Friday, January 27, 2006

Jumping the shark:

  • The term has also come to be used to describe other areas of pop culture, such as music and celebrities, for whom a drastic change was seen as the beginning of the end.
  • More recently, the phrase has been used outside the realm of popular culture, representing anything that has reached its peak and has [gotten worse].


Time flies when you're having fun:

In case you missed it, here are two lines from Bush's press conference yesterday: (on the general topic of transforming the military to meet 21st century needs and if the military is over-extended)
  • I will tell you this; that after five years of war, there is a need to make sure that our troops are balanced properly, that threats are met with capability.
  • And so this is a time where we've been in theater for -- been in this war against terror for five years, and at the same time, transforming.
Five years of war.   Just like that.   So ordinary.   So commonplace.


Getting the message out:

Yesterday on the Oprah Winfrey show, the entire hour was devoted to the scandal surrounding James Frey's mendacious "memoir", A Million Little Pieces. Frey was there, as was his publisher, Nan Talese. The first 30 minutes consisted of Oprah grilling Frey and Talese - both supremely unappealing characters. After each commercial break, there would be a minute consisting of short video clips of journalists commenting on the affair - Stanley Crouch, Joel Stein (!), Maureen Dowd - all who said Frey screwed Oprah.

But then, who do we see after that? Flown in all the way to Chicago, was Richard Cohen, who had a few words to say about the publishing industry. And after him, who else shows up in the studio? Frank Rich.

Here is the exhange with Rich: (emp add)
Oprah: Joining us is Frank Rich, a New York Times columnist who recently wrote that James Frey reminds us that we live in an age of "truthiness." What do you mean by…explain that.

Frank Rich: Truthiness is a word, of course, that's been popularized by Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central.

Oprah: Yeah.

Frank Rich: I mean we live in this word now where this is just sort of the tip of the iceberg, this memoir, where anyone can sort of put out something that sort of looks true, smells a little bit like truth but, in fact, is in some way fictionalized. You look at anything from Enron fooling people and creating this aura of a great business making huge profits when it was an empty shell, or people in the government telling us that mushroom clouds are going to come our way if we don't invade Iraq for months when it was on faulty and possibly suspect intelligence. Or even things we label "reality" in entertainment like reality television. It's cast. It's somewhat scripted. You see Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey as happy newlyweds. The reality show is over, they get divorced and split the profits.
That's worth more than a month of New York Times and Washington Post editorials. Oprah's audience is huge. Middle of the road. Where the votes are.

Interesting to see that Oprah had so many liberal commentators on that program.

ADDENDUM: What Frey did is unconscionable. I know people who have been in rehab, or are currently in it. Frey's book discourages people from seeking treatment. Frey says you can do it on your own. He also writes of a horrific root-canal procedure, done without Novocain supposedly because it would interfere with the rehab procedures/medication. (And on the show yesterday, Nan Talese said that she had also endured root-canal without Novocain - does anybody believe that??)

On the message board for the program at, there are many, many people supportive of Frey - which is a disappointment. But there are those who disdain Frey. Here is a good post of that type:
Reading all of these responses supoporting James Frey makes me sad and sickened. I have been sober for over six years. Everyday I wake up to a world that I have to be honest in or risk going back to the life I had before sobriety. This is not a choice, it is a mandatory requirement for me to stay sober. Here comes this bufoon with a book about his rehab that smelled like BS both times I tried to read it. The second time I tried to read it was due in part to my sweet sister hearing about it on Oprah and buying me a copy. I did not have the heart to tell her it was BS. Instead I tried to read it again...same feel of BS. Watching him telling people to "hold on" was one of the saddest moments I have ever seen. There is a high likelihood that James is not alcoholic but rather a sociopath who has found a way to profit off the experiences of people with real alcoholism or drug addiction. All of you people who are so supportive of James Frey need to realize something: His book could have been the cause of other addicts dying because they think "holding on" will work. That is what this is really about. LIFE AND DEATH ARE WHAT RECOVERY IS ABOUT AND WHEN YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT STRUGGLE A BS MESSAGE CAN MEAN DEATH. James is a liar and a sociopath and he does not deserve any support. I can give him forgiveness but I will need to do a fourth step to figure out what my truth is first. The steps are tools that help REAL alcoholics keep themselves in check. If James did the steps he would probably find that he is not alcoholic and would have a chance to find out why he has sociopath tendancies. In ending, enough with the supporting of this liar!
Also, a local DJ here in Los Angeles who also had a drug problem is furious with Frey, for the same reason, that it will mislead people who need to know the truth about themselves and how to get better.


Stephen Colbert interview over at The A. V. Club:

Not too long.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Will the White House be able to pull if off?

In the wake of Peter Daou's most recent post (The Triangle) - which painted a grim picture for progressives, we read the following in Froomkin's January 24th report: (emp add)
Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus write ... "The remarks [by Bush] opened a three-day blitz by the administration aimed in part at making the controversial eavesdropping program a political winner for the White House in a midterm election year."

