Friday, October 31, 2003

Signs of the Apocalypse
Holy whore of Babylon, Batman! Someone calling themselves Human Events Book Service is making a talking Ann Coulter Action Figure doll. One big Ann Coulter going around spewing bile is unbearable enough, thousands of tiny Ann Coulters can only mean we missed the Rapture and the Tribulation has begun. HEBS describes their crime against nature as:
Amuse your conservative friends and annoy your liberal neighbors with the brand new Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure. This incredibly lifelike action figure looks just like the beautiful Ann Coulter, and best of all . . . it sounds like Ann, too! Ann recorded these classic Coulter sayings especially for this action figure.

[ … ]

This highly collectible doll comes in a display box with information highlighting Ann's unique contributions to America's political discourse. If you can't get enough Ann Coulter, you'll want to order the Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure today!

I don’t even want to think about the dateless dittoheads that are going to be lunging for their credit cards to order this graven idol. Ick. I gotta go take a shower.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Theological pondering
On January 20, 1993 we had a huge wind storm in western Washington, one of those that tore roofs off and left hundreds of thousands without power. A local Republican announced that this was the wrath of God on Seattle for voting for Clinton the previous fall. Naturally the Republicans responded by nominating her for governor in the next election. I don't suppose anyone has noticed that hellfire decended on California as soon as the Arnold became governor.

Just wondering.
Modern life
Technology didn't seem to like me last night. When I got home late and saw the brou-ha-ha erupting on Atrios, I banged out the below post. Not my best work, but I thought it more important to show immediate solidarity than to test each word and try to craft the final say on the topic. So, I finished the post and went to Blogger to paste it in (I always compose offline). Blogger told me they had shut down a few minutes earlier for a night of maintenance. What to do? I rushed back to Atrios to put my "me too" on post four hundred or so of one of his comment threads. I wrote a few words promising to post my blog in the morning and pressed the "send" button. I received a bold-faced message informing me that the webmaster had banned me from the site and my message would not be posted.

I don't post comments at other people's sites very often. The last two sites I tried it at gave me the same result. I can only assume that there is some evil John McKay out there annoying people. It's not like it's an uncommon name. I have a cousin, uncle, and grandfather that all share the name. From my great grandfather there is an unbroken line of John McKays heading off into the mists of medieval Scotland where they are, no doubt, complaining about the weather. If I Google my name, the first couple pages are the Seattle Federal Prosecutor, the Republican speaker of the Florida Senate, and a Tory MP from Ontario (or least he was till the last election). I don't show up till page four or so.

After a few more failed tries at Blogger and Atrios, I e-mailed a short note to the anonymous avenger and went to bed. By then it was after three on the east coast so I figured he wouldn't read it any time soon.

I woke up to my alarm radio telling me, "...she said many of the terrorists are militants..." My first thought of the was, "and the rest are moderates." Then I remembered Atrios and went downstairs to post my blog. All went well. Maybe technology likes me better today.
I hate bullies
I also hate jumping on bandwagons. But I hate bullies more.

A number of my blogging betters (Kos, Calpundit, Orcinus, Tristero to name just ones my spellchecker rejects) are covering Donald Luskin’s threatened libel suit against Atrios. Luskin, for those new to this story, writes an NRO column and a blog primarily dedicated to hating Paul Krugman, the best columnist at the New York Times (note my lack of link to Luskin, I’ll get back to that). Luskin’s May 7 NRO column was called “We Stalked, He Balked” and was based on the idea that by getting Krugman to answer the claims of Luskin and his “squad” they somehow had him on the defensive (Krugman has been so fatally damaged by Luskin that he was nominated for a Nobel Prize this year).

On October 5 Atrios posted an item on his indispensable Blog, Eschaton, with the title “Diary of a Stalker” that had a pointer to Luskin’s blog and no further comment. Luskin’s main post that day was called “Face To Face With Evil,” and described attending at a lecture and book signing by Paul Krugman. Apparently Luskin feels that throwing his own words back in his face is libel and complained. He was especially upset at some of the comments that were made by people who had the gall to actually go to his site and read his words. Atrios picks up the story:
In my correspondence with Luskin he asked that I take down the post because of the comments, and said I had an obligation to do so. I asked if he meant a legal or ethical obligation, and he didn't respond. I then informed him that if he would tell me which comments he specifically was unhappy with I would be happy to delete them. He declined this offer, and said I should just take them all down.

