The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, June 29, 2007

BushCo set to smash another record!

And predictably, it will just contribute to their legacy of infamy and neo-fascism.

President Bush, who's never been a fan of that annoying "advice and consent" notion the Framers favored -- a majority of whom even wanted the Senate, not the president, to appoint executive branch officials -- is a firm believer in the beauty and simplicity of recess appointments. And he's on pace to set a record for the number of such appointments, as the accompanying chart shows.

As of June 4, Bush had filled 105 full-time positions with recess appointments. At a comparable point in his presidency, President Bill Clinton had used his recess appointment powers to install 42 people in full-time jobs. (And by then Clinton had dealt for four years with a GOP-controlled Senate.)

But Clinton accelerated the pace in December 1999 and by the end of his presidency had filled 95 full-time jobs and 45 part-time slots (on boards, commissions, councils and such) for a total of 140.

Bush has already named 171 people to full- and part-time jobs, and he's just entering the high season for presidential recess appointments -- the closing months of a presidency. President Ronald Reagan recessed 243 people to full-time and part-time jobs in his two terms -- 84 of them in his last year in office.

Wow, Bush may have even found another way to establish himself as the true heir to Reagan's legacy. Maybe he can proclaim sodium and tobacco to be vegetables, too.

Check the nearest Republican for cold sweats.

This is something to see-- and welcome news. Maybe it's time for Dems to starting hitting the GOP harder on the war issue. After all, they had carte blanche for years in handling Afghanistan and Iraq, and the apparent result is a sharp rise in Muslim terrorists and record production of opium poppies. Oh, and failing to apprehend the 9/11 mastermind for almost six years now. All at the low, low cost of $500,000,000,000. Bargain.

This has to be a first. In its new poll, Fox News asked what may well be the ultimate in jingoistic, rally-around-the-flag questions — and the Democrats came out on top.

If there is an all-out war between the United States and various radical Muslim groups worldwide, who would you rather have in charge — Democrats or Republicans?

Democrats 41%
Republicans 38%
Both the same
(not listed) 9%
Don't know
(not listed) 12%

How 'bout a little fire, Scarecrow?

I don't really like to think that the Elizabeth Edwards/Ann Coulter incident was a completely cynical move on the Edwards' part as a ploy to promote outrage that manifests itself as cash. The wingers have, of course, been trying to frame it in exactly that light. GOP Maxim: If they accuse others of it, they're doing it themselves. And it certainly describes Coulter's entire career. I'm inclined to think that Elizabeth Edwards might just be ticked off about a skanky clown using her visibility for the sole purpose of accusing Democrats who are still with their first wives and fathers of well-adjusted, conscientious children of being "faggots." And is invited on the ostensibly serious 'Hardball' to do it again and again. Why not call in and stick it to the ghoulish hag?

At any rate, Ezra Klein has found a rather nifty way to enjoy the incident from a totally cynical perspective:

I've begun to find the John Edwards vs. Ann Coulter smackdown rather deliciously awesome. Coulter's genius has always been to provoke Democrats into selling her books. Her venom + the Left's outrage = profits. The Edwards campaign has reversed the equation. Her venom + their outrage = fundraising. Their Coulter-based appeals have raised $450,000 for the campaign -- cash that will be used to popularize ideas she loathes. They've taken the firestorm she creates and, instead of leaving the lucrative end of it to solely to Coulter, harnessed it for their own coffers. Others should take note: This is the correct karmic payback for Coulter. Not to be silenced, or condemned, but to help elevate everything she criticizes.

Yeah... that's pretty sweet. And cynical or not, it's nice to have Edwards out there talking about poverty and health care. He's still my favorite of the Democratic candidates.

Thanks, but I think I'll take the Mary Celeste.

The New Republic has a creepy story up, in which an intrepid journalist joins the National Review cruise. And finds about what you'd expect. Recommended-- if bone-chilling-- reading.

There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realize exactly what it is. All the tropes conservatives usually deny in public--that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich--are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."

I seem to remember a porno actress named Mary Carey saying almost the exact same words in describing her recent conversion to Republicanism during a Stephen Colbert interview for The Daily Show (one of the funniest things I've ever seen on the show). But to be fair, she wasn't making endless racist remarks or promoting genocide, as the author's fellow passengers did with seeming regularity.

The panel nods, but it doesn't want to stray from Iraq. Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan's one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: "The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them."

Then, with a judder, the panel runs momentarily aground. Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review, announces, "The American public isn't concluding we're losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They're looking at the cold, hard facts." The Vista Lounge is, as one, perplexed. Lowry continues, "I wish it was true that, because we're a superpower, we can't lose. But it's not."

No one argues with him. They just look away, in the same manner that people avoid glancing at a crazy person yelling at a bus stop. Then they return to hyperbole and accusations of treachery against people like their editor.

Scary, huh? You pays your money, and you expects to be constantly reminded that they're the ones who are crazy-- and our side is a persecuted, misunderstood brain trust, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Galileo. Unfortunately, Galileo was right in the sense of 'correct,' not right as in 'delusional and fascistic.'

And that Vietnam stuff? I've heard wingers talk for decades about how hippies and pinkos cost us the war, but I've never heard any of them suggest why intercession and victory were so incredibly important in the first place.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fuzzy Logic, Tort Reform, and the Shmekel of the Month

I remember hearing conservative funnyman (and I use the term loosely) P.J. O'Rourke boast of manipulating a federal law that subsidized landowners for keeping a portion of their land wild and, essentially, bilk the government-- that is to say fellow taxpayers-- out of a pretty substantial wad of cash. When asked how he squared that with his small government conservatism, his response was something like "I never said I was a principled conservative." Wow. What a kneeslapper. I wonder how many 'welfare queen' jokes he's made in his life. But if you're wracking your brains trying to figure out why American conservatives are able to accept that "ripping off the government is inexcusable if you're not a wealthy white male," you haven't been paying much attention for the last decade.

Tort Reform. That's the impressive-sounding name conservatives give to corporate non-accountability. It sounds reasonable at first, the idea being that irresponsible people are always filing ludicrous lawsuits to try and take advantage of sympathetic juries and poor, picked-on corporations. That's something no-one likes. But, as with the 'abolition of the unfair death tax' crusade being bankrolled by a handful of America's wealthiest families, the biggest advocates of 'tort reform' tend to be large, wealthy corporations with a history of causing people's deaths. Home Depot, for example.

But right-wing martyrs like Robert Bork are also fervently devoted to the cause, highlighting their devotion through personal example. Suing for a slip 'n fall injury, for example. But don't worry folks, Bork will be back to fighting the good fight in no time-- preventing the families of people crushed to death by falling machinery at a national chain store from seeking restitution. Just as soon as he collects his $1,000,000. That's right: a million bucks.

Congratulations, Robert Bork! Your avarice, hypocrisy, and indefatigable struggle on behalf of wealthy executives around the nation has earned you this tremendous honor!

It's a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!!!

It isn't as though the (bad) news hasn't been pouring in the last couple of days, but I've been a bit busier than usual. Although I hate to do roundups of stories that news junkies will already find a bit stale, it is a nice way to catch up. Here goes...

Righties rush to the defense of poor, victimized woman!
Yes, it seems as though the right-win echo chamber is still in full effect. It didn't take long for the coast-to-coast meme to become "liberals want to put conservatives in gulags" after Ann Coulter-- best known for showing off her leathery, emaciated form in black minidresses and calling Democratic men 'faggots' in front of any operational television camera she encounters-- was politely asked by Elizabeth Edwards to talk about actual issues. My favorite take on the story came from Paul Waldman:

"I want to use the opportunity," Edwards said, "to ask her politely, stop the personal attacks." To this, Coulter responded, "Okay, the wife of a presidential candidate is calling in asking me to stop speaking." She then repeated this a number of times; when Edwards challenged her on her use of "the language of hate" (of which Coulter is one of America's foremost purveyors), Coulter said sarcastically, "Okay, I'll stop writing books."

What's notable here is the way Coulter sees personal attacks and the language of hate as the sum total of what she does. As she sees it, asking her not to attack people personally is not just tantamount to asking her not to write and speak, it is asking her not to write and speak.

Coulter certainly has her schtick down pat. In spite of the fact that Edwards said nothing of the sort, and tacitly admitting that catty, hit & run putdowns are her only bit, she knew just how to frame it for the goofy right-wing.