Charlie Savage writes in the Boston Globe: "Bush's aides have argued in recent weeks that he can boost his approval ratings by emphasizing his willingness to use any means necessary to fight terrorism.
If Bush can use the warrantless NSA spying to "boost his approval ratings" and make the program "a political winner" then there's not much hope for ever defeating this guy politically.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What we've maintained all along:

Juan Cole writes:
On September 11, 2001, the question was whether we had underestimated al-Qaeda. It appeared to be a Muslim version of the radical seventies groups like the Baader Meinhoff gang or the Japanese Red Army. It was small, only a few hundred really committed members who had sworn fealty to Bin Laden and would actually kill themselves in suicide attacks. There were a few thousand close sympathizers, who had passed through the Afghanistan training camps or otherwise been inducted into the world view. But could a small terrorist group commit mayhem on that scale? Might there be something more to it? Was this the beginning of a new political force in the Middle East that could hope to roll in and take over, the way the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan in the 1990s? People asked such questions.

Over four years later, there is no doubt. Al-Qaeda is a small terrorist network that has spawned a few copy-cats and wannabes. Its breakthrough was to recruit some high-powered engineers in Hamburg, which it immediately used up. Most al-Qaeda recruits are marginal people, people like Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid, who would be mere cranks if they hadn't been manipulated into trying something dangerous. Muhammad al-Amir (a.k.a Atta) and Ziad Jarrah were highly competent scientists, who could figure the kinetic energy of a jet plane loaded with fuel. There don't seem to be significant numbers of such people in the organization. They are left mostly with cranks, petty thieves, drug smugglers, bored bank tellers, shopkeepers, and so forth, persons who could pull off a bombing of trains in Madrid or London, but who could not for the life of them do a really big operation.

The Bush administration and the American Right generally has refused to acknowledge what we now know. Al-Qaeda is dangerous. All small terrorist groups can do damage. But it is not an epochal threat to the United States or its allies of the sort the Soviet Union was (and that threat was consistently exaggerated, as well).


Because they exaggerate the scale of the conflict, and because they use it cynically, Bush and Cheney have grossly mismanaged the struggle against al-Qaeda and Muslim radicalism after September 11.
There's much more to Cole's post. Worth reading.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Earmarks - has everybody forgotten?

In the wake of the Abramoff / K-street / scandal talk, there has been much discussion about earmarks in bills and how they are a way legislators can "pay back" lobbyists.

Consensus view is that earmarks are bad and anyone defending them has a lot of explaining to do.

Flash back to 2000. In the New York primary between McCain and Bush, the Bush team attacked McCain, ostensibly for being against breast cancer research. That charge had bite.

The reality? McCain opposed an earmark for a particular hospital. (Of course, the Bush team didn't say that out loud. They wanted voters to think McCain was opposed to cancer research.)

Here's a little more, from a CNN Crossfire exchange on 2 March 2000: (emp add)
NOVAK: Ari Fleischer, in Los Angeles today Governor Bush was very soft and non-negative going to a charter school, but on the other side of the continent in New York, his forces were just wailing the devil out of John McCain, saying he has a pattern of anti-New York voting. Don't we have a pattern that whenever George W. Bush is behind in a state, then he goes negative?

FLEISCHER: Well, that would be funny because "The New York Times" reports that Governor Bush is up 10 points in New York State. If you're suggesting to me that politics in New York gets rough-and- tumble, well, that's news me, I have never heard that about the Empire State before. But there is a close race going on in New York State and Senator McCain has a long voting record, and includes one item, frankly, that Senator McCain has publicly advertised on his Web page, and I brought it along with me tonight.

Senator McCain's own Web page says, quote, "As president, I will cut every one of the projects on the following list." And on that list he includes money for the New York University Program Women's Center for Cancer, an earmark of $1 million for breast cancer at North Shore Long Island Jewish...

NOVAK: Let me...

FLEISCHER: Senator McCain advertises that he wants to cut those programs.
More, from Salon: (emp add)
They think Bush conducted himself dishonorably time and again, refusing to call off attacks; allowing (at the very least) close allies to wage misleading ad attacks slamming him as an anti-environmentalist and painting him as being indifferent to breast cancer; and making callous remarks after learning McCain's sister is herself a breast cancer survivor. McCain aides feel strongly that history will judge Bush's campaign as one of the nastiest and ugliest ever waged.
So we have Bush, on the record, attacking a genuine reformer in one of the most scurrilous ways possible. (There were radio ads in New York that omitted the earmark qualification, presenting McCain as just down-right opposed to cancer research. This had a significant affect on Republican women.)

Does anybody remember? (That includes liberal blogs.) Does anybody care? Why isn't Bush paying a penalty for defending an earmark with a dishonest attack on a rival politician?


Something missing:

With all the talk of the Abramoff scandal, the DeLay scandal, Frist scandal, Bob Nye scandal, and the lobbying scandals, something has been missing.


The most hedonistic thing we've read about were golfing trips to St. Andrews. What are the Republicans doing with all that money? Where has Billy Tauzin spent his millions? Did any strippers board the Duke-stir?

Perhaps the absence of sex helps the Democrats. If there was a sex angle to one of those currently being accused of corruption, then maybe that story about that individual would suck up all the oxygen, making it harder to demonstrate that a class of individuals (Republicans) were guilty of bad behavior.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What the hell is going on over there?

