2007/04/28

Letter to my local paper on "Missing news"

Usually, I comment only on stories that the Inquirer has actually published and simply note for myself stories that the Inquirer does not see fit to cover, but I'm really amazed to see the Inquirer completely ignore first the Bill Moyers PBS show on "the mainstream media's failure to question the government's official line on the reasons for going to war with Iraq" (Anti-Moyers view from WorldNetDaily and preview from Editor & Publisher) and then the whole David "Dean of American Journalists" Broder's column that provoked a repudiation from 50 United States Senators.
Neither story was a front-page, above-the-fold, stop-the-presses attention-getter, but I find it absolutely amazing that neither story was deemed worthy of so much as a mention. The Philadelphia Inquirer was owned by the Knight-Ridder chain during the period that Bill Moyers' report covers and so has much less to be embarrassed about than the New York Times does, which also ignores the PBS show.
David Broder has long been seen as the premiere, top-of-the-ladder columnist that all other columnists were advised to take their cues from, but has been descending further and further into delusions and fantasy and finally provoked an absolutely stunning repudiation that, by all rights, should have sent shockwaves throughout the whole world of political-press relations.
I would hope that both stories are simply being reserved for your Sunday edition as the Inquirer just didn't develop a sufficiently coherent "party line" on both stories yet.

2007/04/25

Supporting the troops

Just watched Jon Stewart's Daily Show where Stewart debates Senator John McCain. Good conversation between the two. They did an awful lot of trying to talk over the other, but they both got out a lot of good points.

One complete non-sequitur was when Stewart identified several areas where the Bush Administration has very clearly not supported the troops. McCain replied that the troops are determined to succeed.

What really bothers me about that is something Chris Robinson said at the NW Peace & Justice meeting tonight. He said that he and others were conducting one of their usual vigils when they saw someone make a u-turn on the busy street in front of them. The soldier, dressed in civvies because he was home on leave from Iraq, got out and asked them if they supported the troops. Chris and the others were happy to tell him about the peace movement's attitude towards the troops, we support them wholeheartedly! If there are any "bad guys," well, as Michael Dukakis said about GW Bush's father, "The fish rots from the head." The soldier appeared to be pleased with that answer, especially because he seems to have already suspected that.

He and his buddies have been told over and over that the peace movement doesn't support the troops, that the peace movement considers the troops to be morally deficient because they're just doing their jobs.

Well, first of all, the soldiers ARE just doing their jobs. A very large proportion of them were in the service before the Iraq War began and have been kept in the service through stop-loss programs and psychological manipulations. A large number of them continue to be told that they're avenging 9-11 and lies about Saddam Hussein's connections to al Qaeda continue to be told. Of course the troops continue to believe their cause is a worthwhile one!

I would suggest that the soldiers and Marines in the fields and cities of Iraq are not the ones with the best, most accurate views of the Iraq War. When they've been home for awhile is when they start to gain a bit more perspective.

2007/04/24

White House Correspondent's Association Dinner

White House Correspondents Association's president, Steve Scully of C-Span, got very huffy and defensive about the WHCA dinner: "Now our job is to question policies and look at events with a skeptical eye. And I have to tell you that one dinner will not change that. . . ."

Problem is that if reporters were looking "at events with a skeptical eye," then no one would have a problem with the WHCA dinners. As Washington DC reporters are instead extremely close to their sources and as skeptical questioning is very rare among them, the dinners strengthen an already-far-too-close relationship between reporters and their sources.

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts write in The Washington Post that "singer Sheryl Crow and 'Inconvenient Truth' producer Laurie David walked over to Table 92 at the Hilton Washington to chat with Karl Rove -- and the resulting exchange was suitably heated."
"'I am floored by what I just experienced with Karl Rove," David reports. 'I went over to him and said, 'I urge you to take a new look at global warming.' He went zero to 100 with me. . . . I've never had anyone be so rude."
Rove's version: "She came over to insult me and she succeeded."
Things got so hot that Crow stepped in to defuse the situation and then got into it with Rove herself. "You work for me," she told the presidential adviser, according to singed bystanders. "No," was his response. "I work for the American people."

First off, Ms Crow IS a thoroughly respectable stand-in/representative for a very large slice of the "American people" on the issue of Global Warming and second of all, it's not like critics frequently get the chance to speak with any representatives of the Bush Administration. That notoriously secretive and reclusive bunch likes to appear with friendly audiences only. They have made it absolutely crystal clear that they don't like being challenged in any way, shape or form.

