Friday, June 30, 2006

Quote of the Day

"If you confer upon someone else the power to free you, you are also granting them the power to enslave."

--John Edgar Wideman, Preface to Ready for Revolution : The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael

Message to the Iraqi people, via David

Gone Fishing

It's time for the Friday Funnies.

Robin Williams: Rush Limbaugh’s just going fishing

Robin Williams is in a class of his own. He was a guest on the Tonight Show and did a routine on the Rush Limbaugh/Viagra story that is hysterical.

Cartoon of the Day

* Tony Auth, Philadelphia Inquirer

Secrets and Lies

I had wanted to discuss the latest relevations of government spying, with the reports of monitoring of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) banking transactions by the govenment. However, no sooner was the practice revealed in the media, when the Bush Administration managed to immediately change the subject by attacking the press for informing the public of this latest violation of our privacy rights.

There are two thoughtful, excellent essays on the Bush Administration's latest assault on the constitution and the press that should be read by anyone concerned with the future of this democracy of ours. Bloggers Once Upon a Time, penned A Press That Holds Itself in Contempt and Unclaimed Territory, wrote The Bush lynch mob against the nation's free press. Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory states it thus:

[O]ne of the most significant dangers our country faces is the all-out war now being waged on our nation's media -- and thereby on the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press -- by the Bush administration and its supporters, who are furious that the media continues to expose controversial government policies and thereby subject them to democratic debate. After the unlimited outpouring of venomous attacks on the Times this weekend, I believe these attacks on our free press have become the country's most pressing political issue.
Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post puts it in perspective in Nuke the Messenger:
It's a monstrous charge for the White House to suggest that the press is essentially aiding and abetting the enemy. But where's the evidence?

The White House first began leveling this kind of accusation immediately after a New York Times story revealed a massive, secret domestic spying program conducted without congressional or judicial oversight. See, for instance, Bush's December 17, 2005 radio address , in which he said the disclosure put "our citizens at risk."

But not once has the White House definitively answered this question: How are any of these disclosures actually impairing the pursuit of terrorists?

Terrorists already knew the government was trying to track them down through their finances, their phone calls and their e-mails. Within days of the Sept. 11 attacks, for instance, Bush publicly declared open season on terrorist financing.

As far as I can tell, all these disclosures do is alert the American public to the fact that all this stuff is going on without the requisite oversight, checks and balances.

How does it possibly matter to a terrorist whether the government got a court order or not? Or whether Congress was able to exercise any oversight? The White House won't say. In fact, it can't say.

By contrast, it does matter to us.

This column has documented, again and again , that when faced with a potentially damaging political problem, White House strategist Karl Rove's response is not to defend, but to attack.

The potentially damaging political problem here is that the evidence continues to grow that the Bush White House's exercise of unchecked authority in the war on terror poses a serious threat to American civil liberties and privacy rights. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that an American president used the mechanisms of national security to spy on his political enemies.

The sum total of the administration's defense against this charge appears to be: Trust us. Trust that we're only spying on terrorists, and not anyone else.

But what if the trust isn't there? And what if they're breaking the law?

That's why it's better to attack. It makes for great soundbites. It motivates the base. And perhaps most significantly, it takes attention away from Bush's own behavior.
Keith Olbermann also does a good job of exposing the fallacy of the Bush Administration's accusations in this Countdown piece, Secrets. Scarborough Country also weighs in, in Scarborough chooses Jefferson, warning:
You gotta admit-it’s frightening. More so to us who know how Washington works and know how power can corrupt and know how power can be abused. I believe friends, we are in dangerous times for those of us who believe like Thomas Jefferson-that Washington is not to be trusted with unlimited police power.
And for the last word, there's "The Word" from Colbert Report, The NY Times want you and your family dead!

Creme de la Creme

Lewis Black does a screed about the best that the Senate has to offer, Senator James Inhofe and our own Rick Santorum, in his latest "Back in Black" segment, A Hoax.

More Money Than God

"He has more money than God" used to be an expression that I used when referring to someone who was extremely wealthy. This was someone special in the monied class, not just your average rich person.

We are working towards a new class of "more money than God" types in this country, the mega-rich. As the American Prospect notes in Survival of the Richest:

The right has managed to savage the institutions that produced increasing opportunity and a broader middle class in the decades after World War II -- minimum wages, trade unionism, job-security, decent health and retirement plans, affordable college and housing, Social Security that rose with inflation, and economic regulation to keep Wall Street from grabbing most of the winnings.

The middle class hasn't been so insecure since the depression. But today, unlike 1937, this epic reversal is off the political radar screen.
I heard something on the news the other day that fewer people are taking regular vacations this year. It was due to tight finances, not lack of available vacation time. What surprised me was that the reporter blamed high gas prices, not stagnant wages, as the reason for lack of money. Did he miss the news that Congress just failed to raise the minimum wage, which has not been adjusted in 9 years?

Perhaps he missed this Jon Stewart segment on the issue, Two Hundred Large.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Don Wright

Home - Work

Scenes from Lincoln Drive (near home) and outside our window at the office (in Conshy), where the water covers Septa's R5 Norristown rail line and the Bikepath. We've been in these offices 6 years and have never seen it like this.

Of course, yesterday was an extremely hectic day at work, including into late last evening, as I've been immersed in trying to close several deals by July 1 deadlines. I was so oblivious that I didn't realize how much flooding there was in NE PA until about 10 pm, when my husband asked if I had talked to my parents. They are home for the summer (from Florida) and have been through several floods in Scranton. Luckily for them, the gate system that was installed a number of years ago on the Lackawanna River near their home held up. I was astounded to learn that Wilkes-Barre was being evacuated, in the worst flooding since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The Scranton Times-Tribune has the report, Overwhelmed, under water.

