Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

I hate Halloween, always have.

But Madame Cura enjoys dressing in black and handing out sweets to the semi-humans. And there is an upside: I get to pick music to play in the background that will ensure a chill and a shudder in the little parasites for years to come at the very thought of once hearing it upon ringing our bell.

This year it's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

In a year in which some of the greatest albums were released, it may have been the most astounding.

"That cat's something I can't explain," for sure.

Happy Halloween, Syd, wherever you and your mind are.

Tom DeLay, breaking laws, breaking records.

When I read the headline for this story...

DeLay Reports Record Funds for Defense

...I thought, hmmmm, are the Repugs now competing for who has the biggest legal defense fund?

Alito's "Our thing"

The sound machine is running on all cylinders today. They're trying everything, even racism.

Please. From Drudge, no less.

Someday - and that day may never come - I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as gift on my daughter's wedding day.

Is this what Lott meant by suggesting Bush choose as his next court nominee "a man, a woman, or a minority?"

Covering up the war

Vietnam, that is. It's curious. The Nixon administration went to the mat in an epic battle with The Washington Post and The New York Times over publication of the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers was the name for a report, commissioned by the Dept. of Defense, which outlined the mismanagement of the war, the bogus intelligence that led to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, etc., etc....during the Johnson administration.

Why would the Nixon administration hire burglers to break into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office (a veritable dry run for the less than successful Watergate break in)? Why would they respond so violently to the uncovering of their Democratic predecessor's screw-ups? Why, it's the secrecy, stupid.

Seems times -- and covering up information about the Vietnam War -- never change.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 - The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian's work say.

The historian's conclusion is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.

The N.S.A. historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence.

Mr. Hanyok concluded that they had done it not out of any political motive but to cover up earlier errors, and that top N.S.A. and defense officials and Johnson neither knew about nor condoned the deception.

Mr. Hanyok's findings were published nearly five years ago in a classified in-house journal, and starting in 2002 he and other government historians argued that it should be made public. But their effort was rebuffed by higher-level agency policymakers, who by the next year were fearful that it might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar with some internal discussions of the matter.


N.S.A. historians began pushing for public release in 2002, after Mr. Hanyok included his Tonkin Gulf findings in a 400-page, in-house history of the agency and Vietnam called "Spartans in Darkness." Though superiors initially expressed support for releasing it, the idea lost momentum as Iraq intelligence was being called into question, the official said.

Although the present administration shares with Nixon's a pathological aversion to open governance, in this case Bush administration officials were less concerned with simple secrecy than with making sure no one pondered the inevitable comparison between reports of the Vietnamese's once formidable naval power and more recent reports of Iraq's Giant Space Laser on the moon.

Al Lopez, 1908-2005

A nice guy who didn't finish last.

"This man knows the game - inside and out," Stengel once said of Lopez. But Stengel, remembering the years when he managed Lopez, couldn't resist wisecracking: "And why shouldn't he? Didn't he work for me 10 years or so?"

In looking back, Lopez thought of Bill Veeck, the owner of the 1959 White Sox pennant-winners. As Lopez put it to Donald Honig: "Veeck once said that if I had a weakness as a manager, it was that I was too decent. Well, I never took that as a negative comment. I'd like to think I'm a decent guy. Nothing wrong with that, is there?"

Change the subject!

A senior aid is indicted, your poll numbers are reaching a Richard Nixon nadir, just reach into the goody bag and toss a piece of bloody raw meat onto the floor.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fitzgerald comes out of the shadows

Reading the transcript of his press conference, it's going to be very hard for the GOP to slime Fitzgerald. They'll try, I know. They'll try very hard, but the guy crosses every "t" and dots every "i" from what it appears.

And he's funny.

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, your critics are charging that you are a partisan who was conducting what, in essence, was a...

(UNKNOWN): In which government (ph)?


FITZGERALD: You tell me.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) witch hunt. I mean, how do you respond to (inaudible) since you are in Washington...

FITZGERALD: I don't know -- you know, it's sort of, When'd you stop beating your wife?

One day I read that I was a Republican hack, another day I read that I was a Democratic hack, and the only thing I did between those two nights was sleep.

I'm not partisan. I'm not registered as part of a party. And I'll leave it there.

And to those who say the Scooter shouldn't be indicted for obstruction if he isn't going to be indicted for the leak, or that the leak wasn't important, that Plame wasn't really all that covert, that everybody knew "Wilson had a wife," or the myriad other arguments meant to denigrate Fitzgerald and undercut the seriousness of what went on in the office of the Vice-President in June and July of 2003, the extent to which Libby lied, the number he told, and to whom is surely evidence that he knew he'd done something very seriously wrong and was doing all he could to hide it.

But in early June, Mr. Libby learned about Valerie Wilson and the role she was believed to play in having sent Mr. Wilson on a trip overseas from a senior CIA officer on or around June 11th, from an undersecretary of state on or around June 11th, and from the vice president on or about June 12th.

It's also clear, as set forth in the indictment, that some time prior to July 8th he also learned it from somebody else working in the Vice President's Office.

So at least four people within the government told Mr. Libby about Valerie Wilson, often referred to as Wilson's wife, working at the CIA and believed to be responsible for helping organize a trip that Mr. Wilson took overseas.

In addition to hearing it from government officials, it's also alleged in the indictment that at least three times Mr. Libby discussed this information with other government officials.

It's alleged in the indictment that on June 14th of 2003, a full month before Mr.Novak's column, Mr. Libby discussed it in a conversation with a CIA briefer in which he was complaining to the CIA briefer his belief that the CIA was leaking information about something or making critical comments, and he brought up Joe Wilson and Valerie Wilson.It's also alleged in the indictment that Mr. Libby discussed it with the White House press secretary on July 7th, 2003, over lunch. What's important about that is that Mr. Libby, the indictment alleges, was telling Mr. Fleischer something on Monday that he claims to have learned on Thursday.

In addition to discussing it with the press secretary on July 7th, there was also a discussion on or about July 8th in which counsel for the vice president was asked a question by Mr. Libby as to what paperwork the Central Intelligence Agency would have if an employee had a spouse go on a trip.

So that at least seven discussions involving government officials prior to the day when Mr. Libby claims he learned this information as if it were new from Mr. Russert. And, in fact, when he spoke to Mr. Russert, they never discussed it.

But in addition to focusing on how it is that Mr. Libby learned this information and what he thought about it, it's important to focus on what it is that Mr. Libby said to the reporters.

In the account he gave to the FBI and to the grand jury was that he told reporters Cooper and Miller at the end of the week, on July 12th. And that what he told them was he gave them information that he got from other reporters; other reporters were saying this, and Mr. Libby did not know if it were true. And in fact, Mr. Libby testified that he told the reporters he did not even know if Mr. Wilson had a wife.

And, in fact, we now know that Mr. Libby discussed this information about Valerie Wilson at least four times prior to July 14th, 2003: on three occasions with Judith Miller of the New York Times and on one occasion with Matthew Cooper of Time magazine.

The first occasion in which Mr. Libby discussed it with Judith Miller was back in June 23rd of 2003, just days after an article appeared online in the New Republic which quoted some critical commentary from Mr. Wilson.

After that discussion with Judith Miller on June 23rd, 2003, Mr. Libby also discussed Valerie Wilson on July 8th of 2003.

During that discussion, Mr. Libby talked about Mr. Wilson in a conversation that was on background as a senior administration official. And when Mr. Libby talked about Wilson, he changed the attribution to a former Hill staffer.

During that discussion, which was to be attributed to a former Hill staffer, Mr. Libby also discussed Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, working at the CIA -- and then, finally, again, on July 12th.

In short -- and in those conversations, Mr. Libby never said,

This is something that other reporters are saying; Mr. Libby never said, This is something that I don't know if it's true; Mr. Libby never said, I don't even know if he had a wife.
At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true.

It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly.

Hope he looks good in an orange jumpsuit.

Speculation is that Rove's cutting a deal (another reason sliming Fitzgerald's going to be rough -- it's tough to slime a guy with whom the Senior Administration Slimer is trying to make nice). If that's the case, what do you think Libby will do? How far will his loyalty to Cheney go knowing that he's been set up to be the fall guy in this?

