Monday, February 28, 2005


Bob Somerby, as my Dear Readers are reminded over and over, is generally incomparable, but there are times when he can be a bit...obtuse. The Editors call him on it this time.

We hope Mr. Somerby enjoyed his decade-long vacation on the great planet Jupiter, and we eagerly await the day when he will post what must be spectacular holiday snapshots. For only someone who had spent the last 10 years vacationing on the gaseous planet Jupiter could propose that the media was ignoring a story because it was trivial. Only if terrestrial television signals had been hopelessly scrambled by the great planet's powerful magnetic field could Mr. Somerby not be sick of hearing the names "Paris Hilton", "Jonbenet Ramsey", or any of the thousands of irrelevant nanocelebrities whose vapid, titillating stories are the primary interest of our trivia-phobic press corps. Only if one was tens of millions of miles outside the delivery range of the New York Times could one not recall the wall-to-wall coverage of Al Gore's scandalous choice of shirts, John Kerry's troubling haircut, or the other infinitely irrelevant subjects of mindless blather which are compulsively discussed while wars rage, famines and diseases kill, scientific breakthroughs change our understanding of the universe, and the powerful lie and deceive, much to the total indifference of most of America's best journalists. Only if all of this was true, and only if one's brain had been utterly destroyed by breathing pure frozen methane since Monica Lewinski was in high school could one possibly propose that the press is ignoring a White House sex scandal because it is trivial. There can be no other explanation - for, as the great Sherlock Holmes observed, once you have eliminated everything that is impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. As it is impossible for a person who has spent any time on this planet to make the statements he has made, strange as it may sound, he must have been vacationing on Jupiter. We should just be thankful that he has only spent ten years on Jupiter, and not, for example, the last millennium floating in the freezing black vacuum beyond the orbit of Pluto. Who knows what theory about press coverage of the Gannon story we might be subjected to then - perhaps that the press won't cover the story because it involves the press, and they just don't like to talk about themselves?

Having disposed of poor Bob -- and I'll surely take note of his response as The Daily Howler does not like to be beaten by its own stick -- they find someone who does "get it."

Every president has sought to manipulate the media. But historians say that Bush, unhappy with what he calls "the filter," is courting controversy in his quest for innovative formats. Several conservative commentators have been paid to trumpet Bush policies in their work; one recipient, Armstrong Williams, is being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission. And two agencies have disseminated pro-Bush videos that look like TV newscasts, without disclosing the Bush sponsorship - a breach of federal law, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The real debate

Way to go, Joe.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you more, Senator Biden, by Robert Samuelson.

"Bush wants it both ways: He wants to appeal to younger voters by offering personal accounts; and he doesn't want to offend older voters, (including baby boomers) by cutting their benefits. This may be smart politics, but it's lousy policy. ... Democrats, like Bush, aren't acknowledging the unpopular choices posed by an aging baby boom generation."

Can you say today...

SEN. BIDEN: I think he's right on both scores.

MR. RUSSERT: So the Democrats should step forward and say, "We may have to..."


MR. RUSSERT: "...reduce benefits, we may have to raise taxes"?

SEN. BIDEN: No. Or raise retirement age or raise the income of which is taxable, all of which relates to--there's--you know, the president of the United States--let's get one thing straight. No matter how you cut it, this real debate on personal accounts is about the legitimacy of Social Security; it's not about the solvency of Social Security. This does nothing not only to not make it solvent--the lines meet, as Rick says--it makes it less solvent. It makes it less solvent. You've got to come up with $2 trillion in order to accommodate the president's plan that he put out there, about 4 percent. [emphasis added]

Now, I'm ready, willing and able to listen to anything the president has to put on the table about the issue of how he's going to deal with the solvency of Social Security, and it will require a combination or one of all the things you mentioned. But on private accounts, that only exacerbates the problem, exacerbates the problem, doesn't help the problem.

Exactly right. Biden has the argument framed as it should be, and the flailing around by Santorum, the WH's main "puppy" on this, shows how badly their talking points are failing them.

Our moral standing

Although they have always been manipulated for political agendas, when the U.S. cited another country for human rights abuses in the past, it used to carry some weight -- if only moral -- behind it.

Washington complained that in Russia, which is a key ally in the U.S. war on terrorism, the Kremlin consolidated its central power. It also expressed "concerns about the erosion of government accountability" due to media restrictions, a compliant legislature and political pressure on the judiciary.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Forest vs. trees

This weekend the Times has a fairly interesting piece on the debate over the relative level of "faith" among the nation's founders, as well as the temperature of the debate over religion in the 18th vs. 21st centuries.

But the story ends up being a typical "Expert A says" while "Expert B retorts." The debate we should be having is not whether Washington, Jefferson, Adams, et al believed in "An Almighty," a "Creator" or "God" Himself. They were typical of educated men of their times in that they seemed to believe in a Divine Being of some sort and that religion was beneficial as a source of public morality.

There is no debate there.

The real issue that goes unremarked upon in the article is the degree to which religion -- specifically a "Christian" religion -- played out in their policy making. In other words, was this nation founded as a "Judeo-Christian" nation (with an edge to the latter name in the partnership), as religious fundamentalist historians and politicians would have us believe? Or, created as it was in the shadow of the Enlightenment and influenced by British law, was it based on an amalgram of Enlightenment principles and English Parliamentary and Common Law, with a smattering of Roman classicism thrown in? Based on most of the important texts, I'm going with the latter.

Stories like the Times' frame the debate in a way in which the fundies certainly hold the advantage. It makes it appear that if the founders were not atheists, then, by inference, their "Christian faith" must have been in a key influence on their vision of the operating principles of this country's government. And I believe that that is simply not so.

I also question some of the assertions historians in the article, that the "temperature" of the debate was a lot lower in the 18th century. True, to the extent that the radical clerics of the day were not in political and media ascension. But, then as now, an atheist couldn't get elected dog catcher, as the brutal campaigns against Jefferson (and his reaction to them) attest.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Cute, but wrong, or "Why can't we have a better press corps?"

Aw, isn't this cute?

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 - The battle over Social Security has been joined by an unusual lobbyist, a 9-year-old from Texas who has agreed to travel supporting President Bush's proposal.

The boy, Noah McCullough, made a splash with his encyclopedic command of presidential history, earning five appearances on the "Tonight" show and some unusual experiences in the presidential campaign last year. He beat Howard Dean in a trivia contest at the Democratic National Convention and wrote for his local newspaper about his trip to see the inauguration.

"He's very patriotic and very Republican," said Noah's mother, Donna McCullough, a former teacher and self-described Democrat. "It's the way he was born."

In a sign of how far groups go to carry their message on Social Security, Progress for America has signed up Noah, a fourth grader, as a volunteer spokesman. He starts on spring break from James Williams Elementary School in Katy, Tex.


Noah will travel to a handful of states ahead of visits by the president and will go on radio programs, answer trivia questions and say a few words about Social Security. Though he is obviously not an expert (and not really a lobbyist, either), officials say the effort is a lighthearted way to underline Mr. Bush's message.

"What I want to tell people about Social Security is to not be afraid of the new plan," Noah said. "It may be a change, but it's a good change."

The trip was a brainchild of Stuart Roy, a former aide to Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, who recently joined the DCI Group, a political consultancy here with ties to the Republican Party and Mr. Bush.


Noah plans to run for the White House in 2032 - and he wants Social Security addressed before then.

"It will be bankrupt when I'm president," he said.

The reporter does mention that young Noah is "not an expert." But then, apparently, neither is the reporter. He seems incapable of, you know, actually reporting on the accuracy of a 9-year old's claim that the program will be "bankrupt" when he's president unless we all sign on to private accounts, even though private accounts -- by the preznit's own begrudging admission -- do nothing to shore up Social Security's finances.

I take for granted we won't get an honest debate from Bush/DeLay & Co. Can't we at least get a semblance of honest reporting?

Oh well, just more hooey from the Republiars.

A-Rod Arena to open in Boston

Well, no, apparently. The arena formerly known as the FleetCenter will not be named after the Yankee team captain.

Kerry Konrad's dream - let's call it a mischievous wish - was that on March 1, the FleetCenter in Boston would be renamed the DerekJeterCenter.