That’s not good enough for Luskin and he has retained a lawyer. Luskin’s attorney, described by Kos as a “dumbass sleazebag lawyer (Jeffrey J. Upton of Hanify & King P.C.),” officially notified Atrios of their demand that he remove post and comments deemed objectionable by Luskin. In an apparent non sequitur, the paragraph describing Atrios’ dastardly crimes ended with the sentence: “Determining your identity for the purpose of making service of process can be easily accomplished through a subpoena to”

Atrios’ secret identity is as closely guarded as that of Superman or the Batman. Even the Joker and Lex Luthor are far too honorable opponents to think of fighting that dirty (Brainiac might, but he’s a machine lacking such subtle emotions as honor). However, outing is not too low for Luskin and Upton. The threat is clear, cede editorial control over all mention of Luskin (a public figure by virtue of his NRO column) or lose your privacy. It’s pure, cheap legal intimidation. It’s the very definition of a nuisance suit. And the precedent has a chilling affect on all bloggers.

The only way to fight a bully is for everyone to stand up for the victim. Do not let them pick us off one at a time. Do not abstain because you have some quibbles with Atrios. I did not speak up when they came for the Jews and all that. This is easy for me to say, because I like Atrios, but I hope some conservative and especially libertarian bloggers will see that their interest lies in not allowing this kind of intimidation to stand.

The course of action is clear. First, write about it. Second, boycott Luskin. If you’re linked to him, unlink him. If you are not linked to him, make a link then get rid of it just for the principle of the thing. Third, call the creepy little stalker a creepy little stalker; they can’t sue us all. Fourth, if they do sue Atrios (right now they’re just at the blustering threats stage), send him money. Calpundit has already offered to form the legal defense committee. Fifth, when they come looking Atrios, we all stand up and cry, “I am Atrios.” Sure, that leads to us all being crucified on the Via Appia, but we’ll all laugh about it when we’re older.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The spirit of George
My friend Trey is currently using this quote as his e-mail signature. It's about a different George and a different war, but I think it pretty well sums up the rationale behind the administration's optimism PR offensive over Iraq.
That's the spirit, George. If nothing else works, then a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.

-- General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett
(Blackadder Goes Forth)

It applies equally well to George Bush and George Nethercutt.
Pop quiz
What is this quote describing?
Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.

If you guessed slavery in the South, you’re right. If you agree, you’re nuts. With people like this out there, is it any wonder that the radical right has managed to take over the Republican Party?

David over at Orcinus has more intelligent comments on this.
Le monde c'est moi
At yesterday's press conference, in yet another unscripted Freudian slip moment, Bush revealed what he thinks his job description is.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush ... said his message that "the world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership" will be a prominent theme of his bid for a second White House term.

Shouldn't someone break the news to him that he is only the president of the United States and not of the whole world?

I love it. More peaceful? It’s a measurable lie. Let’s compare the number of suicide bombings worldwide in the last three years under Clinton and the last three under Bush. If the world is more peaceful, it’s because a couple African civil wars have wound down, a process with which he had almost nothing to do.

Later in the same press conference he admitted he’s all hat and no cattle. Referring to the coming election: "There's no question politics can -- will -- create ... a lot of noise and … hot air. I'll probably be right in the mix of it, by the way."

Update Corrected my lousy French.

Monday, October 27, 2003

I can’t make up my mind
The conservative punditocracy has yet to catch on to the fact that most of us Bush-haters are also Cheney-haters, Ashcroft-haters, Rice-haters, Wolfowitz-haters, and Rumsfeld-haters. What a dilemma it is to come across a headline like this.

Which is better: getting rid of Rummy, because we hate Rummy, or keeping Rummy as a continuing liability for Bush, because we hate Bush? Instant gratification or long dragged out gratification? A bird in the hand or a bird (in this case an albatross) around the Bush’s neck? Hmmm.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

The glass is only half empty
The Senate just voted to give themselves a pay raise. Although this is an incredibly crass and insensitive thing for them to do when the economy is in the crapper and millions are unemployed, they could have behaved much worse.