Wilmer Cook: Keep on riding me and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver.

Sam Spade: The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter, eh?

"Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

Karl looks back
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
The immortal words of the great Satchel Paige came to mind when I saw Karl's mug (though not a mug shot) in the funny papers this morning.

Yes, we got a pony today, but this is just as pleasing to the eyes:

The apparent delay in a decision about whether to charge Mr. Rove, and the continuation of the criminal inquiry, is a mixed outcome for the administration. It leaves open the possibility that Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush's closest and most trusted adviser, could avoid indictment altogether, an outcome that would be not just a legal victory but also the best political outcome the White House could hope for under the circumstances.

Yet, in apparently leaving Mr. Rove in legal limbo for now, Mr. Fitzgerald has left him and Mr. Bush to twist in the uncertainty of a case that has delved deep into the innermost workings of the White House and provided Democrats an opportunity to attack the administration's honesty and the way it justified the war to the American people.

Mr. Rove has had to step back from many of his public duties, including appearing at fund-raisers, and he is likely to have to keep a low profile as long as the investigation continues. It could also leave him distracted, depriving the White House of his full attention at a time when Mr. Bush is struggling to regain his political footing after months in which the bloody insurgency in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers have left the administration stumbling.

It also keeps the nervous or excited speculation percolating, and it keeps in the news the story that Dear Leader's closest advisor is a criminal. That may be better than a pony.

In other pony news

With the re-embrace of Joe Torre and now this, the Yankees may just get their dynasty back.

Brian Cashman was 19 years old when he took his first job with the Yankees, the organization he rejoined for three years and roughly $5.5 million yesterday. That was in 1986, and three years later he started a full-time career that will now take him past his 40th birthday.

In all those years, Cashman said yesterday, he could not remember the Yankees' ever holding the first organizational meeting of the winter in New York. It was always in Tampa, Fla., home to the principal owner George Steinbrenner and his many advisers. Not anymore.

It may be a symbolic gesture, but what it symbolizes means everything to Cashman. Though it is not spelled out in his contract, Cashman said that he received an understanding that he, and only he, would sit atop the chain of command in the Yankees' fractured baseball operations department.

"I'm the general manager, and everybody within the baseball operations department reports to me," he said. "That's not how it has operated recently."

Cashman said that Steinbrenner and the rest of the Yankees' upper management - including the general partner Steve Swindal, the president Randy Levine and the chief operating officer Lonn Trost - supported him.


Some of the names on the Yankees' roster were players Cashman acquired. Others are on the team because of decisions Cashman did not endorse. He preferred Vladimir Guerrero to Gary Sheffield, for example, and Miguel Cairo to Tony Womack.

With a clearer chain of command, the Yankees would theoretically have a team with parts that fit better. In recent years, the Yankees have sometimes seemed to be a jumble, with several players better suited to be designated hitters.

"I'm not sure how you can translate that," Swindal said. "But in the end, if you don't talk in one clear voice, there's a lot of finger-pointing, and that's not helpful. If you're operating more efficiently, that should translate into better decisions."

Cashman said he told Steinbrenner and Swindal that Gene Michael, a vice president and special adviser who has fallen out of favor with Steinbrenner, should be back in the inner circle, which would give Cashman another ally in the New York office.

The Tony Womack mystery has been solved! As suspected, a Tampa, not a New York decision (Tony should be playing for Tampa).

Last year's off-season was, as Steve Goldman reminds us again and agin, a true disaster for the Yankees. The signs and portents coming from the Evil Empire these otherwise bleak October days are that this year some salvaging may be accomplished.

If even Peggy Noonan knows...

Roy Odroso, as always, takes on the Nooner's latest ravings with his usual rapier wit and urbane insight, but let me just say that amidst her mixed metaphors (moats, boats, and trolleys...where does this end?) her fear that we're careering over the cliff, and that there's no one in charge is terrifying simply because if it's occurred to her than maybe, just maybe, we lefty Cassandras have been right all along for the past five years and, indeed, there is no one in charge.

She does not, of course, acknowledge this. She goes on and on about how the presidency is overwhelmed and makes no mention of who that president is who is so obviously in over his pin-shaped head. She complains that the "elites" who are supposed to be leading us out of harm's way, "the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies," but failes to mention that these are the very "elites" that the Cheney administration has so forcefully and disdainfully dismissed as, well, "elites," preferring to tap their old cronies, ideological hacks, college roommates, and various lifeguards, yoga instructors, and Talmudic scholars to manage the very agencies that are supposed to make sure the "trolley" stays on the track. Or, when it comes off, make sure that the response is organized, the haz mat suits are there, the police and fire departments have the right communications devices, etc.

But I was particularly struck by this:

Let me veer back to the president. One of the reasons some of us have felt discomfort regarding President Bush's leadership the past year or so is that he makes more than the usual number of decisions that seem to be looking for trouble. He makes startling choices, as in the Miers case. But you don't have to look for trouble in life, it will find you, especially when you're president. It knows your address. A White House is a castle surrounded by a moat, and the moat is called trouble, and the rain will come and the moat will rise. You should buy some boots, do your work, hope for the best.

In the Peg's fevered mind, it is Miers who is held up as an example of Bush's startling choices, and the discomfort she's felt regarding Bush's leadership has only arisen in the past year or so.

If the wheels are off the trolley, or the trolley off the track (whatever she's getting at) it isn't because of Harriet Miers. She is the least of Dear Leader's startling choices.

That dread you feel is real, Madame Dolphin Lady, we've felt it with every "startling choice" preznit has made for the past five long, disastrous years. Glad you've noticed, but you're a wee bit tardy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Holocaust denier

Shakespeare's Sister calls Jonah Goldberg an "Ass and a Half." I call him, in the immortal words of The Good Soldier Svejk, "a semi-fart."

Disactivated judge

Even the "its" and "thes" in this statement are bullshit.

Bush, after weeks of insisting he did not want Miers to withdraw, blamed the Senate for her demise.

"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House — disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," the president said shortly before leaving for Florida to assess hurricane damage.

Justice Dobson, anyone?

Meanwhile, I came across an interesting factoid in Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker article on Justice Breyer.

In drafting the campaign-finance legislation, Congress had weighed the need for fair elections against the right to free speech, and fashioned a compromise. Paying deference to legislative judgments is a touchstone of Breyer’s philosophy. “The need to make room for democratic decision-making argues for judicial modesty in constitutional decision-making, a form of judicial restraint,” he writes. Neal Katyal, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, who clerked for Breyer in the mid-nineties, says, “Every single day you spend with him, you hear about how the courts should trust the political branches. He trusts Congress a lot more than the left did in the sixties and seventies, and a lot more than the right does today.” Indeed, according to an analysis by Paul Gewirtz, a professor at Yale Law School, and his student Chad Golder, of Supreme Court decisions between 1994 and 2005 addressing the constitutionality of sixty-four congressional provisions, Breyer voted to strike down laws twenty-eight per cent of the time—less often than any other Justice. Clarence Thomas voted to overrule Congress sixty-six per cent of the time, more than any other Justice. [emphasis 'R us]

So, Bush's favorite porn, struck down two-thirds of provisions voted upon by an elected Congress. Tell me again the definition of "activist judges."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A short history of Washington leaks

Hmmm. See a pattern here?

The reporters' testimony, focusing on discussions with I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, appears to have provided Mr. Fitzgerald with a means to corroborate or challenge the accounts provided by the White House officials about the conversations. In the case of Mr. Libby, the journalists' accounts are likely to be central to any case brought by Mr. Fitzgerald, because they have failed to substantiate Mr. Libby's initial assertion that he learned about Ms. Wilson from reporters.

The approach differs from the one pursued by prosecutors in most previous leak investigations, including three prominent cases in recent years, in which inquiries have proceeded without cooperation from journalists involved.

One, a two-year investigation concluded in 2004, found that Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was almost certainly a source for news accounts that described classified Arabic-language messages intercepted by the National Security Agency just before the Sept. 11 attacks. Among the messages was one that said, "Tomorrow is zero hour," but the Justice Department decided not to bring charges, instead turning the matter over to the Senate ethics committee.

