Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Word of the day: "Disassembling"
Normal definition: taking apart, deconstructing.

Bushinition: "not telling the truth", as in, former prisoners released from detention in Guantanamo Bay who then U.S. guards and interrogators of abuse, but who the president says are trained to make the claims up. Here's the quote from today's conference:
In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is.
Thank you for the clarification, Mr. President. And as if on cue, the Washington Times chimes in with a timely story on the al Qaida hanbook...
In a raid on an al Qaeda cell in Manchester, British authorities seized al Qaeda's most extensive manual for how to wage war. A directive lists one mission as "spreading rumors and writing statements that instigate people against the enemy." If captured, the manual states, "At the beginning of the trial ... the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison."

In other words: "disassembling." And here's an interesting statement from Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita:
"There are elements within the detainee population that were very effective at getting other detainees agitated about the Koran by making allegations," Mr. Di Rita said. "They particularly focused on the practice of their faith and the Koran being kept from them. So people should not be surprised when detainees come out and make these kinds of allegations. It causes the reactions we've seen."
Does that mean Newsweek's off the hook for all that violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan?
posted by JReid @ 4:18 PM  
'Deep Throat' writers and wrongers...
Now that we finally know who 'Deep Throat' is (kudos to the Felts for not letting those showoffs Woodward and Bernstein make all the money from revealing his identity after he's dead), this seems like a good a time as any to tally up the winners and losers in the "who was Deep Throat" sweepstakes.

According to, a handful of reporters and authors nailed Throat's identity as former FBI associate director W. Mark Felt, who spilled the beans on himself in this month's Vanity Fair. They are:

Ronald Kessler, author of The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI
Kessler, a former Post reporter, believes Throat was Felt because of the far-reaching intelligence powers of the FBI.

James Mann, who wrote an Atlantic Monthly article entitled "Deep Throat: An Institutional Analysis" way back in 1992;
Mann believes Throat was an employee at the FBI, most probably Felt, who was fingered by Deputy White House Counsel H.R. Haldeman as a snitch in the 1972 White House tapes.

...and David Daley of the Hartford Courant, who penned a piece called "Boys' Talk Sheds Light on Shadowy Source." In tat article, Daley claims his source got the information straight from the horse's son's mouth:
Chase Culeman-Beckman said Jacob Bernstein, son of Post reporter Carl Bernstein, told him that Throat was former FBI associate director W. Mark Felt. Culeman-Beckman said Jacob Bernstein told him in 1988 when they both attended day-school camp when they were children, and that Jacob Bernstein told him that his father revealed Throat's identity to him. Carl Bernstein denies this occurrence.

I'd also add Slate's Timothy Noah (Slate is now a wholly owned WaPo property), who wrote this and this back in 2002 and 1999, respectively.

As for the losers, they include Esquire Magazine, Jim Miklaszewski of NBC (both of whom guessed David Gergen), a slew of other reporters and even a Watergate figure, H.R. Haldeman, who co-wrote a book called The Ends of Power that names deputy White House counsel to John Dean Fred Fielding as 'Throat.'
posted by JReid @ 3:44 PM  
Your capital's no good here, sir
"I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."
-- George W. Bush following the 2004 election.

"Six months later, according to Republicans and Democrats alike, his bank account has been significantly drained." -- Washington Post article May 31st.

The longer George W. Bush remains in office, the more he looks like the itinerant son of a Third World dictator: who cannot be kept from power, but who proves time and again that he lacks the wisdom to use that power wisely...

Case in point: WaPo runs the story today that in the minds of many analysts -- Democratic and Republican -- Bush's political capital is all-but spent. Well that's been said before, and this guy keeps coming back, like the terminator, so we'll see if the MSM can keep itself from kissing up long enough to lt this C.W. hold, but for now, this is where it is.

Two days after winning reelection last fall, President Bush declared that he had earned plenty of "political capital, and now I intend to spend it." Six months later, according to Republicans and Democrats alike, his bank account has been significantly drained.

In the past week alone, the Republican-led House defied his veto threat and passed legislation promoting stem cell research; Senate Democrats blocked confirmation, at least temporarily, of his choice for U.N. ambassador; and a rump group of GOP senators abandoned the president in his battle to win floor votes for all of his judicial nominees.

With his approval ratings in public opinion polls at the lowest level of his presidency, Bush has been stymied so far in his campaign to restructure Social Security. On the international front, violence has surged again in Iraq in recent weeks, dispelling much of the optimism generated by the purple-stained-finger elections back in January, while allies such as Egypt and Uzbekistan have complicated his campaign to spread democracy.

The series of setbacks on the domestic front could signal that the president has weakened leverage over his party, a situation that could embolden the opposition, according to analysts and politicians from both sides. Bush faces the potential of a summer of discontent when his capacity to muscle political Washington into following his lead seems to have diminished and few easy victories appear on the horizon.

"He has really burned up whatever mandate he had from that last election," said Leon E. Panetta, who served as White House chief of staff during President Bill Clinton's second term. "You can't slam-dunk issues in Washington. You can't just say, 'This is what I want done' and by mandate get it done. It's a lesson everybody has to learn, and sometimes you learn it the hard way."

Through more than four years in the White House, the signature of Bush's leadership has been that he does not panic in the face of bad poll numbers. Yet many Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the lobbyist corridor of K Street worry about a season of drift and complain that the White House has not listened to their concerns. In recent meetings, House Republicans have discussed putting more pressure on the White House to move beyond Social Security and talk up different issues, such as health care and tax reform, according to Republican officials who asked not to be named to avoid angering Bush's team.

"There is a growing sense of frustration with the president and the White House, quite frankly," said an influential Republican member of Congress. "The term I hear most often is 'tin ear,' " especially when it comes to pushing Social Security so
aggressively at a time when the public is worried more about jobs and gasoline prices. "We could not have a worse message at a worse time."

Bush's best play would seem to be to walk away from Social Security at this point. The trouble is, with Iraq looming so large over his legacy, and going so poorly, he doesn't have much of an agenda to fall back on. In fact, however he may try to diversify his portfolio, nearly everything in Bush's second term comes down to Iraq: from the Bolton nomination to gas prices. The only other issues left are the courts, with all the social ramifications and importance to the religious right. How Bush wins on these issues I'm not clear -- no matter what happens, he will alienate a large segment of Americans.

Because of his insistence on toppling Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush has left himself looking like a one trick poney -- able to ram through a war, and with tax cuts already accomplished, leaving himself with little fiscal, or political, room to maneuver on anything else.
posted by JReid @ 10:05 AM  
Deconstructing Hillary
WaPo serves up more red meat for the 2008 horse race crowd.
posted by JReid @ 10:04 AM  
The art of living Chenily
Vice President Dick Cheney crawled out of his burrow over the weekend to issue a series of presidential ... er, vice presidential ... proclamations.

When not predicting the end of the war by the end of George W. Bush's second term (after which, it seems to me, many, many bad things will come to an end), or speculating about the first lady's chances against Hillary Clinton in 2008, the underboss of the Bush political family insisted that inmates at our prison camp on Guantanamo Bay are treated well, and declared himself offended by the recent Amnesty International report that placed the U.S. right up there with human rights stalwarts like Iran and Saudi Arabia when it comes to the treatment of prisoners.

“Frankly, I was offended by it,” Cheney said in the videotaped interview. “For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.”

Yes, yes, that's right Mr. Cheney. The nerve of them. We Americans don't violate human rights at all. If you don't believe it, just ask this guy:

posted by JReid @ 9:53 AM  
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Happy Memorial Day!
Re-racking this for the actual day...

