Saturday, September 30, 2006

Telegrams from Outer Space: David Brooks Edition

David Brooks wrote another characteristically boneheaded op-ed piece in the NYT yesterday, titled "The Grand Delusion." And yes, the irony of the title is completely unintended. Brooks does his best work (illustrating the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of "moderate" Republicanism) by accident.

Here's my favorite part of the op-ed:

To his eternal credit, after 9/11 George Bush quickly understood that the terror threat was fundamentally an ideological threat, a product of deep historical consciousness.
What do you even say to a guy who thinks Bush deserves "eternal credit" for understanding the fundamental nature of the terror threat? Isn't that just completely and totally wrong, in an Orwellian up-is-down way? Isn't the truth of the matter that Bush's "understanding" of the terror threat is fundamentally cartoon-like? Look, you may or may not agree with me that Bush is an imbecile and that his access to objective reality appears to be so tenuous as to be virtually non-existent. But to claim that Bush deserves "eternal credit" (eternal!) for apprehending some elusive truth about the real nature of the "terror threat" is just, well, boneheaded.

House GOP Leaders Aid and Abet Underage Gay Sex Abuse

Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner and Republican Speaker Denny Hastert each appears to have aided and abetted GOP Rep. Mark Foley's sexual abuse of underage boys under their care.

The tip of the iceberg is all over the news. As the WaPo puts it:

Six-term Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned yesterday amid reports that he had sent sexually explicit Internet messages to at least one underage male former page.
First, the Entertainment. ABC News just owns the fun creepy old man teen gay porn details part of this story. Here are some of the instant message exchanges with underage boys that sealed Republican Congressman Foley's fate. Foley goes by the screenname "Maf54":
Maf54: You in your boxers, too?
Teen: Nope, just got home. I had a college interview that went late.
Maf54: Well, strip down and get relaxed.
Maf54: What ya wearing?
Teen: tshirt and shorts
Maf54: Love to slip them off of you.
Maf54: Do I make you a little horny?
Teen: A little.
Maf54: Cool.

But here's where this thing turns into Christmas Morning for people who yearn for a Democratic takeover of the House. It turns out the Republican leadership knew about Foley's sexual misconduct for months and allowed it to continue. It's not just that they were generally aware that Foley had a thing for underage boys. No, it's way worse than that. It looks like they were specifically told about specific instances of predatory sexual misconduct by Foley concerning underage boys working as Congressional pages. The WaPo writes:

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

So let's be clear about this. The real scandal is not that a creepy Republican Congressman was chasing after underage boys in his care -- though hey, I'll take it. The real scandal is this: Republican Congressional leaders -- specifically Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner and Republican Speaker Denny Hastert -- appear to have aided and abetted Rep. Foley's sexual abuse of underage boys under their care. They knew it was going on, they covered up reports that it was going on, and they allowed it to continue. At a minimum, they should resign immediately.

Here are the talking points I would give to Democratic surrogates to deliver on TV and in press interviews:

1) Given what is already known, both Boehner and Hastert appear to have been complicit in Foley's abuse of underage boys under their care. They should resign immediately.

2) A police investigation (not an "inquiry" or anything like that) needs to determine whether they broke the law.

3) Even though Boehner and Hastert need to resign immediately, we still need to know: What did they know, when did they know it, and who else in the GOP did they tell about it.

And now that the GOP has disappeared Rep. Foley, here is how I'm betting they run the damage control operation:

1) Vigorously denounce Foley's misconduct. "We're just as disgusted as you are, probably more so." "How were we supposed to know this guy was a closet Democrat?" If necessary, bring Foley back from his new digs in Guantanamo Bay for a public confession, in which he completely absolves Roehmer and Hastert of any possible knowledge of what he was up to.

2) Go on the offensive.

(i) Attack the Demorats: "But the Democrats are the ones who are pushing the Homosexual Agenda!" "Barney Frank had a gay prostitution scandal and the Democrats stood behind him." "The Democrats were hearing the same rumors we were hearing."

(ii) Attack the media: "You never go after Barney Frank for being gay. You're a bunch of hypocrites." "The people would rather talk about the issues." "The Beltway media was hearing the same rumors we were hearing. Why didn't you write about it?"

(iii) Attack homosexuals. The strategic objective for the GOP here is to get the media to repeat homophobic memes in questions to Democrats, and generally to get the media to conflate the sexual exploitation of teenagers with homosexuality. For example: "But how do you respond to the charge that it's the Democrats, not the Republicans, who support gay rights?"

3) Put big pressure on the media not to refer to Foley as a "Republican." After all, he's an "ex-Republican" now, right? And isn't he objectively more of a Democrat than a Republican? He was never really one of us. See number 2.

4) Boehner and Hastert would love to comment on this and show you the super secret paperwork showing all the hard work they did to shut this guy down, but it would be inappropriate for them to discuss the matter while the Ethics Committee investigates. The Chairman of the Ethics committee could even specifically request that nobody talk about the matter publicly until the Committee has a chance to fully review the evidence... in December.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

October Surprise: Much Worse Than You Think

Dems are poised to win back the House. Will there be an October Surprise? In a word: Yes. The only surprise will be if the country isn't on red alert by the week after next.