The Surge: Definitely starting within a few months.
Remember when the 'surge' began in January or so? Well, that wasn't actually the beginning. Remember a few weeks ago when it was announced that all the troops had reached Iraq? Still not the beginning. In fact, we're just starting the first phase now. And since we won't be able to measure success in terms of, say, a drop in the murder rate or the number of car bombs, it really wouldn't be fair of anyone to ask for evidence that it's working. At least, not for the foreseeable future. Thus sayeth Robert Kagan:

American military forces in Iraq are now entering the second phase of their kinetic operations even as political efforts continue on a separate but linked track. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus are in the midst of a multi-faceted program that will not proceed in a linear way and will not generate clear and consistent metrics in all of its phases. The early signs are positive in a number of respects, although difficulties and challenges clearly remain. But it is too soon to evaluate the outcome of an operation that is just moving into the first of several phases intended to produce significant positive change in the situation overall.

'Kinetic operations' does sound much more impressive than 'surge,' though, doesn't it? In other news from Iraq, car bombs in Baghdad have killed at least 3 dozen people, and about two dozen headless corpses were discovered on the outskirts of the city.

"I do not think that word means what you think it means."
White House counsel Fred fielding on why the executive branch keeps disregarding subpoenas:

The doctrine of executive privilege exists, at least in part, to protect such communications from compelled disclosure to Congress, especially where, as here, the president’s interests in maintaining confidentiality far outweigh Congress’s interests in obtaining deliberative White House communications.

Further, it remains unclear precisely how and why your committees are unable to fulfill your legislative and oversight interests without the unfettered requests you have made in your subpoenas.

Unfettered requests? You know, I see what he's trying to say with that, but it's still wrong. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this administration is going to further disgrace itself by using every underhanded trick in the book to conceal their crimes. Note to Fearless Leader: historically, that hasn't been a great way to burnish your legacy.

And speaking of subpoenas....
Dick Cheney. Although I haven't seen much tying him directly to the DOJ scandal, he's under the microscope for so many other illegal activities it's getting difficult to keep track. There's the epic west-coast fishicide that benefited his donors-- among other favors for contributors. Not that anything will ever be done about it, but his Halliburton stock options have increased in value almost 4000% thanks to their no-bid contracts in Iraq (sadly, I can't locate the link). And there's the whole issue of Cheney refusing to reveal anyone he's spoken with, met with, etc. Which ties in to the whole Faye-Dunaway-in-Chinatown ploy: "I'm executive! I'm legislative! I'm executive! I'm legislative!"

We know a hog farm in East Guangzhou....
I'm not hearing many complaints from American multinationals about the shitty products China is sending our way. The pet food ('thinned out' with tainted wheat gluten to maximize profitability) was just the tip of the iceberg. Toothpaste, beverages, poisonous fish, lead paint on toys, pigs force-fed up to 6 gallons of sewage to artificially boost their weight at slaughter time. Wow! All that and child labor, too! Thank you, Wal-Mart, GE and Nike!

But, rest assured, the imaginary free market is already prevailing! "Regulators in Beijing announced on Tuesday that they had closed 180 food-processing plants in the past six months for breaking food-safety laws." Wow! Uhhhh, what's that? Oh.... Oh. I see. "That sounds tough. But it's a small fraction of the 23,000 total violations the watchdog agency says it found. And that's a small fraction of the estimated 750,000 total food-processing facilities in China, where other problems may exist and inspections are few and far between." And yes, this has ramifications for the global environment as well. Without a doubt, American manufacturing companies with plants in China will realize that it's in their best interest to provide safe products-- even if it costs them a little more-- lest the invisible hand, in its infinite wisdom, knock them right out of the market. Or they can just spend a few million lobbying the GOP to pass a law exempting them from being held accountable for selling dangerous products. Yeah. That's definitely the way to go.

Monday, June 25, 2007

And now, something we hope you'll REALLY like...

This ought to go down pretty easy after a week's worth of unpleasant news crammed into one singly morning. Ezra Klein appeared on Larry Kudlow's CNBC show along with some dumbass who boasts about having made several short films rebutting Michael Moore's SiCKO. Which he also states he hasn't seen. Now that's credibility.

Klein is dynamite. He has full command of the facts, he responds quickly and non-evasively to every point brought up, and makes the other two look like utter morons.

But here's the rub: Kudlow and the other guy did exactly what their Fox counterparts and talk-radio blowhards do every day. That is, they A)try to hijack the debate right out of the gate with condescending sneers, B) eliminate periods from their speech to prevent rebuttals, C) sputter magical right-wing terms like "free market," "you liberals," "tax deduction" and "socialism," D) talk over Ezra (loudly) to repeatedly utter the exact same sentence, while he's actually talking policy, and finally E) demand that he stop being so rude and give them a chance to speak. I'm beginning to understand why so many cable shows only feature pretend liberals. But unlike those shows, the result is a complete evisceration of the sloganeering, fact-free thuggery of the wingers. And as long as progressives are denied the chance to speak, they can at least hope to make their opponents look like nimrods.

Watch. Savor. Repeat as needed.

K(a)FKA-esque in Colorado

Judging from this Media Matters page, Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) is one staunch, reliable Republican. A few of the headlines:

*On KFKA's* Amy Oliver Show, Allard chief of staff distorted Democratic position on alternative minimum tax

*KFKA's Oliver let Allard mischaracterize Democratic Iraq spending bill

*Newspapers failed to report withdrawal of Allard's ID-theft amendment, which they covered instead of his proposal to abolish federal minimum wage

Hack, ideologue, and propagandist, surrounded by same. But the senator's office had one of those unfortunate I-accidentally-told-the-truth moments while trying to find words of praise for firefighters, paramedics, and other useless nobodies.

It came from the office of U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., who has introduced a bipartisan resolution to designate Sept. 25 as National First Responder Appreciation Day:

"First responders in Colorado have recently provided critical services in the face of blizzards and tornados [sic?]. Since I don't think first responders have really done anything significant in comparison to their counterparts who have dealt with real natural disasters, I have no idea what else to say here."

Allard's quote in a press release sent at 2:53 p.m. Thursday

"Please pardon my typo."

Steve Wymer Allard's press secretary, in a news release titled "CORRECTION!" sent seven minutes later with Allard's actual quote praising first responders. Wymer said he was joking around with another staffer in developing the quote when he accidentally sent the first release. "Clearly, those aren't the words of the senator," said a contrite Wymer. "I really apologize about the mistake."

*KFKA is a right-wing talk radio station in Colorado-- although you have to love the apt call letters of a station that trades in disinformation.

Meanwhile, back at the Malibu Dreamhouse...

Yesterday, CNN proudly announced that it has scored the first post-jail interview with Paris Hilton. To make room for Paris on Wednesday, CNN canceled its interview with Michael Moore about his new health care documentary SiCKO:

Hotel heiress and reality TV star Paris Hilton will give her first post-jail interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Wednesday, the show’s spokeswoman said on Saturday.

“She will be on for the hour,” Bridget Leininger told Reuters. “We had (filmmaker) Michael Moore originally scheduled for that time.”

CNN, the “most trusted name in Paris news,” continues to sink to new lows in its “assault on reason.” Hilton is the latest “serial obsession,” though the network recently hired a reporter devoted to “covering things like Britney, as well as the Michael Jackson memorabilia.” Now CNN has ditched coverage of America’s broken health care system in favor of an hour-long interview of an incarcerated socialite.

Meanwhile, back at the judicial ranch...

Yes, Monday just keeps getting more horrific.

Legal and political conservatives hit for the cycle Monday morning when they "won" four long-awaited rulings from the United States Supreme Court. The Justices further chipped away at the wall that separates church and state, took some of the steam out of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, neutered federal regulators in environmental cases to the benefit of developers and slammed a high school kid who had the temerity to put up a silly sign near his high school.

Each of these decisions help establish the true conservative bona fides of this Court. It is more conservative than it was last term, when Sandra Day O'Connor sat in one some of the cases. And was more conservative last term than the term before that, before Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sam Alito joined the Gang of Nine. In fact, the Court now is is so entrenched on the ground of the legal right that, aside from the global warming case decided earlier this year, it is hard to point to a single major ruling this term that could or would give succor to legal liberals or even jurisprudential moderates.