I still remember that flood and its aftermath. I lived at home then and can remember watching the flood waters in Scranton, worried whether we would be flooded out (we weren't). Afterwards, I spent time helping out in Wilkes-Barre -- what a disaster that was. The town was totally destroyed. Then-Congressman Dan Flood helped to rebuild the city, turning an old coal town into a modern city. The flood relief measures implemented at that time have helped for many years.

My thoughts are with them today.

Tags: ,

Thomas Tells All

Truth to power. A don't miss interview, Helen Thomas with Jon Stewart.

George Bush = Worst. President. Ever.

Helen Thomas = Best. Journalist. Ever.

See, Thomas the Terrible for more. Also, Thomas has a new book, "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, Washington Post

No Name, No Money?

Continual controversy and criticism apparently trump money.

Dan Rubin of Bling provides an update in What's In A Name, II, reporting that Archmere Academy reversed its decision to name a new building on campus after the Capano family. See my earlier post on this story, In My Name.

The reversal came after a special school Board meeting on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the murder of gubernatorial aide Anne Marie Fahey, who went missing after a June 27, 1996, dinner with attorney Tom Capano. Instead, the new Student Life Center will be named for "a religious figure of historic significance to the school."

Of course, I guess that still rules out honoring Senator Biden. He is the fundraising Chair and had earlier been considered, but rejected because of his pro-life views.
And the other school to receive a $1M, St. Edmonds Academy, has not reconsidered its decision. Now that's the Catholic Church I know & "love." Also uncertain is what will become of the million dollar "pledge" by Louis Capano, brother of the man convicted of murdering Anne Marie Fahey. See How much will Capano give to Archmere?

The caption of Dana Garrett's Delaware Watch says it all: Democracy Trumps Hierarchy: Archmere Repents!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Bruce Beattie, Daytona Beach News Journal

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Think Progress has a report, Bush Ignores Science, Claims ‘There Is A Debate’ Over The Cause of Global Warming, (with video) on Bush's response to a question about global warming:

This morning, President Bush was asked whether he believed global warming was a “real and significant threat to the planet.” Bush claimed there is still a real debate over the cause of global warming.
ABC News also has an article, A Perfect Storm Descends on the Nation's Capital, on the exchange. Reporting on the aftermath of storms in DC, including a hundred year old elm tree that was uprooted at the White House, reporter Bill Blakemore s:

In the White House, only hours after that old elm had fallen, Bush was addressed by a reporter, thus: "I know that you are not planning to see Al Gore's new movie, but do you agree with the premise that global warming is a real and significant threat to the planet?"

"I have said consistently," answered Bush, "that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary ... to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil..."

The President -- as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find -- is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said -- as he also did a few weeks ago -- that "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" ... well, there really is no such debate.

At least none above what is proverbially called "the flat earth society level."

Not one scientist of any credibility on this subject has presented any evidence for some years now that counters the massive and repeated evidence -- gathered over decades and come at in dozens of ways by all kinds of professional scientists around the world -- that the burning of fossil fuels is raising the world's average temperature.

Or that counters the findings that the burning of these fuels is doing so in a way that is very dangerous for mankind, that will almost certainly bring increasingly devastating effects in the coming decades.

* * * *

Meteorologists predict more heavy rain this week along the mid-Atlantic seaboard.

Climatologists predict much the same for the coming decades.

Did Blakemore lose his steno pad in the rain? There wasn't the usual some say yes, some say no in this piece. Will wonders ever cease? This is precisely the kind of reporting that has been missing of late, as I observed in my recent post, Put down the steno pad.

I think I spot a glimmer of sun peeking out of those clouds.

UPDATE: That old elm tree that came down -- it can be found in the far right corner of the image on the back of a $20 bill. The tree is believed to date back 140 years to the Andrew Johnson White House. Tree Down At White House Changes $20 Bill?

Brokeback White House

Politics always did make strange bedfellows.

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, The Washington Post

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Is that Your Final Answer?

Nazi Germany.
Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

What do these countries all have in common?

The answer: they are all "countries that enacted national bans on flag desecration," according to Dick Polman.

And who is about to join their ranks?

Read Polman's column in the Inquirer, GOP's burning flag issue may pass, to find the answer.

Cartoon of the Day

* Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News

GOP: George Orwell's Prophecy

George Orwell Day
June 25, 1903

All the war-propaganda,
all the screaming and lies and hatred,
comes invariably from people
who are not fighting.

A few other Orwell quotes:
We're in Trouble, Spies 'R (On) Us, Lese Majeste and More and The Big Chill.

(Via My Left Wing & Caption via Commenter)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

You Found What?

In the aftermath of Rick Santorum's WMD "discovery," see e. g. ThinkProgress, Santorum: We Found the WMD, there has been a fair amount of snickering, shall we say, about the Senator's motives in revealing this find -- about the same time that polls are showing him trailing his opponent, Bob Casey, by 18%.

The Countdown with Keith Olbermann carried the report, Weapons of Minor Discomfort, about Santorum's "pimping a ... military intelligence report" for political advantage.

Dick Polman also looks at the political aspects of this "announcement," in Santorum's failed weapon of mass distraction, noting "There's only one problem with Santorum's "significant finding": The fact that it's not significant." Even the conservative press has had a hard time defending this one, as Polman describes:

[T]alk show co-host Alan Colmes confronted Santorum last night. First he quoted from the Duelfer report. Then he said, "The (Defense) official went on to say these are not the WMD’s this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had and not the WMD’s for which this country went to war. So the chest beating (that) Republicans are doing tonight, thinking this is a justification, is not confirmed by the Defense Department."