Technically, they voted not to exempt themselves from a cost of living raise for civilian government employees. Congressional raises are tied to raises for the civil service. This is a fairly recent innovation that saves any individual congressperson from having to put their name down as the sponsor for a bill raising their own pay. So by giving a raise to the civil service they should get a raise without political consequences. However, some clever people have figured out how to make them put there name down on the record as specifically voting themselves a raise. Russell Feingold proposed an amendment to the payroll bill that would have exempted Congress from this year’s raise. The only way to get the raise was to vote to kill the amendment. In a heartwarming show of bipartisanship, rarely seen these days, 64 Senators did just that.

How could they have made this worse? Well, they could have cancelled the civil service raise. And indeed, that’s just what the President of Compassionate Conservatism wanted to do. Bush’s proposal, sent just before Labor Day, was to cut the civil service raise in half and privatize thousands of their jobs. In keeping the raise and preserving the raise (in a 91 to 3 vote) the Senate defied the popular wartime President. In addition, the Senate only took the smaller raise that Bush originally proposed. So they get two-thirds of a pat on the back.

Meanwhile, Bush’s plan to gut the civil service by privatizing their jobs—he calls it “competitive sourcing”—still has some life in it. New OMB regulations, known as Circular A-76, allow the government to farm out more jobs through private sector bidding. A bill to repeal Circular A-76 was proposed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski and failed by one vote on a mostly party-line vote. If Kerry and Edwards had been home it would have passed. The closeness of the vote probably means the civil service is safe for now. On the other hand, if Bush gets a second term or the Republicans increase their majorities in congress, it’s a sure bet that hundreds of thousands of good middle-class jobs will become minimum wage temp jobs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

We have no troops in Iraq
Or at least that seems to be the opinion of our highly principled leader (via Atrios).

From a new book on Bush’s religion:
Aides found him face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office. It became known that he refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq, a partial fast seldom reported of an American president.

From Reuters, today:
Bush was in an expansive mood on the flight from Indonesia to Australia, wearing an Air Force One flight jacket, snacking noisily on a butterscotch sweets and chopping the air for emphasis.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Advice to bin Laden
A new bin Laden cassette tape has surfaced on Al-Jazeera. He is calling for a holy war against the West. I blame this on Hollywood and their homogenization and corruption of the world. When the Right speaks of corruption emanating from Hollywood, they usually have moral corruption in mind. Me, I have artistic corruption in mind.

One of the most sacred rules of thumb in Hollywood is that when you have a successful formula, you do not stray from that formula in the slightest. This holds true whether you are producing movies, music albums, or television show. If the formula works, keep repeating it for all you’re worth until someone else stumbles on a new working formula, then slavishly copy their formula for all you’re worth.

If bin Laden was here, I would have to say to him, “Osama, baby, I know this holy war against the West shtick has been good for you, but it’s time to spread your creative wings and try something new. You’re a big man in the international terror world—as big as they come. You create trends; you don’t follow them. You might be the only man big enough to wear the mantle left by the late Barry White. At one dulcet word from you, ten thousand Palestinian kids will take up crooning, changing forever the shape of Middle Eastern politics. And one other thing, what's with the cassette tapes? Everyone knows CDs are where it’s at.” Yep, that’s what I’d say.

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t say that, but I’d be thinking it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Racist or opportunist
This is a somewhat old story that I missed the first time around. Fortunately, Kos brings it up again at his nifty new site, thus giving me the opening I need.

Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican Party, is running for governor of Mississippi. Two weeks ago, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger ran a story on Barbour’s embracing of the neo-Confederate cause.
Some of Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour's campaign material features the state flag and its Confederate battle emblem, a symbol many black voters find offensive…

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Jim Herring said the party conducted a poll recently in which voters were asked their position on the state flag. He said the question was used to find potential supporters.

"We think the people voted on that issue, spoke on that issue, and we have no plans to make it an issue," he said. However, he said, "it's legitimate to find out how people voted on the flag issue. It helps you determine who your voters are and how you identified them."

Kos follows the last line with his own conclusion: “In other words, let's find the racists because they're our supporters.” Now, I’m the last one to defend a Republican when he is saying something stupid, but I think even Kos gives Barbour too much credit.

Racism, while repugnant to most of us, is still a principle. Barbour’s market testing of his racism is completely unprincipled. To say Barbour is a racist and wants to find his fellow racists underestimates the amorality of the modern Republican Party. If mere racism was his goal, all he would need to do would be state his position and let the recessive genes flock to his standard. The point of market testing the issue is to see whether a position sells, whether or not the candid ate believes it.

