The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


"Last Friday" protest at Broad & Cherry Sts 5:00-6:00pm

Well, once again we're going to do a "Last Friday" demonstration and once again, the New York Times gives us ample reason to think that they're in the tank and collaborating to gin up a war with Iran.
In the NY Times we get yet another sca-a-a-reee, scary tale about how Iran is surely supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents. These are the shaped explosive devices where a piece of copper is melted and then shoved at high speed into the target. Problem is, there's no reason to think Iran is manufacturing them. Shaped charges go all the way back to World War I and we learned back in February that a Baghdad machine shop was found manufacturing small copper disks.
The story is of course absolutely chock-full of anonymous sources, and at a piece in the author examines 13 instances where unknown officials assure us that Iran is surely the bad guy here. Why, the sources even include unknown, anonymous Democrats!
Yep, sure is believable!
The "Last Friday" protest takes place at Broad & Cherry Streets just a few blocks North of City Hall from 5:00 to 6:00pm.


Ann Althouse, faux liberal

From a blog post about Ann Althouse going nuts on an interviewer, I was struck by Ann's insistence that she was a liberal. That didn't sound right to me as I had run across her name before in connection with the government's warrantless wiretapping case. Sure enough, I found the following quote:

Althouse's commentary, which culminated in a New York Times Op-Ed piece today, struck me as a poorly reasoned ad hominem attack on [Judge Anna Diggs] Taylor and a "divine right of kings" defense of the president...

Also, this quote from Lawyers, Guns & Money pretty much clinches it:

It's highly unpersuasive on its face to claim that feminist can have absolutely nothing to do with a President with a relatively good record on woman's rights [Bill Clinton] because of a consensual (though potentially objectionable from a feminist perspective) affair. But coming from someone who strongly supports George Bush and Sam Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, this absolutism is laughable.

Nah, Althouse is no liberal. She may pretend to have that status, but she sounds like one of Susan Faludi's "faux feminists," someone who claims to have "once been a feminist but got better." Faludi pointed out that the funny thing about the great majority of "faux feminists," is that they all seem to be quite vague about their feminist days and how exactly they expressed their feminism and frankly all appear to have a lot of weird ideas about just what the term "feminist" meant in the first place.

Broder - Dean of Pundits

David "Dean of the pundits" Broder tells us:

You have to feel a twinge of sympathy now for the Bush appointees who suddenly find unsympathetic Democratic chairmen such as Henry Waxman, John Conyers, Patrick Leahy and Carl Levin investigating their cases. Even if those appointees are scrupulously careful about their actions now, who knows what subpoenas for the memos and e-mails in their files will reveal about the past?

They will pay the price for the temporary breakdown in the system of checks and balances that occurred between 2001 and this year — when the Republican Congress forgot its responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable.

Yeah, uh, su-u-u-re I'm gonna feel sympathy! Yeah, right. Like if an habitually-drunk driver suddenly faces jail time after having gotten off scot-free from numerous accidents that caused a lot of damage and a lot of injuries. Nah, I'm just a rotten scoundrel, I am. I think that when people commit crimes and piss all over the Constitution, then those people should pay for doing that.
BTW, Congress did not forget "its responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable," it deliberately and consciously decided not to fulfill that responsbility. That's like saying that Bush "neglected" to do anything about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He's had plenty of time to get resources to the city to rebuild the place. The fact that very little has been done cannot be explained by any sort of laziness or by being too busy to get around to it. The President recently visited the city again, but no aid or help arrived or was even promised as part of the deal.
New Orleans is dying because the Federal Government is consciously and deliberately allowing it to die.

It was a fundamental dereliction of duty by Congress

Well, yeah, but when does "dereliction of duty" cross over into active complicity? Sorry, but the "incompetence excuse" only goes so far.

The Democratic sponsors said that this accountability offensive is exactly what people voted for last November, meeting what Waxman termed “the public’s call for fundamental reform.”

Yee-hah to that! I'm down with that! I'm totally behind that!

Accountability is certainly important, but Democrats must know that people were really voting for action on Iraq, health care, immigration, energy and a few other problems. Investigations are useful, but only legislation on big issues changes lives.