It's not that I believe Sheryl Crow's version of events just because she's a babe (Which, of course, she is) or that I disbelieve Karl Rove's version because he strikes me as a troll-under-the-bridge type (Which, of course, he does), but because the Guardian reported on 28 January 2001 that:

The scorched earth approach taken by departing Democrat officials as they left office last weekend has been seen as funny or pathetic, according to political opinions. George Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer has been listing examples of pranks and minor vandalism, although he yesterday backed off a statement that an official "cataloguing" was in process.
While Republican sources spoke of a systematic trashing of offices, President Bush said he was not himself concerned about "a prank or two".
Bush's chief of staff Andrew Card's office said that a photocopier cord and phone line had been cut, along with other "isolated incidents", which reportedly included pornographic pictures left in photocopiers. 

Problem was that no vandalism occurred. Later investigations showed it to be utterly without foundation. At most, a few "W" keys disappeared from a few computer keyboards. The story given to the public was pretty much pure propaganda. But it did it's job. Clinton was made to look bad and Bush was made to look good. So, has the Bush Administration changed its stripes? I somehow doubt it.

Firedoglake (Comment #52) discussed the story and the commenter concluded that Rove got rude to Crow because he could tell that she wasn't going to take any guff from him. She clearly wasn't going to put on a Laura Bush act and pretend she was a wide-eyed innocent.

Bonus: TRex has a hilarious take on how:

...one dimunitive pop star has more stones than the entire White House Press Corps combined (except for possibly Helen Thomas, who will always and forever be Empress of White House Reporters).

2007/04/22

The usefulness of predictions

Media Matters has a very good piece on pundits and how they make themselves look foolish by constantly offering predictions of future events, which as Media Matters documents, they do with a very poor track record. Pundits predicted that opposing President Bush's warrantless wiretapping scheme would be political death for the Democrats. Turned out that opinions were pretty evenly balanced when the issue first came up, but the more Americans have learned about the gross excesses that the program has engaged in, the more horrified they've been and the more determined they've been to shut it down. FAIR showed in early 2006 that the vaguer the polling question, the more Americans approve of warrantless wiretapping. The more specific the questions get, however, (For instance, when "terrorist suspects" is changed to "citizens who are suspected of having ties to terrorists") the more concerned American citizens become about their liberties and the less willing they've been to trust the Bush Administration.

But the media persists in focusing on making predictions, to the detriment of actually, y'know, reporting and telling citizens what they actually need to know in order to make informed, proper decisions. The media has reported on the (apparently non-existent) desire of Americans to leave gun control laws just as they are in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings while neglecting to point out that:

Americans strongly supported the assault weapons ban that the Republican Congress allowed to expire in 2004, and yet its expiration did not lead to a large spike in the number of Americans who support stricter gun laws. Might that suggest that many Americans don't know the assault weapons ban no longer exists?

In other words, if the media were to concentrate on reporting actual facts, rather than wasting time with endless predictions, the American public might be better informed.

To progressives, liberals and lefties, this seems like a no-brainer, obvious conclusion. I have a theory as to why that is. When we're in about junior high or high school, we learn about Karl Marx. What is one of the first things we learn about him? Why, that he made bad predictions! He predicted that capitalism would inevitably collapse of its own contradictions. Capitalism turned out to be more flexible and adaptable that Marx thought it would be. He also predicted that society would go through several phases, from capitalism to socialism to communism. What actually happened in Russia was that the Soviet Union started out as a highly centralized, militaristic bureaucracy and well, remained one until the end.

Do Marx's poor predictions mean that studying Marx is a waste of time? Of course not. He came up with many good insights and publicized a good deal of important data. His pointing out that the upper or ruling class has many interests that are separate and distinct from those of the middle and working classes is an insight that most conservatives resist to this day. Lefties are therefore aware from a young age that understanding what's going on in society is entirely different from making accurate predictions about what will happen in the future. Sure, it's good to be able to make accurate predictions, but it's far more important to understand what's going on today, here and now.

One of the real problems with news organizations that focus on predictions is that it's rare for anyone to really track how good those predictions are. The organization that makes the predictions has no motive to publicly go back and analyze how well it did its job. It might do so privately, but it has no reason to share those results with the public. Likewise, there's no motivation to look at other news organizations and track how well they're doing as "those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." If NBC accuses CBS of making poor predictions, CBS could turn around and demonstrate how NBC got its own predictions wrong.

