Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Well of course they do

U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press - Los Angeles Times
As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.


This makes perfect sense. I am sure that it is quite expensive, though, which just proves how much more efficient the old method of manipulating the media was. Alas, nostalgia won't bring back Judith Miller.

L’état, c’est moi

Open-government advocates say that Vice President Cheney is to executive branch secrecy what darkness is to the night.

In 2001, Cheney famously refused to disclose the names of oil company executives and others who attended meetings of a White House energy task force that he headed, which helped draft a national energy policy.

More recently, a government watchdog group has called attention to less noticed records that Cheney has sought to keep private: travel costs.

In a report this month, the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity said Cheney and his staff have sidestepped regulations that require annual reporting of travel expenses of more than $250 received from outside groups. The center, which focuses on ethics and public service issues, said previous vice presidents routinely disclosed such payments for lodging, travel and food when the veep and his staff made appearances at colleges, think tanks and trade associations.
...
Cheney's office says nothing is amiss. In three letters since 2002 to the Office of Government Ethics, which collects the travel reports, David S. Addington, then Cheney's general counsel, noted that the reporting requirement applies to the "head of each agency of the executive branch."

"The Office of the Vice President is not an 'agency of the executive branch,' and hence the reporting requirement does not apply," wrote Addington, who this month replaced I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as Cheney's chief of staff.


The Sun King and the Prince of Darkness all in one corpulent, sneering container.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Today's Fin de siècle moment

History will forever record Elizabeth Brooks' bat mitzvah as "Mitzvahpalooza."

For his daughter's coming-of-age celebration last weekend, multimillionaire Long Island defense contractor David H. Brooks booked two floors of the Rainbow Room, hauled in concert-ready equipment, built a stage, installed special carpeting, outfitted the space with Jumbotrons and arranged command performances by everyone from 50 Cent to Tom Petty to Aerosmith.

I hear it was garish display of rock 'n' roll idol worship for which the famously irascible CEO of DHB Industries, a Westbury-based manufacturer of bulletproof vests, sent his company jet to retrieve Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from their Saturday gig in Pittsburgh.
...
The party cost an estimated $10 million, including the price of corporate jets to ferry the performers to and from. Also on the bill were The Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh performing with Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks; DJ AM (Nicole Richie's fiance); rap diva Ciara and, sadly perhaps (except that he received an estimated $250,000 for the job), Kenny G blowing on his soprano sax as more than 300 guests strolled and chatted into their pre-dinner cocktails.


What -- no vomitoria? No human sacrifice?

And get this: DHB is the parent of Point Blank Body Armor, one of several manufacturers of "Interceptor" body armor. And wouldn't you know -- the vests are apparently crap.

On May 4, 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps recalled 5,277 Interceptor vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor. On July 20 Point Blank received an additional $10.1 million contract from the U.S. government for even more Interceptor vests. At the time of this report Point Blank has not responded to a DefenseWatch inquiry.

So, to cut to the chase: (1) obscenely wealthy war profiteer throws ostentatious-beyond-belief affair, where (2) lots of very high-profile rock/pop musicians accept blood-stained war profits to play to honor his 13-year-old daughter.

OK, I'm convinced. This situation really is nothing like Viet Nam.

Torture? What torture?

Digby caught this amazing bit from press conference with Rummy and Peter Chase, chairman of the Joint Chiefs (CNN transcript):

QUESTION: Sir, taking on his question a bit -- and I can give you actual examples from coalition forces who talked to me when I was over there about excesses of the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense; and that is in dealing with prisoners or in arresting people and how they're treated after they're arrested -- what are the obligations and what are the rights of U.S. military over there in dealing with that? Obviously, Iraq is a sovereign country now, but the United States is responsible for training and expects to turn over the security mission to them. So, what is the U.S. obligation in addressing that, preventing that, and what can we do? And what are we doing?

RUMSFELD: That's a fair question. I'll start and, Pete, you may want to finish. But we are working very hard to train and equip the Iraqi security forces. So is NATO. So are some neighboring countries. There are a lot of people involved in this, dozens of countries trying to help train these Iraqi forces. Any instance of inhumane behavior is obviously worrisome and harmful to them when that occurs. Iraq knows, of certain knowledge, that they need the support of the international community. And a good way to lose it is to make a practice of something that is inconsistent with the values of the international community.

RUMSFELD: And I think they know that.Now, you know, I can't go any farther in talking about it. Obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility when a sovereign country engages in something that they disapprove of. However, we do have a responsibility to say so and to make sure that the training is proper and to work with the sovereign officials so that they understand the damage that can be done to them in the event some of these allegations prove to be true.

QUESTION: And, General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if -- like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail?

PACE: It is absolutely responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening, but you're told about it, is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago. There was a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was a possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it. So they did exactly what they should have done.

RUMSFELD: I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it, it's to report it.

PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.


And there you have it, folks, giftwrapped and suitable for giving this holiday season. Another member of the military trying to play by the rules. And another example of the civilan leadership trying to lower those in uniform to the depths of depravity that the neocons call home.

I'll bet there was a helluva post-mortem discussion between those two.

Duke Cunningham nostagia

Now that Duke Cunningham is finally owning up to a remarkable array of corrupt behaviors, it is worth a whirl in the Wayback Machine, to this tidbit from the halcyon days of this past summer, which we noted here.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) yesterday defended Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) after calls from congressional Democrats to investigate the Republican appropriator for selling his San Diego home to a defense contractor whose firm had received $65 million in federal funds in 2004.

“Duke Cunningham is a hero,” DeLay said during a press briefing Tuesday. “He is an honorable man of high integrity.”
What adorable rascals they are.

Fighting Terror with Terror

Newly inflammatory @ Raw Story.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Next: Defeating hurricanes through intimidation

via Yahoo/AP:
MIAMI - Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.

Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

"This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It's letting the terrorists know we are out there," Fernandez said.

The operations will keep terrorists off guard, Fernandez said. He said al-Qaida and other terrorist groups plot attacks by putting places under surveillance and watching for flaws and patterns in security.

Police Chief John Timoney said there was no specific, credible threat of an imminent terror attack in Miami. But he said the city has repeatedly been mentioned in intelligence reports as a potential target.


This might work. I mean, can you say with absolute certainty that it is impossible for a terrorist to die of laughter?

The wages of our sins

Kathy Kattenberg @ Liberty Street points out that the government's Padilla case, rather than being aided by our torture regime, has in fact been eviscerated by it.
First, after spending so much time rewriting and reinterpreting the meaning of domestic law and international agreements to permit the U.S. to torture detainees in the war on terror, it turns out the Bush administration doesn't trust the credibility of information obtained under torture enough to use it in court. They know it's not reliable. They know torture is morally wrong, evil, barbaric, and uncivilized. And they know that the American court system would not stand for a prosecution based on "evidence" gained through torture.

Second, IF Padilla did have ties to Al Qaeda; IF the Justice Department's case against him had merit; then the Bush administration has destroyed that case by using torture to obtain evidence.

Put another way, the Bush administration has seriously damaged this country's ability to bring suspected terrorists to justice, and thus has gravely compromised U.S. national security.

So there you have it, folks. The president who used the Bill of Rights for toilet paper; and who has made the name of the United States synonymous with contempt for human rights -- all for the supposed purpose of protecting Americans' safety -- has killed the U.S. government's ability to successfully prosecute alleged terrorists.


All of which also answers the question: why is the government so insistent on holding so many suspects without trials? Because they know they can't prove a goddamned thing, even against the few who might actually be guilty of something important.

Kunstler nails it

Dead-on and ignored -- that seems to be the fate of Jim Kunstler's rants about our twin follies of oil and real estate. Read and react now, before the painful I-told-you-so moments to come.

How bad does it look..

for the Republican leadership?


So bad that disgraced racist Trent Lott is looking mighty good by comparison to the rank and file about now.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ooh! Ooh! Pick us! Pick us!

The General gets some visitors.