Barbour’s people know liberals and Negros (or whatever he calls them, probably not that) are not going to vote for him. He cedes these constituencies to the Democrats. The point of market testing neo-Confederate battle flag nonsense is to see if he can gain votes from normally nonvoting radicals without alienating the Republican rank and file. They pander to the extremist right while counting on the moderates to be loyal enough not to vote Democrat. This has been the strategy of a faction of the Republican Party that has grown from a fringe in 1964 to dominate the strategy-determining heights of the party since about 1994.

What was once unsaid, communicated to the extremists with a wink and a nod, is now openly proclaimed. This is the party of George Bush, Trent Lott, and Tom DeLay. This is not the party of Lincoln Chaffee or Olympia Snowe, but it counts on their unresisting assent to conduct its reactionary business. As long as humane Republicans would rather win than be right, the extremists will continue to dominate. Only when principled Republicans say “enough” and repudiate unacceptable candidates or leave the party will the Republican Party regain its soul and rejoin the mainstream of American life.

As always, I’m not holding my breath.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Churchill, chasing a quote, and Arnold’s character
Back in August I linked to Martha Bridegam's Demisemiblog where she was trying to track down the provenance of this quote credited to Arnold Schwarzenegger by a number of sources:
My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them and tell them what to do. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave.

My thought at the time was that it was a pretty shocking quote and almost too perfect in its ability to confirm all of the worst suspicions and stereotypes of liberals about the lumpy Austrian bodybuilder.

Bridegam found the quote in an Australian academic article on body image. That source cited a 1995 book, also on body image. From there she traced it to 1990 U.S. News and World Report profile of Arnold. The U.S. News piece simply credited it as “he once explained.” From there the trail seemed to go cold. That’s pretty good research. When I was teaching history I would have given any student who pursued a quote like that a good grade (when I was a student I loved to write that kind of paper).

At he time, I was content to be lazy and use Bridegam's work as a “if this is true” departure point for my comments. Well, she wasn’t content to call it good enough. She tried to contact the U.S. News reporter, but received no answer. When the admiration of Hitler story broke the week before the election, Bridegam found this familiar phrase in the news:
I think we can't live without authority. There's a certain amount of people meant to be leaders, and to control, and another large amount, 95 percent, are followers. We have to tell (them) what to do and how to keep in order, you know?

This version is from the San Francisco Chronicle quoting Inside Edition quoting the outtakes from Arnold’s first movie Pumping Iron. These are the same outtakes that Schwarzenegger paid 1.2 million dollars to buy up in 1991. These are the same outtakes that contain the admiration for Hitler quotes.

So, is this the original source for the quote? Maybe yes, maybe no. This morning I started reading my New York Times and stumbled across this in Frank Rich’s column:
Mr. Schwarzenegger's credo was laid out quite specifically in his autobiography, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder: "A certain amount of people are meant to be in control. Ninety-five percent of the people have to be told what to do, have to be given orders."

This philosophy, which he has repeated elsewhere and never retracted, sums up his politics far more than conventional conservative-vs.-liberal, Republican-vs.-Democrat paradigms.

This is not exactly same as either of the above versions. So what gives?

One of my favorite Churchill quotes runs something like “a dangled preposition is something up with which I will not put.” I’ve tried to look up the exact context and phrasing of this quote a number of times and found a half-dozen authoritative answers. Churchill was a first-rate speaker and writer. He was a journalist before he entered politics. Churchill knew a good line when he heard one. It’s most likely that having uttered this line once he liked it and used it over and over again. We all do that.

Schwarzenegger probably used his power gag in exactly the same way. Arnold Schwarzenegger has spent his entire adult life playing a fictional character named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately for him, this character has changed over time. The early Arnold—bodybuilder turned actor—needed to occasionally say something outrageous to keep people’s attention. To say that the masses need a firm hand worked perfectly for that role. He got the right reaction the first time he used, so he reused it, in conversation, on film, and in print. The later Arnold—actor turned politician—needs to sound responsible and now needs to explain the old Arnold away.