Santorum's response: "I'd like to know who that is. The fact of the matter is, I’ll wait and see what the actual Defense Department formally says or more important what the administration formally says."

Translation: "Uh, uh, uh..."

No wonder the apparent Bob Casey campaign strategy is to just let Santorum keep talking.

And, in closing, let me pose the most obvious question of all: If this report was really so revelatory, then why was it released by a senator with a 38 percent approval rating in his home state? Wouldn't the White House have insisted on announcing the good news, perhaps by having Bush parachute into the Green Zone with a cordless mike attached to his flight suit?

At his press conference, Santorum had an answer for that. Sort of. It went like this: "I think that's a question you have to ask them. It's certainly a question that we have asked them. You'd have to ask them."

Stephen Bainbridge, a UCLA law professor and a respected conservative blogger, was also pondering that matter today. After dismissing Santorum's scoop as "no big deal" and "nothing new," he answered his own question:

"Finally, why is a politico in the middle of the election fight of his life making this announcement instead of the Administration? It looks like more GOP politicization of intelligence."
See also, Tom Ferrick's blog, Pass the Mustard Gas.

And finally, we have The Satirical Political Report asking the question: ARE WMDs THE NEW UFOs? Don Davis concludes his report with:
Asked to comment on the the comparison between Iraqi WMD sightings and the UFO phenomenon, Dr. Stephen Hawking stated that “with UFOs, people actually see things that simply can’t be explained. In contrast, with WMDs, nuts like Santorum are ‘explaining’ things that clearly don’t exist.”
What is most amazing to me about this whole "story" is the fact that Santorum has refused to back down on his stance, as the Inquirer reports Santorum insists that WMD report backs prewar threat, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he's wrong (or lied). As I've said before, He Knows About Which He Speaks -- it's the same old tale of the Scorpion, it's just his nature.

Also, it sounds to me like Santorum is trying to top that other PA Senator's "single bullet theory" in the Congressional Hall of Fame of nutty theories. Good try Rick, but Arlen still wins. Sorry.

Humor Hurts

I certainly don't fit the profile of the target audience (late teens and early twenty year olds) of the Daily Show, but I do enjoy Jon Stewart & the Daily Show (although I admit it was a 22 year old who turned me on to it). However, I fear for the future of the Daily Show, now that I see that it is the subject of scholarly study. Is nothing sacred?

Two East Carolina University poli-sci professors researched young viewers of the Show. As reported in Art and politics: Study focuses on the effect of "The Daily Show's" satire, those who regularly watch the Show are more cynical than others toward the news media and the electoral process. Luckily, like good researchers, they didn't reach a definitive conclusion:

"There is something going on with regard to how viewers see candidates and how they see the process as a whole ... whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, we don't know," Morris said. "But 'The Daily Show' is not a benign entity out there just entertaining."

How does cynicism affect "Daily Show" viewers' political behaviors? Morris and Baumgartner aren't sure. Alienation could drive the show's watchers away from polls during election, they said. Discontent could also spawn greater involvement.

Another possibility: As "Daily Show" viewers grow more confident in political knowledge --— a byproduct of "getting" Stewart's humor --— they could become more active voters, Baumgartner said.

"Participation breeds more participation and informed participation" he said. "So that by itself would be a net positive."

I wonder if the researchers considered whether the negative political and media views could be the result of the more cynical and corrupt political process that exists today? Perhaps the opinion is based upon informed knowledge, rather than just the influence of Jon Stewart's humor.

Of course, the paper's findings no doubt will be used to target the show. See, for example, Richard Morin's column in the Washington Post: Jon Stewart, Enemy of Democracy?. I'm sure the next thing we'll see is a parade of Republican notables opining that watching the Daily Show is unpatriotic and treasonous.

There is also the opinion expressed at TomPaine's Uncommon Sense, which also discusses the study, as well as others, "The Daily Show" Cause And Effect.

Baumgartner and Morris' study in American Politics Research, is here: The Daily Show Effect: Candidate Evaluations, Efficacy, and American Youth (PDF).

Cartoon of the Day

* Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Saturday Silliness of the 1% variety

As a follow up to my post on Ron Suskind's new book, the "One Percent Doctrine," One Percent Rules, Don Davis of The Satirical Political Report observes that the book is "just the latest in a long line of works that document the moral bankruptcy, rank incompetence, and Constitutional crimes of the Bush Administration." Noting that "the “One Percent Doctrine” actually governs a wide variety of Bush practices and policies," Davis provides TOP TEN FEATURES OF ‘THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE’:

10. Percentage of problems actually solved.

9. Percentage of individuals getting 99% of the tax cuts.

8. Percentage of truthful statements made by the Administration.

7. Percentage of brain used by Bush.

6. Percentage of Al-Qaeda “No.2’s” actually captured.

5. Percentage of Rumsfeld statements that are intelligible.

4. Percentage of government power to be exercised by Congress.

3. Percentage of occasions to use diplomacy instead of force.

2. Percentage of information that Cheney allows to reach Oval Office.

1. Percentage of that One Percent that Bush actually reads.
Davis is the blog version of Jon Stewart. His satirical take on the political events of the day is perfect. And, as I've mentioned before, most surprising is the fact that he's a lawyer with a sense of humor. There is hope for the world after all.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Tony Auth, Philadelphia Inquirer

Virtual Bill in a Fishbowl

Earlier this month, comedian Bill Maher made his Internet debut with "Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher," a 30-minute weekly TV-style show that airs on CNN has an article about the summer "internet show" with an interview with Bill Maher, Bill Maher's new stage. Bill sounds like several of the LWL* Gang -- that is, not so tech-savy. But, he's on the cutting edge with this summer 'net Show.