Do we have chips and beer on hand for Company, Mr. Bluememe?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Torture and higher law

I am of course disgusted at the God-fearing Torquemadas out there who feel the need to offer up extreme situations as justifications for torture. To wit (from the Christian WorldViews via Sully):

Re. the recent Senate debate on banning torture, Thomas Sowell writes, "If a captured terrorist knows where a nuclear bomb has been planted in some American city, and when it is timed to go off, are millions of Americans to be allowed to be incinerated because we have become too squeamish to get that information out of him by whatever means are necessary? What a price to pay for moral exhibitionism or political grandstanding!" What is a biblical worldview concerning the use of torture in extreme life-saving circumstances?


I want to ask a different question, since we are off in the wilds of extreme hypotheticals:

Assume we are in exactly your hypothetical situation, and that torture has indeed been banned. Are you saying that you as a God-fearing Christian would feel bound by the law of man, and that your God would not forgive a little torture or even killing to save millions of innocents? Would you be unwilling to risk jail to do this great good for a greater number? Then I assume you are opposed to this. And this.

If you really believe in some higher law, then you should be willing to pay a temporal price for your willingnes to torture in its service. Then when the time comes, perhaps you can explain to your higher authority how making it safe for heathens like me to torture with impunity makes ours a better world.

I feel there is a strong categorical imperative against torture. I am also in at least some contexts a utilitarian. I honestly don't know what I would do if faced with this situation. But I do know that if I honestly believed that by doing something I considered wrong I would certainly prevent the suffering of millions, the illegality of my actions would not be a major factor in my decision. I would much prefer that my government declare torture illegal and risk jail in your hypothetical situation than sleep in my own bed in a country that condones such barbarity.

Robert Parry on Joe DiGenova

I knew DiGenova was a hack. But I did not know what evil this apparat had done. Parry explains.

John Powers nails it

Trashing the usual suspects, but also Tom Freidman and John Kerry:
The right's political jockeying finds an echo in the bad-faith fiesta thrown by liberal hawks who must deal with the fact that they promoted an invasion that's turned out badly. None has been more egregious than smug, gee-whizish New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who always seems like the sort of high school history teacher who couldn't finish his doctorate but wows 16-year-olds by calling Brazil "amazon.country." Although he served as the war's most prominent liberal fig leaf, he's still trying to have it both ways, taking credit for his visionary ideals in supporting democracy and a remade Middle East, then faulting other people for their incompetence in executing the master plan. What did he think he'd get from George Bush and Dick Cheney? They didn't exactly turn Afghanistan into the Switzerland of Central Asia (with opiates instead of chocolates); in fact, they mocked the idea of nation-building during the 2000 campaign, and, in the run-up to war, kept claiming that the whole Iraq operation would be a piece of cake.

Democratic politicians have been just as bad. As Rosa Brooks noted in her Los Angeles Times column, November has become "Repudiate Your Iraq Vote Month" -- which is obviously linked to the war's poll numbers. Years after it might have made a difference, Bill Clinton called the war a mistake, a declaration that was immediately viewed through the prism of his wife's presidential ambitions. Was this Willie's slick way of signaling to liberal voters that, despite all Hillary's hawkish talk, she didn't believe in the war?

Meanwhile, both members of last year's Democratic ticket publicly said that they'd been wrong in okaying the war. While John Edwards did this the canny way -- identifying himself with all the ordinary Americans who put their faith in the president to do the right thing -- John Kerry displayed his customary tin ear. He blamed the administration for misleading him into approving an invasion. (Didn't he learn anything in Vietnam?) "Knowing what we know now," he brayed, "I would not have gone to war in Iraq." Now that's leadership. I imagine he also feels strongly that it was a mistake to have booked steerage on the Titanic, failed to defend Pearl Harbor or traded Shaq to Miami.

It is actually possible now, given the arc of events, that "We suck less" will work as a Democratic campaign slogan. That would be an amazingly lucky turn, as I doubt anything short of the complete implosion of the Repugs would be enough to let the lame-ass bunch of morons we call our own succeed.

Oh, and yesterday I rode in a taxi in a foreign land -- doesn't that qualify me to prognositicate on all the world's ills?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Brilliant

If Jane @ FDL has this right, Fitz will have won me over to the "yea" side of the beatification debate: essentially, she suggests that the reason Fitz left the IIPA charge out of the indictment was to short-circuit any attempt by the defense to try to bring in a bunch of classified information through discovery (knowing that the Assministration would balk and hope to trigger dismissal).

According to this theory, the classified stuff will go only to the new grand jury. This bifurcation could leave Scooterpie high and dry, which, the thinking would go, may just bring him into Fitz's confessional at long last.

Pleaseplease PLEASE be that smart.

Neocon madness spreads overseas

The Left Coaster reports on some scary revisionist thinking in Japan and how teachers are being removed for daring to challenge the ultranationalist view that Japan was a victim in WWII.

Scary shit.

Adventures in consulting

To: Colin Powell
From: Donald Rumsfeld
Re: Transitions

Colin:

Have we had our disagreements? Yes. Did I undermine you at every turn? Yes. Is it a bit odd for me to be reaching out to you now? Of course. But you have some experience as an ex-Adminstration bigwig, and I will soon be following. Will my record of failure hold a candle to yours? No. How should you interpret that sentence? Well, there are things we know, and things we know we don't know, and ...

Anyway, I'll be heading off into retirement with the prospects I have, not the successes I wish I had. Sure, I'll be financially set with my Gilead stock, but is that enough for me? No. Do I have some ideas about what to do next? Yes.

I assume you are aware that Michael Brown is setting up a consulting business.

He learned his lessons, and now they're for sale.

Ousted FEMA director Michael Brown, who was vilified over his handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, plans to make a fresh start in Colorado, selling his expertise about how emergency planning can go right or so very wrong.

"You have to do it with candor. To do it otherwise gives you no credibility," Brown said Wednesday. "I think people are curious: 'My gosh, what was it like? The media just really beat you up. You made mistakes. I don't want to be in that situation. How do I avoid that?' "

In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, Brown acknowledged key mistakes he made while overseeing the federal response to the hurricane that ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi. He also lashed out at the media and discussed plans to base his fledgling consulting business in the Boulder-Longmont area of Colorado, where he lived before joining the Bush Administration in 2001.

"Look, Hurricane Katrina showed how bad disasters can be, and there's an incredible need for individuals and businesses to understand how important preparedness is," he said. "So if I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses _ because that goes straight to the bottom line _ then I hope I can help the country in some way."


Well, I think he is on to something. And is my judgment impressive? Yes it is.

So here is my proposal: After I tender my resignation, I will join up with him and specialize in success through downsizing and creating operational efficiencies. And in the spirit of reconcilliation, and to minimize the chances that you'll knife me the way you have a few of our friends, I'd like to bring you in as well.

Do I think you have valuable expertise to share? Absolutely. I think you would be a valuable asset as a lecturer in the effectiveness of standing on principle and the power of persuasion.

Are there further opportunities to grow this organization? Sure. We could bring in Tom Delay to teach ethics. Paul Bremer on excellence in organization-building. George Tenet could advise on sizing up the competition. And maybe in a few years, 43 could join us and speak about how to avoid the trap of surrounding yourself with yes-men.

Oh, and please tell Wilkerson to STFU.

Entrepreneur taps mistrust of media for new venture

The internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark, whose Craigslist site provided a hugely successful free alternative to classified advertising, has trained his sights on the old-fashioned newspaper industry.

Mr Newmark - whose craigslist.org is the seventh-most visited internet site in America, just after eBay - has diverted millions of dollars of advertising revenue away from newspapers.

At a seminar at the Said Business School at Oxford University this week, Mr Newmark rehearsed his new media paradigm: the combination of improving Web technology and a popular groundswell of distrust for reporters - especially, he says, because of ill- informed reporting of the Iraq war and its build-up - means that ordinary people are ready to take over the newsroom.

Mr Newmark said that he expects to launch a project in the coming weeks to harness the "wisdom of the masses" that has fuelled his advertising site and apply it to daily journalism.

The success of Craigslist means that when Mr Newmark talks, the newspaper business would do well to listen. In the San Francisco area alone, it is reckoned he has denied local newspapers about $50m (£29m) in classified advertising revenue annually. The site makes a modest income, charging only for recruitment ads in big markets like New York. Everything else is free. There are sites for almost every major US city and 35 international cities including London.