Shout-outs to all veterans, and future veterans. Enjoy the long, beach weekend everybody (and whatever you think of the wars, let's all try to take at least a few minutes between horking bites of barbecue to think of the dead, the dying, and the fighting men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.) God bless!
posted by JReid @ 11:02 PM  
Throwing bouquets
You simply can't buy this kind of publicity; not even from Armstrong Williams... Why on earth is NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller wasting valuable time writing up bouquets to White House staffers? Isn't there any actual news out there to report??? I mean this guy isn't even a political staffer -- he's the Washington equivalent of that wacky guy that holds P. Diddy's umbrella (and for $70,000 without a college degree, not a bad umbrella job...)! International Herald Tribune, you folks picked this up, why...?
posted by JReid @ 10:48 PM  
Friday, May 27, 2005
Drop it like it's hot
OK, 'Idol' fans, you know I love my man Constantine, but you simply must see this clip. Click here to see your favorite "smoldering Idol" drop like a ton of bricks on live TV. Trust me, it's worth the load time. Just scroll down and click on "American Idol Team Coverage: Seg 5".
posted by JReid @ 10:14 PM  
The list
Beach reading for political junkies: Here are the Senators up for reelection in '06, by party, with highlights:

CA - Dianne Feinstein (D) - Key swing vote, probably safe in her seat.
CT - Joe Lieberman (D) - Lost that sub base, not to mention the Democratic one...
DE - Thomas Carper (D)
FL - Bill Nelson (D) - Probably the guy with the biggest RNC target on his back this side of Michael Moore, which is why you'll hear the phrase "I've voted to confirm 95 percent of the president's judges..." about a million times between now and November 20o6.
HI - Daniel K. Akaka (D) - Voted for Alaska drilling, which might not be popular in a state with plum offshore goodies of its own. Still, this is an RNC target state and the Dem party will likely fight hard for him.
MD - Paul Sarbanes (D) - Reform-minded guy, probably relatively safe in his seat.
MA - Teddy Kennedy (D) - Are you kidding? He got this seat for his 18th birthday.
MI - Debbie Stabenow (D) - Important because MI is always vulnerable to RNC poaching...
MN - Mark Dayton (D) - someday this seat could belong to Al Franken.
NE - Ben Nelson (D) - Key compromiser on the filibuster, conservative enough to hang on
NJ - Jon Corzine (D) - Jersey's always a target...
NM - Jeff Bingaman (D) - Just the kind of seat the Dems need to hold: a Western, purple one.
NY - Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) - The big dog in the presidential sweepstakes, wehether or not she signs a pledge to serve out her term
ND - Kent Conrad (D)
WV - Robert C. Byrd (D) - He's running, and his help with the filibuster paints a giant target on his back
WI - Herbert H. Kohl (D)

AZ - John Kyl (R) - See Jeff Bingaman above (swap Dems for Repubs)
IN - Richard Lugar (R) - vulnerable if the conservatives punish him in the primary for his accommodations on Bolton
ME - Olympia Snowe (R) - Ditto, for many more reasons
MS - Trent Lott (R) - He'll keep his seat, unless he commits a felony (or goes back on BET)
MO - Jim Talent (R)
MT - Conrad Burns (R)
NV - John Ensign (R)- See John Kul above
OH - Mike DeWine (R) - Filibuster compromise makes him a target for the primary
PA - Rick Santorum (R) - Taking him down would be a major Democrat coup, and he will get the DNC money mother lode thrown at him...
RI - Lincoln Chafee (R) - See earlier post
TN - Bill Frist (R) - His presidential chances may just have been nuked, but he's not running for reelection, so look for truly erratic behavior from here on out (if it quacks like a filibuster...)
TX - Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R) - That hair is awful, but she's probably safe.
UT - Orrin G. Hatch (R) - Could stem cell research take him down in the primaries? Even if that happens, the Republicans will hold this seat until the second coming.
VA - George Allen (R) - Is he the Republican Party's JFK, or just another Senator looking to graduate to the White House? The Republicans have far too many of these going into '08, just as the Democrats did in '04...
WY - Craig Thomas (R) - Diock Cheney would probably go door to door with brass knuckls on with this one. Luckily for the people of Wyoming, he doesn't have to.

VT - Jim M. Jeffords (Ind) - All bets are off on this one...
posted by JReid @ 1:11 PM  
The sound of shoes dropping
Lincoln Chafee has been one of the more tortured Republican souls in the Senate these days, seeming to undergo painful contractions over the Bolton nomination (he voted yes to get the vote out of committee and yes to cloture, but only after looking like a victim of acute irritable bowell syndrome throughout the hearings). But now, it appears that Chafee's reluctant soldiering for his party is doing little to keep him off the conservative shit list (where he's been many times before).

Today's harpoon comes from the National Review, which speculates that the GOP would be no worse off with a Democrat in Chafee's chair than with the son of a member of Bush I's wedding party (and fellow Bonesman, I believe) who handed the seat down to the agonizing moderate.

If there was ever any doubt, Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s vote Wednesday against the nomination of Priscilla Owen has made it clear that, save for leadership numbers games, conservatives would not be any worse off with a Democrat than with Chafee (R., R.I.) in the Senate. Rhode Island Republicans will have a chance next year to avert that painful choice only if a serious primary challenger emerges — and it could happen as soon as next week.

Getting Priscilla Owen onto the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is a good thing, but all along the entire judicial battle has really been about the Supreme Court. Especially for the “values voters” who elected George W. Bush and the Republican Congress, this is the most important issue, as they see court after court impose its whim on American voters on issues such as homosexual marriage and abortion.

This is precisely where Chafee found Owen unacceptable. On Wednesday, Chafee’s office confirmed that it was Owen’s dissent in a 2000 parental-notification case that pushed Chafee to vote against her. In that Texas supreme-court case, the four-judge majority effectively nullified the state’s parental-notification requirement for minors seeking abortions.


If this is Chafee’s litmus test on appellate judges, what will be his test on Supreme Court nominees? It’s not just that Chafee has gone on the record repeatedly voting that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided and ought not be overturned. If Chafee’s litmus test won’t even abide parental notification, having him in the Senate undermines Bush’s stated goal of appointing justices like Scalia and Thomas. If Bush means what he says about the courts — if this hasn’t all been a show to mollify the religious Right — he’ll throw Chafee overboard.

Chafee will likely pay for his apostasy on the abortion issue, and meanwhile, he's also got a target on his back from Democrats, who count him among a group of vulnerable Republicans highly desirable for ouster (the list also includes Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum. Here's a complete list from Mark the Pundit's archives).

Bottom line: There's no good reason to give Chafee a pass, despite his tendency to be helpful in situations requiring a moderate. Chafee has used the "Survivor" trick of flying quietly below the radar for years, but with issues like the makeup of the Supreme Court hanging in the balance, Republicans have every interest in taking Chafee out in the primaries. So I guess it's time to move Link Chafee up on the hot '06 race list.
posted by JReid @ 11:41 AM  
Wow, it really CAN make you go blind...
FDA investigating Reports of blindness in men using Viagra
posted by JReid @ 11:20 AM  
Thursday, May 26, 2005
LiveBlogging: Cloture vote on Bolton nomination
The vote on whether to end debate on the Bolton nomination is on and popping. Republicans are sans Voinovich, and so need six Democrats to make 60 votes. Apparently they lost Feinstein and Lieberman, who were both expected to vote with the GOP... Sounds to me like Harry Reid is ruling his caucus much more effectively than Frist is handling his.

Rolling Update (swing votes only):

  • Ben Nelson (Neb.) has voted yes (end debate)
  • Chafee and Hagel: yes
  • Nelson of Florida: no
  • Thune (SD): yes (contrary to what Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell just said)
  • Olympia Snowe (ME): yes
  • Blanche Lincoln(AR): no
  • Salazar (CO): no
  • Pryor (gang of 14 member): yes

I'm no professional vote counter, but so far it looks to me like the Republicans have picked up only one out of the six Dems they need to end debate on Bolton. And that includes the most reliable ticket splitter, Joe Lieberman, who stayed with the party... Still developing...

Should I be surprised that Voinovich voted "aye"...?

Final vote: Reid loses only Pryor, Landrieu and Ben Nelson, and cloture vote goes down 56 to 42. (Harry Reid, I think, has proven himself to be one hell of a minority leader, and Mitch McConnell has proved to be a pretty flimsy majority whip...)

Meanwhile, Frist moves for cloture votes on Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor. And Reid regrets that no vote on Bolton was possible, but it's about the information, and that's not the fault of the minority, it's the fault of the administration. And while Frist tried to characterize this as "another filibuster," the bottom line is that, as I argued in an earlier post, this fight is about the separation of powers. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee believes it has a right to the information on Bolton that it has requested from the administration, and they're going to hold up this nomination until they get it (surprisingly, with Frist's help).

What's less clear is Frist's game. Clearly, he is trying to benefit from the characterization of this vote as another example of obstructionism by the Democrats, which could explain why he called for a vote when he didn't have the numbers. But why is he helping Joe Biden push the administration for the documents? Payback for a lack of WH action to get him his nuclear option? Who knows...

posted by JReid @ 6:26 PM  
The age of "inadvertent mishandling"
Update: The Pentagon's man in Guantanamo Bay has briefed the press on the latest Quoran flushing allegations.

Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of the joint task force at Camp X-Ray read a prepared statement, and then refused to answer any specific questions about alleged incidents of Quran abuse "until the (Pentagon) report is completed." He did make the points the administration clearly wants made: namely, there was no abuse of the Quran, except when detainees did it themselves.