I'm not talking about the technical cases that make up the bulk of the Court's workload-- in those cases there was plenty of unanimity. I'm talking about the hot-button cases that get people talking. Whether it was the Court's dramatic limitations on the rights of employees to seek legal remedies for past employment discrimination-- part of a larger trend of pro-business rulings from the Justices-- or the about-face on the Congressional effort to ban a type of abortion, court conservatives were consistently able to muster up five votes-- thanks to the most important swingman since Benny Goodman, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Indeed, so strong is the conservative bent to the court right now that even when its right-facing Justices did not agree on the legal reasons or rationale for their rulings-- which was the case in the religion case noted above-- they are able to agree to promote government sponsorship of religion and to block taxpayer efforts to prevent it. In other words, there is room for dissent even among the Court's working majority-- a bad sign for liberal judges, lawyers and litigants in the months and years to come.

Dick II: Much Worse than the Original

The big news of the day is, of course, the latest example of blatant disregard for the rule of law to come out of this administration. I can still remember the blissful early years of the Bush presidency, when I just missed his intelligent and sane father. Then I started feeling my own Reagan nostalgia, questionable mental capacity and crime-enabling as those days were. At least his administration backed off of some of their nutty positions when they were proven to be nutty. Now I find myself feelin' the lurv for Richard Nixon, who seems positively progressive in contrast to today's Republicans. To be fair, I've always stood by Nixon to a degree because he did some genuinely good things for the nation. I wasn't even around for Watergate, but seems like an absolute breath of fresh air compared to the unprecedented bar-lowering of today's GOP.

So here's a slew of articles on Scandal #87, or whatever it is: Dick Cheney's blatantly self-contradicting, almost certainly illegal, unquestionably unethical, and profoundly un-American claims to the privileges of the executive and legislative branches of our government-- without having to adhere to the rules governing either.

Kevin Drum writes about Dick's current claims that the office of the VP isn't part of the executive branch. Now, anyway. [B]ack in February when this story was first reported, Cheney wasn't arguing that the VP's office wasn't executive. He was arguing that the VP's office was both legislative and executive, and thus could ignore the rules of either branch whenever it suited him. So here's my question: If a quantum superposition of a dead cat and a live cat is Schrödinger's Cat, is a quantum superposition of legislative Cheney and executive Cheney Schrödinger's Dick?

Grabbing most blog headlines today is the ongoing series by the WaPo that looks into Dick's abuses of power, from the president's apparent status as Cheney's bitch (first installment) to his willingness to redefine laws as whatever he wants them to mean (second installment) while making sure the public doesn't know a thing about it.

The articles are long and terrifying, but certainly leave one wondering what all the fuss was about Nixon. I remember those conservative friends and relatives who fancy themselves to be discriminating intellectuals dismissing Bush in an offhanded way in 2000, claiming that they were really voting for Cheney-- the smart one. My personal favorite example of his genius would be then-Representative Cheney's support for making plastic handguns and armor-piercing bullets commercially available. Unimaginable these days, isn't it? And a solid 180 for a man now committed to the creation of a police state.

Wingers, naturally, are pretty hard-pressed to come up with justifications for this one, but they're sticking to the old standbys:

Hack-to-the-bitter-end Bill Kristol is on the front line with the "Shuck 'n Jive" defense: Kristol said the exemptions for the president and vice president were “reasonable enough.” He called it “a pain in the neck” to have “some bureaucrat” from the National Archives “come and inspect your safe to see whether you’re locking it up properly each night.” But Juan Williams delivered a beatdown, and there's video at the link.

The National Review's Mark Levin goes with the "Much Ado About Nothing" line: Rather than arguing that the vice president, as president of the Senate, is exempt from coverage, I would have argued that this is a purely internal executive branch issue.

White House Spokesmonkey Dana Perino channels Nathan Thurm with a "Sorry, This Isn't My Table" exchange today:

Reporter: What is the White House's view of the argument the vice president is making on whether or not he's part of the executive branch?

Perino: I'm not opining on it, because the president did not intend for the vice president to be subject as an agency in that section of the E.O.

Reporter: Those are entirely different arguments. So you don't support the vice president's theory ...

Perino: I'm not opining on it either way.

Reporter: But, Dana, how could the vice president earlier in the administration argue he didn't have to turn over records about the energy task force, for example, because he was a member of the executive branch?

Perino: Ask the Supreme Court.

Reporter: He clearly stated that.

Perino: You could ask the Supreme Court, who ruled in his favor.

Reporter: But he did not say, "I'm a member of the legislative branch as well, so I don't have to" -- I mean, he clearly stated that there was strong executive power and he didn't have to turn over these records. Now, when it suits his interests, he seems to be saying a different legal argument.

Perino: Look, I'm not a legal scholar. And there's plenty of them that you can find in Washington, D.C.

I don't know how this is Bill Clinton's fault, I'm sure some enterprising reactionary will come up with something.

The latest Democratic non-scandal

I guess the Edwards haircut story is played out, at least as far as headlines go. Now we've just moved into the phase where it becomes an handy panic button for conservatives in losing arguments or smarmy pundits who want to look clever (yeah, I'm thinking of Maureen Dowd, too), or debate opponents who also spend shocking sums on their hair and makeup.

But journalism has become so thoroughly corporatized that it's barely about journalism anymore. It's about looking the part, and finding some angle to exploit that will get you name recognition and promotions until you, too, can join the ranks of such renowned and dedicated career journalists as the aforementioned Dowd, Tim Russert, Katie Couric, or Bill O'Reilly.

Ezra Klein points out the latest would-be 'Gotcha!' story that owes its very existence to a blatant misrepresentation of the facts (in its entirety):

To say a bit more on the New York Times' John Edwards story, shouldn't the question of ends enter in here? The piece uses a lot of ominous adjectives and innuendo to note that though Edwards' Poverty Center was a "a nonprofit organization with the stated mission of fighting poverty," the center raised funds that "paid Mr. Edwards's expenses while he walked picket lines and met with Wall Street executives. He gave speeches, hired consultants, attacked the Bush administration and developed an online following. He led minimum-wage initiatives in five states, went frequently to Iowa, and appeared on television programs. He traveled to China, India, Brussels, Uganda and Russia, and met with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and his likely successor, Gordon Brown, at 10 Downing Street."

Well, Brown and Blair have spearheaded the UK's remarkable efforts against child poverty, which Edwards has mentioned in speeches. So that hardly seems problematic. Indeed, this all seems like an extremely successful venture. Edwards raised some money to fight poverty. He used a certain amount of that money to finance his own pre-presidential campaigning, which was entirely focused on poverty reduction. During that campaigning, he spent an enormous amount of time...talking about poverty, and restoring its place in the national political discussion. Given that the sum of money we're talking about is $1.3 million, how has this not been an extraordinarily effective anti-poverty center? Granted, among its methods were to enable a national politician to continually raise the issue's profile through his personal advocacy, but isn't that what folks donating to a John Edwards poverty center were expecting? And hasn't Edwards -- who still brings up poverty in his speeches, just released a book on the subject, and whose efforts spurred Matt Bai to write a New York Times Magazine cover story on the reemergence of the issue in the national political discourse -- proven very, very effective? If you care about poverty, this seems like $1.3 million well spent.

But I mentioned a blatant misrepresentation of facts, and not just oily shysterism. Another Prospect contributor is on top of it:

The National Review crowd loves it, of course. But according to Greg Sargent, the article might be a little unfair. He writes that TPM "just learned something new and surprising about the story. The Edwards campaign has just told us on the record that The Times refused the chance to talk to any real, live beneficiaries of Edwards' programs. If this is so, this strikes us as highly suspect."

The NYT obviously deserves a chance to respond, but this makes me initially uneasy since it so comfortably fits into the common media narrative that because Edwards is rich, so he can't possibly really care about poverty. Considering he's the only major politician really talking about that issue, this is extremely troubling and makes me suspicious of articles like the one linked to above.


Hack White House Nominee of the Week

Have you ever heard an announcement of one of BushCo's nominees and not groaned aloud with some mix of fatalism and despair? Of course you have-- you just looked up the person's background and then groaned aloud.

Well, this is another nominee who's withdrawn his name from consideration for the same reason he was put forth in the first place: he's an inept, blindly partisan hack.

William Mercer, the Acting Associate Attorney General, asked President Bush today to withdraw his nomination to be the permanent No. 3 official in the Justice Department, “saying it was unlikely that the Senate would confirm him to a post he has held on an interim basis since September.”

Mercer, who is also the current U.S. attorney in Montana, is enmeshed in both the U.S. attorney scandal and the politicization of the Justice Department. He reportedly told fired U.S. attorney Daniel Bogden of Nevada that his dismissal was “to make room for others to gain experience so the Republican Party would have a strong bench of candidates for federal judgeships.”