A second case, against Charles G. Bakaly III, a spokesman for Kenneth W. Starr during his investigation of President Bill Clinton, ended in acquittal in 2000. Mr. Bakaly was accused of being a source for an article in The New York Times that discussed whether President Clinton could be indicted while in office. Mr. Bakaly was charged with lying to investigators in their leak inquiry. At his trial, Mr. Bakaly said he had provided some information to The Times, but said that it had been public and that his responses during that leak investigation had been truthful.

In only one of the three cases, a 2003 episode involving the Drug Enforcement Agency, was anyone convicted of a crime. In that case, Jonathan Randel, a D.E.A. analyst, was sentenced to a year in prison for providing what the agency called sensitive information to The Times of London.

So, let's review. A Republican senator's leak is disappeared, and one of Starr's minions goes unpunished. Okay, so Randel must have been a real danger to national security, right?

Attorney General John Ashcroft is making good on his word to aggressively prosecute leaks - or at least some leaks. Again, the target has been a low-level employee, a Morison for the new millenium. He is Jonathan Randal, an intelligence research specialist with a Ph.D. who had worked at the Atlanta office of the DEA.

Randal's alleged crime? Leaking negative information about one of the richest men in the U.K., Lord Michael Ashcroft (no relation).

Lord Ashcroft, who makes his home in Florida and the former British colony of Belize had been bankrolling the Conservative Party in Britain. His business empire is also based in Belize, an offshore tax haven. The London Times reported that leaked information from the Foreign Office indicated that high officials in Belize viewed Lord Ashcroft with "deep suspicion." Then, a few days later, it reported that his name appeared in a number of DEA files relating to investigations into drug trafficking and money laundering in Belize.

The bad press forced Lord Ashcroft's resignation as the Conservative party's treasurer. Soon, the U.S. State Department issued a statement that it had no conclusive proof connecting Ashcroft to money laundering, or anything else. But the London Times said that to the contrary, it had DEA documents showing that Ashcroft was index-numbered on the DEA files, a measure that, it said, is taken only when serious suspicions exist.


Randal was indicted by Bush's new U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, William Duffey Jr.. Duffey is a former Deputy Independent Counsel who worked for Ken Starr in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Starr, with Duffey's help, built a case against then-governor Jim Guy Tucker, sending him to jail on fraud and conspiracy charges.)

In February 2002, Duffey's office confronted Randal with a twenty-count indictment. The impact of the indictment was to criminalize Randal's leak. But to do so, prosecutors didn't bother to draw from an official secrets act - since they didn't have one. Instead, they twisted the existing law to issue an indictment to the same effect.

Funny, I don't remember the editors of the Weekly Standard editorializing dramatically about the criminalizing of politics when it came to that case.

And don't the Times's reporters have access to Google, or do they just drop bread crumbs to make us intrepid bloggites feel clever?

Fitzmas day...tomorrow?

The baseball gods are not to be trifled with

Earlier this month I warned em.

And this afternoon they have the roof closed on, Minute Maid Park, despite a beautiful afternoon apparently in Houston. Management wanted more noise from the fans bouncing back down to the field instead of rising to the heavens (and, I might add, to the baseball gods). That really bothers me. This isn't football.

The gods remember these things. The 'stros are paying for their transgressions. And who can watch this World Series? Endless games. Eight walks in four innings and they can't score a run? At home? Yeeps. Oswalt was their last best chance. Put a fork in 'em.

The lefty blogosphere's little secret

This is something I was thinking about yesterday, while writing about Peter Vierek and the "resemblance" that once existed between the moderate left and the moderate right. Writes the estimable Digby.

It hasn't always been like this. The little secret about most of "Left Blogistan" is that we're not that far left: actually most of the folks I read are moderates or moderate liberals. Need an example? Atrios will do, not to mention the brilliant Digby. In truth, many of us in "Left Blogistan" don't have much patience with radicalism, socialism, revolution, class analyses. As for social mores, few of us live the frisky, often reckless, lives enjoyed by so many rightwing priests and GOP bigwigs. It is an indication of just how far right the discourse has become that Kristof is considered a thoughtful left-wing commentator and that Krugman - a pro-globalization Reagan official - is dubbed a radical leftist.

Now back when moderate liberals were actually provided regular access to the mass media, there would have been no problem labelling treasonable behavior as exactly that. Today, since no one "reasonable" can use that word -unless you're on the right, of course- the moral outrage all Americans should feel about this exposure never happens. And so it goes.

Yup, "mainstream" political discourse has been pushed so far to the right that criticising your government's decision to go to war without manifest cause is treasonous, while unmasking a covert CIA agent is "just politics."

And now that I mention it, shouldn't someone take photoshop away from these radical hate America-ers?

Straw men at the front

The Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last complains that our two baby boom presidents have been "exceedingly imperfect," and that this is the result of their draft dodging and TANG documents. Sort of. Funny. Some of us were saying something similar in suggesting that perhaps John Kerry's (and Al Gore's) life experiences made him a better candidate to lead the country in a time of war. And all he got for his sacrifice were purple band-aids.

The Weekly Standard continues its proud tradition of inconsistency and intellectual dishonesty.

The best part of the piece is the scary conjuring of 1930s British liberals and warning that, like the end of the British empire, the U.S. (he does not use "empire," oddly) is in danger from squishy peace lovers. Strange, I do not recall too many of us calling for unilateral disarmament or appeasement with Osama "What's His Name," even if we're not quite ready to conflate "the war with Islamist extremists" with the building of German u-boats and panzers.

The liberal opponents of the British Empire were proved wrong, but their misplaced disillusionment was enough to sap the vitality of imperial confidence. After rising one last time to fight Nazism, the sun set on the British Empire.

Likewise, it is pleasant to believe that the crisis of confidence in today's liberal elites won't affect the outcome of our war with Islamist extremism. The greater worry concerns what happens next. Will protestations of liberal elites become mainstream diffidence about America's place in the world? Will we, too, stop believing that America stands firm, as a great force for good - and then see our place in the world diminish?

It isn't the "liberal elites" (who are...whom, exactly?) that are diminishing our place in the world, it's that little detour to the Tigris and Euphrates we've taken on the road to al Qaeda that is doing that quite nicely, thank you. As for America "as a great force for good," that position grows less tenable when you throw in a little state sponsored torture, complaints about which enrage Mr. Last so.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"The First Conservative"

I can't find it online, unfortunately (and I think its from last week's issue), but The New Yorker ran a remarkable profile of Peter Vierek. Vierek came along at a time when there was no conservative movement in the United States. "Conservatism" usually meant fringe groups -- "anti-industrial Southern agrarians and anti-New Deal tycoons" -- even Herbert Hoover insisted on being called "liberal." Vierek changed all that, giving conservatism intellectual underpinnings in the 1940s -- he saw both totalitarianism and communism as basically Utopian movements in which the murder of any person perceived to be "imperfect" was condoned And he saw liberalism's belief in progress and humanity's essential goodness as milder versions of that same flaw.

But Vierek never became a leader of conservatism the way William F. Buckley -- a rival Vierek thought was too soft on McCarthy, whom Vierek detested -- had. Instead, he became one of the movement's sharpest critics.

In 1962, he published an attack on conservatives in The New Republic, titled "The New Conservatism: One of Its Founders Asks What Went Wrong," in which he depicted a movement infiltrated by religious fundamentalists, paranoid patriotic groups, and big business leaders, united in their loathing for the cosmopolitan elites on the nation's coasts. "American history is based on the resemblance between moderate liberalism and moderate conservatism," he wrote, and this tradition, which had saved the United States from Europe's violent fate, conservatives now threatened to destroy."

He even singled out Texan oil money "and their enormous gullible mass-base."

Astonishingly prescient.

The profile's author, Tom Reiss, writes, that Vierek is not only forgotten by contemporary conservatives, "he has practically been erased from the picture, like an early Bolshevik fallen out of favor." It was, in fact, Vierek's assault on McCarthy that led the Right to attack him. That, it would seem to me, and his argument for the "resemblance" of the moderate left and right -- a thought crime no card-carrying conservative would agree with today, at a time when partisanship trumps all other concerns -- would explain why he's been "disappeared."

What struck me especially forcefully was that the 1950s seemed to be a dress rehearsal for our current era, when Democrats find themselves urging foreign policy caution and fiscal prudence, while Republicans quite literally say "Who cares?" in the face of a weakened United States abroad and a future of perpetual indebtedness to the Chinese.