1) If the Dems pick up the House, they thereby pick up the ability to effectively investigate White House and White House-sponsored misconduct.

2) Democratic investigations of White House and White House-sponsored misconduct are likely to uncover serious wrongdoing and egregious misconduct. Obviously there's no way for outsiders to know ahead of time what aggressive investigations might uncover, but the White House knows. As a general proposition, we know that this gang is disposed to lawlessness, radicalism and corruption. They've been operating without Congressional oversight for years, in a war- and propaganda-induced climate of fear. With a few notable exceptions, the press has been AWOL. Given what we know about these guys, and given that they've been operating essentially without any constraints on their conduct for so long, my speculation is that there is lots and lots of misconduct waiting to be uncovered. How afraid is the White House of facing a Dem-controlled House? Very, very afraid.

3) If the White House were constrained by either respect for the rule of law or adherence to the conventions and traditions undergirding the American system of government, it would be Document Shredding Time at the White House. If these were traditional wrongdoers facing the prospect of being caught, they would be trying to cover up the evidence of their wrongdoing.

4) This White House does not operate on the basis of respect for the rule of law or adherence to the institutional traditions and customs underlying the American system of government. These guys are lawless radicals. Sure, if it comes to that they'll try to cover up evidence. But whereas traditional wrongdoers might cut straight to that step, this gang has a more primal impulse: holding onto power and retaining total control.

5) If it looks like they're going to lose the House, let alone the House and the Senate, the White House will resort to extraordinary means to change that outcome. There is almost nothing they won't do. To put it mildly, this White House does not distinguish between domestic electoral politics and foreign policy, even in matters of war.

6) Please take a moment to let this sink in. If it looks like they're going to lose the mid-term elections, these guys will try to sweep the pieces off the chessboard, whatever it takes. Bombing Iran? Yes, absolutely. Bombing, blockade, whatever it takes. Mounting some sort of fantasy land special forces commando raid snipe hunt to capture Bin Laden based on "new actionable" evidence? Yes, absolutely. Foiling a trumped up domestic terror plot? Yes, they would do it. Using tactical nuclear weapons? If they thought it would help, yes they would do it.

7) For clarity and emphasis: if it looks like the GOP is going to lose the House, the White House will take the country to Red Alert. Wag the dog? Sure, but it won't just be show business. These guys are prepared to do the real thing, on a big scale if necessary.

8) Are Dem leaders prepared for this? They need to be. What happens if we wake up one morning and the White House announces that Operation Bomb Iran to Freedom has begun, what will Dem leaders do? Will they salute? Will they "give the President the benefit of the doubt?" Will they be considering the issue for the first time?

Dems need to be ready for this. We all need to be ready for this.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Katie Couric Credibility Deathwatch: It's Over

I haven't seen Katie Couric read the news on CBS yet. But I did see her fawning, imbecilic, cringe-inducing, hero-worshipping fluff piece on Condi Rice on 60 Minutes last Sunday. I didn't like it.

Others have commented on the interview. They've nailed it. I don't have much to add on that front. So let me speculate as to what the Katie Hearts Condi 60 Minutes fiasco tells us about Katie Couric as Serious Journalist.

I'm sure that Katie Couric is fairly smart. I'd seen her on the Today show a few times, and she seemed pretty quick on her feet. And as trite as this sounds, it's hard to see how someone can be as successful as she's been in the media game without being at least reasonably intelligent.

So how do you explain her performance on 60 Minutes? How do you explain her decision to treat an interview with the Secretary of State of the United States, a key player in the Bush Administration, in the middle of an election campaign, at a time when America is bogged down in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and may well soon initiate a war with Iran, as an opportunity to produce a campaign commercial-style fluff piece for the benefit of her subject?

You can rule out any "management made her do it" theory right off the bat. No, her Condi interview was part of the CBS News Katie Couric Product Launch, and she's got a major say in how that campaign in run. Now, I have no insight into or interest in how Katie Couric made the decision as a psychological matter. But here's what the fact of the decision tells us:

As a journalist, as a serious newsperson, Katie Couric is incompetent. Utterly, completely and irredeemably incompetent.

How did this come to pass? I don't know, but allow me to speculate. The likely explanation is that she lacks relevant domain-specific experience and knowledge. How do you think she would do if you plucked her up from the CBS newsroom and gave her a shot at being a real estate partner in a law firm? Would you hire her as a heart surgeon?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that reading the news requires as much training or knowledge as something like heart surgery. And to the extent Couric's anchor job just requires her to read from a teleprompter, I'm sure she'll manage just fine. But as the 60 Minutes fiasco demonstrates, she has terrible journalistic judgment. To the extent that her job requires her to make distinctions, to exercise discretion in order to make tough calls about what's important and what isn't, forget it.

