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Thursday, May 31, 2007

 
Ifill Glower

by digby

If you missed Gwen Ifill interviewing Gore about his book last night, you missed the latest in a series of obtuse, eye-rolling interviews by the high school cheerleading squad that calls itself the news media. Ifill was practically chewing gum and popping bubbles in Gore's face as she asks him about his, like, totally boring book.

The transcript doesn't do it justice, but here's how she started:


GWEN IFILL: Mr. Vice President, welcome.

AL GORE, former vice president of the United States: Thank you.

GWEN IFILL: The book reads as a screed. It's an attack on media, on politics, and mostly against George W. Bush. Is that what you intended?


I have not finished the book, but I can tell you already that a screed it is not. Among the beltway wags, however, it is taken as a matter of faith that anything Al Gore says is both boring and slightly crazed, which I suppose could be defined as a political screed to them.

The thing that really gripes me about Ifill is that she doesn't have to be an eye-rolling, gum-popping cretin; she isn't subject to ratings or political pressure from on high. (Not that that would be an excuse, but it does explain part of it at least.) And yet in appearances like these and her regular gig at Washington Week in Review she often takes that contemptuous "in crowd" tone anyway. Nobody else at her network adopts that derisive Dowdian attitude. She behaves like a kewl kid because she wants to.

Watching Gore have to endure all these interviews with people who are too stupid to grasp what he's saying or are being willfully thick about it out of reflexive Gore loathing and social pressure, is an amazing sight to see considering the thesis of his book. With every one of these interviews, where they insist on the snotty "are you on a diet" and "are you running" idiocy, they prove his point. I can't figure out if they know it and don't care or if they really are as dumb as they look. Either way, it's quite clear that these people won't be stepping in to stop the assault on reason any time soon.


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Freddie's Back

by digby

The good news is that Judge Walton will let us see all the fawning letters from Scooter's bff's like Hollywood Fred. The bad news is that it probably won't stop Fred from tarring the likes of Patrick Fitzgerald with Ken Starr's fetid reputation.

Here's the line of garbage Thompson threw out recently at a meeting of our conservative overlords about Fitzgerald:

...After years of sacrifice and service to his country, he sits at home with his wife and two children awaiting a prison sentence. His name is Scooter Libby.

As you may recall, for some inexplicable reason, the CIA sent the husband of one of its employees to Niger on a sensitive mission. She had suggested it. He came back to the U.S. and proceeded to publicly blast the administration. Naturally, everyone wanted to know “who is this guy?” and “why was he sent to Niger?” Just as naturally, the fact that he was married to Valerie Plame at the CIA was leaked.

Having virtually guaranteed that Ms. Plame’s identity would be ultimately disclosed by using her, shall we say, “politically active” husband, the CIA then demanded that this leak of her name be investigated by the Justice Department for a possible violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

The Justice Department, bowing to political and media pressure, appointed a Special Counsel to investigate the leak and promised that the Justice Department would exercise no supervision over him whatsoever — a status even the Attorney General does not have.

The only problem with this little scenario was that there was no violation of the law, by anyone, and everybody — the CIA, the Justice Department and the Special Counsel knew it. Ms. Plame was not a “covered person” under the statute and it was obvious from the outset.*

Furthermore, Justice and the Special Counsel knew who leaked Plames’s name and it wasn’t Scooter Libby. But the Beltway machinery was well oiled and geared up so the Special Counsel spent the next two years moving heaven and earth to come up with something, anything. Finally he came up with some inconsistent recollections by Scooter Libby, who had been up to his ears studying National Intelligence Estimates. But he worked for Dick Cheney, so that apparently was enough for the special counsel.

I didn’t know Scooter Libby, but I did know something about this intersection of law, politics, special counsels and intelligence. And it was obvious to me that what was happening was not right. So I called him to see what I could do to help, and along the way we became friends. You know the rest of the story: a D.C. jury convicted him.

In our system all citizens are guaranteed equal protection. And when we appropriate unlimited resources and give unlimited power and direct it all toward one individual, there had better be extraordinary circumstances. There were none here. Just a case of public officials without the courage to do the right thing and stop this farce before it began. In no other prosecutor’s office in the country would a case like this one have been brought.

[...]

I have called for a pardon for Scooter Libby. When you rectify an injustice using the provisions of the law, just as when you reverse an erroneous court decision, you are not disregarding the rule of law, you are enforcing and protecting it.


Hollywood hated the independent counsel law going back to his days covering up for Reagan, so it isn't surprising that he would be skeptical of a special prosecutor. Well it wouldn't be if he weren't a complete hypocrite, that is. Here he is complaining about the independent counsel statute back in 1999. While recognizing that some previous prosecutors had been overzealous, this was his main concern in the moment:

... recently, we've been exposed to a new flaw in the process, and this is they're vulnerable, the independent counsels themselves are vulnerable from attack by those who they are investigating.



Let's just say that like most Republicans (and addled TV celebrities) consistency isn't his strong suit.

So it's perfectly fine to slander Patrick Fitzgerald in front of the Cabal of National Policy, but defending yourself against the man wholeaked every dirty little insinuation that passed through his depraved mind to the mindless little sponges in the press was a "flaw in the process."

Fitzgerald has not leaked the tiniest bit of information about the case to the press. even though his sterling reputation is being flayed daily by the likes of Thompson's former proteges, Mr and Mrs Victoria Toensing. He stoically endures this because decent prosecutors with integrity are above partisan politics and take the heat when this happens, letting their case speak for itself. (As far as Thompson and his hypocritical cronies are concerned, of course, prosecutorial integrity, the rule of law and even jury verdicts are inoperative if they don't like the outcome.)

Meanwhile Judge Kenny Boy Starr is still dishing dirt to Jeff Gerth. I can hardly believe it:

A Media Matters review of Her Way by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. identified at least 33 citations of conversations with officials in the former Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) that investigated Whitewater, at least seven of which refer to an interview with former independent counsel Kenneth Starr.


You remember Ken the pious, Christian conservative man of integrity, don't you? He's a great guy, just like Hollywood Fred the "social conservative" who is makes the pundits swoon and the Republicans turn cartwheels.

I guess we should be grateful they didn't just hire Kiefer Sutherland to play Jack Bauer as president and get it over with. But it's just a matter of time. They can't win on the merits so they have to turn every election into a phony campaign pageant filled with special effects and costumes so hiring actors to play politicians really makes sense. Don't understimate their abilities --- they are master showmen. After all, they were able to convince an awful lot of people that Junior was a hero instead of the nasty little socialite in a cowboy suit he really is. If it takes hypocritically assassinating the characters of honest prosecutors while defending cheap political smear artists to do it, they have no problem with that. It's all part of the show.



*Actually we know now that Wilson was a "covered" person under the statute --- the likely reason it wasn't prosecuted is that Fitzgerald was unable to prove the required intent because of Libby's repeated lying to cover up for that malevolent reptile, Dick Cheney.


.
 
Destiny

by digby

Joe Klein says:

I still think that what the Davids--and others--are picking up is lobbying from the rest of the administration, especially Gates and Rice, against the Cheney draft-deferred zealots, hoping to win the President's heart and mind...


Yeah, that'll happen:


Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."



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The Bad Pun At The Heart Of Creationism

by tristero

Sam Brownback's ghost writer gives us the Republican candidate's opinion of science and reality. He's against 'em both. On principle. The amount of deliberate misinformation, bad science, and even worse theology in this op-ed achieves a new high on the Idiocies Per Sentence Index (tm). However, while there is plenty of stupidity to unpack in Brownback [update: PZ Myers tears into Brownback with a vengeance], I'd like to focus on only one small rhetorical detail, which is usually ignored during triage by first responders to the latest "intelligent design" creationist atrocity:
If [belief in evolution] means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
One word interests me here: "materialistic." Brownback, or rather, Brownback's ghost, is punning on the meaning of "materialism." Doing so is a small but important piece of standard "intelligent design" creationism rhetoric. And it highlights exactly how cheap a fraud it is.