...Vierek had endorsed Adlai Stevenson for President in 1956; Stevenson had made Viereckian pronouncements throughout his campaign, arguing that "the strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party [while] Republicans are behaving like the radical party, reckless, and embittered, dismantling institutions built solidly into our social fabric.

And although they were rivals for decades Buckley and Vierek sound very much of one mind when it comes to today's lunatics in the Executive and Legislative branches.

...I asked Buckley how he felt about conservatism's current course. "I'm not happy about it," he said. "It's probably true that there" -- in the support for the war in Iraq -- "you have a rediscovery of idealism. But if one acknowledged the second inaugural address of the President as marching orders, well, that would keep us busy with something to do for all eternity. It's not, in my judgment, conservatism. Because conservatism is, to a considerable extent, the acknowledgment of realities. And this is surreal."

Viereck might have put it the same way.


"Where are the roots?" Vierek said, when I asked him what he thought of the [January] elections [in Iraq]. "How can you have a democracy without roots?...My hunch is that Iraq has no deep roots, and therefore the best thing you can hope for is inefficient corruption. Some kind of moderate thug ruler, instead of a mass-murdering thug like Saddam. I don't think in practice more could happen. I think it would take more than a couple of generations."

He went on, "I think McCarthy was a menace not because of the risk that he would take over -- that was never real -- but because he corrupted the ethics of American conservatives, and that corruption leads to the situation we have now. It gave the conservatives the habit of appeasing the forces of the hysterical right and to looking to these forces -- and appeasing them knowingly, expediently. I think that was the original sin of the conservative movement, and we are all suffering from it."

And liberals should start quoting Adlai Stevenson -- a lot -- before the 2006 elections.

UPDATED to finish thought(s).

Temper tantrums

An alleged "senior grownup" allied with the White House:

"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

Meanwhile, is Fitzgerald going to connect the dots?

Foreign policy mistake

Shorter John Tierney: I was opposed to the Iraq war, but no one should be punished for lying about the rationale.

No one deserves to be indicted on conspiracy charges for belonging to a group that believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Foreign policy mistakes are not against the law.

Right. A mere foreign policy mistake.

At what point does the punditocracy hold the administration accountable for the debacle in Iraq? This isn't about disputed intelligence -- the canard that "everyone thought" Iraq had "WMD." Sure, but not "everyone" decided to attack and slime Hans Blix; not everyone decided to order weapons inspectors out of Iraq; not everyone decided to attack and impugn the IAEA's elBaradei; not everyone used a senior reporter for the New York Times to propogandize the run-up to the invasion of Iraq; not everyone decided to encourage columnists to infer that Joe Wilson was a partisan attack dog, sent to Niger on a boondoggle engineered by his wife.

Once again and with feeling, who knows what Fitzgerald has found? Personally, I could care less about perjury charges. War crimes indictments are more my cup of tea in this case. But Tierney's -- and other's -- argument that this was just a case of politics, of policy disagreements, whistles past the graveyard of facts that the administration was hell bent on war with Iraq and anyone who got in the way by pointing out uncomfortable facts or asked difficult questions was quickly attacked and removed.

Regarding Fitzgerald, I don't get the sense that he is indicting anybody based on a "foreign policy mistake," but rather on lying to the grand jury and subborning perjury (writes Tierney, "a vaguely clunky - and unsuccessful - attempt to coach her testimony"). Criminalizing politics? No, just criminals.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Nothing that a little self-medication can't fix

More from inside the White House, by super-access guy, Thomas DeFrank.

Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the "blame game." They describe him as beset but unbowed, convinced that history will vindicate the major decisions of his presidency even if they damage him and his party in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

But if DeFrank is there to protect Sonny, then it looks as though Cheney is gonna take a hit.

"The President is just unhappy in general and casting blame all about," said one Bush insider. "Andy [Card, the chief of staff] gets his share. Karl gets his share. Even Cheney gets his share. And the press gets a big share."

The vice president remains Bush's most trusted political confidant. Even so, the Daily News has learned Bush has told associates Cheney was overly involved in intelligence issues in the runup to the Iraq war that have been seized on by Bush critics.

Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."

"The silence can be like thunder."

Washington abhors a vacuum. That's what makes Fitzgerald's investigation such a fun diversion to behold. Will he indict? Will he pack his bags and go home with nary a statement? Why did he just put up a website, 22 months into the investigation? No one outside of his team of prosecutors and FBI agents knows.

So into that void steps speculation and, above all, spin. Never mind that the spinners don't even know what they're supposed to be spinning. Spin they must. And since they have nothing from Fitzgerald on which to launch their spin, the agenda is laid bare. It's like watching sausage get made.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 - With a decision expected this week on possible indictments in the C.I.A. leak case, allies of the White House suggested Sunday that they intended to pursue a strategy of attacking any criminal charges as a disagreement over legal technicalities or the product of an overzealous prosecutor.


On Sunday, Republicans appeared to be preparing to blunt the impact of any charges. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, speaking on the NBC news program "Meet the Press," compared the leak investigation with the case of Martha Stewart and her stock sale, "where they couldn't find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn't a crime."

Ms. Hutchison said she hoped "that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."

President Bush said several weeks ago that Mr. Fitzgerald had handled the case in "a very dignified way," making it more difficult for Republicans to portray him negatively.

But allies of the White House have quietly been circulating talking points in recent days among Republicans sympathetic to the administration, seeking to help them make the case that bringing charges like perjury mean the prosecutor does not have a strong case, one Republican with close ties to the White House said Sunday. Other people sympathetic to Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have said that indicting them would amount to criminalizing politics and that Mr. Fitzgerald did not understand how Washington works.

On the contrary, if he didn't know how Washington works when he started this investigation, I think our man Fitzgerald -- after looking into the dealings of Libby, Rove, Miller, and the dozens of other media bigshots with favored access to this administration -- certainly understands it now. And besides, who knew Republicans were such moral relativists? I thought that was one of the crimes of liberal academia.

And on the other side is the growing meme that Fitzgerald's dogged and fair.

"He's that really strict judge that everyone fears, not because they think he's going to do the wrong thing, but because they're afraid he might do the right thing," said the source, who has ties to the White House and requested anonymity.

"As White House staffers," he continued, "you had generals and Cabinet secretaries being deferential to you. He didn't care what you'd done or how well you knew the president."

I don't know about you, but the "Martha Stewart defense" falls pretty short in comparison with that.

Crony capitalism

As we breathlessly await Bush's pick to replace the fed chairman, this is just not an encouraging story.

Mr. Card has been chief of staff for Mr. Bush's entire first term and one year of his second — an unusually long stint in a very stressful job. Mr. Card is thought to be interested in the Treasury secretary's job, when and if John Snow decides to step down.

As the Political Animal points out, lobbyist for the auto industry is not exactly prime credentials for treasury secretary.

Bernanke is the rumored pick, but does George II really know him all that well? Now, Karen Hughes, that's a gal he can trust.

Run, rabbit, run

Oh, my, this is a colorful metaphor for the administration.

"It really isn't Harriet in my mind. It is the president." Mr. Simpson blamed a sense of weakness around the White House because of concerns about the C.I.A. leak investigation, the war in Iraq and the handling of the recent hurricanes. "It is like a huge raptor seeing a rabbit running on only three legs," he said.

But who or what does the raptor represent? The fundies? The Republican arm of the Republican party? Certainly no one would suggest Democrats are poised to swoop down and snatch a screaming Bush bunny.

Got a sense of proportion?

"There is nothing humorous about steroid abuse," said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president for business for the league.

Oh, please. This is just the thing to diffuse a subject that is already ridiculous enough in it's complete out-of-proportion-ness.

MLB can console itself in knowing that eyeballs watching the games are scarce, anyway, outside of the rural enclaves of Chicago and Houston. Pretty damn good game last night, though.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Censoring the lapdogs

Can there be a more fundamental misunderstanding of the Fitzgerald inquiry and the last two years of revalations surrounding the uncovering of a CIA operative?

This scandal's greatest importance lies, Weimar-like, in its ability to distract the public's attention, energy and commitment from more important questions. In this regard, Fitzgerald's investigation also resembles in spirit and effect the efforts to impeach Bill Clinton over his affair with a former intern.