In a truly bizarre story, Detour triggers killings, we read: Excerpt, emp add)
By The Associated Press   Thursday, January 19, 2006

BAGHDAD -- The horror began after American and Iraqi forces cordoned off part of a highway north of Baghdad following the deadly crash of a U.S. helicopter.

With traffic directed onto narrow, dirt roads, insurgents turned the area into a killing field. They set up makeshift checkpoints, grabbed motorists and slaughtered about 40 over a two-day period, police said.

Local tribal leader Mohammed al-Khazraji said he saw "dozens of corpses" strewn over the ground Wednesday -- victims of the insurgents' culling.

Two pilots died in the crash Monday of the U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter near Mishahda, 25 miles north of Baghdad.

"Hundreds of people were detained by the militants, and many were killed all because of a helicopter crash that killed two Americans," al-Khazraji said.

Thirty people were dragged from their vehicles yesterday and were fatally shot -- execution-style -- in farming areas in Nibaei, a town near Dujail, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, said police Lt. Qahtan al-Hashmawi.

"Most of the victims were Iraqi policemen, soldiers or commandos," he said.

Another 11 men were killed in similar fashion Tuesday and were dumped about a mile from Nibaei, said police Capt. Ali al-Hashmawi.
So, anytime you don't use the major highway, you're at extreme risk. The "safe zones" are looking like beads on a string. The beads being the Green Zones and the string is the main highway. Think about it. If that's the situation, then there isn't any government control over virtually the whole country (or at least the Sunni Triangle).

Just amazing that there can be ongoing freelance checkpoints with murder, and no action taken to stop it.


Alito - wrong on presidential Signing Statements:

Over at TPM we read:
Sam Alito ... wrote that "Since the president's approval is just as important as that of the House or Senate, it seems to follow that the president's understanding of the bill should be just as important as that of Congress."
Josh Marshall has cogent things to say about the Constitution and who is supposed to make laws (only Congress), but the focus here is on Alito.

The president's approval is not just as important as that of the House or Senate. The president by himself, cannot get a law enacted. Congress can. Congress can pass a law and have it signed or, if vetoed, override the president. (Admittedly, with a requirement of a larger majority, but the power is there.)

Is this the kind of casual reasoning we can expect from Alito? Looks like it.


Murtha's accusers:

In the New York Times, there is an OpEd, Purple Heartbreakers that looks at charges leveled against Vietnam Veterans who, as it turns out, all were opponents of Bush (one way or another). These charges all were related to their military service, and happen like clockwork. Every two years.
  • 2000 - John McCain - nut case from the torture (whisper campaign in So. Carolina)
  • 2002 - Max Cleland - stumblebum who dropped a grenade on himself (Ann Coulter)
  • 2004 - John Kerry - didn't deserve Purple Hearts or Bronze Star or Silver Star (Swift Boat Vets)
  • 2006 - John Murtha - disn't deserve Purple Hearts and question Bronze Star (former political opponents)
The essay in the Times uses most of its ink challenging the objectivity of the "news" service that, most recently, has raised questions about Murtha. They show that the Cybercast News is run by a David Thibault, who worked for the Republican National Committee, and that the article questioning Murtha's medals was written, in part, by a former producer for Rush Limbaugh.

The OpEd fails to let you know the specifics of the charges, and who made them. It can be found in the CNS article here. All the accusers are former political opponents of Murtha. Below, we diagram the situation.

When the only people making charges are former political opponents with axes to grind, and especially when it's in the wake of a political dispute (Iraq War), the reasonable conclusion is that the dispute is completely synthetic and nothing more than a smear campaign.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Gore speech:

Superb. You really should read the whole thing.

Extremely well written, with several brilliant sentences and clever argumentation.

Hard to pick the best, but here's a good line. Read it closely.
And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust.
Note what was done there. A president may be someone who you do not trust. But a president's "values and belief"? You agree or disagree with a value (or policy position). You're not thinking of "trust" when thinking of a value (e.g. no gay marriage).

The Gore speech was directed, in part, towards Hilary-haters. They don't trust her. As a person. So the sentence leapfrogs over a mundane "values and belief" - which could be dismissed as a minor concern since bureaucrats and others (even the two remaining branches of government) can rein in a bad policy decision - and connects with the person via the verb trust.

And then! Those words about a president's "values and belief" scans at first like a presidents "policy positions". But note the word belief. Singular. Not beliefs. Again, a below-the-radar strike at the deepest thoughts of a conservative Christian. Indeed. Gore is warning these people that a subsequent president might have a different belief, one minimizing Jesus Christ, and who might just ram it down their fundamentalist throats.