Back during the late 1990s, there was a media magazine that did a regular monthly feature as to how well pundits predicted the future. They found predictions that pundits made that could be checked and then checked how accurately those predictions turned out to be. The results were that very few pundits got below 33% and equally few got above 66%. Out of every three predictions, one prediction would be right, one would be wrong and the third would be up for grabs. I also once came across a gossip magazine in a laundromat that was about three years old. It had "psychic" predictions at the back. Again, about a third were correct, about a third were completely off the wall and about a third were reasonable guesses that could very well have gone either way.

In short, I endorse the Media Matters piece wholeheartedly! News organizations should concentrate on what's actually going on and should focus on verifiable facts as opposed to trying to play the psychic or the prognosticator.

My advice to the media: Leave the predictions to the "psychics" in the supermarket tabloids and work on what's actually going on in the world today.

2007/04/19

Gonzales hearing

What's probably the best, most concise summary of the Gonzales hearing, where Attorney General Alberto Gonzales valiantly attempted to explain (Or at least paper over) the many questions and contradictions in the testimony of both himself and his aides came from Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

"You've answered 'I don't know' or 'I don't recall' to close to 100 questions." Urges Gonzales for the good of the department and for the good of the country to step down.
"Gonzales says the burden of proof is on those alleging something improper happened here.
"Schumer: That would be true if this were a criminal trial, but we have a much higher standard for the Attorney General. And when you fire US attorneys, the burden is on you to explain why. The burden of proof lays with the person who took responsibility and did the firing." 

Generally, Gonzales gave very, very unsatisfactory answers, careening back and forth between appearing as a bystander in his own department, a man totally out of the loop and between saying "I'm responsible," but not being able to give any clear or convincing explanations as to why any decisions were made.

Pennsylvania's Senator Specter says in TPMMuckraker (Main site contains lots and lots of videos of hearing):

..."we haven't really gotten answers" from Gonzales. He added that there was unquestionably a morale problem at the department and that the message had been sent that U.S. attorneys around the country "ought to be on guard... for you to have said that this was 'an overblown personnel matter,' that can't be erased."

Lawyer-Blogger Glenn Greenwald comments that:


"Although Gonzales began with a combative tone, he quickly abandoned it, because it is not his natural approach. He has neither the instincts nor the abilities to engage in a full day of verbal combat with anyone. He is far more comfortable with highly practiced, slippery, evasive buzzphrases which he simply repeats -- with a pseudo-respectful and borderline-smug tone -- over and over and over. And he quickly reverted to form."

It'd be nice if this meant that Gonzales would soon be stepping down, but Greenwald points out that demanding things of Bush produces exactly the opposite reaction from what one would expect. Bush instead digs in his heels and fights and fights until there's absolutely no choice and then petulantly and arrogantly insults those who tried to make him see reason.

2007/04/14

Update on missing White House emails

Well, the WaPo is asserting in its latest editorial that, aw gee, the White House members who "lost" up to five million emails (For some context, the Clinton White House left 30 million emails to posterity) were just...well, golly gee, they were just uncertain as to what the correct policy really was. It's all just a big, silly misunderstanding. Of course, as Dan Froomkin pointed out earlier, he had the White House spokesman, Dan Stanzel read him the relevant portions of the White House email policy over the phone and I agree with Froomkin, the policy appears quite simple and straightforward to me.

Says Senator Leahy:

"'[The White House says] they have not been preserved. I don't believe that!' said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., of e-mails that the White House had said a day earlier might be lost. 'You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there, they just don't want to produce them. It's like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes.'"

Glenn Greenwald first examines 11 instances where possibly-incriminating documents, i.e., paper records, emails, videotapes and DVDs just "suddenly" and "mysteriously" disappear just when investigators would like to get a hold of them. He then quotes from a post by Anonymous Liberal:

"As an attorney who deals with subpoenas and requests for electronic documents on a regular basis, I can tell you that if a private entity--particularly one subject to legally mandated record keeping requirements--were to inform government investigators seeking such documents that they had been 'mishandled' and were now 'lost,' that entity would immediately find itself in a world of hurt and would be lucky if it survived the aftermath.

"No amount of talking would be enough to convince the authorities that there was an innocent explanation for the missing documents. They would be absolutely convinced that the 'mishandled' documents were intentionally destroyed in order to cover up wrongdoing."

