspired MadKane to write another song about him.

Flexible drinking straw art, via Biomes Blog.

22:00 GMT


You know something? When Bush attacks legislators for wanting to take a second look at the Patriot Act and says stuff about how "delaying tactics" in the Senate could benefit terrorists who "want to attack America again and kill the innocent and inflict even greater damage than they did on September 11th," I always want to shake him and scream, "You moron! They don't need to do anything to inflict greater damage on us! You're doing that for them!" And more important people than me are beginning to suspect it.

Media in Iraq: The fallacy of psy-ops: WASHINGTON Some top Pentagon officials say they are justified in planting positive stories in the Iraqi media about U.S actions in order to present a more positive image. Whether the policy is ethically correct misses the larger point. Pushing PR or propaganda simply doesn't work. That depends on what the aim is. It undoubtedly fails to convince the Iraqis to disbelieve what they can see with their own eyes, but this stuff isn't meant for them - it's meant for us.

It's like all problems, if you ignore it it goes away: Well, the utter abandonment of the people of New Orleans continues apace. [...] These are our friends, our colleagues, our treasured national history that are being kissed off without the problem of how to help them even being considered on the most base level. As a nation, is that our character? We'll let this happen? We'll let some drunk jackass with no life skills surrounded by jackals and petulant royalty completely blow this off? I wish, after the last five years, I was surprised. (Me, I'm glad that after the last five years I can still be shocked by things like this.)

The Psychiatrist's Shorter Charles Krauthammer: Now I can be averse to millenialism, since I've learned that Muslims have their own version of the Rapture. But there's more.

I don't know what it was, 'cause he wasn't pretty and he wasn't noted for any important things outside of his professional life as an actor, but John Spencer had something special, and I know I speak for many in saying that he will be missed, even though he was "just an actor".

This might make a good present for you last-minute shoppers.

16:16 GMT

We have met the enemy

So, Bush admitted breaking the law, but of course he is less concerned with protecting Americans than he is in protecting his own power, so he pretended to be justified and complained instead about the information getting to the public:

Revealing classified information is illegal. It alerts our enemies.
By "our enemies", he was of course referring to the American people; our enemies in Al Qaeda already assume that they are under surveillance. Atrios notes that the right-wing blogosphere has been chorusing loudly on this one, and boy is he right. Protein Wisdom, for example:
The Democratic spin doctors, spurred on by their disingenuous Congressional taskmasters , are all over the tube this morning trying to gin up additional outrage over this NSA domestic "spy story"-even as the President stands firm and defends the practice. Forcefully.
If it turns out-like I believe it will (and I've heard now from several people familiar with intelligence)-that what the President was doing (and will continue to do) was not only legal, but from a practical standpoint, critical to monitoring domestic terror cells and stopping terrorist attacks here and abroad, I believe that any pro-defense American with the power to do so should insist that these intelligence leaks be investigated.

Because it is not quaint to reveal our secrets simply because you don't believe that we are truly at war. And that is what is happening here-that Dems and progressives believe the ends justify the means. And until the rest of us stand up and go on the offensive-until we stop taking the kind of reactive posture that forces us to defend each and every necessary action (the precise rhetorical position anti-war progressives want us in)-we will continue to watch our safety erode, and our politicians go weak.

Laura Rozen quite rightly calls it a phony argument, for what I assume are obvious reasons - funny how trivial they find exposing security secrets when it's Rove and Cheney doing it, eh? The conservoborg just can't understand the difference between giving away national secrets and exposing wrong-doing on the part of our leaders.

Well, get this straight: This isn't about spying on Al Qaeda, it's about illegally spying on American citizens and, not incidentally, making war on our Constitution. Bush isn't king and he isn't a god and if he acts like he thinks he is then he really, really needs to be kicked out fast.

Josh Marshall has been keeping on eye on this one and reminds us that this violation was unnecessary to national security, even in the most practical sense. This wasn't about needing to be able to spy on citizens, it was about being able to do so illegally. There was nothing actually stopping them from doing it legally. This was a crime against the Constitution, pure and simple.

If knowing about this crime makes our enemies stronger, it's only because they now know how weak our democracy really is, thanks to George W. Bush. But then, every time Bush says we had "bad intelligence" he tells the world we are weak. Being stuck in Iraq years after saying we were just going there to overthrow Saddam (done) and see if he had any WMD (he didn't) tells them that, too, of course. Oh, and by the way, where's Osama?

Since real terrorists already suspect that they are being snooped on, and no doubt act accordingly, we are left with Atrios' analysis:

There was absolutely no reason to not follow FISA unless they didn't want anyone to know who they were snooping on.
Remarkably, PW quotes a Democratic strategist as agreeing that there is something significant about the timing of the release of this scoop now (as opposed, I suppose, to next week or last week). They are happy to ignore that great big elephant in the room of what was going on "over a year" ago when they had the story but chose not to publish it. Now that was a piece of timing.

14:53 GMT

Reading The Washington Post

We live in a world where blatant political operatives are nominated to oversee our elections: President Bush nominated two controversial lawyers to the Federal Election Commission yesterday: Hans von Spakovsky who helped Georgia win approval of a disputed voter-identification law, and Robert D. Lenhard, who was part of a legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Ted Kennedy has written a letter expressing concern. Everyone should be screaming about this.

And speaking of elections (or election fraud), what can possibly explain the fact that after decades of fighting tooth and nail to avoid giving DC the vote, Republicans are suddenly enamored of the idea? Boy, they must really be confident....

More reasons to hate the DLC: Al From, president of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, and pollster Mark Penn wrote a strategy memo to DLC supporters last week warning party leaders not to use Bush's problems as an invitation to call for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, or generally to steer a more liberal course that could alienate the middle-of-the-road voters the party needs. Oh, god, please put a stake in it.

Kudos to E.J. Dionne for pointing out that Republicans' "new" ideas have failed - and that they're old and tired, besides. He should have pointed out that they were actually old and tired 30 years ago when they were supposedly "new"; the whole point of liberal policies was that they were an antidote to the same failed idea that you could make a country stronger by giving the rich what they want. Having a strong middle class is still the new idea, and you do it by keeping the rich from getting too rich.

Bruce Fein looks like he's criticizing Alito's dishonesty, and I guess he is, but he's criticizing it as bad strategy rather than as lack of integrity, and says Alito should come clean about being a right-wing fruitcake because America is more conservative today than it was when we rejected Robert Bork, and we would just love him if we only knew that he wants to get rid of voting rights, reproductive freedom, accountability for both government and business, and the Bill of Rights in general. Yes, please, please get lots of news coverage of Alito being up-front about his far-right views.

Torture's Long Shadow, a little history lesson from Russia: This is a new debate for Americans, but there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel. Most nations can provide you with volumes on the subject. Indeed, with the exception of the Black Death, torture is the oldest scourge on our planet (hence there are so many conventions against it). Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these "interrogation" practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.

12:11 GMT

Muckraker dies

RIP, Nixon-enemy columnist Jack Anderson:

"I have tried to break down the walls of secrecy in Washington. But today the walls are thicker than ever. More and more of our policymakers hide behind those walls. Only the press can stand as a true bulwark against an executive branch with a monopoly on foreign policy information. It has all the authority it needs in the First Amendment."

10:46 GMT

On the landscape

TalkLeft: You had to know it was too good to be true. Don't praise John McCain's torture amendment too soon. The Levin-Graham Amendment passed along with it, and it amounts to a license to use coercive techniques, particularly on detainees at Guantanamo. What's wrong with Carl Levin, anyway? (Also: Federal Judge Calls DEA's View of Hemp 'Asinine'.)

The Rich Are Undertaxed, Part CXLVI.

The dumbest argument against evolution I ever saw. (Plus! Pop Quiz: What is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US?)

The Rude Pundit provides the Shorter Bush Saturday Address. But, also: Do We Have To Wait Until Bush Purges 20 Million of Us Before We Can Say He's Like Stalin?

100 Ward Churchills!

A post I should have linked much earlier: Ken MacLeod's The plane.

Ants enlisted in Christmas war.

00:57 GMT

Saturday, 17 December 2005

Award season

Koufax Award nominations are open - read the thread to see the categories and who has been nominated so far - if nothing else, it will probably point you to some interesting weblogs you hadn't seen before. (And don't forget that this project always costs them money, so donations are appreciated.) It would really, really be nice if you make sure and include the right URLs with your nominations, by the way.

And speaking of awards, Jess' Life...or something like it has delivered the LOSLI awards, which entitles winners to place the LOSLI Thong on their site. So I'll put mine here:

17:25 GMT

Big crime, big news

The blogswarm yesterday (while I was being trivial) was about a story in The New York Times revealing that Bush signed an order to break the law and order illegal wiretaps on American citizens without a warrant. The Washington Post also had the story, which is outrageous all by itself, as Shakespeare's Sister and Hilzoy have already discussed (and even Hilzoy is now talking impeachment).

But the other story is that the NYT had the story a year ago and agreed not to publish it at the administration's request. The WaPo said:

The paper offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.

The decision to withhold the article caused some friction within the Times' Washington bureau, according to people close to the paper. Some reporters and editors in New York and in the bureau, including Risen and co-writer Eric Lichtblau, had pushed for earlier publication, according to these people. One described the story's path to publication as difficult, with much discussion about whether it could have been published earlier.
Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions," Keller continued. "As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time."

In the ensuing months, Keller wrote, two things changed the paper's thinking. The paper developed a fuller picture of misgivings about the program by some in the government. And the paper satisfied itself through more reporting that it could write the story without exposing "any intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities that are not already on the public record."

A number of points are raised here, above and beyond the decision by the Times to withhold this information. (And what do they mean by "a year"? Is this another story that should have been released before the election but was held back to protect Bush's election chances?) One of them is how it could be that the editors were able to "satisfy" themselves that "that the program raised no legal questions." The order is illegal on its face, and exposure obviously doesn't, by itself, threaten real security operations. What threatens American security is the same thing that has always threatened it for the last five years: the Bush administration. As Scott Shane explains in the Times:
A single, fiercely debated legal principle lies behind nearly every major initiative in the Bush administration's war on terror, scholars say: the sweeping assertion of the powers of the presidency.

From the government's detention of Americans as "enemy combatants" to the just-disclosed eavesdropping in the United States without court warrants, the administration has relied on an unusually expansive interpretation of the president's authority. That stance has given the administration leeway for decisive action, but it has come under severe criticism from some scholars and the courts.

The administration has rejected the entire concept of checks and balances built into the Constitution and acted as if it held imperial law. No student of the Constitution - even a very lax one - should find that interpretation acceptable. What was Bill Keller thinking?

Even Republicans were startled by the revelation:

Congressional leaders of both parties called for hearings and issued condemnations yesterday in the wake of reports that President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 allowing the National Security Agency to spy on hundreds of U.S. citizens and other residents without court-approved warrants.
Disclosure of the NSA plan had an immediate effect on Capitol Hill, where Democratic senators and a handful of Republicans derailed a bill that would renew expiring portions of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law. Opponents repeatedly cited the previously unknown NSA program as an example of the kinds of government abuses that concerned them, while the GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would hold oversight hearings on the issue.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who favored the Patriot Act renewal but said the NSA issue provided valuable ammunition for its opponents.

I suppose we should be grateful that revelations like this are at least appearing in time to help slow renewal of the Patriot Act.

One further thought is brought forward, as I can't help comparing the "friction within the Times' Washington bureau" over withholding this story with the frictions at the WaPo caused by Dan Froomkin's insistence on trying to hold the Bush administration to account. The Post has readers who appear to understand this matter better than the editors, and the paper used two letters today on the Ombudsman 'Briefing', both of which are critical of Howell's column criticizing Froomkin for doing the business. It's long past time for the editors at the leading newspapers to learn that exposing wrong-doing on the part of our leaders is the business.

13:13 GMT

Friday, 16 December 2005


Cernig on Biden the weasel.

The Talent Show on A Conspiracy Against Organized Labor.

Skippy produces an interesting reprint: yes, virginia, there is a war on christmas.

Mary at Pacific Views on The Seven Deadly Sins.

Ahistoricality and The Imperial Fallacy.

Spiky Bras

23:21 GMT

Looking through smoke

Here's another excerpt I liked from that Mark Crispin Miller interview:

BC: How many of the electoral problems in 2004 do you think Bush is aware of? Was his claim of a "mandate" following his three percent margin of victory simply part of the White House propaganda machine -- part of the Rovian strategy of furthering his non-reality-based empire? Anyone knows that three percent, whether legitimate or not, doesn't equate to a mandate by any stretch. So how could this be believed by anyone with a brain?

MCM: I don't think Bush believed it. As he gave that speech, he came across not as the winner, basking in his victory, but as the angry and resentful loser. I think he knew he hadn't won, and was pissed off about it.

BC: Joe Conason said recently that he thinks the Democratic candidate for 2008 should be Al Gore, citing Gore's victory in 2000 and his long-held stance against the Iraq War. Do you agree with Conason?

CM: I think Joe's right. Gore has been improved immeasurably by his self-exile from the world of politics. It's loosened up his tongue. He tells the truth. If he could retain that spirit as a candidate for president--and if he would confront the issue of electoral reform--he could both win and serve as president. I just can't see him backing down a second time.