Well yeah, but before the Democrats can accomplish anything in those areas, they need to get a veto-proof majority. As of 27 March, they managed to beat back a Republican attempt to keep the Iraq War going by a vote of 50 to 48. It's a good vote and represents how a solid majority of Americans feel on the issue, but it remains to be seen how they react to a threatened veto (There's no guarantee they'll roll over to vote for monet to keep the war going. Bush might have to give something up.) Obviously, Democrats don't have the two-thirds majority needed to force bills through, but there are a very great many dark corners that require peering into.

Oh, and as to how law-abiding and trustworthy the Bush Administration is, this is a piece is from the Chicago Sun-Times that was quoted in Talking Points Memo:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales dashed out of a Chicago news conference this afternoon in just two and a half minutes, ducking questions about how his office gave U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald a subpar rating.

Gonzales, who increasingly faces calls for his resignation, was here to promote a new ad campaign and had planned a 15-minute press availability. He left after taking just three questions over a firing scandal consuming his administration.

Before leaving, Gonzales said he wanted to "reassure the American people that nothing improper happened here."

Nothing improper happened, but the Attorney General of the United States could only face aggressive questions for a few minutes before ducking out and running off. Obviously, it can't be comfortable to have to explain why his office gave a "subpar rating" to an attorney who just busted the number two man behind the most powerful Vice-President this country has ever known. Patrick Fitzgerald may be many things, but the story of how he dealt with the memory expert before the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby even got started, makes it clear that "subpar" is not, never was and never will be one of them.

And finally, Atrios brings up a very good point. Yes, there are lots and lots of very good and dedicated and professional journalists out there who are doing great work, BUT their public face is being represented by people who aren't at all serious or professional or responsible and it's very unfortunate, but the public is getting a very skewed image of reporters as a result.


Good quote on attorney-firings

Dan Froomkin of the WaPo does a very good round-up of the latest attorney-firing news. Especially interesting is this quote. This is one of those bolt-of-lightning quotes that illuminates the whole landscape in a few sentences:

R. Jeffrey Smith writes in The Washington Post: "John McKay of Washington state, who had decided two years earlier not to bring voter fraud charges that could have undermined a Democratic victory in a closely fought gubernatorial race, said White House counsel Harriet Miers and her deputy, William Kelley, 'asked me why Republicans in the state of Washington would be angry with me.' . . .

"McKay's disclosure of an explicit White House question about the damage his decision caused to his standing among party loyalists added new detail to his previous statement that Miers accused him of having 'mishandled' the voter fraud inquiry."

Revealing video

Wow! Is this a horrible, horrible example of the sheer, utter degradation of our press corps!
Chris Matthews and various journalistic big shots (No obscure bloggers here) sit around and confirm the terms Kewl Kidz & Queen Bees by lounging around, discussing extremely serious issues with a bored air of "Oh, the issues that the common rabble are concerned about. Tch, tch. So dull!"
Seriously, the American people need to find a way to fire the whole "Gang of 500" with maybe a half a dozen exceptions and replace them all with serious citizen journalists.



Very interesting to see that people are now getting all excitable about blood & gore happening on TV where, horrors! The children may see it! But we have a TV show running around showing us in full color and explicit detail that torture works and helps protect innocent lives.
The New Yorker article on "24" makes it clear that nobody explicitly believes that torture is a good thing, but the show time and again shows bad guys breaking down, giving our heroes the truth (Just in the nick of time, natcherly) and revealing things that our heroes didn't know, like the combination to the safe containing the explosive device that will take out a whole city block if it's not stopped in time.
In my humble opinion, we should worry more about "24" and the fact that the Bush Administration appears to approve of that show and less about what Hollywood finds profitable to show at the moment.

Creeping authoritarianism

Digby is correct. Michael Kinsley's description of G.W. Bush's regime as “comically mendacious” is a really good description for those who live on other planets or otherwise have no connection to life here on Earth.
For those who are actually affected by Dubya's policies, there's nothing even slightly comical about them. Kinsley proves that his concerns are so far removed from those of ordinary people that I really don't se why he bothers talking about them in the first place.