"My goal was to have the ultimate bragging rights with my buddies up there and tease my friends about the day I named it the DerekJeterCenter," said Konrad, 47, a Yankees fan who attended Harvard with certain members of Red Sox Nation.

"It could have been something more troublesome," Konrad, a Manhattan lawyer, said by telephone. "Like Bucky Dent or Aaron Boone." Or Harry Frazee. Even worse, Alex Rodriguez, the Red Sox' spring-training piñata.

Still, Konrad's flight of fancy stood a chance of achieving reality. The arena has shed the Fleet name because the bank's owner, Bank of America, does not want its moniker on the home of the Celtics and the Bruins.

Earlier this month, the arena's owner, Delaware North, began hawking one-day naming rights on eBay, and will do so through March 7 (proceeds go to charity).

Through 14 days, bidders have paid $88,841, including $35,099 from the on-line casino, to $4,001 from John Muller of San Jose, Calif., who had it renamed the LindaWaltonGarden yesterday as a gift to his wife.

"All the names passed the smell test and were rated G," said Richard Krezwick, the arena president.

In eBay bidding that ended Wednesday, Konrad's $2,325 was topped by no other. Did he get away with a plan that he felt symbolized a friendly rivalry, one that any fan would acknowledge has grown bizarre and out of control? Or would Beantown churls deny him 24 hours of fun?

And oh, what fun he would have, snapping photographs of the arena scoreboards that would sport "DerekJeterCenter," and telling his Red Sox friends to call (617) 624-1000 to listen to the operators say, "Hello, DerekJeterCenter."

After two days of deliberation, the arena ordained yesterday that the Jeter name was rated X in Boston. "We consider it a curse word in Boston," Krezwick said. "Anything initiating from the blue and the pinstripes would probably be considered offensive by Boston fans."

No sense of humor up there in the Nation. Guess it's all the snow they've gotten this winter.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Like-minded singles

Yeah, yeah, every snarky, lefty, elite-y blog on the internets paused a moment earlier today, said "Oh my," and swooned. Light-headed they were because, it is true, Hannidate is here!

T-bogg, Apostropher, and ThinkProgress all have their favorites, but this guy's mine.

I'm 27 and live in the Las Vegas area. I love the outdoors and being active. I hike, snowboard, go offroading and love to travel. I work in Marketing as a Territory area Representative for a communications company. I've worked there just over five years. I listen to Sean as well as his good friend Rush. I try to give my three hours a day while still holding down a job. I donated and helped with the Bush campaign here in Nevada and am also a member of the NRA. I'd like to meet other like minded singles in the area or neighboring states.

And...kill them.

But, hmmm. Doesn't specify a gender for the "like minded singles" with whom he's looking to hook up. I like that in a man who tries to give his three hours a day tithe to Sean and Rush.

And the picture of his mommy and daddy in the background is a nice touch.

A proposal to cut the deficit

Just eliminate all senior administration officials other than Karl Rove.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 - Even as President Bush pursues a sweeping agenda to overhaul Social Security and the tax code, his economic team is thinner now than at any time since he took office.

About one-third of the senior policy positions at the Treasury Department, which is central in both the tax and Social Security battles, are empty or about to be.

The office of the United States trade representative, which is in the midst of global and regional trade negotiations, is being led by a caretaker, and Mr. Bush has yet to nominate a permanent trade representative.

And though Mr. Bush announced Wednesday that Harvey S. Rosen would be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Mr. Rosen is expected to return to his teaching post at Princeton by summer's end.


Administration officials said much of the delay simply reflected the need to conduct thorough background checks.

Numerous officials said they were determined to avoid "another Kerik" situation, a reference to Bernard B. Kerik, who withdrew his nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security after saying that he had failed to pay employment taxes for a nanny.

But some Republicans said some candidates may have been discouraged by a sense that the Treasury Department had far less power to set policy than did Karl Rove, who was recently named Mr. Bush's deputy chief of staff for policy.

"I think there's a concern on the part of some people that they wouldn't be able to do anything," said Bruce Bartlett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, adding that Mr. Snow had served as more of a salesman for Mr. Bush's policies than as a developer of those policies.

You'd think that with Karl Rove in charge of everything, we could save millions in salaries for non-essential policy advisors.

I love the "Kerik defense." Are there other guys out there lying about their past, using apartments provided for WTC workers as a love nest, and associating with organized crime figures while service as a NYC police chief? Oh yeah, and "failing to pay taxes on a [POSSIBLY NON-EXISTENT] nanny." Jeebus, the Times' WH reporters can sure act as tools, can't they?

Our Master Narrative

Bob Sommerby and Paul Krugman are right. We (and by "we" I mean the left-leaning members of the punditocracy, of which I am not a member) need to take a page from the right and create a few Master Narratives with which to fend off the opposition. Just as the Right are so quick to sigh, "just more liberal bias" and "these liberal elites have no respect for the values of regular Americans," "we" need to point back and say, "you think 'regular Americans' are fools and don't deserve a real debate on important issues." So, for instance, when a group says that AARP is opposed to killing Social Security because they hate the troops and love fags, said pundits should roll their eyes on camera, shake their talking heads, and repeat, "There they go again. They do this shit all of the time, making a joke instead of an argument."

Take me back to the 18th century

It's rather odd, I attended 12 years...12 years...of Catholic school, grades 1 through 12. During that time I learned American history and was taught that, for the most part, our founding fathers were Deists -- that "the Creator" was the equivalent of a watchmaker and the universe a fine timepiece.

The recent rise in claims that our nation was founded on "Christian" principles has, for that reasaon, repeatedly thrown me for a loop. Christ, I find myself thinking, not even the nuns were buying that back in the day.

The Nation's Brooke Allen provides a useful reminder of the true views of the men who wrote Common Sense, our Constitution, the Federalst Papers, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

In 1797 our government concluded a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary," now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:

As the Government of the United not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.

The Founding Fathers were not religious men, and they fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson's words, "a wall of separation between church and state." John Adams opined that if they were not restrained by legal measures, Puritans--the fundamentalists of their day--would "whip and crop, and pillory and roast." The historical epoch had afforded these men ample opportunity to observe the corruption to which established priesthoods were liable, as well as "the impious presumption of legislators and rulers," as Jefferson wrote, "civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time."

So, although I love the 21st century, with its internets and flush toilets, the 18th century is looking better and better, a time when I could live in a nation founded and led by men who believed in Enlightenment priciples, rather than in the corrupt Christianity expoused by so much of our current political establishment.

It is important, as progressives, that we fight to take back our nation's heritage from the mouth breathers who would have us believe that the Puritans had taken control of the young nation's leadership, rather than the freethinking intellectuals who actually founded it.

We are the children of the revolution, not these swine and greed heads who "would "whip and crop, and pillory and roast."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Disease of Conceit

I need a shower.

For reasons I can't explain even to myself, I decided to actually go and read some of the Rightwingnutteriness on the blogosphere, and thought I'd start out with Newsweeks' fave, Powerline.

The same people (whose curious "handles," as noted before, such as "Hindrocket" and "The Big Trunk," as T-Bogg might say, bring out the inner Beavis in me...heh, heh) who recently claimed that former president Jimmy Carter had "gone over to the other side," are now daring to quote Bob Dylan.

Well, it's not "Desolation Row," but at Harvard they're selling postcards of the hanging. Everybody sing along:

Here comes the blind commissioner
They've got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they're restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row.

What a maroon. Stick that "hindrocket" down your "big trunk" and fire, you idiot. You are not witty, erudite, or "cool." You do not have faintest clue what Dylan is getting at with that stanza.

As Michael Grey wrote in Song & Dance Man III, "Desolation Row" displays "a chaos of language, an amalgam to some degree of blues vernacular, impressionism, allegory and more." Still, the references are clear enough that I think that joking about "They're selling postcards from the hanging," a common enough bi-product of lynchings earlier in the 20th century, and including a reference to the "riot squad" being "restless," an extremely prescient idea, Gray also writes, for someone to take note of three years before the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, just underscores the depths of your Republicreep ignorance and your inability to actually think about the art you are defacing.

You are not "hep," or "with it." In fact, you "large pricks" who constantly claim treasonous ex-presidents are trying to sneak up your "hindrocket," listen to the rest of the tune 'cause this passage pretty well illustrates your world view.