Fitzgerald's most lasting legacy in this case will not be as a prosecutor. It will be as a censor. He has built his case around the discussion of possibly classified information -- Plame's name -- by government officials with journalists. He is sending a message -- one that President Bush fully endorses, even as it creates severe complications for him -- about the dangers of talking to journalists about national security matters.

Right...talking to journalists about national security matters is a crime of the highest order to Bush. That indeed explains why he's fired Karl Rove.

The little bit of light that Judith Miller has shed on her "entanglements" with "Scooter" Libby shows that the household gods and goddesses of Beltway reporters depend on these relationships with "former House aides" to provide pre-gurgitated courses of Executive branch propaganda. The reporters get their "access" and the White House controls the message. Everybody happy. And we, the reader, remain blissfully ignorant. That's not censorship. That's cleaning a very dirty house.

And writing that the Fitzgerald investigation shares the "spirit and effect" of the Starr inquisition is intellectual dishonesty of a very high order. It was obvious, from the leaks coming out of his office alone, where Starr was going -- pornography printed in our greatest newspapers; I defy anyone to tell me what Fitzgerald is going to do next week. And sex with an intern is of a very different "spirit" than disclosing the name of a CIA operative.

Then Hoagland just goes batshit crazy:

The separate prosecution and conviction of Larry Franklin, a Defense Department official who was investigated for discussing classified information with journalists, two former officials for a pro-Israel lobby group, and an Israeli Embassy official, sent the same message.

Wha? Discussion of classified information with an Embassy official of another country is often But addressing his larger point, yes the cases are nearly identical. In both, a conspiracy was launched to create a whisper campaign among favored members of the press to, in one case, defend U.S. policy misjudgments in going to war in Iraq, while in the Franklin case, sway U.S. policy towards a Hawkish stance on Iran.

The threat Fitzgerald seems to be aiming at the martini and merlot set of press elite and their friends in power terrifies them so that they are striking out, blindly, at an investigator who hasn't even showed his hand yet. Billmon, typically, says it far more eloguently.

The prospect of espionage charges, of course, is giving the lapdog pundits a bad case of the fantods. On what will they subsist if their official sources are too frightened to pass out a steady diet of classified doggy treats -- premasticated for easy digestion?

It's interesting to note that the real journalists, those who deal in real secrets, like Sy Hersh, aren't in the crying poodle chorus. Sy's sources already know that the long hand of official retribution could come down on them at any time. But now the official sources who hand feed kennel-bred columnists over martinis at Jack Abramoff's restaurant are feeling the same chill breeze. Is it any wonder their pets are yapping about First Amendment rights?

When wingnuts attack

If preznit has lost World Net Daily, then surely he's lost wingnut Amerika.

Judy: "On the receiving end..."

We old Padres knew that, sooner or later, our fellow Junipero Serra High alum, Bill Keller, would finally do the right thing, sorta.

In his first direct criticism of Ms. Miller, Mr. Keller said she "seems to have misled" the newspaper's Washington bureau chief, Philip Taubman, when she was asked by Mr. Taubman if she was one of at least six Washington journalists who had reportedly been told that Valerie Plame was a C.I.A. operative.

And, he wrote, had he known of her "entanglement" with I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, he might have been more willing to explore compromises with the prosecutor investigating the case.

Mr. Keller also said he had missed "what should have been significant alarm bells" about Ms. Miller's involvement in the C.I.A. leak case. One, he wrote, was that he did not know "Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the anti-Wilson whisper campaign." Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who criticized the Iraq war, is married to Ms. Plame.

Ouch. And tell me again why she's still employed by The New York Times?

Ms. Miller said in an interview that Mr. Keller's statements were "seriously inaccurate." She also provided The Times with a copy of a memorandum she had sent to Mr. Keller in response.

"I certainly never meant to mislead Phil, nor did I mislead him," she wrote to Mr. Keller, referring to Mr. Taubman.

She wrote that as she had said in an account in The Times last Sunday, she had discussed Mr. Wilson and his wife with government officials, but "I was unaware that there was a deliberate, concerted disinformation campaign to discredit Wilson and that if there had been, I did not think I was a target of it."

She added, "As for your reference to my 'entanglement' with Mr. Libby, I had no personal, social, or other relationship with him except as a source."

I mean, clearly, her interpersonal skills, not to mention her insubordination (and all that time she's missed from work living out her "Caged Heat" fantasies), should be "cause" enough.

Friday, October 21, 2005

"Mass monetary queerosity"

Grover Norquist has finally crossed the threshold of all that is good and holy and Wingnutterly. And Giblets is, as Giblets is wont to be, incensed.

The Secret Sharer

With each passing day, the CIA leak probe turns up another yet undiscovered life form. Or something like that. Anyway, the facts just keep getting more and more weird. And fun.

THIS is your last line of defense? Oh man, you are SO screwed! An analysis piece in today's Salon revisits Gannon's slip of the tongue to Ambassador Wilson during an interview -- the one where Gannon asked him the following question, as posted by Talon News on its own website (later removed) on October 28th, 2003:

"An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?"

I mean, not to jump on him or anything, but Gannon is one of the people on whom the WHIG crowd is depending for their secrets to stay...well...secret? (And for a delightful overview of the whole Gannon fiasco, take a peek at the lovely Jane's summary here.) Seems that may not be working so well.

According to Joe Conason in Salon, Gannon told reporters last February that FBI agents working with Fitzgerald had spoken with him about how he learned of the State Department memo. His story? He says he read about it in the Wall Street Journal. Ummm...yeah...and Judy's dog ate her notes. Oh, wait...

Trouble was, the ReddHead tells us, Gannon conducted that interview a full month before the WSJ story appeared.


The idea that their paid, I mean, propogandist was...ahem...tapped to help discredit Wilson and could now be the weak link in the conspiracy chain is just too, too...words fail.

I wonder where Armstrong Williams fits into all of this? Maggie Gallagher?

Via Digby.

Nineteen. Eighteen.

Geez, I miss hearing that in Yankee Stadium when the Crimson-hosed ones come to town. But on the eve of the 2005 World Serious, I have one more opportunity [subscription required, I think] to chant the name of that once magical year.

Remember the 1918 World Series? Wait, didn’t we hear everything we needed to hear about 1918 last year? It was, after all, the World Series on everyone’s mind as the Red Sox charged to their first World Championship in 86 years. But the 1918 World Series has one other distinguishing characteristic: it was the lowest scoring post-season series ever and while the 2004 Fall Classic was about reversing that famous curse, the 2005 World Series has as good a chance as any in recent memory to surpass 1918's display of offensive impotence. In six games that fall, the Red Sox and Cubs combined for 19 runs, an average of 3.17 R/G total. We're not predicting the White Sox and Astros to reach those levels of offensive ineptitude, but without a doubt, they’re two of the best candidates to come around in years.

If you’re a fan of low-scoring ballgames, pitcher’s duels, sacrifice bunts, rally-killing offensive strategies, over-reliance on antiquated one-run strategies, and Bob Gibson, this is the World Series for you.

Astros in seven. Clemens will struggle (back, elbow, hamstring, mid-40s) in his two starts, but Oswalt and Pettitte will dominate the On Base Percentage-less Black Sox (for all the talk about "small ball" -- and thank goodness Joe Morgan isn't calling any of these games -- the White Sox depend on the homerun; if Guillen tries to actually manage beyond filling out the lineup card and not removing his starters, he will run his team right out of the series early). And Lidge, no longer needing to face Albert Pujols, will go back to being unbeatable.

Meanwhile, Yankee fans will watch these games through gritted teeth, observing so many of our former pitching stars and/or failed experiments throwing in the chill of late October.

Hunger pains for FEMA director

A veteran FEMA aide tells a senate panel what Brown really new in those last days of August.

About 7 p.m. Aug. 29, Bahamonde said, he called Brown and warned him of "massive flooding," that 20,000 people were short of food and water at the Superdome and that thousands of people were standing on roofs or balconies seeking rescue.

Brown replied only: "Thank you. I'm going to call the White House," Bahamonde said.