But to say it was a cynical line chosen for effect doesn’t mean I think it was insincere. Schwarzenegger clearly likes power. His oafish and bullying frat/jock behavior over the years wasn’t all clowning for the audience. Winning the election doesn’t give him a get-out-of-jail-free card for his past behavior. He’s on probation and he’s going to be living under a microscope for a long time to come.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Pay attention to your daddy
My buddy Alan, a librarian in New York, sent this with the subject line “The elder Bush had some brains, at least.” I suppose we should file this under the theory of certain skills skipping generations. Excerpt from "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam" by George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft, Time (2 March 1998):

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs.

Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.

I keep coming back to the feeling that the current Bush is, next to Nixon, the president who most requires long-distance psychoanalysis to understand. Is it really possible to think about the two Iraqi wars without Oedipus coming to mind? And is it right that 300 plus Americans should die (not mention Iraqis, British, and Spanish), the US should destroy it’s international goodwill, and plunge itself further into debt just so this shallow frat boy can act out his parental issues?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

How to make Pat Robertson look good
This bit of ugliness was discovered by Allan Brill of the Right Christians:
The memory of Matthew Shepard is currently under attack…plans to erect a homophobic monument related to his life have been unveiled. Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., intends to place the six-foot-tall monument in the city park of Shepard's hometown of Casper, Wyo…. Atop the stone slab, a plaque would bear Shepard's image and the inscription, "Matthew Shepard: Entered Hell Oct. 12, 1998." The city does not want the monument, but it seems there may be little that they can do to prevent it because of a statue commemorating the Ten Commandments that already decorates the park. After a court battle over the presence of a similar statue in another city, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that any city that displays the Ten Commandments on public property must also allow monuments that represent the views of other political groups or religious ideology. Therefore, Phelps feel that he has the right to erect his monument, and is prepared to go to court over the matter, leaving the city hesitant to take action.

Matthew Shepard, a young and gay college student, was murdered five years ago this week. He was beaten into a coma, lashed to a fence on the Wyoming prairie, and left to die of brain trauma. This week, on the anniversary of that murder, President Bush declared National Protect Marriage Week. Fred Phelps, one of the most repulsive people in North America, is famous for his “God Hates Fags” signs and website. Bush’s message, though missed by most decent and mainstream Americans (even most Republicans) is not missed by the Fred Phelps’ and their followers. Bush wants them to know that he can’t come out and openly support their hate-mongering, but (wink-wink nod-nod) he feels their pain.
I’m glad that’s clear
Via Atrios:
The US State Department has lodged a vehement complaint with prominent conservative televangelist Pat Robertson for comments suggesting that its Foggy Bottom headquarters should be destroyed with nuclear weapons, officials said Thursday.

This should be a case of something out of context that, when we see the whole thing in its full and proper context, makes us laugh and say, “oh, that’s what he meant.” Sadly, that’s not the case here. Robertson not only said he wanted to blow up the State Department, he repeated it:
Robertson, who has been a frequent critic of the State Department, made the offending comments during an interview with a like-minded critic of US diplomacy, columnist Joel Mowbray, who has written a book entitled Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens American Security.
I read your book," Robertson said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on his Christian Broadcasting Network's website.
"When you get through, you say, 'If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that's the answer'," he said.
"I mean, you get through this, and you say, 'We've got to blow that thing up.'”

We all say stupid things like this from time to time, but we do not all have an audience of millions of eager followers. We (or at least I) do not own a broadcast empire large enough to call itself a Network. It’s also not the first time Robertson has said something irresponsible before millions. Recall that Roberson is the son of a US Senator and a former Republican presidential candidate who regularly talks to God and has the power to turn away hurricanes (although this power only sporadically works). Robertson’s book The New World Order recycled old antiSemetic/Masonic conspiracy nonsense directly inspired by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Robertson takes a tip from Nesta Webster and uses the code word "Illuminati" to mean Jews. Themeaning is about as subtle as Stalin blaming "rootless cosmopolitans.") And It was Robertson who sat on his show just two days after 9/11, when no one knew who or how many people were dead, and calmly discussed with Jerry Falwell how the whole thing was the fault of liberals, gays, feminists, and the ACLU.