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

But, of course, nothing suits these mouthbreathers quite like this.

There's a whole lot of people dying tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Whole lot of people crying tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Comes right out of nowhere
And you're down for the count
From the outside world,
The pressure will mount,
Turn you into a piece of meat,
The disease of conceit.

Conceit is a disease
That the doctors got no cure
They've done a lot of research on it
But what it is, they're still not sure

There's a whole lot of people in trouble tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Whole lot of people seeing double tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Give ya delusions of grandeur
And a evil eye
Give you idea that
You're too good to die,
Then they bury you from your head to your feet
From the disease of conceit.

Or, harkening back to an era and mindset with which these bloviators would feel more at home, how about trying on something more your size.

Well, I wus sittin' home alone an' started to sweat,
Figured they wus in my T.V. set.
Peeked behind the picture frame,
Got a shock from my feet, hittin' right up in the brain.
Them Reds caused it!
I know they did . . . them hard-core ones.

Well, I quit my job so I could work alone,
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes.
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
That ol' Betty Ross . . .

Keep your lying hands off of Bob Dylan, you asses. He signs off on no man's agenda; certainly not yours.

[End of rant]

"Men's Night Out"

God bless America. Using houses of worship to meet armed forces recruiting goals.

After that, they had guys wearing the traditional US uniforms over time walk out in order while scenes from a Jesus movie I cant recall played. I was never aware of voodoo style witch doctors, or Indiana Jones being members of our military (far left and second from right respectively in the first pic). I think it’s kinda funny that unless I’m wrong that fellow on the far left of the second pic is wearing a confederate uniform. I know it’s ridiculously bad taste but yes, that really is Jesus on the cross in the first picture…in behind our troops. When the final modern troop stepped out too the front and center he thrust his rifle one handed into the air to shouts of approval, the Jesus footage was still playing, and at that particular point even my dad was uncomfortable.

Is it me, or is it getting warm in here?

Via Koufax Award-winner Daily Kos.

Ann Coulter proudly defends gay prostitution

Ann Coulter, her prominent adam's apple quivering with indignation, defends poor JimJeff from the torch bearing homophobic mobs of the Left!

I was thinking about writing a screed highlighting Coulter's usual lies and observing with no small amusement the sudden concern for the rights of gay men so many Righty blawgs have suddenly sprouted from their fever-swamped brains (I should have known, with a name like "Hindrocket").

But then I read this, and decided to let the Rude One do the heavy, profanity-laced lifting.

Speaking of Rude Pundit, his post, "What Kerry Should Say, Part 2," is a runner-up for best humorous post in the 2004 Koufax Awards. Congratulations to him and all of the winners and fine, fine runners-up. Wampum's service to the Lefty blogosphere is unmatched, and every year uncovers -- for me, anyway -- a whole fresh new crop of terrific writing on the internets.

By the way, "Playing Poker with Dick Cheney" won Most Humorous Post, but alas, it is no longer archived since The Poorman changed hosts.

OOOO. Wait. The cached version is here. Google be praised!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"Raging against the coming of the light."

Portrait by Ralph Steadman
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Ralph Steadman remembers Dr. Thompson.

"Two thumbs, Ralph! Don't forget the two thumbs!!" It was the Gonzo fist and he really believes I can do it! Such were the demands as he tipped at his windmillls. People were fucking with his beloved Constitution and he was born to banish the geeks who were doing it. In that way he was a real live American. A pioneer, frontiersman, last of the cowboys, even a conservative redneck with a huge and raging mind, taking the easy way out and mythologising himself at the same time.

Via Suburban Guerrilla.

Karl Rove's prostitution ring

No, we are repeatedly told by "apologists for the White House," there's no proof Karl Rove had anything to do with male prostitutes roaming the halls of the White House, posing

None at all.

In particular, I'd like to thank Terri Hillhouse and the entire GOPUSA team for their drive, dedication, and support. I'd also like to send a special thank you to all those who personally provided me with their assistance, guidance, and friendship, including Kathleen Eberle, Bruce Eberle, Mike Hiban, Don Stewart, Paul Teller, Tim Goeglein, Stuart Richens, Matt Smith, Jen Ohman, Bob Johnson, Liz Sheld, Julie Cram, Phillip Stutts, Chuck Muth, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, and G. Gordon Liddy. [emphasis, you know, added]

So, Karl Rove had nothing to do with Gannon/Guckert's obtaining a daily press pass --every day, for two years -- but JimJeff's boss thanks the princeling of darkness for his "assistance, guidance, and friendship."

What, as they say, a coincidence!

Eric Boehlert has some nagging questions over at Salon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ain't no road low enough

The Social Security Debate
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
I'm sure you, Dear Reader, have seen this image roiling across the internets. The ad is from USANext, or NAMBLA, and is apparently the result of countless hours of research into the "agenda" of that communist-front organization, AARP. Color me surprised, but the AARP agenda is all about the promotion of gay marriage and withholding support for THE TROOPS.

But you knew that.

While Krugman worries, rightly, that Bush will launch another "preemptive" war to distract folks from his domestic stumbling, it is clear that the campaign to dismantle Social Security is only just now hitting the Low Road. And the Low Road is where Bush & Co. operates most effectively. Just ask John McCain.

"Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen"

Steve Gilliard has two great posts on Hunter Thompson, here and here.

Thompson, on Nixon:

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern--but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man--evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him--except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism--which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

And here's the good doctor recounting the time he met a young George W. Bush:

Thompson claimed to know a thing or two about the president's partying past. In an interview with The Independent in 2004, Thompson said he remembered meeting Bush at Thompson's Super Bowl party in Houston in 1974. He said that Bush was "with a guy who had come to sell . . . " but then cut himself off. "Look, I'm not going to put this next sentence on the record. Let's just say that 'a friend of mine' was buying cocaine. I have friends in Houston from all walks of life. Lawyers. Professional men. Bush was hanging around with this crowd of what you might call gilded coke dilettantes."

Thompson's memory wasn't always the most reliable, and his story about his Houston encounter with Bush evolved over time. But in the 2004 telling of it, at least, Thompson said the future president had left an indelible impression on him. "He knew who I was, at that time, because I had a reputation as a writer," Thompson said. "I knew he was part of the Bush dynasty. But he was nothing, he offered nothing, and he promised nothing. He had no humor. He was insignificant in every way and consequently I didn't pay much attention to him. But when he passed out in my bathtub, then I noticed him. I'd been in another room, talking to the bright people. I had to have him taken away."

Monday, February 21, 2005

"Sincerity itself is bullshit."

That's the conclusion of an essay written by Princeton's Harry Frankfurt with the engaging title, "On Bullshit."

Frankfurt, recognizing that our culture is redolent with it, attempts to develop a theory of bullshit, in particular, to determine -- using the tools of his philosophical training -- the difference between bullshit and the bullshitter and lies and the liar.

And in so doing he has, better than anyone else that I know of, created a theory for the life and times of George W. Bush.

Bush is never referred to, but consider this passage he cites from Ezra Pound's Canto LXXIV:

Hey Snag wots in the bibl’?
Wot are the books ov the bible?
Name ’em, don’t bullshit ME.

This is a call for the facts. The person addressed is evidently regarded as having in some way claimed to know the Bible, or as having claimed to care about it. The speaker suspects that this is just empty talk, and demands that the claim be supported with facts. He will not accept a mere report; he insists upon seeing the thing itself. In other words, he is calling the bluff. The connection between bullshit and bluff is affirmed explicitly in the definition with which the lines by Pound are associated:
As v. truns. and intr., to talk nonsense (to); … also, to bluff one’s way through (something) by talking nonsense.

It has often occured to me that Bush frequently cites his daily reading of the Bible, but the only time he ever cites a passage from said Book is when he is delivering a speech written by Michael Gerson. Bush is, I believe, bluffing, and yet is never called on it. I would have thought by now that some enterprising journalist, evangelist or not, would have asked the President, "If the Bible is, as you've said, your favorite book, what's your favorite book in the Bible?"

As Frankfurter writes, "Now the concept most central to the distinctive nature of a lie is that of falsity: the liar is essentially someone who deliberately promulgates a falsehood. Bluffing too is typically devoted to conveying something false. Unlike plain lying, however, it is more especially a matter not of falsity but of fakery. This is what accounts for its nearness to bullshit."