And hey, it's not like the White House hasn't been, er, shall we say, creative, in coming up with reasons as to why they can't seem to produce documents in a timely manner:

"They waited, and waited. But the documents weren't delivered to the House and Senate Judiciary committees until this morning because — no joke — the Justice Department's copy machine broke.

"As if the broken copier weren't enough, something even worse happened: the DOJ's computer server went down this morning just as agency officials were trying to email around 2,000 pages worth of documents to Capitol Hill.

"But wait, that's not all! After the server went down, the car transporting hard copies of the documents to the Hill got a flat tire."

Yeah, what's that old Jay Leno line? "Things that make you go 'hmmmm' ".

And firedoglake "translates" a communication from the White House attorney for us:

"Allow me to translate the legalese for you: Mr. Fielding is using felicitous language to tell Mssrs. Leahy and Conyers to go Cheney themselves. The President does not want them getting their hands on this information quickly due to, one would assume, the need to comb over every sentence for potentially politically damaging information contained therein, so that a WH strategy to counter it might be put into place. (Read: Rove would like his ass covered, thank you very much.)"

Oh, and what's up with one of the primary reasons given for firing the US Attorneys, i.e., that "Voter Fraud" (individuals voting either under the wrong names or when they're not entitled to, as an effort to sway elections) was rampant and was a problem serious enough to warrant vigorous prosecution? Well, er, um, not so much, actually. Roughly 120 million people voted in the 2004 election. How many voter fraud cases have been successfully prosecuted? A whopping grand total of 86.

2007/04/11

Broder again. Yeesh, wotta loser!

It's far from clear that Congress' options in restraining Bush's ablity to keep the Iraq War going are as limited as David Broder makes them out to be. Broder concedes that Congress controls the money, but forgets about tools like the Boland Amendment, a law that forced President Reagan to circumvent the clear intent of Congress and to fund the Nicaraguan Contras from a "off-the-shelf" funding capability.

The real giveaway as to where Broder's sympathies lie is in the followin sentence:

"...the House and Senate Democrats will meet soon to prepare a final version of the emergency funding bill that Bush has requested to finance..."

Where exactly is the emergency? The Iraq War is in it's fifth year. It's like Germany's fuhrer saying that his 1943 budget is an "emergency." There is no energency to justify that phrase. For Broder to go along with Bush's propagandistic designation makes it clear where Broder stands.

Broder's point here:

"From the start, Democrats ought to concede one big point: Absent any readiness on their part to cut off funds to the troops in Iraq, those forces will be there as long as George Bush wants them to remain."

is utterly without any logical basis. Being Commander-in-Chief does not give Bush dictatorial powers. Congress doesn't need to concede anything. All of Broder's further suggestions are a complete waste of time as he recommends that Congress give up so much ground, they then might as well pack it in.

"That is not an ideal solution, from anyone's point of view. But something like it is probably the best compromise available..."

Sorry, but this is far too pessimistic for me. The powers of Congress vs those of the President are not set in stone. They are open to negotiation and alteration. I recommend ignoring Broder and contining to end the war.

2007/04/09

What's wrong with US foreign policy today

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) explains why Syria is such a deadly enemy that America can't possibly carry out any sort of diplomacy with it:

LIEBERMAN: But they have — but let me tell what you they have to do with what we’re into now. (1) The Bashir Assad Syrian government has allowed terrorists and arms to flow across its country into Iraq that are being used to kill Americans today. (2) Syria has been implicated in the assassination of a very strong popular Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. (3) Syria is supporting Hezbollah, which is trying to unseat our ally, Senora, in Lebanon. (4) Syria is supporting the terrorist group Hamas against our allies in the Fatah Palestinian movement, and of course, Israel. The administration, in all fairness — people in Washington should know, if they don’t know, (5) the administration has been trying in many ways, in diplomatic discussions with Syria since 9-11, to get Assad to change his behavior and he has not. (6) When Nancy Pelosi goes there, she sends a message of disunity. She legitimizes the Syrian government.
[Numbers added to facilitate answers]

(1) There is very little evidence to show that significant quantities of arms or people are crossing that particular border. It's a very lengthy, sparsely-populated border and Syria's been given no good reason to put a lot of resources into sealing it. As this report shows, there are actions Syria can indeed take, but getting their voluntary cooperation would work a heck of a lot better and faster than threatening them. There's probably some traffic of precisely the type that Lieberman describes, but it's far from clear that completely cutting off that route would make a significant,.visible difference in Iraq.