The following is from the mission statement of leading ID creationist William Dembski's blog:
Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted. The problem, therefore, is not merely that science is being used illegitimately to promote a materialistic worldview, but that this worldview is actively undermining scientific inquiry, leading to incorrect and unsupported conclusions about biological and cosmological origins. At the same time, intelligent design (ID) offers a promising scientific alternative to materialistic theories...
Three "materialistics" in three contiguous sentences. The repetition hammers home the point: Materialism is bad. Very bad.

And who would disagree with that? "Materialism" means Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole, Donald Trump, and Gordon Gecko. It means greed, obsession with status, celebrating the perverse attitude that he who dies with the most toys, wins. Stretch Hummers. No question about it: Materialism is one ugly, ugly concept, representing All That Is Evil In Modern Life (unless you're a Republican fat cat, and then it's ok).

And the corollary to this rejection of materialistic values is, There's an alternative to shallow materialism. A view of life that prizes really important things, like the indomitable human spirit. As Paul McCartney - that paragon of anti-materialism - once put it, "Money can't buy me love" (well, actually... but you get the idea).

And here comes the pun. Science is all about what it calls materialism, by which it means not wretched excess, of course, but simply reality. It means only that science does not concern itself with woowoo. Not that science can't appear downright spooky to us layfolk - try mixing up some cornstarch and water to create a non-Newtonian fluid sometime. But a scientific explanation invokes only properties of ...you got it ... matter. Hence, the term "materialism."

What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, of course. And that's the point of the creationist's pun, to confuse the everyday notion of evil materialism with the morally neutral meaning of the word within science. In everyday life, we're appalled by materialistic behavior like the vulgar accumulation of vast wealth (GOP excepted). But that is light years removed from being appalled by one of the major operating premises of science, that reality has a natural explanation. Dembski and Brownback deliberately confuse the two, punning on our rejection of materialistic moral values to create sympathy for a rejection of scientific materialism (ie, epistemological standards).

And once you reject scientific materialism and open science up to - their term, not mine- supernaturalism, well, then astrology becomes a scientifically plausible theory. And UFOs. And ESP. And "intelligent design" creationism.

And,believe it or not, that is exactly what a leading proponent of "intelligent design" creationism argued at the Dover trial:
[Michael] Behe was called to the stand on Monday by the defence, and testified that ID was a scientific theory, and was not “committed” to religion. His cross examination by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric Rothschild of the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, began on Tuesday afternoon.

Rothschild told the court that the US National Academy of Sciences supplies a definition for what constitutes a scientific theory: “Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.”

Because ID has been rejected by virtually every scientist and science organisation, and has never once passed the muster of a peer-reviewed journal paper, Behe admitted that the controversial theory would not be included in the NAS definition. “I can’t point to an external community that would agree that this was well substantiated,” he said.

Behe said he had come up with his own “broader” definition of a theory, claiming that this more accurately describes the way theories are actually used by scientists. “The word is used a lot more loosely than the NAS defined it,” he says.

Rothschild suggested that Behe’s definition was so loose that astrology would come under this definition as well. He also pointed out that Behe’s definition of theory was almost identical to the NAS’s definition of a hypothesis. Behe agreed with both assertions.

The exchange prompted laughter from the court, which was packed with local members of the public and the school board.
Indeed. "Intelligent design" creationism is just a bad joke. A very bad joke. It prizes punning over reality. And no one, Republican or Democrat or otherwise, who puts any credence in this joke should be taken seriously for the position of dogcatcher, let alone president of the United States.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

 
Asymetrical PR

by digby

Hey, did you hear about the latest terrorist attack?

A Saudi Arabian detainee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay apparently committed suicide Wednesday, the U.S. military said.


Lest you think I've gone nuts, recall that the US government considers prisoners committing suicide in Guantanamo an act of war. I'm serious. Remember this?

Rear Admiral Harris is adamant that the people in his care are well looked after and are enemies of the United States.

He told me they use any weapon they can - including their own urine and faeces - to continue to wage war on the United States.

The suicide of three detainees, he reaffirmed to me, amounted to "asymmetrical warfare."


The state department disagreed. They saw the Gitmo suicides as a PR tactic:

"Taking their own lives was not necessary, but it certainly is a good P.R. move," Graffy said of the deaths. Drawing on knowledge gleaned from work "on improving the United States' image abroad, especially in Islamic countries" (a detail The New York Times pulled from her State Department bio), Graffy elaborated on her remarks on the BBC show "Newshour": “It does sound like this is part of a strategy--in that they don't value their own lives, and they certainly don't value ours; and they use suicide bombings as a tactic."


Those evil terrorist bastards. All that bellyaching about torture and being innocent and locked up forever with no end in sight is just a fancy-pants marketing strategy. It's ingenious. See, suicide bombings and committing suicide in prison are both acts of war against the US because they make us look bad. (Which would logically mean that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are committing terrorist attacks against the US every time they open their mouths.)

I'm jesting here, but it really isn't funny. Guantanamo is indeed a PR disaster for the United States and it's entirely self inflicted. And now we have presidential candidates talking about "doubling it" to wild applause by American citizens. I think somebody needs to stop these nutzoid Republicans from hurling their rhetorical feces as weapons and committing acts of asymetrical warfare against the rule of law as soon as possible.


.
 
Boondoggle Alert

by tristero

Call me cynical about the Bush administration, if you like. I can take it. But this sounds like an open invitation for porkers to feed at the public trough while keeping criticism muted because, well, no one would dream of criticizing Bush for actually doubling the funding of overseas AIDS spending to $30 billion.

What makes me so suspicious? It's this little line from Our Leader, embedded in perhaps the dumbest sentence published by the New York Times in at least...an hour or two:
“This money will be spent wisely,” Mr. Bush said in the White House Rose Garden, where the brilliant sunshine and the music of birds seemed incongruous, given the seriousness of the subject.
That's right. Bush actually said, “This money will be spent wisely.” If that ain't a tipoff, I dunno what is. Remember "We do not torture"?

For those of you who even now, give the Bush administration the benefit of a doubt - after we learned that we do indeed torture, after all those reported helicopter crashes due to "mechanical failure" rather than missile attacks - fair warning: Your faith in God's Own Codpiece is misplaced. Bush is up to no good here.

My guess is that within 2 years the stories of corruption will ooze out. Maybe it'll go to some utterly useless chastity programs jointly run by Newt Gingrich and Mark Foley. Maybe it'll be a "get in touch with your inner hetero" program spearheaded by Ted Haggard. Or some Aids drug rehab scam that enriches the already enriched Rush Limbaugh. Or maybe it'll be just plain old theft and fraud. Or all of the above.

Whatever, the pigs are squeaking expectantly today, 'cause soon they're gonna be well-fed, courtesy you and me.

 
Exceptional Idiocy

by digby

This TB patient is a perfect small-scale example of idiotic American exceptionalism:

A man with a form of tuberculosis so dangerous he is under the first U.S. government-ordered quarantine since 1963 had health officials around the world scrambling Wednesday to find passengers who sat near him on two trans-Atlantic flights.

The man told a newspaper he took the first flight from Atlanta to Europe for his wedding, then the second flight home because he feared he might die without treatment in the U.S.

[...]

Health officials said the man had been advised not to fly and knew he could expose others when he boarded the jets from Atlanta to Paris, and later from Prague to Montreal.

The man, however, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that doctors didn't order him not to fly and only suggested he put off his long-planned wedding in Greece. He knew he had a form of tuberculosis and that it was resistant to first-line drugs, but he didn't realize it could be so dangerous, he said.