Okay, that was a standout line. Let's get academic and review some of the other gems in the speech. (emp add)
  • ".. just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law ..." - crisp.
  • "... the President's soothing statements turned out to be false ..." - awsome alliteration.
  • "A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government." - solid, even David Broder might be persuaded to agree.
  • "The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy." - a pragmatic appeal that avoids the (foolishly) principled types like the ACLU.
  • "Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows." - reversing the Fear argument, away from fear of terrorists and towards an unspecified "lawlessness".
  • "For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation ..." and "The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant ..." - not terrorist suspects, but American citizens. Good framing.
  • "Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators ..." - Yikes! "Executive Branch interrogators" sounds like thugs involved in black-bag operations - the sort of thing you associate with a Police State.
  • "If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?" - the only punitive action greater would be the authority to execute someone (this is explicitly stated in the following paragraph). Gore is saying we're one step away from dictatorship.
  • "The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman ..." - perhaps Chris Matthews likes a strongman, but most folks don't.
  • "A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity." - the never-ending scenario of threat and fear is overreach; Gore calls him on it.
  • "This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive ..." - renaming the theory, which is done for the remainder of the speech.
  • "The common denominator [of Bush's claims and actions] seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control." = framing Bush as a bully.
  • "... CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases." - the mention of salary increases seems odd and almost trivial, but is rescued immediately in the following paragraph that discussed FBI agents "trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes". And the subsequent paragraph nails it down further with a quote from Hamilton: "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)"
  • "In the words of George Orwell: 'We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue ...'" - something for everybody in this speech.
  • "Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping ..." - minor point, but it wasn't Cheney defending, but Cheney attempting to defend. This speech took every opportunity to hit hard.
  • "The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court." and "... the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress ..." - again, more Bush Bully imagery.
  • "... I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program." - a fair critique. Positioning for '08?
  • "I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution." - strong words.
  • "The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people." - that's actually a big topic, how the electorate is informed in an electronic media age, but it's good that he mentioned it.
  • "Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: 'Men feared witches and burnt women.'" - a faint echo of FDR's "the only thing we have to fear ..."
Again, a great speech. Who wrote it?


Monday, January 16, 2006

Iran - some thoughts:

This all seems very predictable. Bush says he would have invaded Iraq - WMD or no WMD. So not having WMD isn't a deterrent. And from the kid glove treatment North Korea gets, it's not surprising that Iran's leadership would decide to follow suit.

Looking at the map, Iran is surrounded by U.S. occupied Iraq, U.S. dominated Afghanistan, and U.S. allies Turkey and Pakistan (well, sort-of allies). It would seem entirely rational for Iran to want some insurance against being invaded.

From news reports, the Iranians appear to be moving in the direction of a uranium bomb. Advantage: Simple bomb design. Disadvantage: Major pain isolating the isotope. Why not go with a plutonium bomb? Maybe they don't have the technology yet.

Let's say Iran comes up with a nuclear weapon. What are they going to do with it? It's very hard to imagine them using it for a first strike anywhere - and if that's the plan, they need at least two bombs, which if uranium-type could take years to manufacture.

Iran probably is seeking a bomb to defend against the following scenario:
  • Iraq becomes unstable.
  • Iran gets involved (perhaps with other neighboring countries).
  • The U.S. tells Iran to back off.
  • Iran refuses.
  • U.S. attacks Iran to force it to retreat within its borders.
  • Iran threatens to use the bomb in order to get the U.S. to back off.
That scenario is a quick construction, and while we weren't focusing on it, it appears that the initiator for a conflict is not anything to do with Israel, the Palistinians, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the Gulf States. The first domino might be Iraq (more precisely, the southern Shiite sector). Could it be that if Iraq was not invaded in '03, that the Iranians would not be so gung-ho for the bomb? At a minimum, even if the Iranians have the bomb, a stable Iraq would greatly lessen the chance that there would be a military conflict in that region.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Frank Rich gets it wrong:

In Sunday's essay, "Is Abramoff the New Monica?", which mostly attacks Republican swindlers and their religious enablers, Frank Rich writes:
Mr. Bush has disingenuously explained that the lobbyist had been an "equal money dispenser" to those "in both political parties." (To both, yes, but never equally.)
It's our understanding the Abramoff only gave money to Republicans. Abramoff's clients gave money to Democrats, but that's a different statement, not necessarily leading to conclusions of illegal or unethical behavior.


Friday, January 13, 2006

New non-fiction bestseller headed your way:


Thursday, January 12, 2006

What Marshall Wittman is:

There has been a fair amount of discussion about Wittman (aka the Bull Moose) since he castigated critics of Bush's warrantless NSA wiretaps. The latest in this vein is David Sirota's entry at the Huffington Post, Why the DLC Is So Dangerous to Democrats, which is almost completely devoted to examining Wittman.

People argue about Wittman. Are his Christian Coalition days truly over? Is he a real Democrat? What does his membership in the DLC mean? Does he have the best interests of the Democratic Party in mind? Should people pay attention to this guy?

If you follow the Moose's advocacy of issues and tactical advice, you will see that what Whittman is, is:
A guy trying to align the Democratic Party with the policy position of John McCain. So that McCain can be elected president.
That's his mission. He supported McCain in 2000 and he's managed to infiltrate the Democratic sphere, via the I'm-a-critic-of-Bush-portal, in order to defeat liberal opinion and to persuade Democrats that a McCain-like entity is the way to go.

Don't be fooled. All the Bull Moose's "straight talk" is nothing more than a channeling of McCain's "straight talk".


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Clarification on Alito:

In a post below, we look at Alito's claims not to know about CAP's activities or their Prospect magazine. That may be the case. How can it be proved one way or another?

