2006/03/28

Seems we're about there

Concerning the raid by Iraqi Special Forces that alleged to have led to a massacre in a mosque:

Jawad Maliki, number two in the Dawa Party of Ibrahim Jaafari, the Prime Minister, read a statement which said: "US forces and Iraqi special forces committed a heinous crime by attacking the Mustafa mosque in the neighborhood of Ur. It is a serious crime with grave political and security implications which aims to provoke civil war in the country.

"Killing a large number of followers of the Prophet’s house after having bound and tortured them is unjustifiable. It is an attack on the dignity of the Iraqis and destroys the credibility of slogans of liberty and democratic and pluralism brandished by the US administration."

The alliance also demanded that the Government open an investigation into the raid, and that control of security matters be handed back to Iraqis.
[emphasis added]

This last sentence is EXTREMELY important in light of Bush's statement on January 27th of last year:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 – President Bush said in an interview on Thursday that he would withdraw American forces from Iraq if the new government that is elected on Sunday asked him to do so.

Looks to me like it's about that time.

2006/03/25

Old media vs new media

The Washington Post tried to work with a blogger and was humiliated. Deborah Howell, the WaPo ombudsman, began all the trouble by objecting to the online column of Dan Froomkin on Washington Post-Newsweek-Interactive (WPNI). As Howell herself points out, WPNI is affiliated with, but is not the Washington Post. Nevertheless, Howell felt obliged to make the following observation:

Political reporters at The Post don't like WPNI columnist Dan Froomkin's "White House Briefing," which is highly opinionated and liberal. They're afraid that some readers think that Froomkin is a Post White House reporter.

Froomkin defended himself:

Regular readers know that my column is first and foremost a daily anthology of works by other journalists and bloggers. When my voice emerges, it is often to provide context for those writings and spot emerging themes. Sometimes I do some original reporting, and sometimes I share my insights. The omnipresent links make it easy for readers to assess my credibility.

But apparently, Howell wasn't representing just the readers of the WaPo:

John Harris: They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his [Froomkin's] work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.
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Update: Over at E&P, Len Downie removes any doubt about which master the WaPo serves in this matter: "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column..."

So the WaPo decided that "in order to provide balance", they need to hire a hard-line right-wing blogger. As the blogger Billmon pointed out in the comments to The Moderate Voice

The problem (to the extent there is a problem) isn't that the Post hired a conservative blogger, but that they went out and hired themselves a Republican Party hack -- an apparatchik. I know it's often hard to tell, but there are conservative bloggers who are not Fox News-like subsidiaries of the RNC. Why couldn't the Post have tapped one of them?"

Also, the spin that baby Domenech somehow offsets Dan Froomkin is pure hokum. If you look at what Froomkin actually writes, it's not really blogging -- more like instant analysis of the day's White House-related media stories with a lefty spin. If anything, it's Froomkin who offsets Howie the Whore Kurtz's Media Notes column -- and the other oligarchs in the Beltway punditburo, who have a built-in tendency to lick the boots of the powerful, and who lately have found the taste of Republican shoe polish to be particularly yummy.

So, as per Billmon, the hiring of Ben Domenech was completely unnecessary as Howard Kurtz was already balancing Dan Froomkin before Froomkin was even hired! In fact, Froomkin was the balancing that Kurtz required. As MediaMatters pointed out:

There are, however, no progressive bloggers -- and no one left of center with the credentials of a political operative -- on washingtonpost.com to provide balance to Domenech. The Post's other bloggers are journalists, such as former washingtonpost.com editor Dan Froomkin and Post political writer Chris Cillizza.
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Domenech, on the other hand, while he does claim previous employment as a "political journalist," is first and foremost a partisan activist -- a Republican operative who has worked for the Bush administration and Cornyn, is currently an editor at a conservative publishing house, and who describes himself as "the youngest political appointee of President George W. Bush."

Soon turned out that the new WaPo blogger was a bit more hard-line then they had bargained for.