Amazon's Fishbowl with Bill Maher can be viewed here. There are several episodes available for your viewing pleasure.

*Ladies Who Lunch
(Via virtual | matter)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Put down the steno pad

Inquirer political reporter, Dick Polman, posted a note on his blog, American Debate, Goodbye to Journalism 101 stenography, regarding his view of the "role" of journalism. He was responding to a comment posted by "someone" (an anonymous poster). Anon. criticized Polman's remarks about an AP story on Dick Cheney which merely reported Dick's words, without checking the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of what he said. As Polman explained:

Anonymous complained that "the AP article was a straight news story. Straight news stories are supposed to report facts and what was said. Separate analysis or commentary articles would then debate the merits of what Cheney said. That's journalism 101."

I disagree. Anonymous tell us that "straight news are supposed to report facts and what was said," but, under that outmoded definition, journalists are mere stenographers, copying down whatever a politician wants to say, and passing it along to readers who often lack the time to determine whether the remarks were true. Under that so-called "objectivity" standard, a politician is free to dissemble without being challenged.

I don't feel that we should be content with passing along misinformation in "straight" stories. The reader deserves a full context, and that means politicians should be fact-checked -- a job that's relatively quick and easy to do, in the Google era. Providing accurate factual context is not "commentary." It's what "straight" reporting should be about.

It always helps to remember the lesson of Senator Joe McCarthy. The 1950s demagogue, whose inaccurate red-baiting wrecked careers and drove people to suicide, was enabled at every step of the way by journalists who believed their job was to only report "what was said." McCarthy was a senator, therefore, if he said something (true or not), it was deemed news. When he made wild charges about 60 or 80 or 100 communists in the State Department, it was reported as news. The "fact" that he was making such charges was considered sufficient; as the New York Times wrote back then, after reviewing their own McCarthy coverage, "It is difficult, if not impossible, to ignore charges by Senator McCarthy just because they are usually proved false. The remedy lies with the reader."

Washington reporter Richard Rovere, in a book he wrote two years after the senator's death, complained about "the system that required (reporters) to publish 'news' they knew to be fraudulent but prohibited them from reporting their knowledge of its fradulence."

In today's world, given the credibility problems that have plagued administrations of both parties, that "system" is not an adequate. Nor was it then.
Polman nicely expresses my own view of the importance of the Fourth Estate's role in society as a "keeper of the watch" for its citizens. It's a far cry from providing the relevant facts to infusing the story with an opinion or view. If the only role of the press was to report someone else's words, then papers could just reprint Press Releases, with a few photo-ops to add flavor (and we've had a few instances of just that happening). Checking information provided (i.e. facts) beyond what one is told is doing one's job well, not crossing the line. This is a subject that I have written about several times, (see Leader of the Pack and We Had a Heads-up), and is one I am very concerned about.

The McCarthy Era, like today, was a low point in journalism, when reporters were afraid to question authority. They didn't delve into the facts beyond what those in power told them. Today, the "spin" of politics has been elevated to an art form. It has reached levels of excellence that are astounding. In fact, I have said before, in Beam me up Scotty, that I worry about the future of the press because it has abdicated it's vital role in informing the public about "the facts" or the truth of events of importance to the future of this country.

We need more Polmans to keep us honest and informed. Once we read the facts, we are free to interpret them, or disregard them, as we please. So long as we get those facts.


This is the story of a group of kids playing baseball, who take their balls and go home when they don't get their own way. The babies are also known as Republicans in Congress. Dan Bakkedahl of the Daily Show gives the portrayal in this video, Dickishness (via onegoodmove).

The original story was reported by the Wall Street Journal, then picked up by CBS News a few weeks ago, Field Of Screams On Capitol Hill. As the report noted:

For years, Republicans and Democrats in Washington have often compromised to get things accomplished. They "played ball" with each other, being aware of the realities of the system of give and take. Now, however, a group of Republicans is no longer willing to play ball with a group of Democrats. And I'm talking about softball.

For 37 years, hundreds of young Congressional aides have put their partisan feelings aside and participated in the Congressional Softball League. But during the off-season, some Republicans objected to the way the playoff system has been run. They felt that the commissioner, Democrat Gary Caruso, was "running a socialist year-end playoff system." Socialism in softball? Was there a collective farm in the outfield?

* * * *

Instead of coming up with a compromise, some Republican teams picked up their balls and bats and bolted to form a new league. Perhaps some of the Congressional aides on both sides are thinking about running for office someday. But if they can't agree on something like a softball league, how are they ever going to agree on things like taxes, Social Security, and which states get to have the most expensive, unnecessary projects? I have a feeling that both sides could have compromised on a softball playoff format without selling out their basic ideological principles.
A blog on TV shows, TV Squad, adds:
Dan Bakkedahl filed a report about the Congressional softball league. Apparently, some Republicans grew upset over the reworked playoff system, where every team is given a good chance to win. They picked up their supplies and formed their own league. Bakkedahl had an interview set up with a Republican about the issue, but the person decided to back out at the last minute due to legal issues. Bakkedahl, working with some a special clause in the Electronic Communications Regulation Act (which allows phone calls to be broadcast), called up the Republican to ask if they had any additional comments. When the Republican refused again, Bakkedahl asked if walking out on an interview reflected a "general dickishness" that probably contributed to the underwater state of New Orleans. He then added that he would take a hang-up as a yes. Dial tone on the other end. I thought this was a pretty clever report by Bakkedahl. Couldn't help but notice that his hair looks a bit like Kelsey Grammer's from some Frasier reruns... He's bald on top but has long, curly hair in the back. It's... strange.
And if you need a few more laughs about the boys on the hill, check out Jon Stewart's report that same evening, 4th Down And.