Next step: wait for the recess appointment.


Being a big fan of Karl Popper, I was pretty excited about the interview on Plato's Republic and its co-option by American conservatives of the sort who are pretty much running everything. Although Cambridge philosophy professor Simon Blackburn takes a swipe at my man Karl Popper, he also seems to share some of the same opinions, primarily the idea of.... well, I'll just excerpt a previous post of mine:

Acceptance of [Freudian or Adlerian psychoanalysis, Marxism, or other theories that claimed to be scientific] had, he observed, "the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were opened, you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still 'un-analysed' and crying out for treatment. . . . A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not only in the news, but also in its presentation-- which revealed the class bias of the paper-- and especially of course in what the paper did not say.

This is what always bothered me about conservative friends growing up, although I wasn't able to define it myself. The tendency to shift one's views from objective consideration of empirical evidence to a plane of pure faith. Generally speaking, the most partisan conservatives I've known have also been the most intensely religious and/or wealthiest people I've known. And the horror of hearing them talk politics is the realization that they are following the same line of non-inquiry as creationists. "You have mountains of evidence, and I have none. You're sadly delusional, and I'm conservative/wealthy/religious/Caucasian and therefore must be right." There's not much you can do when your interlocutor is ready, willing, and able to ignore reality. But back to the interview, which I highly recommend. Along with Popper's Open Society, of course.

Over the years, "The Republic" has been invoked to justify everything from authoritarian elitism to liberalism, but during the 20th century, neoconservative godfather Leo Strauss reinterpreted it to his own political philosophy, with its controversial assertion that it's OK for the enlightened elite to tell "noble lies" in the service of the Good. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz actually took courses on Plato from Strauss at the University of Chicago; other neoconservative hawks with Straussian genes include Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq and current ambassador to the U.N.; and Bill Kristol, neocon pundit and co-founder of the Weekly Standard. . . .

[Blackburn:] Another reading of him, which is I think even worse, is due to the American political theorist Leo Strauss, who saw him as in some sense endorsing the idea that it's a dog-eat-dog world. This was kind of a covert message, Strauss thought, of [Plato's] text. Strauss thought that this covert message or esoteric message was supposed to be perceived only by a number of people of special illumination, amongst which he included himself, of course. And that was the ideology that eventually became American neoconservatism, the view that the servants of the state are entitled to do anything -- to lie, to manipulate, to foment war, to destabilize neighboring states, to disguise their actions under a hypocritical cloak of goodness. So it's an extreme example of realpolitik, which I think is just a 180 degree misreading of what Plato is about. But it just shows that you can put down the clearest words on the page and it will be read saying the opposite.

I think that [Strauss's reading] is very perverse. You have to ignore what seems to me the very obvious thrust of ["The Republic"]. The book is largely given over to Socrates, and Socrates was largely arguing against the kind of things that Strauss represents. So you have to really pick up little bits and corners and say, "Ah, that's where Plato's speaking in his own voice or that's the message he wants us to take away." I always find that kind of reading very perverse.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Brownback: "We're just one activist judge away."

It couldn't be any more clear that when conservatives talk about "strict constructionism" and "litmus tests" for judicial nominees, they are referring to two things: 1) their history of appointing men and women who prefer ideology to morality and duty, and 2) their insistence that no-one has the right to question nominees about the impact their ideology will have on their rulings.

I could go into a lengthy aside about conservative friends who seemingly have every conviction that the appointment of right-wing ideologues who pursue a personal agenda is, in fact, the proper and just thing to do. But I won't.

Instead, I'll let Sam Brownback do the talking, as he makes one of the most feared gaffes than can happen to a Republican: letting the truth slip out.

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback vowed Thursday to appoint a U.S. Supreme Court justice who would overturn the court's Roe vs. Wade abortion-rights ruling, should he win the presidency.

"We can get it done," Brownback told about 100 supporters in Ames. "We're one justice away, and if we lose this we're going to be two or three judges away from overturning this thing that is wrong."

The Kansas Republican likened the national abortion arguments to the debate over slavery centuries earlier, when the Constitution considered a slave to be three-fifths of a person. "Everything on this Earth is one of two things: a person or property," he said.

Nice that he manages to incorporate the winking 'coded message' of a Dred Scott reference. Just one more indication that talk of strict constructionism, activist judges, et al., are just that: a sneaky way to say "my nominees will always side with the right-wing fringe-- I promise."

Sorry, just the Bad and the Ugly.

So, the other day I mentioned the story about Giuliani being given a seat on the high-profile Iraq Study Group, and deciding instead to go on a motivational-speaking tour that netted him some pretty serious cash. And this is a guy who wants to be president of the United States. While it doesn't provide concrete proof, it certainly suggests that Rudolph's natural inclination is to put personal gain over civic responsibility-- and we all know what that's brought us over the last six years.

Kevin Drum decided to check out the coverage this troubling revelation with the good ol' Lexis-Nexis search. What did he find? Exactly what you already suspect he found:

Remember that Newsday story from yesterday about Rudy Giuliani getting kicked off the Iraq Study Group because he couldn't find the time in his busy schedule to attend their meetings? You could be excused if you don't, since apparently no one in our press corps considered either the news itself or Giuliani's laughable explanation for his absences to be worth commenting on.

A quick Nexis search shows that among the mainstream media, the New York Times wrote a short piece, and the Kansas City Star and Chicago Tribune carried brief blurbs. That's it. On TV, Olberman discussed it, but no one else.

But I'm not even going to stop there! No sir, not Matt Sandwich! I'm the type of guy who isn't content with a blog post unless it inflicts total pain on the reader (but please keep in mind that it hurts me as much as it does you).

David Brock of Media Matters on the general picture of campaign coverage in the MSM:

"We're going to have a big challenge in the next 18 months. I'm sure you've already noticed that the media has decided that the next president looks like Mitt Romney, sounds like Fred Thompson, is a strong leader like Rudy Giuliani and is fiercely independent like John McCain. On the progressive side, I guess, we've got a bunch of inexperienced, inauthentic, lightweight, shrill, cold, calculating hypocrites. So we've made a commitment that we are not going to go through another election cycle accepting those caricatures, and today you make that commitment with us," Brock said, citing some of the ways the media have characterized leading Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Republican candidates are generally referred to in tones ranging from respectful ("looks presidential") to reverential ("heroic") to outright fawning ("has shoulders you could land a 737 on"). Meanwhile, Democratic candidates are routinely described in mocking personal terms that diminish their seriousness as presidential candidates.

If you're really a masochist, read the whole thing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Witching Hour

While "lying or incompetent" describes the administration's every action rather nicely, and the Republican party has become so eerily predictable that you can use a few simple sentences to keep on top of things (If they accuse others of something they're doing it themselves; If it's their fault they'll claim it's Clinton's fault, etc), there's a new mantra I've been thinking about quite a bit these days.

It's along the same lines as the gag about adding " bed" to the end of fortune cookie fortunes. But it's scary as hell. The next time you see some alarming statement, such as 'the GOP has turned the US Department of Justice into an extension of their election committee,' just tack on "...and no-one cares." Yes, whether it's a lazy press, your conservative relatives, or an unmotivated populace, it's guaranteed to make the flesh crawl right off of your bones. Here's a great example:

Neoconservative icon NormanPodhoretz followed up his Commentary article titled "The case for bombing Iran" -- excerpts of which were re-published in The Wall St. Journal -- with an interview elaborating on why he "hopes and prays" that we bomb Iran and how he envisions the bombings. . .

Any doubts about what Norman Podhoretz is -- and what the movement is which reveres him -- ought to be forever dispelled by his answer, given in the same interview, to the question of what the British should have done in response to the detention of 15 of their sailors by Iran:
"They should have threatened to bomb the Iranians into smithereens if the sailors weren't returned immediately. They should have threatened it. Whether they would have had to carry out the threat, I doubt, maybe they would have.". . .

Unsurprisingly, it is Norm's son, John, who -- beyond his garden-variety excitement over bombing Iran -- made one of the most reprehensible and deranged (though illustrative) statements of the entire Bush presidency:

"What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?"

And there you have it two men considered to be at the top of the "conservative intellectual" heap, and their prescription is indiscriminate bombing of civilians and/or a targeted campaign to eradicate an entire demographic-- a 'controlled genocide,' you might say-- and no-one cares.