Now, maybe you think I'm being a bit harsh. After all, I didn't just say that she is "incompetent", but that she is "irredeemably incompetent." Well, I think I can resolve any doubts you may have. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you (h/t to Charles Pierce) Katie Couric's blog, Couric & Co. Read this and then tell me if you disagree.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Substance Doesn't Matter: Broder Edition

David Broder writes another characteristically boneheaded op-ed piece in today's WaPo, titled The Tide's In for Independents. It's the usual stuff Broder mails in from the counter-reality he inhabits in which America's problems are, in order of importance: (i) Democratic incivility and (ii) a reckless Bush presidency that is destroying the "traditional conservative heritage."

As Josh Marshall points out, Broder doesn't mention the torture debate at all in his latest column, let alone the fact that the "compromise" was in effect the Bush position, despite having pointed to Independent Maverick McCain's Brave Strand as a watershed moment in the transformation of the American political landscape in his previous boneheaded column. Here's why I'm not surprised.

The essential feature of Broderism is a disregard for political substance. I'm not a mind reader, and I don't pretend to have any insight into (or interest in) how the guy comes to his views as a psychological matter. But if you read a few of his columns, you'll see a pattern: the reasons he gives for the views and preferences that he expresses generally have nothing to do with substantive issues. War, peace, Iraq, Iran, the economy, social security, whatever. He doesn't seem to care.

In his last column, Independence Days, Broder did cite a substantive issue -- the Geneva Conventions / torture issue. But read his column carefully. He wasn't arguing that McCain et al. deserved support because of the particular stand they were taking on that issue. Rather, Broder's argument was that the defiance of their own party by the Mavericks was important in that it "...signaled the emergence of an independent force in elections and government." And what was the meaning of the Rebel Revolt? That torture is wrong? That America is better than this? Er, not even close. Broder: "What it really signals is a new movement in this country -- what you could rightly call the independence party." For Broder, the particular issue at hand was important only to the extent it reinforced the "signal" the Independents were sending: "This movement is not new, but the moral scale of the issue -- torture -- and the implications for both constitutional and international law give it an epic dimension, even if it is ultimately settled by compromise." Epic moral scale bonus points in the cause of restoring civility to Washington!

It follows from his disregard for political substance that Broder isn't interested in evidence or information that has probative value in relation to political substance. Since Broder doesn't particularly care about substantive political issues (again, going by the reasons he gives for the views that he expresses), it shouldn't be surprising that evidence and information don't interest him.

It really says something about contemporary American political life that a guy as vacuous as David Broder can achieve near-universal recognition as the "Dean" of Washington journalists. But I think he's playing out his last bit of string. Broder's "whither civility" schtick worked when you had a grownup like Bill Clinton running the show, so people could convince themselves that Democrats and Republicans were all the same, that Gore was no different from W, that lying about a blowjob was the most important thing in the world and all that.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Front Page News at the New York Times

On the front page of the NYT website right now, they're running a fawning love letter to Donald Rumsfeld by David Cloud. This hard hitting journalism is headlined "Rumsfeld Also Plays Hardball on Squash Courts."

You can't make this stuff up. Reports the intrepid Cloud:

In some ways, squash offers a window into Mr. Rumsfeld’s complicated psyche, revealing much about his stubborn competitiveness and seemingly limitless stamina. Pentagon officials and employees say Mr. Rumsfeld’s play closely resembles the way he has run the Defense Department, where he has spent six years trying to break the accepted modes of operating.
And this:

On the court, “he is very aggressive and he is very intense,’’ Mr. Di Rita said.“He is very good at getting inside your head. He’s everything you would expectDonald Rumsfeld to be.”
And in case you were looking for it, here's the bit they threw in by way of an excuse to put this drivel on the front page of the most valuable newspaper real estate in the entire world:

Mr. Rumsfeld himself has suggested that his ideas about transforming the military into a smaller, more agile force, like the one he pushed for in invading Iraq, were influenced by his squash playing.

In an interview with the military writer Thomas P. M. Barnett last year, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “I play squash with him,” gesturing at Mr. Di Rita. “When I pass him in a shot and it’s a well-played hard shot, I saw [sic] speed kills. And it does. If you can do something very fast you can get your job done and save a lot of lives.”

I'd make a joke about what a crap squash player he must be if military ideas were influenced by his game, but it's obviously just a cheap laugh line the reporter wrote into the article, not even a recent quote.

So what's an article like this doing on the front page of the NYT at the height of election season, with one war raging in the background and another one possibly in the works? I don't know, but this line makes it sound like Cloud thinks this Elizabeth Bumiller-style portrait is the price to pay for lining up a squash date with Rumsfeld: "Mr. Rumsfeld has declined invitations to play against reporters, as well as to describe his game for this article."

The Case of Maher Arar (One)

I've been reading the Report of the Canadian Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar, written by Justice Dennis O'Connor, the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario. As I've mentioned before, the Report and lots of supporting documentation are available at the Commission's website.

There's so much in this Report that is of interest that it's hard to know where to begin. So let me start with this: How does a person become a terror suspect?