Digby notes that John Harris isn't the only guy at The Washington Post acting like a White House shill this week - there is also Richard Cohen.

Also from Digby: Woodward now says that he was very surprised that the prosecutor wasn't searching madly for any possible crime with which he could charge the administration. In fact, he was quite professional and respected the reporters' privilege, keeping narrowly to the area of questions they'd agreed to discuss. One can only hope that Woodward has had his eyes opened a little bit about how he has been played for a fool by this administration (although I doubt it.)

Gene Sperling, who was Clinton's National Economic Advisor, doing a series of guest posts at Think Progress debunking the talking points that supposedly support the virtue of Bush-style tax cuts, starting with Just The Facts: Tax Cuts For The Rich Don't Help The Stock Market.

I don't even get why someone would censor Nico and The Velvet Underground at this late date.

A copter shot of the fire in Hertfordshire, from a whole load of photos of the fuel depot explosion.

Killer Santa display

18:06 GMT

Weblog sampler

Via Maru.

Buzzflash interviews Gary Hart on church and state: I made that comment with my tongue in my cheek. I'm not "uncomfortable" with the way Jesus is being tossed around - I'm angry about it. I'd go well beyond discomfort. I think the religious right is making Jesus into some kind of Old Testament wrathful prophet who is judgmental, divisive, and opposed to any notion of liberalism, whereas the teachings of Jesus tell quite a different story. He was tolerant. He was forgiving. He preached love, not hate. In many ways, the literal reading of the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, particularly not filtered through the later apostles in the New Testament, but the literal teachings of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels, are almost totally at odds with the teachings of the present-day religious right.

New tests fuel doubts about vote machines: Ion Sancho, Leon County's election chief, said tests by two computer experts, completed this week, showed that an insider could surreptitiously change vote results and the number of ballots cast on Diebold's optical-scan machines. (Thanks to Caro at .)

An Ode to Richard Pryor at The Black Commentator: Rich understood human nature and tendencies. He was one of America's foremost social critics (something he has never truly been given credit for). Rich's satirical insights kept the issues of race relations and racism front and center when the Civil Rights movement had begun to lose its steam. In the face of Nixon-repression and the conservative backlash, he was to the Black community what musicals were to Depression-era white America - he kept us singing, believing and hoping. He was the Harlem Renaissance resurrected, telling our own stories on our own terms.

When Bush says he's "responsible", he doesn't mean anything by it. Yes, the press all praised him for "taking responsibility", but he didn't. In fact, he persisted in blaming "bad intelligence" when the fact is that he promoted bad intelligence when he had good intelligence - which he dismissed. Indeed, he even fired people for giving him good advice he didn't want to hear. As Judd Legum notes, none of it mattered. And then he blames everyone else anyway. More from The Reaction.

More fun with Choicepoint, who can also prevent you from getting insurance. (And that's not all.)

Consumers Union asks you to support credit card reform. (I'm so old, I can remember when they only charged interest on the money you actually still owed them.)

I dunno, if I were a governor, I wouldn't invest my state funds in building a spaceport, but maybe that's just me.

Pelosi on the pension bill: First, if you live in the Midwest, and this is what I hear when I travel there: "First they went after my job, then they went after Social Security, and now they are going after my pension."

Trish Wilson discusses "equity feminism" versus "gender feminism" and their usefulness as labels.

A truly over-the-top set of Christmas lights - please don't miss the video. (Thanks to Dominic for the tip.)

13:28 GMT

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Quick links

Charles Dodgson on a sinister device.

Xymphora on how to hide a murder.

Kevin Drum on how easy it is to get it right (if you're Knight Ridder).

Rittenhouse Review with the most looked-looked up word in the dictionary in 2005.

Consortium News on the War Over Christmas. (via)

Marc Cooper at Truthdig on Hugo Chavez. (via)

17:35 GMT

Stuff you should know

The Scum sees that the amendment "establishing the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation as the uniform standard for interrogation is about to pass," so they decide to re-write the manual.

And speaking of scum, ellipses sure are useful when you want to smear someone. We're used to seeing Republican operatives do this with abandon, but Joe Klein keeps trying to pretend he's a Democrat. (And, based on history, I am now going to assume that anyone who attacks something Howard Dean allegedly did or said is lying, until I see the original evidence myself, unedited.)

Ezra says Joe Lieberman will still be hard to beat, but not as hard as he used to be. See, he's still very popular... with Republicans.

Two posts from Atrios that dovetail:
First, linking to a TPM Cafe post about an incredibly stupid attempt on the part of "centrists" to revive Social Security Destruction, Atrios wisely says: If you want to improve national savings in this country doing it by waving the magical private account wand is just idiotic. Start by reforming predatory lending and bad practices by credit card companies. Too many people don't have any damn money to save.
Next, he provides a link to Mia Culpa, who notes a WSJ/NBC poll that says Republicans Risk Losing Key Voting Bloc - that block being the same senior citizens who gave Bush an edge in 2004 but "have now become the most critical of his job performance. In the Journal/NBC poll, for instance, Americans under 65 disapprove of Mr. Bush's job performance by a margin of 16 percentage points, while those 65 and above disapprove by a margin of 20 percentage points."

Jane Hamsher, on observing Novakula's reemergence to deliver the interesting statement that he's sure Bush knows who leaked Plame's name, sees the trained monkey trails making intricate patterns....

Also via Firedoglake, It's not exactly an Advent calendar, but you could do it that way by placing one ornament of corruption a day on Take Back The Media's interactive Fitzmas tree.

I didn't pay much attention to that story about the guy that threw that amazingly expensive party for his daughter because I'm not terribly entertained by stories that sound like, "Oh, my, how delightfully excessive!" when they come with no context - and I didn't know who that guy was. But listening to the .mp3 of Rachel Maddow sitting in on Franken's show yesterday, I learned that the guy in question is the same guy who has made a fortune selling substandard armor to our military. But aside from that, I recommend that you download the show to hear Rachel's speech on why we have to talk about why we are in Iraq, and why there is no plan to get out of Iraq - because they want to stay there forever.

The Rude Pundit hammers Arnold Schwarzenegger over the death penalty.

15:13 GMT

Wednesday, 14 December 2005


Down in comments, David Wilford directs my attention to some original reporting by Brad DeLong on the Froomkin matter: I talked to John Harris, national political editor of the print Washington Post this morning. It didn't go very well.

Media Matters catches Chris Matthews and Gloria Borger claiming that when Hillary talks about making abortion "safe, legal and rare", it's some kind of cynical move to the "center" - as if she'd never said it before. Then Tucker Carlson admits that the Clintons had been saying, "safe, legal, and rare" for years, but claims that President Bill had done nothing to make abortion safe, legal and rare.

Julia locates the real war on Christians: a 23-year-old Catholic man is probably going to prison for failing a government-mandated faith-based drug rehab program. The program did not actually provide drug rehabilitation counseling, but did require Catholics to convert to the Pentacostal faith to "graduate". The ACLU is in court defending Mr. Hanas' right to be Catholic against the Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program, which holds that by refusing to cease practicing "witchcraft" he has failed to complete the program. (Footnote to this story: Mahabarb not sufficiently concerned about persecution of Christians in America.)

Isebrand found this "interesting first-person tale of someone who may have had her military career ruined because of her stand against the aggressive Christian elements in our republic's armed forces.

Epicycle on "theft" of music: The correct term, of course, is "copyright infringement", but the RIAA and the MPAA are deliberately using these inaccurate but highly emotive terms in an attempt to whip up public support for their case. Fortunately, it appears that the vestiges of support they have are being eroded by the fallout from their continued campaign of litigious bullying against children, grandparents, disabled people, etc - which, amazingly, shows no sign of slowing down. Also worth noting is the exceedingly moral low ground taken by the industry itself - for all its hectoring words about right and wrong, every month brings further news of payola scandals, price-fixing cartels, faked-up movie reviews, and recording artists being cheated out of royalties. For people throwing so many stones, an unusually large part of their houses seem to be made of glass... Epicycle also links to a note about file-sharing from Boing Boing on evidence that, "selling stuff is good for business, while attacking your customers isn't."

22:49 GMT

Don't look! Don't look!

Dig this:

The End of Democracy in Ohio?

A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal U.S. Senate seat in 2006, are about to end.

House Bill 3 has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is about to be approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, probably before the holiday recess. Republicans dominate the Ohio legislature thanks to a heavily gerrymandered crazy quilt of rigged districts, and to a moribund Ohio Democratic party. The GOP-drafted HB3 is designed to all but obliterate any possible future Democratic revival. Opposition from the Ohio Democratic Party, where it exists at all, is diffuse and ineffectual.

HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.

It "makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio"? What possible reason could they have for that, other than wanting to cheat and be immune from scrutiny? (Via Suburban Guerrilla, via King of Zembla.)

19:28 GMT

What they say

Hm, the WaPo has a story on the the debate over the execution of Tookie Williams that includes this buried quote: The execution also drew fierce criticism in Europe, where politicians in Schwarzenegger's native Austria called for his name to be removed from a sports stadium in his hometown. "Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles, but apparently not much heart," said Julien Dray, spokesman for the Socialist Party in France, where the death penalty was abolished in 1981. Interesting that that's the only European they quote. I'm sure they could have found something more if they'd checked out the reaction in his home town, where feeling is apparently pretty strong: "Mr. Williams had converted and, unlike Mr. Schwarzenegger, opposed every form of violence," said Richard Schadauer, chairman of the Association of Christianity and Social Democracy. Of course, if they wanted a celebrity quote, they could have tried this one: At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI's top official for justice matters denounced the execution. "We know the death penalty doesn't resolve anything," said Cardinal Renato Martino. "Even a criminal is worthy of respect because he is a human being. The death penalty is a negation of human dignity."

WaPo editor doesn't plan to change Froomkin's column: Executive Editor Jim Brady said he does not plan to change the name, claiming it has not caused the misinterpretations that some believe it has. "The column has been on the site for two years and that is not something we have heard," Brady said about concerns. "The column is extremely popular and it is not going anywhere." When asked if a name change might occur in the future, Brady said it is possible, but "I have no odds on it." but Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr. seems to be saying this is all about pleasing the White House. (via)

Tom Daschle posts at Think Progress about voter IDs and the suppression of professional advice at the DOJ: The Bush administration sees government as a mechanism to protect their own interests, not the most basic rights of American citizens.

E. J. Dionne goes Beyond The War Spin: Attacks of this sort on Democrats are effective because Democrats help make them so. Democrats are so obsessed with not looking "weak" on defense that they end up making themselves look weak, period, by the way they respond to Republican attacks on their alleged weakness. Oh my gosh, many Democrats say, we can't associate ourselves with the likes of Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who recently called for a troop withdrawal within six months. Let's knife them before Karl Rove gets around to knifing us. Talk about a recipe for retreat and defeat. Too right. (via)

Look who's talking: Newsweek's Fineman blasts Bob Woodward: Standing before a crowd of nearly 300, Fineman, said Woodward went from being an outsider "burning the beltway" with his investigative work in the 1970s Watergate scandal under President Nixon to being, " an official court stenographer of the Bush administration." I just love it - this is the guy who spent the 2000 campaign talking about the candidates' clothing. How many times was he MWO's Whore of the Week? Via Steve Soto, who also recommends Ken Auletta's article on the mess at The New York Times.

11:34 GMT

Bloody blinkered

"I haven't read Off Center yet," says Atrios, "but these posts by Yglesias and Chait pretty much cover the weird world of Matt Bai."

All this is about Bai's review of a book he has chosen not to understand, because it talks about an environment he doesn't understand, either. Chait:

There is a strong conventional wisdom running through political punditry which holds that the system does what the people want. If one political party is winning, then it must be because they reflect majority opinion, and/or the other party is just screwing up.

Political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have written a book called Off-Center that powerfully challenges this conventional wisdom. Hacker and Pierson show that public opinion has not moved rightward over the last two decades, and that the Republican Party has had to go to extraordinary lengths to hide its unpopular domestic agenda from the public.

We've discussed on many occasions the fact that around 60%-80% of the American public supports the liberal position on most major issues. We've also observed that Republicans pretty much lie about their own programs and pretend to be liberal on issues that matter, derailing substantive discussion of their differences with liberalism by talking about trivia.

It doesn't matter if the public supports them on things like gay marriage and abortion and "the war on Christmas"; what's important is that the right wing fogs up the discourse with this stuff to evade having to talk about anything else. Throw in a lot of fake scandal and vicious slander and the bottom line falls right off the page.

Having bought off most of the media, conservatives don't have to worry about someone pointing out that they are bringing up irrelevant issues to avoid talking about the things the public cares about. Thus, George Bush can pretend to be "compassionate" and to have an education program, and no one really points out that his education program is meant to destroy rather than improve the public school system. The same is true of Social Security, prescription drug benefits, humanitarian AIDS programs, and even national security. The Republicans always claim that their reluctance to support liberal programs is because they are more frugal than liberals, but of course the conservative course actually costs more. And so on. "He said/she said" journalism does nothing to challenge GOP mendacity.