One of the wilder conspiracy theories...

that FAQ Section 4.3.5 rebuts is that of the "left gatekeepers." This theory holds that the leftist media complex is structured in much the same highly centralized way that the right-wing, or "mainstream" media complex is. F'rinstance, it's held that the CIA funds George Soros and that Soros in turn, funds Z Magazine. The "proof" is that Z doesn't feature any theories about 9-11.

First off, the proof used by The Nation Magazine to construct the National Entertainment Media chart was actual ownership, ownership that can be catalogues and defined and quantified. "Left gatekeepers" uses investments, a much more difficult and complicated measurement. If "left gatekeepers" had a whole staff of people to gauge this, it might have amassed real proof. As it is, it's just one guy doing all of the research. If I were a prosecutor accusing Z Magazine of doing the bidding of George Soros, I'd say "gatekeepers" has the beginnings of a decent case, but that it has a long way to go.

Second, it's clear from Faq Section 4.3.5 that there may indeed be alternate theories as to why lefty media folks don't all publish 9-11 theories. It may just be because they just don't like getting into those areas and don't want to be associated with those who do.


Media vs the last two presidents

On December 2, 1997 Attorney General Janet Reno made an awfully defensive and detailed, by-the-book explanation as to why she did not appoint an Independent Counsel to investigate a series of fundraising calls made way back in 1994 in which President Clinton may have (Yes, they really made a Federal Case out of this) used the wrong telephone.

JANET RENO, Attorney General: Since I have been attorney general, I have referred matters to independent counsels no fewer than six times. Today, following the law's letter, I have decided that the allegations against President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary do not at this time warrant the appointment of an independent counsel. This decision was mine, and it was based on the facts and the law, not pressure, politics, or any other factor. Before I discuss these decisions I want to make one point clear: Any decision not to ask for an independent counsel does not mean that a person has been exonerated, or that the work of the campaign finance task force has ended. These decisions do not end our work.

Now, I remember reading that someone had looked over all of the editorials published in all of the big newspapers during the 1990s and the single most important issue to all of them was whether the Attorney General was sufficiently independent of the President. A reasonable enough concern, but get this:

Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace said today:

We asked Attorney General Gonzales to come on today, but the White House declined our invitation.

To repeat, Gonzales did not accept or reject his own invitation. The White House did.

If he was truly independent of the White House and its political agenda, he would control his own schedule and media appearances.

That pretty much answers the question if our attorney general is functioning as the people's lawyer, or the president's lawyer.

Gee, what happened to that fine, fine oh-so-principled stand that the papers took back in the 1990s? See especially this weeks Media Matters for another comparison of how Clinton was treated then versus how Bush is treated by the media today.


Undocumented assertions vs sworn testimony

On 12 March, Charles Krauthammer wrote:

...on his essential charge as special prosecutor - find and punish who had leaked Plame's name - he had nothing. No conspiracy, no felony, no crime, not even the claim that she was a covert agent covered by the nondisclosure law.

On the same day, I responded:

The really amazing thing though, is that Krauthammer attempts the very old and very discredited tack of trying to claim that Valerie Plame Wilson was not a covert CIA agent. Very simply, the case would have gone nowhere had she not been covert. Why has the CIA not explicitly stated she was covert? Well, what does "covert" mean? It means "secret," duh! It's just really astounding that anybody at this late date could even try to push such an absurd proposition as "The fact that an agent is covert doesn't mean we can't reveal her status."

Disclosing the fact that Wilson was a covert CIA agent was indeed an "underlying crime" and yes, if it is not punished to the full extent of the law, we can expect other Bush Administration figures to be similarly careless with classified information.

And here's Valerie Plame Wilson today (16 March):

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee. My name is Valerie Plame Wilson and I am honored to have been invited to testify under oath before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the critical issue of safeguarding classified information. I'm grateful for this opportunity to set the record straight. I've served the United States loyally and to the best of my ability as a covert operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency. I worked on behalf of the national security of our country, on behalf of the people of the United States until my name and true affiliation were exposed in the national media on July 14, 2003, after a leak by administration officials.