The Pentagon had already claimed yesterday that the detainee who made the original allegations has retracted his story (I wonder if he had women's underwear on his head or was anywhere near a cattle prod at the time...). And Hood again asserts that while the Pentagon has found "13 alleged incidents of inadvertent Quran mishandling," including 10 by guards and 3 by interrogators, as well as 15 incidents of detainees mucking about with the Muslim holy book themselves, there absolutely, positively was no Quran flushing by U.S. forces. Hood went into tortured explanations about the various gradations of "inadvertent mishandling," "accidental touching" and outright desecration. It's all too much for the normal brain to process...

To be honest, my gut reaction is to give the military the benefit of the doubt. By far, the vast majority of men and women in the armed services are good and decent people who are doing their jobs heroically. But it's hard to argue that the case hasn't been made, both circumstantially and following documented incidents of abuse at Abu Ghraib in particular, that the civilian and top military leadership at the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs level has set the tone for widespread abuse of detainees across all of our theaters of operation in the "war on terror," from Gitmo to Afghanistan to Iraq. And I mean the civilian leadership right up to the president of the United States. This story isn't about a few rogue soldiers behaving badly (or even about whether a Quran can really be made to swirl counterclockwise down the bowl of a prison camp latrine). It's about Bush administration policy, and the extent to which it is damaging America's reputation abroad, and wrecking our military.

Best short answer of the day: asked if he wanted to apologize to the Arab world, Hood responded "for what?"
posted by JReid @ 5:17 PM  
Paging Mr. Moustache, part 2
Looks like Landrieu, Lieberman and Nelson will join Republican Senators to end the logjam and bring John Bolton's nomination to the floor. Ohio's George Voinovich actually choked up over the moustachioed one, and with good reason: he'll do about as much for America's image at the U.N. and abroad as an Abu Ghraib picture show... Worst of all, Bolton, who will probably be confirmed, will now go the United Nations an exposed and wounded ambassador.

BTW the Pentagon is finally preparing to make a statement about the latest abuse allegations coming out of Gitmo. Wonder if they'll blame the Washington Post for the latest setbacks in the war on terror...
posted by JReid @ 5:02 PM  
Avec regrets...
From yesterday's Guardian:

French Fries Protester Regrets War Jibe

by Jamie Wilson in Washington

It was a culinary rebuke that echoed around the world, heightening the sense of tension between Washington and Paris in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. But now the US politician who led the campaign to change the name of french fries to "freedom fries" has turned against the war.

Walter Jones, the Republican congressman for North Carolina who was also the brains behind french toast becoming freedom toast in Capitol Hill restaurants, told a local newspaper the US went to war "with no justification".

Mr Jones, who in March 2003 circulated a letter demanding that the three cafeterias in the House of Representatives' office buildings ban the word french from menus, said it was meant as a "light-hearted gesture". But the name change, still in force, made headlines around the world, both for what it said about US-French relations
and its pettiness.

Now Mr Jones appears to agree. Asked by a reporter for the North Carolina News and Observer about the name-change campaign - an idea Mr Jones said at the time came to him by a combination of God's hand and a constituent's request - he replied: "I wish it had never happened."

Although he voted for the war, he has since become one of its most vociferous opponents on Capitol Hill, where the hallway outside his office is lined with photographs of the "faces of the fallen".

"If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong," he told the newspaper. "Congress must be told the truth."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Damn, just when I'm finally sticking to a diet, we can eat the freaking fries again. Damn you, Saddam and your nonexistent weapons of mass destruction...!!!
posted by JReid @ 1:54 PM  
Paging Mr. Moustache
Bolton's nomination is on hold again, and guess who's helping the Democrats push the White House for the information they've been withholding? Bill "you bleeping moderates just cut my freakin' jubblies off" Frist.
posted by JReid @ 8:15 AM  
Reality bites
OK, so spent Wednesday evening watching the two-hour "Lost" finale with "Idol" in picture-in-picture (and no, I'm not ashamed to admit that...) The former was definitely worth the larger screen, though there were few answers to be had (and no more Boone). Am I the only one who sees this show as "Gilligan's Island" with better looking people...?

Anyway, over at Fox, the lovely but stiff and staggeringly boring Carrie won "A.I.," but then I expected that, especially after Constantine bought the Betty farm. Carrie was slated (by Simon Cowell) to win the competition from the beginning, and she's just the sort of talent 19 Entertainment is looking to mold. She'll sell good numbers on at least her first two albums, and have a very respectable country-pop career. Good for her. Bo is, frankly, better off in the rock world NOT being the bubblegum "Idol" -- the tour alone is going to cut into his cool points. He's going to have to do about three "Free Birds" a day all through the summer as penance. (btw are these two an item, or what? They're awfully touchy-feely...)

Update: checking in with our friends at, I half expected to find despair, since the whole Scott Savol thing went so, so wrong, but instead, I found what I would characterize as self-riteous glee. Yeah, I think glee isn't too strong a word. In a nutshell, the site says their voters did have an impact (ergo Carrie was worse than Bo), and that since the show's outcome was clearly rigged in the country gal's favor (I won't go the V4 route and call her "the farmbot" but you've got to admit, it's a pretty damned funny nickname), it doesn't matter anyway.

The V4s cite a Sunday article in the Independent UK that carried the throw-away line that this year's "Idol" was won by Carrie Underwood. Only problem is, the article came out on Sunday. (Adding to the suspicious nature of things, the article by Jason Nisse is nowhere to be found on the Independent web-site, though I located this cached version on Google, and sure enough it contains the offending line.) The Worsters also claim that Carrie's already having recorded her single is further proof of wrongdoing, though they might look back at previous years -- the final two contestants always record their debut singles, and perform them in the final competition. During the first season, Justin and Kelly recorded the same song, with the winner getting to release it. Ruben and Clay recorded different singles, which they performed in the final showdown (I know, I know, I know way too much about this.)

Still, there does seem to have been an almost Bush-like inevitability to Carrie... Hang on ... reality shows aren't rigged!... are they...???
posted by JReid @ 7:15 AM  
SpongeDob remix
I got a heartfelt e-mail in response to my Monday post about the reaction of conservatives to the Senate filibuster compromise. The writer objected to my (and others') continued characterization of Focus on the Family's James Dobson as a SpongeBob misanthrope (or is that spongeanthrope... oh, never mind). To put all of the facts on the table, I have written ill of Mr. Dobson's close encounter with the cartoon sea sponge before, though Mr. Dobson and I actually agree that parents should be forewarned if schools decide to add potentially incendiary things like discussions of sex or sexual orientation (or condom-on-a-cucumber demonstrations) to the curriculum.

The e-mailer asked that I read Dobson's response to the Spongeflap, in part to correct the record as previously stated by me and by many others, that Dobson had confused the We are Family Foundation, which produced the video in which SquarePants and the other lovable cartoon characters dance to the disco beat to teach kids about "tolerance", with another organization with a similar name, that counsels gay teens.

Well, why not share the wealth. Here is Dobson's rebuttal to his critics in the media and elsewhere. Read it for yourself and decide. If Dobson has his facts straight, it does appear that the video was in a similar spirit to the Montgomery County, Maryland sex ed curriculum that recently drew so much fire (minus the overt religion bashing). If that's the case, that would be a foul on the liberal side. Touchy issues like these do, in my opinion, deserve a parental filter, and interest groups should not substitute their opinions for the judgment of mom and dad.

The We are Family folks have denied having a "pro-gay" agenda, but I think that Dobson and his allies make a valid argument that the left often mistakes its passion about certain issues for unquestionable fact. Then comes the intolerance of the notion that anyone would dare disagree (and too often, a snidely view of religious people in general -- don't believe me? Listen to a few minutes of "Morning Sedition" on Air America...) Of course, the right does it too, but shouldn't we at some point call a time out on both sides, and let parents be the ones to teach morality and tolerance to their kids? The schools have a hard enough time teaching math and science, as America's dismal scores compared to international students -- particularly those in Asia -- demonstrates.
posted by JReid @ 2:26 AM  
Hot links
Thanks for the top-of-the-fold love, Daou! Now I totally feel guilty for letting my Salon premium account expire...
posted by JReid @ 1:58 AM  
The hands that rock the cradle II
Meanwhile, WaPo is running an interesting analysis of the real fight in Washington: not over judges or abortion, but over the most elemental aspects of our Constitutional government: namely, how much power resides in the White House vs. Capitol Hill.

Since 9/11, Congress, particularly as it as become more Republican, has ceded more and more power to the executive branch, and now, it seems, the "moderates" -- or more precisely, the strict Constitutionalists among them -- are finally, finally trying to take some of that power back. A very smart person once told me that for American democracy, each branch of government has to jealously guard their prerogatives. Congress has fallen down on that job miserably over the last four years, and it seems to have taken the bull-headedness of the courts (for better of for worse), to shake the boys on the Hill out of their presidential boot-licking stupor. (Maybe the passing of the election has something to do with it too...)