One of the ways in which a person can show up on the U.S. national security radar and come to the attention of national security authorities as a potential Evildoer is through tips and information provided by the agencies and officials of foreign governments. Of course, foreign governments aren't the only source of information for U.S. authorities -- other sources include direct tips from informants, information gleaned from the interrogation of captured terror suspects, surveillance, etc. But information sharing with foreign governments plays a major role.

Now consider the case of Maher Arar. From the Report:

Towards the end of October 2001, Canada Customs placed border lookouts for Mr. Arar and his wife [...]. [There were "reasonable grounds" for the lookout itself, but] the lookout for Mr. Arar was designated a "terrorism" lookout. According to a Canada Customs bulletin, that designation is used when someone issuspected of being a member, associate or sympathizer of a known terrorist organization. Mr. Arar did not meet these criteria. He was not suspected ofbeing a member of a terrorist organization and should not have been labelled in this fashion in the lookout. To do so was unfair to Mr. Arar, who was merely a person of interest. It is essential that precise and accurate language be used when describing an individual's role in a terrorism-related investigation, particularly in these times of heightened concerned about public safety and national security. Labels have a way of sticking to individuals, reputations are easily damaged and when labels are inaccurate, serious unfairness to individuals can result. (Report, p.19) (Emphasis mine)

Welcome to the computer system as a guy with a "terrorism lookout," Mr. Arar. Enjoy your flight! The Report goes on:

Project A-O Canada [a Canadian anti-terrorism task force] supplied the American agencies with a good deal of inaccurate information about Mr. Arar, some of which was inflammatory and unfairly prejudicial to him. [...] [I]n its request for U.S. border lookouts, Project A-O Canada described Mr. Arar and his wife as Islamic extremists suspected of being linked to the al-Qaeda movement. Everyone who testified accepts that this description was wrong and should not have been given to the Americans. There was no basis for such an assertion. The request was sent to U.S. Customs in late October 2001, but it was also given directly to the American agencies five months later, in April 2002. The potential consequences of labelling someone an Islamic extremist in post- 9/11 America are enornous. (Report, p.27) (emphasis mine)

So, now you have a guy with a "terrorist lookout" message flashing on every computer screen in U.S. law enforcement, and a bunch of U.S. agencies have been notified that he's an Islamic extremist with ties to al Qaeda. Except it's all bullshit.

With this in mind, consider President Bush's statement yesterday about the necessity of his CIA torture program:

I had a single test for the pending legislation, and that's this: Would the CIA operators tell me whether they could go forward with the program, that is a program to question detainees to be able to get information to protect the American people. I'm pleased to say that this agreement preserves the most single - most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks, and that is the CIA program to question the world's most dangerous terrorists and to get their secrets.

The single most potent tool he has to protect the American people is his program to torture "the world's most dangerous terrorists and get their secrets." And how does he know they're terrorists again?

More tomorow.

Zombie Journalism: Reuters Edition

John in DC at Americablog flags this misleading report by Reuters typist Joanne Morrison. Here is a copy of a letter I sent to the Reuters editors from the Contact a Reuters Editor link on their website.

I never used to do stuff like this -- send letters to the editor, call television stations to complain, etc. But for the past year or so I've been all over it. The Right has been incredibly successful at working the refs. We need to do it too. Over time and in sufficient numbers, it makes a diference.

To Whom It May Concern:

The September 22, 2006 Reuters story titled "Clinton faults Bush for inaction on bin Laden" by Joanne Morrison contains a highly misleading paragraph.

Ms. Morrison writes: "Earlier this month, Clinton dismissed as "indisputably wrong" a U.S. television show that suggested her was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal to confront the Islamic militant threat that culminated in the September 11 attacks." While the quotation may be accurate, Ms. Morrison's presentation of it is bound to mislead readers into believing that there is actually some controversy as to whether President Clinton was too distracted by the Lewinsky scandal to confront al Qaeda. In point of fact, there is no controversy whatsoever on this point.

As the Report of the 911 Commission makes crystal clear, this claim is completely contradicted by all the available evidence. As one hopes Reuters and Ms. Morrison are aware, numerous former Clinton Administration officials involved in the counter-terrorism effort have testified that this claim is completely false.

To the extent that it was appropriate to raise a discredited and demonstrably false allegation against President Clinton in this news report, the counterpoint to the allegation should not have been a denial of the spurious allegation by President Clinton, but the well-established and widely reported facts of the matter. The relevant facts are in the public record. One hopes that Reuters and Ms. Morrison are aware of them.

Do you think, on reflection, that a reader of Ms. Morrison's report who relied upon it without having independent knowledge of its subject matter, would tend to be mislead as to whether or not the allegation against President Clinton might be credible? I would suggest that the answer to that question is a clear, Yes.

In closing, let me say that the primary issue at hand is neither fairness to President Clinton nor "balance" in news reporting. Rather, the issue is fairness to your readers, who deserve not to be mislead as to truth or falsity of allegations that you choose to repeat in your news reports.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply.


Eric […]

A Reminder: This Election Really Matters

While the conduct of Dem leaders in the Geneva Conventions debacle has been pathetic, it would be a huge mistake to pretend that this election doesn't matter, that Dems are just as bad as Republicans, or that things are so screwed up that nothing matters anymore.