It's an extremely provocative and well-argued book. Unfortunately for them, The New York Times assigned Matt Bai to review it . Bai, the Times Magazine's lead political reporter, tends to undergird his arguments with either sweeping generalizations or narrow anecdotes, rather than the rigorous sort of data that Hacker and Pierson prefer. Moreover, he's deeply committed to the conventional view of American politics. Bai is primarily interested in the Democratic Party: He writes shockingly little about the Republicans, who after all do control the entire government. Given the topic and the reviewer, the outcome was as inevitable as if Communist Party chief Earl Browder had been tapped to review Animal Farm.
Without studying the Republicans, you can't even begin to fathom the current unhappy fortunes of the Democratic Party. You can see that there are things the Democrats have screwed up (and how!), but conservatives have invested a great deal in making sure they control the discourse (among other things), and you can't pretend that that program has nothing to do with the result, including the suicidal confusion of the DNC.
Hacker and Pierson document why unpopular policies are enacted without consequence. Bai complains that they "can't seem to find any significant fault among Democrats at all," and that their thesis simply confirms the desire of Democrats to confirm their own popularity.
But Hacker and Pierson present a lot of pretty compelling evidence that Democrats' domestic policies are popular. Bai sees this as self-evidently false. To Hacker and Pierson's claim that Democratic domestic policies are popular despite the fact that they're losing, Bai retorts that: the Democrats are losing. The book "conveniently fails to acknowledge what exit polls have made starkly clear--that middle-income white men have fled the party by the planeload in recent elections, providing the Republican margin of victory," he writes.
I confess, my interest in this particular discussion stems largely from my desire to keep re-posting the quote from Bai that originally brought him to my attention shortly after the 2004 election, from the piece he wrote about hanging out with a Democratic political operative on election day, Who Lost Ohio? As I like to remind people, we were told at the time that there was a late surge of Republican voters, which would have defied the historic pattern of Republicans voting earlier than Democrats. This late Republican turn-out was supposed to explain the fact that up to virtually the last minute, Kerry was winning the election according to the exit polls, and yet Bush somehow won the election. But even seeing this disproved with his own eyes did not cause Bai to wonder whether the conventional wisdom was off-kilter:
What gnawed at Bouchard was that nowhere we went in Franklin County, a vigorously contested swing county, did we see any hint of a strong Republican presence -- no signs, no door-knockers, no Bush supporters handing out leaflets at the polls. This seemed only to increase Lindenfeld's confidence. He didn't believe in the Republican turnout plan. "What they talked about is a dream," he told me at one point. "We've got the reality. They're wishing they had what we've got." For Bouchard, however, the silence was unsettling. How could there be such a thing as a stealth get-out-the-vote drive?

Bouchard decided that he wanted to drive to an outlying Republican area to see if turnout there was keeping pace with the city. Maybe the Bush campaign was waging a more visible effort in nonurban precincts. Obliging him, Lindenfeld punched a few keys on his in-dash navigation system and set a course for Delaware County, a fast-growing exurban tract north of Columbus where Republicans dominate.
As night fell, we reached the city of Delaware and found a polling place at a recreation center. The only people in the parking lot were a drenched couple holding Kerry-Edwards signs. Inside, the polling place was empty. "Look at this," Lindenfeld said to me triumphantly. "Does this look like a busy polling place? Look around. There's no one here." He repeated this several times, making the point that turnout in the outlying areas was tailing off, while voters were lined up around the block back in Columbus. "Do you see any Republicans?" he asked me, motioning around the parking lot.

Matt Bai represents the crop of journalists we have seen who insist on being oblivious to the facts right in front of their eyes in order to plug into the RNC narrative that claims Bush is a popular president, conservatism is more popular than liberalism - and that the exit polls can only have been wrong.

But Bai, of course, is not alone in this hallucination. In the interview with Mark Crispin Miller I linked earlier, we find this exchange:

BC: Why is the rigging of the 2004 election seen as a "fringe" issue? If it was acceptable to question the veracity of the Swift Boat group or Dan Rather, then why can't the veracity of Diebold, ES&S, Triad, and the rest of the chief suspects be equally questioned by the mainstream press? If it's perfectly reasonable to believe that card-counters have successfully defrauded casinos, and that internet criminals can steal your credit card number *and* your identity -- why are accusations of election theft seen as so loony?

MCM: I'd take your argument still further.

By now we've generally conceded -- that is, the mainstream media concedes -- that Bush/Cheney lied us into a disastrous war, or else deceived themselves and all the rest of us to get us there. And we concede that Bush & Co. conspired to out a CIA agent who was working to prevent another terrorist attack on US soil. And we concede that this regime responded to Katrina, then to Rita, with (at best) depraved indifference, even though they knew exactly what was coming. And we concede that, prior to 9/11, they had lots of solid evidence of an impending terrorist attack right here at home, and yet did nothing to prevent it. (And, moreover, we concede that they've done nothing to improve security on our railways, on our highways, on our borders, in our ports or even in the air.)

And rational observers also will agree that Bush & Co. swept into Haiti and threw out that nation's first democratically elected government; that Bush & Co.'s Iraq is no democracy, since Jay Bremer drafted all its laws, its government was not elected, and Iraqis have no writ of habeas corpus and no freedom of the press; that Bush bends over for the oligarchy running China (he says he likes the way they treat their journalists); and that his regime whole-heartedly supports the tyrannies all over Central Asia and the Arab world (Iran and Syria excepted). Bush and his men have praised the leaders of "New Europe" for defying their electorates, and have assailed the leaders of "Old Europe" for trying to do what their electorates prefer.

Meanwhile, here at home, the Bush regime has thrown out habeas corpus, junked the Bill of Rights (we now have special "First Amendment zones" for dissidents), used public revenues to subsidize right-wing religious proselytizers (while giving nothing to religious groups that don't back the regime), handed the entire economy to its own corporate cronies, and veiled the workings of the federal government behind an iron curtain of illegal secrecy. We grant they've done all this-and yet it seems outrageous to suggest that they committed rampant fraud in the election? After they used Bush v. Gore, and other means, to steal the race four years before?

That's a loony argument.

Indeed. Yet you must accept this loony argument in order to explain the fact that Republicans keep winning elections, and that Americans appear to be voting for conservative programs that are destructive to our own lives and families.

Well, maybe the conventional wisdom is just wrong. Maybe Americans aren't so dumb. Maybe Americans really don't want to see programs which we know are popular (that's why they call Social Security "the third rail") destroyed. Maybe Americans really did vote for Gore and Kerry and a number of other Democrats who mysteriously didn't win when they were expected to. Maybe the exit polls were right.

Understand that this problem extends right into the liberal blogosphere. At the Daily Kos, it's an official policy that there was no fraud in the ballot-count and you pretty much can't even talk about whether the 2004 election was stolen. DKos is a terrific site for interested Democratic activists (and other aficionados of blogs), but they just won't entertain the possibility that the election was stolen, despite the copious evidence. It's one thing to say that it probably wasn't, but frankly it defies sanity to refuse to consider the possibility, and in this Bai and Kos are in harmony - they'd rather not know.

01:03 GMT

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

In Blogtopia
Yes! Skippy!

Informed Dissent watches A Straight and Narrow Path:

On the Iraq War—not to mention torture, the environment, human rights, civil rights, corruption and so on—the Bush administration has shifted its rhetoric dramatically over time. It's hard to keep up with the nuances as the rhetoric shifts around, campaigning for a hold on public opinion.

Forget about that and watch what they do.

The administration's actions have stayed on a straight and narrow path from day one. Their actions proceed exactly along the path of ‘whatever they damned well please.’ They'll change when they're removed from power.

A conservative dad and The change of a tough heart: We picked him up from his hotel this afternoon and went to lunch. He drank three Bloody Marys in a row and then began telling us about New Orleans. It has affected him severely. He tried to tell us about the conditions without getting morbid, but it was hard. This is a man who fought his way through Vietnam and he said "I thought I had seen hard things, but this was worse." [...] "It's something out of your worst nightmare. There are parts of the city where there is nothing left. Nothing. And, these son-of-bitches don't care." Via Peevish.

Ampersand on the notorious crime of Being While Black: When I lived in a predominantly Black area of Portland (of which there aren't many), I noticed the same sort of thing. I'd walk the streets unharassed, but I'd be walking past police stopping and questioning Black folks every day. As a white person, I live in the USA, land of the free and home of the slogan. But a lot of blacks in effect live in a totalitarian state "behind the iron curtain" in a cold war movie - you know, the sort of movie where police constantly stop ordinary citizens and demand to see their papers. Via Wally Whateley's House of Horrors.

Atheists: "Now only 50% more hated than Muslims!" Kevin Drum reports.

Marie is sick of knee-jerk war-hawks, and asks: How much does the rest of the world enjoy watching us destroy ourselves in Iraq? Enjoy watching us borrow and spend? Enjoy watching us being more concerned about Christ in Christmas, same sex marriage and abortion instead of -- sheesh -- another long list that is growing daily. How soon before we start crying, and the rest of the world breaks out into uncontrollable laughing? That worries me, too.

Video: Byrd makes Frist admit that "up or down vote" isn't in the Constitution.

22:13 GMT

Hot stuff

For those who were wondering, this is from Tookie Williams' petition for clemency (quoted at TalkLeft

"All of the witnesses who implicated Williams were criminals who were given significant incentives to testify against him and ongoing benefits for their testimony," Wefald wrote.

"This type of testimony is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in murder and capital cases in the United States," she wrote, citing a study from Northwestern University Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Jeralyn also has the story on the the last day of Tookie Williams. (See also James Wolcott, Termination.)

Also at TalkLeft:

Anti-Meth Bill Inserted Into Patriot Act, and the observation that, as many of us feared from the beginning, 9/11 has been used as an excuse for a shopping list of all sorts of things that could not normally have been passed. The guilty party in this case, however, is not a Republican - it's Diane Feinstein.

And TChris reports that the government wants to switch judges again in a perjury case: Federal prosecutors are complaining that a judge has "not seemed fair since she wrote a 2004 article for a legal publication saying it was the duty of judges to protect individual rights in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." It shocks the government, apparently, that any judge would think it important to protect individual rights. The prosecutors have gone to the court of appeals to seek the judge's removal from a perjury case. Their basis for claiming unfairness? The judge has expressed skepticism about the evidence in the government's perjury case against Osama Awadallah, and has made some rulings the government doesn't like. At one point, the judge dismissed the case, but it was reinstated on appeal.

I guess I was right about that Ombud column, because Jane Hamsher saw it the same way. So did Digby. And Froomkin has now responded, and he's absolutely right: The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so -- not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do. And John Harris tries to justify his complaints about Froomkin and digs the hole deeper. Verdict: The White House complained, and Harris is carrying their water.

(Just go read everything at Firedoglake ASAP, but don't miss Bimbo-rama Part Deux.)

Crooks and Liars has video of Murtha's response to Bush's speech.

DHS report admits air marshals 'overreacted' in airport shooting: Although the department claims otherwise publicly, a confidential internal report within the Department of Homeland Security admits air marshals "overreacted" when they gunned down a Florida man at Miami International Airport last week. (Yes, yes, I know.)

16:50 GMT

They should be headlines

We return now to the most vital issue in our democracy, which mysteriously never makes it to the front page, if it makes it to the major papers at all....

From an interview with Mark Crispin Miller at the HuffPo:

BOB CESCA: Last month, John Kerry denied your report that he felt the 2004 election was stolen. First, what's your reaction to his denial? It seems to me as if Kerry has an opportunity to reform the voting system as a public servant fresh from the trenches and very battle-scarred, but he won't stand up for fear of being accused of something as trivial and historically irrelevant as "sour grapes". How many more questionable elections will it take before candidates and leaders like Kerry set aside their concerns over being accused of "sour grapes" and actually put democracy and the good of the nation first?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.

I'm not kidding. The answer isn't clear, since what we're dealing with is an irrational refusal to confront, or even to perceive, a clear and present danger to American democracy. We're dealing, finally, with denial. Kerry's move -- "I did not discuss the last election with that man" -- may seem to have been merely prudent, cautious, self-protective, but it was actually insane. Kerry clearly thinks that he will run for president again. Now, let's pretend, just for the sake of argument, that any Democrats outside of his own family would support him after his abrupt concession on Nov. 3, 2004. Let's pretend that he could once again be nominated, and then run, again, in 2008. Let's assume as well that he would win (again). Why does he assume that the Republicans would not subvert that victory too? Does he think the system will perform correctly if it hasn't been reformed? Or does he plan to call for its reform? If so, when? If he wouldn't talk about it back when he was first ripped off, and if he still won't talk about it now, how could he then begin to talk about it as a candidate? The man is obviously out to lunch.

But this is not just about Kerry. As he himself told me quite frankly on Oct. 28 (and that discussion was not off the record), none of his colleagues on the Hill will talk about this all-important issue. The Democrats, with very few exceptions, suffer from the same affliction that prevents him from doing what must be done.

There's more, and all of it quotable; go read.

That's via The Brad Blog, which also reports that Wally O'Dell has resigned as head of Diebold in the wake of accusations of fraud: As The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively late last week, the filing of a securities fraud class action litigation against the company, O'Dell and other current and former members of their Board of Directors is now imminent. The BRAD BLOG has learned that the case may be filed in Ohio Federal District court as early as today or tomorrow. We will, of course, have more details when that occurs.