While he has yet to discuss the specifics of his next venture, he has hinted at an interactive website on which users could decide which parts of the news really matter to them and even report some of it themselves.

"Things need to change," he said. "The big issue in the US is that newspapers are afraid to talk truth to power. The White House press corps don't speak the truth to power - they are frightened to lose access they don't have anyway."
...
The White House press corps seems to enrage him especially. "No one is taking their job seriously there," he recently remarked. "Now it could be that they could be under a directive to not do so. We don't know. I've spoken to a lot of journalists who are very frustrated."

Part of the problem lies with the newspapers themselves. The race for dollars, he insists, has obscured the race for truth. "They're being run as profit centres, and they're trying to get pretty high profit margins. As a result, investigative reporting has been seen as a problem."


Mr. Craigslist has enough money to make a major splash in what has become a rather shallow pool. He could heavily subsidize real journalism with only a portion of the money he makes off his money. And if this idea becomes a reality, it has the potential to expose Open Sores Media for the Ponzi scheme it really is.

Sign me up, Craig.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Fantasy Island: Corporate Edition

The symbiotic relationship between Republicans and their corpate masters has perhaps never been more fully displayed than in recent remarks from one of the reigning champions of corporate suicide bombing, Ford chariman Bill Ford.



Ford Motor Co. Chairman William C. Ford Jr. urged the government yesterday to help struggling U.S. automakers by expanding subsidies for companies that make components for hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles, as U.S. automakers race to close a widening technology gap with the Japanese.

In a speech at the National Press Club, Ford asked for more incentives, such as tax credits, to prod consumers to buy hybrids and other vehicles with fuel-saving technology. He also asked Congress for money to retrain workers, and to consider tax incentives to help manufacturers outfit old plants with new equipment. In the speech, Ford said a national strategy is needed to respond to the pressures of globalization, which he called the "economic challenge of our time."
...
Last month, Ford -- the nation's No. 2 automaker -- reported a $1.2 billion third-quarter loss in its North American division. Ford plans to detail a restructuring plan of "significant" plant closings and job cuts in January. Delphi Corp., a major auto parts supplier for Ford and GM, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

Ford first called on the Bush administration to hold a summit on energy and automotive technology issues in October. Ford said the billions of dollars that U.S. automakers pay in health care and pension costs are unfairly weighing down the companies, making it difficult to compete.

Ford and other Detroit automakers have not asked the government to pick up those costs. Instead, Ford wants Congress to increase tax credits for research and development to support companies that make advanced technology for vehicles. Ford said the investment from Congress is needed to help build a U.S. supply base for parts for hybrid cars and trucks, especially hybrid batteries. He said the United States is trailing Japanese automakers in hybrids partly because the Japanese government offered subsidies a decade ago to help the industry grow.

In an interview following the speech, Ford said his company is not looking for a bailout from the federal government. "We're just looking for our government to help us," Ford said.

"We can compete with Toyota, but we can't compete with Japan," he said.

A spokeswoman for Toyota said the automaker developed its hybrid vehicles without Japan's help. She said the company's success was based on building products that consumers want to buy.


This nonsense really rebuts itself, but at the risk of stating the obvious:

1. Hybrids are currently so hot that Toyota is having trouble supplying all the Priuses (Prii?) Americans want to buy. But while Toyota was investing in the future, Ford was launching the dreadnought class Excursion (named the Ford "Exxon Valdez" by the Sierra Club.) Amercians are willing to pay substantial premiums to get hybrids when somebody else builds them. Why should we subsidize yours?

2. It isn't a "bailout," it is just a little "help." I'm sure your pollsters told you that distinction would hold water with someone, but was their focus group composed solely of UAW members? This sounds like classic Frank Luntz-speak to me.

3. "We can compete with Toyota, but we can't compete with Japan."

Earth to Ford:

Toyota Motor Corp. grabbed more U.S. retail market share than Ford Motor Co. in early November and it was less than one share point behind General Motors Corp., J.D. Power and Associates said on Friday.

A report from the industry tracking firm's closely watched Power Information Network said GM (Research) had the highest retail market share in the first 13 days of November at 18.8 percent.

However, retail share at the world's largest automaker was down 24 percent from the same period a year ago, and Toyota was running close behind with a retail share of 17.9 percent. Toyota, Japan's largest automaker, had a 15.4 percent U.S. retail market share a year earlier.

The report said Ford (Research), which has seen its retail sales decline 30 percent from the year-ago period, placed a distant third with a U.S. retail share of 15.3 percent.

Ford, 1990: 24% of U.S. market

Ford, 2004: 18%

Toyota, 1990: 7.6%

Toyota, 2004: 12.2%

No, you can't even compete with Toyota.

I feel sorry for the workers at Ford and GM, because Amercans can build quality cars that Americans want to buy -- as long they are working for Toyota, or Honda, or any of a number of foreign-based auto manufacturers less terminally mismanaged than our domestic dinosaurs.

The Republicans won't give a damn about these workers. But I'll wager that these small-goverment free marketeers will fall over themselves offering bailouts to both Ford and GM next year.

Another reason to avoid Michelle Malkin's site

via Yahoo/Reuters:

Ignoring useless information aids memory: study

Filtering out useless information can help people increase their capacity to remember what is really important, researchers said on Wednesday.

Scientists at the University of Oregon in the United States have demonstrated that awareness, or visual working memory, does not depend on extra storage space in the brain but on an ability to ignore what is irrelevant.


There is an old joke about how a professor of icthyology eventually stopped trying to learn the names of his students because every time he learned the name of a student, he forgot the name of a fish.

Which of those two categories is really more worthy of retention is not clear to me. But compared to the value of what I see when slumming though right wing blogs, I'd rather hold onto valve diameters in Chevy small block heads and pi to eight digits.

Open Sores Media

I have enjoyed watching the OSM trainwreck unfold in Cinemascope, of course. Now that they have folded their "Open Source" tent, it occurs to me that they might want to re-think the associations inherent in the name "pajamas."

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

pajamas
1800, pai jamahs "loose trousers tied at the waist," worn by Muslims in India and adopted by Europeans there, especially for nightwear, from Hindi pajama, probably from Pers. paejamah, lit. "leg clothing," from pae "leg" (from PIE *ped- "foot," see foot) + jamah "clothing." Modern spelling is from 1845.

Heh, indeed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Al Jazeera: Reader's Digest version

Shorter Scott McClellan: Why, that is as absurd as Karl Rove outing a CIA operative.

Shorter Downing Street response: Bush never said that ... and if it did, he was only kidding... and if you mention it again, we'll throw you in prison.

Shorter Frank Gaffney: But it would've been a great idea.

NBC Hack-a-thon, Part XVI: Andrea Mitchell

David Fiderer at HuffPo does a number on Andrea Mitchell's inexcuseable handling of the Plame case.

Ms. Mitchell really needs to think about finding a new career. Now that the pesky bloggers have started logging her malfeasance, and hubby Greenspan is about to hang up his cleats, maybe she'll consider retiring from doing network news.

But Ms. Mitchell has made a significant investment of time and money in preserving her network TV-quality appearance. If that is a factor in her decisionmaking, I think I have a creative solution. Why not try your hand at the pro poker circuit?

Learning the odds is pretty simple. What separates pedestrian from shark (and fool from money) is skill in bluffing. Ms. Mitchell already possesses some rare attributes that would make her a strong competitor. First, she is obviously comfortable lying her ass off. As valuable a skill as that is, she also has a much rarer attribute. A great poker player is always searching the opponent's face for a "tell"-- the hint of a smile, or a twitch, or some other way to read the opponent's hand in his or her face.

And that is where Mitchell will have her opponents at a disadvantage. Next time you see Mitchell on air, ignore the sound and just watch the upper two-thirds of her face. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, moves. If a Pixar character was as expressionless, the critics would savage the animation as lifeless. Whether the result of a few gallons of Botox or some more drastic technique, her face is a card shark's dream. The only way she is going to telegraph her hand is by holding her cards face out. Poker would be like stealing candy from a baby for her.