For starters: Republicans want to stay in Iraq, bomb Iran, suppress the basic oversight function required to be served by Congress in the American system of government, transform America into a police state (and yes, it could get much, much worse than it is now), cement America's post-9/11 adversarial relationship to most of the world, weaken the UN, dismantle social security, further stack the federal judiciary (not just the Supreme Court) with lunatics, further erode the separation of Church and State, amend the Constitution to entrench discrimination against homosexual Americans and roll back already insufficient environmental protections just as it becomes clear that the global warming crisis is far more severe than most of us had realized. It's so painful to watch Dem leaders blow it precisely because the stakes are so high.

In 2000, lots of people supported Nader on the theory that there was no meaningful difference between Gore and Bush. That's looking like a pretty dumb call right now, isn't it? Wouldn't punishing the Dems for their incompetence by staying home on election day be even dumber, now that everybody has the benefit of hindsight?

UPDATE: Edited to change "function ... played" to "function ... served".

Stuff to Feel Good About

In the wake of the Geneva Conventions debacle, here is a partial list of Things to Feel Good About, adapted from a comment I left on Glenn Greenwald's excellent blog, Unclaimed Territory. To be clear, this is not a "There's a silver lining in every cloud" type of post. There are no silver linings here.

(1) The 50-state project and the rebuilding of Democratic Party infrastructure on a national scale. I give Howard Dean tons of credit for seeing the importance of this project so clearly and for executing the vision.

(2) and, more generally, the development of political institutions of the Left (or what is considered "Left" at this moment in American political history). Over time, these may rival or prevail over the incredibly effective machine the Right has assembled.

(3) Media Matters for America. David Brock deserves a ton of credit for this.

(4) Crashing the Gates, the left blogosphere and the emergence of a new self-conscious political community, capable of sharing messages and, in some cases, organizing. DailyKos, Firedoglake, MyDD, etc.

(5) The re-emergence of the tradition of the politically engaged public intellectual (different in kind from the professional columnist and TV pundit), primarily though not exclusively through the medium of blogging.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Democrats Vow Not To Give Up Hopelessness

This article from the Onion, written last February, perfectly captures the tenor of today's Geneva Conventions debacle for Democrats. Consider this "quote" from Nancy Pelosi:
"In times like these, when the American public is palpably dismayed with the political status quo, it is crucial that Democrats remain unfocused and defer to the larger, smarter, and better-equipped Republican machine," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said. "If we play our cards right, we will be intimidated to the point of total paralysis."

Cue nervous laughter...

Torture Debacle Post Mortem

The Democratic leadership blew this one in a huge way. Hiding under the bed on this was just unbelievably stupid and reinforced the worst stereotypes of Dems as weak and standing for nothing.

What hurts the most is not that we lost the Geneva Conventions battle, it's that we lost it because our leaders froze up and wet themselves, even though we wanted them to fight and would have supported them to the hilt if they had.

I don't think there's anything more to say by way of a post mortem.

Looking forward, it's hugely important that Democrats win back the House, at a minimum. Even when the leadership gets rolled in the most embarassing way, rank and file Democrats need to stay motivated to win this thing. There are massive differences between Democrats and Republicans. For starters, Republicans want to stay in Iraq, bomb Iran and transform America into a police state.

Heckuva Job, Harry

This is horrible.

The substance of the Geneva Conventions "compromise" is going to be the stuff of nightmares. And good luck to the Dem leadership selling this as an instance of Rubber Stamp Republicans caving and going along with Bush!

By sitting on the sidelines throughout this whole piece of Kabuki, our national Dem pols let the GOP frame crystalize: this was Courageous Rebel Republicans led by Straight Talking Maverick Saint John McCain standing up to the Bush White House. And the story isn't going to come out "McCain Caved"... it's going to be "Fearless Saint McCain Stared Bush Down".

Just yesterday, Harry Reid told the AP that the Dem leadership was "sitting on the sidelines watching the GOP catfights." Having called the debate about whether Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions should be edited by Bush a "catfight", how is our Dem leadership now supposed to argue that McCain caved on a matter of supreme importance? Having decided to sit on the sidelines as if this was just all a process story about intra-GOP squabbling, they just can't do it. Can they argue that the whole debate was phony, that this was all Kabuki? Well, they could have argued that... LAST WEEK! But that ship has sailed.

I want the Dems to win the House back so badly it physically hurts. Judging by the lunacy coming out of the White House and the op-ed pages of our major newspapers, it looks like winning the House back is literally the only way to prevent a new war with Iran, let alone wind down the one in Iraq. But the Dem leadership has got to shake off this stupor they're in and get in the game.

The war for control of the House isn't lost -- far from it. The odds are we'll win. But there's no way we should be saying "Heckuva job, Brownie" to Reid, Pelosi and Emmanuel for this. By hiding under the bed and letting the GOP run this play unopposed, they blew this battle BIGTIME.

I Told You So

I told you so.

Straight Talking Maverick Rebel Saint John McCain fearlessly stared down the Bush White House. I'm going to be sick.