Also consider the following, which sums up young George's career as well as anything I can think of:

In Eric Ambler’s novel Dirty Story, a character named Arthur Abdel Simpson recalls advice that he received as a child from his father:

Although I was only seven when my father was killed, I still remember him very well and some of the things he used to say. … One of the first things he taught me was, “Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through."

"Bullshitting your way through" should be on Bush's family seal. Whether it is the story of his Texas Air National Guard service, his "studies" at Harvard Bus. School, his career drilling dry holes in the Texas oil business, his "work" "running" the Texas Rangers, his "leadership" as governor of Texas, or his campaign against John McCain during the 2000 primary, "bullshit" was the key word for his endeavors.

But what really distinguishes Frankfurter's analysis, and what makes it such a trenchant analysis of George Bush's history, is the clarity with which he makes the connection between bullshit and unreality. A lie, he notes, is the opposite of what is true; a lie, therefore, infers that there is a reality upon which to posit the opposite. Bullshit denies the very existence of truth and reality.

This is a key, perhaps, to [Simpson's] preference. Telling a lie is an act with a sharp focus. It is designed to insert a particular falsehood at a specific point in a set or system of beliefs, in order to avoid the consequences of having that point occupied by the truth. This requires a degree of craftsmanship, in which the teller of the lie submits to objective constraints imposed by what he takes to be the truth. The liar is inescapably concerned with truth-values. In order to invent a lie at all, he must think he knows what is true. And in order to invent an effective lie, he must design his falsehood under the guidance of that truth. On the other hand, a person who undertakes to bullshit his way through has much more freedom. His focus is panoramic rather than particular. He does not limit himself to inserting a certain falsehood at a specific point, and thus he is not constrained by the truths surrounding that point or intersecting it. He is prepared to fake the context as well, so far as need requires. This freedom from the constraints to which the liar must submit does not necessarily mean, of course, that his task is easier than the task of the liar. But the mode of creativity upon which it relies is less analytical and less deliberative than that which is mobilized in lying. It is more expansive and independent, with [more] spacious opportunities for improvisation, color, and imaginative play. This is less a matter of craft than of art. Hence the familiar notion of the “bullshit artist.” My guess is that the recommendation offered by Arthur Simpson’s father reflects the fact that he was more strongly drawn to this mode of creativity, regardless of its relative merit or effectiveness, than he was to the more austere and rigorous demands of lying.

What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

Or, to put it more succinctly, the bullshitter is "unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are."

A Social Security "crisis."

Tax cuts: Needed to curb the to battle the deficit.

Iraq: Never really mattered if Saddam had WMD, al Qaeda connection, etc., or not. It was always about Iraq as a "beacon of freedom in the Middle East."

Examples are everywhere: "'Blue Skies'Initiative;" the existing stem cell lines available for research; more "studying" needed for climate change.

What Augustine calls “liars” and “real lies” are both rare and extraordinary. Everyone lies from time to time, but there are very few people to whom it would often (or even ever) occur to lie exclusively from a love of falsity or of deception. For most people, the fact that a statement is false constitutes in itself a reason, however weak and easily overridden, not to make the statement.

For St. Augustine’s pure liar it is, on the contrary, a reason in favor of making it. For the bullshitter it is in itself neither a reason in favor nor a reason against. Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or to describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. Through excessive indulgence in the latter activity, which involves making assertions without paying attention to anything except what it suits one to say, a person’s normal habit of attending to the ways things are may become attenuated or lost. Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are. [emphasis added]

That, in a nutshell, is what frustrates the "Reality-based Community." You can't argue with Bush the Bullshitter, because the terms of reality are of no concern to him. He doesn't care what "reality" is, because he doesn't believe a "reality" exists.

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “anti-realist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself.

George is never more "steadfast" than he is on the stump. The more unscripted the situation, the more he revels in bullshit, and the more convincing he becomes for many. His strategy, moreover, to bypass the "filter" of the press, allows him to avoid accountability -- avoid "reality" encroaching on his bullshit.

The belly of the beast

"Anonymous" (and you know who you are) is right, the blogosphere does owe a huge debt to H.S. Thompson.

But the comparison is an unfortunate one for bloggers. I sit at home, imbibing the substances necessary for me to stomach the evil swill we're forced to swallow each day just by reading the newspaper. I do have terrifying visions ("cut 8-inches," anyone?). But Dr. Thompson consumed prodigious quantities and then leapt into the belly of the beast, whether sharing a car and talking football with Richard Nixon in '68, attending a sheriff's convention in Las Vegas in '71, or riding the Muskie campaign train (the "Sunshine Express") in'72, he put himself bodily into the story.

More lamentations, this time from Digby.

And, via Billmon, one of the good doctor's greatest moments.

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history," it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons nobody really understands at the time -- and which never explain, in retrospect, what's actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights -- or very early mornings -- when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L.L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was. No doubt at all about that . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.

And that, I think, was the handle -- that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eye you can almost see the high-water mark -- that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.


Swift Boat Veterans for Dismantling Social Security

They're baaaaack.

The people who brought you the Swift Boat Liars are gearing up to serve as Karl Rove's proxy in the war against AARP.

To help set USA Next's strategy, the group has hired Chris LaCivita, an enthusiastic former marine who advised Swift Vets and P.O.W.'s for Truth, formerly known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, on its media campaign and helped write its potent commercials. He earned more than $30,000 for his work, campaign finance filings show.

Officials said the group is also seeking to hire Rick Reed, a partner at Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, a firm that was hired by Swift Vets and was paid more than $276,000 to do media production, records show.

For public relations, USA Next has turned to Creative Response Concepts, a Virginia firm that represented both Swift Vets - the company was paid more than $165,000 - and Regnery Publishing, the publisher of "Unfit for Command," a book about Senator John Kerry's military service whose co-author was John E. O'Neill, one of the primary leaders of Swift Vets.

Swift Vets captured headlines for weeks in last year's presidential race, when it spent millions of dollars on incendiary commercials attacking Senator Kerry's war record. Because federal law prohibits outside groups from coordinating with presidential campaigns during elections, the organization came under fire when it was revealed that a lawyer for Mr. Bush's campaign was also advising Swift Vets.

Josh Marshall has more, much more.

Kevin Millar -- the clown show continues

Kevin Millar, December 1993:

By Bob Hohler, Globe Staff, 12/17/2003

Count Kevin Millar among the Red Sox who would welcome Alex Rodriguez, even if it meant the departures of Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez.

"You look at Nomar, and he's won two batting titles, and you look at Manny, and he's a great hitter," Millar said by phone last night from Beaumont, Texas. "But if you're talking about the best player in baseball all-around, I'm taking Alex Rodriguez."


"You're talking about the greatest player in the game," Millar said of Rodriguez. "Who wouldn't want him on their team?"

Kevin Millar, February 2004:

Sunday was Kevin Millar's turn to take a few shots at Alex Rodriguez.

Millar became the sixth Red Sox player in six days to criticize Rodriguez, taking the Yankees' third baseman to task for boasting about his workout routine and not measuring up to Derek Jeter as a "Yankee type."

"Derek Jeter is the Yankees, period," Millar said. "A-Rod's salary doesn't dictate that he's a Yankee. Making $25 million doesn't mean he's a Yankee.

"I don't know him," Millar said. "I know one thing. A lot of us in this locker room, we watch a guy like Derek Jeter play over and over, and he's a winner. And then, I think, I don't know if the guy grasped for the respect or whatever, but you don't need to tell people you're an upper-tier player. You don't need to tell people that you work out seven hours a day."

Defending world champion and a real class act.

Maybe the Wild Turkey let him down

Hunter S. Thompson was a key influence in the formative years of the Vega. He helped me cultivate my taste for grapefruit, knives, and, yes, Wild Turkey 101. Thompson taught me the necessity of approaching everything from sports to presidential politics through the prisms of a healthy dose of skepticism and even heavier doses of psychotropics. And yet, through his rantings, his optimism and a weird kind of very American idealism always seemed to seep through.

That's why his apparent suicide was like a blow to the gut this morning.

From happier (I guess) times...