Onegoodmove's quote on that segment: Congress: Be it resolved that Republicans are major league assholes. "It's time to stand up and vote is it al Qaeda or is it America?"

Cartoon of the Day

* M.e. Cohen

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Solstice

First day of Summer
My mother's birthday

Enjoy Ella Fitzgerald singing Summertime

(Circa 1968)

Quote of the Day

Jean-Paul Sartre
Born: June 21, 1905

"When the rich wage war
it is the poor who die."

(Via My Left Wing)

Cartoon of the Day

* Jim Day, Las Vegas Review Journal

Heckuva Guy

Calvin Trillin, who has rhymed for the New Yorker, NYT and NPR is interviewed by Jon Stewart, Heckuva Job, about his new book, A Heckuva Job : More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme.

See also, a WSJ interview, Author Q&A, for more.

From his book, words from George W. Bush after he said to FEMA chief Michael Brown, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job":

A qualified guy, I wish I had added.
Your résumé's super, even if padded.
We wanted the best to lead FEMA's forces,
And who would know more than a man who knows horses?
You saw that the storm was more than some showers,
And sent off a memo in four or five hours.
You found out that life in the Dome was not Super --
And only a day after Anderson Cooper.
A heckuva job! You know how to lead 'em.
We hope to award you the Medal of Freedom.
On Republicans:
’Cause government’s the problem, lads,
Americans would all do well to shun it.
Yes, government’s the problem, lads.
At least it is when we’re the ones who run it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

One Percent Rules

Author and Journalist Ron Suskind's new book, 'The One Percent Doctrine', was reviewed by the New York Times, and excerpted in TIME. See also, the Washington Post review, The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light. In 2003, Suskind wrote about John DiIluio in Esquire, Why are These Men Laughing, and 2004, he wrote about Bush's "faith based presidency" in Without A Doubt. The NY Times review notes:

The title of Ron Suskind's riveting new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," refers to an operating principle that he says Vice President Dick Cheney articulated shortly after 9/11: in Mr. Suskind's words, "if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction — and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time — the United States must now act as if it were a certainty." He quotes Mr. Cheney saying that it's not about "our analysis," it's about "our response," and argues that this conviction effectively sidelines the traditional policymaking process of analysis and debate, making suspicion, not evidence, the new threshold for action.

* * * *

"The One Percent Doctrine" amplifies an emerging portrait of the administration (depicted in a flurry of recent books by authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett and the former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Larry Diamond) as one eager to circumvent traditional processes of policy development and policy review, and determined to use experts (whether in the C.I.A., the Treasury Department or the military) not to help formulate policy, but simply to sell predetermined initiatives to the American public.

Mr. Suskind writes that the war on terror gave the president and vice president "vast, creative prerogatives": "to do what they want, when they want to, for whatever reason they decide" and to "create whatever reality was convenient." The potent wartime authority granted the White House in the wake of 9/11, he says, dovetailed with the administration's pre-9/11 desire to amp up executive power (diminished, Mr. Cheney and others believed, by Watergate) and to impose "message discipline" on government staffers.

"The public, and Congress, acquiesced," Mr. Suskind notes, "with little real resistance, to a 'need to know' status — told only what they needed to know, with that determination made exclusively, and narrowly, by the White House."

Dick Polman also discussed Suskind's book, in a post at American Debate, The doctrine of "plausible deniability". He focuses on the twin denials -- plausible and willful, also known as Bush and Cheney. As he explains:
It is an article of faith among President Bush's critics that he lied us into a war in Iraq (a charge that Bush's defenders categorically dismiss). But now comes author Ron Suskind, with a new book about the Bush administration, entitled The One Percent Doctrine, with a different take on that accusation:

He basically argues that Bush didn't literally lie (a liar is somebody who has true knowledge, then consciously falsifies it). Rather, Suskind says that Bush was allowed to tell the truth as he saw it, based only on the partial information with which he was provided.

* * * *

Here's a money quote from Suskind: "Keeping certain knowledge from Bush -- much of it shrouded, as well, by classification -- meant that the president, whose each word circles the globe, could advance various strategies by saying whatever was needed. He could essentially be 'deniable' about his own statements...Whether Cheney's innovations were tailored to match Bush's inclinations, or vice versa, is almost immaterial. It was a firm fit. Under this strategic model, reading the entire NIE would be problematic for Bush: it could hem in the president's rhetoric, a key weapon in the march to war. He would know too much."

All told, Suskind said this morning on NBC's Today Show, "Bush is an action-based man, but he operates within a framework that Cheney largely designed."

* * * *

Meanwhile, we also have Dick Cheney's doctrine of wilfull deniability. Yesterday, during an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, he insisted again that the insurgency is in its "last throes" (a view contradicted by the reality-based stats collected by the Brookings Institution; its latest index reports that the number of insurgents has risen by 25 percent since May 2005, and that the number of daily attacks by insurgents have risen by 28 percent since May 2005).

Cheney also stated yesterday: "I don’t think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we have encountered." The Associated Press dutifully quoted that remark without fact-checking it, thereby leaving the impression that Cheney was right.

But Cheney was wrong. Many prewar reports anticipated serious insurgent violence.

Suskind was interviewed on both the Situation Room and Fresh Air on 'NPR, Inside the War on Terror.

Cartoon of the Day

* Don Wright

Son of Geno

Oh Geno, the story that has become a saga & just won't let me give it up. I was sure I was done with it, especially after the media saturation on the issue. But no, the Philadelphia Daily News reports, In plain English, Rick backs Vento, that the cheesesteak Senator from PA, Rick Santorum, has staked his claim with Joe Vento:

He voiced support - albeit in an odd, indirect way - for owner Joe Vento's much debated "Speak English" sign.