That is all.

Bonehead Zen: They Complete Each Other

David "Dean of Washington Journalists" Broder has a characteristically boneheaded op-ed piece on American politics in today's WaPo, titled "Independence Days". JoshMarshall's summary is pretty faithful to the full version, though I would have put the "moderates" in quotes:
Shorter David Broder: Bush is a lawless president at war with the constitution. Also, Gore and Kerry, who opposed him, are know-it-alls I don't like. Hopefully Republican moderates and Lieberman can all get reelected so the country can be saved.
And over at the NYT, David Brooks has a characteristically boneheaded op-ed piece titled "Lessons From UN Week" (behind the Subscription Wall of Eventual Irrelevance).

Shorter David Brooks: Having listened to Rush Limbaugh, I am here to tell you that all Americans except for members of elites like me understand the Lesson that the UN sucks and the Iranians and Arabs are crazy and irrational so we have no choice but to blow them to smithereens in a clash of civilizations.

Even Shorter David Brooks: I'm on Board for Attacking Iran.

Broder and Brooks: So completely wrong it almost physically hurts to read their stuff. This is elite punditry in 2006. The solution to America's problems in the wake of the Iraq disaster? Broder: The only people who can save us are pro-war right wing Republicans like McCain and their fellow travellers. Brooks: Onward to Tehran!

Brooks and Broder: in a Bonehead Zen sort of way, they sort of complete each other.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ned Lamont is a Rock Star!

I love this guy. Check out his interview with the Prospect.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Arar Commission Website

Here is a link to the official site of the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar, where you can download the Report and other materials.

Surreal Bush UN Speech

I just saw a replay of the part of Bush's speech to the UN General Assembly today in which he purported to speak directly to the Iranian people. He said:

To the people of Iran: The United States respects you; we respect your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization. You deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential. The greatest obstacle to this future is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism, and fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons. The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom -- and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.

What. A. Moron.

That is all.

You Talkin' To Me?

Since about that time, war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.

George Orwell, 1984

The Case of Maher Arar

More on the Maher Arar case soon, but for now:

1) Take a minute to read Arar's first-hand account of his ordeal here. He made this statement in November of 2003. Welcome to the reality of the War on Terra.

2) As you read about this story in US papers and follow the US TV coverage, consider checking out the coverage in the Canadian media as well. The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star will have tons of coverage of this. Also, the CBC has a helpful background page on the Arar case. It'll be interesting to see whether and to what extent the US coverage hits different notes than the Canadian coverage.

3) The Canadian commission of inquiry into the case of Maher Arar illustrates the type of conventional scrutiny of government that is literally impossible to carry out in the United States right now. In this respect, our political system no longer functions in a manner befitting a free, open and democratic society. How many Maher Arars are there out there? What is the government up to? Exceptional journalists like Dana Priest at the WaPo have shed some light on this shadowy world, but for the most part, we're in the dark.

I shudder to think of the stuff that's going to come out when Democrats regain control of the House and start investigating the conduct of the Bush Administration. Eventually, as control of the government passes out of Republican hands and as information trickles out from the shadowy network of torture shops the Bush team has set up, we're going to come face to face with the reality of what they've been doing. My sense is it's going to be very, very ugly.

Monday, September 18, 2006

If Not Now, When?

I wrote this post as part of a discussion/debate I was having in the comments section of Matthew Yglesias’s blog . I was responding to another commenter’s argument that I was wrong to suggest that Democratic leaders were making a huge mistake by sitting on the sidelines while Republicans fight out the Geneva Conventions issue among themselves. The other commenter’s view was, to paraphrase, that you have to pick your battles, that the Geneva Conventions issue is for Democrats what the minimum wage or Social Security issues are for the GOP (namely, bad issue terrain), and that it doesn't make sense to get involved when the Republicans are busy committing fratricide anyway. (I think that sums up the argument pretty fairly, but I’ll be glad to revise the description, or quote from the text of the other commenter’s argument, if that conveys the thrust of the argument more fairly– I’m pretty new to this and don’t yet have a handle on the etiquette of quoting other peoples’ comments from other peoples' blogs). Anyway, with that background in mind, here is what I wrote:

It is true that “indiscriminate fighting” is not a good strategy. But the fighting in this case would hardly be indiscriminate! To be clear, the issue at hand is national security and the conduct of the War on Terra, which (like it or not) ranks as one of most important issues to American voters in this election, along with Iraq. This issue has occupied the front page of every major newspaper for the past week, and will likely do so for at least another week. The Sunday shows last weekend were completely dominated by this issue. I’m betting they will next week, too.

If we can change the subject to Iraq, great. I would prefer to fight on that ground, because it is more favorable to us. But wishing does not make things so: if we can’t change the subject to Iraq, then we need to fight on this issue. It isn’t going away.