The President visits the funeral of a Communist
By: Augustine [Pseudonym used by Domenech]

And phones in a message to the March for Life.

I think we can get a little pissed about this.

This story shall the good man teach his son

Domenech later dismissed this comment as:

Some people have taken issue with an old two-line comment of mine on RedState.com where I referred to Coretta Scott King as a Communist on the day after her funeral.

Keep in mind the "old two-line comment" was only six weeks old. Not exactly "my salad days, when I was green in judgment." His editor James "Brady called it 'a silly comment' but said he is satisfied with Domenench's admission of error." The News Shop takes very strong issue with the comment, demonstrating that Brady has no idea as to what he's talking about and explains in detail why it's the comment of an out-and-out racist. Domenech also posted this choice remark without comment:

People who are poor and black are a drag on society. We would all be better off if there were fewer of them.

As firedoglake points out:

When you post something like that without comment — especially on a site like Red State that depends on the racist contingent for its lifeblood — it absolutely means "I agree." Or in white guy water cooler parlance, "word up."

Progressives, liberals and Democrats were also annoyed by some lines from his first post for the WaPo:

This is a blog for the majority of Americans.
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Democrats who have won major elections since 1992 have, with very few exceptions, been the ones who distanced themselves from the shrieking denizens of their increasingly extreme base, soft-pedaled their positions on divisive issues and adopted the rhetoric and positions of the right -- pro-free market, pro-business, pro-faith, tough on crime and strongly in favor of family values.

In other words, anyone who's not a Republican or a DLC person (Not a whole lot of difference there) is not one of the "majority of Americans", meaning progressives, liberals and Democrats from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" (As Howard Dean would say) need not apply.

But finally, it was plagiarism that caused WaPo to pull the plug and accept Domenench's resignation. Kind of amusing to read the comments on a RedState blog entry. Commenters were taking Michelle Malkin to task for coming out and admitting that Domenech had plagiarized::

The issue with Malkin and others is not that they were ultimately right about the issue, it is that they were so quick to jump on the bandwagon and accuse.

Would it have killed anyone to wait a few hours or a day so that Ben had some time to think? The conservative web was pushing things just as fast as the left. Bloggers have a compulsion to get a position down so they can be seen as on the cutting edge of opinion or whatever.

It's sort of difficult to present plagiarism as anything but an open and shut case when one is presented with the following:

Maryann Johanson writes:

Most kids come up with plans to post flyers about recycling and such, but Trevor's brilliantly simple idea astounds even his teacher…

Ben Domenech writes:

Most kids come up with plans to put up recycling flyers or clean up the neighborhood, but Trevor's idea astounds even his teacher…
I mean, it's not that it's really difficult or complicated to determine that a sentence has been lifted almost word-for-word with a few minor, cosmetic alterations.

It's most interesting to see the reaction from those who defended Domenech, how people over the last several years have defended themselves against attackers from the left blogosphere. Very, very interesting similarities displayed by a wide variety of people.

UPDATE:

Debbie Schlussel, whom I've previously referred to as “skanky”, contributes a very good column on plagiarism. She has very little sympathy for Domenech and a whole lot of pride of authorship and respect for other peoples' work. Cheers for Schlussel!


2006/03/21

Rush Limbaugh & perspective

Rush Limbaugh puts Iraq casualties "in perspective". First he lists the number of Americans lost in auto accidents and various other causes. They're as follows:

Auto Accidents
120000
Falling Down
45000
Poisoning
27000
Drowning
12000

So far, so good. Then he lists casualties from the Iraq War as 2300. Okay.
Let's try putting these numbers into percentages using Atrios' number of Americans as 300,000,000 and his number of 130,000 as the total American troops in Iraq.

Auto Accidents 120000 % of 300m
0.040
Falling Down 45000 % of 300m 0.015
Poisoning 27000 % of 300m 0.009
Drowning 12000 % of 300m 0.004
Casualties
2300
% of 130,000
1.769

The Memory Hole estimates that the wounded outnumber the dead by around seven to one, which means that adding that row means:

Wounded
16100
% of 130,000
12.385

Rush is right. We need to look at the Iraq War casualties in perspective. The difference is, of course, that Rush just wants to look at the raw numbers without examining what they mean.