"We headed off to Greece thinking everything's fine," said the man, who declined to be identified because of the stigma attached to his diagnosis.

He flew to Paris on May 12 aboard Air France Flight 385. While in Europe, health authorities reached him with the news that further tests had revealed his TB was a rare, "extensively drug-resistant" form, far more dangerous than he knew. They ordered him into isolation, saying he should turn himself over to Italian officials.

Instead, the man flew from Prague to Montreal on May 24 aboard Czech Air Flight 0104, then drove into the United States at Champlain, N.Y. He told the newspaper he was afraid that if he didn't get back to the U.S., he wouldn't get the treatment he needed to survive.


Regardless of whether, knowing what he knew, he should have ever gone on this trip in the first place, this selfish and thoughtless man has been brainwashed by malevolent conservatives like Rudy Giuliani who spews nonsense about how "nobody goes to Europe for health care," to make an ideological point about "socialized medicine", despite the fact that their health care is actually superior to ours.

According to the news conference I just heard, the CDC was even trying to find a way to get this man back to the US, but this fellow was so "afraid" of being under the care of furriners until they could transport him back that he took off without telling anyone where he was going.

This attitude actually kills people. In this case it may be some poor schnooks who had the misfortune to come across this foolish man during his mad dash to get back to "civilization." But it's the same combination of hubris and stupidity that is making people all over the world recoil in horror at America's leadership. Our culture is sick with arrogant, anti-intellectual provincialism. I wouldn't blame the planet for wanting to quarantine the whole damned country.


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Empirically Wrong

by tristero

Scott Winsip::
Positioning on the Iraq war, however, tended to fall back on values far more heavily than either supporters or critics would prefer to admit, and that's because the evidence necessary for an empirically-grounded position wasn't available.
The hell it wasn't. All you had to do was read, actually read, the testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, listen carefully to what Scott Ritter was saying, and most importantly, listen very carefully to what Bush and Co. were actually saying, as opposed to what people said they were saying.

Positioning on the Iraq War had little to do with values but a lot to do with how susceptible you were to being manipulated and panicked by authority figures. And the world learned the hard way that 2/3's of this country was highly suggestible and, consequently, scared stiff by an administration doing everything possible to make them feel as terrified as possible.

Values? To the extent that keeping your wits about you when everyone was losing theirs, then yeah, I guess it was about values.

As for the rest of Scott's argument, it's the typical reified arguing of the "New Democrats," that the American electorate leans right, implying that it always will lean right, and we just have to go along and accept that. But to Scott's credit, at least he admits it's a complicated picture. Indeed it is, and partly because it is a very inaccurate, blackandwhite picture.

Oh, and Scott? I'm a liberal. The word doesn't scare me and it shouldn't scare you.

 
Sullivan Goes All Godwin On Us

by tristero


It took him awhile, but he did finally notice:
Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death. [Emphasis added.]
For the record, I do not believe that even those who commit heinous war crimes, including the ones described by Sullivan, should be put to death. Brought to trial, yes. And if convicted, they should serve long, hard sentences. But most importantly, they should be removed from goverment and/or positions of influence. Fast.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

 
The Truth Will Set Us Free

by digby

Jonathan Schwartz over at A Tiny Revolution is reading "The Italian Letter" and finds a rather startling quote from a member of the Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center of the CIA(WINPAC):


He had a clear message for the men and women who controlled the output of the center's analysts: "If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so." The directive was not quite an order to cook the books, but it was a strong suggestion that cherry-picking and slanting not only would be tolerated, but might even be rewarded.


Read the rest of Jonathan's post to see the full atrocity.

As it happens I'm also reading "The Italian Letter" and was struck by another little tid-bit that I haven't seen reported:


Within the Bush administration, Cheney was described as the leading architect of and cheerleader for the war with Iraq. Behind the scenes, former administration officials told us, Cheney and his secretive team of loyalists had maneuvered to make war inevitable.

Cheney at times had faced challenges inside the White house. Before the 2004 election, Karl Rove, the president's powerful political advisor, privately sounded out social and fiscal conservative activists, who were unhappy with America's foreign adventurism, about the possibility of dumping Cheney as Bush's running mate. It is unclear whether Rove had th clout with bush to arrange such a makeover of th ticket or whether he was simply "playing to the conservative base," according to0 a source who is a personeal friend and consultant to many conservative stalwarts. Nevertheless, Cheney soon found out about Rove's secret conversations with the influential conservative backers. He was not happy. Yet Rove had reason to be concerned. His own internal polling six months before the election showed that Bush would gain 3.5 percent more if Iraq, strongly identified with Cheney ceased to be an issue --- a critical margin in what would certainly be a close election.




Now, I'm actually surprised by this. I had thought Cheney was revered by the conservative base during that period. If he wasn't I wonder why Dem polling didn't pick up on it and play it up. I'm even more surprised that if Iraq was such a salient issue six months before the election, that the Dems were unable to prevail in the election.


Oh wait. No I'm not. Remember this book?

This fascinating and disturbing book is the official record of testimony taken by the Democratic Members and Staff of the House Judiciary Committee, presided over by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Member. Originally published in January, 2005 by the Government Printing Office, it has been edited and re-designed for maximum readability. Both a riveting and alarming report on the status of our ailing presidential election process, this book provides new insights into the abuse and manipulation of electronic voting machines and the arbitrary and illegal behavior of a number of elected and election officials which effectively disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters in order to change the outcome of an election.


Imagine that.


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Thinkers

by digby

Roy, on the raging debate among the wingnut cognoscenti over which are the Big Three Conservative Thinkers (patent pending):
From what I can see, by far the best Big Three candidates would be Stone Cold Steve Austin, El Duce from the Mentors, and Screech from "Saved By The Bell."



Indeed. As Rick Perlstein writes in this piece about the sordid history of the National Association of Manufacturers, "Conservatives can't compete in the marketplace of ideas ... so they cheat."

Last week, sane people everyone celebrated the withdrawal of the nomination of Michael Baroody as nominee to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission, because he had made his living fighting against the commission of consumer product safety. This scion fo the klan I've called the Corleone family fo the right did so as lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers, which reacted thus: "The withdrawal of Michael Baroody’s nomination to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission is a sad day for consumers and everyone who cares about good government."

Such public relations absurdities are par for the National Association of Manfacturer's course. I'm glad, in fact, for this teachable moment: there is nothing more fundamental to what NAM than husting the public about what is good for them. If you love E. coli conservatism, lift a glass daily in honor of NAM.


read on...


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Things That Make You Go "Hmmm..."

by tristero


So I'm reading this puff piece about high-end videoconferencing when I come across this list of the serious problems with air travel:
“The endless problems at airports these days — whether it’s bad weather, maintenance delays, crowded cabins or security lines — make alternatives to travel more attractive,” said Gary Foley, the manager of global conferencing and travel services at Xerox who oversees some 19,000 employees who take business trips.
There's something missing from this list. Can you guess what it might be?

That's right! Terrorism! We have all these Republicans playing the 9/11 card all the time, scaring the bejesus out of the rubes - I'm sorry, I meant to say, their base - about how the terrorist-islamo-libero-fascist-brown-Democrat-people are gonna kill us all, no question about it.

OTOH, business-folks, who do the bulk of the flying, seem more worried about crowded cabins than Al Qaeda.

Hmmm....

 
Big Surprise

by digby


Not that they'll ever admit it, but the wasted wingnuts were wrong --- as usual:

An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003.

The summary is part of an attachment to Fitzgerald's memorandum to the court supporting his recommendation that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former top aide, spend 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

The nature of Plame's CIA employment never came up in Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice trial.