I won't even get into the morality of it-- these two conservative luminaries have a grasp of international relations and war that's so banal, so moronic, and so devoid of actual thought that their true calling in life is apparently stalking mammoths with Ogg. Instead, they're taken perfectly seriously as political commentators and pundits. And no-one cares.

A Gentle Reminder

I'm always up for another article refuting the craven and disingenuous line that the GOP has screwed everything up so completely in the last six years because they "weren't being true conservatives." This crew has given the nation everything wingers loved about Reagan-- from an expanded federal government and unrestrained spending to secretiveness and defiance of the rule of law.

Conservatives now react to the debacle that is the Bush administration with two general strategies -- denial and disavowal. Conservatives are cutting and running from George W. Bush, blaming him for straying from the conservative gospel, and invoking, by contrast, an iconic Ronald Reagan as exemplar of that faith.

But the spin won't cover the reality. Over the first six years of the Bush administration, conservatives largely had their way. With Bush and Karl Rove pursuing a political strategy of feeding their base, Tom DeLay ramrodding the conservative majority in the Congress, and the corporate lobby enforcing discipline, movement conservatives set the course of the country -- with catastrophic results.

Each of the signature Bush follies -- Iraq, Katrina, Enron, privatization of Social Security, the Terri Schiavo case, trickle-down economics that didn't trickle -- can be traced directly to conservative ideas and the conservative think tanks and ideologues that championed them. In every case, conservatism failed, not simply because of corruption or incompetence, but because of original conception. Sensate conservatives have, in the words Irving Kristol once applied to liberals, "been mugged by reality." Actual existing conservatism fails because it gets the world wrong. And invoking Reagan offers not salvation but confirmation of that failure, for Reagan championed many of the same ideas and inflicted similar debacles on the nation.

Recommended as a useful chronicle of stupidity-- or at least how to deal with over-tired, contrarian 5 year-olds.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Law & Order (And totally sweet nose candy.)

South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, a former real estate developer and rising political star, was indicted Tuesday on federal cocaine charges.

The millionaire — also the state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign — is accused of buying less than 500 grams of cocaine to share with other people in late 2005, U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd said. Ravenel, 44, is charged with distribution of cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Giuliani's campaign sent out a prepared statement saying Ravenel had stepped down. Giuliani spokesman Elliott Bundy said he did not know when Ravenel stepped aside.

The investigation into Ravenel arose from a drug case last year in Charleston, Lloyd said. State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said his agents were aware of the allegations before Ravenel was elected in November. The case was turned over to the FBI on April 1 "when the investigation reached a certain level," Stewart said.

A maximum sentence of twenty years seems awfully harsh (on the other hand, a pound of cocaine is apparently worth about $20,000), but what's the minimum sentence? I'm sure all of his fellow Republicans will shake their heads sadly and say "Well, it's a shame to lose such an up-and-coming strategist and politician, but the law's the law." Except when it isn't.

Shuckin' & Jivin', GOP-style

Hans von Spakovsky is Bush's nominee for the Federal Elections Commission. His name has come up before on my blog, as a recess appointment in January, 2006. And it would be quite safe to call him a recess monkey. According to any number of his colleagues, poor Spakovsky suffers from the same ailments as other Bush nominees: he's a partisan hack, he has contempt for the rule of law, and he's an inveterate liar.

Last week, Hans von Spakovsky, who has been nominated by President Bush for a seat on the Federal Election Commission, testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. He was asked at the time about a letter that had been sent to the Committee by seven former career professionals in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights division, raising various claims about von Spakovsky’s role during his tenure at the Department of Justice. Now those career professionals, after reviewing von Spakovsky’s testimony, have written a second letter (see below) contradicting von Spakovsky and raising concerns about statements he made. They assert in very specific detail, for example, that von Spakovsky’s testimony conflicts with their own recollections and, in several instances, they note that von Spakovsky’s testimony was factually wrong. Their letter also responds to von Spakovsky’s unsupported claim that the reason these career professionals wrote their original letter to the Senate committee was to advance their own partisan agenda. The full text of the letter follows:

You just know it's going to give you that weird mix of contradictory feelings that have come to characterize this administration: on the one hand, the bittersweet satisfaction of being proven right, yet again, about the neo-fascists. On the other, the agonizing frustration of it being just one more story the press won't trouble themselves with and conservatives will simply brush aside.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Let's see... good of the nation or speaking fees... Hmmm...

Ahhhh, Rudy Giuliani. "America's Mayor." Not known for his management of New York in the wake of 9/11, but renowned for looking serious and determined right after it happened.

And, in his most blatant effort yet to demonstrate what a true-red Republican he is, well.... read on.

Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

But wait-- isn't he a "fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em here" kinda guy?
And doesn't that mean (by their own logic) that we have to succeed in Iraq to avoid more devastating attacks? Of course it does! But smarmy self-promotion and a big crash grab hung in the balance. Help resolve a $400 billion war that's killed more Americans than 9/11, or rake in a few million smackeroos? Yep. A Real Republican Hero, G.I. Uliani is the-e-ere! (80's kids will get that.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Noblesse O-bleah

Try to follow the logic in this:

Recent Example A: Conservatives nationwide are calling on Fearless Leader to pardon Scooter Libby for the "gross miscarriage of justice" know as being tried in a thorough and careful manner and found guilty by a trial of his fellow citizens engaged in thoughtful and intense deliberation.

Recent Example B: Conservatives nationwide are calling for the resurrection of mandated (haven't they ever heard of federalism?) minimum sentencing laws.

Ha! It was a trick question. The two propositions are contradictory and hypocritical!

Hypothesis: An embattled Republican party desperate to maintain an iron grip on the US government is willing to commit crimes with impunity-- and publicly demand the right to do so-- while motivating their 'base' with appeals to racism and xenophobia.

Wow... they broke that law too, huh?

The Congressional Oversight Committee, chaired by a certain tenacious man known as Henry Waxman, hasn't put out a new report on the Department of Justice scandal. Nope. They're looking at a completely different abuse of power that taints multiple branches of government. Instead of the judicial and executive, this time it's the legislative and executive. Wouldn't want anyone to feel excluded, after all.

I'll just post his headers, in the interest of space, but all the details are there.

The crime: White House officials made extensive use of their RNC e-mail accounts. [To conduct official government business, that is.]

The lie: The number of White House officials given RNC e-mail accounts is higher than previously disclosed.

The cover-up: There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC.

The corruption: There is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.

Mission Creep

It's been a while since I picked on The New Republic, but Eric Alterman has gone and done it for me at The American Prospect. It's more of a 'meta' look at what's gone wrong at the magazine (I've only been reading it for nine years), but the narrative he shares is basically the problem I've had with the magazine writ large: a continual decline with little reason to hope for improvement. It's a long article, but an interesting one.

Have you ever -- ever -- read an editorial in The New Republic that does not take the Israeli government's side in a dispute? Was Israel wrong to invade Lebanon in 1982? Did it use excessive force during the first or second intifadas? Was it really so smart to destroy Yassir Arafat's encampment while he was inside it? Was last year's invasion of Lebanon a mistake? Was the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas morally unimpeachable? Is it possible that Israel's leaders -- unlike every set of leaders that have ever ruled any nation -- are always right? And is it possible that for the first time in history, two nations -- one, a tiny, beleaguered state in the Middle East, surrounded by hostile countries, the other, a North American superpower, unmenaced on its borders and surrounded by friendly neighbors -- just happen to have interests that are identical in absolutely every situation?

That's an example of one of the things that has always concerned me about the magazine-- its troublingly one-sided coverage of a story where there's plenty of blame to share. Alterman doesn't even cover the laughable "blogofascism" mess with any depth, but there's still plenty of damning evidence there. And much of what Alterman says about the magazine's past (as opposed to specific issues) can be applied to the MSM. It's a portrait of people in love with image and reputation rather than truth.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Now I could use a drink.....

There's a very nice article on Harper's today that looks at one of the most baffling issues to haunt the nation for the last ten years or so. Mr. Horton, you're on.

I just finished reading the Jeff Gerth-Don Van Natta book on Hillary Clinton entitled Her Way and relived the tumultuous days of the Whitewater investigation through it. One thing that really struck me was the hyperventilation in the media at that time, while public attitudes remained relatively calm. It seems just the flip side of the current situation in which scandals have proliferated beyond count, the public is intensely unhappy, but the media has a sort of ho-hum, “scandal, what scandal?” attitude. . .