Pat and Jerry seem to share a sick compulsion to offend common decency. As often as they get slapped down, you would expect them to learn some limits. But they don’t. I suppose I should be thankful that some things in life remain dependable.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Update your links
Mark Kleiman, one of the best sources of Plame news and analysis, has moved out of his Blogspot apartment and into his own place. I'm sending him a link as a blogwarming present, but don't let that stop you from sending him the same, One can never have too many links (hint-hint).
Plame (I hate to say it) gate
Kevin Drum reports that “the Justice Department expects the Plame investigation to take at least until the end of the year.” Right into the election season. Darn that clever Karl Rove. How can we fight such clever planning. Okay, maybe the invulnerable Karl has a plan, but, at the moment, I can’t help but look at this as good news.

The most basic rule of thumb for an American political scandal is that the cover-up always does more damage than the actual crime. If they are counting on the short attention span of the American public to get them through this, or to get them to Karl’s next media distraction, they might be surprised. That very same short attention span can work against them. The professional news media is already showing signs of being bored with the “underestimated president heroically rises to the occasion” story line that they have been peddling for two years. Some outlets seem to be trying a “Democrats rise from the ashes of defeat” line. Others are try out a “Republicans piss away sure thing through hubris” story line.

Our job, as outsiders is to keep the Plame scandal alive and lobby the professionals to keep digging. Remember, news is no longer a public service; it is entertainment. The cardinal rule of thumb of entertainment is to give the public what they want. If we let them know we want Bush scandals, we will get Bush scandals. I like to think of bloggers as the Neilsen families of the newsotainment world.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Atrios is right…and wrong
The administration and its apologists are desperately trying to control the damage of l’affaire Plame. In the New York Times yesterday Paul Krugman called their strategy “slime and defend.” That is assassinate the character of their critics and strongarm the party into sticking to the official story. What’s behind this is, simply a battle to frame the story. Any high school debater know that if you can define the question you are more than half way to victory.

One of their talking points is “Wilson the Bush-hating, partisan Democrat.” As I said in a previous post, this is pure non-edible cattle by-product (poop). Wilson’s character has nothing to do with the legality of outing a CIA employee. Most of us in Left Blogistan have no trouble understanding this and have no trouble staying on message with our counter talking point of “nuh-uh.”

Unfortunately, we are having some trouble spotting and countering some of their other talking points. I was quite distressed this noon to find the following in the might and majestic Atrios’ Eschaton:
Dear America Media,
Please stop framing this story as one of Wilson vs. the White House. At this point, this story has absolutely nothing to do with Amb. Wilson. The real story is that a senior administration official has accused two top White House officials of telling at least 6 journalists the identity of an undercover CIA agent. That is the story.

I believe that as this is a story about leaks, and therefore you yourselves are intimately involved with this story, you are trying to deflect the spotlight away from yourselves. Stop pretending you don't have a role.


I love Atrios and his/her/its site. That’s why I was so horrified to read the words “this is a story about leaks.” This is another of the administration’s official talking points. Howard Kurtz is already trying out this line. In a CNN special last night, he said: “Judging from all the noise about this CIA leak, you would think that leaks were some kind of a shockingly rare occurrence in Washington.”

When he says it, it’s easy to see part of the problem. “We do it. They do it. It’s just part of the Washington game. Nothing of interest here. Keep moving folks.” We are fighting a vastly asymmetrical battle against public apathy, cynicism, and shell shock. How many perfectly good scandals has this administration safely escaped because they just didn’t break through to grab people’s attention.

But there is an even worse aspect of letting that be the story. Bush wants this to be a story about leaks. This is the most secretive administration since Nixon. All Bush needs is an excuse to further cut us off from information. We must not let Ashcroft and his thugs take this a green light to further shut down government transparency, punish legitimate whistleblowers, and keep the public in the dark fed only officially approved “facts.”

Someone in the administration did something very bad. That something was committing a felony that undermined the security of the country for the purely partisan purpose of intimidating a critic. That something was not talking to the press. Do not let them even hint at that without screaming bloody murder as loudly, as frequently, an in as many languages as we possibly can. This is a very high-stakes fight kids; don't screw it up.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Scapegoating and deniability
Some recent random thoughts on l’affaire Plame. The Busheviks and their fellow-travelers are rolling out their offensive defense against the claims that one of their own endangered national security by outing a CIA employee engaged in something having to with weapons of mass destruction.