There's lots of news on the page right now, including news that Volusia County is struggling with the paper ballot issue. You may remember that Volusia County was the one where thousands of Gore votes mysteriously disappeared. I've never understood why no one called for a hand-count there.

(Brad also reports John Conyers has registered domain names that suggest he will be posting the report on the Downing Street Memo and the manipulation of pre-war intelligence soon.)

13:58 GMT

More stuff to see

Via Atrios, more evidence that there's not much distance between the KKK and "respectable" conservatives. And more from David Neiwert.

It's the Saudis. They can do anything.

Lance explains why Lieberman is wrong, but he also gives him too much credit.

It's becoming more and more clear that no one can confirm that the guy said anything about having a bomb, but Wolcott notices something rather disgusting about the the right-wing reaction to the airport shooting.

You have got to see Sam Seder on CNN talking about the war on Christmas. I laughed out loud.

Editorial cartoon by Wolverton: Relative Weights of Various Lies

Down in comments, Robot Vegetable offered me this rose and mushrooms, but check out these storm clouds and this bit of scenery. Nice. And there's more.

00:31 GMT

Monday, 12 December 2005

Things I saw

A spin around the area shows that most of the smoke has dissipated from the my local sky, and has now been replaced by the usual London grey.

Hillary Clinton Crafts Centrist Stance on War - Apparently, the answer to, "Should we stay or should we go?" is, "No." That would explain the following: I thought Where's the Democrats' Iraq Plan? was going to be more RNC spin until I realized it was two letters from readers who want to see some spine: The idea that Democrats are afraid of speaking out against a war so disastrous and so costly in money, lives and security is sickening.

Glacially incremental, but it's more movement than we had before - Federal Marijuana Monopoly Challenged Researchers Want to Grow More Plants and Find More Medicinal Uses: In his suit against the DEA for a license to grow marijuana, Craker has backing from 38 members of Congress, the two senators from Massachusetts, numerous medical societies and even Grover Norquist, the president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. From what I hear, this is particularly necessary because the cannabis the DEA provides is crap. (And, of course, there's an even smarter course suggested in the letter column - get rid of the War on Some Drugs.)

This is a case that has plenty of elements that make me want to scream - child abuse, state "care" systems that let gets get dropped through the cracks, and echoes of the Shiavo case: On the other is Haleigh's stepfather, Jason Strickland, whose wife adopted the girl and who has been charged in her abuse. He believes the girl should be kept alive -- but he also might be prosecuted for murder if she is not.

If I'm reading this right, the ombudscreature's column this week is about whether Froomkin is too liberal for The Washington Post because he actually scrutinizes the administration's behavior. No, seriously.

Charles at Mercury Rising has the required footnote to all stories from Capitol Hill Blue. Points are well-taken, but where any news source is concerned, you know, caveat emptor and always do your own homework. (Meanwhile CHB has a follow-up to the "goddamn piece of paper" story.)

Auntie Beeb has a few pages on Richard Pryor, including Comics mourn 'trailblazer' Pryor (which quotes Lenny Henry and Damon Wayans, but not a lot of other people who are comics - and nobody white) and a few quotes from the man himself (but none of his famous ones). The Guardian has one of his routines, The wino and the junkie, and a tribute by Duncan Campbell.

How did I miss How to Kill a Mockingbird in April? It's the fake trailer (and a fake review) that...isn't anything like the book but, hey, it would be almost stupid if it wasn't brilliant. For more serious TKAM fans, this piece about Mary Badham (who played Scout in the movie) is rather nice, and serious aficionados will appreciate the runner on the status bar. Via the always-helpful Biomes Blog.

17:50 GMT

First cup of coffee

Editorial Cartoonists Announce "Black Ink Monday" To Protest Industry Layoffs - and there's a slideshow with 99 examples on their front page. [Update: Black Monday now has 100 cartoons and its own page.]

Creepy headline news (via): GOP Faction Wants to Change 'Birthright Citizenship' Policy: For nearly 140 years, any child born on U.S. soil, even to an illegal immigrant, has been given American citizenship. Now, some conservatives in Congress are determined to change that.
Pentagon involved in domestic spying: Spokesmen for the FBI, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and the National Counterterrorism Center all said their principals would not comment on CIFA's Talon activities.
Frist thinks you can compromise on torture: "We will come to some understanding which will allow us, in ways consistent with our values, that is legal, to get the appropriate information to protect us," Frist, of Tennessee, said today on "Fox News Sunday." If it's consistent with our values, it will be that there will be no rendition and no torture, full stop.

Just in case you were wondering just who this "the left" we keep hearing about is, Norbizness comes clean.

Instant radio: The Pandora Music Genome Project is, says Libby of Last One Speaks, "the best music website ever."

12:30 GMT

Stops on the Infobahn

Sacred Terror: The Global Death Squad of George W. Bush from Chris Floyd reminds you that Bush already gave his agents the right to kill you just 'cause.

When the newspapers write approvingly of blogs, it's rare that they even mention the name of a liberal site (other than maybe Wonkette), but Jeralyn actually found a positive article on one of our favorites in the LAT, Meet the Truth Squad, about John Amato of Crooks and Liars. (And I'd never realized before that Mark David Chapman resembles Karl Rove!)

Bill O'Reilly wins again!

Balancing Christopher Hitchens. (And, of course, Shorter Christopher Hitchens.)

Sheldon Drobney of Air America explains why AAR needs your support at the HuffPo.

Taser-happy cops. Take these toys away from them, please.

Colbert King and Ruth Marcus report back on the war on Christmas. ("News Flash, Pat: Stores sell stuff. To everyone. That's what they do. They're not churches. They are stores.")

I didn't go Clean for Gene, but I still remember McCarthy as one of the good guys.

More Richard Pryor tributes rounded up by Joe Gandelman, via Lawyers, Guns and Money. Also, Richard Pryor's Dead, M@#%$&*! (and Thanks, Gene. You Tried.)

02:02 GMT

Sunday, 11 December 2005

A few links

Much like "Dead or alive," Bush's promises for New Orleans were empty, according to this editorial in the NYT: We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

Now that corporate America has started to win the war against unions, they're going after shareholders who want to hold them to a higher standard, says David Sirota. Via Crooks and Liars, which also reminds us that Yellow Dog Blog has the Saturday cartoons.

George Clooney interviewed in The Times about Syriana and why he's getting political. "Yes, I'm a liberal and I'm sick of it being a bad word."

Dan Pasternack is Remembering Richard Pryor. (My own favorite: I remember him doing a long introduction about his powerful black poem and then sitting on the edge of the stage and screaming, "Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! And a lot of other things.)

23:57 GMT

It might be news

Staff Opinions Banned In Voting Rights Cases: The Justice Department has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics, congressional aides and current and former employees familiar with the issue said. Yes, of course, because even though it's their job, we can't have their expert judgments interfering with the process of dismantling democracy, can we? And god forbid it should get out later that the politicos were told that what they were doing was illegal and went ahead and did it anyway.

Lawrence O'Donnell, executive director of The West Wing, says it's too bad Bush is only watching re-runs of the show rather than the current season, where he could really get a lesson in what should happen when a senior White House staffer leaks classified information to reporters.

ACLU: Protesters placed in terror files: The names and licenseplate numbers of about 30 people who protested three years ago in Colorado Springs were put into FBI domestic-terrorism files, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado said Thursday.

Kevin Drum on Credit Scavengers: The bankruptcy bill had nothing to do with "personal responsibility" or any of the other shibboleths of modern conservatism. It's just a pure corporate payoff. Credit card companies know full well the risks of issuing cards to different kinds of people, and they know almost to the penny the risk/reward ratio of issuing cards to their worst credit risks, including those who have just filed for bankruptcy. This bill was intended solely to change that risk/reward ratio a little further in favor of the banking industry. The result: $100 million worth of lobbying is turned into $1 billion per year of extra revenue, all on the backs of consumers who the credit industry's own computer models tell them are the most likely to be ruined by it. It's disgusting. Precisely. Funny how the people who talk about "personal responsibility" don't think the credit card companies and banks should have to assume the risks of lending money unwisely. (Kevin also has more on the voting rights advice ban. But check him out on secret laws - you can apparently now get busted for breaking laws no one knows about, just because the administration says there's a law that they won't even show the courts.)

15:46 GMT

Black sky on a sunny day

Eyewitness news: Mr. Sideshow just came through remarking on the bizarre color of the sky, so I grabbed my camera and went down to see what he meant. There was blinding sunlight streaming through the kitchen window but the diningroom was seriously dark for midday. I went out and took some shots of the strange effect. Then Mr. S. opened the front door and says it can't be natural, it has to be pollution or something. I concur. I took some shots but then my battery told me it was going. I'll update this post after I recharge if I get any good photos.

So, anyway, I checked the news and the top story in Britain is explosions at a fuel depot in the Hemel Hempstead area before dawn - enough time for the filth to have moved across the sky to reach us down here. 36 casualties are reported, but there seems to be no suspicion of anything other than an accident. Reuters has pictures from the site.

Update: I've posted a couple of shots I think are interesting, here and here. The second one shows a thread of smoke coming down toward the rooftops (and a bird flying by). The houses are lit with direct sunlight under a dark sky. Spooky.

Also, Erik Olson in comments points us to this BBC story with a satellite picture showing just how much area the smoke cloud is covering. That's... amazing.

13:05 GMT

In one eye

Bra of the Week, via Bitch Ph.D., who took us all shopping this week.

Funkypancake is apparently a UK blogger (in London, I think) who just runs around taking pictures. I was particularly intrigued by Words on a thing, but baffled by The Sound of Bins.

Dio Bach lives in Wales and also takes lots of pictures. He recently went to Bath, a place I've heard great things about and have always idly wanted to visit, and got some good shots. He also does art.

Lance has snow. I am jealous. You all know to send me links to your snow pictures, right?

As you know, I don't do cat-blogging. But there's Stuff On My Cat, if you really must. Especially this one.

Art by a turtle. Also, take the color test. Via Biomes Blog.

12:01 GMT

The Imperial Word

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'

Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.

Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

"I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

We pause here to remind the reader that someone who claims to be the President of the United States should surely have been told that, in fact, he is only the Commander-in-Chief of the military, and has no authority over civilians, including members of Congress.
"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

I've talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper."

And I have no reason to doubt that he did - it's certainly the way he behaves.

00:50 GMT


The excellent (and, unfortunately, retired) Anthony Lewis makes a rare reappearance, this time in The Nation, on The Torture Administration:

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and proceeded to carry out their savagery, many in the outside world asked how this could have happened in the land of Goethe and Beethoven. Would the people of other societies as readily accept tyranny? Sinclair Lewis, in 1935, imagined Americans turning to dictatorship under the pressures of economic distress in the Depression. He called his novel, ironically, It Can't Happen Here.

Hannah Arendt and many others have stripped us, since then, of confidence that people will resist evil in times of fear. When Serbs and Rwandan Hutus were told that they were threatened, they slaughtered their neighbors. Lately Philip Roth was plausible enough when he imagined anti-Semitism surging after an isolationist America elected Charles Lindbergh as President in 1940.

But it still comes as a shock to discover that American leaders will open the way for the torture of prisoners, that lawyers will invent justifications for it, that the President of the United States will strenuously resist legislation prohibiting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners--and that much of the American public will be indifferent to what is being done in its name.

It sure does. Go read it all.

00:20 GMT

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Confirm or deny?

I realize it's pretty much the same thing every day, but this little item from Monday while Condi was en route to Germany still kinda blows me away:

QUESTION: Thanks for giving me a follow-up. There's just a couple of things I don't understand and maybe you can make clearer. One is how do you choose which part of the intelligence operations you're not going to talk about and which you are? You obviously were very clear that you'd talk about, explain everything on renditions, but then nothing on secret prisons.

And then to go back to Glenn's question about cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, I'd just like sort of a clearer answer that is the -- does the United States allow CID on other countries' territory?

SECRETARY RICE: Our people, wherever they are, are operating under U.S. law and U.S. international obligations. The question of what intelligence information we can and cannot make public, we do very carefully from time to time release intelligence information, as we did with Saddam Hussein's activities prior to the war; but what we don't do is anything that will compromise ongoing operations in any way. If you notice, I spoke to principle about renditions, about the general practice of renditions and about some historical cases, not about specific operations that are underway.

And again, were I to confirm or deny, say yes or say no, then I would be compromising intelligence information. I'm not going to do that.

Imagine a Secretary of State making a public statement that even suggests that it's possible that we could confirm that we are torturing people.

You don't compromise national security by saying that the United States does not torture people. You compromise national security by torturing people.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. A while back you mentioned the Cold War and our alliances. It seems to be back during the Cold War the allies gave us the benefit of the doubt very often on questions like this, and that's maybe less so today. Do you think that's true and, if so, why?
So a reporter asked the obvious question, but Rice just regurgitated a whole lot of crap that amounted to "9/11 changed everything." 9/11 changed everything and we are now allowed to be both evil and stupid with impunity. Forever.

17:09 GMT


At last, in The New York Times: Nobody likes Joe Lieberman: An aide to another leading Democratic senator who insisted on anonymity said the feelings toward Mr. Lieberman could be summed up as, "The American people want to hold George Bush accountable for the failed policy in Iraq, and Senator Lieberman doesn't."

Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) (via)

Larisa Alexandrovna's patriotic rant about Bill O'Reilly, via (via)

Imagine all the people - Howard Cosell, Jerry Lee Lewis, David Crosby, Kate Millett, Timothy Leary, Geraldo Rivera and others recall their encounters with John Lennon, who died 25 years ago today. Also Eric Burdon, John Phillips, Mick Fleetwood, Michael Caine, Richie Havens, Joan Collins, William Kunstler, Chuck Berry, Jerry Rubin, Wolfman Jack, Meat Loaf, and my favorites, Paul Krassner and Frank Gifford.

14:40 GMT

Bloggin' along

Since Atrios is throwing the love to The General (who we all love, of course), I'm getting on board with Blue Gal to pump for Fafblog! (which has again redecorated for the season) for Best Humor/Comics blog in the weird awards that you can vote once a day in. Especially after Fafnir's exclusive interview with Condoleezza Rice. (I'm not comin' along for this business, though. Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then, but that doesn't mean I have to sleep with it. Besides, here in oppressive socialist Britain, we can just go out and buy a little box - cheap - that attaches to our TV and makes it show you digital television.)

Manbiot says that biodiesel is Worse Than Fossil Fuel: The last time I drew attention to the hazards of making diesel fuel from vegetable oils, I received as much abuse as I have ever been sent by the supporters of the Iraq war. The biodiesel missionaries, I discovered, are as vociferous in their denial as the executives of Exxon. I am now prepared to admit that my previous column was wrong. But they're not going to like it. I was wrong because I underestimated the fuel's destructive impact. Via Mobjectivist.

Does the chart show that the Republicans haven't been spending like drunken sailors? Sadly, No!

Boris on the frontbench: Boris Johnson has resigned as editor of the Spectator magazine to return to the Conservative front bench. New Tory leader David Cameron has named the flamboyant MP as shadow higher education minister, forcing him to choose between politics and journalism. Goodness.

01:00 GMT

Friday, 09 December 2005

Who's been talkin'

At GOTV, more on the Deeds/McDonnell race recount, the failure of another attempt to count ballots, and the Buzzflash GOP Hypocrite of the Week: James Tobin, who participated in voter-suppression in New Hampshire.

Believe it or not, there are still some newspapers that think the only real problem in Iraq is that the media just doesn't tell us how great things are going.

Dems demand documents: The resolution, proposed by Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, asks the president to turn over drafts and documents related to his October 2002 speech in Cincinnati and his State of the Union address in January 2003. Democrats want to find out why the president omitted from the earlier speech any reference to allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa but included such a claim in the State of the Union address. Republicans, of course, voted against it.

TruthOut has the Telegraph story about the video that appears to show private contractors in Iraq shooting randomly at Iraqi civilians; they also have the video.

No Wonder Republicans Hate the Internet: Because it makes people feel politically empowered. And Republicans hate it when the little people think they can talk back.

David E lets us know that the war on Christmas goes way back.

Needlenose frames the debate by asking The question Democrats should ask (and answer) about Iraq: Is there a better way to defend our country than having 1,000 Americans a year die in Iraq?

Skimble: Think of the Treasury as a piggy bank for the very rich. The mathematics involved are actually fairly simple, but they require a generous use of negative numbers: Subtract hundreds of billions in war costs while subtracting hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. Pretty soon there are no pennies left in the piggy bank for healthcare or levees or pensions or roads or schools.

This is an even dumber .pdf than usual, but it's Liberty's consultation paper on banning possession of "extreme" pornography, and it is also lame. Basically, they agree with this stupid proposal.

19:21 GMT

On the landscape

We already know what Republicans do in Latin America when they're in charge, thanks to their history in places like Nicaragua and Haiti, and now where they are at work in Venezuela. And is Chile next?

CHILE is one of the more conservative countries on a continent that is not especially renowned as tolerant, forward thinking or democratically minded. Divorce was legalized here just last year, and abortion continues to be a taboo subject even for the most progressive of politicians. Our social codes and racial prejudices are deeply engrained. We are an overwhelmingly Catholic country with a history that has been marked - and continues to be marked - by the power of its military.

Given this context, it is nothing short of extraordinary - even revolutionary - that the clear front-runner in the presidential vote being held on Sunday is Michelle Bachelet, a divorced mother of three who is an atheist and a member of the Socialist Party.

Oil industry targets EU climate policy : Lobbyists funded by the US oil industry have launched a campaign in Europe aimed at derailing efforts to tackle greenhouse gas pollution and climate change. Via Singularity.

Dwight Meredith has another post up responding to the myths about Medical Malpractice and Reducing Health Care Costs.

John M. Ford has posted some items with his Neverwhere Underside Line map (created with permission from Neil) at Cafe Press.

Down in comments, Kip Williams recommends a really good ad that should never, ever be used.

Holidays On the Net's Advent calendar opens lightly-animated windows but has the virtue of playing a short version of The Carol of the Bells, one of my favorites.

I don't generally go behind the pay-walls, but if you're someone who does, the piece I remember in December of 1980 as the most powerful article on John Lennon's death was The Last Day in the Life by Jay Cocks in Time.

16:29 GMT

War zones and other stories

Well, what do you know? It's a free country:

Britain Bars Evidence Gained by Torture

Evidence obtained through torture in other countries cannot be used in British courts, the nation's top judges said Thursday, ruling in favor of eight terror suspects who said they were detained on evidence elicited by torture in U.S. camps.

The Law Lords, Britain's highest court, ruled unanimously that torture was an abhorrent practice that had no place in the British justice system.

Of course, all this presumes that the government bothers with the courts at all. As it is, there are still those people who have been incarcerated for the last few years who would probably be very happy to have a "place in the British justice system." Seems to be a lot of that going around....

Gosh, I keep getting that familiar feeling about the Alpizar shooting. The shooters say he said he had a bomb, the passengers say they didn't hear him say anything about a bomb.Eyewitness: "I Never Heard the Word 'Bomb'" By the time Alpizar made it to the front of the airplane, the crew had ordered the rest of the passengers to get down between the seats. So, a guy tries to leave the plane and they are already preparing for him to be shot? You can get shot for leaving an airplane? Is that the new rules? This is crazy. When armed men panic and shoot people, they are not protecting us from terrorism, they are terrorism.

Been there, done that: Contemporaneous government statements about the Vietnam War, via Digby, who also offers this quick analysis of some right-wing spin that should have given Fred Barnes whiplash.

I always get a chuckle when conservatives complain about how they're not getting credit for the great economy they've created. This is half wrong: We're perfectly willing to give them credit for the economy they've created.

All day yesterday I remembered her post on the subject two years ago and I knew I could count on Jeralyn for a special tribute to John Lennon.

Hear Wednesday's Mike Harding's Rubber Folk (BBC2): To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of (arguably) The Beatles' folkiest album Rubber Soul, Mike presents a tribute from the cream of the folk music community of the British Isles.

13:40 GMT


From a comment to this post at Is That Legal?

bork (v): when Democrats reject obviously unqualified nominees on their lack of merit. Usage: The man who deemed it ethical to fire the Watergate special prosecutor on the orders of the investigation's chief suspect had his Supreme Court nomination "borked" because a Supreme Court Justice should have a high ethical standard.

mier (v): see borked, but when Republicans do it. Usage: If a president's crony is nominated to an office they are unfit to hold and the crony is also not sufficiently partisan to please the party's most radical right-wingers, the nomination can get miered down.

04:37 GMT

Thursday, 08 December 2005

'Tis the season

Here and here, Fred Clark talks about Christmas music and Jerry Falwell's war on Christmas. I'd been thinking of it as Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas, but never mind. The thing is, they're accusing secularists of making war on Christmas because we might say things like "Happy holidays" or send out cards that say "Season's greetings" or whatever. And I regard their claim that we are making war on Christmas as itself a war on Christmas, because being willing to be inclusive and spread the joy of the season even to people who don't specifically celebrate Christmas is perfectly Christmassy, but being slanderous and exclusionary about it is not.

I rather like the way the BBC did their Advent calendar. It works more like a real one than the others I've seen so far - the new picture shows up in the number window instead of opening a new page. I wish they'd arranged it like a traditional Advent calendar, though, in one big picture (like this or this). I kinda like the pages for the 2nd and the 5th in Leslie Harpold's calendar, and I'd probably like more of them if I was artsy-craftsy or kitcheny. The Woodlands Junior School calendar has a really annoying format but I liked the music for the 5th.

13:00 GMT

Things people say

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explains:

U.S. obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, extend as "a matter of policy" to "U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," Rice said here at a news conference with Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko.
"Policy"? Oh, I think it's a bit more than that:
Article V., Clause 2

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Geneva Conventions qualify under this clause and have the full force of US law. The actual policy of this administration clearly involves torture and just as clearly involves refusing to acknowledge any responsibility for doing it.

Former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz (now president of the World Bank):

Only when questioners pressed him about Iraq would Wolfowitz address the subject. "How do you account for the intelligence failures regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?" he was asked.

"Well," he said after a long pause, "I don't have to."

Well, World Bank Wolfie may want to forget all about Wartime Wolfie -- but we shouldn't, we can't, and we won't.
We will not tolerate fraud. So our embassy in Baghdad is helping to demand transparency and accountability for the money being invested in reconstruction.
Actually, you could pretty much pick any sentence from that speech and it'd leave you gaping. I suppose it should go without saying by now that a lot of fact-checking is in order. (And here's a footnote from a reporter who recognized quotes snipped from one of his own stories in the speech.)

Also, Harold Pinter is still alive despite his doctor's predictions, and gave a Nobel lecture (text and video both available):

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.
It's all true, but what are we gonna do about it?

11:46 GMT

Sight and sound

I don't know about you, but 25 years hasn't dulled my appreciation. I recommend you take some time to listen to some of their stuff. Tributes from Reuters, some young musicians, Liverpool, a Neil Young fan, and others.

More signs that the music industry is evil: pearLyrics: too easy to be legal? This is a sad time for all those of us with a passion for music and song lyrics. As of December 6th, 2005 pearLyrics is no longer available due to a cease and desist letter from Warner/Chappell Music Limited. Via Blogging out loud.

Watch The first 26 minutes of This Divided State.

See Lyla Lipscomb's Speech from the Conyers Town Hall Meeting last July.

04:47 GMT

Assorted stuff

Does Steny Hoyer really think this is a good time to try to unseat Nancy Pelosi? Apparently so. After his performance on the bankruptcy bill, we have a special place in hell for this guy. Gladys Noone Spellman must be spinning in her grave. I completely agree with Sirota - people should tell him to cut it out.

Oh, please, please please, Lowell, take Joe out. (I wonder if we can get someone in the Senate to read this old speech on the floor.)

"What if Shepherd Book were Jewish?" (via)

Another good catch by Josh Marshall on an example of editorial interference to "balance" (i.e., bias) an article to make Democrats look just as dirty as Republicans. This piece of amateur editing occurred, of course, at The Washington Post.

Reporting from London, Steve Clemons confirms that no, Bush was not joking about bombing Al-Jazeera. But you already knew that.

from Media Matters, C-SPAN has right-wing hack interview Mary Mapes.

The smallest planet

That bit of doggerel

Muscongus Bay Sunset

00:15 GMT

Wednesday, 07 December 2005

Your technical world

Voting Machines Under Scrutiny: The potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines' reliability. It's only a vitally important issue, so of course it's on page A23 and doesn't particularly explore the problems involved. Why do these articles always work so hard to make it seem like it's just a minor technical matter of tweaking the machines to comply with the law rather than the machine companies and Republicans doing everything they possibly can to make it impossible to count our votes? *sigh*

The top ten (fairly inexpensive) things you can do to protect your privacy (via)

Dan Gillmor on how Telcos are trying to destroy the open Internet we have come to love.

EFF has a partial list of dangerous CDs. I'm happy to say that I don't have any of 'em, but if you do and haven't had them replaced by Sony, do it now. If you don't know why, see the story from a few weeks ago here.

13:01 GMT

What's out there

Akou tells us how other prospective candidates stand:

Wesley Clark: Supports flag-burning legislation.
John Edwards: Against constitutional amendment banning flag-burning.
John Kerry: Flag-burning is constitutionally protected expression.
Clinton: Supports flag-burning legislation.
Russ Feingold: Against banning flag-burning.
Other voices on Hillary's flag-burning amendment: Leah at Correntewire explains what a dangerous insult this bill is to the liberal base - especially civil libertarians of every stripe, in Say It Isn't So, Hillary; Michael of Musing's Musings says Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?; The Obfuscation Report ("So burning that flag is not a statement against freedom, but a statement against all that we don't want that flag to represent."); Pam Spaulding at Pandagon, Hillary continues image building with more wingnut bootlicking; Arianna writes the rest of Hillary's Red State Strategy for '08.

Maha: Think of the Iraq War as the Mother of All Security Blankets. It's what the Right clings to because they lack the fortitude (or brainpower) to face reality. And that's why no amount of reasoning will persuade them to let go of it.

Via Atrios, Rick Perlstein's excellent speech to conservatives, 'I Didn't Like Nixon Until Watergate': The Conservative Movement, which lays it on the line - and which you must read all the way to the very end. It's a historical analysis, but the gist can be found in this quote: As the Internet's smartest liberal blogger, Digby, puts it, tongue only partially in cheek: "'Conservative' is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals."