When somebody joins a group that started out with controversial positions and remained controversial throughout the time of membership, he or she can fairly be associated with those views. It's the responsibility of the member to follow the group's activities and act accordingly: stay or leave. Since he didn't leave CAP until 1985, and then without protest, it's entirely reasonable to attribute the group's views to Alito.


Obsidian Wings on Alito and CAP:

From November 2005: (emp add)
CAP would have been just a destructive joke had it not been for what the joke was about. Princeton only started to admit women in 1969. Moreover, Princeton had traditionally been the school where Southerners who wanted their sons to get an ivy league education sent them. Why? Because for a long time Princeton did not admit blacks, and until (iirc) 1967, admitted them only in very, very small numbers:
"A significant development, more recently, concerned blacks and other minority groups. Although a few blacks studied privately with President Witherspoon as early as 1774, and although, beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, black students occasionally earned University degrees, the first appreciable influx did not begin until the 1960s when the University adopted an active recruitment policy for minority students." [ Stephen Dujack, Associate Editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly]
To understand CAP, you really have to understand that until the late 60s, the almost total absence of black students at Princeton was a feature, not a bug. It was one of the reasons people went there.
There's a lot more in that post, which ends with:
CAP was not about opposing affirmative action. It supported quotas that favored white men. CAP was about opposing the presence of women and minorities at Princeton. Period. Moreover, its tactics were despicable. In retrospect, it was one of the first instances of what has now become a familiar pattern: an extremely well-funded organization dedicated to spreading lies about some opponent in an effort to force that opponent to change course through the sheer volume of vitriol and harassment that a lot of money can buy. Samuel Alito pointed with pride to his membership in CAP in 1985.
As Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate:
... CAP was code in 1985 for all the things Alito refused to write on his application and refuses to discuss before the committee now.


Alito doesn't recall, is not familiar with, didn't read, was unaware, didn't see, anything about CAP or their publication, Prospect:

From the Senate Judiciary Hearings on Judge Samuel Alito's Nomination to the Supreme Court (full transcript at the Washington Post): (edited, emp add)
KENNEDY: You called CAP a "conservative alumni group." It also published a publication called Prospect, which includes articles by CAP members about the policies that the organization promoted. You're familiar with that?

ALITO: I don't recall seeing the magazine.

KENNEDY: Did you know that they had a magazine?

ALITO: I've learned of that in recent weeks.

KENNEDY: So a 1983 Prospect essay titled "In Defense of Elitism," stated, quote, "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic. The physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports. And homosexuals are demanding the government vouchsafe them the right to bear children." Did you read that article?

ALITO: I feel confident that I didn't. I'm not familiar with the article ...

KENNEDY: The June '84 edition of Prospect magazine contains a short article on AIDS. ... And the article then goes on with this terrible statement: "Now that the scientists must find humans, or rather homosexuals, to submit themselves to experimental treatment. Perhaps Princeton's Gay Alliance may want to hold an election."   You didn't read that article?

ALITO: I feel confident that I didn't, Senator ...

KENNEDY: In 1973, a year after you graduated, and during your first year at Yale Law School, former Senator Bill Bradley very publicly disassociated himself with CAP because of its right-wing views and unsupported allegations about the university. His letter of resignation was published in The Prospect; garnered much attention on campus and among the alumni. Were you aware of that at the time that you listed the organization in your application?

ALITO: I don't think I was aware of that until recent weeks when I was informed of it.

KENNEDY: And in 1974, an alumni panel including now-Senator Frist unanimously concluded that CAP had presented a distorted, narrow, hostile view of the university. ... Were you aware of that at the time of the job application?

ALITO: I was not aware of that until very recently.

KENNEDY: In 1980, the New York Times article about the coeducation of Princeton, CAP is described as an organization against the admittance of women. In 1980, you were working as an assistant U.S. attorney in Trenton, New Jersey. ... Did you read the New York Times? Did you see this article?

ALITO: I don't believe that I saw the article.

KENNEDY: And did you read a letter from CAP mailed in 1984 -- this is the year before you put CAP on your application -- to every living alumni -- to every living alumni, so I assume you received it -- which declared: "Princeton is no longer the university you knew it to be." As evidence, among other reasons, it cited the fact that admission rates for African-Americans and Hispanics were on the rise, while those of alumni children were failing and Princeton's president at a time urged that the then all-male eating clubs to admit females. And in December 1984, President William Bowen responded by sending his own letter. This is the president of Princeton responded by sending his own letter to all of the alumni in which he called CAP's letter "callous and outrageous." This letter was the subject of a January 1985 Wall Street Journal editorial congratulating President Bowen for engaging his critics in a free and open debate. Did you receive the Bowen letter or did you read the Wall Street Journal, which was pretty familiar reading for certainly a lot of people that were in the Reagan administration?

ALITO: Senator, I've testified to everything that I can recall relating to this, and I do not recall knowing any of these things about the organization.
Doesn't know any of that for an organization he was a member of from about* 1973 to 1985, when he cited his CAP membership in an application for a job at the Justice Department.

*- there doesn't seem to be any record of when Alito joined CAP. Ted Kennedy's WaPo OpEd states that "Alito joined CAP about that time", the time when Sen. Bradley was expressing concerns, 1973.