It is unclear what Brown told his superiors or the president's aides. He has testified to receiving "conflicting information" about 10 a.m. Monday that the levees had broken and at noon or 1 p.m. that "the levees had only been topped. So we knew something was going on between 10 and noon on Monday."

Bahamonde contradicted accounts by Brown that FEMA had positioned 12 staffers in the Superdome before the storm, that Bahamonde's reports Monday were "routine" and that FEMA medical personnel were on hand before Tuesday.

At 11:20 a.m. Aug. 31, Bahamonde e-mailed Brown, "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical . . . thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water . . . estimates are many will die within hours."

At 2:27 p.m., however, Brown press secretary Sharon Worthy wrote colleagues to schedule an interview for Brown on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" and to give him more time to eat dinner because Baton Rouge restaurants were getting busy: "He needs much more that [sic] 20 or 30 minutes."

Bahamonde e-mailed a friend to "just tell [Worthy] that I just ate an MRE . . . along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern."

In Brown's defense, I understand that he passed on desert, settling only for coffee. Thanks.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

GOP senators ANWR their critics

While we're all counting and recounting all the ponies we think we're going to get on Indictmas Day, we should be careful not to forget the bigger picture: the swine still control all three branches of the federal government. And they continue to be dedicated to protectionism for their industry cronies (activist judges, eh?) and despoiling our planet.

Ms. Murkowski had followed the lead of her Republican colleague, Senator Ted Stevens, and her father, Gov. Frank H. Murkowski, in pushing relentlessly to overcome two decades of opposition by national environmental groups, for whom protecting the wildlife refuge has been a signature issue.

Virtually all those groups have been determined to prevent the industrial energy production complex that has grown up around the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the North Slope of Alaska from sending its tendrils into the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain of the wildlife refuge.

The plain is a way station on the annual migration of thousands of caribou and many more migratory birds. It is also part of the range of musk oxen, grizzly bears, arctic foxes and a whole suite of other wildlife that regularly journey through the coastal flatlands at the edge of the Beaufort Sea.

Enjoy watching White House appointees twist slowly in the cold October wind. But don't forget that the GOP is still in power and still incapable of governing our nation or stewarding our natural resources.

"The backbone of the Inquisition"

Back in the day, the Jesuits were not to be trifled with. Led by a former Spanish soldier, they answered only to the Pope. Their's was a fierce mixture of devotion to the Pope, fanatic defense of the Catholic church, and intellectual discipline. They were the Counter-Reformation's spear point.

Think about that as you read about [warning, link is to the Rude Pundit, so parental warning...] special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's formative years spent at Regis, an exclusive Jesuit high school in Manhattan.

May ours be the noble heart
Strong to endure
Daring though skies be dark and roadways unsure

May ours be the heroes' part
Ready to do
We are your sons fair Regis, our spirit is from you.

I would not want to be the subject of a Fitzgerald investigation.

Arrested development

Sorry, bad headline. But can you imaging the money to made selling t-shirts with his mug shot on them?

The price of ponies continues to rise.

UPDATED: And here it is! (Thanks to Is that legal?)

UPDATED, again: Ok, here, but not nearly so satisfying.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Whadevered liburals do before there was "pro-activism?"

Via Shakespeare's Sister, with this post the young squire writing at Republic of Dogs has gained a secure place on my "Favorites" menu.

Dear Reader, let me introduce you to my little friend. No, not that little friend! This is Straw Man. He also goes by the name "Old School Activist". He "harkens" [bwahahahaha!] back to the 60's and 70's, when he damaged his mind with Reefer Madness and lots of acid. His ideas are ideologically pure, but have no application in the world beyond his herbal tea cup, and could never make any difference at the policy level.

He has the unique characteristic of being completely two-dimensional, because he's a cardboard cutout. He was educated in an economy that did not yet value "proactiveness" (because bullshit pseudo-words like "proactiveness" would not be invented until the 1980's), so he earns his keep in his commune by spinning macramé plant-hangers out of his own armpit-hair. Some Moonie told him to do this circa 1967, and he just kept on doing it, because he lacks self-initiative can only knows how to do what he's told (and if you're thinking "Hey, what's "self-initiative"? Isn't initiative naturally attributed to the subject taking it'?, then you probably live with Straw Man in his stinking Hippie commune and should just shut your commie piehole). Even more sadly, he has failed to keep pace changing tastes in plant-hanging technology and the declining macrame market because he also lacks the ability to solve problems. What's that you say? You learned in school that problem-solving is a distinctive characteristic of the species homo sapiens, and to a lesser degree, the other higher primates? You must have gone to one of those shitty public schools.

If you'd had a voucher, you'd know that problem-solving was invented in 1991, right before the invention of "inconcievable" tools that allowed New School Activist to instantaneously know everything about anything at all times and in any place, causing him to evolve beyond crude flesh to become a being of pure light and energy. This blinding overbeing is composed of pure thought, and has no need for your pitiful "leaders" or "media" to tell him what's "right". Nor has he any need for your primitive "spelling". His consciousness transverses the universe at the speed of thought, for he has uploaded himself to t3h 1nt3rn3tz!!1!

Poor, poor Old School Activist. See how shabby and shoddy (and frankly a little thick around the middle) he looks next to svelte, shiny New School Activist's carbon-composite cyberbody. Oh wait. Where is New School Activist? Since no major social policy change has been driven by activism since the 1960's, no one is really sure. Maybe he's off raking in the cash at some tech company, but you can be pretty darn sure he still knows everything about everything, all the time!! And one of these days, he just might decide to do something! You never can tell with these crazy kids today.

Here's the Kos post to which he refers so eloquently...and snarkily.

I generally don't read Kos, because when I do, I become depressed. I suppose he and his various diarists fill a need, though what that need is I'm not entirely clear, other than to have put the fear of blogs into Howard Dean. But geez, the self-importance, the talk of "intra-party paradigms"... so enervating, as to make one want to flee the blogosphere, politics, nay, society itself. And his commentators...oh, man...I especially love one calling...itself, I guess..."Cityduck," and complaining about anonymous blogs -- priceless. Mostly, though, they're just insane.

All these "netrooters," aiming to destroy the tired old Democratic machine in order to rise up with a new order of ultra-progressives seem to forget that it was that machine that put the men in power who controlled the federal government for the fifty most progressive (and powerful) years in our history. Yes, the party was too slow to move when the source of it's power -- the cities and the trade unions -- began the slow and sad decline that should be a source of shame, not pride that we've replaced them with shiny new high tech hot spotted exurbs and the death of "ideological orthodoxy." But it was the success of the Democratic party -- in civil rights, in women's reproductive choice, in defense of public schools against the widespread deployment of ideas -- like vouchers -- dreamed up in think tanks without any experiental support, that have in large part hurt the party in the long run. That's because those successes created self-identifiable "victims:" southern racists; white males, lonely and frustrated; those aggrieved because they don't have a "choice" of which schools to send other people's kids, whose hostility and bitter self-preservation (even against their own self interests) the Republican machine has done a darn good job in harnessing. Those are the "average Joes" the "netrooters" think we need to do a better job of engaging and interesting in public affairs. Psst, hard to believe, but they're already engaged, kids, and they ain't suddenly gonna get blinded by the progressive light and start fervently sending PayPal bucks to MoveOn. The Republican demagogues are quite effective in keeping them pissed off and simply finding a new technology to get our message out to them isn't going to change that.

[As an aside, Republicans always point to their support of vouchers as a reason for African-Americans to support them, and yet it is the very consumers of urban public schools who remain steadfastly anti-voucher and pro-Democrat, as this fascinating story about Etan Thomas, the center for the Washington Wizards, affirms.

He makes frequent visits to schools to speak to students and addresses these issues.

"I go into a school in Baltimore and see that there are 40 kids to a class, and no one has a computer," he said. "I go into a suburban school there, and there's 16 to a class, and they've got computers. Something is desperately wrong, and the administration can't seem to understand or face it."

He also said that the youngsters seem to feel that even some teachers want them to fail, or are not interested in how well they do.

"That's why I'm not for vouchers to private schools," he said. "We should invest in the public schools and make them better. America's future depends on it." ]

But I digress.