Conversely, we look at prevarications that come out of the Bush Administration—which go to things of vastly greater consequence to society—for instance, the use of torture, the approval of illegal surveillance schemes, the partisan dismissal, appointment and manipulation of prosecutors. But these rarely seem to provoke comment, and indeed we have the immortal comment of the New York Times’s Elisabeth Bumiller that “you can’t just say the president’s lying.” The Bumiller mentality is widespread with the Washington press corps, and to the extent the nation is now drowning in lies of an Orwellian magnitude, this is a major reason.

The author also sneaks in a pretty sweet Daily Show clip that is funny, but staggeringly... sad. It makes its point eloquently, though, in how worthless the MSM has become.

Also, the current issue of Harper's (not yet online) has a series of articles called 'Undoing Bush' that sound pretty damn interesting. Because the next administration is going to have the thankless task of repairing all the damage. Unless a Republican wins, in which case we'll just keep sliding toward fascism.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Portrait of the President as Mincemeat

It amazes me that Fearless Leader's big European trip was reported on so sporadically and ineffectually by the domestic press. (On the other hand, I was amazed that the most realistic portrayal of the Dem's inability to push their Iraq withdrawal proposal through came from the BBC. Simply put, they were realists-- not having enough votes to override a veto, they moved to other issues. I didn't hear a single American journalist put it that way.) The only major headline I saw popping up across the news sites was the 'Bush gets hero's welcome in Albania.'

As Sidney Blumenthal gives the excursion a post mortem, he reveals many aspects of the trip that were slightly more significant than a round of applause. And even some typical Bush moments, like following up the infamous 'Angela Merckel backrub' and winking to the Queen of England with addressing Pope Benedict XVI as 'sir.' If only all of his stupidity was so harmless...

In Rome, on June 9, a reporter asked Bush about setting a deadline for Kosovo independence. "What? Say that again?" "Deadline for the Kosovo independence?" "A decline?" "Deadline, deadline." "Deadline. Beg your pardon. My English isn't very good." Bush then declared, "In terms of the deadline, there needs to be one. This needs to come -- this needs to happen." The next day, asked when he would set a deadline, he replied, "I don't think I called for a deadline." Reminded of his previous statement, Bush said: "I did? What exactly did I say? I said, 'Deadline'? OK, yes, then I meant what I said."

Creepy, even to the point of being frightening, but not inherently dangerous. That came with Bush being played for a complete rube by the nothing-else-if-not-shrewd Vladimir Putin. Not that it takes too much brilliance to set a diplomatic trap that Fearless Leader won't bungle into on his own.

Bush's proposal to put tracking stations for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic gave Putin his opening. In response, he offered a radar site in Azerbaijan to be jointly operated by the United States and Russia. Bush had deployed the wrong tactic on behalf of the wrong strategy. Bush's missile shield has not been proved to work, has cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and has an uncertain purpose. Is the plan meant to reassure eastern European nations of the former Warsaw Pact, Donald Rumsfeld's "new Europe," against Russia, or is it a short-term ploy to rally support in the one region in the world that still likes Bush because of deep residual pro-Americanism? If Bush intended to persuade Putin to temper his authoritarianism, he only succeeded in antagonizing the Russian leader. As Bush's "freedom" agenda has collapsed, he has reverted to a Plan B for a new ersatz Cold War. His ham-handed move allowed the adroit Putin to change the subject and corner him. Meanwhile, the engagement of Russia in areas of mutual interest -- containing Iran -- languishes.

Al "Cassandra" Gore

After writing about the WaPo's embarrassing inclusion of a blatantly false attack in the opening sentence of a review of Al Gore's new book by an editor of a right-wing magazine (see how many red flags have popped up in just that brief description?) yesterday, it was good to run across articles by a few people who do it for a living. Good in the sense that people are talking about it, that is. In itself, it's just one more sterling example of our feckless Maureen Dowd press doing the bidding of reactionaries, whether consciously or not.

Unsurprisingly, the way Eric Boehlert and Bob Somerby are writing about the reaction to Gore's new book is "Press coverage of Gore's book validates his criticism of the press." But that's Bizarroworld for ya.

Gore does offer a specific critique of television and blames it for polluting the national conversation. Too much Anna Nicole Smith and Britney, says Gore. And of course he's right. The cable news nervous breakdown that was broadcast last Friday afternoon when Paris Hilton was taken back to jail simply proved Gore's point, and specifically that it's journalists who are driving the celebrity-as-news obsession, not news consumers. (MSNBC producers were heard screaming when Hilton first emerged from her home in handcuffs on Friday.) In the 24 hours after Friday's news broke, "Paris" was mentioned nearly 800 times on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, combined. That same day, Gen. Peter Pace, who oversees the war in Iraq, resigned as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His name was mentioned fewer than 100 times by the three cable news channels, according to

But the problems extend far beyond celebrity-obsessed cable news channels. Proof of the broken system? Just look at the Beltway media's reaction to Gore's book release. Thanks to the likes of ABC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, the coverage has, at times, been comically shallow, small, and dishonest. That's what's wrong with our "national conversation."

And Gore has the 2000 campaign scars to prove it, having suffered some of the most egregious media cheap shots in modern political history. (Inventing the internet, anybody?) Indeed, it's no exaggeration to say Gore is out on book tours today instead of sitting in the Oval Office because of the wildly dishonest press coverage he received during that presidential campaign, in which he was depicted as a stiff, phony bore who lied.

That lazy narrative still sticks to this day.

And as Somerby correctly predicted:

It’s obvious how it’s going to go as the press corps pretends to discuss Al Gore’s book. Gore has said our discourse is broken—and our pundits are going to rush out to prove it. Yesterday, Dowd played cosmic clown in that inexcusably stupid Times column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/23/07). And omigod! A few hours later, this sad discussion occurred on Tucker. No, we didn’t invent this exchange. Yes, this was actually said:

CARLSON: [Al Gore’s] book is out this week. You were in politics for many years. Like Al Gore, you are now out of politics. Why would you write a book like this if you were Al Gore?

DICK ARMEY: There are two reasons. One, I could take—my natural guess is that he is still bitter and angry because he lost the election and he is fulminating. The other is it could be a strategic move. He could be sensing that within his party, within his base, there is not a real high profile out there on the field of candidates and that if he comes out and speaks strongly of his anger against this presidency, that, in fact, there could be an emergent draft Al Gore.

CARLSON: You really think there is a political element to this.

ARMEY: Is—there’s a political element to everything Al Gore has ever done! He has politicized science. He graduated from Harvard or Yale or wherever and he had a choice, being competent or being political. He chose political. He has never been competent. He has corrupted science. He will corrupt diplomacy. . .

It gets worse. Much, much worse. And somehow they never actually get around to discussing the book. Which is the ostensible topic of discussion.

Because if you want a rational and dispassionate person to talk through an issue in a thoughtful manner, all you have to do is ring up..... Dick Armey. One of the most notoriously inept, partisan, and ethically challenged congressmen of the 1990s. And how does he react to Gore's candid assessment of the horseshit that passes for acceptable political discourse today? By demonstrating that what passes as political discourse today is a load of horseshit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Giuliani 12-Step Program

For the second time in two days, I'm linking to a conservative author. How about that? I have reason to disagree with the author's line of attack in some cases, but it's sad to see a GOP frontrunner toss out pretty much the same campaign promises that Fearless Leader did in 2000 and 2004. All of them can be filed under 'meaningless,' 'idiotic,' or 'impossible.'

Meaningless: 1. I will keep America on offense in the Terrorists’ War on Us.
A conservative's criticism: What the hell does that mean, exactly?

Yes, those capitals are in the original, which make it one of the sorriest 'rebranding' attempts I've ever seen. You see, Iraq isn't even our war. We aren't even responsible!

Idiotic: 10. I will ensure that every community in America is prepared for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
A conservative's criticism: Have you ever heard of Federalism? Anyway, 99.9% of the communities in America are in essentially no danger from terrorism, so why would you expend federal resources on protecting them?

Aside from the poverty of the federalism argument (I've never seen a winger argue against Bush v Gore on those grounds, or for states' rights in matters of abortion) in the second Republican era where government expansion and massive spending were wildly applauded by conservatives, we've already had one administration waste huge sums of money "protecting" things like petting zoos and flea markets in the rural Midwest. He wants more of that?