Powerline comments in the wake of the hearing:
  • "Few care whether Alito joined such a group more than 30 years ago or listed it on a resume 20 years ago."
  • "... he had no ... need to disassociate himself from a .. group that ... was not happy with co-education ...     Again, no big deal. The desirability of co-education [was a] fair [object] for debate."
Powerline doesn't care about truths from 30 years ago, but they sure were enthusiastic regarding lies about Kerry from 30 years ago (see Swift Boat posts 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16)


The uggabugga abortion compromise:

Looking over an interesting post about the potential outlawing of abortion in several states (at Pandagon), we thought the following compromise might be in order:
You can outlaw abortion, but you must also outlaw genetic testing for fatherhood.
We're for tradition, and men, if your wife is pregnant, without abortion and without a paternity test, you get to pay for the little critter. Food and clothing and college. And don't gripe if the kid happens to look like the lothario down the street. That's the way it was back in the good old days before all those pesky medical procedures and tests were available.

Now gentlemen, are you sure you want to outlaw abortion?


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Gestapo Administration

That's the title of of conservative Paul Craig Roberts latest commentary. Roberts is always interesting (archive) and right now he's a very disenchanted conservative. After a delay, he's finally commented on the NSA syping story and he's totally disgusted.

BTW, Roberts "is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury."

No liberal he.


Monday, January 09, 2006

The end:

Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."

Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."

To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section's other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure.

The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.


Think about it: A woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors wants to blog about it without divulging her full name. An aspiring pundit hopes to set up the next A frustrated citizen wants to send e-mail describing corruption in local government without worrying about reprisals.

In each of those three cases, someone's probably going to be annoyed. That's enough to make the action a crime. (The Justice Department won't file charges in every case, of course, but trusting prosecutorial discretion is hardly reassuring.)
UPDATE: Maybe not (via Dadahead)


Happy days are here again!!

Look, over 11,000.

With this comment from's Market Summary:
Just over half of the blue chip average's constituents lend upside, with General Motors (GM 21.86 +1.06) in the driver's seat.
Strong, healthy, dynamic General Motors in the drivers seat!!!

The NASDAQ is no slouch, up 5% in 5 trading days.

And look at your Google stock (surely you bought some) up from 415 to 475, a 14% gain.

Thank goodness Congress is keeping the capital gains tax as low as possible so that everybody can profit from this wonderful economy.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Waiting for Bilmon:

One of our favorite bloggers is Bilmon over at Whiskey Bar. He's apparently taking a break right now (which has lasted weeks) but we're extremely interested in what he would say about the NSA spying and about Bush's claims that the Commander in Chief can do anything whatsoever. Partly because he's a good writer, but also because he's been cautioning readers about presidential overreach for quite some time. Now that Billmon's concerns seem to have materialized (unfettered executive), what's the next step? Both by the presidency and those interested in limiting its power.


They didn't complain back then:

Soldiers in the Bedwetter Brigade, like the boys over at Powerline, had no problem with news like this:
There were many stories like that in the New York Times. Do a search on "eavesdropping al Qaeda" for 2002-2003 and you'll find entries like: ($) (emp add)
The Nation: Terrorists' Talk; Why All That Chatter Doesn't Tell Us Much

THE nation was on high alert last week because of what officials and security experts said was a surge in intercepted communications -- ''chatter'' -- among suspected Qaeda operatives. Although officials said the intercepts indicated that terrorists might have moved closer to an attack, there was still not enough...
And even Powerline got into the act last summer with this post celebrating the British spooks: (emp add)
Al Qaeda Plot Against Parliament Foiled

British authorities apparently have thwarted a poison gas attack on Parliament which may have been timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot. Computers seized in England and Pakistan in recent raids reportedly contained information on the terrorists' plan.

The London Times' account says:
The encrypted e-mails are said to have been decoded with the help of an Al-Qaeda "supergrass". By revealing the terrorists' code he was also able to help MI5 and GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre at Cheltenham, to crack several more plots.
I've never heard the term "supergrass," but it sounds like an informer or double agent. If so, that's great: al Qaeda has been notoriously hard to infiltrate.

UPDATE: A great many readers have written to confirm that in Britain, "grass" is slang for "informer," so a "supergrass" is a high-level informer or mole. Excellent.
Notice there was no complaint from these guys when news was reported about "intercepted communications", "eavesdropping centre", or decoding "encrypted e-mails". Why not?

But when a story breaks like this:
Suddenly the Bedwetter Brigade is all upset over a disclosure that they claim will help al Qaeda.

The answer to why they didn't compalin earlier about the intelligence operations is that folks like Powerline and Hugh Hewitt and the rest are simply supporters of Bush. That's all there is to it. There is no principle involved (except fealty to Bush). Something damages Bush politically, and they come out attacking with the panoply of charges that they always have ready (soft on terror, risk national security, disrespect/dishonor the presidency).

NOTE ABOUT Bedwetter Brigade: This seems to be the new term for referring to those who magnify the terror threat all out of proportion. We like it. This blog has been on record for years asserting that al Qaeda is not a major threat. They conveyed the impression of being a big threat when they had an Air Force for a couple of hours (hijacking the planes), and, as Juan Cole aptly puts it, made a "theatrical" attack on the U.S.   Proper analysis requires that the inherent capabilities of a foe be used to judge risk, a low-probablity event that happened to take place. Especially when that avenue has been subsequently closed (with secure cockpit doors).