Contrary to what El Rushbo and Sean Hannity would have you believe, the United States House and Senate are not employees of the president of the United States. The executive and legislative branches are not a board of directors, with Mr. Bush as CEO. These are co-equal branches of government, as the ever-colorful Robert Byrd (who knows his Constitution, btw, and he's damn near old enough to have co-authored it) continually reminds his colleagues.

It's about time some of them started listening.

That said, the implications for the reassertion of congressional prerogatives will have consequences for 2008, and you've got to wonder why Senator McCain would be so adamant about putting the breaks on the power of an office he seems so clearly to want for himself. And McCain seems also to have forgotten that despite the media's overwrought devotion to him, in order to become president, he's got to win a certain primary first, and at the moment, at least, the base ain't exactly loving him.

Of course, if we skipped the primaries and went right to the general election, McCain could win easily, without a single vote from the Cult of George W. Bush. But McCain's presence beneath Bush's armpit throughout the campaign seems to indicate he remembers the primary, and wants Bush's help. Maybe Pat Buchanan isn't all that far off when he predicts a McCain-(Jeb) Bush ticket ... I shudder to think.

Update: Barack Obama is staking out centrest territory a lot these days, and this time he's breaking with the Congressional Black Caucus by endorsing the fillibuster-busting "no nukes" compromise, and voting to end debate on newly minted appeals court justice Priscilla Owen (otherwise known as the Washington personality most in need of a makeover...) Obama voted against her nomination in the end.

The Illinois Senator is under tremendous pressure to tow the line of the "elected civil rights leadership," but he's also probably running for president in 2012, so if you ask me, he did the right thing.
posted by JReid @ 12:47 AM  
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Back in the toilet again...
More allegations of Gitmo guards mishandling the Quran, including the old "flush 'er down the loo" trick ... only this time the report comes from Newsweek's parent, The Washington Post, and the allegations apparently come from the FBI. Freepers, Powerline and Malkin, your move...
posted by JReid @ 5:39 PM  
Dumping on the dwarves
The right is still fuming over the Senate fillibuster compromise, and if you didn't know Chuck Hagel was running for president, your proof is now officially in:

Monday's surprise deal left two of the party's most prominent potential 2008 candidates, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), on opposite sides of an ideological and strategic divide that is likely to widen as the party begins in earnest to hunt for a successor to Bush. Perhaps mindful of the power of social and religious conservatives, other GOP senators with presidential aspirations, including George Allen (Va.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.), condemned the deal.

The compromise forged by 14 Democratic and Republican senators represented a rare, if temporary, rebuff to religious and social conservatives. Their condemnations, whether from James Dobson's Focus on the Family, radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh or conservative bloggers, were quick and strong. Dobson labeled it a "complete bailout and betrayal," and Jan LaRue, chief counsel of Concerned Women for America, branded the GOP negotiators "seven dwarves" who had given Democrats the right to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.

"It's a rebuff of both the president, Senator Frist and the socially conservative base of the party by a handful of senators," said Gary L. Bauer, a former presidential candidate and president of American Values. "The heart of the Republican Party is as unhappy as I can recall."

Not to be left out, the VandenHeuvelians are spazzing out right along with the Freepers. John Nichols in The Nation had this unhappy take:

Thanks to the compromise agreement made possible by seven Democrats who collaborated with Republicans to end the Senate impasse over judicial nominations, Priscilla Owen will now join the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Four years of successful efforts by civil rights, women's rights, religious and consumer groups to prevent confirmation of the right-wing extremist were undone Wednesday, as the Senate voted 56-43 to confirm a nominee whose judicial activism on the Texas Supreme Court was so wreckless that another member of that court, Alberto Gonzalez, who now serves as the nation's attorney general, referred to her actions as "unconscionable."

The final vote broke along partisan lines. Fifty-five Republicans and one Democrat, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, voted to confirm Owen. Forty-two Democrats and one Independent, Vermont's Jim Jeffords, voted against confirmation. [Not sure he's got that right -- I think Byrd voted for and Chafee of RI voted nay...] Those numbers are significant because they show that Democrats had the 40 votes that were needed to sustain a filibuster against Owen.

That means that, had Democrats held firm and forced moderate Republicans to reject the unpopular "nuclear option" that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, was attempting to impose on the Senate, Owen might very well have been kept off the court.

A good point, but it's just as likely that if there had been no fillibuster at all, Owen would have been voted through a long time ago...
posted by JReid @ 5:26 PM  
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Winners and losers
It's becoming more and more difficult to sort out the real winners and losers in the fillibuster-busting deal reached by 14 Senators last night.

It seems that nobody wants to exactly declare victory, though Pelosi and Reid are doing their darndest, and Bush seems like a pretty happy man today. The Republicans and their interest groups are furious, even though the deal resulted in Priscilla Owen clearing the cloture hurdle by a lopsided 81 to 18 vote today. How is getting Owen a one-way ticket to the federal bench a slam dunk for Democrats? Not sure, except that the party preserved the option of using the filibuster in the future: namely, on Bush's Supreme Court nominees.

...which is why the religious right is enraged by this deal. Even getting Owen confirmed, probably as early as Wednesday, isn't sating the Freeperati, who are shark-circling the GOP cavers, especially DeWine, Warner and poor old Lindsey Graham (never thought I'd feel sorry for an impeachment manager...)

Howard Dean basically spoke for the leftie base:
"I would be hesitant to say yet that it's a win for the Democratic Party," he
said. "It's a real test of whether this is a real long-term agreement. That will
come when we find out if the president consults with the Democrats," he added.

and the GOPers seem to be giving Bill Frist a pass for now (how many times has he used the words "I was not a party to the deal" today?
"I don't think the leadership caved, it was a handful of senator who preferred to stay in the Land of Political Indecision," said Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council.

This is a serious problem for me. How can we declare a winner if no one will volunteer?
posted by JReid @ 2:20 PM  
Monday, May 23, 2005
First up to bat...
...will be Owens, Brown and Pryor, with Owens coming up for a cloture vote tomorrow (Tuesday).

McCain may have sealed his doom tonight, with the evangelical vote by saying "both sides have to stop being tied to the extremists." The big question for McCain, is whether he can run for president without them...
posted by JReid @ 11:57 PM  
Apocalypse later
More reaction coming in on the Senate fillibuster compromise:

People for the American Way:

Statement of People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas on Senate Compromise Rejecting Nuclear OptionThe explicit language of the agreement reached tonight by a group of senators rejects the nuclear option, preserves the filibuster and ensures that both political parties will have a say in who is appointed to our highest courts - the unprincipled nuclear option has been averted. Nonetheless, we cannot endorse every aspect of the deal that was announced today. We are deeply concerned that it could lead to confirmation of appeals court judges who would undermine Americans’ rights and freedoms.

James Dobson:

"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush's nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

"We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."

Gary Bauer: It's a sellout...

Earthjustice: Happy one particular judge remains blocked...

The Therapist: Republicans "willingly date raped"

LaShawn Barber fields the angst... Load of crap!
This deal is a load of cr@!` It is not compromise, but capitulation. And I say that as somebody who did agree that a certain form of compromise was acceptable.
But this comrpomise treats a couple of nominees, Saad and Myers, as pawns. It
makes them not people, but expendable objects. And that is unconscionable.

And peep the comments. Damn, the Repub base is PISSED!

Russ Feingold via Kos:

This is not a good deal for the U.S. Senate or for the American people. Democrats should have stood together firmly against the bullying tactics of the Republican leadership abusing their power as they control both houses of Congress and the White House. Confirming unacceptable judicial nominations is simply a green light for the Bush administration to send more nominees who lack the judicial temperament or record to serve in these lifetime positions.

I value the many traditions of the Senate, including the tradition of bipartisanship to
forge consensus. I do not, however, value threatening to disregard an important Senate tradition, like occasional unlimited debate, when necessary. I respect all my colleagues very much who thought to end this playground squabble over judges, but I am disappointed in this deal.

Read, Demos not happy about the survival of Judge Pryor. Probably not too thrilled on Owens or Brown getting a pass, either.