Which would be a huge moral step up from what she is doing now.

A really bad day

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From Reuters:

The turkey, Marshmallow, will travel to his new home at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, following the pardon and will serve as honorary Grand Marshal for Disneyland’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Bush is scheduled to depart for Texas to remain at his central Texas ranch for the holiday.
Clemency, sure. But think of it: first, you suffer the indignity of being pardoned by some gork you could whip in a spelling bee even if he didn't have alcohol on his breath, and then you're forced to front some bogus feelgood parade sponsored by a global media megacorp hellbent on controlling everything you see, hear and think. Marshmallow is to be forgiven if he's wondering where he can find an axe.

Oh, and look! Somebody's flying off to the ranch to lock himself in his bedroom with a bottle of Jack Daniels, dreaming of Marshmallow's lovely bald head spend the weekend catching up on his brush-clearing...

Also in the bomb sights


The Beebe

RTE studios in Dublin

Ireland's RTE (preferably when Carole Coleman is on site)

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Heh. Indeed.

The Comedy Central Studio for Jon Stewart

Daily Show studios (preferably during taping)

The Leave it to Beaver house can also be seen on the tram tour

Joe Wilson's house

Digby asks the musical question: How can you not believe the story is true?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Santa, Idaho Votes to Rename Itself SecretSanta.com

Officials in the northern Idaho town of Santa, Idaho, on Monday voted to rename the 115-person hamlet SecretSanta.com, a service which manages gift exchanges for families and office workplaces online.

In the late hours of the evening, the town's 5 member commission unanimously voted in favor of the new name in exchange for 50% of proceeds from an underway movie documentary about Santa residents including nationally acclaimed Elvis impersonator Doug Spencer, and the controversy surrounding the town's renaming.
...
Gidget McQueen, the public official charged with coordinating the town's renaming said, "You're never going to make everyone happy, but this was too good to pass up for a village that's otherwise not on the map."

The expected re-dubbing of Santa with ceremonies planned for December 9 is the brainchild of marketing guru Mark Hughes, author of the Penguin/Portfolio book Buzzmarketing, and the architect behind Halfway, Oregon's name change which sold to eBay (Nasdaq:EBAY) six months after its renaming for a sum of $300 million.
...

Halfway, Oregon mayor Gordon Kaesemeyer says it set up a special non-profit corporation and transformed $20,000 of its money from the Halfway, Oregon deal through federal and state grants to a sum totaling almost half a million dollars.
As regular readers will recall, I've offered up my name to the highest bidder in the past. Alas, my agent tells me that no one has called to take advantage of this unique opportunity, although this piece makes the basis of my problem quite clear: "Dr. Bloor" simply has no buzz. Accordingly, I hereby rechristen myself "Dr. Opensource." Let the bidding commence.

Like shooting fish in an (oil) barrel

Massachusetts in energy deal with Venezuela

Venezuelan officials signed a deal Tuesday to ship 12 million gallons (45 million liters) of discounted home heating oil to poor Americans in Massachusetts as part of plan by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to help needy U.S. communities.

The fuel is being offered by Citgo Petroleum Corp., a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company which runs roughly 16,000 gas stations in the U.S.

U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who helped broker the deal, called the agreement "an expression of humanitarianism at its very best," and rejected criticism that the move was motivated by politics. Chavez often blames the plight of the poor on unbridled capitalism and had criticized U.S. President George W. Bush's government for failing to reduce poverty.

...

The plan to provide low-cost heating oil to poor communities in Massachusetts and also the Bronx in New York City is "eminently a political move," said Patrick Esteruelas, an analyst with the New York-based Eurasia Group.

He said it is a way for Venezuela to "compromise the White House position within the U.S." and emphasize what Chavez has long cited as the failings of U.S. policy.


Well, OK, it's not very hard to make the assministration look bad these days, but you have to give Chavez style points. Big Oil tells America to bugger off when asked to kick in for home heating relief this winter, saying it would set a "bad precedent?" Let Uncle Hugo lend a hand. And tell George he said "Howdy."

Riskless business

The Darwin exhibition frightening off corporate sponsors

An exhibition celebrating the life of Charles Darwin has failed to find a corporate sponsor because American companies are anxious not to take sides in the heated debate between scientists and fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution.

The entire $3 million (£1.7 million) cost of Darwin, which opened at the American Museum of Natural History in New York yesterday, is instead being borne by wealthy individuals and private charitable donations.

The failure of American companies to back what until recently would have been considered a mainstream educational exhibition reflects the growing influence of fundamentalist Christians, who are among President George W Bush's most vocal supporters, over all walks of life in the United States.

While the Darwin exhibition has been unable to find a business backer - unlike previous exhibitions at the museum - the Creationist Museum near Cincinatti, Ohio, which takes literally the Bible's account of creation, has recently raised $7 million in donations.

The outbreak of corporate cold feet has shocked New York's intellectuals. "It is a disgrace that large companies should shy away from such an important scientific exhibition," said a trustee of another prominent museum in the city, who was told of the exhibition's funding problem by a trustee of the AMNH.

...

The AMNH is coy about its failure to find corporate money to mount the exhibition, which will tour the US before moving to London's Natural History Museum in 2009 to mark the bicentenary of Darwin's birth.

Asked which companies had refused to give money, Gary Zarr, the museum's marketing director, said he would have to ask those concerned before he could identify them.

Steve Reichl, a press officer for the AMNH, said a list of forthcoming exhibitions was sent to potential sponsors and none wanted to back the Darwin exhibition. He declined to reveal which companies, or how many, had been approached.

On its face, it's as unsurprising as it is disgraceful that businesses would avoid faux-controversies like this--who wants to run the risk of noisy wingnuts calling for boycotts 24/7 on Fox News? It's also not surprising that the museum is declining to release the names of the businesses who begged off sponsorship.

But consider the context. Visitors to the AMNH, even those visiting from the bible belt, shouldn't be surprised to see Darwin's legacy embraced by the museum, nor would they reasonably expect creationism to be given a hearing. They have a very nice emergency room at Bellevue for folks who flip out when they can't find Adam, Eve, Noah's Ark or Baby Jesus in any of the dioramas.

The threat of the squeaky wheel also turns the marketing economics of the situation topsy-turvy. Using the blue state-red state dichotomy as a very rough index of the purchasing power of hard core creationists likely to make trouble, it's clear that the ideal target market for the corporate sponsors are blue-oriented consumers. Sure, we can put the heat on the folks who sponsor creationist fiascoes and buy blue whenever possible, but how can we effectively organize any actions against those (frequently anonymous) corporations who don't sponsor something out of fear? And how can we give props to those who step up to the plate?

I hope Google has hardened their Blogger server farms

Report: Bush Talked of Bombing Al-Jazeera - Yahoo! News
A civil servant has been charged under Britain's Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that a newspaper said Tuesday suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded President Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera.

The Daily Mirror reported that Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004. The Bush administration has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.
...
Blair's office declined to comment on the report, stressing it never discusses leaked documents.

In Qatar, Al-Jazeera said it was aware of the report, but did not wish to comment. The U.S. Embassy in London said it was making no comment.

The document was described as a transcript of a conversation between the two leaders.


Leaking those documents -- now that's a whole 'nother thang.

A low-blog Thanksgiving to all

I will be heading out of town later today, and will be spending the next week in a secure undisclosed location. I hope to be able to blog a bit, but won't be online as much as usual. The good Doctor will hold down the fort.

A new piece should be up @ Raw Story in a day or so.

All politics may or may not be local. But all turkey dinners are. Enjoy.

Iraqi Leaders Call for Pullout Timetable

via the Guardian:
Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right'' of resistance.

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The participants in Cairo agreed on "calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation'' and end terror attacks.

The conference was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers, as well as leading Sunni politicians.
...
In Egypt, the final communique's attempt to define terrorism omitted any reference to attacks against U.S. or Iraqi forces. Delegates from across the political and religious spectrum said the omission was intentional. They spoke anonymously, saying they feared retribution.

"Though resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent resistance. Therefore, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping targeting Iraqi citizens and humanitarian, civil, government institutions, national resources and houses of worships,'' the document said.