"It makes all the sense in the world to have a sign like this," he told a Daily News reporter after the paper was tipped off to his late-night visit. (Emphasis added)
It makes all the sense in the world? Sure, if your goal is to make someone who may not speak English feel embarassed or uncomfortable it does. Sure, if your goal is to exhault bigotry against anyone who may be different from you, then it does. If your goal is to pander to those who hold those beliefs, then it does.

But maybe not if you ascribe to the motto of the Statute of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Have we forgotten the Statue of Liberty, the Symbol of Immigrant dreams? Did we topple the statute of Sadam or Lady Liberty?

And since I'm on the subject of Vento, there was an Inquirer piece, Joey Vento is a man of many parts. Vento, who sports a "rebel flag" tattoo and bike, doesn't like whiners who think his flags may be racist. He was called names like wop and dago, so I guess now it's his turn. The article provides a hint of another side of Vento, a more sympathic person, but that just doesn't make up for the rest. Joey, as my grandmother would say, whattsa matta for you?

And last, but not least, Arthur Caplan, Chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has a few words to add, And now, for a completely different point of view...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* RJ Matson

Name That Ten

The Colbert Report interviews Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland, a proud Do-Nothing Republican, who was a co-sponsor of a bill on the Ten Commandments. Gotta see this one. When asked, Westmoreland is unable to name them. (via Throw away your TV)

And while we're on the subject of Colbert, you should check out this video of an interview by David Letterman of the real Stephen Colbert. (via onegoodmove)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Give Me Some of that Old Time Music

We went to a Father's Day Concert tonight at The Mann. The Mann is a great concert setting in Fairmont Park, listening to music under the stars. The concert had some great oldies groups:

The Intruders, Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, and the Delfonics. Great Sound of Philly groups, still crooning & dancing & dressed to the max.

Only downside of the evening was that the volume was way too LOUD, especially for R&B music.

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day Music

Celine Dion sings Dance With My Father

Cartoon of the Day

* Bruce Beattie


I see you. And hear you. And monitor everything you do.

Via TPMmuckraker, comes the word that, like Mark Twain once observed, reports of TIA's death were greatly exaggerated. As Justin Rood noted:

Congress attempted to kill the ill-conceived Terrorist Information Awareness program in 2003. But instead, the Rasputin-like program -- designed to somehow find terrorists from a sky-high pile of credit card bills, car rental receipts and travel records -- came back, bigger and stronger and arguably worse than ever, National Journal's Shane Harris reports.
The National Journal article, available at GovExec, Two controversial counter-terror programs share parallels, is an excellent article, that describes the background and relationship of TIA and NSA. Defense Tech, in You can run . . ., explains:
Over the last few months, it's become increasingly clear that the NSA's eavesdropping is intertwined with Total Information Awareness, the notorious uber-database project. In the new National Journal, scoopster Shane Harris shows just how tightly the two are knotted together.

Bottom line: after Congress supposedly pulled the plug on TIA, the NSAÂ’s Advanced Research and Development Activity "took over TIA and carried on the experimental network in late 2003."
Liberal Comment adds:
Where this administration is concerned, you can't keep a bad idea down. Total Information Awareness, you may recall, was a program conceived in 2003 by John Poindexter, the former National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan who was convicted on five felony counts during the Irangate scandal. The idea behind TIA is to create a system that will scan the bank and credit card statements, telephone bills, travel history, library records and, presumably, internet browsing habits of every American, ostensibly to identify patterns that would indicate people who are likely to commit acts of terrorism. Even the Republican Congress got cold feet when it learned the extent to which TIA would impede on the civil liberties of Americans, and in 2003 killed funding for the program.

* * * *

I think the government should have the tools it needs to prevent terrorism. I even support many parts of the Patriot Act, especially the elements that enable better information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement. But TIA is a bad idea, period. It will allow overzealous investigators and intelligence analysts to go on broad fishing expeditions that will inevitably ensnare innocent Americans (of course, you will never hear about such injustices, because the information will be classified). Authoritarian Republicans might argue that we should trust our leaders with such unchecked, unprecedented power to peer into the most private aspects of our lives. Fine. Will they trust a future Democratic president such as Hilary Clinton with that same power? If you show me a government that has never abused the powers granted it, I will show you an Iraq War supporter who likes Michael Moore.
And at what point do we acknowledge that we are we no longer a Democracy?

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, New York Times

Quote of the Day

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

On June 16th, 1858, U.S. Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln remarked, in explaining that the slavery issue had to be resolved, delivered in a speech in Springfield, IL.

Just as true June 16th, 2006.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Can We Try Again?

As the LWL (Ladies Who Lunch) Gang can attest, I have long held the opinion that the 2004 election was "fixed." They have listened to me rant about this topic on many (some might say, too many) occasions, expressing my deeply held belief that there was fraud in Ohio and Florida (again). However, I despaired about ever finding out the truth, because of paperless electronic voting. Remember, the CEO of Diebold promised to carry Ohio for Bush -- and he did -- by hook or by crook. I, of course, believe it was the latter. Unfortunately, I feel that this is one of those mysteries that we might not uncover in my lifetime, akin to who killed Kennedy or learning the true identity of "Deep Throat."

Robert Kennedy, Jr. has tackled this topic in an in-depth article published in the Rolling Stone, Was the 2004 Election Stolen?. The article is lengthy, but should be required reading. It's a good, albeit disturbing, read for a rainy day. He of course can't prove fraud, but he makes a compelling case. Kennedy observes:

For the second election in a row, the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people but under a cloud of dirty tricks. Given the scope of the GOP machinations, we simply cannot be certain that the right man now occupies the Oval Office.
For the "Cliff Notes" version, read CorrenteWire.