But what on Earth is Atrios thinking here? Bush cares about your pension exactly the same way he has cared about our public schools, making Social Security stronger, supporting our troops, protecting national security, helping AIDS victims, and spreading democracy.

I always liked Lowell Weicker even when he was a Republican, but now he's an Independent and he's saying if no one else challenges Lieberman, he'll give it a go. I would love to see him take his seat back from old Nomentum - that'd be justice.

Eeeyew, it's catching! The Tories picked a new party leader, a guy called David Cameron, who says his party needs to have "modern compassionate Conservatism". Yeah, we sure need to spread that around.

Oh, and it's December 7th.

02:06 GMT

Tuesday, 06 December 2005

She's definitely running - and definitely shouldn't

Every day brings a new reason why I can't stand this woman. I don't like the fact that she's been running for president for years and has the RNC helping her do it. I don't like the fact that she never supports the truly democratic and liberal people in the party who try to stand up for what's right. And I'm completely disgusted by time-wasting, stupid crap like this:

Sen. Clinton co-sponsors anti-flag burning law

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is supporting new legislation to criminalize desecration of the United States flag _ though she still opposes a constitutional ban on flag attacks.

Clinton, D-N.Y., has agreed to co-sponsor a measure by Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, which has been written in hopes of surviving any constitutional challenge following a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the subject.

Her support of Bennett's bill follows her position in Congress last summer, when a constitutional ban on flag-burning was debated. Clinton said then she didn't support a constitutional ban, but did support federal legislation making it a crime to desecrate the flag.

The point of changing the Constitution is, of course, because without doing so a ban on flag-burning would be unconstitutional. So, she supports passing a bill that's unconstitutional, rather than making it constitutional first. I see.
In her public statements, she has compared the act of flag-burning to burning a cross, which can be considered a violation of federal civil rights law.
Does Hillary Clinton actually believe there is a specific law against burning a cross? She's a lawyer? Does she think flag-burning has the same intent and meaning as KKK-style cross-burnings?
The Bennett-sponsored measure outlaws a protester intimidating any person by burning the flag, lighting someone else's flag, or desecrating the flag on federal property.
To my knowledge, no public protest involving flag-burning has been done to intimidate, and the flags burned were always purchased by the protesters and belonged to no one else. (There should, of course, be no general prohibition against a protest on public property; as long as flag-burning is recognized as free expression, there can be no legitimate argument for banning it on all public property.)

These days I'm used to the idea that people misunderstand the point of US protests that involved flag-burning and think the flag is being burnt as an effigy rather than in fact.

But there used to be a time when every school child knew that when the flag has been soiled, you burn it. To kids in my generation, the meaning of burning a flag was obvious: It was soiled and it had to be burnt and replaced with a new one.

As a political act, the symbolism of saying that the flag had been dishonored by public officials and must be burnt was not even slightly to be confused with burning in effigy: It was not symbolically burning the United States, but actually burning the flag. The symbolic part was not that you were burning a flag, but that you were saying it had been irrevocably soiled and needed to be replaced, even though in protest you were probably using a new, unsoiled flag. The sullying had been done by elective officials in a broad general sense, and a single flag was representing all of the flags that had been soiled or rent by these acts.

So, by burning the flag, you were clearing the way to raise a fresh flag - one that had not been dirtied by the irresponsibility of our leaders - and with it the opportunity to return us to our unsullied state. But, unquestionably, to raise the US flag.

As I say, I'm used to the idea that people get things wrong, and that in fact when I say "my generation" I'm really referring to a small subset of my age cohort who are in a few years of my age, having grown up in that super-patriotic period when we were taught all these fine details. But never mind. Okay, so you think that flag-burning is the US being burnt in effigy. But that just means you're saying the US sucks, and you have a perfect right to that opinion and a perfect right to express it because the 1st Amendment says so, and there's nothing special about burning this piece of cloth.

Yes, I know, you think it's special because you hear politicians saying it all the time. But the fact is that in most countries no one takes their flag that seriously, no matter how patriotic they are. There are no such laws in most other countries (even though no other country has a free speech law as strong and firm as our 1st Amendment), and instituting such laws is not generally a good sign.

But that's our Hillary, she's gonna stand up for the United States by standing up for not being much of a free country. Thanks a heap.

Draft Gore.

14:35 GMT

Quick links

Blogspot seems to be down at the moment, so here's some stuff you can read that isn't there.

Roll Call Rolls Out Republican Lies to attack the impeachment movement.

Is The Morality Party about to have a sex scandal?

What Happened to Iraq's WMD: How politics corrupts intelligence by Scott Ritter in the SFC.

Just a Bump in the Beltway has gone all culinary on me. (I prefer New England-style clam chowder, and these days I don't even want chowder, I just make clam soup - milk, butter, clams, a bit of seasoning.)

Our Curiously Desultory War by Chris Bray (via).

Taylor Marsh has a reminder that John McCain ain't no straight-talker.

The trail of Deborah Davis, the woman arrested for refusing to show her papers while riding on a public bus, goes to court Friday; there will be a rally.

Paul Krugman on The Joyless Economy. Bush can't just happy-talk it away.

I have seen the zombie movie, and it is good.

02:00 GMT

Monday, 05 December 2005

Unsung heroes

I just watched the second part of BBC Four's Vietnam series. Sir, No Sir! The GI Revolt tells the mostly unknown story "of how active-duty American GIs, in their thousands, created a massive, unprecedented movement against the war in Vietnam that could not be stopped."

While the official story is that it was hippies back home demoralizing the troops, the fact was that the troops were independently recognizing that something was wrong and forming their own movement.

Another important feature of the film is the sheer quality of 1970s American reporting. It is heartbreaking to compare the literacy and scrupulousness of journalists of that time with the more slipshod practices often found now.
You can watch the teaser here. You might also want to visit the official Sir! No Sir! website.

22:31 GMT

More bloggy goodness

Steve Gilliard thought Morning Sedition was funny, and quotes Jonathan Larsen's blog on what looks to be Danny Goldberg's bad attitude: And silencing that voice just because he doesn't hear it would make Goldberg just as bad as the people he claims to oppose. Via Elayne Riggs, who has snow pictures, and says Ntodd does, too.

Sam Hamm, the scriptwriter for Homecoming, gave Shystee at CorrenteWire an exclusive interview. Sam Hamm: It does have sort of an "Atrios's Greatest Hits" quality, doesn't it? But that's the air we breathe. We're in the midst of one of the most genuinely grotesque administrations in American history, one that will be long remembered for its corruption, mendacity and malfeasance. (PS. We like his comics, too.)

Josh Marshall has yet another story of Monopolies of the New Gilded Age. Seems Bell South had a major snit "about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city" of New Orleans. (via)

How America has liberated Iraq - Civil rights groups protest sex segregation in schools: Civil rights groups have protested new rulings that make segregation of sexes in Iraqi schools compulsory. [...] Mixed education at the primary and tertiary levels was part of the country's secular system until the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country. Via Today in Iraq.

Americablog: In a nutshell, the rabid homophobes at the American Family Association threatened Ford with a boycott earlier this year because they were advertising in the gay press. Suddenly in June the AFA called off their threatened boycott because local Ford dealers had contacted the national Ford office and, apparently, suggested Ford might be amenable to working out a deal. Now we find out that Ford is pulling its gay ads and that Ford even tells the Advocate that the AFA's press release claiming credit for this entire thing is accurate. Recommendation: Amongst other things, you might want to ask Ford if they'd pull their ads from African-American or Jewish publications if the Klan objected? (via)

Right-Wing Group Declares War on Americans - Well, the entire right-wing declared war on America a long time ago, but these folks are really cute.

The Decembrist: It's no surprise that a lot of Washington reporters don't seem to recognize how extraordinary Abramoff's scam was, because they can't seem to recognize how ordinary Dorgan's actions were. If people can't recognize that distinction, the "everyone does it" defense of Abramoff might be more effective than one would imagine.

21:14 GMT


Mahabarb on Why We Fight (Alito):

First off, let’s put aside any notion that there were few abortions in America before Roe v. Wade. Since few abortions were officially reported as such before Roe it’s hard to know precisely how common abortion really was. However,
Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. One analysis, extrapolating from data from North Carolina, concluded that an estimated 829,000 illegal or self-induced abortions occurred in 1967.
(By some coincidence, currently there are 1.2 million abortions performed per year in the U.S., and in a larger population than in the 1960s. It may be that the actual rate of abortions is somewhat lower now than it was pre-Roe.)

The pre-Roe estimates are based partly on the number of women admitted to hospitals because of complications from illegal abortion.

And that's just one little thing.

At Seeing the Forest, Rape Victim Found Guilty: This one is beyond belief. A judge decides that since he doesn't know who to believe he'll convict the woman for filing the charges in the first place. (Also: a recommendation for Nir Rosen's If America Left Iraq: The case for cutting and running In The Atlantic Monthly.)

Charlie Quimby has more on Neil Bush's interesting business relationships.

The odd thing about this Telegraph story isn't so much that, "A poem in a school textbook has been removed by embarrassed education officials in Pakistan after it was found that the first letters of each line spelt out 'President George W Bush.'" The odd thing is that such a lame poem was in a textbook in the first place. Via Blah3.

At The Left Coaster, Steve Soto addresses the rumor that Rumsfeld might leave the DOD to be replaced by Lieberman. It's a kind of a fire-frying pan sort of thing. He also has a post about just how habitually corrupt Bill Frist is, and presents a sobering thought about the challenges a Democratic president would face in office after 2008. Meanwhile, eRiposte looks at Uranium from Africa and the Butler Report: The Alleged French Connection.

Don't forget that News Hounds is watching FOX News so that you don't have to. More bias and hypocrisy than you can shake a "holiday ornament" at.

I completely let The Sideshow's fourth anniversary last month slip my mind. But now it's December, and though I didn't know it at the time, I got a great present last year - Firedoglake. So, congratulations and thanks to Jane Hamsher, ReddHedd, and Loren for a year of great blogging. (And for the latest on Kathrine Harris and other Republicans with dirty money on their hands.)

18:14 GMT

News and media and history and stuff

What is it with The Washington Post printing these RNC talking points without even pointing out that Dorgan has already answered this crap? Oh, I see, it's Steno Sue. Nevermind!

Paul Krugman, Bullet Points over Baghdad: So Mr. Bush's new public relations offensive on Iraq is a test. Are the news media still too cowed, too addicted to articles that contain little more than dueling quotes to tell the public when the administration is saying things that aren't true? Or has the worm finally turned?

Frank Rich, All the President's Flacks: Such critical stories - including those at The Post and The Times that were too often relegated to Page 17 - did not get traction until the failure to find W.M.D.'s and the Wilson affair made America take a second look. Now that the country has awakened to that history, it will take more to shock it than the latest revelation that the Defense Department has been paying Iraqi newspapers to print its propaganda. Thanks in large part to the case Mr. Woodward found so inconsequential, everyone knows that much of the American press did just the same before the war - and, unlike those Iraqi newspapers or, say, Armstrong Williams, did so gratis.

Charlie Stross says we have to figure out how we got into the mess we're in over in the Middle East so we can avoid doing it again, and he says you can trace it to William Gladstone.

Man, I didn't even know until I saw this article today that Chris Whitley died last month. I really dug this guy's stuff, I thought Living With the Law was one of the coolest albums I'd heard in years. I'm bummed out. But at least it turns out he had more albums out than I knew about, so there's more to listen to.

14:15 GMT

Because their real "enemy" is the American people

Scott Shane in The New York Times has the story on the underlying strategy for the war, which is basically that as long as the administration can pretend we're winning, we're winning. Bush's Speech on Iraq War Echoes Voice of an Analyst: Despite the president's oft-stated aversion to polls, Dr. Feaver was recruited after he and Duke colleagues presented the administration with an analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004. They concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believed it would ultimately succeed.

But, as Digby says, this stopped having any relevance the minute people began to realize there was no There there. There were no WMD, there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda/9/11, and the whole thing is one great balls-up. The time for Bush to effectively declare victory was the moment that Saddam allowed the weapons inspectors in; Bush could have had everyone applauding him for getting the inspectors in (although, in fact, it didn't really take much), and he could have gotten Osama at Tora Bora ("Dead or alive!") instead of pulling out to invade Iraq, and he'd be able to convince a lot of people that he really was the hero he was pretending to be. Instead he's just a creep who has squandered our blood and treasure on an unjust war and now we're all quagmired out.

Even George Packer, interviewed in The San Francisco Chronicle, has stopped believing the war is winnable - not a position he held as recently as last April, when he said, in his book The Assassin's Gate, "The Iraq war was always winnable. It still is."

In the six or seven months since then, it has really moved toward civil war. And the election may very well have had a role in it, because the Sunnis locked themselves out and that became a self-fulfilling act. By now, I'm quite grim, and I would not have written that line in the present tense. The armed militias are running the show. The young and the dispossessed and the angry and the religious have become the wave of the future. They've been released by the invasion to impose their own vision of Iraq on the country, usually at the point of a gun. It is no longer mostly about an anti-occupation insurgency. That is the short-term battle and in a way the cover and the pretext for the power struggle among Iraq's major groups.
Of course, that was always an imminent danger of invasion; it's amazing so many people failed to see it. But it might have been avoided had the administration handled both the military and managerial aspects of this thing intelligently. They didn't. They have done everything wrong.