The final communique also stressed participants' commitment to Iraq's unity and called for the release of all "innocent detainees'' who have not been convicted by courts. It asked that allegations of torture against prisoners be investigated and those responsible be held accountable.

The statement also demanded "an immediate end to arbitrary raids and arrests without a documented judicial order.''


This is huge. As Aravosis points out, the Iraqi's certainly seem to be in favor of the Murtha position. Which puts our petroleum-drunk leaders in a bit of a logical pickle. If our goal in Iraq is to disarm Saddam bring democracy to the Iraqis, and the democratically elected leaders want our asses out, how are they going to justify ignoring the will of said leaders? And how do we explain our "law unto ourselves" view of our right to shoot to kill, bomb cities, imprison, torture, etc. when the government we installed wants us to submit to the rule of law and supports the right of the insurgents to try to expel us?

Bad puppet. Bad, bad puppet.

And it isn't just the foreign press covering this -- lots of U.S. media coverage as well.

The Iraqis have spoken, and their leaders have listened. The American people have spoken, and our leaders are telling us to go Cheney ourselves.

Update: Just took a quick stroll through LGF, the Corner, and Instapundit. And what do you know, this story does not exist.

Monday, November 21, 2005

How much you wanna bet the Governator does not follow suit?

Greg Abbott, the attorney general for Texas, today filed a lawsuit against Sony BMG Music Entertainment, alleging that its controversial (and now recalled) "XCP" anti-piracy software violates the state's anti-spyware and consumer protection laws.

"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak and dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Abbott is quoted as saying in a press release on his official Web site. "Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music. Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime."

Abbott's suit seeks civil penalties of $100,000 for each violation of the law, attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.

At $100,000 per violation, this lawsuit could really hit Sony's pocketbook hard. Last week, computer security researcher Dan Kaminsky published research showing that Sony's flawed anti-piracy software is installed in computers on at least 560,000 networks around the globe.


But the royalty checks for "Last Action Hero" and "Terminator 4" will have nothing to do with the decision, of course.

Joe and Georgie, sitting in a tree....

from E&P:
At a press conference with reporters along for his trip to China, President Bush found several questions relating to the current debate back in the States over the Iraq pullout plan pushed by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.).

Among other things, he said "the progress in Iraq is amazing" and rejected Murtha's complaint about Vice President Cheney, who received five deferments during the Vietnam war, questioning the "backbone" of Iraq war critics who had served in battle. "I don't think the Vice President's service is relevant in this debate," Bush said.


He also hailed "fine Democrats like Senator Joe Lieberman share the view that we must prevail in Iraq."


And in turn, Joe is so taken with Shrub that he is going to ask him to come to Connecticut to help out in the 2006 Senate campaign...

by stumping for Joementum's Republican opponent.

$19.7 Million?

via The Hill: Scanlon to pay $19.7M
Former public-relations consultant and House GOP aide Michael Scanlon yesterday turned on his former business partner, Jack Abramoff, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to bribe public officials and defraud Indian tribes as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors.

Scanlon, who has been cooperating with prosecutors since June, agreed to pay $19.7 million in restitution to the tribes, according to his plea agreement. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though his sentencing will be deferred until Scanlon has finished helping prosecutors with their case.

Scanlon’s cooperation brings the government a step closer to charging Abramoff or others in its wide-ranging investigation of the former lobbyist’s dealings with Indian gaming tribes, members of Congress and other Washington power players. Abramoff and Scanlon have been accused of bilking tribes of more than $66 million over the course of several years.


This is great news of course, though not for Abramoff, DeLay and a few hundred of their closest friends. But what just struck me is this: The 35-year old Scanlon didn't dunk basketballs for a living. He didn't start a dot-com flash-in-the-can. All he had to sell was his influence.

How corrupt is our system when a 35 year old lobbyist has no trouble paying $19.7 million dollars in restitution? That means his profit margin on the baksheesh he funneled to his Republican friends was at least that much, and the gross number laundered through him must have been significantly larger still.

And K Street is a veritable termite mound of Scanlons.

I guess it's not OK if you're a Republican Guard member

That no-big-deal "Willy Pete" we innocently used in Iraq? Think Progress points out that when Saddam's boys used it, it was a chemical weapon.

Double plus good? Ungood? I'm so confused.

Idle speculation

Trying to make sense of Woodward's blizzard of chaff is difficult at this point. Ditto, for diametrically opposed reasons, with Fitzgerald's game plan. Lots of folks are trying to figure out how they intersect.

I'm as confused as the next guy. But here are a few what-ifs to ponder. I'm about to head out of town, and don't have the bandwidth to really run these ideas down. But perhaps someone else could pursue the inquiry or shoot me down.

One of the current Plamegate puzzlements is the fact that Libby's indictment goes into considerable detail regarding things that are not strictly necassary to the charges brought. Fitz essentially offers up a pretty good Intelligence Identities Protection Act fact pattern, but doesn't charge it. Lots of bloggers have offered up possible explanations, but here is one I haven't seen -- what if an IIPA count was in the indictment until the last minute? In other words, what if he planned to charge it, and something happened at the last minute that made him back it out?

Now from a forensic standpoint, this makes some sense. Having done all the work to add the factual predicate for those charges, it is easier to leave it in than to take it out and reconstruct the indictment. (If Fitz is convinced that the underlying crime occurred whether or not he can prove it, that would be another vote in favor of leaving it in.)

So what could have happened to change Fitz's plans? If Fitz got hold of a new fact at the eleventh hour that muddied his case slightly, he might well have decided to go with the airtight counts only.

Maybe this is where Woodward and his mystery source come in. One of the requirements of the IIPA is that the "United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States." So here is my off-the-wall hypothetical: The first guy who leaks knowing that the agent he exposes was a NOC is screwed on this issue. But what if you are not the first? If 20 government officials have already blabbed, one could argue that, simply by virtue of those prior leaks, the U.S. is no longer taking affirmative measures to conceal the relationship. I have no idea if case law or legislative history precludes this intepretation, but if I were on Libby's defense team, and I knew others had leaked the name before me, I would at least take a look at arguing this defense.

See where I'm going here? Maybe what happened is that word of Woody and his mystery date reached Fitzgerald on the eve of his announcement and the IIPA count got pulled as a result.

Thoughts?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Digby part Deux

The reporter's privilege is a means to an end, not the end in itself. It exists to serve the public's right to know. And yet in this case, as in so many others in recent years, it's been used to obscure the truth, spin the facts, serve the powerful to the detriment of the public.

To pretend that motives don't matter, that all sources are equal, that it doesn't matter if a source lies or uses the reporter as a cover for unethical behavior, is to devalue the principle until it has no meaning. Apparently, many of the elite media are so "entangled" with their sources and so inured to dirty politics that they can't see this.

For the press to shield immensely powerful individuals from being responsible for these actions stands the entire principle underlying the reporter's grant of confidentiality on its head. The point of it is to allow people to criticize their government without fear of professional reprisals, not so that powerful government officials can discredit their critics without fear of public reprisals.


Why do we have to keep repeating this obvious lesson? Because corrupt simpletons like Woodward, Miller, Cohen and their editors absolutely refuse to acknowledge and admit it.

At least he didn't blow chunks into the Prime Minister's lap



These photos are up all over the web, but I hadn't seen the Reuter's story outlining what led up to Chimpy's less-than-graceful cut and run departure:

At the end of a day of meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Chinese officials, Bush held a session with a small group of U.S. reporters and spoke at length about issues like religious freedom, Iraq and the Chinese currency.

The final reporter he called on critiqued Bush's performance earlier in the day when he stood next to Hu in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square to deliver a statement.

"Respectfully, sir -- you know we're always respectful -- in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?" he asked.

"Have you ever heard of jet lag?" Bush responded. "Well, good. That answers your question."

The president then recited a list of things of that he viewed as positive developments from his Beijing meetings, including cooperation on North Korean nuclear disarmament and the ability to have "frank discussions" with his Chinese counterpart.

When the reporter asked for "a very quick follow-up," Bush cut him off by thanking the press corps and telling the reporter "No you may not," as he strode toward a set of double doors leading out of the room.