Note that Mrs Wilson had zero difficulties apperaring in front of Congress under oath.
Oh, and her boss in the CIA chimed in:

Apparently, Victoria Toensing still wants to argue what the meaning of "covert" is.

But according to Gen Hayden, current head of the CIA, Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA agent at the time that her name was published by Robert Novak. Rep. Henry Waxman read a prepared statement today — prepared with the express approval of the head of the CIA and reviewed therewith — that substantiated the fact that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA officer, working on classified WMD issues for the CIA and the national security fo the United States.

Ms Toensing was reported to have done a lot of tap-dancing, backing and filling and filibustering while trying to explain why Mrs Wilson was the one who was confused about her status.
Oh, and BTW, Krauthammer also said

[Prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald knew ... that the "leak" by the State Department's No. 2 official ... was an innocent offhand disclosure made to explain how the CIA had improbably chosen Wilson for a WMD mission. (He was recommended by his CIA wife.)

How does Mrs Wilson characteze her influence over Ambassador Joe Wilson's selection to investigate the "Saddam Hussein tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger" story?


Did everyone get that? Valerie is now telling the full story of the way Joe was selected to investigate the yellowcake rumors. This needs to be recorded and saved in video, fer shur.

I hereby declare Valerie Plame Wilson to be the true sweetheart of every truly loyal and patriotic American! There are those Americans who refer to President Bush as their "Dear Leader" without the snark and the irony that us true patriots use. Those people make a great show of pretending to be patriots.

UPDATE: Robert Novak, who outed Plame in a column of his, wonders aloud about some very silly and meanigless issues, trying to make it appear as though there were some actually debatable aspects of them.


The Verdict on Lewis Libby

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice-President Cheney's former Chief of Staff, found guilty on four out of five counts. "...two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice and one false statement, all of which arise out of the lies he told to the FBI and grand jury as it investigated the 'outing' of CIA operative Valerie Plame."

Washington Post has severe black eye over past articles on the case. Very, very poor pronostications.

Joe Wilson speaks. He and his wife Valerie Plame Wilson will continue with their private suit agains Libby.

Good quotes:

"...Mr. Libby saying he was surprised to hear about Mrs. Wilson, we have about 34 post-it pages... 2.5 feet x 2.5 feet... and they were filled with all the information we distilled from the testimony... we took a long time to do that..."

"...what we came up with was that Mr. Libby either was told by or told to people about Mrs. Wilson at least 9 times..."

Congratulations to for sterling coverage!!

"I'm not saying we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of," Collins added. "It seemed like he was, as Mr. Wells put it, he was the fall guy."

Thinkpiece on why Vice-President Cheney seemed to go nuts when Joe Wilson first published his editorial.

William Hughes' posting on PhillyIMC is far too grumpy and pessimistic and "glass-is-half-empty" for my tastes, but he's right. He and Dan Froomkin are in complete agreement that Congress now needs to pick up the baton and start running with it. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald gave us a good running start, but progressives have to press Congress to "take it home."

Speaker Pelosi tells us on her blog that Representative Henry Waxman wants to do just that, to "pick up the baton and start running with it"!!! Waxman sends a letter to Patrick Fitagerald requesting an interview.

The WaPo gave us a truly lame editorial absolutely chock-full of factually-inaccurate statements. When I first weighed in, they had 9 pages of what were about 99% complaints about their lousy editorializing, they had 18 later that day and as of 9:00am of the 8th, they're up to 36 pages, probably the great majority of which are still critical.


Bush Administration & 9/11

From a letter I wrote to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"There was a mention of 9/11 among the reasons given for the court decision. Yes, Osama bin Laden is the primary culprit in this. But the president showed negligence, incompetence and dereliction of duty. Bin Laden could not have succeeded had the president done his own job."