If they were concerned with our national security and with preserving our nation, you'd think they'd at least want to get the intel right, but instead they are torturing people in order to get them to say what they want to hear, and they're infuriating even more people every day by doing these things to innocent people, even those who are citizens of western democracies.

They've got it handled, though - if anyone points out that things could be done better, they fire them:

Officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation mishandled a Florida terror investigation, falsified documents in the case in an effort to cover repeated missteps and retaliated against an agent who first complained about the problems, Justice Department investigators have concluded.
Time after time after time, people get fired for competence and the incompetent get promoted. That's been going on from the very beginning - remember, the guy who blocked pre-9/11 intel is the one who got promoted, while the people who tried to do their job to protect the United States were forced out.

I have a question: Can't we sue them? I mean, we're citizens of the United States of America, and these people are defrauding us and endangering us and destroying our country. Can we have a really, really big class action suit or something? I bet we can get, oh, 50 million people to sign on....

12:04 GMT

And now it's time for...

Passionata's Caracas half-cup underwired bra

Bra of the Week

PNH found a really amusing exchange on Don't Bomb Us: A Blog by Al Jazeera Staffers.

Is George Bush The Worst President -- Ever? Even Republican historians seem to think so.

"When in doubt, blow their brains out. That's the kind of thoughtful, deliberate analysis we need on the Supreme Court." - Digby, on discovering yet another disgusting thing about Samuel Alito. Via TBogg, who has a little list.

"I support our troops. Our politicians can go fuck themselves." -- proposed bumper sticker by Jim Rittenhouse

The backs of the 50 pence piece are usually pretty interesting, but the new one is pretty cool and even more unusual than usual.

"Oops." Via Biomes Blog.

02:37 GMT

Sunday, 04 December 2005

What's left out

Yes, it's that time again, when we take our Sunday stroll through the official navel-gazing at The Washington Post. And today, the disappointing Ms. Howell addresses the excellent question of The Sins of Leaving Something Unsaid:

All newspapers commit sins of commission, but I also fret about sins of omission. People or groups not identified fully.
Or incorrectly?
Important information left out.
But she doesn't mention Bob Woodward.
Someone who wasn't called.
Like anyone with a progressive point of view.

And, just in case we had our doubts, she even supplies an example - by accident:

Another omission I find troublesome is a reference to an organization without identifying information. Washington has dozens of think tanks with as many agendas. Most are "nonpartisan" to obtain their tax status as nonprofit groups.

I asked The Post's News Research Center to check on just three -- the Heritage Foundation, which leans conservative, the Brookings Institution, which leans more liberal, and the Cato Institute, which has a libertarian bent.

You know, I can still remember a time when Brookings was not considered "liberal" at all, let alone equivalent to such unabashedly ideological organizations.
In the vast majority of stories this year, the three are not identified by their leanings. Cato has been mentioned in stories or op-ed columns 30 times, 16 times as libertarian. Heritage was mentioned 115 times, 45 as conservative. Brookings was cited 270 times, five as liberal-leaning.
That last would probably be because Cato is libertarian, Heritage is conservative, but Brookings isn't liberal. Let's see what they say about themselves:
Research at the Brookings Institution is conducted to inform the public debate, not advance a political agenda. Our scholars are drawn from the United States and abroad - with experience in government and academia - and hold diverse points of view. Brookings' mission is to provide high quality analysis and recommendations for decision makers in the U.S. and abroad on the full range of policy challenges facing an increasingly interdependent world.
Nothing in there about promoting liberalism.

And Heritage?

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
They are explicitly conservative.


The Cato Institute seeks to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets and peace.
Is it any wonder that Cato and Heritage were far more likely to be identified with their respective ideologies than Brookings was to have liberalism attributed to it?

What Howell left unsaid was who the sources were of the five references to Brookings as "liberal". It was they, and not the other 265, who got it wrong - as did she. Proper research seems to be something else that The Washington Post leaves out these days.

21:00 GMT

The Court: urgent business

The right wing wants to spin it all into abstraction, but it's important to cut through the crap and get to the meat.

It's a couple weeks old but I'm recommending Gary Farber's post about The Ginsberg Fallacy anyway because he makes a good point about all the spin that tries to equate Ruth and Sam:

LET'S TRY THIS ONE. The Blogometer quotes:
At Confirm Them, Carol Platt Liebau disagrees with Washington Post's Marcus, who asserts that justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not "to liberal as Alito is to conservative." Marcus calls Ginsburg a "consensus choice," and cites Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Liebau points out that Hatch is the only example cited, and adds: "I was a Senate staffer at the time, in charge of nominations for the senator for whom I worked. And Marcus is just incorrect in suggesting that Republicans were relatively complacent about the nomination. They weren't. Almost every Republican senator knew what RBG stood for, knew how she would vote on the Court ... and was unhappy about it."
This is the Ruth Marcus piece, "The Ginsburg Fallacy," which -- big surprise -- I agree with.

I'm perfectly willing to assume arguendo that Carol Platt Liebau's characterization of the general Republican Senate view at the time of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is accurate. It seems entirely plausible, at the very least.

But I suggest that a better analogy would be to substitute "Lani Guinier" for "Ruth Bader Ginsburg." (Alito would be analogous to RBG if, a la Orrin Hatch, President Bush had appointed Alito in response to Ted Kennedy's urgings.)

If President Clinton had submitted Guinier's name as SCOTUS nominee, rather than Ginsburg's, would the same Republican Senators who unhappily voted "aye" for Ginsburg have equally cast their unhappy -- but submitting to the will of the President! -- votes for Justice Guinier?

Or would they have objected to her, and voted "nay," not on grounds of lack of ability or intellect, but on grounds of her ideology?

Gary isn't sure what the answer would be, but I feel reasonably certain that the GOP was happy to have slipped another one by - that is, someone who was not particularly liberal. A fight on someone like Ginsberg would have exposed their extremism and left the door open for someone who was genuinely liberal to be nominated next (on the grounds that the GOP would fight no matter who they picked, so they might as well pick someone liberals could support enthusiastically).

Just for the record, the reason Ginsberg is heralded as being so far left is that she was in the ACLU. It would have been interesting to debate the proposition that the very idea of being able to defend your Constitutional rights in court makes you "too far outside the mainstream" to sit on the Supreme Court. Isn't it lucky for the right wing that no one ever presses them on this point? Too bad Michael Dukakis didn't nip that one in the bud when he had the chance.

But this is almost comedy when put up against what's really at stake. Gary also linked to this post by Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings about people at Guantanamo who have been declared innocent, officially, and yet will apparently never be released. And our "representatives" have been complicit, even passing laws that codify this. I urge you to read it - and I also urge you to remember that the current administration is illegal, their actions are completely extra-Constitutional, and we have no reason to believe they ever had the support of the American people. We must find a way to permanently throw them out and make clear to the world that we as a people regard them as criminals. (Democrats who have kept silent or believed "compromise" on these issues was acceptable should pay a price, too.) Because if we don't, we will never, ever, be forgiven or trusted, and the world will only sympathize with others who mean to do us harm.

Alito, by the way, doesn't appear to understand that what has been going on at Guantanamo is a crime. The Senate should never have allowed Roberts, who was on the record as supporting this kind of thing, to take a seat on the high bench, and that makes keeping Alito and his ilk off the bench even more of an emergency. This. Must. Stop.

13:48 GMT

Leftover news

Warner and Specter: More of the same. That's my own headline for Milbank's column yesterday, but that's the gist of it - faced with a whole load of obfuscation from the White House on their illegal propaganda operation and Alito on his pretend distinction between personal opinion and analysis of the Constitution, the two men both came down firmly on the side of having not much to say, and saying it without passion. They sound a bit embarrassed, maybe, I guess. They should be angry and eloquent about how time after time they get handed a load of fog and bull. We're supposed to think these wimps are going to make great presidential candidates? Please.

Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer both want answers about the false testimony oil execs gave to Congress. Reid wants an investigation, and Boxer wants them to testify again under oath.

Not sure why this didn't happen before Wednesday when it might have done more good all around, but at least it happened: Pelosi backs Murtha's call for withdrawal from Iraq.

Molly Ivins says there's sure a lot of folks wanderin' around Impersonating the Lord. (But I can't help wondering if there was anyone who didn't think the sudden crumbling of the Supreme Court's edifice was spooky.)

Down in comments, grannyinsanity points to Gorenfeld's story on the new partnership between Neil Bush and Sun Myung Moon.

Oh, he noticed! Greenspan: U.S. Deficit May Hurt Economy. Maybe he should have thought of that earlier.

Yeah, we noticed that, too: When troops get killed over there, the headline might as well say something like, "8 US Soldiers killed; White House to announce capture or death of Al Qaeda 'Number 3 man' again." (via)

I was vaguely sorry I didn't have Showtime and couldn't watch the Zombie movie with so many people alluding to it, but after reading Simbaud's interview with Dante, I can't help thinking that a tape or disk of it would make a nice gift. DANTE: You jest, right? FAHRENHEIT 9/11, which, for all its grandstanding, stands as the bravest movie ever made about a US administration, is now widely discredited and vilified as a pack of lies by the lying liars who inspired its production. Go back and look at it . If anything, it's even more powerful today than it was at the time. But as a Big Hit, it's an anomaly. I think the demoralized-lefty market is waiting for the next George Clooney movie and a Dem candidate who isn't Bush lite.

Paranoia Report: How many degrees of separation between Atta and Abramoff?

12:16 GMT

Saturday, 03 December 2005

Hear John Gorenfeld

Inveterate Moon-watcher John Gorenfeld is still hot on the trail of The Bush Crony Who Tortured American Teens, and will be interviewed tonight on Bobby Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio's AAR show, Ring of Fire, about this sadistic creep who has now been appointed as ambassador to Italy. (Bobby & Pap's other guests will be Helen Thomas and Robert Greenwald.) The show airs Saturdays from five to seven PM eastern time.

18:00 GMT

Reading The Washington Post

Alito says his opinions are meaningless. Well, come on, we're constantly hearing from these guys that their attitudes and opinions as expressed throughout their lives cannot be taken of indicators of how they might vote. But we already know how movement conservatives work - they swear to uphold the Constitution and then they promptly turn around and do otherwise. This guy is so far right that he spent his academic career fighting against the admission of women and minorities at Princeton. He bragged at a job interview about his opposition to women's reproductive freedom. He doesn't appear to think that the Constitution applies to anyone other than people he happens to approve of. If those kinds of views don't indicate anything about how he will interpret the Constitution, what the hell does? Let your reps know that we can't take the chance on anyone who can't make a convincing case in favor of Constitutional freedoms. (Oh, I see Toles had the same idea.)

What should we do about the incredible damage our reputation has suffered in the face of revelations about our use of gulags? Obviously, send Condi on a PR mission.

E.J. Dionne sees Warner's clemency decision in the Lovitt case as brave but a sign of a change in the political climate around the death penalty. I think this is probably true but it's worth remembering that, though most Americans still say they support the death penalty, the number declines dramatically - to a minority - if they are offered the option of permanently imprisoning dangerous criminals instead, and that's not new. Support for the death penalty was at its highest at a time when the pro-DP forces were heavily playing up the fact that "life" often meant only seven years.

It's a good sign that, "Sununu and the others, who range from senators as conservative as Larry Craig of Idaho to those as liberal as Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois, have threatened a filibuster to force further negotiations" on the Patriot Act, but it's an even better sign that Mr. Conventional Wisdom himself, David Broder, is talking up the idea of trying to bring the legislation closer into line with something you might expect in a free country.

Henry Waxman wrote to the WaPo to complain that they carried an advertisement that made claims directly at odds with an article on the subject in the same paper.

Ellen Goodman has a piece this morning about the new Pope and homosexuality (and I guess his hard line on this shows he must be another grand closet case, because this is a serious departure from church teaching), but she also talks about people's attitudes and the "choice" vs. "born that way" argument. It shouldn't matter either way, but apparently for a lot of people it does. (For me, neither of those are right - I don't think it's genes or a deliberate decision; I think your early environment fixes your sexuality before you've had a chance to make any choices about it and that it's not something you can just "decide", but the idea that there's a gene for it simply makes no sense, anymore than I believe there's a gene for having a fetish for high heels.)

Readers respond to Mallaby - and none seem to agree with him. I guess he may have missed something about Wal-Mart, eh?

Lawyers dispute WaPo praise for the case of Omar Abu Ali, which supposedly "followed the rules" in order to get a conviction. Except that they didn't.

16:09 GMT

Great moments in media

I'm watching this somewhat surreal video at Crooks and Liars of Don Imus doing a phone interview with Joe Lieberman (which, I gotta tell ya, is not the most visually arresting TV I've ever seen), and I think I just heard Senator Palpatine claim that the "Saddam-supporters" want to turn Iraq into another Afghanistan. And Imus, though being amazingly affable and letting him run on and on, is obviously not impressed, and occasionally interjects things like, "Somebody's got something on you, this is crazy," and "No wonder Gore won't talk to ya."