So far a few Republican and conservative commentator talking points have emerged:

As far as action is concerned, the White House will not lift a finger until the Justice Department (led by someone whose pay check they sign) specifically orders them to. They call this “leaving it to the professionals.” I call it stonewalling, but I’m a professional Bush-hater (actually, I’m an amateur, but if someone would like to pay me, I’m available at very competitive rates. References and writing samples are available on request).

According to the New York Times:
The Bush administration pursued a two-track political strategy on Wednesday to minimize the damage from the criminal investigation into the disclosure of a C.I.A. officer's identity.
The White House encouraged Republicans to portray the former diplomat at the center of the case, Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a partisan Democrat with an agenda and the Democratic Party as scandalmongering. At the same time, the administration and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill worked to ensure that no Republicans in Congress break ranks and call for an independent inquiry outside the direct control of the Justice Department.
"It's slime and defend," said one Republican aide on Capitol Hill…

I’m not the first to say this, but let’s be crystal clear on this, Joseph Wilson is no longer the issue. The right wing of the body political are acting like a bunch of five-year-olds after a playground fight in even thinking about offering this excuse (he hit me first). It doesn’t mater if Wilson is a reptilian kitten-eating alien, that doesn’t make it okay to commit a felony and compromise national security.

The same criticism goes for the various semantic parsings of Valerie Plame’s job significance. If exposing her against the law, her job description does not excuse it. Besides, we can spend all night debating the significance of whether she was an agent, operative, or analyst; covert or not; known to “everybody in the D.C. media circuit or not; it isn’t up to a majority vote among us to determine whether outing her raises this to the level of a crime or a problem. The CIA know who she is and what she does. If they feel this is worthy of an investigation, we really can’t argue until they give us more information. I say this as a fan of the Church Committee and long-time baiter of the intelligence community. Until they give us more information, we have no choice but to go along with their assessment. And, as a bleeding heart liberal and intellectual “elite” (shudder), it’s my duty to point out that all of this diminishing of Plame’s significance stinks to high heaven of sexism: “She couldn’t have known anything important ‘cause she’s just a girl.”

Attacking Wilson and diminishing Plame are efforts to control the debate by framing the issue. The immediate issue is whether someone in the administration broke the law by outing a CIA employee who was covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. The larger issues are the general lack of character of the administration and its supporters—their dishonesty, secrecy, cronyism, and viciousness—and their attempts to politicize intelligence at the expense of real national security. Do not let them distract us into arguing over irrelevant side issues.
Rush Limbaugh is a drug crazed idiot
I’m home sick today and I slept in. When I got up and fired up the computer, the first thing I saw was that Rush is being investigated for prescription drug abuse. He is accused of buying thousands of addictive painkillers from a black-market drug ring. I had two immediate thoughts.

First, is it connected to his quitting ESPN? Last night I thought it strange that someone who had so enjoyed provoking outrage over the years folded after three days of complaints from the very people he most enjoys annoying. I chalked it up to him getting wimpy in his old age. Now I wonder if someone in the Disney/ABC/ESPN corporate structure got wind of the drug probe and offered him the choice of leaving with some dignity or being tossed out on his ass.

Second, how should lefties respond to this? As a bleeding heart liberal, my first impulse is to feel compassion for the suffering and tragic trajectory that have led this poor man to the degrading depths of addiction. But Rush wouldn’t want it that way. As a champion of the personal weakness theory of addiction, I’m sure he’ll want us demand that he take some damn responsibility for his life and grow the fuck up. However painful it might be for us, the only way we can respect the man’s belief system is to gang up and kick him while he’s down.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Rush resigns ESPN
After three days of criticism for his outrageous comments about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Rush Limbaugh just resigned from his short-lived gig as a sportscaster. On the show Sunday NFL Countdown, Limbaugh claimed that McNabb was overrated and the only reason he got media attention was ''the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.'' Earlier today Democratic candidates Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and Rev. Al Sharpton all called for ESPN to fire Limbaugh. On his radio show, Limbaugh stood by his comments and claimed his first amendment rights were threatened by the complaints. Then he quit.

I just have to wonder what the folks at ESPN were thinking when they hired him. They hired an incendiary gadfly and—surprise—he said something offensive on the air. Despite having lost some weight. Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot. He has always been a big, fat idiot. He will always be a big, fat idiot.

All I can say is: “what a wimp” and “good.”