2006/03/19

NSA scandal and past scandals

Harper's Magazine published a piece by Gene Lyons that was later expanded into a book called Fools for Scandal, about how Whitewater started as a land deal in Arkansas and was turned into a scandal that was a constant, draining distraction for the public and that eventually paved the way for the Monica Lewinsky scandalette. The book details several facts that the national mainstream media got wrong. It's not that errors were made here and there and that they essentially did their research in a competent manner, it's that the media consistently screwed up the facts well beyond recognition and always in the same direction, always in a way to make the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, look guiltier than they were.
The main point of the book is that the Whitewater scandal was a created scandal. Republicans didn't simply wait for it to happen, they went out and made it happen. Whitewater itself didn't lead to any significant legal action against the Clintons, that had to wait until Bill made the stupid mistake of getting sexually involved outside of his marriage. Those conservatives who say that he was also immoral to do so, that he should have treated his marriage vows with more respect are entirely correct. The idea however, that that particular brand of immorality required removal from office was and remains in hindsight, a very serious overreaction. Having lived in Norfolk VA from 1992 to 1996, I always thought the conservative dislike of Clinton went way the heck overboard, far beyond any strictly reasonable basis. The bumper sticker that came out very shortly after Clinton took his oath of office "Don't blame me, I voted for Bush", struck me as a very seriously over-the-top reaction.
I'm not suggesting it's perfectly okay to go around "ginning up" scandals, but it does seem to me that for liberals and Democrats to simply wait for a scandal to unseat a president or disrupt his presidency, as in Watergate or Iran-Contra, is entirely too passive an approach. If Democrats have to "nudge" the scandal of the warrantless NSA surveillances, then so be it. Democratic politicians of all ranks and levels should get out and make speeches and write editorials about it, they should ceaselessly explain to the public exactly what the scandal is about, that it is a scandal of immense, historical proportions, that it needs to be dealt with in a serious manner.
The current approach simply proves the Republican talking point correct, the Democrats are simply too wimpy and too scared and too cautious to ever make a serious national security decision.

2006/03/15

All Hat, No Cattle

Jim Hightower commented on visitng Bill Clinton in Arkansas long before Bill became President:

I found Governor Bill eager to be 'for the small farmers of Arkansas'--as long as this did not require him to do anything that might actually help them, such as taking on the bankers who were choking the life out of them or challenging the big processors that were cheating them. When it came time to deliver, the guy was all hat, no cattle.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that most of the Democrats of today are in the same way concerning Senator Russ Feingold’s resolution to censure Bush for his illegal, warrantless wiretaps:

"I haven't read it," demurred Barack Obama (Ill.).

"I just don't have enough information," protested Ben Nelson (Neb.). "I really can't right now," John Kerry (Mass.) said as he hurried past a knot of reporters -- an excuse that fell apart when Kerry was forced into an awkward wait as Capitol Police stopped an aide at the magnetometer.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) brushed past the press pack, shaking her head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski (Md.). . . .

Yeesh! Whatta depressing bunch of no-accounts! Though actually, firedoglake says:

John Kerry has been saying right out of the gate he would support the resolution, Boxer's office has been confirming that she would and so has Menendez. And now Harkin (above) has signed on as a co-sponsor. Counting Feingold himself, that's five.

Unfortunately, LiberalOasis adds:

*LiberalOasis was told by a Kerry staffer that Kerry supported the Feingold resolution, yet Kerry has not made any formal statements and he ducked reporters’ questions about it yesterday.

Naturally, to nobody's surprise, Lieberman is one of three Democrats who resolutely declares that Bush's lawbreaking is OK by him.
Digby takes on a whole host of reasons for Democrats not to support Feingold and absolutely trashes them all. Yee-hah!