If it wasn't for the fact that the Twin Towers were hit - giving everybody the chance to watch the eventual collapse of the buildings - it's unlikely that Bush would have been able to play the Terrorist Threat Card. Would a terrorist attack in 2001 killing, say, 300 people in a mall, without cameras to show the real-time homicide, been enough to get the nation to support Bush's Iraq war? We doubt it.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Commander in Chief:

Bush and his supporters use the argument that since the president is the Commander in Chief, it allows him to do pretty much anything he wants in the way of defending the nation - including authorizing the NSA to wiretap without court oversight. You know, the classic John Yoo position. However, a closer look at the U.S. Constitution reads thustly:
Article II

Section 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;
Which is our understanding. The president commands the armed forces of this country, to do as he sees fit for defense. The Constitution does not say the president is the Commander in Chief of the entire executive branch. He is not allowed to order anything he pleases - in terms of operations - with other parts of the executive branch (Interior, CIA, Justice, NSA, etc.) without authorization by Congress.

The next time a Bush supporter talks glibly about the Commander in Chief, the correct response is to say, "No, you mean the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy." The full title. So that claims like:
The Commander in Chief has the authority to direct the NSA to wiretap without a warrant.
Turn into:
The Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy has the authority to direct the NSA to wiretap without a warrant.
Which clearly indicates a "boundary crossing" of power; and - correctly - sounds wrong as a point of basic logic.

Yeah, it's a strict, textual interpretation of the Constitution. Ya gotta problem wid dat?


Bare knuckles:

Bush and the White House is at it again: (excerpts, emp add)
Bush Assails Democrats Over Patriot Act

President Bush accused Democrats yesterday of blocking a full reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act for political reasons, as the White House stepped up an aggressive campaign to defend the president's terrorism-fighting authority.

"For partisan reasons, in my mind, people have not stepped up," Bush told reporters, with 19 federal prosecutors by his side.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, speaking to reporters earlier in the day, said Senate Democrats are simply doing the bidding of liberal special interest groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the broad surveillance power authorized by the act. Democrats are trying to "appease" the ACLU "because they want to weaken and undermine the Patriot Act," McClellan said.

Adopting campaign-style tactics, Bush and his aides plan to accuse Democrats of jeopardizing national security to further their political agenda, a tack that worked well for the White House in the 2002 and 2004 elections.
Let us be clear here. Bush and McClellan are saying that Democrats are opposing provisions in the USA Patriot Act, not on any principle, but in order to damage Bush politically and curry favor with liberal special interest groups. They are saying that the Democratic party, with a distinct governing philosophy, is not acting on principle with regard to the Patriot Act, but instead acting only to diminish the Republicans.

That's cheap and wrong. Perhaps the only practicable response is to return the favor. Say that everything Bush and the Republicans do is "politics". Just say it again and again and again. And again.


Watching Nightline on the west coast:

Wow, talk about compressing emotion.

We hadn't followed the West Virginia coal mine incident at all, but it was the topic on Nightline Tuesday so we watched the program.

Nightline gave a report in the order of events: First the mining accident and the great concern about those imperiled. At this point one miner was reported dead, but nobody knew about the remaining twelve. This was accompanied by interviews with some of the families involved, including a young man whose father was trapped below. The young man was saying, almost with a smile, that his dad told him never to go work in a mine. His attitude was remarkably sanguine, considering the circumstances. The Nightline reporter on the spot, John Donvan, told him so, and the young man said, "wait until you see me hours from now" - clearly indicating he was keeping a lot of emotion under wraps. Then the joyful news that the twelve were all alive. But that segment closed on a sober note when viewers learned that the one miner who had died, was the father of the young man we'd seen earlier.

Then there was a short segment on the Abramoff story.

Nightline returned to West Virginia and Donvan interviewed Ann and Dan Meridith, children of one of the twelve that were alive. (Their dad, by the way, was 61 years old and had been a miner for over 30 years.) They recounted how they learned of the good news - in a church, amidst much confusion. Then it was time for a commercial break.

After the break, and in an update for viewers on the west coast, came the incredible news that the reports from the scene were that all miners, the first one and the remaining twelve, were dead. John Donvan, the Nightline reporter on the scene, was clearly shaken. And so must have been a lot of viewers on the west coast who saw the story turn from disaster to hope to sadness for the young man to rejoycing over the news eveyone else was saved to learning that everybody was dead. One cannot but help think of the young man and Ann and Dan Meridith, all who were interviewed while they held out hope or believed the worst was over.

It was a powerful story, partly because the story was so compressed (within the 22 minutes of a Nightline, even less when you take out the 6 minute Abramoff segment). And partly because of the last-5-minutes, live, tacked on ending, breaking the trajectory of the "east coast" put-to-bed positive report, and ending with a jolt to the reporters and the viewers.

An amazing, but sad, event to watch.

UPDATE: There may be one survivor (of the twelve). It's all very confusing at the moment.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cui bono?