Thursday was not a good day for McGovern. By noon there was not much left of Wednesday night’s Triumphant Warrior smile. He spent most of Thursday afternoon grappling with a long list of vice-presidential possibilities and by two, the Doral lobby was foaming with reporters and TV cameras. The name had to be formally submitted by 3:59 P.M., but it was 4:05 when Mankiewicz finally appeared to say McGovern had decided on Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri.

There is a very tangled story behind that choice, but I don’t feel like writing it now. My immediate reaction was not enthusiastic, and the staff people I talked to seemed vaguely depressed – if only because it was a concession to “the Old Politics,” a nice-looking Catholic boy from Missouri with friends in the Labor Movement. His acceptance speech that night was not memorable – perhaps because it was followed by the long-awaited appearance of Ted Kennedy, who had turned the job down.

Kennedy’s speech was not memorable either: “Let us bury the hatchet, etc. … and Get Behind the Ticket.” There was something hollow about it, and when McGovern came on he made Kennedy sound like an old-timer.

Later than night, at a party on the roof of the Doral, a McGovern staffer asked me who I would have chosen for VP … and finally, after long brooding, I said I would have chosen Ron Dellums, the black congressman from Berkeley.

“Jesus Christ!” he said. “That would be suicide!”

“Why not?” I said. “He offered it to Mayor Daley before he called Eagleton.”

“No!” he shouted. “Not Daley! That’s a lie!”

“I was in the room when he made the call,” I said. “Ask anybody who was there – Gary, Frank, Dutton – they weren’t happy about it, but they said he’d be good for the ticket.”

He stared at me. “What did Daley say?” he asked finally.

I laughed. “Christ, you believed that, didn’t you?”

He had, for just an instant. After all, there was a lot of talk about “pragmatism” in Miami, and Illinois was a key state … I decided to try the Daley rumor on other people, to see their reactions.

But I never got around to it, I forgot all about it, in fact, until I flipped through my notebook on the midnight jet from Atlanta. I came across a statement by Ron Dellums. It depressed me, for some reason, but it seems like a good way to end this thing. Dellums writes pretty good, for a politician. It’s part of the statement he distributed when he switched his support from Shirley Chisholm to McGovern:

The great bulk of that coalition committed to change, human freedom and justice in the country has moved actively and powerfully behind the candidacy of Senator McGovern. That coalition of hope, conscience, morality and humanity – of the powerless and the voiceless – that did not exist in 1964, that expressed itself in outrage and frustration in 1968, and in 1972 began to form and welded itself imperfectly but courageously and lifted a man to the brink of the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. That coalition has formed behind Senator McGovern has battled the odds, baffled the pollsters, and beat the bosses. It is my conviction that when that total coalition of the victims in this country is ever formed, this potential for change would be unheralded, for it could pose a real alternative to expediency and status quo politics in America.
-- Ron Dellums, July 9, 1972.


Friday, Aug. 11
National Broadcasting Company, Inc.
Thirty Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10020
CIRCLE 7-8300

Dear Hunter,

Because we share a fear and loathing for things which aren’t true, I point out that it ain’t true that I was taken in by the McGoverns on the South Carolina challenge in Miami Beach.

While they were switching votes, I said on the air that they might be trying to lose it deliberately. We had the floor people try to check this out and they ran into a couple of poolroom liars employed by McGovern who said yas, yas, it was defeat, etc., but a little while later Doug Kiker got Pat Lucey to tell it all. (Lucey called headquarters for permission, first, as Kiker waited.)

We were pleased that we got it right. Adam Clymer of the Sun called the next day with congratulations. I think the reason most people thought we blew the story is that CBS blew it badly. I guess I should have gone through the night pointing out what happened, but we got involved in the California roll-call and a lot of other stuff, and suddenly it was dawn.

Other than that I enjoyed your convention piece and let’s have a double Margarita when we next meet.

J. Chancellor

Sept 11 ‘72
Owl Farm
Woody Creek

Dear John…..

You filthy skunk-sucking bastard! What kind of gall would prompt you to write me a letter like that sac of pus dated Aug. 11? I checked your story – about how NBC had the South Carolina trip all figured out – with Mrs. Lucey (Pat wouldn’t talk to me, for some reason), and she said both you & Kiker were so fucked up on drugs that you both kept calling it “the South Dakota challenge,” despite her attempts to correct you. She was baffled by your behavior, she said, until Makiewicz told her about you and LSD-25. Then, about an hour later, Bill Daughtery (sp?) found Kiker on his knees in the darkness outside McGovern’s command trailer, apparently trying to choke himself with his own hands … but, when Bill grabbed him, Kiker said he was trying to un-screw his head from what he called his “neck-pipe,” so he could “check the wiring” in his own brain.

But I guess you wouldn’t remember that episode, eh? Fuck no, you wouldn’t! You dope-addled fascist bastard. I’m heading east in a few days, and I think it’s about time we got this evil shit cleared away. Your deal is about to go down, John. You can run, but you can’t hide. See you soon …

Hunter S. Thompson

[all, sic]

Fear & Loathing On the Campaign Trail '72, "July"

Ah, Dr. Thompson. We will miss you as we traverse this dark valley of Republican triumphalism and the messianic bastard who leads them.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Further proof that Lucianne's spawn is an ass

Roger Ailes (the good one) notes that J-Go finds this "cool."

The tsunami may have uncovered an ancient city. Woops Original link was to something completely different. Fixed.

Jaysis. The world exists solely for the entertainment of that creep.

Limbaugh to serve as official US drug mule in Afghanistan

With the news that Limbaugh will serve as part of "official government outreach" in Afghanistan, Jesse Taylor comes to the logical conclusion that the White House clearly no longer cares (if they ever did) about the perception that they are in the business of manufacturing fake news.

Gannon, Guckert, and Karl Rove

Via Josh Marshall, Dottie Lynch connects a few dots and sees the hand of Rove at work in the latest edition of White House Fake Newsery.

Tired and timid are two adjectives never applied to Rove. The architect of the Bush victories in 2000 and 2004 came through the ranks of college Republicans with the late Lee Atwater, and their admitted and alleged dirty tricks are the legends many young political operatives dream of pulling off. So when Jeff Gannon, White House "reporter" for Talon "News," was unmasked last week, the leap to a possible Rove connection was unavoidable. Gannon says that he met Rove only once, at a White House Christmas party, and Gannon is kind of small potatoes for Rove at this point in his career.

But Rove's dominance of White House and Republican politics, Gannon's aggressively partisan work and the ease with which he got day passes for the White House press room the past two years make it hard to believe that he wasn't at least implicitly sanctioned by the "boy genius." Rove, who rarely gave on-the-record interviews to the MSM (mainstream media), had time to talk to GOPUSA, which owns Talon.

She also provides quite a bit of background on the Gannon/Guckert work for the Thune campaign in South Dakota. If we lived in a Republic, as opposed to a fruit-based republic-can, there'd be investigations.

Meanwhile, Frank Rich gets this exactly right.

The "real" news from CNN was no news at all, but it's not as if any of its competitors did much better. The "Jeff Gannon" story got less attention than another media frenzy - that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan, who resigned from CNN after speaking recklessly at a panel discussion at Davos, where he apparently implied, at least in passing, that American troops deliberately targeted reporters. Is the banishment of a real newsman for behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland a more pressing story than that of a fake newsman gaining years of access to the White House (and network TV cameras) under mysterious circumstances? With real news this timid, the appointment of Jon Stewart to take over Dan Rather's chair at CBS News could be just the jolt television journalism needs. As Mr. Olbermann demonstrated when he borrowed a sharp "Daily Show" tool to puncture the "Jeff Gannon" case, the only road back to reality may be to fight fake with fake.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Lifting up the Gannon rock and seeing what's underneath

When oh when will "real journalists" start uncovering what was really going on with the Jeff/Jim story?

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who has been leading the charge with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) for an inquiry into the Gannon affair, expressed amazement at the new revelations.

“Every day brings a new revelation,” Slaughter told RAW STORY Friday. “If this pans out to be true we can add it to the mounting stack of evidence that Mr. Gannon had a special relationship with the White House despite his dubious credentials.”

Gannon bragged about passing a scoop on who obtained the troubled Bush National Guard memos to Fox News’ Sean Hannity on the conservative forum Free Republic.

“Mary Mapes is DEFINITELY [sic] behind the story,” Gannon wrote in Free Republic on Sept. 10, 2004. “This is who I told Sean Hannity got the documents. She also obtained the Abu Ghraib photos.”