Of course. Jet lag.

Context

Robert Parry explains why our media is as dysfunctional as it is. Some of the revelations he shares about media complicity in cover-ups over the last 30 years are mind-boggling.

Chilling facts ... sure to be ignored

I just read the entire LA Times piece about "Curveball," which is generating lots of commentary on our side of the blogosphere. Even if the context of lies and distortions that had previously been made public had not already made the case, this story should utterly lay to rest all Judy-esque claims that we were innocent in our mistakes about WMDs. How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball' - Los Angeles Times is long, but an important read -- and a poignant counterpoint to the dismissal of Bob Scheer in favor of Jonah Goldberg.

Not surprisingly, the article appears not exist in the right hemiblog. The Corner -- nothing. LGF -- nada. Instapundit -- zip.

As their godhead said, facts are stupid things. I guess these wingnuts are far too smart to waste their beautiful minds on such things.

Was this really necessary?

The Poseidon sails tips over yet again.

As does Andre Braugher's career, it seems. Boy, you can invoke that self-similarity thingie just about anyplace, can't you?

Indeed

Josh Marshall has very smart readers, Republican and Democratic alike. Sort of the Democratic version of the Republican self-similarity function that Poorman recently described.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

weekend diversion


7-2 Clippers beat 4-5 Lakers. Kobe goes 12 for 35. It is the third loss in a row to the Clips.

Gonna be a long stretch of this until it ends in April. I have to wonder if it is enough money to keep Big Chief Triangle on the reservation.

Digby nails it

As he usually does.
If politicians and the press want to know why they get no respect from the people, this is why. They openly defend dirty politics, pooh-pooh our outrage against it, and then expect us to look up to them.

Bob Woodward and Richard Cohen think that Fitzgerald is some sort of obsessed Javert chasing down the poor journalists and their sources over a little loaf of DC's staff of life --- the politics of personal destruction. To the rest of us, it's clear that the law is the only institution left capable of sorting out the truth now that the press and the politicians are so cozy that it literally takes a threat of jail to get journalists to report important stories about our most powerful leaders.

Bob Woodward very likely knew on the day that Novak revealed that Wilson's wife was CIA that this was a coordinated leak, not idle gossip. He most certainly knew that it was a coordinated leak when he found out that Libby and Rove had both "idly gossipped" about this to other reporters. Yet in his media appearances he made it quite clear that he believes that it was a trivial matter. I think we must take him at his word.

The elite press corps see the Nixonian dirty politics that have completely distorted our political discourse over the last 30 years as social currency. Swift-boating and McCain's black daughter and Linda Trip's tapes and Al Gore's suits are entertainment to them and the dissemination of this entertainment buys them access for what they think are their "serious" stories. We are told to just "get over" partisan impeachments, stolen elections and even lying about nuclear weapons.

Richard Cohen and his ilk believed that dirty politics are what Washington "does" the way that Hollywood makes movies or Detroit makes cars while the rest of us rubes maintained the strange belief that Washington is supposed to serve the people. That's the heart of this crisis in journalism. The elite press corps have completely missed the biggest political story of the last quarter century because they were having so much fun laughing and cavorting with their Republican sources that they failed to see that a powerful, criminal political machine was built upon the "trivial" acts of character assassination they found so amusing.


Can we stop calling it "fake news?"

A few days ago the Daily Show ran a segment on how the city of Newark NJ entered into a six-figure contract to literally buy good news. I assumed it was a creation grown in the fevered, brilliant minds of the show's writers.

I was wrong.

City council will pay for good news in Newark
The council has hired a fledgling newspaper called Newark Weekly News to publish "positive news" about the city -- and will pay $100,000 over the next year for it.

Newark Weekly News owner Howard Scott said he's doing nothing more than providing a service, the same way large newspapers are paid to print the legal advertisements that municipalities are required by law to publish.

"Do we have critical reporters on staff? No. Do we have investigative reporters? No," Scott said. "Our niche is the good stuff. People have come to know it and they love it."

If Newark would only think big. Imagine the value of a book about the city co-written by Bob Woodward and Judy Miller.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wow.

FindLaw's Writ -- John Dean implores Fitz to put down his scalpel and reach for a broadaxe.
So narrow was your investigation that it appears that you failed to learn that Bob Woodward had been told of Valerie Wilson's CIA post until after you had indicted Scooter Libby. While I have no doubt you know your way around the Southern District of New York, and the Northern District of Illinois, Washington DC is a very different place.

With all due respect, Mr. Fitzgerald, I believe you are being had. I believe that you were selected with the expectation that you would conduct the narrowest of investigations, and it seems you have done just that.

The leak of Valerie Wilson's status did not occur in a vacuum. Republicans in Congress do not want to know what truly happened. You are the last, best hope of the American people in this regard.
...
To right-minded Americans, the idea that Administration officials have betrayed their national security obligations, yet remain in their jobs, is nothing short of appalling. Beyond politics is patriotism: Patriotic Americans want to see you not only prosecute those who compromised and endangered Valerie Plame Wilson, but also force the Administration to clean house with respect to those who did this, which you can accomplish through appropriate civil action.


So Bob Wooodward helps to cover up. Richard Nixon's counsel urges a broader and more aggressive investigation.

I keep expecting Rod Serling to walk in from stage left and explain.

Dennis The Peasant: Just Name The Son-Of-A-Bitch...

Fucking brilliant.

Feith investigation: don't expect much

The Pentagon's inspector general has agreed to review the prewar intelligence activities of former U.S. defense undersecretary Douglas Feith, a main architect of the Iraq war, congressional officials said on Thursday.
...
Democrats have accused Feith of manipulating information from sources including discredited Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi to suggest links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks.
...
The inspector general's office informed the Senate on October 19 that it would undertake a review after receiving separate requests from the Republican chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, officials said.

Congressional officials expect the review to look at whether Feith and his staff bypassed the CIA by giving the White House uncorroborated intelligence that sought to make a case for war in the months leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Feith, who was the Pentagon's policy chief until he left the Defense Department for the private sector earlier this year, was not immediately available for comment.

Officials said the Pentagon's inspector general told the Senate its review would begin sometime in November. One official estimated the probe could take at least six months.

"We're going to try to expedite it as much as possible," said Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Senate intelligence panel chairman who asked the inspector general on September 9 for a review of Feith's Office of Special Plans.

"The IG knows we are very eager to get this done but he wants to get it done right," he told Reuters.


Sure, it sounds good. And maybe the internecine poodle fights will line up on the side of taking down the man Tommy Franks called the "dumbest fucking guy on the planet." But look at the players.

Pat Roberts is the black hole of accountability. He has effectively stonewalled all inquiry into how the White House bullshitted us into the war. It beggars belief that he is pursuing this approach because he thinks it will actually yield answers. Far more likely is that he sees this as a convenient "offshore" informational quarantine.

And I know nothing about acting IG Thomas Gimble, though he does not seem to have garnered much trust on the Hill. But we do know something about his predecessor and former boss. From the LA Times via corpwatch:

The Pentagon's top investigator has resigned amid accusations that he stonewalled inquiries into senior Bush administration officials suspected of wrongdoing.

Defense Department Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz told staffers this week that he intended to resign as of Sept. 9 to take a job with the parent company of Blackwater USA, a defense contractor.

The resignation comes after Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) sent Schmitz several letters this summer informing him that he was the focus of a congressional inquiry into whether he had blocked two criminal investigations last year.

All of which certainly suggests to me that Mr. Feith is probably not lying awake at night worrying about this particular investigation.

And you know who Blackwater USA is, right? They are one of the leading suppliers of mercenaries security personnel in Iraq (and in post-Katrina New Orleans).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tri-fucked-a

Woodward screws the pooch. Ben Bradlee jumps into the muck with him. And now the third shoe drops -- Bernstein shills as well.

Time to hold a wake.

Post reporters unload on Woodward

Think I was a bit harsh on Bob? Not according to hundreds of WaPo readers. Via E&P:
Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell has received hundreds of calls and e-mails from readers since yesterday's revelations about Bob Woodward's involvement in the Valerie Plame case, and none of them are positive.