It’s wrong to think that the national security issue is to the Democrats what the minimum wage or Social Security issues are to the GOP. The apt analogy is to the issue of the economy in 1992 – I’m sure the Republicans wished it wasn’t a key issue in that election, but it was. And there’s another important difference: whereas the Republican positions on the minimum wage (hold it down) and Social Security (gut it) are deeply unpopular, the Democratic position on national security (we refuse to give up the bedrock American values of freedom and fairness) is far more popular than the fear-and-torture snake-oil the Republicans are selling. Just look at the latest Pew polling data cited by Glenn Greenwald last Friday. Americans flatly reject the idea that we need to transform ourselves into a police state in order to win the War on Terra. Democrats are on the right side of this issue.

So national security is a central issue in this election, and it’s an issue on which more people agree with our position than with theirs going into the argument. Given this, why not fight? The argument is that the Republicans are fighting among themselves, and since this is all to our benefit, why get our hands dirty?

Two reasons. First, it isn’t at all clear that Democrats benefit when our leaders sit on the sidelines while so-called independent Republicans make a show of standing up to Bush. Sure, Bush’s disapproval numbers may go up as a result, but what about the endangered Republicans who associate themselves with McCain and his effort to rein in Bush? My sense is that they are effectively inoculating themselves against the otherwise extremely effective charge of being “Rubber Stamp Republicans”.

The second, and more important, reason for Democrats to join this battle, aggressively and unabashedly, is that shrinking from confrontation with a White House run amok, failing to say out loud what we truly and genuinely believe in our hearts, on the most important questions of the day to boot, reinforces the worst stereotypes about Democrats as weak and calculating.

If not this, then what? If not now, when?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Turncoat Joe Lieberman: Ridiculous

Atrios posted Ned Lamont's new ad. I love it. It's an attack on Lieberman that is blunt, tough and totally true. Basically, the ad calls Joe a "Turncoat" and "Ridiculous". Amen.

I think the "turncoat" meme is likely to be very potent against Lieberman -- everybody in CT (and NYC metro) instantly understands how it connects to Joe. It sort of crystallizes what many people know or suspect about Joe even if they haven't heard it articulated that bluntly yet.

One thing I love about Ned (aside from being right on all the most important issues of the day) is that he knows how to throw a punch.

Also, Joe's been whining about Ned's campaign being "negative" for so long (even when it clearly wasn't) that it's hard to see how he's going to differentiate his whining (you know it's coming) this time around. I guess that makes Joe the Turncoat who cried wolf...

Friday, September 15, 2006

New GOP Meme

You heard it here first. They're going to try it right after the press conference announcing that the WH has backed down and agreed to urgent demands by Saint McCain and [fill in names of endangered Republicans] that the WH respect the Geneva Conventions in prisoner interrogations and/or tinker with the W-is-Like-a-King warrantless wiretap program:

If the Democrats are too Weak to Stand Up to the President, How Can You Expect Them to Fight the Evildoers?

October Surprise?

I was just reading a great post by Glenn Greenwald on his blog Unclaimed Territory. I left a comment, which I might as well post here:

Going to Glenn's first point, about the Pew poll showing that people aren't buying the Bush "we need to transform ourselves into a police state" line -- my bet is Karl Rove is seeing the same polling data, and he's not at all unhappy with where the debate is right now.

The political choice for the GOP going into the mid-term election is: 1) get creamed on Iraq, or 2) make lots of noise on Terra, torture and wiretaps for 3 weeks or so, during which they let endangered Republicans "courageously" oppose Bush. Here's how they hope the movie ends: Endangered and purple-state Republicans team up with Saint John McCain to stand up to the WH, the WH pushes back for a bit, then McCain (and Shays and Chafee and Arlen Specter etc etc) "force" the WH to accept a "compromise" that the MSM (quoting from the WH press release) declares is a victory for *both* civil liberties and the War on Terra at the same time. Breaking chutzpah records, the GOP's brave protectors of the Geneva Conventions accuse Dems of being too weak to stand up to Bush, let alone take on the Evildoers. Iraq? Never heard of it.

If that isn't working by October 7 and it looks like they're really going to lose the House? The only October surprise will be if they *aren't* bombing Iran at that point.

McCain Presidential Campaign Watch

Here's the lede of an article on the Financial Times online edition titled "McCain stands his ground on CIA jails":

John McCain, the Republican frontrunner for the 2008 presidential election, has dramatically raised the stakes in a fight with the White House over interrogation techniques permitted for use at secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons by saying he is unwilling to back down on the issue even if it ruins his chance of becoming president. (Emphasis added)

Wow, what a maverick! This guy's a man of principle! He doesn't care about politics, just doing the right thing! He's willing to take a stand against the leadership of his own party, including the Commander-in-Chief, even if doing so destroys his shot at the presidency! What an amazing coincidence!!