“I got the scoop and passed it to Hannity,” Gannon added. “Look for my detailed story on Monday at Talon News. There is much more to this story. Mary Mapes is just the beginning.”

That story–that CBS producer Mary Mapes was the source of the troubled Bush Guard documents–shredded the credibility of anchor Dan Rather and killed any chance the facts that Bush had failed to adequately perform his duties as a member of the Texas Air National Guard would be taken seriously.

A producer at a rival network told Aravosis she received a call from Gannon informing her that Mapes had obtained the documents. That network then broke the tie between Mapes and the questionable ‘60 Minutes’ report.

No direct link has formally tied Gannon financially or personally to any members of the White House staff, but Rep. Slaughter believes the body of evidence illustrates Gannon was given special access.

“I am more concerned with each passing day that the relationship between Gannon and the White House was anything but typical,” Slaughter said. “As long as this Administration continues to stonewall I will seek the truth.”

Via Digby.

A “miserable, carping retromingent vigilante"

Micholas Lemann asks "why is everyone mad at the mainstream media?" It's an interesting piece and provides plenty of examples of the obsessiveness -- on the Left and Right -- with the imagined biases of the "MSM."

What has responsible journalists worried -- and rightly so -- is that their "compact" with the public to provide intellectually honest and inquisitive reporting is fraying. They are beginning to wonder if at a time when we need a free press to "do its job," as I and others in the blogopoly are fond of saying, many citizens not only don't believe them anymore (and, in fact, put them at the same professional level as the blow-dried idiots on local TV news), they don't even want them around anymore.

That's why it is so disheartening at the lack of real outrage with the administration's various attempts to buy "journalists" and provide press passes to obvious hacks. One wonders if Joe and Jane America assume that all journalists covering the White House are, on the weekends, running "Men4Men" websites.

Anyway, to show how far the MSM has fallen, and how cringingly passive they are compared with their forebears, check out this tidbit from Lehmann's report.

The White House almost never likes the press. The Nixon Administration, for example, regularly complained about liberal bias, but people in newsrooms didn’t agonize much about those complaints. Ben Bradlee, of the Washington Post, captured the prevailing sentiment in 1978, when, in a letter to Reed Irvine, of Accuracy in Media, an early conservative press critic, he referred to him as a “miserable, carping retromingent vigilante.” Probably most journalists who worked in the mainstream media were liberal, but they were also confident in their professionalism, and believed that they successfully kept their political views out of their work. Even crusading journalism wasn’t ideological but moral; Edward R. Murrow’s “Harvest of Shame” documentary, which aired in 1960, was aimed at righting a wrong, not at taking sides in an employment dispute between agribusiness and migrant workers. With this history, one can understand why 2004 was such a bad-karma campaign year for the mainstream media, which collectively felt both more harshly attacked and less important—a pair of misfortunes that rarely occur at the same time.

I would love to hear Bill Keller call Brent Bozell a "miserable, carping retromingent vigilante."

And speaking of a "miserable, carping retromingent vigilante," Wolcott teaches that idiot, Michael Medved, something about the economics of them new-fangled motion pictures.

Shame on Regnery

In an otherwise terrific shredding of Thomas Woods's "Politically Incorrect Guide to American History," Max Boot ends his review by questioning how a "once-reputable" publishing house like Regenry could publish such a thing.

There are a number of respectable books by real scholars that tell U.S. history from a conservative (if not a "neoconservative") perspective, such as Paul Johnson's A History of the American People or Walter McDougall's A New American History (only the first volume has been published so far). Conservatives looking to inoculate themselves or their children from liberal indoctrination would be well advised to steer clear of Woods's corrosive cornucopia of canards. Shame on Regnery, a once-respectable publishing house, for lending its imprimatur to such tripe. Woods' book is politically incorrect, all right. It's also morally incorrect. And factually incorrect.

Once reputable, huh.


Oh, I see.

Yes, that's respectable, alright.

Memo to Max Boot: Regnery is shameless and its books are written by and for demented bigots, liars, and hypocrites.

"Why can't we all just get along?"

I know, it's stupid, but I give you...

Friday cat and dog blogging.

On thugs, police overreach, and partisan hacks

David Wissig exhibits the kind of concern for civil liberties and privacy concerns we've come to expect from the party in power and its swamp fevered supporters.

I found out about this last night from people who attended the court case and this morning, the story is in The Baltimore Sun.

A man caught using a bayonet to cut up two large Bush-Cheney signs in Ellicott City during a spate of political-sign vandalism last fall was convicted of property destruction yesterday by Howard County District Judge Neil Edward Axel. Two other charges were dismissed.

Peter Lizon, 31, was given a year’s probation, and ordered to pay $328.04 in restitution to the Howard County Republican Party and provide 32 hours of community service.
Police watched as a minivan approached and stopped behind the signs about 4:45 p.m. Oct. 1, Detective Edward Upton testified. Lizon and his wife got out, and Peter Lizon retrieved gloves and a bayonet and began cutting out the centers of the two 4-by-8-foot panels set in a “V” shape, police said, while his wife appeared to keep a lookout. Officers, who were watching from both sides of U.S. 40, closed in and arrested the pair.

“It did have an impact on the community and the political process,” Axel said. The incident “reflects an escalation in society about the way campaigns are being conducted. What’s getting lost is the message,” he said.

If that isn’t enough good news, there was this additional piece of news that came out.

He faces a marijuana charge in Baltimore County, his attorney said, because two plants were discovered in his former Randallstown apartment by police who searched it while he and his wife were in jail.

Stephanie Lizon, 35, faces trial March 22 on property-destruction charges.

Personally, I thought the death penalty would have been too light a punishment, but at least there was a conviction of this thug. The additional charges of marijuana possession due to the police searching the thugs’ home over the sign destruction is an added bonus…..

Interesting that Wissig elides right over a paragraph in the Sun's story describing other acts of vandalism leading up to the election, including "a bullet fired into the home of a Democratic activist."

So, someone fires a bullet into the home of a Democrat and police start staking out Bush/Cheney signs. Then, for reasons that go unexplained in the story, the Ellicott City police decide that further investigation is needed, so they search this unfortunate couple's home. Looking for what, we're not told. Maybe a muzzle-loader to go with the bayonet.

And that's applauded by this prose stylist. Hackstatic!

Speaking of partisan hackery and self-justification, Krugman decides it's time to pull down the statue of Alan Greenspan, something I suggested the other day (Paul reads my blog, I feel sure of it).

On Wednesday Mr. Greenspan endorsed Social Security privatization. But there's a difference between 2001 and 2005. In 2001, Mr. Greenspan offered a convoluted, implausible justification for supporting everything the Bush administration wanted. This time, he offered no justification at all.

In 2001, some readers may recall, Mr. Greenspan argued that we needed to cut taxes to prevent the federal government from running excessively large surpluses. Even at the time it seemed obvious from his tortured logic that he was looking for some excuse, any excuse, to help out a Republican administration. His lack of sincerity was confirmed when projected surpluses turned into large deficits, and he nonetheless supported even more tax cuts.

This week, Mr. Greenspan offered no excuse for supporting privatization. In fact, he agreed with two of the main critiques of the administration's plan: that it would do nothing to improve the Social Security system's finances, and that it would lead to a dangerous increase in debt. Yet he still came out in favor of the idea.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Defending Lynne Stewart

It is strange to me that one of the few defenders of Lynne Stewart I've come across since her conviction on five felony counts for "providing material aid to terrorists," happens to be an analyst for FoxNews.

THE conviction of Lynne F. Stewart for providing material aid to terrorism and for lying to the government is another perverse victory in the Justice Department's assault on the Constitution.

Ms. Stewart, the lawyer who was convicted last week of five felonies, will be disbarred and faces up to 30 years in jail. She represented Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, not exactly a sympathetic character. He is the leader of the Islamic Group, a terrorist organization that plotted the assassination of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

He was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison. When Ms. Stewart sought to visit her client in jail, prison officials required her to sign an affirmation that she would abide by special rules requiring that she communicate with the sheikh only about legal matters. The rules also forbade her from passing messages to third parties, like the news media. Yet the jury found that Ms. Stewart frequently made gibberish comments in English to distract prison officials who were trying to record the conversation between the sheikh and his interpreter, and that she "smuggled" messages from her jailed client to his followers.