Actually, I don't. The point here is that we have to stop being defensive about the very things that our "old school" forebears accomplished. They were amazing. Yes, ultimately they helped split the party, but I would say good riddance to the southern democrats who abandoned the party over civil rights. And, ultimately, it wasn't civil rights but the Vietnam War that truly split wide the cracks. The Iraq War is now opening cracks in the Republican Party. Harriet Miers is a smokescreen. The Right is angry because she is merely a reflection of the poor planning and even worse execution that their party's leaders have exhibited in Iraq. After five years in office, they have nothing to show for it but a few tax cuts for the richest Americans and a losing war. Some of them are beginning to realize that maybe they've hit their highwater mark and are angrily watching the tides recede. "Criminalizing conservatism," indeed.

We were a hair's breadth (or is it a hare's breath?) away from unseating a fairly popular incumbent president in a time of war. We lost by a handful of votes in heavily Republican Ohio. Yes, the young "netroots" are important and need to be be cultivated. But it was the Democratic machine, old and cumbersome as it sometimes seems to be, that was most effective in making that happen. And wanting to put aside as "fringe" the "old school" principals that set us apart from the Right can't be replaced by new paradigms and new technologies and new leaders who "get it" when it comes to new paradigms and new technologies. Those principles are the heart and soul of being liberal. And both the netrooters and, yes, the old and fucking cumbersome Democrat machine oughta start recognizing that.

Or maybe I'm just caught up in the "Pony Boom."

UPDATED to wrangle unruly syntax, repair spelling, etc.

A New York terror alert ends..for now

Yes, indeed, after a week of silence in which the city's inhabitants held their collective breath, the terror alert for New York City has been lifted.

Joe Torre arrived at the parking lot on Steinbrenner Drive in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, precisely when the street's namesake showed up. "Hi, Joseph," said George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, and Torre instantly felt at ease.

This was not a shadowy presence in a luxury box, a clipped voice on the telephone or a gathering threat from afar. This was the outsize personality that Torre has come to know - and endure - for 10 years as the Yankees' manager. Over an hourlong meeting at Legends Field, Torre and Steinbrenner forged a détente in their cold war.

"We didn't use the word love," Torre said at Yankee Stadium yesterday. "But it was pretty warm. I felt very, very comfortable. It was something more than cordial."

Assured that Steinbrenner still wanted him, Torre announced he had decided to stay on as the Yankees' manager. But, Torre revealed, he had been so worn down by Steinbrenner's sniping that he considered resigning in the days after the Yankees lost their division series in Anaheim on Oct. 10.

"It was a waffle; it was going back and forth," Torre said, adding later, "It certainly came to mind: do I want to continue to do this?"

After returning to New York on Oct. 11, Torre waited a week before speaking publicly. He was exhausted and disappointed, he said, and he needed time with his family to gather his thoughts.

"My words to him were, 'If you're going to do this, you have to manage the stress well,' " Torre's wife, Ali, said yesterday at Yankee Stadium. " 'My only concern is your health. I think you need to take a look at that and make sure you're able to handle the stress management, because I want you around for a long time.' "

With two years and $13.2 million left on his contract, Torre, 65, had leverage. But he did not want to come back simply for the money. He had trouble sleeping. He told his wife that his brain felt like scrambled eggs.

There are a great many Torre critics who probably assumed Torre's always had scrambled eggs for brains, but for most of us, this is surely a relief. It isn't that Torre is the greatest Yankee manager since Casey Stengel, though with four World Serious titles, he has to be considered as such. No, it's because the alternative was scary. On a club full of stars, at least four future first ballot hall of famers, Lou Piniella would be an uncomfortable fit. The veterans tend not to be impressed with the on-field temper tantrums of old men.

None of this surprises me, of course. Torre's popularity in the city intimidates -- and annoys -- Steinbrenner, as does the $13 million the manager is still owed. But there was one bit in the story I was unaware of.

They spoke no more than five times after spring training, and there was much left unsaid.

Steinbrenner criticized the pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre in a newspaper article in May, and Torre privately seethed. In August, Steinbrenner questioned Torre's decision to let a left-hander, Alan Embree, pitch to the right-handed-hitting Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox. Konerko homered in a game decided by a run.

Torre explained the decision by saying that Konerko hit worse against left-handers. Yesterday, Torre said the Konerko criticism bothered him because of what he perceived as its underlying message. "It wasn't like I wasn't paying attention," Torre said. "I think that's what probably bugged me more than anything."

In his meeting on Monday, Torre acknowledged that he raised the issue of Steinbrenner funneling questions to him through reporters for the YES [Yankees Entertainment and Sports] Network. Torre said he asked for no guarantees that Steinbrenner would change, but he encouraged Steinbrenner to call him more often if he had a problem. Torre pledged to make more calls, too.

To laugh. Steinbrenner's Yankees must be the winningest, most screwed up organization in the history of baseball. And the YES network's "reporters," having little credibility to begin with, now have quite a lot less.

Trying to keep Sonny out of the morgue, again

Don Corleone: [seeing Sonny in the mortuary] Look how they massacred my boy.

Much is being made of the big scoop in the New York Daily News that indicates that Bush has known all along that Karl Rove was the source (or, a source) of the Plame leak. So Bush lied when he said initially that he would fire any White House leakers. Instead, it looks like Bush was simply pissed that Rove got caught.

Asked if he believed indictments were forthcoming, a key Bush official said he did not know, then added: "I'm very concerned it could go very, very badly."

"Karl is fighting for his life," the official added, "but anything he did was done to help George W. Bush. The President knows that and appreciates that."

Other sources confirmed, however, that Bush was initially furious with Rove in 2003 when his deputy chief of staff conceded he had talked to the press about the Plame leak.

Bush has always known that Rove often talks with reporters anonymously and he generally approved of such contacts, one source said.

But the President felt Rove and other members of the White House damage-control team did a clumsy job in their campaign to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, the ex-diplomat who criticized Bush's claim that Saddam Hussen [sic.] tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger.

A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.

"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way," the source said.

While it's always pleasurable to have one's suspicions confirmed, what is more interesting -- to me -- is the scoop's author. As Josh Marshall points out, Tom DeFrank goes way, way back with the Bush I crowd, including co-writing James Baker's diplomatic autobiography. So you can bet he was given extraordinary access. How much you wanna bet the old man (either G.H.W. Bush or, more likely, Baker, at Bush I's request) asked DeFrank to cover this story and make sure that it is clearly and on-record that preznit was displeased and that he's able to distance himself from the collapse of his "Brain?"

If I'm wrong, and Marshall's coy suggestion that maybe DeFrank is signaling the Bush I crowd's relationship with the son is more strained than ever is right, then the cracks in the Republican party -- and it's leading dynasty -- are getting very ugly indeed.

But I don't think so. Don George is sending his very own Luca Brazi in to put the knife into Karl-o to save Sonny once again.


I'm sure one of these years he'll get his Nobel Peace Prize, for what I'm not sure. For "engaging" the world's leaders on issues important to him? Have any of these engagements resulted in anything more than the politician using Bono as a fig leaf to broadcast "I care?"

"They had a very good discussion about some of our common priorities," McClellan said. "Both share a deep commitment to combating AIDS, preventing malaria and expanding trade to lift people out of poverty."

McClellan said Bono also planned to meet with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley later in the day, before U2's concert at the MCI Center. The spokesman laughingly told reporters that Bush was not planning to attend the concert.

Yes, I'm being cynical. And yes, I realize even a rock star can't really turn down an invitation to lunch with the POTUS. But it becomes ever more clear that Bono's outsized ego leads him to believe that his conversations with Bush will lead to anything more than bromides in the next politically opportune Bush speech, and not to any actions taken by him. All Bono is doing is lending credibility to Bush's fraudulent "compassionate" claims. Because Bush can pose as St. George all he wants, but in the end, his very own party is openly scornful of any of the things Bush expresses such a deep commitment to.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most self-deluded of them all?

"Movement conservatism" and self-awareness...a dangerous combination.

I could go on, but the point is that George W. Bush has never demonstrated any interest in shrinking the size of government. And on many occasions, he has increased government significantly. Yet if there is anything that defines conservatism in America, it is hostility to government expansion. The idea of big government conservatism, a term often used to describe Bush's philosophy, is a contradiction in terms.