BTW Lindsey Graham seemed to hint to Chris Matthews that not all of the seven judges who will get a vote will be voted through... clearly somebody's not holding their caucus toether very well (I see you, Bill Frist!)
posted by JReid @ 11:32 PM  
Angry Freeper alert
The Freepers are beside themselves over the Nuclear-free Senate deal. Much of the venom is being directed at Lindsey Graham, a card carrying conservative who apparently now is a traitor to the cause. Typical post (and I refuse to edit the spelling...):
He's John McCain's little butt buddy. South Carolinian's should send him packing to massechussets where he belongs.
Ahem. One Vanity Poster begs to disagree with the Freep-consensus that the deal is bad for the GOP:

Tonight the compromise allowed three judges for an up and down and vote. These judges Prior, Owens, Rogers Brown were the most abused by the Democrats, the left wing liberals, and their media whores. These were the most extreme of the extraordinary circumstances of the all President Bush nominees and any future filibuster will be very difficult once these three judges are approved. Moreover, and most importantly, if when there is a vacancy in the US Supreme Court, President Bush can appoint any of these three judges to the SCOTUS and no one can filibuster them. It is over we tricked the Democrats and they fell right in our trap.

Cheer up.

No, my friend, you'd better cheer up. Most of the responses to this post go something like this:
What does the kool-aid taste like?
Look for this vanity to be vanished by the mods within the half hour. More Angry Freeper Threads

Powerline ain't happy, either, though I like his rather deflated conclusion on this "very bad" (for his side) deal:

Finally, and most importantly, the president probably will be unable to get a Supreme Court Justice confirmed this session unless he appoints a moderate. And barring Republican gains in 2006, he probably will be unable to appoint a conservative Justice at all

...And Michele Malkin, well, she's not pleased. The self-loathing one's headline:
Republicans Buckle
James Dobson of Focus on the SpongeBob... er... Family, has been working overtime to try and avert a "disastrous" compromise on the fillibuster, and had been urging his followers to flood the phone lines. He's not a happy man tonight, and has already issued a statement condemning the compromise.

WaPo provides various pol reactions... proving that Sen. Harry Reid is a LOT happier about this than either Frist or George W. Bush...
"Tonight the Senate has worked its will on behalf of reason and behalf of responsibility. We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the radical arm of the Republican base an undeniable message: Abuse of power will not be tolerated, will not be tolerated by Democrats or Republicans. And your attempt, I say to the vice president and to the president, to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control is over." -- Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"It has some good news and it has some disappointing news and it will require careful monitoring." -- Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

"Many of these nominees have waited for quite some time to have an up or down vote and now they are going to get one. That's progress. We will continue working to push for up-or-down votes for all the nominees." -- White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Don't sound so thrilled, Scott... Of course, Reid threw this nugget in, which was reported in the ABC News version of the story:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, embraced the compromise and said it should deliver a message to Bush: "He should have a little more humility."
"We're not looking to pick a fight with President Bush; he shouldn't be out looking to pick a fight with us," Reid said.
posted by JReid @ 10:26 PM  
No nukes
Chris Matthews is dropping love bombs all over John McCain (he's a Maverick! oh yes! A Maverick!!!) and Lindsey Graham, after they joined 12 other moderate (and not-so-moderate) Senators in killing Bill Frist's "nuclear option."

Just one day before the showdown at the 08 corrall, the seven Republicans: Graham, McCain, Lincoln Chafee (RI), Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mike DeWine (Ohio), and consistently decent John Warner (Va), and seven Democrats: Constitutional lecturer in chief Robert Byrd, Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), Colorado newbie Ken Salazar (who I still say was the most underplayed story of the 2004 election -- no offense to Obama), Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Dan Inouye of Hawaii and Joe Lieberman (CT), upended the true believers on both sides of the ideological aisle and cut a deal.

The compromise will let Democrats retain the right to fillibuster in "extreme circumstances," while letting seven of Bush's bottlenecked judicial nominees come to a vote, including some of the most controversial, like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Prior. That won't make the left happy, but overall, I think the reaction is far more acidic on the right than it is on the left, since Democrats can still pull the fillbuster trigger on a potential Supreme Court nominee this summer, while the GOP has ceded the right to change the rules until 2007. According to the Washington Post, McCain -- who is being portrayed as the ringleader (although it looks like Warner and Byrd were instrumental in getting this done, as probably was Graham by changing his mind) -- was assured that the no-go-til 2007 option is good, so long as the seven Dems "don't go back on their word" to interpret the word "extraordinary" very, very narrowly.

The news can't be good for Bill Frist, who is planning to run for president solely on the basis of his talent for sucking up to James Dobson and other members of the cult of life. If he can diagnose his political future the way he diagnosed Terri Schiavo's condition, he'll likely be declaring himself DNR for 2008 by tomorrow morning.

If you want a good inkling of how Old Man Frist must be feeling right now, here's a line from a May 19 AP story, predicting doom for Frist if just such a deal as went down to day, were to come to pass:

"If he does get rolled on this issue, it's going to look a lot less like a gladiator and more like Barney Fife," said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California...

By the way, Barney Fife never became president either...

posted by JReid @ 5:28 PM  
Sunday, May 22, 2005
While it's still free...
Here's Frank Rich taking on the White House's Newsweek charade.
posted by JReid @ 12:54 PM  
Here's the link to the video from Howard Dean's full-hour turn on MTP this morning, and here's the link to my original post.
posted by JReid @ 12:31 PM  
Not ducking
Refusing to be punked by the likes of Scott McClellan, Newsweek does a follow-up on the Quran desecration story, though this time Isikoff is second-stringing it to Evan Thomas...
posted by JReid @ 12:23 PM  
The death of the Senate
In today's WaPo, editorial director Dick Meyers traces the death of comity in the Senate to the John Tower defense secretary nomination in 1989. Interesting take. He also gives a thorough reading of the Senate's legislative demise, and the consequences for the balance of power in America. Good read.
posted by JReid @ 12:15 PM  
Poppy Chulo: Live
Hamid Karzai is on CNN now parrying with Wolf Blitzer over the poppy and abuse stories. I'll check Jackson's Junction later for the video and post the link here.
posted by JReid @ 12:10 PM  
The 'I love John Conyers' reader
A group of 89 congressinal Democrats, led by Michigan's John Conyers, is considering sending a delegation to London to investigate the not-quite-infamous-enough Downing Street memo, which seems to demonstrate a Bush-Blair agreement to invade Iraq long before either country admitted as much to their legislatures or publics. The big question is whether a trip overseas by representatives of the minority party will cause the U.S. media to finally begin to care...
posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
Poppy chulo
U.S.-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai should have a lovely visit with President Bush this week. Karzai is headed our way, already fuming about a report, leaked to the New York Times, (here's the original May 20 story) about apparently widespread U.S. abuse, if not torture, of prisoners at the Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan, including the deaths of two detainees.

Karzai apparently wants control of Afghan prisoners turned over to his government, and will reportedly demand as much when he sits down with Bush (for all the good that will do -- just ask Bush's bosom friend Tony Blair...)

Now, comes another NYT story, this time springing from a leaked State Department cable that blames Karzai's government for the explosion of poppy cultivation in our little "democratic" narco state:

WASHINGTON, May 21 - United States officials warned this month in an internal memo that an American-financed poppy eradication program aimed at curtailing Afghanistan's huge heroin trade had been ineffective, in part because President Hamid Karzai "has been unwilling to assert strong leadership."

A cable sent on May 13 from the United States Embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital, said that provincial officials and village elders had impeded destruction of significant
poppy acreage and that top Afghan officials, including Mr. Karzai, had done little to overcome that resistance.

"Although President Karzai has been well aware of the difficulty in trying to implement an effective ground eradication program, he has been unwilling to assert strong leadership, even in his own province of Kandahar," said the cable, which was drafted by embassy personnel involved in the anti-drug efforts, two American officials said.

A copy of the three-page cable, which was addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was shown to The New York Times by an American official alarmed at the slow pace of poppy eradication.

The cable also faults Britain, which actually has more direct responsibility for the anti-poppy effort than American forces.

Anyway, should be an interesting confab. Just pay no attention to the smiley photo op afterward.
posted by JReid @ 11:29 AM  
Dean's 8-minute mile
It took MTP's Tim Russert exactly 8 minutes to pivot from substantive issues to Howard Dean's flamboyant past comments about Tom Delay, and another ten minutes to go from important questions about the war in Iraq and Republican power grabs to Dean's past comments about "hating Republicans" and the "motes" in the eyes of Rush Limbaugh.

...This is why I'd rather watch Stephanopoulos...

That said, DNC Chairman Dean did a very good job parrying with Russert, and he remained firmly on message: Democrats are the party of individual liberty and reponsibility, Republicans are the party of power-mongering, intrusion and ethical chicanery. Dean also did a nice job handling the abortion issue, which I agree must be driven off center stage if Democrats are to have a prayer of winning future national elections.