But if the federal government had followed the law, Ms. Stewart would never have been required to agree to these rules to begin with. Just after 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft gave himself the power to bypass the lawyer-client privilege, which every court in the United States has upheld, and eavesdrop on conversations between prisoners and their lawyers if he had reason to believe they were being used to "further facilitate acts of violence or terrorism." The regulation became effective immediately.

In the good old days, only Congress could write federal criminal laws. After 9/11, however, the attorney general was allowed to do so. Where in the Constitution does it allow that?

Mr. Ashcroft's rules, with their criminal penalties, violate the Sixth Amendment, which grants all persons the right to consult with a lawyer in confidence. Ms. Stewart can't effectively represent her clients - no lawyer can - if the government listens to and records privileged conversations between lawyers and their clients. The threat of a government prosecution would loom over their meetings.

These rules also violate the First Amendment's right to free speech. Especially in a controversial case, a defense lawyer is right to advocate for her client in the press, just as the government uses the press to put forward its case. Unless there is a court order that bars both sides from speaking to reporters, it should be up to the lawyer to decide whether to help her client through the news media.

Ms. Stewart's constitutional right to speak to the news media about a matter of public interest is absolute and should prevent the government from prosecuting her. And since when does announcing someone else's opinion about a cease-fire - as Ms. Stewart did, saying the sheik no longer supported one that had been observed in Egypt - amount to advocating an act of terrorism?

In truth, the federal government prosecuted Lynne Stewart because it wants to intimidate defense lawyers into either refusing to represent accused terrorists or into providing less than zealous representation. After she was convicted, Ms. Stewart said, "You can't lock up the lawyers, you can't tell the lawyers how to do their jobs."

No doubt the outcome of this case will have a chilling effect on lawyers who might represent unpopular clients. Since 9/11 the federal government's message has been clear: if you defend someone we say is a terrorist, we may declare you to be one of them, and you will lose everything.

The Stewart conviction is a travesty. She faces up to 30 years in prison for speaking gibberish to her client and the truth to the press. It is devastating for lawyers and for any American who may ever need a lawyer. Shouldn't the Justice Department be defending our constitutional freedoms rather than assaulting them?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is an analyst for Fox News and the author of "Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws."

Lynne Stewart is surely guilty of being over-zealous in defense of her unsavory client. She has a history of it. But the silence of other lawyers in response to this overreach by the federal government is chilling. Or, is it a case that the media isn't paying any attention? That's equally chilling, but (sigh) less surprising.

Selena Roberts channels Trot Nixon

Is there a less relevant sports columnist working today than Selena Roberts? Ok, maybe that guy over at USA Today, but, still, she is working with some mighty rare company.

Today she decides that Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez is bruised goods. A phoney, she says. Why? Well, because future non-Hall of Famer Jose Conseco and Boston's Trot Nixon say so, that's why.

First she quotes Conseco saying that Rodriguez is overly careful in what he says when he talks to the press. Um, isn't that a good thing for a guy playing in New York? In fact, isn't that one of the things Derek Jeter has excelled in throughout his career -- making sure his words are so benign that they never make headlines?

In other words, being a bit cautious so that he doesn't come off as a brat, like the unfortunately named, Trot Nixon:

True, overdosing on steroids has probably left Canseco loony, but what about everyone else? On Tuesday, Boston's Trot Nixon singled out Rodriguez for failing to be a genuine Yankee like the true-blue Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.

He also mocked Rodriguez for bragging about his workout regimen in the off-season. "Like Rodriguez says, he's running stairs at 6 in the morning while I'm sleeping and taking my kids to school," Nixon told reporters. "I'm like, well I'm not a deadbeat dad, Alex."

Nixon's hit streak continued as he added this kicker concerning Rodriguez's entrance into fatherhood: "He's got a kid now, too, so I guess he'll have his limo driver take her to school."

That's got to leave a mark, even on A-Rod's pristine veneer.

Oh, yeah, I'm sure Rodriguez is smarting after being called, weirdly, "a deadbeat dad."

Bizarre. But the question Ms. Roberts fails to ask is, why are the Boston players so obsessed with Rodriguez? Shouldn't they be glorying in their championship?

John Harper, who, unlike Roberts, has a ticket on the clue train, does wonder why Nixon and the Sox are determined to pick a fight with the future Hall-of-Famer.

Question to Nixon: Why do you care whether A-Rod is a true Yankee? If you're worried so much about the Yankees, worry about Randy Johnson, and pray that as a lefthanded hitter, Terry Francona doesn't make you face him.

April 3. A Sunday night. The fun begins again for these two teams that, clearly, have no use for one another.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Alan Greenspan does not disappoint

In 1983 Alan Greenspan led a commission that led to the raising of payroll taxes to fund Social Security into the 21st Century. As Ronald Reagan, who signed it into law, said,

"This Bill demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment to Social Security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have our pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire."

Even then, though, Greenspan was double-dealing. He had no problem with raising taxes on America's working poor and middle class while at the same time advocating private accounts. Today, he repeated that advocacy and gave Bush the sound-bites he was looking for. No one will play back his recommendation to "go slow." Only that he "supports the president's 'plan.'"

He also calls for "fiscal restraint," yet no sign that he wants to roll back the tax cuts for the rich -- another one of the president's plans he supported.

It is astonishing to me that a devotee of Ayn Rand has developed a reputation of fiscal policy brilliance. If it weren't for Clinton's tax increases, a hostile relationship between Clinton and Congress that led to a stalemate when it came to government spending, and a technology bubble, Greenspan would be known for little more than being Mr. Andrea Mitchell.

Thanks to Josh Marshall for the link to the Reagan quote.

English profs show bias, attack conservative spellers

“This complaint applies to the discriminating nature of grading of my English teacher…On the last one, I wrote about how family values in the books weve read aren’t good. I know the paper was pretty much great because I spell checked it and proofred it twice. I got an D- just because the professor hates families and thinks its okay to be gay.” [sic] - Ohio State, English

That's just one of the highlights Think Progress has taken from David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" Abuse Center site (that site has collapsed under the weight of us lefties looking for a few cheap laughs at the expense of young collegiate wingnuts).

Want a few more laughs? Seems Hannity took a shot at the "fringe" on Free Republic (for Hannity to call anyone else "fringe" is, in itself, hilarious). The Freepers' feelings have been bruised and they're not too shy to say it.

I'm not a Hannity fan though I respect how much of himself he devoted to the reelection of President Bush. But the comments he just made were cheap and not supported by my own experience here. Secondly, he says he doesn't read this site...I don't believe him. posted on 02/16/2005 12:15:06 PM PST by Dolphy

Both links are via Atrios, who has, I believe, laughed so hard he wet himself.

Typhoid Michelle

David Neiwert outs the Washington Times as the racist rag that it is and holds up this "Special Report"as exhibit A.

Contagious diseases are entering the United States because of immigrants, illegal aliens, refugees and travelers, and World Health Organization officials say the worst could be yet to come.

In addition to a list of imported diseases that includes tuberculosis, sickle cell anemia, hepatitis B, measles and the potentially deadly parasitic disease Chagas, officials fear what could happen if the avian flu, which is flourishing among poultry in Southeast Asia, mutates so that it is capable of human-to-human transmission through casual contact.

Among other things wrong with this "special report," sickle cell anemia is not contagious.

Racism can be though, and Neiwart points to the illustrious Michelle Malkin as a prime carrier.

And it is interesting that the Times piece focuses quite a bit on avian flu and Asian immigrants. As Neiwert reminds us, this has the ring of the turn of the last century, when "filthy" Chinese immigrants were threatening to bring disease down upon the inhabitants of the western states.

The madness of blogs

Steve Lovelady of CJR looks on in horror as the knuckle draggers of the blogosphere destroy the career of Eason Jordan.

The Captain Eds, Jay Rosens and Jeff Jarvises of this world have always celebrated the blogosphere as a self-correcting perfect democracy where the participants supply accountability and oversight. The other side of that coin is to say that the mob is headless, and that neither the best efforts of the deacons, nor those of anyone else, can mediate the wrath when the headhunters smell blood.

That, in fact, is the problem here. (And that, by the way, is a conservative thought, not a liberal one.)