"I am getting a lot of reaction and, from readers, it is all bad," Howell told E&P today, referring to the fallout from Woodward's disclosure that he spoke to a confidential White House source about Plame in 2003. "We are being barraged with calls. They think it was wrong for him not to tell his editors and wrong for the Post not to tell readers."

The ombudsman also pointed out that the e-mails "are all very different. I have not seen [an organized] campaign."


And not according to his colleagues. Via mediabistro:
Robert E. Pierre: ... It does look awful and it impacts on the credibility that each of us individually, and collectively, have as we make our case to people about why they should trust us. I certainly understand that national security and the presidency and the Supreme Court are murky topics that sometimes will require us to make deals with people to get information. But I think this whole affair of journalists and politicians using anonymity to trade information and then cast themselves as protectors of the common good stinks.

And this:
Andy Mosher: That low hum we all hear is James Madison spinning in his grave.

But the sad/amusing part of the whole exchange is that several reporters seem to be more outraged about the leaking of their comments/gossip -- that is, about the fair play of turnabout -- than they are about the damage to the reputation wayward Woodward hath wrought.

On which side of the Titanic's foredeck would you like to lay out your deck chairs, kids?

Knight Ridder: the last unicorn

I was shocked beyond words when I saw a variation on this story in this morning's paper:

KR Washington Bureau: In challenging war's critics, administration tinkers with truth

That's right, folks. actual analysis and critical thinking in a major newspaper. Good stuff like this:
ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."

CONTEXT: This isn't true.

The Congress didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief, a top-secret compendium of intelligence on the most pressing national security issues that was sent to the president every morning by former CIA Director George Tenet.

As for prewar intelligence on Iraq, senior administration officials had access to other information and sources that weren't available to lawmakers.

Cheney and his aides visited the CIA and other intelligence agencies to view raw intelligence reports, received briefings and engaged in highly unusual give-and-take sessions with analysts.

Moreover, officials in the White House and the Pentagon received information directly from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group, circumventing U.S. intelligence agencies, which greatly distrusted the organization.

Incredible. I can't remember the last time I saw such a thing in a major paper.

Alas, this stirring example of actual journalism is likely a swan song. Knight Ridder is on the block, facing pressure from the monied class to sell to a more pliant publisher. K-R has been the best of a bad lot over the last few years -- there were small moments of actual reporting, such as bona fide skepticism about the pre-war WMD charade. But amidst the spectral presence of the ghosts of Post and Times past, K-R is dead newspaper walking. I applaud their focus while facing the prospect of a hanging. But they, too, will soon be swallowed by darkness.

Adopt a Wingnut



As many already know, Rush Limbaugh just announced an Adopt a Soldier Program:
This involves soliciting money from listeners to pay for subscriptions to the Limbaugh letter and Rush 24/7 that will be "given" to the soldiers. Each listener can "adopt" as many soldiers as they wish who will each get a subscription. The donor pays the discounted price of $49.95 for each soldier.


Inspired by this selfless act of spontaneous generosity, Bluememe is launching its own Adopt a Wingnut program. For a mere three payments of $19.95 each, we will send to the wingnut of your choice a free subscription to all Bluememe content. But wait -- there's more. Your favored wingnut will also receive easy one-click access to all of Mister Bluememe's favorite editorials! Now how much would you pay? Don't answer yet, because you also get free, that's right -- free admission to all public gatherings of the Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony! These fabulous gifts are so exclusive that we cannot even assign a price to them, but are sure to be treasured by Dittoheads, Malkin-tents and LGF-ers everywhere.

Plus -- if you order now, you'll get the exclusive URLs of Mister Bluememe's favorite websites, and a handy index to every month of blog entries since the very beginning of our blog!

Call now -- operators are standing by! We accept Visa, MasterCard and Oxycontin.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cheney Joins GOP Criticism of Democrats

Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday added his voice to the chorus of Republican criticism of Democrats who contend the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraq.

That accusation, he said, "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
...
Democrats shot back immediately, with the party's 2004 presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, saying "it is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq" than Cheney.
...
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Cheney was "playing politics like he's in the middle of a presidential campaign."

"I would urge the members of the Bush administration to stop trying to resurrect their political standing by lashing out at their critics," he said. "Instead, they need to focus on the job at hand, giving our troops a strategy for success in Iraq.
Was I talking about sociopathy before? Here's sociopathy: Aravosis reported that Henry Waxman put out a paper outlining more than fifty instances in which Big Time lied during the run-up to the war. And now he's not even breaking a sweat over lying about the lies.

But far be it from me to criticize the WH strategy here. Indeed, I can only applaud their efforts to win back the hearts and minds of the American public by trotting out a sociopath with a documented history of lying, who is in the crosshairs of a special investigation surrounding the abuse of classified information, and who has a sub-30% approval rating.

They use speed?

KRT Wire | 11/15/2005 | Baseball comes clean on `dirty' secret
Amphetamines have been the dirty little secret of the game possibly since the 1920s and at least since the 1960s.

Major League Baseball on Tuesday tried to root out the "greenies" culture by agreeing with the players union on the first-ever testing program for amphetamines.


Damn. I would've bet the pace of play was the product of quaaludes. Or maybe thorazine.

Anyone wanna start a pool on the name of the first player to nod off in the outfield next season?

GAO Says Plan-B Politics Trumped Science at FDA

The Government Accountability Office released a blistering 62-page report yesterday, charging that the Food and Drug Administration did not follow its own procedures when it denied women access to the morning-after pill, Plan B, through drugstore sales.

In May 2004, the FDA denied over-the-counter sales of the high-dose birth control pills that can be used after intercourse to prevent pregnancy, despite the recommendations of two scientific advisory panels that it be sold without a prescription. The FDA staff experts concurred.

The GAO investigation indicated that the FDA decision may have been made by Bush administration political appointees at the head of the agency before the experts finished their analyses.

Four FDA division directors reported to the GAO that Mark McClellan, the FDA commissioner at the time, had decided that drugstore sales would be denied.

"They were told by high-level management that the Plan B OTC (over-the-counter) switch application would be denied months before staff had completed their reviews of the application," said the GAO report, prepared by its director of health care, Marcia Crosse.

Crosse reported that higher-level management denied this allegation. McClellan refused to be interviewed, as did Lester Crawford, then the deputy commissioner, who denied involvement with the decision-making process through his lawyer.
It never ceases to amaze me that these guys try to get their corrupt, grubby paws all over everything--Tomlinson at CPB, McClellan at the FDA, it never ends. The disconnect between their message of "Law & Order" and their utter disdain for rules and laws that they find to be inconvenient is a portrait of systemwide sociopathy.

The cancer grows

Why do I write? There are a lot of reasons, but a big one is that it is a good way of dumping corrosive ideas so that they stop eating at me. I'm not sure why, and I'm not sure it is a good thing, but it just is.

Just over a week ago I offloaded my anger at our corrupt press corps. I unloaded repeatedly on Judy Miller, who I considered the worst of the worst. I thought I might be able to put the Tums away for awhile.

Wrong on all counts.

As low as Judy Miller is, Bob Woodward has plumbed new subterranean depths. As shamefully derelict as the management of the Times was in telling truth to power, Bob Woodward's current and former putative bosses are showing themselves equally derelict and compromised.

What makes this worse than what Judy did? Here's what Woodward says now -- after his malfeasance became public:


Woodward, an assistant managing editor and best-selling author, said he told Leonard Downie Jr. that he held back the information because he was worried about being subpoenaed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case.

"I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner," Woodward said in an interview. "I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's Job No. 1 in a case like this. . . .

"I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."

You contemptible cur. You flaming fuckwad. Protecting sources is not job number 1. Keeping secrets is a habit utterly incompatible with the function of a free press. And keeping quiet in order to avoid having to testify as a witness to and participant in the commission of felonies -- Fitzgerald may not see it this way, but in my book that's obstruction of justice.

And of course there is the inescapable fact that Judy has had the mark of the devil emblazoned on her forehead for decades. The only surprise in her arc was how long the Times continued to enable her malfeasance. Woodward's arc -- from Watergate hero to Plamegate enabler -- is far more damaging.