Impossible: 2. I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders, and identify every non-citizen in our nation.
A conservative's criticism: No, you won’t. And, frankly, I wouldn’t want to give you (or anyone else) enough power to “identify every non-citizen in our nation.” There are over 300 million people living here, stretched across a continental landmass. How on earth would you do that?

Can't argue with a word of that.

The overall theme of the author's criticism is that Giuliani is being self-contradictory in his bid to combine a little old-fashioned populism with anti-government bromides. His "12 Commitments," (which itself sounds like a Therapy-Age version of the Contract With America) are also packed to the gills with the same old coded language. "Strict constructionists" in the courts, which means right-wing activists. "School choice," which means government-funded religious schools. And "tax reform," which apparently means shifting more of the tax burden to America's poor and creating monstrous debt while convincing people that only Karl Marx would do anything less.

Frustration Nation

It's a big day in frustration for me. In the previous post I stated that the frustrating thing about political blogging is how often it boils down to minor variations on a standard theme. And this one is as shopworn and agonizingly moronic as they come:

In Sunday's Washington Post, Weekly Standard senior editor Andrew Ferguson had a little hit job on Al Gore's new book, built around Gore's citation of an Abraham Lincoln quote which, according to Ferguson, has been falsely attributed to The Great Emancipator. Here's how Ferguson opens the piece:

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver.

Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.

Well, Mr. Ferguson, the answer to that is quite easily to be found on p. 282 of the book where, in the [20 pages of] endnotes, Gore provides the citation. (The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Macmillan: 1950, Andrew Ward, ed., page 40.)

To paraphrase the author, this is a pretty clear case of the Bush-era classic "lying or incompetent." And not just on the part of Ferguson-- the WaPo's editorial staff missed a glaring factual error (or at best an intentional distortion) in the opening sentence of an article they published. And whaddya know? It's all to the detriment of Al Gore.

The blogosphere can sometimes wring corrections for this sort of thing out of stubborn editorial staffs, but they're typically half-assed and buried deep within the paper.

In this case, commenters note that while the paper did issue a correction, they fail to point out one very simple fact: that Gore does cite his sources, thereby invalidating Ferguson's premise. While the entire readership got to see this "inventor of the Internet" rubbish, the sort-of correction isn't going to get nearly the attention. It'll just be recycled endlessly with the words "According to even the liberals at the Washington Post..."

...and we'll have a subpoena of fun.

The thing that makes blogging such an exercise in frustration is that all too often, it's about one of two stories: corruption and/or disinformation. When it works as it's supposed to, it can really be a thing of beauty. The story of the DOJ scandal started in the progressive blogs, and it threatens to do as much to bring down this rotten administration as anything else. While "professional journalists" initially sneered at the story as a ridiculous, blogosphere conspiracy theory, they at least got the conspiracy part right-- the administration, its "useful idiots" culled from fundamentalist schools (now there's a paradox for you) and the Federalist Society, and the party faithful across the nation were perfectly comfortable turning the United States justice system into a network of GOP enforcers. "Hey, mister, drop that criminal investigation and start suppressing the vote. Or else...."

Hearings are underway, and even as the White House connection to the affair grows stronger every day, Fearless Leader boldly contends that this is all some sort of delusion. And he's right, but not because the reams of documents, lists of e-mails and contradictory testimony are imaginary. Harriet Miers, who Bush once nominated as the most qualified person in the nation to sit on the Supreme Court has now been handed a congressional subpoena for her role in helping to subvert justice, violate the law, and deny American citizens the right to vote.

I suppose this is how actual conspiracy theorists feel all the time. You keep pointing out something so self-evident, so sinister.... and the very people who should be paying the most attention are the ones most determined to ignore you. But I'm the one who enlisted to be a foot soldier in the blogging army, after all. Time to soldier on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Horror of (Republican) Party Beach

Here's an interesting post from The Corner (of all places).

"Unfit To Serve As President" [John Hood]

That's what the American Freedom Agenda, a new group of conservative civil libertarians, said about Mitt Romney after he declined to sign their pledge. It would have the next president promising, among other things, to obtain judicial approval before initiating any wiretaps and to allow habeas corpus petitions for unlawful combatants imprisoned in the U.S. or by U.S. forces elsewhere.

While I probably wouldn't like a fair number of the 'other things' the AFA is fighting for, it's difficult to argue with these basic constitutional concepts that have been proudly denied Americans by the GOP. The thing is, as Hood adds:

Actually, it isn't just Romney they criticize. Only Ron Paul has signed the pledge so far.

But the top contenders-- including Giuliani and McCain-- are all making it pretty clear that they're as committed to maintaining Bush's catastrophic policies as they are to distancing themselves from the man himself. But no-one seems to care. Conservatives I've spoken with about this very issue have all given me the same familiar and bone-chilling response: "You can't take that seriously. He'll be a moderate once he's in office."

Monday, June 11, 2007

And when I say 'Senate,' I mean 'me.'

It's another one of those Republican maxims: Whatever they say, the opposite is true.

Trent Lott made some statements on the no-confidence vote to be held in the Senate on Gonzo's predicament, saying the purpose of the Democrats' resolution was "to put some people on the hot spot." He called introduction of the resolution "a very disappointing spectacle."

"We ought to summarily punt this out to the backfield where it belongs," Lott said. "This is beneath the dignity of the Senate. How low will the Senate go? If we get into this, for hour or days, pity how much it will debase this Senate even further."

You might recognize a no-confidence vote as something that isn't terribly uncommon in other republics. You might also recognize a political party's willingness to decry one of their own when he turns out to be an inept, law-breaking toadie as a sign of a healthy democracy. The sort of sign that lends dignity to a law-making body.

UPDATE: Surprise! The GOP managed to hold together enough of their own to prevent the embarrassment of having to admit that they'd rather have criminals in office than admit their fallibility. And who decided to give them a hand? Why, none other than Joe Lieberman! Still, the seven Republicans who took the extraordinary step of not displaying total cowardice deserve a mention: Arlen Specter, John Sununu, Gordon Smith, Norm Coleman, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Bush's Little Red Book

When Mao was in firm control of China, he set about modernizing (or at least giving the appearance of modernizing) the nation. One of those efforts was to encourage the use of what's come to be called Traditional Chinese Medicine, particularly in rural areas and among the poor. This system, which runs the gamut from the sometimes sensible (medicinal herbs) to hocus-pocus (pulse diagnosis). Being a man of the people, Mao entrusted his own care to highly trained physicians well-versed in the latest Western medical knowledge, and often schooled overseas.

Today, the WaPo reported that the Bush White House is hiring a team of lawyers in anticipation of being asked to take responsibility for his administration's frequen law-breaking. A significant part of the DOJ scandal involves right-wing fundamentalists from crappy law schools being given responsibilities far beyond their age and experience, including the right to determine which cases were pursued by US Attorneys. So you know the GOP has tons of faith in the abilities of these young zealots.... right? Of course not!

White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, brought in by Bush in January when the opposition took over Capitol Hill, announced the appointment of nine new lawyers yesterday, including J. Michael Farren, former general counsel of Xerox Corp., as his deputy. A source said Fielding has also recruited Stephen D. Potts, a longtime head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, to be ethics counsel.

The legal reinforcements arrive at a time when the White House is under siege on multiple fronts. Congressional investigators are looking into the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, the disappearance of White House e-mail, internal disputes over warrantless surveillance, partisan activities in federal agencies, various aspects of the Iraq war and other issues. . .

Fielding raided his old law firm, Wiley Rein & Fielding, for some of its talent, hiring Kate Todd, Amy F. Dunathan and Al Lambert. He also brought back William Burck, who recently left the White House to work at the Justice Department; two former federal prosecutors, Michael Purpura and Scott Coffina; and Emmet T. Flood and Francis Q. Hoang of Williams & Connolly. All eight received degrees from Ivy League schools or from West Point. (Emphasis mine.)

If only BushCo had faith the size of a mustard seed in their own allies, eh?

Friday, June 08, 2007

How's THAT for a plan?

Paging Joseph Heller....

George W. Bush insists that his "surge" in Iraq is based on the idea that "Iraqis will not be able to make the political and economic progress they need until they have a basic measure of security."

That's all well and good, except for the fact that the man the president has chosen to be his "war czar" seems to understand things exactly the other way around.

At his confirmation hearing yesterday, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute told Sen. Evan Bayh that, "in the absence of some kind of political and economic steps that are before the Iraqi government now, if they don't make progress on those sorts of reconciliation measures . . . we're not likely to see much difference in the security situation."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

An unlovely bunch of coconuts.