With all the talk about the "bipartisan" nature of the Abramoff scandal, we took a look at the list of characters (politicians only) as posted on Thinkprogress (via Firedoglake via Digby). Instead of a simple Republican/Democrat breakdown, we thought it would be instructive to also consider the state the politician represented, Red or Blue (according to the 2004 presidential election results). Here is the matrix:

What political interests were being served by Abramoff's money, liberal-Democratic-blue or conservative-Republican-red?

CORRECTION: Anonymous pointed out that our initial matrix had Conrad Burns of Wyoming from a blue state, but should be classified red state.


Brownstein: Bush = Polk, Iraq War = Mexican War:

In the Los Angeles Times, Ronald Brownstein writes: (excerpts)
The president whom George W. Bush may resemble most is ... James K. Polk ...

When Mexico wouldn't sell him the territory, Polk claimed that the border of Texas extended much farther South than when it had been a Mexican state, and provocatively sent U.S. troops to occupy the disputed terrain. Mexico, which had rattled sabers itself, attacked and war began. It didn't end for nearly two years, proving much costlier and bloodier than the president had anticipated.

Among the Whigs most outraged by Polk's conduct was a freshman U.S. House member from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln.   ...   Shortly after taking office ... Lincoln voted for a Whig resolution that charged the president with "unnecessarily and unconstitutionally" initiating the war. To accept Polk's justifications, Lincoln later complained, would be to "allow the president to invade a neighboring nation … whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary."

Bush, like Polk, launched a war whose initial justification has spawned bitter dispute. And, like Polk, Bush has seen that war become more grueling and divisive than he had expected.
What's surprising is that Brownstein omits a very well known remark by president Ulysses Grant (who served in the Mexican War). Grant said the Mexican War was:
"one of the most unjust ever waged on a weaker country by a stronger"


Monday, January 02, 2006

Sending the wrong message?

When Bush defends his illegal spying by the NSA, he oftens says things like, "We have to track al Qaeda communications." But by bringing up al Qaeda, one naturally things two things:
  • Are we really fighting al Qaeda in Iraq?
  • Where the hell is Osama?
Especially the latter. If getting the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens was such a necessary step, then why wasn't there a full-scale attempt to get Bin Laden & Co. in Tora Bora? The failure of Bush to bag the leadership becomes striking.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Jon Meacham doesn't know history:

On Meet the Press today, the following took place: (emp add)
The hard left will get upset with Hillary for positioning herself in a way that she could win. I think--ultimately I think this is probably McCain v. Hillary, and if I were John McCain, I would raise a--start a PAC to make sure Rudy Giuliani gets in the race so that McCain looks like the centrist, the Reagan figure. He needs--I think George Bush Sr. is the model here for Giuliani. Reagan needed a George Bush Sr. so he didn't look like the most conservative guy in the field in 1980, and I think McCain needs somebody, and it would be Giuliani on that side, to make him look like the centrist Reaganist figure.
Got that? In 1980, Reagan needed a more conservative candidate in the field, in this case Bush Sr., so that Reagan would look less extreme.

What the?

Who were the Republicans trying to get the nomination in 1908? These guys:
  • John Bayard Anderson, U.S. representative from Illinois
  • Howard Baker, U.S. senator from Tennessee and Senate Minority Leader
  • George H.W. Bush, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former chairman of the Republican National Committee
  • John Connally, former governor of Texas, former Secretary of the Navy, and former Secretary of the Treasury
  • Phil Crane, U.S. representative from Illinois
  • Bob Dole, U.S. senator from Kansas and 1976 vice-presidential nominee
  • Ronald Reagan, former governor of California and former candidate for the 1976 presidential nomination
Phil Crane was the most conservative of the pack (Wikipedia: He soon established himself as one of the House's most conservative members, leading a small but growing cluster of right-wingers). Dole and Connally were viewed as conservative. Bush and Baker were seen as moderates - to the left of Reagan. Yet here we have managing editor of Newsweek magazine, Meacham, spouting total nonsense.


More Matthews:

What's with this guy? On the last day of 2005, his weekend "Chris Matthews Show" spent time - yet again - on who might run for president in 2008. Instead of focusing on real issues and campaigns in 2006, Matthews engages in a total waste of time. What is gained by speculating now on a political situation that will not be clear until the 2006 elections are over?

These Matthews shows on 2008 allow him to get all excited about John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. And show his hostility towards Hilary Clinton.

Speaking of which, here is what Matthews asked Norah O'Donnel ("Nor") about the New Hampsire primaries: (emp add) (250k .wav file here)
Are we talking about somebody going up there, Nor, and actually taking Hilary's head off? Not just running for V.P. secretly but really trying to knock her off and grab that nomination away from her.
Actually taking Hilary's head off. That's what a manly man would say amongst men.

Matthews is becoming a joke when it comes to the macho strutting. A few weeks ago, when discussion Giuliani and McCain, he said that they both had "street cred". You know, the kind of thing that gets respect from a gang of (male) bullies.

But that wasn't enough for Matthews! No. In a subsequent Chris Matthews Show, he discarded talk of Giuliani having "street cred". Now it was - get this - "street corner cred".

Matthews is exhibit A when it comes to highlighting the shallowness of the Beltway Pundit crowd.

Street corner cred, indeed.