In the same way that the Republicans have shown themselves to be completely uninterested in the business of governing, the press has shown itself to be completely uninterested in what most of us think is their primary purpose -- telling the public the truth. So-called reporters are far more interested in joining Republicans at the trough than in reporting on the corruption that has enveloped them, too.

I won't buy your books, Bob -- the product of your whoring -- even if they end up in the remainder bin. The real cost of what you are doing is simply too high.

And yes, I think this does hurt Fitz's case against Libby, which is exactly why Washington's favorite portraitist is helping to put the story out now. Fitz may now be in the awkward position of having to attack Woodward's credibility at the same time he is relying (to some degree) on the credibility of others in the press.

Thirty years ago the cancer -- the one John Dean saw and Bob Woodward helped cure -- was limited to the executive branch. Now it has spread to all three branches and the Fourth Estate. When cancer metastasizes that much, the prognosis is usually grim.

Tums ain't gonna do it today.

Update: What Digby says.

Maybe she should pour it over her campaign

The strange case of supernatural water


Florida's citrus crop contributes billions of dollars to the state's economy, so when that industry is threatened, anything that might help is considered. Back in 2001, when citrus canker was blighting the crop and threatening to reduce that vital source of revenue, an interesting — if not quite scientific — alternative was considered.

Katherine Harris, then Florida's secretary of state — and now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives — ordered a study in which, according to an article by Jim Stratton in the Orlando Sentinel, "researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test ‘Celestial Drops,' promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its ‘improved fractal design,' ‘infinite levels of order,' and ‘high energy and low entropy.'"

The study determined that the product tested was, basically, water that had apparently been blessed according to the principles of Kabbalic mysticism, "chang[ing] its molecular structure and imbu[ing] it with supernatural healing powers."
Not quite scientific? I daresay the author of this piece hasn't been to Kansas lately.

This is why I gave up looking for heroes

Ben Bradlee Defends Woodward's Actions in Plame Case

Former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee today defended Bob Woodward, who revealed in a story Wednesday that he waited more than two years before disclosing to current Post editors a conversation he had in 2003 with a White House official about CIA Agent Valerie Plame.

"I don't see anything wrong with that," said Bradlee, who ran the Post during the turbulent Watergate coverage that made Woodward famous. "He doesn't have to disclose every goddamn thing he knows."


He also revealed that Woodward had shown him a copy of the story on Tuesday before it was published. And he explained: "Woodward never has 'no involvement' because he is who he is."


No -- why would he disclose everything he knows? It isn't like he is a reporter for a major newspaper or anything. He doesn't owe us a fucking thing, and certainly not a scoop on a major story he is at the very center of. Hell, we expect reporters to toss our interests onto the dustbin of history in exchange for the royalties that come from writing tell-not-quite-all puffery.

I was at a party last just week in an apartment with a picture of Ben Bradlee on the wall. Good thing this didn't happen a week ago, or I would have made myself very unpopular.

"He is who he is" -- and "who he is" is utterly contemptible. Now Ben Bradlee shows himself to be more of the same. All that is left is for Carl Berstein to give Woodward a pass and the last of the hero class will have checked out.

Like I said: fuck journalists.

Kerik Is Accused of Abusing Post as City Official

New Jersey officials said yesterday that Bernard B. Kerik abused his position as New York City correction commissioner in the late 1990's by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a construction company that he was helping to pursue business with the city. They say the company has long had ties to organized crime.

...

After his service as correction commissioner in the 90's, Mr. Kerik served as police commissioner in 2000 and 2001 under his friend and longtime ally, Rudolph W. Giuliani.


Indeed--let's not forget that before he was Chimpy's butt-boy, he belonged to Rudy--one in a series of events that will be drug out in '08 to remind us of hizzoner's moral fiber and good judgment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Another "Aha" moment

So that's why Ted Stevens refused to swear in the oil barons...

The WaPo reports: Document Says Oil Chiefs Met With Cheney Task Force


A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.

The only thing surprising here is how quickly the charade of those hearings was exposed.

And Cheney had been having such a good couple of weeks before this happened.

Yet another Republican, law-abiding paragon of ethics

Report Says Ex-Chief of Public TV Violated Federal Law

Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting concluded today that its former chairman repeatedly broke federal law and its own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as liberal bias.

The corporation's former chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who was ousted from the board two weeks ago when it was presented in a closed session with the details of the report, has said he sought to enforce a provision of the Public Broadcasting Act meant to ensure objectivity and balance in programming.

But the report said that in the process, Mr. Tomlinson repeatedly crossed statutory boundaries that set up the corporation as a "heat shield" to protect public radio and television from political interference.

...

The report said that Mr. Tomlinson violated federal law by promoting "The Journal Editorial Report" and said he had "admonished C.P.B. senior executive staff not to interfere with his deal to bring a balancing program" to public broadcasting.

...

The investigators found evidence that "political tests" were a major criteria used by Mr. Tomlinson in recruiting the corporation's new president, Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and former senior State Department official.

...

The report said politics might have been involved in other personnel decisions. In one case, a candidate to become the senior vice president for corporate and public affairs was asked by a board member about her political contributions in the last election. Another official was given a particular job title at the corporation at the request of the White House, the report said

The report said Mr. Tomlinson's decision to hire two Republican consultants to help the corporation in its lobbying efforts against public broadcasting legislation last year was "not handled in accordance with C.P.B.'s contracting procedures." The inspector general criticized another contract with a researcher to monitor the "Now" program, when its host was Bill Moyers, because it was signed by Mr. Tomlinson without informing the board and without board authorization.

...

The report questioned a severance package for the corporation's former president, Kathleen A. Cox, who was forced to resign abruptly last April after a series of disagreements with Mr. Tomlinson. According to the report, the package was more than three times her annual compensation, and Mr. Tomlinson structured its payouts over a period of years so that the lump sum would not be disclosed on publicly available tax records.


Pretty straightforward, eh? And listen to the remorse in Mr. Tomlinson's voice as he replies to the charges:

“Any suggestion by Mr. Konz that I violated my fiduciary duties, the Director's Code of Ethics or relevant statutory provisions is malicious and irresponsible. All of my actions were open, lawful, and were taken after consulting and receiving advice from CPB's General Counsel, its President, or the CPB Board of Directors. Even the most cursory and objective examination of the evidence would have demonstrated this.

“My lawful and sincere objective from the outset in my role at CPB was to help bring balance and objectivity in public broadcasting. I am proud of all that I did to bring the Journal Editorial Report to public television. Public broadcasting should not be the domain of any particular ideology or party. The voices of America should be heard on public television – across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, the Inspector General's pre-conceived and unjustified findings will only help to maintain the status quo and other reformers will be discouraged from seeking change. Regrettably, as a result, balance and objectivity will not come soon to elements of public broadcasting.”

Shorter Tomlinson: Fuck you, and the reality-based community you rode in on.

Oedipus Wrecks

AMERICAblog reports that Shrub is cracking under the pressure. No surprise there.

But this is interesting. He says Drudge reports:
sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

What do those four people have in common? Well, here's a hint: none of them have one; he is one.

I've ridden the Oedipal hobby horse for a long time here. Some of the dynamics here aren't hard to suss out. Who ridicules Boy Blunder? Well, the list is long, but Dad and Dad's very male circle are the ones that count. Who betrayed him? Another very long and growing list, but I can't think of a single prominent woman on that list.

So our boy George, who proves time and time again that he will draw the wrong conclusion from any set of data points, seems to have concluded that men are dangerous, whereas wimmin are safe. (The Harriet Miers snafu takes on new meaning in this context.)

Laura, Condi and Karen all seem to be just what the doctor ordered; sycophantic idolaters worshipping their very own Lord of the Flies.

And then there's Mother. Imagine the fireworks if someone were to interview the famously sensitive and maternal Barbara and get another juicy, emasculating comment out of her: GeeDub might just blow his few remaining neural circuits in his rush into the bottom of a bottle of Jim Beam. Then it would be "men bad; wimmin bad," and there would be no one left to trust.

An unravelling POTUS is a scary thought. But it doesn't scare me any more than what we have now.

Update: Armando @ dKos went to the same place.



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