As Bob Herbert of the NY Times, who wrote a column on this issue in Those Pesky Voters, summarized it:
Republicans, and even a surprising number of Democrats, have been anxious to leave the 2004 Ohio election debacle behind. But Mr. Kennedy, in his long, heavily footnoted article ("Was the 2004 Election Stolen?"), leaves no doubt that the democratic process was trampled and left for dead in the Buckeye State. Mr. Kerry almost certainly would have won Ohio if all of his votes had been counted, and if all of the eligible voters who tried to vote for him had been allowed to cast their ballots.

* * * *

No one has been able to prove that the election in Ohio was hijacked. But whenever it is closely scrutinized, the range of problems and dirty tricks that come to light is shocking. What's not shocking, of course, is that every glitch and every foul-up in Ohio, every arbitrary new rule and regulation, somehow favored Mr. Bush.

* * * *

The lesson out of Ohio (and Florida before it) is that the integrity of the election process needs to be more fiercely defended in the face of outrageous Republican assaults. Democrats, the media and ordinary voters need to fight back.

The right to vote is supposed to mean something in the United States. The idea of going to war overseas in the name of the democratic process while making a mockery of that process here at home is just too ludicrous.

This has been something I've wanted to write about since I first saw the Kennedy piece. I then saw an interview on the Colbert Report, with Bobby Kennedy Jr. on voter fraud, that reminded me to do this post.

(Cartoon via My Left Wing)

Cartoon of the Day

* Jeff Danziger, New York Times

What's It All About, Alfie?

Following its surprise announcement yesterday, Rove Won't Face Indictment in C.I.A. Leak Case, the NY Times today reports, in No Rove Charges Over Testimony on C.I.A. Leak, that "The decision by a special prosecutor not to bring charges against Karl Rove in the C.I.A. leak case followed months of intense behind-the-scenes maneuvering between the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, and Mr. Rove's lawyer, lawyers in the case said."

In other words, it's all due to good lawyering, according to the lawyers.

Beyond that, what are we to make of this? Has the fat lady finished singing?

As one of those who has closely (obsessively?) followed the Plane Spy case, I would be a bit surprised if that's all there was. And, as Jon Stewart said, the Republicans are the Party of Parsers, so we certainly will never know, based upon what they tell us.

Dick Polman, in his inimitable way, provides context in his blog, American Debate, Dodging the silver bullet:

This is what passes for great news at the beleaguered Bush White House: The president's chief political guru gets word from federal prosecutors that he is not an accused criminal.

Nevertheless, the news that Karl Rove will not be charged in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case is clearly a political victory for the Bush administration. (In the careful words of Rove's lawyer, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald sent word that he "does not anticipate seeking charges.")

* * * *

Yes, court documents have indicated that Rove and the indicted Scooter Libby were both involved in the leak of classified information about CIA employe Plame's identity -- notwithstanding the early White House claims that Rove played no role whatsoever. And yes, the record indicates that Rove discussed her with two reporters, Matt Cooper and Robert Novak. And yes, the White House did insist early on that such leaks were unacceptable ("That is not the way this President or this White House operates," said press secretary Scott McClellan), and yes, the White House did promise back in 2003 that anyone involved in such a leak would no longer be allowed to work there.

* * * *

Only one element could have given the Bush critics a massive PR victory: a Rove indictment. That would have reduced the case to a widely resonant soundbite. Bush's political mastermind, dragged into the docket? That would have been devastating. Instead, the news that Rove is in the clear will allow the Republicans to rebuke the Rove-haters for cheering his demise in advance; indeed, GOP chairman Ken Mehlman is already on the prowl, demanding that Democrats apologize for "rushing to judgement."

Longtime Rove critics are taking the fallback position today, suggesting that just because Rove wasn't criminally indicted, it doesn't mean he didn't do something ethically sleazy. As Democratic chairman Howard Dean put it today, "The prosecutor's decision not to indict Karl Rove does not diminish the fact that (he) was involved in leaking the identity of an intelligence operative during a time of war." It's certainly true that, in Washington, there are many variations of vicious hardball (Rove being a reputedly master practitioner) that aren't necessarily criminal in nature; and it's still reasonable to wonder whether a top aide who may have used classified material to retaliate against a war critic (Wilson) still deserves to remain in the President's inner circle.
Plame experts Firedoglake and The Next Hurrah speculate (emphasis on the word speculate) that Karl Rove was cooperating with the investigation. That is, real target = Cheney. As blogger Emptywheel of Next Hurrah explains:
My logic is this:

Dick Cheney is dragging down the White House. He is largely responsible for the mess in Iraq. He is trying to sabotage any attempts to negotiate honestly with Iran. And he is exposing everyone in the Administration to some serious legal jeopardy, in the event they ever lose control of courts. At some point, Dick Cheney's authoritarianism will doom Bush's legacy.

But you can't make him quit. His is a Constitutional office, he was elected along with Bush, so you can't make him resign like you can with your Treasury Secretary or your Environmental Secretary. What better way to get rid of him, then, than to expose him to legal proceedings? It gives you the ability (farcical, but no matter) to say that you have severed all ties with his policies and legacies.
On the other hand, another Plame buff, Jerlyn Merritt of Talkleft concludes in No Deal for Karl Rove:
Sometimes people just don't know when to cry "uncle." I do. I asked [Rove attorney] Robert Luskin this morning if Karl Rove has made a deal with Fitzgerald. His response:

There has never, ever been any discussion of a deal in any way, shape or form.