Aren't Republicans cute? You can run down the ever-lengthening list of corrupt members of the GOP-- a fair number have been imprisoned (and should be pardoned immediately for such gross miscarriages of justice, of course), many more have resigned in disgrace, a large crop is currently under investigation, and the vast majority are still going about their business. But it only took one corrupt Democrat for them to decide that the problem is spread evenly inside the Beltway. Really, it's the sort of adorable argumentation you get from 5 year-olds.

But all that petulant up-is-down stubbornness is pretty much the only defense against mountains of facts, oceans of evidence, and the unceasing downpour of reality.

It is no secret that campaign contributions sometimes lead to lucrative official favors. Rarely, though, are the tradeoffs quite as obvious as in the twisted case of Coconut Road.

The road, a stretch of pavement near Fort Myers, Fla., that touches five golf clubs on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, is the target of a $10 million earmark that appeared mysteriously in a 2006 transportation bill written by Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska.

Mr. Young, who last year steered more than $200 million to a so-called bridge to nowhere reaching 80 people on Gravina Island, Alaska, has no constituents in Florida.

The Republican congressman whose district does include Coconut Road says he did not seek the money. County authorities have twice voted not to use it, until Mr. Young and the district congressman wrote letters warning that a refusal could jeopardize future federal money for the county.

The Coconut Road money is a boon, however, to Daniel J. Aronoff, a real estate developer who helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young at the nearby Hyatt Coconut Point hotel days before he introduced the measure.


Kevin Drum has settled on the following for his 'quote of the day.' It is, writes Drum, from a sermon "enthusiastically introduced by [James] Dobson, who devoted two of his radio shows to it."

"You know a society has been abandoned by God when it"

To me, this can mean one of two things. Either the vast majority of heterosexual males have long since been abandoned by God, or he only means publicly celebrating lesbian sex.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Obstinance-Only Education

It looks as though it's going to be a slow blogging week for me. Not that there aren't a million stories out there, but sometimes you've just got to sit back and take a breather. Particularly after breathtaking displays like the Republican presidential debate (Giuliani thinks we did "exactly the right thing" in invading Iraq?!?), Fearless Leader's apparent willingness to rewind US-Russian relations thirty years for the sake of being the man who deployed Reagan's Folly-- the utterly ineffectual, $100-billion SDI project.

And that's been the theme of the news this week: obstinacy in the service of idiocy. Yes, sometimes you just need a breather.

Rep. Doolittle (R-CA) catapults the propaganda to 7th and 8th graders: “I don’t think putting carbon dioxide into the air by man made energy sources is the problem, but I do think being held by unfriendly countries who have most of the worlds petroleum is a problem.

Dick Cheney lies to high schoolers: "The worst terrorist we had in Iraq was a guy named Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian by birth; served time in a Jordanian prison as a terrorist, was let out on amnesty. … Then when we launched into Afghanistan after 9/11, he was wounded, and fled to Baghdad for medical treatment, and then set up shop in Iraq. So he operated in Jordan, he operated in Afghanistan, then he moved to Iraq."

Bush nominates sex-obsessed quack for Surgeon General: In his 1991 work (written for the Methodist Church) "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality,” James Holsinger noted that "When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur. . ." Because not just homosexuals, but all Americans need to be aware that injury and disease can never result from heterosexual intercourse.

Then there's that Schlozman clown. I'm not even touching that one. And the calls for the immediate pardon of Scooter Libby? Yeah. Skipping it, in all its Magna-Carta-be-damned contempt for the rule of law.

But I'd at least like to share one funny link-- Kevin drum collected some of the funniest zingers from the debate's liveblogging here. My favorite (maybe, there are some really good ones here, and even from wingers):

Ezra Klein: Does anybody really believe religion is a "very important" part of Giuliani's life? He seems like the type who would make holy water sizzle.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Ready to feel depressed?

Everyone knows I'm a longtime fan of Al Gore (and by everyone I mean this site's limited readership). And I could go on for hours about the tragic irony of the 2000 and 2004 elections, with G-Dub's carefully calculated and utterly insincere regular guy/compassionate conservative
schtick winning over a frightening number of people, and Gore being hammered mercilessly for his attempt to play the same game in spite of his actual sincerity-- which are obviously a hell of a lot better for the nation than what we've gotten. Followed by John Kerry's colossally unwise decision to follow in Gore's footsteps. Yes, the man who more Americans would infamously "like to have a beer with" was a real charmer, in a Ted Bundy sort of way. And the stiff, uptight guys mocked as out-of-touch were just what Americans profess to want: genuine people uncomfortable with elections playing out like high school popularity contests-- biggest phony takes all. With the press playing the role of 'sneering hipster secretly dying to be part of the in crowd' the whole time. But I'll just leave it at that and move on to the interview.

No, no, Gore demurred, that's not what he meant. Then he retreated to the safer ground of his new book, "The Assault on Reason," a sermon on Bush’s hubris and the decline of public discourse. "I would hope that whoever becomes the nominee in both parties would recognize that American democracy is in trouble," he said. "We need more than just 30-second ads. We need more than nostrums and bromides and palliatives and these buzz words that are poll-tested."

One reason to take the former vice president at his word that he does not expect to again be a candidate for national office — as he was for four consecutive elections from 1988 to 2000 — is that he is more comfortable as preacher and professor than he was as politician.

Over the course of a 30-minute conversation, Gore traversed the war, climate change and the evolution of modern media (his own voracious media appetite, he said, ranges from The New York Times to Daily Kos and the Drudge Report). When the inevitable question came — his intentions about 2008 — he said politics "rewards a tolerance for artifice, repetition, triviality that I don't have in as great supply as I might have had when I was younger."

The tone of the piece is too smarmy by half for my taste, but that seems to be the standard MO for the hotly anticipated and spectacularly disappointing Politico. It's as if 'journalists' are gentically programmed to include smirking condescension into anything involving Gore-- in spite of everything from the farce of Bush v Gore all the bungling, corrupt, scandal-plagued, murderous way to the present.

Highly recommended reading-- everything in quotation marks, that is.

Regrets? I've had a few.

The biggest regret being flags. Or tags. Or labels. You know, when someone puts little categories with each post. I really wish I'd done that from the start using the maxims of GOP behavior. Or maybe I'd literally lose my mind given the terrible dichotomy of their consistency and the consistency of the press in overlooking so much of it.

Anyway, here's another example of "If they say one thing, they're doing the opposite." One of the most egregious examples being the administration's pitiful insistence in the wake of Katrina that no one could've possibly predicted such a devastating outcome. The reality, of course, is that everyone knew it would happen-- it was just a question of when. Combine that with the fact that Fearless Leader was actually slashing the budget for levee maintenance, and you've got-- tragically enough-- business as usual under Republican rule.

Just add 'potential pandemic' to the list of things they've ignored-- or actually helped bring about-- to the detriment of the nation. And an international (or even global) pandemic, not unlike Katrina, is much more a matter of 'when' than 'if.'

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been instrumental in dealing with this recent [rare and drug-resistant] TB case. President Bush has repeatedly lauded their work in public health. From 2001:

I believe — firmly believe that because of the good folks who work in this building and other buildings throughout Atlanta, Georgia, and throughout the country for CDC, that we’ve saved a lot of lives in America. … I’m going to talk about public health officials as part of being the new heroes of America. And that’s why I’ve come by today, to thank them.

Yet despite his rhetoric, Bush has repeatedly proposed slashing the CDC’s budget:

– 2002: Proposed a $174 million cut.

– 2003: Proposed a $1 billion cut, with no new funding for preventive health divisions working on TB.

– 2004: Proposed an increase of “less than 1 per cent.”

– 2005: Proposed a $263 million cut, while simultaneously proposing a $270 million increase in abstinence education.

– 2006: Proposed a $500 million cut which would have slashed grants to state and local health departments like the Fulton County Health and Wellness Department involved in this week’s TB-scare.

– 2007: Proposed a $179 million cut, in addition to unspecified plans for more CDC “savings.”

– 2008: Proposed a $37 million cut, including “massive funding cuts in proven health protection programs.”

In a report submitted to the House Appropriations Committee earlier this year, CDC Director Julie Gerberding warned that a TB outbreak could result from the administration’s proposed cuts. She noted that “emerging plagues such as drug-resistant tuberculosis represent ‘urgent threats that have become more prominent in the dawn of the 21st century.’”