The unclassified summary of Plame's employment with the CIA at the time that syndicated columnist Robert Novak published her name on July 14, 2003 says, "Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for who the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States."

Plame worked as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations and was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) in January 2002 at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The employment history indicates that while she was assigned to CPD, Plame, "engaged in temporary duty travel overseas on official business." The report says, "she traveled at least seven times to more than ten times." When overseas Plame traveled undercover, "sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA."

Not that it matters, of course. She was just working on nuclear weapons proliferations so it wasn't like it was important or anything. No biggie.


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Self-Awareness Blackout

by digby

Tweety's very upset at the horrible way the Mexican audience treated Miss USA last night at the Miss Universe pageant. (Those people are so ungrateful...) He got especially upset with MSNBC for showing the footage of her falling on stage on a loop:

"Can we stop this joke, please? Let's stop... Somebody doesn't like women or something. Anyway --- Bill and Hillary Clinton made the cover of this week's Weekly Standard calls the Clinton's a riveting saga of lust and ambition. It's all about the two books that have come out...."


This on the heels of his Saturday show which John Amato describes this way:

Chris Matthews just can't get enough of Bill & Hillary. He dedicated most of his Saturday Show to the new books that the Washington Post put up on their front page. Somerby will have a field day with this one if he does post about it. Josephine Hearn downplays Tweety's obsession and says the best that Carl Bernstein could come up with after eight years was that she's controlling. That didn't stop his lust for Hillary…When Gloria Borger referenced the Godfather movie, Chris dug deep into the screenplay by labeling Hillary Clinton as having: "Luca Brasi behavior."


Go to the link if you can stomach watching Matthews go into his full-on slavering Hillary obsession. I'm not sure if he mentioned it in this segment, but he's especially unhappy that Hillary is "targetting the girls" and that she speaks in a grating voice that no man is going to be able to vote for. He's right about one thing: "somebody" doesn't like women or something.

And yes, Somerby has a lot to say about this, starting with Matthews' breathless wall to wall coverage of the two books last Friday.


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Out Of Thin Air

by digby

Not stovepiping, not intelligence failure --- they just made stuff up:


THE HAGUE, 23/05/07 - Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has said in a letter to parliament that Vlemmo NV does not exist as far as he knows. This company was named by US authorities as a link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden.

On or around 25 July 2002, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (OUSDP) of the US [Douglas Feith's operation] gave a briefing entitled 'Assessing the Relationship Between Iraq and al-Qaida'. This alternative intelligence report wrote that Osama Bin Laden's al-Hijra Company had contacts with the Netherlands-based company Vlemmo NV, which was allegedly involved in the purchase by Iraq of military equipment, Verhagen confirmed.

But "the company Vlemmo is unknown in the Netherlands," according to the minister. "The company has never been registered with the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands and is also not known to the tax service. That the company may have served as a front for illegal arms trade with Iraq is equally unknown to me."

The 2002 OUSDP report was made public last month by the chairman of the US Senate's defence committee, Carl Levin. "The contents of the intelligence report has only become known to me following the recent publication of the document," said Verhagen.


That seems like something someone should look into, if you ask me.


Update: Bob Harris found a Belgian company with the same name, so it appears Feith may have been confised about the country, rather than simply making up companies that didn't exist. Hey, when it comes to Old Europe, one country's the same as the next, right?



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Monday, May 28, 2007

 
Rudy McDreamy

by digby

Michael Powell of the NY Times goes on the road with The Man:

The dyspeptic, “not afraid to suggest his opponents have really deep-seated psychological problems” Republican mayor of fact and legend has taken a holiday. What’s left on the presidential campaign trail is a commanding daddy of a candidate, a disciplined fellow who talks about terrorism and fiscal order and about terrorism some more.

Mr. Giuliani laughs, he gestures expansively, he even pokes fun at his tendency to wax a wee bit authoritarian. (He suggests a touch of the cane was necessary to impose discipline on that liberal asylum known as New York.) He shakes hands with reporters he once viewed as “jerky” and assures them he is fine with tough questions about abortion, where he has settled on a position supporting a woman’s right to choose, and about gun control, where is he at least halfway into a policy back-flip.

He has not sanded down all his edges. At Oglethorpe University here, where he met with 200 voters, he does not hesitate to challenge that woman who asks about jihad. But he does so in a fashion that leaves her ambulatory.

“They hate you,” he says of the Islamic terrorists, bringing his hands up to his chest. “They don’t want you to be in this college, or you, or you — —.”

Mr. Giuliani wheels around and points toward another middle-aged woman in the front row, who looks momentarily startled. “And you can’t wear that outfit because you’re showing your arms.”

“This is reality, ma’am,” he continues, his voice streaked with just a touch of exasperation. “This isn’t me making it up. I saw reality after 9/11. You’ve got to clear your head.”

His answer meets with sustained applause.

[...]

“Right now, as we sit here enjoying breakfast, they are planning on coming here to kill us,” he warns them. “I don’t blame people for not getting it before 9/11. But I do blame people who don’t get it now.”



Now that's more like it. Let's have no more talk about the Breck girl, O-Bambi or the Be-otch. The NY Times has found it's manly man at long last --- their own homegrown, hysterical, psychopatic drama queen. They love him. (If he doesn't win the nomination, maybe he can team up with Karen Hughes for a revival of "La Cage Aux Folles.")

But he is so much more than just a shrill panic artist shrieking incoherently about middle aged women not showing their arms. He's got it all.


He's a Daddy-man (mentioned twice in the article):

If Hillary Rodham Clinton is the nurturer warrior and Barack Obama the college idealist and John McCain the tough but irreverent flyboy, then Mr. Giuliani is the father, the talk-tough-on-terror, I’m-comfortable-wielding-authority guy.


(Let's not talk about the fact that Daddy's own children hate his guts. Publicly.)

He's A Man's Man:

In dress, he plays to type. Other candidates go open-necked or pull flannel shirts out of the closet for New Hampshire.

Not the former mayor. He dresses in the one-size-too-large suits he has favored since his days as a federal prosecutor, with the top shirt button fastened and tie knotted tight. It is difficult to imagine anyone asking him a “really dopey” (two favorite Giuliani words now in abeyance) question about his favored style in underwear, as someone once did of Bill Clinton.


I wonder if anyone will ask him a "really dopey" question about this:




He's a Rock Star-Man (and a babe magnet):

For all the Beltway chatter that Mr. Giuliani’s moderation on abortion renders him radioactive for the evangelicals who inhabit the core of the Republican Party, the former mayor attracts little verbal buckshot. More often, the image that comes to mind as Mr. Giuliani traipses into a string of packed, applauding rooms in Alabama, Georgia and New Hampshire is of a rock star, if that rocker happened to be a balding and slightly hunched former mayor.

In Atlanta, Mr. Giuliani offers to take questions, and a stout blond woman in a red pantsuit shoots straight up, raising her hand and nearly shouting, “I think you are sooooo handsome.”


He's dreamy all right:

Ideological consistency is not Mr. Giuliani’s groove; leadership and destiny are. So is self-assurance. Ask Mr. Giuliani how to impose fiscal discipline on Washington, and he notes: “I’m an expert at it.” Mention New York and he says: “The turnaround was massive, palpable; nobody can really deny it.” Quiz him about presidential qualifications, and he says that there is no way to prepare, but that “being mayor of New York” comes as close as it gets.

As for terror, “I understand terrorism in a way that is equal to or exceeds anyone else,” Mr. Giuliani says.

Mr. Giuliani will drop a self-deprecating joke. When annoyance tickles at the back of his spine, he has learned to smile rather than scowl. But he suffers no deficit of self-confidence.


You see, the fact that the man is a goose-stepping, sadistic, egomaniacal, delusional cartoon is what makes him so awesome. How could anyone be surprised that both the 28 percenters and the NY Times love him.