Which is exactly what Luskin told me weeks ago. It's over, folks. Karl Rove will not be charged with a crime. He's cooperated with Fitzgerald by testifying to the grand jury five times and providing whatever information he had without a safety net.
Firedoglake responds:
I smell a bit of loose limb action with regard to Luskin’s statement to Jeralyn today that Rove made no "deal." Perhaps not in the strict sense, but I think it’s rather apparent that in his five trips before the Grand Jury his testimony got nudged in the direction the Special Counsel was interested in exploring or we’d be witnessing an imminent frogmarch.
Sure a frogmarch would have been a lot more satisfying to see, but as Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, reminds:
More to the point, let's not forget the salient facts here. The question going back three years ago now is whether Karl Rove knowingly participated in leaking the identity of a covert CIA operative for the purpose of discrediting a political opponent who was revealing information about the White House's use of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

That was the issue. From the beginning, Rove, through Scott McClellan, denied that he did any of that. There weren't even any clever circumlocutions. He just lied. From admissions from Rove, filings in the Libby case, and uncontradicted reportage, we know as clearly as we ever can that Rove did do each of those things.

So he did do what he was suspected of and he did lie about it.

Now, I'm happy to take Patrick Fitzgerald's word for it, his evaluation of the evidence, that there's not enough evidence to indict Rove on any criminal charge.

* * * *

But none of this changes the fact, for which there is abundant evidence, even admissions from Rove himself, that he did the malicious act. And he lied about doing it. Indeed, on top of that, President Bush welched on his promise to can anyone who was involved.
In the end (and yes, I'm finally at the end), this is Karl Rove we are talking about. The same Rove, about whom Hullabaloo notes:
These things may not have risen to a level of criminality, but they were low-down political dirty tricks at the very least. We know this. And we know that Rove has done whisper campaigns about judges being pedophiles and governors being lesbians and war heroes being cowards. He plays a form of despicable hardball politics by character assassination. He makes no bones about it. These things are not illegal. But they are despicable and loathesome, nonetheless.

Whether Rove cut a deal or Fitz just couldn't make a case for those two crimes is unknown. What is not unknown is whether Rove is a lying, scumbag piece of shit. He is.
CAPTION: Rove on the wrong side of the gates (Picture via NYT)

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Turd Spray

From Karl Rove's Non-Indictment party to the Administration's penchant for secrecy, to greed and cynicism of the Republican Party, Jon Stewart's interview of Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, was entertaining and informative.

Stewart expresses sympathy for Mehlman, who's the man who has to spray perfume on these turds.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Clay Jones, The Free Lance Star

In My Name

Anne Marie Fahey was murdered 10 years ago this month by attorney Tom Capano. Earlier this year, Capano's death sentence was overturned, No More Capano Capers, and the Capanos have again made the news with a gift to two catholic schools in Delaware.

The Inquirer, in To some, Capano gifts are galling, explains:

In June 1996, Thomas J. Capano, a high-profile lawyer, killed Anne Marie Fahey, scheduling secretary for then-Gov. Tom Carper, after she ended their romantic relationship. The crime, its cover-up, and the eventual trial, conviction and appeals of Capano have gripped the public for years.

And fittingly, it seems, almost everyone has an opinion as two Wilmington Catholic schools - which educate family members of both the killer and his victim - move to name buildings after the Capano family.

Louis Capano Jr. - who is Thomas' younger brother and helped him destroy evidence and hide his crime - has donated $1 million each to St. Edmond's and Archmere Academies with the understanding that both would honor his parents, Louis Sr., who died decades ago, and Marguerite Capano, 82.

St. Edmond's will have a new gymnasium bearing the Capano name; Archmere will gain a student union that includes a chapel and a cafeteria.
The donation has created substantial controversy for both schools, including the Fahey family:
As members of the Fahey family see it, the Capano family is trying to buy forgiveness and, by accepting the money, the two academies are effectively sanctioning it. That doesn't sit well with them. "Redemption starts with an apology, which our family has never received," said Robert Fahey of Villanova, one of Anne Marie's brothers. "And last I looked, no one at Archmere or St. Edmond's had a dead sister, so I don't think they're in a position to grant anyone forgiveness."
Money may not be able to buy you happiness, but it can get you pretty far with the Catholic Church. In Did the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington Forget about the Council of Trent?, Dana Garrett of Delaware Watch reminded:
I thought it was old news. In 1567 Pope Pius V, acting on a recommendation from the Council of Trent, banished the practice of forgiving sins for gifts of money to the Roman Catholic Church. It had been one of the Church’s practices that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther had made such a big to-do about with popular success. It was just bad PR.

However, when St. Edmond’s and Archmere academies accepted $1 million dollars each from Louis J. Capano, Jr., for two new buildings and “electing” to put the Capano family name on the buildings, they apparently forgot about Pope Pius V and the Council of Trent.
Garrett also observed that the same level of "forgiveness" was absent when Archmere, one of the schools, was originally planning to honor Delaware Senator Biden, who is the fundraising Chair for the school. The News Journal, reported:
Archmere had originally planned to name the building after Sen. Joe Biden, a 1961 graduate, but Biden’s pro-choice stance on abortion led Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli to torpedo their plans.

* * * *

The school based its reversal on a June 2004 “Catholics in Political Life” document from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Krebs said. The report said institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” which include opposing abortion.
Delaware Watch provides the best summary:
A revolutionary spiritual and social movement that sprang from a very wise teacher who lived among the poor and “had no place to lay his head” has resulted in a religion in which those with more mammon get more of God’s forgiveness.
The Inquirer just ran a five part series, Catholic Crossroads, exploring the Catholic Church's struggle for relevance (and its continued existence) around the world. This can be attached as an exhibit.