2006/03/14

Molly's call to arms

I've long since liked Molly Ivins, ever since her first book came out. I've been fond of her no-nonsense demeanor, her belief that liberals were right about , well, just about everything and her firm belief that politics had to be fun or life just wasn't worth living. Today, she comes out with the bestest description of Russ Feingold's proposal to censure President Bush that I've seen yet:

Mah fellow progressives, now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party. I don’t know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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I can’t see a damn soul in D.C. except Russ Feingold who is even worth considering for President. The rest of them seem to me so poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery they can’t even see straight.
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Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, “unpatriotic” by a bunch of rightwingers.

Take “unpatriotic” and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “Unpatriotic”? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief.

This is not a time for a candidate who will offend no one; it is time for a candidate who takes clear stands and kicks ass.

Molly is 100% correct. The question Bush would probably love to ask Americans (But knows he shouldn't because he'd give the game away) is: "Hey, if the Democrats won't stand up to me when I'm this low in the opinion polls, what makes you think they'll stand up to the terrists?" And you know what? Bush would be absolutely correct to ask that. If the Democrats can't find their spine over an issue as plain and as clear-cut and as unequivocally right as this one is, then what the heck will they stand up for?
It's up to us regular folks now. Here's the link to a site that can tell you how to contact your representative. Call 'em, write 'em, telegraph 'em, send 'em smoke signals, whatever!! Get these people off their fannies and have 'em do their jobs!!

Lots of good stuff at Glenn Greenwald and firedoglake.
In an entirely predictable move: "Senator Wayne 'Whiny' Allard, Republican of Colorado, accused Feingold of 'siding with terrorists' by introducing his censure resolution." Duh! What did y'all think they were going to do?!?!?! Is there anybody out there who's the slightest bit surprised?!?!
Feingold's response is entirely correct.

Problem with DLCers

Another Democratic operative, Daniel Gerstein, said his party's candidates need to proceed cautiously with rhetoric condemning the president. "If all people hear about your message is you're against taking all reasonable measures to protect the country from terrorism and you don't want the CIA listening to Al Qaeda, it puts us in an even deeper hole on this issue," he said.

Now, this is exactly what we mean when we say that people like this and Joe Lieberman and such are traitors to the Democratic Party. This is a Republican talking point through and through. No one in America is suggesting that al Qaeda members should be able to talk amongst themselves without being listened to and the Bush Administration is completely unable to present warrantless wiretapping by the NSA as being a "reasonable measure." Major problem with the latter is that the "fish" caught by the "net" are completely nonexistent. Had the program resulted in anything more than a blatant violation of Constitutional rights, the Bush people wouldn't be in so much hot water over it.
Just for the fun of it, I ran a Google search on "
Daniel Gerstein" and found out, sure enough, he's a Lieberman guy, who's mentioned in DailyKos as:

First, I like how Gerstein and the rest of the DLCers throw out the term "angry activist base" as if its a derogatory epithet, as if we really have nothing to be angry about but rather are seething just for shits and giggles. The base is rightly angry precisely because the party is being pulled away from the mainstream and towards a GOP-lite by the likes of Gerstein and the other consultants.

This is in response to Gerstein referring to those who favor discarding the Fourth Amendment as "...today's electorate, which is far more independent-thinking and complex in its views on values than our side presumes." Yeah, okay, we need to appeal to people who are blithering idiots and who have no conception of what separates the United States of America from the monarchies of Europe who ruled their people with an iron fist and made the word "freedom" appear to be a holy grail. Let's go back to the absolute monarchs of the 1700s, yeah, that'll fix everything. Who needs this "democracy" stuff anyway?

Debbie Schlussel

Bleagh! James Wolcott links us to Debbie Schlussel, who's so raunchy, calling her "skanky" would be to compliment her. She refers to Sharon Stone visiting Israel by constant references to "crotch-shots", delivers furious commentary as to Stone's views on the Arab-Israeli conflict, perhaps saddest of all, Schlussel finds something negative to say about the following statement:

During her visit, Stone played football with a mixed group of Israeli and Palestinian children on Wednesday and later visited Israeli hospitals that care for Palestinian children.