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"In About The Time It Takes A Batter To Swing"

by digby

This fascinating article in today's Wapo about the essential nature of morality has a lot to chew on and I'm sure we'll all be chewing away over the next few days.

But, this cries out for immediate snark:

Moral decisions can often feel like abstract intellectual challenges, but a number of experiments such as the one by Grafman have shown that emotions are central to moral thinking. In another experiment published in March, University of Southern California neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio and his colleagues showed that patients with damage to an area of the brain known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lack the ability to feel their way to moral answers.

When confronted with moral dilemmas, the brain-damaged patients coldly came up with "end-justifies-the-means" answers. Damasio said the point was not that they reached immoral conclusions, but that when confronted by a difficult issue -- such as whether to shoot down a passenger plane hijacked by terrorists before it hits a major city -- these patients appear to reach decisions without the anguish that afflicts those with normally functioning brains.


Uhm:


Cheney, who told the commission he was operating on instructions from Bush given in a phone call, issued authority for aircraft threatening Washington to be shot down. But the commission noted that "among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete." Those sources include people nearby taking notes, such as Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and Cheney's wife, Lynne.

Bush and Cheney told the commission that they remember the phone call; the president said it reminded him of his time as a fighter pilot. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who had joined Cheney, told the commission that she heard the vice president discuss the rules of engagement for fighter jets over Washington with Bush.

Within minutes, Cheney would use his authority. Told -- erroneously, as it turned out -- that a presumably hijacked aircraft was 80 miles from Washington, Cheney decided "in about the time it takes a batter to swing" to authorize fighter jets scrambled from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., to engage it, the commission reported.



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Politics Under Water

by digby

I'm just catching up on the week-end's offerings and read Glenn Greenwald's post from Saturday critiquing Jonathan Alter's piece in the latest Newsweek about the Iraq war vote. Glenn is correct that this false dichotomy of "support the troops" vs "support your constituents" is a GOP talking point that has become conventional wisdom largely because the Democrats conceded it. I can't answer for why they tend to do this, but it's one of the biggest problems we have --- and it isn't just the Democrats who do it, it's the netroots too. Every time we reinforce GOP memes about Democratic "cowardice" we help them make their case. Language is important and it's a big failure among the left that we fail to understand how our own words work against us. I'm guilty of it too.

But the problem is actually bigger than duelling talking points, as Glenn points out here:


There are all sorts of reasons which, though misguided, at least constitute coherent arguments against withdrawal. But the notion that de-funding constitutes a failure to support the troops -- in a way that, say, timetables do not -- is just inane, not even in the realm of basic rationality or coherence.

And yet exactly this nonsensical notion was permitted not only to take hold, but to become unchallengeable conventional wisdom in our public debate over the war. The whole debate we just had was centrally premised on an idea that is not merely unpersuasive, but factually false, just ridiculous on its face. That a blatant myth could be outcome-determinative in such an important debate is a depressingly commonplace indictment of our dysfunctional media and political institutions.


Yes indeed. It's just the latest in a long line of fatuous slogans that are determinative in making huge decisions in our political life. We are in the midst of an intellectual crisis in this country where certain dogmatic and incoherent beliefs are allowed to dominate the discourse in spite of the fact that they are demonstrably false. It's one of the most difficult problems we face.

The Iraq funding debate is a perfect example of hundreds we could choose from. The bill provided for the troops in every way. But it demanded that the president begin to plan for the withdrawal of those troops from Iraq by certain dates. Both of those things were supported by the people, in large numbers. The president vetoed the bill and this action was explained to the American people --- by Democrats as well as Republicans and the media --- as being done because Democrats were refusing to fund the troops. It was, of course, precisely the opposite.

So, we are stuck trying to work out reality based solutions in a political world that operates as if it is underwater. You can sort of see the vague outlines of what's in front of you, but it's distorted and wierd and everything moves in slow motion. For instance, one of the big questions that rarely gets asked by anyone is why in the hell we are "funding the troops" with emergency supplemental spending bills like this year after year in the first place? Why would a vastly powerful and wealthy country such as ours be unable to plan for the troops' basic necessities in a defense budget in the trillions? It's absurd, ridiculous, and yet everyone accepts the fact that the troops could be left foraging for food and bullets in the middle of Baghdad, and the only question is whether the Democrats and the President are to blame because they failed to pass a bill before Memorial Day.

It's a blackmail scam that the Bush administration has been pulling successfully since the beginning of the war. Here's an article from 2004, that could have been taken right out of the headlines last month:

You'd think it'd be a top priority for the Army, outfitting troops with new body armor, helmets, and communications gear. But the Pentagon can't seem to find the cash in its $420 billion budget to pay for the equipment.

Instead, the Army is relying on a supplemental spending bill -- one that's meant to fund the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq -- to cover the costs.

[...]

This is another case of Rumsfeld refusing to make a choice between the military's current needs and its future, of trying to have it both ways. He needs to get gear to the troops in Iraq. But he doesn't want to sacrifice any of the military's big ticket items in order to do it. So he pulls a little trick on Congress. First, Rumsfeld sends lawmakers his main Pentagon budget, which has lots of line items for projects like the hulking, $117 billion Future Combat Systems. And then, crying poverty, Rumsfeld asks for body armor money – which there's no chance in hell that Congress will deny.

It's a very, very slick Washington maneuver – one you'd be tempted to call a form of blackmail. Because G.I.s in the field are now counting on that supplemental to keep them safe, Defense News says.

The supplemental will fund much of the work being done by the Army’s two-year-old Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI), whose goal is to equip all deploying units — and, by 2007, all active and reserve units — with 76 items, including the Advanced Combat Helmet, body armor, desert boots and moisture-wicking T-shirts. Yakovac said the program could cost $5 billion.

“We’re hoping on supplementals to do that,” he added.

Roughly 150,000 soldiers will receive the RFI kits by the end of this year, with another 250,000 troops equipped in 2005, said Brig. Gen. James Moran, the Army’s soldier program executive officer.


Here's 2005:

The Administration’s $81 billion request for supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is poor budgetary practice that obscures the Pentagon’s true fiscal picture and erodes Congress’s oversight capabilities, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a Pentagon watch-dog group.

“The Pentagon has padded this budget with tens of billions of dollars not related to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Christopher Hellman, military policy analyst at the Center. “It is a fiscal slight-of-hand that Congress ought to reject.”

Traditionally, supplemental spending requests have funded unanticipated emergency needs that the normal annual federal budget process cannot accommodate. But the Administration’s request today includes billions for Army modernization programs, day-to-day Pentagon operations, weapons purchases and additional troops that should be funded through its annual budget.

Supplemental spending requests also lack the usual detail used to justify the federal government’s annual budget request, making accounting more difficult. Moreover, supplemental funding is left out of the deficit projections that accompany the annual budget.

“This method of budgeting hides the true size of the deficit, and it makes it extremely difficult for Congress to track how these funds are being allocated,” said Hellman. “Members of Congress should insist on better Pentagon budgeting practices and not simply sign a blank check.”

“When asked recently if the Pentagon was using the supplemental to fund non-combat requirements, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said, ‘that would be wrong, and we wouldn't do that.’ Well, it is wrong, and they are doing it,” concluded Hellman.




This year, here's the same old song, sung by the president himself:

"The Army will soon begin reducing quality of life initiatives, reducing the repair and maintenance of equipment necessary for deployment training, and curtailing the training of Army Guard and Reserve units within the United States, reducing their readiness levels." He continued that if emergency funding is not received by mid-May, "the Army will have to consider further actions, to include reducing the pace of equipment overhaul work at Army depots, curtailing training rotations for brigade combat teams currently scheduled for overseas deployment," a step that that the Secretary said, "would likely require the further extension of currently deployed forces." In other words, there are consequences for Congress' delay in getting our troops that the Defense Department has requested.