The winger blogosphere will probably jump all over Dean's slight flub of the Bin Laden vs. Saddam 9/11 connection (Dean said the former had nothing to do with hitting the Twin Towers when he meant the latter, and Russert, true to form, took no steps to correct him), and look for the little green footballers to track down whether Dean ever did, in fact, seek to get a subordinate sacked for disagreeing with him, but overall, Dean gets a B+.

Ok, switching to ABC to listen to Fareed Zakaria ...
posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Friday, May 20, 2005
Worldwide Pants, take two...
I wonder if the right wing bloggers are going off on the New York Post and UK Sun (both Rupert Murdoch outfits) over their joint publication of the Saddam-in-his-undies photos? The photos, afterall, are causing outrage across the Muslim world, and, to paraphrase Scott McClellan, damaging our image as crusaders -- oops, I mean "freedom fighters" ... for democracy and humanity...

Nope. Powerline says "cry me a river" in response to the worldwide angst, and offers to serve on the jury if the tabloids really are sued by Saddam's lawyers.

...Michelle Malkin obsesses about Saddam's goodie bags of hair dye, "fluffy pillow" and exercise yard.

...As of 7:30 Friday, Lashawn Barber hadn't even gotten to the story -- still fulminating on Newseek ... and for some reason, Pepsi and CSI...

...The ballers at Little Green Footballs live up to the site title by positing this little gem of a theory:
This story may seem absurdly humorous, but it’s possible that the person(s) who leaked the pictures had a deadly serious intent—to affect Saddam Hussein’s trial by giving his defense a powerful technical argument.

Meanwhile, President Bush did his part to rescue America's image in the Muslim world:
"These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office where he met with the prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Great job, Mr. President! Now just have Condi announce we're renaming Operation Iraqi Freedom as Operation Muhammad Sucks -- perhaps wearing a nice tight skirt and bikini top, in Kandahar -- and have her introduce Karen Hughes as her new lesbian lover at the presser, too ... maybe pull Tariq Aziz around naked on a leash while she's at it, and we're all set!
posted by JReid @ 7:14 PM  
1001 Reasons it's good to be a celebrity, volume 5
You get to have your very own TV show ... just for being a ho.

Previous reasons: 4 3 2 1
posted by JReid @ 7:02 PM  
Worldwide Pants

Okay, so at least the Quran thing has been cleared up... right?

Key question: if the Saddam underpants photos did in fact come from U.S. military sources, does this not confirm the use of humiliation as a broadly applied tactic in both Iraq and Afghanistan? Kind of puts a new spin on all those dramatic prosecutions of low-level reservists, compared with the blanket exoneration of Pentagon military and civilian leadership, doesn't it?
posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
Thursday, May 19, 2005
The next front of the culture wars?
With all the breakthroughs reported today on stem cells and human embryo cloning, it's not hard to guess where the culture wars go from here. Invitro discards will be the microscopic Terri Schiavos of the next wave of "culture of life" insurgency. Just you wait.

The rumblings are already being felt inside the House Republican caucus, where even some pro-life Republicans, like Utah's Orrin Hatch, have warmed to the idea that embryos created for invitro fertilization, but which will not be used (and therefore will be discarded), should be able to be donated by their owners for the use of scientific research. As Diana DeGette, the Colorado Democrat who co-authored a bill to lift George Bush's ban on federal funding for new stem cell lines (imposed in 2001), explained on Franken today (can you tell I listened to Franken today?) the idea is no different from parents of a child killed in a tragic car accident donating his corneas or kidneys for transplantation.

Big question: if the bill passes, will Bush finally whip out his veto pen? For this?
posted by JReid @ 4:28 PM  
Do we have a deal?
CNN is reporting an apprent deal in the works between moderate Democrats and Republicans to end the Senate's "nuclear wnter" as the showdown over judicial nominees has come to be known. The deal would entail six Dems voting to let 5 of Bush's nominees through to the floor, in exchange for six Republicans voting "no" on the "nuclear option". Priscilla Owen would go through to a vote on the deal, assuming it's the real deal.

Tom Oliphant was on Franken this afternoon saying he's hearing that there is more widespread angst over the idea of abolishing the filibuster for judicial nominess than is being reported -- and that there are more than 12 members of the Senate who fear that "victory" would be almost meaningless on this issue. If Republicans were to go nuclear, the fear is that the institution of the Senate could be severely damaged for many years to come.

At the least, business would grind to a halt, and the Democrats could use the arcane procedures of the upper house to make legislative life a living hell for the majority. BTW, the next item that would be on the agenda: John Bolton.

Apparently, the White House pushed hard for Bill frist to dispose of the Bolton nomination first, but Frist declined, apparently putting his own dreamworld presidency ahead of the real one being conducted by George W. Bush...
posted by JReid @ 4:09 PM  
Good for something
The FCC actually did something useful today, finally ordering Net phone companies to offer people like me, who use VOIP phone service, real 911 service. If satellites can zero in on a car wreck victim to within two feet of his location, surely someone in their own home who calls 911 shouldn't have to risk not being located quickly enough by the police or fire dept just because they dumped their traditional phone service.
posted by JReid @ 3:56 PM  
From the land of unfortunate headlines
From Newsweek's online edition today:
Consider the Source

By Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball


The subtitle is that "The State Dept. says MEK is a terror group. Human Rights Watch says it’s a cult. For the White House, MEK is a source of intelligence on Iran."

This is actually a story that I've been getting e-mails about for more than a year, from someone here in Florida who has been after Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen for her consistent support of MEK. Important story, really unfortunate title, given what Newsweek has been through this week...
posted by JReid @ 11:28 AM  
Unsurprising headlines
Greg Palast paste's Newsweek for 'cowardice.'
posted by JReid @ 12:15 AM  
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Get me copy, boy!
Wouldn't it have been easier for the White House to just send Scott McClellan over to Newsweek as its new editor? Or perhaps the WH communications team could just fax in the magazine's copy for the week for printing and binding...

In the meantime, it seems Scott McClellan's puppeteers would like the offending mag's editors to book themselves immediately onto Arab television. Any other instructions for the magazine, Mr. McClellan? Heavier paper, perhaps? Or perhaps a nice, flattering portrait of President Bush sitting astride a papier machet globe emblazoned with a sash reading "Freedom for all!" Now THAT would be a nice touch...

Oh and on a related note, it seems the Powers That Be have effectively leaned on Dick Myers, that portrait in courage we call the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Myers has now retracted his earlier statement that the riots in Pakistan and elsewhere were not caused by the Newsweek story. Now Myers says Newsweek caused the riots.
posted by JReid @ 11:25 PM  
Life, or something like it
Must-read article on the Fall of the House of Idol -- namely, the Fox series' sudden slide from "Star Search" clone to truck stop reality show.

Key line: "AI is beginning to look more like the NFL every day." Next best burner: Bo Bice as the "bastard child of Kid Rock and Molly Hatchet...
posted by JReid @ 11:15 PM  
Mr. Galloway goes to Washington

British MP George Galloway gave grandstanding Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman the McCarthy treatment on Tuesday (all that wasy missing was "in the end, sir, have you no decency?"), firing from "both barrels" as the BBC analysis rather gleefully put it, over allegations he profited from oil-for-food.

Far from displaying the forelock-tugging deference to which senators are accustomed, Mr Galloway went on the attack. He rubbished committee chairman Norm Coleman's dossier of evidence and stared him in the eye.

"Now I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," the MP declared. The whole room scanned Mr Coleman's face for a reaction. The senator shifted in his seat - nervously it seemed.

It was the first time a British politician had been interrogated as a hostile witness at the US Senate - but Mr Galloway cast himself not as the accused, but the accuser.

The Guardian had even more fun with the story:

He entered the hearing room with guns blazing, telling journalists his inquisi tors were "crazed", "pro-war", "lickspittles" of the president, and predicting he would turn the tables on them. "I want to put these people on trial. This group of neo-cons is involved in the mother of smokescreens," he said.

That was the common theme in a feat of bare-knuckled rhetoric not often witnessed by the senators, who are accustomed to considerably more reverence for their positions. CNN called it a "blistering attack on senators rarely heard or seen on Capitol Hill".

Joltin' George even managed to get in a few shots at pro-war Trotskyite Christopher Hitchens:

Before the hearing began, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow even had some scorn left over to bestow generously upon the pro-war writer Christopher Hitchens. "You're a drink-soaked former-Trotskyist popinjay," Mr Galloway informed him. "Your hands are shaking. You badly need another drink," he added later, ignoring Mr Hitchens's questions and staring intently ahead.

"And you're a drink-soaked..." Eventually Mr Hitchens gave up. "You're a real thug, aren't you?" he hissed, stalking away.