This statement might reasonably lead folks to call for an explanation. Very well, if you go to the Reading Room for and click on the category "foreknowledge," you'll see that there are 96 items listed there. These are articles and blog posts that all add significant knowledge to the issue of whether the Bush Administration had foreknowledge of, or had reason to have had foreknowledge of 9/11. The most famous warning was of course the 6 August Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) that should have set off alarm bells and should have roused the Administration into a high state of alert. Instead, CIA Director George J. Tenet mentioned in April 2004 that he didn't even personally speak with President Bush for the entire month of August! No one from the Administration has ever specified any actions taken as a result of learning about the PDB!

The other major reason I describe President Bush's performance as "dereliction of duty" is because of what didn't happen while the planes were crashing into the buildings. Bush failed to get himself to a command post. Any command post would have done. Air Force One would have, of course, been ideal, but any ship or military base could have provided a perfectly satisfactory post. The first and most important point is that the Commander-in-Chief needs to be in a place where he can receive reports. Issuing orders and instructions is also quite important, but first & foremost, the C-in-C needs to be in a place where people up and down the chain of command can keep him and the people around him informed as to what's going on. This way, the person in charge has a detailed, up-to-date and accurate picture as to what's going on. If the President had been a civilian all his life, he might have an excuse for not knowing this, but Bush served four honorable years in the Texas Air National Guard (He apparently blew off the last two years of a six-year term).

Back when I was in the Navy (1991-2001) and the lights went out on the ship and stayed out for more than a few seconds or some other unexplained event occurred, going to "General Quarters" was an automatic response. The President should have regarded the nearest command post as his GQ station and should have gotten there immediately.

The President also needs protection. Well, where better than aboard Air Force One, flying at several thousand feet up and surrounded by fighter aircraft? How does one get much safer than that? What if Bush had gotten to a ship or base? Working from a ship that's underway and that has other ships around it or on a base where soldiers are stationed is also about as safe as one gets. As American citizens saw in the Michael Moore movie Fahrenheit 911, Bush responded to hearing about the second plane crashing into the second building by just sitting there. Was he fully aware as to what was going on? Obviously not, which is why he needed to get to a command post where he could have learned what was going on!

Should he have looked about wildly, screamed and tripped over chairs and tables trying to get out of the classroom, as conservatives have suggested was his only alternative to just sitting there? Of course not! He could have calmly excused himself by telling the students he had "Presidential business" to attend to and could have walked out to where his transportation was.

I repeat, before and during the 9/11 attacks, Bush and his subordinates demonstrated incompetence, negligence and dereliction of duty.


Two related items on PR vs substance

Dan Froomkin's White House Watch column in the WaPo today has two items of interest because they're both quite revealing as to how the Bush Administration views its constituents. When the President tours New Orleans, he likes to have his staff scout his route beforehand to find residents who are willing to be photographed receiving flags from the President. They then get to display their patriotism for the news cameras as the President walks on by. Bush made a cheery, peppy statement that gave the impression he's really trying to make a difference there: "I've come back again because I'm inspired every time I come here to see progress and the spirit alive. People here said, we refuse to be held down by the storm, we will overcome it."

Problem is, of course, that the rebuilding of New Orleans is an extremely slow, indifferent, lackadaisackal project that's stultified by excessive bureaucracy and that has made extemely unsatisfactory progress. The tone for the rebuilding project was set in the first few days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast:

"The report [600+ pages, released February 2006] portrays [Michael] Chertoff, who took the helm of the [Homeland Security] department six months before the storm, as detached from events. It contends he switched on the government's emergency response systems 'late, ineffectively or not at all,' delaying the flow of federal troops and materiel by as much as three days."

Chertoff, of course, is STILL in charge of the rebuilding effort.

Who's in charge of the overall project, who had the ability to appoint effective administrators, who has the ability to fire the slackers and get good people in, who could make the project go faster, who could see to it that the $110 billion allocated for rebuilding by Congress was quickly and efficiently spent? The very same President!