Also at C&L, Maureen Dowd on Letterman saying Cheney is guilty, among other things.

Toast specializes in finding examples of false-equivalence, and he thinks he's found the ultimate example in an article by John Dickerson in Slate about Kerry's recent criticism of Bush, called, amazingly, Kerry Swift-Boats Bush.

The Hand Puppet Movie Theatre Presents: Serenity (with spoilers). (via)

Wow, Gore Vidal is about to be on The Majority Report, and take phone calls!

01:11 GMT

Friday, 02 December 2005

Quick links

Sheelzebub has been reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch with mixed feelings; Trish Wilson is grateful she hasn't had to do a real job.

Save the Court. Maybe you can help.

Simbaud continues the discussion of Sammy Alito's curious reading of the Constitution.

The General is still looking.... (And also has a worthy cause.)

Bill Frist still wants to get all your money for drugs without any responsibility.

Stop gay marriage now.

23:55 GMT

Links to watch out for

Diebold, North Carolina, and the Immaculate Certification: Despite Diebold's asserted inability to meet the requirements of state law, the North Carolina Board of Elections today happily certified Diebold without condition. Never mind all of that third party software. Never mind the impossibility of obtaining a list of programmers who had contributed to that code. [...] What's next? As a result of EFF's successful court challenge on Monday, Diebold is still on the hook for criminal and civil liability for failing to meet the escrow and programmer disclosure requirements of the statute. But as today's developments indicate, the North Carolina state government apparently doesn't have the stomach to resist the full-court press of Diebold, even if it means utterly ignoring statutory obligations.

Gonzales On Texas Redistricting: It's The Senate's Fault For Confirming Ashcroft. Oh, okay, then.

Large Number of Votes Are Missing from 2005 VA Election: "It is likely that, due to subtle problems in paperless machines, there were 12,000 votes for Lieutenant Governor missing from paperless systems statewide, and over 9,000 votes for Attorney General missing from paperless systems; this is over 25x the margin of victory for Attorney General. This is not to say that the result would have been different, merely that votes that -- statistically speaking -- should have been there just aren't there." (Summary, and I hate .pdfs.) (via)

Twistchick says you still have time to do something about Real ID.

The Heretik has Just the facts.

Hillary's not listening, and Tim Robbins is pissed.

is maureen dowd necessary? - a skippy musing

Pundits Say Public Is Wrong About Iraq - For media elite, why U.S. went to war is a meaningless debate. What a bunch of weenies. (via)

Cernig has the dope: Kurds Do Oil Deal Behind Other Iraqis' Backs.

Boy, I sure hope Laura Flanders is planning to record and broadcast this.

The last 65 million years - illustrated (via)

Man, I'm already cold.

21:03 GMT

A bunch of stuff

Blanton's and Ashton's blog has some good news from AP, Diebold Loses NC Lawsuit: Must Comply With Law: RALEIGH, N.C. - One of the nation's leading suppliers of electronic voting machines may decide against selling new equipment in North Carolina after a judge declined Monday to protect it from criminal prosecution should it fail to disclose software code as required by state law.

Alice Marshall has linked a lot of interesting stuff at GOTV, including a post at Daily Kos on the importance of the Democratic blogosphere in helping to damp down traction on stupid right-wing smears and false-equivalence spin. She also has a story on what looks an awful lot like election fraud by the FBI, who ran a sham candidate in West Virginia in an effort to stem political corruption. A laudible goal, of course, but still.... (Plus! Rush Limbaugh grosses us out again!)

Bill Scher says, "The Pentagon propaganda scandal is exploding, destroying what little credibility we had in Iraq," and observes that things are so bad for the Republicans that, "The only way to emerge out from under the weight of so much scandal is to get a win," and the one they are likely to push for is the confirmation of Alito to the Supreme Court.

At Angry Bear, PGL watches Mary Matalin trot out some spin on the news of psyops "news" operations in Iraq that filter into the US media, all at tax-payers' expense.

The WaPo has a front page story about corruption at the top of the Department of Justice under Ashcroft and how it affected the suit against DeLay for violation of the Voting Rights Act. Via Steve Soto at The Left Coaster.

Also at TLC, eRiposte has been doing a series on the Niger forgeries, having finally seen the Private Eye story, which includes fairly strong evidence that someone in the US government knew that the documents were forgeries and deliberately withheld one of them in order to obscure this fact.

By the way, Bush Lied. Keep saying it.

In visual news, I have learned about Pencil carving, via Epicycle.

17:41 GMT

Cheap-labor conservatives want to blame you

I see via Digby that The New Republic is already urging "liberals" to let George Bush set the agenda on what we should be talking about, now that his focus is moving to those evil illegals from south of the border. The LAT is perhaps less of a surprise, but TNR has for a long time been the back door for right-wing talking points - there's some stuff where Rush Limbaugh just isn't going to be effective all by himself.

Anyway, some old favorites are climbing back up the charts, like that classic about how we used to leave our doors unlocked but now... well. And I love this one:

After all, anxieties about how immigration will affect national culture seem like more of a European thing, springing from a deep-seated and distinctly un-American nativism and yielding byproducts like the headscarf dispute and Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Xenophobia is a European problem? Right, we've never had that before.

But the lovely thing about this stuff is the way we are being told that, well, we may want to dismiss the racists as just, you know, racists, but this is all much more mainstream than you think and liberals will just have to admit that our current system is flawed.

Because, you know, liberals normally just applaud the fact that Rolls-Royce Republicans illegally hire (and abuse) immigrants and always have the threat of the appallingly abusive (and increasingly out of control) INS to hang over their heads. Yeah, we just love it. We're liberals, we just spend every day walking around with a Pollyanna smile about how flawless our current system is.

But Digby's post ends before getting to the little issue of how the businesses that hire "illegals" never seem to get punished for breaking the law and abusing these people - the full weight of the problem always falls on the workers. (Gee, do you think that could be because cheap, easily-intimidated labor is just what the Republicans want?) Fortunately, there is a link to The Talent Show for this side of the story. Greg wants to remind us that it wouldn't hurt to quote Cesar Chavez more often - he doesn't have a day named after him, but his focus on the mistreatment of migrant workers has been important, and he's had his moments of oratory.

In any case, it would be a real mistake to think this is about a conflict between our Mexican "guests" and real Americans. In fact, it's war against every single person who has to work for a living, waged by Cheap-labor conservatives.

13:19 GMT

Sex and conservatives

Atrios has linked to Garance Franke-Ruta's post about the bizarre sexual attitudes of various conservatives ("WOMEN HAVE AN EXPIRATION DATE. MEN DON'T"), and particularly John Derbyshire, who says that, "It follows that we [conservatives] are at ease with the fact that the human female is visually attractive to the human male at, or shortly after, puberty, and for only a few brief years thereafter."

From my own experience of men, I have to say that this is only true if by "a few brief years" you mean three decades or more.

But apparently not, since Derbyshire's example of an elderly broad who is just too far past her sell-by date is the wrinkly old Jennifer Aniston, who at the advanced age of 36 no longer appeals.

Well, this isn't quite as bad, I suppose, as going on television to represent the Republican Party and informing the public that you, like all other boys growing up in the south, had your first sexual experiences with farm animals, but it's still pretty good. It's not so much the proclivities that bother me as the willingness to announce them to the world and to insist that you can speak for all men, or at least all men of your region. (Speaking for all men, though, seems to be the more frequent habit.)

I don't think there's anything particularly odd about men in their later years still thinking teenaged women are attractive, but there is something a bit unusual about being unable to recognize attractiveness in women who are more than a handful of years past puberty.

Garance gets this one wrong:

There is a word for men who fetishize the beauty of teenage and pubescent girls, and it is not a very nice one.
Actually, there is indeed a word for men who are principally or only attracted to adolescents, but in order to be "not a very nice one" it would have to be better known. Garance may be thinking of the word "pedophile", but in fact that word does not apply here. Pedophiles are people who are attracted to actual children, and teenagers are not children, they are adolescents, which is something else.

Actually, there are two correct words for the attraction to adolescents: ephebophilia and hebephilia. But since most people don't know these words, they don't really qualify as "not very nice". They mostly qualify as obscure, arcane, and the sort of words academics and shrinks would know but most people wouldn't.

Hm. Maybe Derbyshire, like another conservative, is confusing women with farm animals, who often don't last quite as long after puberty. 36 would be pretty damned old for a horse....

01:04 GMT

Thursday, 01 December 2005

Count 'em

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) wants your vote to be counted. Holt has been an important part of the push for verifiable voting, and as a result many states have adopted requirements for a paper trail. But only half of US states do have such a requirement - we need them all.

Blanton's and Ashton's blog says:


Another election has passed without any action by Congress to protect our votes.
Today I and many hundred of my fellow web loggers are urging our readers to go to Congressman Holt's web site and sign his petition in support of H.R. 550. Everyone, left, right, and middle, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or whatever, can join this effort and let Congress know that we want all of our votes to be counted.

As you know, I don't regard "a paper trail" as being enough - I want paper ballots, hand-counted on the night in front of God and everyone. But a paper trail is better than what we have now, which is that we don't know who wins our elections - we just have a bunch of movement conservatives who own voting machine companies telling us who won, which is something else altogether.

Enough so that Dave Johnson offers this:

Challenge - Prove That Voting Machines Accurately Record Votes

Suppose you could get every bug out of every program that runs every company's electronic voting machines. Suppose you can make sure that there is no way a technician has installed new chips the day before the election. Suppose you can absolutely guarantee that no hacker can get into the system. Suppose you can show me every line of the code from the machine AND prove to me that is the same code that is in every machine on election day. Suppose you find a way to assure me that every official, employee, etc. that comes into contact with any machine is not corrupt. Suppose that the disk drive and memory in the machine could be manufactured in a way that it never, ever dropped a bit. Suppose there were a way to safely transmit the results from every machine to the county's vote tabulator without possibility of error or compromise. And the suppose you can guarantee all of the SAME conditions for the country's vote tabulator machines.

When all of that is done there is still a problem. You still can not prove that the voting machine correctly recorded the way I voted. You can not prove this because there is no method for proving it -- no way to double check.

And without that proof, you do not have a legitimate election.

15:39 GMT

Morning notes

December 1 - National Tribute to Rosa Parks Day: Omnitrans will join transit agencies from around the country in honoring Rosa Parks, who refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white person - an action that resulted in her arrest and became the catalyst for our nation's civil rights movement - on December 1, 1955. All agency buses will bear a sign symbolically reserving the first seat onboard for Parks, to honor her dignified act of quiet defiance.

The NYT this morning has an editorial saying Bush is wandering the halls, out of touch and just like Nixon: It has been obvious for months that Americans don't believe the war is going just fine, and they needed to hear that President Bush gets that. [...] Instead, Mr. Bush traveled 32 miles from the White House to the Naval Academy and spoke to yet another of the well-behaved, uniformed audiences that have screened him from the rest of America lately. Oh, now they find that disturbing? Anyway, even the cadets are bored by this by now. Bet it wouldn't happen with a real president.

Oh, please please please: In a surprise order, responding to a Department motion last week that Padilla's lawyers had not opposed, the Circuit Court ordered new briefing from both sides on whether it should vacate its Sept. 9 ruling upholding Padilla's detention as an "enemy combatant." If the Court were to do that, it would remove a major precedent in favor of presidential power during the war on terrorism. Via Lis Riba.

My Conversation With An Anti-Porn Feminist by Annie Sprinkle with Mae Tyme, via Radio Active.

The Egg Man (via)

10:49 GMT

Scattered showers

It was a disk failure day. Fortunately, The Sideshow has access to the best PC geek in the world and he says he can save my data, and in the meantime I have a spare... but ouch. And that disk was new only a few months ago, too.

Via TalkLeft, a tale of sex panic from Protein Wisdom and The New Zealand Herald: Air New Zealand and Qantas have banned men from sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights, sparking accusations of discrimination. And Protein Wisdom says: "Christ. Guilty until proven innocent. Hate crime legislation. Fear of giving offense. Empowering the frequently and easily offended in the name of "tolerance". What a mess we've made of things."

Bill Scher says: Conservatives Agree: Bush Misleads: All of a sudden, conservatives (at least, those conservatives from the nativist wing of the GOP and not the corporatist wing) opened their eyes to the standard Bushian propaganda practices. It's that whole immigration thing.

And the best time to announce the death of Osama would be...

Media Matters reports that the media uncritically reported the results of a poll that asked this question: "Thinking about the war in Iraq, when Democratic Senators criticize the President's policy on the war in Iraq, do you believe it HELPS the morale of our troops in Iraq or HURTS the morale of our troops in Iraq?"

Down in comments, Daryl McCullough makes a good point: My biggest worry about a total Bush crackup (I mean, besides the fact that he is in a position to completely screw up the US and the rest of the world) is that growing discontentment with Bush will become personalized. People will think "I guess the Republicans made a mistake in nominating Bush" rather than "I guess the country made a mistake in electing a Republican". Will a less obviously incompetent Republican, such as John McCain or Rudy Giuliani or Chuck Hagel, be tainted by Bush's self-destruction, or not? How can we liberals get the people to think of Bush's mistakes as typical for Republicans, rather than the exception?

00:37 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, December 2005

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