What other British papers are saying:

The Daily Mirror plays the story straight (probably for the best, given their highly publicized anti-war stance). The Times of London called Galloway's star turn a "powerful performance," while the more conservative Telegraph called it "one of the most extraordinary and ill-tempered exchanges seen on Capitol Hill" and then gives a very detailed account of the charges leveled at Galloway, as well as some of his more "evasive" answers. (A Telegraph editorial labels Galloway "machine gun George" and portrays his performance as "a little rattled" -- yeah, right....)

The New York Post's sister pub The Sun may have come up with the best headline: "Senate kicked in the Galls." The Independent ran a very thorough account, declaring " it would have to be an odd judge who did not score this transatlantic clash in Mr Galloway's favour."
posted by JReid @ 12:35 AM  
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Just to make it easy for Powerline and Limbaugh...
Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita conveniently divided the Koranic abuse (and I'll asume any future abuse charges) into three explanatory branches: 1) it never happened, 2) they did it to themselves and 3) anyone who has made charges against U.S. forces is a member of al-Qaida.

From WaPo:

The Pentagon spokesman said uncorroborated log entries at the detention center refer to incidents in which detainees themselves "have, for whatever reason, torn pages from the Koran, et cetera." He said that so far, "the only types of practice that we've seen that correlates to what Newsweek said has to do with what detainees themselves did at Guantanamo."

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has told reporters that in one unconfirmed Guantanamo log entry, "a detainee was reported by a guard to be ripping pages out of a Koran and putting them in a toilet to stop it up as a protest."

In any case, Di Rita said today, "there is a command philosophy [at Guantanamo] that is clearly one of treating religious items, including the Koran, with a great deal of respect." Nevertheless, he said, there have been instances "where a Koran may have fallen to the floor in the course of searching a cell" and a detainee complained that he was offended.

As for more serious allegations of desecration, Di Rita said, many detainees are members of the al Qaeda terrorist network who "were trained to allege abuse and torture and all manner of other things."

Keep in mind, however, that those former detainees making the charges, including at least one British citizen, are by definition, no longer incarcerated at Camp Delta. So if they made the charges because they are members of al-Qaida, why in the name of God did we let them go?

And what of the Americans, including a former Army translator, who have charged that blatant disrespect of religion is not only going on at Gitmo, but is going on as part of a program to break the detainees for interrogation? Are they members of al-Qaida too? Is Michael Isikoff? And can we now expect the Bush administration to dismiss any future charges of detainee abuse in Afghnistan, Iraq or elsewhere, to be brushed off as the crazed rantings of terrorists?

Sings point to "yes."

Irony Alert

By the way, more than a few people are noticing the White House's hypocrisy problem on this story, having committed the ultimate information blunder that got tens of thousands of people, including more than 1,600 American G.I.s, killed... including E&P and Michigan Rep. John Conyers.

Says Greg Mitchell in Editor:
But, really, you almost have to laugh when administration officials get all huffy about the U.S. losing respect in the Muslim world -- and the fact that “people have lost lives” -- because of the nugget in Newsweek, in the wake of Abu Ghraib, the confirmed deaths of dozens of prisoners in U.S. custody, the outsourcing of torture to Egypt and other countries, not to mention the killing of tens of thousands in Iraq in a war largely based on bogus tips from unreliable sources.

Adds Conyers, in an apparent letter to the White House:
There is, Conyers said, "a sad irony in this White House claiming that someone else's errors or misjudgments led to the loss of innocent lives. Over 1,600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives in the Iraq war, a war which your Administration justified by falsely claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."
posted by JReid @ 4:47 PM  
On an entirely different note...
I love the New York Times op-ed section (especially Paul Krugman -- in my opinion the best in the business), but am I going to pay to read it? Nope. Just as a test, ask me how many times I've read Salon since my subscription ran out...? And the WSJ? OpinionJournal, yes. Shelling out for the dry side, nope. The NYT will eventually learn what the recording industry has: the unstoppable combination of technology and young people who know how to use it will always ensure the availability of free content. These blogs don't pay enough to make folk start paying for content -- hell, half the bloggers out there don't even pay for their bandwith! And as for regular readers, I suppose there's an audience out there for premium opinion and multimedia content, and the biz analysts obviously agree. It's an interesting experiment, but it won't drive links to MoDo.
posted by JReid @ 4:31 PM  
Sources of conflict

Following is a Times of London timeline of events from a May 14 story by By Catherine Philp (The start date looks wrong, since the story appeared in the May 9 print edition of Newsweek, but this timeline could mean the story first went online on the MSNBC co-branded site on May 4).

  • May 4 Newsweek report claims Gauntanamo interrogators descecrated the Koran
  • May 6 Imran Khan demands US apology
  • May 7 Pakistan foreign ministry expresses “dismay” at report
  • May 10 2,000 students demonstrate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. State
    Department condemns desecration if true and says Pentagon has started
  • May 11 Four killed in Afghanistan after police open fire on demonstrators.
    Government and aid agency offices in Kabul attacked
  • May 12 Three more die in Afghan demonstrations. Hundreds march in major
    Pakistan cities. Saudi Arabia calls on US to investigate claims. Condoleezza
    Rice urges end to violence and says report is being investigated
  • May 13 More unrest in Afghanistan. Protests spread to Indonesia and Gaza
    Additional reporting by Zahid Hussain in Islamabad, Michael Theodolou in
    Nicosia and Richard Beeston in Baghdad
Now read this report on the Muslim news site Dawn, referencing a cartoon that appeared in the Washington Times on May 6th. (and in the Hindustan Times on May 7, the Pak Tribune and who knows how many other publications.)

Pakistan protests at derogatory cartoon

By Our Correspondent

WASHINGTON, May 6: The Pakistan Embassy in Washington has protested against a cartoon appearing in a section of the US press that ridicules the country’s role in the war on terror. “We are disgusted with the insensitivity of the editors of the Washington Times. They have insulted the 150 million people of Pakistan,” said Mohammed Sadiq, Pakistan’s charge de affaires in Washington.

“This insensitivity is totally inexplicable. If this is not a mal-intent attempt to undermine Pakistan’s efforts in war on terror, it is an extremely regrettable and poor judgment call by the newspaper,” he said. “This betrays the mindset of the editorial board.”

The cartoon shows a US soldier patting a dog that holds Abu Faraj Al Libbi and saying: “Good boy … now let’s go find bin Laden.”

The Libyan terror suspect, who was the third-ranking leader in Al Qaeda, was arrested in Pakistan.President George W. Bush has described Al Libbi’s arrest as “a critical victory in the war on terror” and said that he “applaud(s) Pakistan and President Gen Pervez Musharraf for their strong cooperation in the war on terror”.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: “Pakistan deserves most of the credit for arresting … an important field general.”Mr Sadiq said: “The Washington Times, obviously, felt otherwise. The newspaper’s reaction to the laudable action of arresting a dangerous terrorist like Al Libbi is totally unwarranted.”

He said the Times was strengthening the hands of extremists because “this is exactly what the extremists and terrorists have been saying about Pakistan’s cooperation with the US”. Mr Sadiq noted that the view in the extreme fringe of Pakistani society was surprisingly similar to that of “the extreme fringe of the US press”.“We hope that this mal-intent on part of Washington Times would not provoke a wider reaction in Pakistan and it will be ignored with the contempt which it deserves,” said the Pakistani diplomat.

Days later, the same publication ran this headline:

Govt urged to lodge protest with US: Derogatory cartoon in newspaper

ISLAMABAD May 9: The National Assembly through a unanimous resolution on Monday condemned publication of a derogatory cartoon caricaturing Pakistan in the Washington Times. The NA asked the government of Pakistan to register its strongest protest and resentment with the government of the United States and seek unqualified apology from the said newspaper.

The resolution, which was jointly drafted and signed by the treasury and the combined opposition members, was read out by the ruling PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and was re-read by Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain for further clarity.It said, “This house expresses its gravest resentment over publishing of the cartoon which puts Pakistan in ridicule.

The people of Pakistan express ondemnation of the matter and demand of the government to take up the issue with the US government and ask for seeking apology from the said newspaper.The entire Pakistani nation had felt injured by the publishing of such a derogatory cartoon by the said newspaper and demand of the American government to get the said paper tender apology.”

And just yesterday, another regional publication, The Nation (Pakistani, not VandenHeuvelian) conflated the Quran desecration and WashTimes cartoon stories in one big ball of angry protest (including reports that Pakistani officials had complained to both Washington and the U.N.)

ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly Tuesday came down hard on the US for desecration of the Holy Quran at Guantanomo Bay camp and demanded of onvening
the meeting of Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to take the world’s super power to task.