Bush's quote from his latest tour is also very interesting: " 'One of the things I've heard loud and clear is that there's continued frustration with the slowness of federal response at times,' Bush said on his first trip here in six months. 'It's important for me to hear that.' " No sugggestion that perhaps, as President, he could personally maybe get governemtn bureaucrats moving on the case, that perhaps as Commander-in-Chief, he could maybe perhaps dump obviously inefficient administrators and appoint people who were a bit more energetic? It may be important for him to "hear" complaints, but it seems that actually doing anything about those same complaints is to ask for more than he's willing to deliver.

A similar story applies to the planned Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University. Great plans for a marvelous building are being made, but a stultifying order put out in 2001 severely limits what the library may make public. Steven Hensen of the Society of American Archivists says that the order restricts so much material from getting to the public that it could make the library "an empty shell of what such a library should be."

In both cases, the emphasis is on PR, on spin, on good pictures for news photographers. Actual usefulness, actually accomplishing something, actually making a real difference, gets shortchanged.

Republican presidential candidates: Time to speak out or declare yourselves to be bigots has a post called "Governor Dean Blasts Coulter’s Slur, Calls on GOP Presidential Candidates to Denounce It" ...

During her presentation at CPAC, political pundit Ann Coulter used the word “faggot” to describe a Democratic presidential candidate. DNC Chairman Howard Dean today condemned her remarks and called on the Republican presidential contenders to denounce them.
Several Republican presidential candidates and Vice-President Cheney were in attendance , sharing the stage with Coulter when she spoke. If they don't denounce her, you will then know where they stand.


WaPo's handling of Cheney comments "scandal"

Re: “Death Wish” Mar 1

So sadly predictable. Lawyer and blogger Glenn Greenwald nailed it the day before Kurtz's column came out. VP Cheney survives as assassination attempt and immediately, right-wingers start “comment trawling”, i.e., going through comments made by anonymous commenters on various liberal blogs and they then drag up a few, highly unrepresentative samples that they then present as supposedly representing a significant number of blog commenters and then various people in the media, including Howard Kurtz, then present these examples as though they meant anything.

Yes, in the 15th paragraph, Kurtz admits the obvious, that the comments really don't give us a clue as to what the great majority of either the bloggers or their readers feel, but he rants and rails and carries on for over ten paragraphs before getting to Arianna's very sensible point, that these few unrepresentative commenters don't represent anything beyond themselves.

Why does Kurtz give the “comment trawling” right wingers a megaphone? Why does he present the screeching banshees of the right-wing blogosphere as though they were making a useful or important point?

So very predictable and so very sad.
Glenn Greenwald continues:

Why would Kurtz so prominently tout and condemn the meaningless and unrepresentative remarks of 200 or so anonymous blog comments, while ignoring the equally perverse behavior and ideas of some of his best-est friends on television, detailed here, here, here, and today by Arianna Huffington here?


Data mining & warrantless wiretapping - same thing

Re: "Data mining returns in terror fight" Philadelphia Inquirer March 1

First off, there is every indication that mass data-mining of American citizens by the Bush Administration began long before 9-11. Second, there is no indication that it ever stopped. It was revealed in December 2005 that the NSA has been gathering private information without any kind or sort or variety of check or balance or supervision. Much is still not known about the Administration's warrantless wiretapping program, but President Bush has given American citizens no reason whatsoever to feel comfortable that he's engaged in anything less than massive data-mining.
The Bush Administration's latest proposal and their Total Information Awareness proposal back in 2002 both strike me as attempts to get an after-the-fact justification for actions taken in knowing violation of the Constitution and the law known as FISA, AKA the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
The most critical item to be determined though, has always been "Does it work?" Has there ever been any indication that data-mining would be successful at detecting "terrorist" activity if applied? The evidence from commercial market researchers is "No." Decades of research have shown that there is very little that can be learned about a person's product preferences by examining other data about that person. There's simply no way to tell from an analysis of a person's shopping habits whether she is going to purchase skim milk or 2% milk. There's simply no way to predict whether he will buy his socks at the local five & dime or whether he'll get them from an upscale outlet. Similarly, there is zero evidence that unlawful behavior can be predicted from an analysis of unrelated data.
Congress needs to demand a complete and total cessation to all data-mining by the Bush Administration and to start putting people on trial for having done any of it in the first place.