Conservative intellectuals have known this for a long time, but looked the other way for various reasons. Some thought the war on terror trumped every other issue. If a few billion dollars had to be wasted to buy the votes needed to win the war, then so be it, many conservatives have argued. Others say that Bush never ran as a conservative in the first place, so there is no betrayal here, only a failure by conservatives to see what he has been all along.

Of course, this doesn't say much for the conservative movement. At best, conservatives were naive about Bush. At worst, they sold out much of what they claim to believe in.

Well no shit, ace. No wonder they fired you from that "think" tank. You all thought George W. Bush had "learned the lesson" from his father's (small "f") administration not to cross the "movement conservatives" and the fundies. Well, he may have learned the lesson to court your self-absorbed asses when he still needed to dance for votes, but learnin' don't take with him for long. What does take -- and for a long time -- is gettin' back at people who done him wrong. And in this case, he remembers the long knives that were out for ol' dad from the first days of Bush I's first term and he just doesn't seem to care any longer about their "feelings."

And from the reaction of the right, lately, this is all about hurt feelings.

So, guys, get over it. He's just not that into you anymore, and Karl has been too busy learning how to make a proper shiv to attend to his real duties as Rodeo Clown and get the bull back into his stall.

I love you too, B.P.

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Baseball Prospectus

Aw, shucks.

I don't think you'd get that from a football site.

Speaking of love, baseball, and stuff to talk about throughout the winter, you gotta get every one of those 27 outs.

Tierney and TimesSelect

Now we know why it's called TimesSelect...selective bullshit.

This case, if you can remember that far back, began with accusations that White House officials violated a law protecting undercover agents who could be harmed or killed if their identities were revealed. But it now seems doubtful that there was a violation of that law, much less any danger to the outed agent, Valerie Wilson.

The case originally aroused indignation because the White House appeared to be outing Wilson as part of a campaign to unfairly discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of ignoring his 2002 report debunking evidence that Iraq was trying to acquire material for nuclear weapons. But a Senate investigation found that his report not only failed to reach the White House but also failed to debunk the nuclear-material evidence - in fact, most analysts concluded the report added to the evidence.

So now the original justifications for the investigation have vanished, which is why I think of this as the Nadagate scandal. But the prosecutor has kept at it for two years. Besides switching to the vague law against disclosing classified information, he might indict Libby or Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice - crimes that occurred only because of the investigation.

Perjury, of course, was the charge that Kenneth Starr accurately pinned on Bill Clinton, but the public didn't buy it. People realized that whatever the affair and the cover-up said about Clinton's character and judgment, the scandal was not a crime.

John Tierney is today's wanker!

Yes, that Senate investigation that so thoroughly looked into how the White House handled WMD intelligence. I remember that.

The report does not examine how Bush and his senior aides handled and represented the flawed intelligence. Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the committee, has delayed that portion of the investigation and other aspects of the inquiry (including the role played by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and the controversial actions of the office of Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy). The results of the committee's work on these fronts are not expected to appear until next year--that is, after the election.

Well, that is...never.

Moreover, the threat in outing Valerie Plame was not necessarily to her, but to 1.) her contacts outside of the agency who have now been exposed as working with the CIA, and 2.) the American people, as she was working in WINPAC, something somewhat crucial to our national security.

The DCI Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) provides intelligence support aimed at protecting the US and its interests from all foreign weapons threats. WINPAC officers are a diverse group with a variety of backgrounds and work experiences; they include mathematicians, engineers (nuclear, chem/bio, mechanical, and aerospace, among others), physicists, economists, political scientists, computer specialists, and physical scientists. Many have advanced degrees and in-depth expertise, while others have a Bachelor’s degree in their fields and have learned most of what they know on the job. On any given day, our analysts could be answering a question from the President, assessing information about a foreign missile test, or developing new computational models to determine blast effects.

And whatever else you can say about Clinton's indiscretions, saying "I did not have sex with that woman," does not constitute a conspiracy.

Now, I don't know what the outcome of Fitzgerald's probe will bring. Perhaps it will be an Emily Litella moment, and he'll go quietly back to Chicago. Or maybe it will lead to another set of Bush Christmas presents to key aids, just in the nick of time. But Tierney knows no more than I do -- probably less, since he works at Bill Keller's New York Times. Calling it "Nadagate" is the wishfullest of wishfull thinking.

UPDATE: Plame never worked for WINPAC, which is the overt side of the CIA. My own Emily Litella moment.

Tierney's still today's Wanker, though!

The Card table

Raising the profile, isn't in Andy Card's best interest.

For Mr. Card, who has never claimed to be an assertive power broker, the criticism of his management style cuts at the very skills he prides himself in. Although he briefly served as transportation secretary under the first President Bush, most of his career in public service has been in the anonymous, but important, ranks of bureaucracy. He came into the Bush presidential campaign not as a political adviser but as the nuts-and-bolts manager of the Republican convention. Even now, five years at the side of the most powerful leader in the world, he describes his job like a good bureaucrat.

"I do not see my job as being anything other than a staffer responsible for the staff," Mr. Card said in an interview earlier this year.

Technically, Mr. Card is Mr. Rove's superior - and he is, according to people inside and outside the White House, sometimes privately at odds with Mr. Rove, his deputy chief of staff, who he believes can be overly political and disrespectful of proper White House boundaries.

I wasn't sure how to take the Times story. Is it serious? Apparently not.

If Mr. Card has had a heart-to-heart with Mr. Rove about the swirling criminal investigation into the leak of a C.I.A. operative's name, it has not been publicly disclosed.

"You're not going to get Andy to tell you he took Karl to the woodshed," a senior Republican official said.

Several administration officials said Mr. Card would be furious with any White House official who leaked information to the press. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak by the White House.

I'm glad they made that clear.

As noted on the Whiskey Bar.

Card's long stint as the Shrub's master of ceremonies hasn't exactly raised his profile. In the only Bush II kiss-and-tell memoir to date (Ron Suskind's as-told-to account of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's stormy tenure, The Price of Loyalty) Card is mentioned frequently, but usually only in passing. He's in all the meetings, but rarely says anything worth repeating. The most revealing passage in the book shows Shrub treating him like a waiter -- and a rathery [sic] dim-witted one at that:

"Go get me Andy Card," Bush said to one of the Secret Service agents. Card, the designee as chief of staff, entered from an adjoining room . . . Bush looked impatiently at Card, hard-eyed. "You're the chief of staff. You think you're up to getting us some cheeseburgers?"

Card nodded. No one laughed. He all but raced out of the room.

A dumb president, advised by a dumb waiter.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Practiced testimony

The GOP establishment should look on the bright side. All of these allegations and indictments -- against Abramoff and DeLay, with more on the way for such luminaries as "Scooter" (worst nickname for an inmate) Libby, Rove, and Reed expecting to be served any day -- well, they're just good practice for the ultimate trial that bobs up and down on the waves of the future. The war crimes tribunals.

I just heard Secretary of State Condi Rice give the most concise defense of the invasion of Iraq on Meet the Press I've heard to date. Clearly, the Administration's argument has become less nebulous in a way I've been hoping it would, if only so I can make my argument against it more concise.

Condi argued that after 9/11 we had two choices: we could go after and eradicate bin Laden and Al Qaida and then turn toward protecting ourselves against other threats, or we could go after the roots of Islamic terrorism and change the landscape in the Middle East. She argued that no one who understands the Middle East could imagine the landscape there changing until Saddam Hussein was out of power.

First let me say that this is the very first defense of the invasion that rings true to me, so I give the Secretary high marks for being so direct and succinct about it. However, this is what I suspected all along was our motivation and only strengthens my opposition to the decision. Essentially this boils down to saying that because we need the Middle East to evolve, we're willing to bomb totally innocent civilians to do it. In other words, it's OK to kill innocent Iraqis to try and protect ourselves.

Just as the poor of this country were an abstraction to the Cheney administration until bodies were seen floating in the streets of New Orleans (and have morphed back into an abstraction, quickly enough), so were the people of Iraq just an abstraction in the bigger picture of "reshaping" the middle east, never more so than now, when body counts of "insurgents" have once again grown popular with the Pentagon.

I am not the first to say this, but once this shameful administration is at long last out of office, don't expect George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld to do much traveling outside the United States.
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