You see, the Pentagon is so strapped for cash --- every single year --- that they have to come begging for more money just to put shoes on the troops' feet. They do this on purpose so they don't have to cut any of that juicy delicious Military Industrial Complex pork. We know this. It's on the record, easily found in 30 seconds worth of Googling. But because of this absurdly cryptic, symbolic way we have of communicating in this country now, not to mention the ownership of our politics by big money interests, we aren't even allowed to bring it up. The yearly "supplemental" battle is really just the latest administration blackmail demand for more taxpayer money for their contributors, with Bush holding a gun to the troops' heads and saying "don't make me do it." We are arguing about a solution for a problem that wouldn't exist if the president didn't create it each and every year.

But that is such an obscure point that it isn't even relevant. Instead of questioning why we are funding anything in this opaque and illegal way, we are stuck in this confusing feed-back loop of PR, marketing and spin, struggling forward to 2008 trying to see through the dirty political water to what is actually going on. It's difficult.

The only thing I know for sure is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are not going to withdraw from Iraq. They are playing a rough game and would rather see the troops die without bullets and body armor than admit in any way that their occupation is a failure. The Democrats remain somewhat paralyzed in the face of such sociopathic intransigence (who believes Cheney won't pull the trigger?) and the media remain unwilling to report this in any but schoolyard terms. So, the country must debate this under water --- and that makes us feel helpless and panicked as we watch more people dying in this useless ridiculous face saving exercise.

I don't know what we can do other than just keep building, building, building the pressure until it's unthinkable for Republicans to win their next election supporting this "war." Making the argument falls mainly on us, the activists and the grassroots --- and we are going to take a beating from the media for our trouble. Maybe, if we're lucky, we'll be able to come up for air in 2008.

How we fix the intellectual crisis is another problem and don't have the faintest idea how to do it. I just got Gore's new book. Perhaps it has some pointers.


By the way: the reason that Joe Biden and quite a few others gave for supporting this "emergency" supplemental was that the troops desperately needed mine resistant vehicles. Here's why they don't have them .



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Sunday, May 27, 2007

 
Arlington West

by digby



The above is a few blocks from where I live in Santa Monica. The group that calls itself Arlington West has been doing this every Sunday since February of 2004. It startles me every week to see it --- and see how large it's become. It's especially haunting today.




Thx Bill
 
Duty, Honor, Country

by digby

Steve Benen found this gem in Dick Cheney's speech at West Point:

"As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for. Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away."

Benen wryly observes that it would be nice if Cheney referred to the "protections of the Geneva Conventions and the US Constitution as a good thing, perhaps protections that he's proud of?"

No kidding. He talks about such things as if they are some sort of anachronistic nicety that everyone agress is completely ridiculous. But, it's actually worse than that. He's explicitly saying that only a bunch of girly-men with "delicate sensibilities" need the protections of the Geneva Conventions or the Constitution of the United States. He isn't proud of them. He thinks they make the US weak and it's obvious that he'd be thrilled to take a match to both the treaty and the constitution.

I hope all those new officers at the US Military Academy got the message. Real men don't need those silly protections. When the Vice President of the United States openly derides the Geneva Conventions and the US Constitution at West Point by snidely describing those who demand their protections as "delicate" I think you can assume they are no longer operative. If any of these newly minted officers ever have the misfortune to be captured, they'd better hope they can be blasted out because they surely won't be able to leverage any kind of reciprocation or make any kind of an agreement. You are on your own boys, no "delicate sensibilities" allowed.

I'm sure the enemy understands that. We've got people being tortured and locked up forever because Dick Cheney and his hand puppet unilaterally decided they were guilty of terrorism and therefore they have no rights. Let's hope those two soldiers who are being held captive right now were given the opportunity to hear the Vice President's speech on CNN. I'm sure it made them feel terrific to be led by such a manly man as he. And I hope it clarifies for them what the rules are.

I continue to be impressed with the dignity and gravity of the Republican leadership when they speak publicly about such matters while people are dying in ever larger numbers and our own soldiers are being captured and held by terrorists. It's so helpful for the leader of our country to appear on television and dare the enemy to torture and kill them. Cheney might as well have said, "bring it on -- we have!"


One more thing: the West Point honor code says, "a cadet will not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do." How in the world did they justify having Dick Cheney speak at the commencement?

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Ugh

by digby

From Jeralyn:

Christopher Newton was put to death like a dog in Ohio yesterday. The execution took two hours and ten attempts...

It took so long that the staff paused to allow Newton a bathroom break.


It's bad enough that in the year 2007, the state still finds it necessary to commit highly ritualized random executions, but it's incomprehensible that the state is also unable to find a way to kill someone without it turning into a sideshow. I have to wonder if they don't actually do it on purpose. More fun for the folks.


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Dreamer

by digby

Ok, I like Bill Richardson and everything. He's an extremely well-qualified fellow who seems to have a gift for diplomacy and foreign policy --- two things I think this country needs desperately.
But it's one thing to broker deals with Kim Jon Il or manage hostage releases. It's quite another to say you can bring Red Socks Sox and Yankee fans together as he did on Meet The Press this morning. Let's get real.


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Saturday, May 26, 2007

 
Saturday Night At The Movies

Riding in cars with films


By Dennis Hartley

I’m going to deviate from my norm a bit this week and recommend some CDs you might want to pack along for your summer vacation.

Some movie soundtracks are so damn good you want to take ‘em with you wherever you go, so with that in mind I have compiled my personal “top ten” list for your consideration. Before I am called on the carpet for “overlooking” the likes of Bernard Herrmann, Dmitri Tomkin, Alfred Newman, Henry Mancini, Maurice Jarre, etc.-please know I am not attempting to tackle a scholarly dissertation on film composers; my criteria here is the type of soundtrack that you would rip into the iPod or pop into the car stereo. So, at the risk of crashing Haloscan, here we go (in no particular ranking order):

O Lucky Man!: Former Animals keyboardist Alan Price composed and performed a fantastic batch of original pop-rock tunes for Lindsay Anderson’s 1973 film (Price and his band were also cleverly incorporated into the story on camera as the Greek chorus.)

The Best of James Bond 30th Anniversary: OK, I’m cheating a bit here, as this one CD represents a dozen or so movies; but with Bond films it’s all about that one opening title song anyway, so an anthology like this makes perfect sense. Highlights: Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”, Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice”, Duran Duran’s “A View to A Kill” and of course Monty Norman’s original signature 007 theme.

Me And You And Everyone We Know : Normally, I’m not prone to making a beeline to the nearest music store to purchase the soundtrack right after leaving the theater, but that is exactly what I did after watching Miranda July’s fantastic debut. The effervescent, Eno-influenced ambient music by Mike Andrews gets even better upon repeat listening.

Valley Girl and Valley Girl: More Music From The Soundtrack: For those of us who get all misty-eyed about the early 80s new wave/power pop scene, this quintessential soundtrack was one of the most well-selected (outside of the John Hughes oeuvre). Music from the Jam, the Plimsouls, Psych Furs, Bonnie Hayes, Modern English, etc.-great stuff!

2001: A Space Odyssey(1996 reissue): The use of classical music was a signature trademark of just about any Kubrick film, but this particular soundtrack was Stanley’s best “mix tape”, IMHO. (Hal Ashby would later pay homage and recycle Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” (Deodato’s jazzed-up arrangement) to great effect in “Being There”.)