What an amazing coincidence that McCain is taking this Fearless Straight Talking Stand in circumstances where... this just happens to be the politically expedient bumper sticker for him to slap on the Straight Talk Express right now, preferably right on top of that "I Heart Bob Jones" bumper sticker he started sporting in May. Here's my take on how Mr. Straight Talk -- and Republicans in close Congressional races -- are going to play this:

1) McCain takes a Bold Stand against Administration over-reaching;

2) The press types up all kinds of Maverick Straight Talk Express Saint McCain stories;

3) Republicans in tough races where Bush is unpopular associate themselves with McCain's concerns about America's reputation in the world;

4) The White House announces they're grateful to Saint McCain for his help on the Geneva Conventions file, they're going to change the proposal a bit;

5) Saint McCain signs off on the New and Improved Proposal, it's a Victory for the Troops and America's Moral Authority in the World! (Will the New and Improved Proposal be any better? Doesn't matter. You think the journalists who type up the campaign press releases actually read documents?)

6) See? The way to change course and to safeguard again the Cheney Administration's excesses... is to support independent-minded Republicans like John McCain! Those guys can be trusted to Protect America and Stand Up to Bush and to deliver (wait for it) CHANGE!

7) New GOP spin & talking points: Where was Nancy Pelosi when Saint McCain and other Strong-but-Moderate Republican Reformers like Linc Chafee and Chris Shays were fighting to protect the American Way of Life and America's prestige in the world by making sure we adhere to the Geneva Conventions? In San Francisco running a workshop for NAMBLA members on how to apply for government grants to recruit children into alternative lifestyles? Weren't all of the protagonists in the torture debate Republicans? If you want oversight of the Cheney Administration, how about people like John McCain? If you're a Terra Voter who's concerned that Bush has gone a bit too far, just look at how willing he was to work with McCain and to consider his criticism!

Is Karl Rove upset that McCain is sucking up all the oxygen that would otherwise be available to Democrats? I can't see why he would be. His main concern is to keep the House and the Senate. My bet is that he's hoping the Democrats decide to sit this one out on the theory that you never get involved when your enemy is self-destructing.

Democrats need to be in the fight, not on the sidelines. And they need to remember that McCain is not their friend. He's not going to carry their water. He's not trying to tank the GOP. He's positioning himself as an Agent for Change for his race in 2008 -- which is the only way he's going to have a shot post-Dubya. Right now, a lot of Republicans are looking for a way to cast themselves as agents for change -- or at least as not in lockstep with Bush -- and McCain is giving them coattails to ride. Is providing those coattails going to destroy McCain's shot at the Presidency? I can't see it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Chafee won

That sucks.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Go Laffey!

Here's hoping wingnut Steve Laffey knocks off Lincoln Chafee in the Republican primary in Rhode Island tonight. If Laffey wins, Democrats basically get to bank the Senate seat without spending any time or money on the race.

Of course, this assumes that Chafee hasn't been running a stealth petition drive to set up a "Rhode Island for Chafee" party so he can stay in the race as a third party candidate after having his ass handed to him by the voters in his own party.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Zombie Stenography: AP edition

Greg Sargent flags this jaw-dropping piece by the AP's Stephanie Reitz. The thrust of the AP report is that Ned Lamont's criticism of Joe Lieberman's 1998 Senate-floor condemnation of Bill Clinton is hypocritical, since a newly-disclosed 1998 email shows that Lamont "lauded the senator at the time for his eloquence and moral authority".

The problem, as anyone who bothers to read Lamont's actual email to Lieberman can see, is that the point of Lamont's email wasn't to "laud" Lieberman for bashing Clinton, but to urge him to cut out the Clinton bashing! Don't take my word for it -- read the email itself.

The AP article by Reitz joins yesterday's shameful entry by Jennifer Medina in the NYT, which similarly misleads readers about the plain meaning of Lamont's email. Both Medina and Reitz obviously based their stories on quotes, spin and framing supplied by the Lieberman campaign, and don't appear to have spent much time reading or analyzing the email itself. In short, this seems to be a classic case of political-campaign stenography by NYT and AP reporters, in which independent analysis and a concern for playing it straight with readers play little or no role.

Incidentally, I would love to know if the Lieberman campaign sent out a press release about the Lamont email. If so, I would love to compare it to the text of the AP and NYT articles.

Here is a note I sent to Medina about her piece yesterday -- if I can get my hands on Reitz's email address, I'll send her a similar note.

Dear Ms. Medina,

I just read your article titled "Lieberman Points Out a Turnabout by Lamont", and then read the actual email by Ned Lamont that accompanies your article on the on-line version of the NYT. Your article creates an impression of the thrust of Mr. Lamont's original note to Mr. Lieberman that is completely contradicted by a reading of the actual email.

Is it your sense, on reflection, that a reading of your article is likely to convey a fair impression of Mr. Lamont's email to a reader who does not independently assess the email itself? I would respectfully suggest that the answer is, clearly not. Even if not by design, your article is the functional equivalent of a Lieberman campaign press release.

I am not accusing you of deliberate bias. Rather, I am respectfully requesting that you be more careful and diligent in analyzing the material that you write about in this election cycle. It is not enough to confirm the accuracy of a quotation brought to your attention by a rival political campaign -- you must also take care to independently assess the "frame" in which the quotation is presented to you. In this case, your article misleads readers by presenting an accurate quotation in a misleading frame -- that is, by misleading readers about the overall content of the email from which the quote was clipped.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply.


Eric [...]