Meantime, David Gergen, the conservative columnist and panel moderator who does know what Jordan said, and who challenged his statement at the session, is himself dismayed at the end result. He chalks it up "to the increasing degree to which the news media [are] being drawn into the culture wars," as the Times puts it, and told Howard Kurtz that "[t]his is too high a price to pay for someone who has given so much of himself over 20 years. And he's brought down over a single mistake because people beat up on him in the blogosphere? They went after him because he is a symbol of a network seen as too liberal by some. They saw blood in the water." This morning, even the Wall Street Journal's editorial page reached much the same conclusion -- that the punishment here far exceeded the provocation.

But it's no longer the Jeff Jarvises or the David Gergens or Journal editorial writers who drive these matters to a conclusion. It's the headless mob.

Some think that's a good thing, others see anarchy unloosed. As for us, we're with Gergen and the Wall Street Journal editorial writer. This one is not a case of the wisdom of crowds; it's a case of the madness of crowds.

I think Gergen's right, what was done to Jordan certainly did not fit the crime. And I disagree with comparisons to the Jeff "Gannon" scandal. Jordan, at worst, misspoke during a panel discussion, then quickly retracted his remarks during the same discussion. He was speaking emotionally, with the thought that not all the reporters, cameramen, and translators he'd sent in to Iraq had managed to come back. Moreover, this was his career -- 20 years worth -- and it's more or less over because of the hyperventilating of a few Fightin' Keyboardists on the Right.

Gannon, or whatever he's called, is a story because he was receiving daily passes for more than a year. He had no credentials as a member of the press and he was using an alias to boot. And to those who are aghast that in the process of uncovering his and the administration's fraud, it was learned that he'd been running a male prostitution ring, well, I'm sorry, the personal is the political in this case. It sure strikes me as "news," that a guy with a past like that would be given such a pass by an administration obsessed with restoring the dignity of the White House.

One other thing troubles me, though, and I hope we're not hearing the end of it. Why was CNN so quick to pull the rug out from under Eason? Does Rathergate have the media quaking that much in their boots? Or was something else in play here? Inquiring minds want to know.

Just can't get started

Tucked away in the preznit's recent supplemental budget request, ostensibly for fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is a tasty little tidbit that indicates just how badly things really are going, security-wise, in Iraq. In a section that explains the need for $5.7 billion for the "Iraq Security Force Fund" it is stated that the US has created 90 battalions of Iraqi security forces, but...

All but one of these 90 battalions, however, are lightly equipped and armed, and have very limited mobility and sustainment capabilities.

In other words, writes Slate's Fred Kaplan, 89 of 90 Iraqi battalions cannot fight.

So, the insurgency began in full force a year and a half ago, and yet only now, according to the request, is the Bush administration asking for the money to begin to train and equip Iraqis to defend themselves.

For all the administration happy talk, US troops are going to be bearing the bulk of security responsibilities for a long time to come.

Meanwhile, it's beginning to look as though the only way to get rid of Ahmad Chalabi is by using a silver stake through his heart.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 15 - The race for the top job in Iraq's new government narrowed Tuesday to two leaders in the Shiite alliance, with Ibrahim Jafari of the Dawa Party squaring off against Ahmad Chalabi, who was mounting a last-minute stand against his rival.


While Mr. Chalabi has ranked among the least popular of Iraqi leaders in public opinion polls, Dr. Jafari has ranked the highest. In addition, Dr. Jafari leads an organization known for its deep roots in Iraq, and for the repression it suffered under Saddam Hussein, while Mr. Chalabi is known for leading an organization, the Iraqi National Congress, that was composed mostly of exiles.

Mr. Chalabi also carries substantial political baggage. Though many Iraqis credit him with persuading the Americans to topple Mr. Hussein, he is widely known here for his conviction on bank fraud charges associated with the collapse of the Petra Bank in Jordan.

Hmmm. The "least popular of Iraqi leaders" is poised to become prime minister. Dexter Filkins doesn't really explain how that came about. Will wonders in Iraq never cease?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Watch what you say. Watch what you do.

Regarding the Jordan Eason insanity, Digby makes two essential points. One, that Republicans, with their stretchy form of intellectual honesty, understand that it's fine to want to target journalists, but it's wrong to say that the US military is targeting journalists.

LAWRENCE KUDLOW (host): We got a couple of seconds before the break when you guys are all going to come back, but, Ann, I just want to give you first whack at this. Eason Jordan, top news executive at CNN -- I mean, to me, this is absolutely incredible -- this guy says at a big conference in Davos that the U.S. military is deliberately targeting and assassinating American journalists. Huh? He still has a job, huh? You got a take on that?

COULTER: Would that it were so!

KUDLOW: Would what were so?

COULTER: That the American military were targeting journalists.

KUDLOW: Oh, no! Don't go there.

COULTER: No, but, I mean, he immediately -- it was just an incredibly cowardly thing to do. He says it, he immediately backs down to -- from the statement that it is official government policy to be targeting journalists to, 'Oh, it's just a rumor I've heard,' and it might just be a few random individuals about which he has no facts. So it's a story that's not only implausible but not particularly interesting to what he has backed down to. And I agree with you, he shouldn't have a job.

And, second, that Mr. Eason (and Ward Churchill, etc.) have it coming to them since, after all, they was warned.

Q: As Commander-In-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed Forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station?

A: I have not discussed it with the President, one. I have—

Q: Surely, as a—

A: I'm getting there.

Q: Surely as Commander, he was enraged at that, wasn't he?

A: I'm getting there, Les.

Q: Okay.

A: I'm aware of the press reports about what he said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it unfortunate. And that's why—there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party—they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.


In yet more proof of its not-ready-for-primetimedness, not only does the missile defense system fail to hit the target, it doesn't even fire.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 - The nation's fledgling missile defense system suffered its third straight test failure when an interceptor rocket failed to launch Sunday night from its base on an island, leaving the target rocket to splash into the Pacific Ocean, the Pentagon said Monday.

The target rocket was launched from Kodiak, Alaska, at 9:22 p.m. Sunday (1:22 a.m. Monday, Eastern Standard Time), but the interceptor that was supposed to go up 15 minutes later remained on its pad in the Marshall Islands, the Missile Defense Agency at the Pentagon said. The target rocket fell into the ocean near Wake Island.

The agency took some consolation from indications that the launching failure was caused by a malfunction in ground-support equipment rather than in the interceptor missile itself, said Richard A. Lehner, a spokesman for the missile agency. "But it's a disappointment, in that we had a test planned and were unable to complete it," he said.

Mr. Lehner said the interceptor reacted to an erroneous "abort" command a few seconds before it was scheduled to launch. Scientists think the order may have been generated by something in the silo, by electronic monitoring equipment or by some other device, he said.

The latest problem with the multibillion-dollar missile system comes at an awkward time, as Congress begins to consider a Defense Department budget of $419.3 billion for the 2006 fiscal year, as well as a supplemental budget of more than $80 billion for this fiscal year, most of which would cover the costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Lehner said it was too soon to speculate on when another test might be held, because it takes about 60 days to build a target missile. He said the latest failure was similar to one on Dec. 15, when an interceptor also failed to launch from the Marshall Islands to chase a target sent up from Kodiak, although that misfire was linked to a problem in the interceptor itself.

The Dec. 15 event was a major disappointment, because it was the first full test of the defense system since Dec. 12, 2002, when an interceptor failed to separate from its booster rocket, missed its target by hundreds of miles and burned up in the atmosphere.

Mr. Lehner said the latest test, like the one in December, had a budget of about $85 million. The trials are part of an effort to install a scaled-down version of the "Star Wars" defense system, proposed two decades ago by President Ronald Reagan to protect against missiles from the Soviet Union.

President Bush pledged during the 2000 campaign to work for the deployment of a streamlined system suitable for the era after the cold war, and he has pushed to make it operational even as tests are being carried out, an approach that has prompted heavy criticism, especially with the recent failures.

"It's as if Henry Ford started up his automobile production line and began selling cars without ever taking one for a test drive," said David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which describes itself as a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous scientific analysis.

I think a more apt comparison would be with the Maginot Line. It, too, was designed to defend against the tactics of the previous war, but unlike Missile Defense, at least the French knew the Line's guns would actually fire.
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