(2) "Implicated" does not equal "convicted." Let's wait for real proof before we undertake any policy changes based on this justification.

(3) Hezbollah is a legitimate, legitimately popular organization.

"Hezbollah is not just a militia or a conventional army, but a social and political movement deeply rooted in its society, with a big constituency within the Lebanese Shia community that comprises about 40 percent of the country's 4 million people."

Just because Israel doesn't like it, doesn't mean it isn't a very serious opponent. Physically attacking popular organizations does not always result in their being diminished. Sometimes it makes them grow. If the attack is seen as unjustified, if people see the attacker as dishonorably trying to pursue its own interests with no regard for civilians caught in the crossfire, popular outrage will be directed against the attacker. US actions taken in response to Hezbollah have been clumsy and counterproductive.

(4) Again, Syria is supporting a legitimately popular organization. Hamas has gained power from complaints about how Israel has acted towards Palestine. The legitimacy of such complaints is in the eye of the beholder. Just because Israel may not think the complaints are serious doesn't mean that millions in the Arab world don't agree with them. That's not to say Hamas is right and Israel is wrong, it's to say Hamas is seen by many people in the Mideast as a protector of the Palestinian people. Again, physically attacking such an organization often makes them stronger and more popular.

(5) It is my understanding that the Bush Administration's idea of diplomacy is to say "Surrender, give us everything and abandon any claims you feel you might have against us." In no case have I ever heard of Bush and Co. offering anything even remotely like real, actual, give-and-take diplomacy. Discussions with Assad have most likely taken the form of: "Change your behavior!!! NOW!!!"

(6) The actual message that Speaker Pelosi took to Syria was completely in line with Bush Administration policy. Pelosi has absolutely nothing to apologize for. According to The Gavel, this is the message she conveyed:

"Speaker Pelosi accurately relayed a message given to her by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to Syrian President Assad.

"The tough and serious message the Speaker relayed was that, in order for Israel to engage in talks with Syria, the Syrian government must eliminate its links with extremist elements, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

"Furthermore, the Speaker told Assad that his government must also take steps to block militants seeking to cross the Syrian border into Iraq and that it must cease its ongoing efforts to destabilize Lebanon and to block the international community’s expressed desire for an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. The Speaker has no illusions about the nature of the regime in Syria."

It's not at all clear that Pelosi is disrupting anything by going to Syria and talking with Assad. There's no evidence that the Bush Administration was engaged in any serious diplomacy with Syria to begin with. The fake "scandal" of Pelosi going to Syria is a media-inspired and wrong-headed attempt to make it appear that her actions are worthy of criticism.

Syria may be acting against US interests in the Middle East, bu to treat them like this era's equivalent of the Comintern of the 1930s is an incredibly stupid way to try and counter it. There are many areas where our two country's can agree. To automatically assume that nothing can be accomplished diplomatically is to surrender any thought of progress before even trying. Assumptions like the ones that Lieberman is making here are a large part of the problem that the US is experiencing over there.

2007/04/06

Open Letter to Jeffrey Schneider of ABC News

Essentially, I agree with what Glenn Greenwald says and have very little to add to it, but I'd like to make a few comments about anonymous sources in general.

The following quote is from the New York Times and not ABC News, but to me it's very indicative of the kinds of stories we get that use anonymous sources:

"Some Democratic lawmakers who are critical of the administration’s Iraq policies say they now accept that there is a connection between Iran and the E.F.P. attacks in Iraq, though they emphasize that Iran is not the primary reason for instability in Iraq."


Firs off, let's presume that everything said here is true. Given that, what are we to make of the assertion that the anonymous Democrats (i.e., at least two of them) "are critical of the administration’s Iraq policies"? Well, "critical" in this case could mean anything from "The Bush Administration is not fighting hard enough" or that they have committed insufficient troops to the task or that Donald Rumsfeld was incompetent. These Democrats could be anyone from Hillary Clinton to Joe Lieberman (Who continued to be incorrectly referred to as a Democrat after losing that distinction in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic primary.) to actual, serious opponents of the president's policies. In other words, that qualification doesn't actually mean very much, it has holes big enough to drive a truck through.