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (Expanded edition): The artistic partnership between spaghetti western director Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone is the stuff of legend, and this soundtrack from the classic 1968 film represents the apex. Runner up: “Duck, you Sucker!” (I still find myself singing “shom, shom, shom” in the shower…)

She's Gotta Have It: Spike’s dad Bill composed a wonderful (and underrated) pop-jazz score for Lee’s indie debut. Highlight: “Nola” (the memorable song that accompanied the film’s solitary full-color scene). Unfortunately this soundtrack is currently out of print (I’m glad I hung on to my dog-eared cassette copy all these years!).

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Movie soundtrack version): Put on your makeup, plug in the 8-track and take your wig down from the shelf! Director/writer/star John Cameron Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask produced one kick-ass original soundtrack for the film version of their stage musical. Bob Mould contributes outstanding guitar work.

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels: Guy Ritchie’s brilliant Brit-noir featured an equally brilliant selection of music. An eclectic blend of ol’ skool funk and soul, reggae, classic Top 40, garage punk and modern Britpop. Any mix that includes “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by the Stooges, the theme from “Zorba the Greek”, “Spooky” by Dusty Springfield and “18 with a Bullet” by Pete Wingfield, (and makes it all work) rules!

Un Homme et une Femme(Soundtrack): A perfect marriage of movie and soundtrack. Francis Lai’s music for Claude Lelouch’s 1966 masterpiece is truly timeless. Highlights: The title theme and “Samba Sarava”. Unfortunately, it is currently available only as a pricey import CD; but I have seen vinyl copies floating around used record stores for a relative pittance (labeled by its English title “A Man and a Woman”.) Happy hunting!


And needless to say, we also highly recommend the haunting and beautiful Voices Of Light: An Oratorio Inspired By The Film The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, written by our esteemed colleague, Richard Einhorn (whom you all know as tristero.) --- d


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Pathological Optimism

by digby

From the LA Times:

The report spotlighted two documents prepared in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council. One document was titled "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq," the other "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq."

These papers warned that:

• Establishing "an Iraqi democracy would be a long, difficult and probably turbulent process, with potential for backsliding into Iraq's tradition of authoritarianism."

• Unless the occupying forces prevented it, "score settling would occur throughout Iraq between those associated with Saddam's regime and those who have suffered most under it."

• Among the majority Shiite population, which Saddam had kept out of power, a political form of Islam could take root, "particularly if economic recovery were slow and foreign troops remained in the country for a long period."

• Iran would probably try to shape the post-Hussein Iraq, in a bid to position itself as a regional power.

• Al Qaeda would probably take advantage of the war to increase its terrorist activities, and the lines between it and other terrorist groups "could become blurred."

Each of these assessments was prescient. And Bush now cites the danger posed by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq as a major reason for resisting calls that the U.S. begin decreasing its troop levels and set a firm deadline for withdrawal.

In early 2003, even as their deputies were receiving the intelligence community papers, top administration officials — among them Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld — publicly speculated that U.S. troops would be greeted warmly as liberators and gave no hint that some analysts were raising red flags about difficulties to come.


Here's the smoke they were blowing for public consumption:

Vice President Cheney

"I think that the people of Iraq would welcome the U.S. force as liberators; they would not see us as oppressors, by any means. And our experience was after the Gulf War in '91 that once the United States acted and provide leadership that in fact, the community, the region was more peaceful for some considerable period of time. That is what made possible a lot of progress in peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians back in the early '90s." (Cheney, CNN American Morning, 9/9/02)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

"Think of the faces in Afghanistan when the people were liberated, when they moved out in the streets and they started singing and flying kites and women went to school and people were able to function and other countries were able to start interacting with them. That's what would happen in Iraq." (Media Roundtable, 9/13/02)


Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz


"The Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberator. They know that America will not come as a conqueror. Our plan, as President Bush has said, is to remain as long as necessary, and not one day more. And the Iraqis also recognize that the economic and political reconstruction of their country will be difficult. It will take their best efforts with the help of the United States and our coalition partners. But they are driven by the dream of a just and democratic society in Iraq." (Wolfowitz, Remarks to VFW conference, 3/11/03)

"Until the regime is gone it's going to be very hard to do anything. Even in cities that are liberated. I think when the people of Basra no longer feel the threat of that regime, you are going to see an explosion of joy and relief." (Wolfowitz, News Conference, 3/25/03)

Secretary of State Colin Powell

"We understand the implications of such a change of regime action and have made a commitment, to ourselves, anyway, as we start down this road that we would have obligations to see it through. We would hope that if it came to that, there would be such a sea change in the region, rather than it being seen as an assault, it would be seen as a liberation, and it would be seen as the beginning of a new era in that part of the world, as Mr. Lantos has spoken of. And we are working our way through the issues that have been raised by such contingency. And it's another reason why we went to the international community last week, because if we ever get to that point, we want the international community in there; it will take the international community to help stabilize the situation and create the kind of region that we talked about earlier." (Powell, HIRC, 9/19/02)

Press Secretary Ari Fleischer


"The point, again, to be - to work with our international coalition, to work through the U.N., to work through our military, to make certain that there is stability in the region. But I think that can be a force for stability and a force for improvement of people's lives. And take a look at what's happening in Afghanistan now, and the event that the president had in Afghanistan today to mark what's happened in the improvement of people's lives from where they were a year ago. The fact is that people want to be free. Around the world, it doesn't matter what country they are, whether it's the United States or anywhere in the world. Nobody wants to live under a brutal dictatorship. And the people of Afghanistan view the United States as liberators...Now that's not to predict what the ultimate outcome could be if we go to war, because nobody is saying a war will not have difficulties and there would not be casualties. My point is, the likelihood is much more like Afghanistan, where the people who live right now under a brutal dictator will view America as liberators, not conquerors." (Fleischer, Press Briefing, 10/11/02)


TBOGG has more on how much the Iraqis love us.

And Steve Benen, over at TPM, highlights another reason why the administration's Little Mary Sunshines all pooh-poohed the intelligence they didn't like and stove-piped the intelligence they did: they refused to hire anyone who had a clue about the region.



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The Ballad Of Joe And Jane

by digby

There's a lot of back and forth about whether Joe Klein committed a journalistic error in his reporting on Jane Harman's vote. I won't get into that. It speaks for itself.

But I do think Klein may be missing something very important about Harman's vote. She told Klein this:

I apologize for not calling to tell you that I changed my mind. Your account of our conversation was accurate and I stand by what I said to you. We were faced with two miserable choices. I had those kids on the C-130 [deploying to Iraq] in my mind, but I also had to consider the overwhelming opposition to this war in my district--and, in the end, my responsibility was to the people I represent.


It was a rough week last week for the people of Jane Harman's district and Klein ought to cut them some slack, and Harman too. One of those people she represented was this man:

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) Schoolmates remembered Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. as a gentle jock Thursday, hours after Army officials confirmed the 20-year-old's body was found during an exhaustive search for him and two other soldiers ambushed in Iraq.

Friends at South High School observed a moment of silence and described him as a "pumped up" athlete who made them laugh and comforted them when they needed it.

"You'd be sad and sitting there by yourself, and he'd come up to you and just talk to you, and say, 'Hey, how's your day? Are you OK?"' childhood friend Erika Esquivel said.

Anzack, who graduated two years ago, should be honored for "his service to America and for representing South High and Torrance so proudly and so well," Principal Scott McDowell told students in a second-period classroom announcement.

Outside, the front steps became a makeshift shrine of flowers, flags and balloons, marked with a sign reading: "You're our HERO." The soldier's Web page was also flooded with condolences.

Anzack, an Army gunner, vanished with two other soldiers May 12 when their combat team was ambushed about 20 miles outside of Baghdad. The attack, subsequently claimed by al-Qaida, killed four other Americans and an Iraqi.

Anzack's family had held out hope for the past 11 days. They had already endured a rumor weeks earlier that he was dead, then said Army officials told them Wednesday that a body found floating in the Euphrates River was his. The military confirmed Thursday that Anzack had been shot in the head, and his body dumped.