Yes, Schlussel even finds something negative to say about that and called Stone "crotch-woman" while doing so!
Schlussel has obviously attracted the right advertisers, though. One of the ads beside her piece had a reasonably attractive brunette wearing a t-shirt that said: "Hippies Smell". I think the last hippies died out and became stockbrokers when? The 80s? Not only is someone wearing a t-shirt with a truly nasty message, it's about 20 years out of date! Comments from her readers are no better.
Serious bottom-feeder of a slimy website

2006/03/11

Questions on NSA warrantless spying

Marty Lederman write in Balkanization about David Kris' many skills as a lawyer and about his deep inside-and-out knowledge of FISA. He then writes:

Another remarkable thing -- perhaps the most important thing -- about the Kris memo is that it is dated January 2006, rather than January 2003: David did not produce anything of the sort when he was actually at DOJ, when the legality of the program was being considered. That's not David's fault. Although he was the person in the DAG's office whose portfolio included FISA and electronic surveillance, and although DOJ often trotted David out to testify and speak on such matters well after September 11th, David was never so much as briefed on the NSA program. Now we have reason to understand why: Perhaps DOJ knew that if it ran its legal arguments by serious, trusted and objective lawyers in the Department -- those who knew FISA inside and out -- they would not have passed muster. It's hard to imagine any other reason why someone of David's skills, and in his position on these precise issues, would have been kept out of the loop. Once again, it's evidence of an Administration that is indifferent as to what the correct legal answers might be, but is instead looking only for some legal hook, no matter how tenuous, on which to hang its desired operational programs. See also, e.g., the legal justifications for torture and other unlawful means of interrogation that were reached without the input of those lawyers in the Administration with the most knowledge on the questions; and the finalization and use of the DoD Working Group Report without even informing the Working Group itself (which included several skeptics). This is a much more systemic problem than the particular NSA dispute at issue here.

As I detail here, the Senate Intelligence Committee has now agreed to allow the patently illegal NSA warrantless-spying program to continue. Marty then adds in a P.S. that Bush just signed an extension of the Patriot Act that included a "signing statement". These statements are legitimate as clarifications of negotiations carried out between the Executive and Legislative branches, but have never successfully been used in court to defeat the purpose of the legislation to which it's attached. Many of Bush's statements contradict or significantly alter the legislation to which they have been attached, none of them have been tested in court.

Translation: There are numerous provisions of the Act that require the Department of Justice to provide information and documents to congressional committees for purposes of oversight. We will ignore those requirements when we conclude that it will "impair" what occurs in the Executive branch. Thanks for asking, though.

Glenn Greenwald deals with the "FISA is not the exclusive means by which the President can order wiretapping" argument.

2006/03/04

The scales fall off...

I commented here on the unfortunate propensity of reporters to rely upon inside sources for their news. The commentator John Dickerson again shows why relying upon inside souces is an awful idea. Dickerson relays how he received briefing after briefing after briefing telling him about how Bush asked sharp, penetrating, incisive questions of the people who were telling him what was going on. The video of Bush viewing the Katrina briefing starring "Brownie" came as a shock to Dickerson as it completely contradicted all of the briefings he received over the many years he has covered the Bush Administration.

Not saying of course, that inside sources are totally useless. They can be good to have. But they should be used with care and their testimony mixed in with and bounced off against other sources. The problem is not that reporters use inside sources, but that they use inside sources to the exclusion of anything else.

Digby brings it back to Bob Woodward, the guy who convinced the press corps that relying heavily upon inside sources was a good idea and goes on to remind us how heavily the press relied on the post-9/11 view of Bush as the manly man, masculine, he-man hero of our times. It's a bit sad to see the scales fall from people's eyes and to see them give up cherished notions, but for those of us who always saw Bush as the flawed, inexperienced person he was, our only real reaction can only be "What the Hell took you guys so long?!?!"