It could very well be that the Democrats in question accept a link "between Iran and the E.F.P. attacks in Iraq," but do these Democrats have enough knowledge of military hardware to realize that a roadside bomb using shaped charges and a small plate of copper is actually a very simple device to construct? That there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Iran has anything to do with EFPs? That Iraq has many hundreds of thousands of military veterans that are fully capable of manufacturing such devices?

In short, the anonymity of the aforementioned Democrats is a strong reason to believe that they're conservative Democrats who support the President's war policies in any event and are simply grabbing onto any reasonably plausible excuse to back those policies.

I don't see anything trustworthy about anonymous sources (By contrast, the usual blogger is a pseudonymous source and the distinction is important. The pseudonymous source is stable, it's the same person with the same writing style over a period of time). I can see that once in a great while, a source must remain hidden because they're saying something that their boss might not approve of, but that's about one case out of every 40 or 50. The vast majority of anonymous sources I've seen in the media over the years are people who are spouting Administration-approved talking points. They tend to be senior people in the Administration who have an axe to grind or an agenda to pursue.

90% of the time, anonynimity is granted for dishonorable reasons, to make the source appear more trustworthy than is warranted. Why do they do it? I believe they're trying to be a "blank slate" where the viewer/listener/reader can write in their own desires. Johnny Carson and Vanna White are premiere "blank slates." No one knows their real opinions on anything and therefore people simply project their own opinions onto them. That's fine for show business, but it's horribly inappropriate for people in politics where citizens have to be able to gauge and evaluate what people's motivations and state of knowledge are. I am upset and aggravated when I see statements like the one I quoted at the beginning of my letter. The statement leaves far more questions than answers, there are too many holes in what the person says.

And good grief! I really have to add that the six-paragraph story on the upcoming Clinton vacation is about five paragraphs too long. Good heavens, what a silly, useless waste of time! And what a despicable way to sneak in Monica Lewisnky's name! ABC News has absolutely ZERO claim to any sort of gravitas.

2007/04/01

Distressing editorial

I find it very distressing that the Philadelphia Inquirer, usually a good paper, would see fit to publish such an awful "Move along, nothing to see here" piece on the recent firings of US Attorneys. The author, Jonathan Last, does his best to make the firings appear to be much ado about nothing. They aren't. Probably the most revealing quote on the firings yet uncovered is by a Washington Post reporter who covered the story of John McKay of Washington State. McKay had refused to bring vote fraud charges "...that could have undermined a Democratic victory in a closely fought gubernatorial race." Harriet "Miers accused him of having 'mishandled' the voter fraud inquiry." But in the really revealing twist, note that anger with McKay wasn't just felt by the top people in Washington DC, but that his "standing among party loyalists" also suffered.

The US Attorney firings were a Republican-Party-wide problem. It wasn't just Miers. It wasn't just the people at the top of the ladder. Republican Party loyalists wanted the Democratic gubernatorial candidate to be taken down and utilizing the system of courts to do so was fine by them. They were perfectly happy to act as a lawless banana republic if it meant taking out the Democrats from competition.

A 35-year veteran of the Justice Department fills in more details:

"Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

"Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections."

Mother Jones goes into the White House use of the gwb43.com and rnchq.org email addresses. Use of these addresses brings up the old conservative reply to signs of government surveillance: "What have you got to hide?" The White House was bypassing its usual secure system and using one that was apparently designed to bypass the email archiving requirements that had been instituted.

"While some White House officials may legitimately be using RNC-issued laptops and BlackBerrys to conduct party business, it's clear that others are taking pains to use alternate email accounts simply to keep their communications from becoming public record."

The San Diego Union Tribune takes careful note of the districts that the fired US Attorneys were from:

"Arkansas, site of Hillary Clinton's first steps into politics as the state's first lady; San Francisco, Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi's district; Nevada, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's state; New Mexico, presidential candidate Bill Richardson's state. North Carolina, home of former senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards, was considered but passed over by the Bush administration's ax."

I guess that means the Republicans don't consider John Edwards a real threat. That also appears to mean that Democrats should give Bill Richardson a closer look.

The always-invaluable TPMMuckraker gives us a in-depth profile of the woman, Monica Goodling, who has "taken the fifth" rather than to testify in front of either the House or the Senate.

This case goes to the very heart of what it means to be the United States of America. Is this just another banana republic? Just another place where the jefe or our Dear Leader has the final say? Or is it a place where the Rule of Law prevails?