Sadly Anzack wasn't the only one of Harman's constituents who was killed last week:

U.S. Army Pfc. Daniel Cagle didn't want to return to Iraq in April after a two-week leave. But the Hawthorne-area man knew he had to go.

"He said, `I have my friends there. They are my second family and I've got to watch out for them,"' said his older sister, Nicole Cagle. "He was so proud to be right next to these people that he fought with. That was the only thing that made him want to be back: To protect them and lead them."

The 22-year-old man's fellow soldiers said that's what he was doing Wednesday when he died - leading them on a patrol near Ramadi in search of insurgents.

Cagle died shortly after a bomb exploded when he and Staff Sgt. Steve Butcher Jr., 27, of Penfield, N.Y., entered a house. The blast threw the rest of the team back and killed Butcher instantly.



I would assume Harman knew about Pfc. Anzack at least, who had been all over the news and was a big story in these parts --- and probably Pfc Cagle as well. I have no idea if this affected her thinking, but it almost certainly affected the thinking of her constituents, who, in vast numbers, want the US to begin to withdraw from Iraq.

I don't know the politics of these two families. But I wouldn't be surprised, considering the make-up of the district in which they live, if Andrew J. Bacevich speaks for some of them:

Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.

Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.

This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops - today's civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.

What exactly is a father's duty when his son is sent into harm's way?

Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.

As a citizen, I have tried since Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a critical understanding of U.S. foreign policy. I know that even now, people of good will find much to admire in Bush's response to that awful day. They applaud his doctrine of preventive war. They endorse his crusade to spread democracy across the Muslim world and to eliminate tyranny from the face of the Earth. They insist not only that his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct but that the war there can still be won. Some - the members of the "the-surge-is-already-working" school of thought - even profess to see victory just over the horizon.

I believe that such notions are dead wrong and doomed to fail. In books, articles and op-ed pieces, in talks to audiences large and small, I have said as much. "The long war is an unwinnable one," I wrote in an August 2005 opinion piece in The Washington Post. "The United States needs to liquidate its presence in Iraq, placing the onus on Iraqis to decide their fate and creating the space for other regional powers to assist in brokering a political settlement. We've done all that we can do."

Here was my own version of duty.

Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others - teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks - to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."

To be fair, responsibility for the war's continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son's death, my state's senators, Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen Lynch, our congressman, attended my son's wake. Kerry was present for the funeral mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff. More accurately, after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don't blame me.


(more here...)

Jane Harman decided in the end to at least feint in the direction of the good citizens of Torrance California who had just that week sacrificed two of their young men to a war they do not support and which they believe is contrary to the national interest. They are not alone.

Sixty-one percent of Americans say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq and 76 percent say things are going badly there, including 47 percent who say things are going very badly, the poll found.


Perhaps Harman's vote was a cynical capitulation to the brainless hippies, as Klein implies. But perhaps it's also true that the 65% who are people like her constituents deserve to have at least a tiny bit of representation in the congress too, even if the much wiser beltway wags think they should allow their betters to make the big decisions while they just send in their tax money and watch "American Idol" --- something which I'm sure people in Torrance would be happy to do except for the fact that members of their own families, schoolmates and friends are being killed.

This isn't one of those issues where you can tell your constituents that you "know better." The good citizens of Torrance California have proved, in the most painful way possible, that they have a stake in this thing and they deserve to be heard. And I would imagine that a good many of them feel as helpless, angry and defeated as Andrew Bacevich does today. The least their representatives can do is represent them. If they don't, those good citizens of Torrance (and good citizens all over the United States) are going to find people who will.


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Friday, May 25, 2007

 
Giuliani Time

by digby

Ask and ye shall receive. Here's Thomas Edsall in TNR with an interesting take on Rudy's effect on the GOP.


Giuliani is the beneficiary of an upheaval within the Republican electorate--an upheaval that was catalyzed by September 11 but is becoming apparent only now, as the GOP hosts its first primary battle since the terrorist attacks. In brief, among Republican voters, the litmus test issues of abortion and gay marriage have been losing traction, subordinated to the Iraq war and terrorism. According to the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of GOP voters name Iraq as their top priority, and 17 percent choose terrorism and security. Just 7 percent name abortion and 1 percent name gay marriage.

The roots of this transformation predate September 11 and are partly the result of demographics. The lions of the Christian right--Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson--no longer dominate Republican politics as they once did. Their grip is slackening as their older followers are slowly replaced by a generation for which the social, cultural, and sexual mores that were overturned by the 1960s are history, not memory. In retrospect, these men reached the height of their power in the late '80s, when, by a 51-to-42 majority, voters agreed that "school boards ought to have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals." Now a decisive 66-to-28 majority disagrees, according to Pew. In 1987, the electorate was roughly split on the question of whether "aids might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behavior." Today, 72 percent disagree with that statement, while just 23 percent concur.

Giuliani is on the cutting edge of these trends, seeking to exploit new ideological lines between conservatism and liberalism. He rejects conservatism based on sexuality and reproductive issues; and his personal life amounts to a repudiation of conservatism focused on family structure, parental responsibility, fidelity, and lifelong monogamy. Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, notes that, even as voters learn about Giuliani's more centrist positions, "it does not seem to move his numbers." The former mayor, Gillespie says, is "challenging the notion that abortion and gay marriage are vote-determinative for everybody in the party."

It isn't just average voters who are driving this shift; many members of the GOP elite--whose overwhelming concern is cutting taxes, a Giuliani forte--would privately welcome the chance to downplay, if not discard, the party's rearguard war against the sexual and women's rights revolutions. Much of the Republican Party's consulting community and country club elite always viewed abortion and gay rights as distasteful but necessary tools to win elections, easily disposable once they no longer served their purpose. Now, with most of the leading GOP contenders demonstrating at best equivocal support for the sexual status quo ante, that time appears to be drawing near.

For the moment, at least, September 11 has replaced abortion, gay marriage, and other social-sexual matters as the issue that binds the GOP together as a party. And no one, of course, owns September 11 quite like Rudy Giuliani. "This is a different world from 2000, when we last had Republican primaries without an incumbent president. 9/11 scrambled the priorities, and it may very well be that the war on terror pushes social issues down," says Whit Ayres, a Georgia-based pollster currently unaffiliated with any presidential campaign. "Giuliani is an authentic American hero, and Southerners love American heroes." No wonder the Yankee centrist suddenly has a chance in South Carolina.


I agree with the fact that the GOP is ready to vote for "a hero," but I don't think it signals any kind of substantive change in the GOP. The "values" obsession was just the code of the times for the standard Southern Strategy of white male prerogatives and macho ass-kicking that the Republicans have been running on for 40 years. They are just once more re-packaging their tired old crap in patriotism instead of the Bible, (which they often cycle with "states rights" and "traditional values" among other things.)

Nothing has changed. The Republicans are actually just being more honest than they've been in recent years when they didn't have a boogeyman to beat liberals over the head with and needed to erase the hideous image of that nasty man Newt Gingrich as the face of the Republican Party. "Values" was always just the girly-man version of "Giuliani Time."

The modern Republican party is all about authoritarianism, militarism and domination over minorities, women and gays. Rudy is a perfect candidate. After all, there is no candidate in the race who has humiliated women more masterfully or condoned official violence against racial minorities with more fervor. Of course the South Carolina Republicans love him.

And this is why Democrats should stop running their campaigns based upon whatever stupid bumper sticker the GOP comes up every few years with and figure out how to beat them at the basic game they are playing.




*I should note that the conservative evangelical poohbahs are not going to be happy about publicly losing clout. But they'll go along because Rudy will promise them some good stuff --- which he will fail to deliver. That's how it works. I see no reason to believe it's going to change.


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