While the government informed the House that it will go to court for legal battle if the Washington Times, which ridiculed Pakistan for its support in the US war against terror through a cartoon, does not tender an apology.

PML President Chaudhry Shujat Hussain while taking part in the debate asked the Washington Times to officially reget over the appearance of this cartoon.He said he has conveyed this message through the country’s envoy in the US, Gen. (Retd) Jehangir Karamat and vowed to fight for the prestige of the Pakistani nation if the US authorities do not address the protest.

Seems to me that Pakistani officials are equally indignant over the now discredited Newsweek report, and the insult to the country's pride by the right's favorite Beltway rag.

To date, not sure there's been any outrage, or apology, over and from the Washington Times.
posted by JReid @ 2:04 PM  
Fine young (right wing) cannibals
Before you Freepers get too exercised about Newsweek's "liberal war against the war on terror," let us pause for a moment to remember exactly who the lead reporter on the Quran story, Michael Isikoff, actually is.
posted by JReid @ 12:34 PM  
Surprise, surprise...
The White House is wasting no time in using the Newsweek debacle to try and twist the magazine's arm for positive coverage of U.S. military procedures vis-a-vis Muslims. Wonder if Scott McClellan is inviting American magazine-dom to cover the accounts from American witnesses of interrogators smearing fake menstrual blood on Muslim men or any of the other allegations that preceded the Isikoff toilet droppings?

If the magazine complies -- and if the television/cable media take the okey-doke route and roll out a raft of feel-good stories on U.S. interrogation methods, I'm literally going to be sick -- not surprised, just sick.
posted by JReid @ 12:05 PM  
When you don't understand strategy...
...there's nothing anyone can do for you. Thanks, Robert Wexler, for showing us Dems the way ... the way to LOSE the PLOT! Sheesh...
Wash Times: Wexler breaks with party leaders, offers Social Security plan

Oh yeah, I'll just offer up some tax increases for Fox News and the Freepers to pound on, while my leadership tries to keep forcing the starve the beasters to defend their plan... Sheesh...
posted by JReid @ 11:41 AM  
The people vs. Pat Buchanan
Pat Buchanan -- who I agree with on a frightening number of topics these days -- tees off on the dearly departed conservative movement, which I think he pretty successfully argues has been killed, by free-spending pols, imperialistic neocons and a futile battle to win the culture wars. Here's the article, from an interview with the lovable Moonies at the Wash Times.
posted by JReid @ 11:29 AM  
Hang on a second...
As the Newsweek apology morphed into a full-on retraction Monday, the fact dawned on more than a few observers (including this one) that the trajectory of this story has been all to Ratherian. As Newsweek's beleaguered editor, Mark Whitaker, was at pains to repeat over and over again on "Nightline," the 10 sentence story that ran on May 9, penned by primarily Michael Isikoff (no lefty there -- we're talking Monica blue dress chaser-in-chief, here), was shown -- in its entirety -- to TWO senior Pentagon officials before it ran. Neither of them chose to debunk the essential facts of the story. Neither pleaded (or more Bush administration-like) ordered, Newsweek not to run the story, including the Koranic verses, for fear of the consequences in the Muslim world.

Yet on Monday, in ever-more hyperbolic demonstrations of fake outrage, first Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita and then White House hacksman Scott McClellan fulminated at Newsweek's "irresponsibility" in publishing a story that has "cost lives" and damaged "America's image abroad." Hang on, I thought Abu-Ghraib and the failure to find WMD in Iraq did that ...

The WH turned the screws on Newsweek, after first abetting the publication of the story, at least by default, and after getting the apology they demanded, they and their blogmob are now laying all the carnage throughout the Mideast at the magazine's doorstep.

Message to Newsweek: You've been Rathergated. The administration and its henchmen, including Bush's official news network, Fox, will now use this story to beat, bludgeon and more importantly, blame you for all its troubles with Islam.

That point has been made over and over again today, on, on Nightline, by "Hardball's" saving grace David Shuster (a former Fox man himself), by WaPo's Howard Kurtz, and on Countdown, where Keith Olbermann turned to the last sane man left in the Washington press corps, Craig Crawford:

Whatever I smell comes from this odd sequence of events: Newsweek gets blasted by the White House, apologizes over the weekend but doesn't retract its story. Then McClellan offers his Journalism 101 outdoor seminar and blasts the magazine further. Finally, just before 5 PM Monday, the Dan Rather drama replaying itself in its collective corporate mind, Newsweek retracts.

I’m always warning about the logical fallacy - the illusion that just because one event follows another, the latter must have necessarily caused the former. But when I wondered tonight on Countdown if it applied here, Craig Crawford reassured me. “The dots connect.”


One of the most under-publicized analyses of 9/11 concludes that Osama Bin Laden assumed that the attacks on the U.S. would galvanize Islamic anger towards this country, and they'd overthrow their secular governments and woo-hoo we've got an international religious war. Obviously it didn't happen. It didn't even happen when the West went into Iraq. But if stuff like the Newsweek version of a now two-year old tale about toilets and Qu’rans is enough to set off rioting in the streets of countries whose nationals were not even the supposed recipients of the ‘abuse’, then weren’t those members of the military or the government with whom Newsweek vetted the plausibility of its item, honor-bound to say “you can’t print this”?

Or would somebody rather play politics with this? The way Craig Crawford reconstructed it, this one went similarly to the way the Killian Memos story evolved at the White House. The news organization turns to the administration for a denial. The administration says nothing. The news organization runs the story. The administration jumps on the necks of the news organization with both feet - or has its proxies do it for them.

That’s beyond shameful. It’s treasonous.

It's also effective, especially for this White House, with this press corps (Matthews jumped in with both feet on Monday, hammering Newsweek for bum reporting and completely ignoring the scads of previous stories detailing precisely the kind of religious outrages being protested against.) As many others have pointed out, the only difference between the Newsweek story and all the previous ones is that the old stories came from detainees (or former U.S. interpreters and other personnel). This one had the imprimatur of a "high level U.S. government official."

Other than that, there was nothing new here.

In fact, the administration didn't seem to give a damn about the story (as Olbermann points out, Joint Chiefs chairman Dick Meyers dismissed it last week as not being the real cause of the Afghan and other violence). The Newsweek piece only became the root of the problem after Condi Rice's attempt to soothe Muslim anger failed miserably. (Rice has, of course, changed her tune considerably and is now singing from the Di-Rita-McClellan songsheet:)

Rice on May 14:
"Disrespect for the Holy Quran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States. We honor the sacred books of all the world's great religions. Disrespect for the Holy Quran is abhorrent to us all.
"Our military authorities are investigating these allegations fully. If they are proven true, we will take appropriate action. ... Guaranteeing religious rights is of great personal importance to the president and to me."

Rice on May 16:

``It's appalling that this story got out there,'' Rice told reporters traveling home with her Monday from her trip to Iraq.


``I do think it's done a lot of harm,'' Rice said. ``Of course, 16 people died but it's also done a lot of harm to America's efforts,'' to demonstrate tolerance and breed goodwill in the Muslim world.


``The sad thing was that there was a lot of anger that got stirred by a story that was not very well founded,'' Rice said.

By the way, if you doubt for a second that this is the administtration playing hardball, check out this story in Monday's Washington Post:

Report Critical of Rumsfeld Is Pulled After DOD Protest

By Mike AllenWashington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 16, 2005; A05

A government commission studying overseas military bases sent Congress a report that included criticism of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's strategy, then removed the document from the commission Web site after the Pentagon complained that it divulged classified information.

The congressionally appointed panel contends that the 262-page report is based only on public sources, and several commission officials say they believe the Defense Department was annoyed because their conclusions include harsh criticism of some elements of Rumsfeld's plan for streamlining the military.


The commission chairman, Al Cornella, a Republican, said in an interview that he was trying to cooperate but that he had not agreed to have the Pentagon clear the report in advance. "The commission is confident that everything in our report was obtained from unclassified sources or settings," he said.

According to e-mails that an official involved in the dispute read to The Washington Post, Barry Pavel, the Defense Department's director of strategy on global posture, wrote to Cornella on May 7 to warn of "the potential need to conduct an investigation regarding violation of security classification procedures, including the IT-related aspects (eg, possibly having to clean your servers, etc)."

Commission officials said they took that as a threat to revoke their security clearances and to bring military police or information technology agents to their Arlington offices.

The officials said Pavel raised the concerns with Cornella on May 6 in an e-mail with the subject line, "Re: report." "I'll be frank," Pavel wrote, according to the e-mail read to The Post.

"I found it professionally disappointing; riddled with errors of fact, misperceptions, and misunderstandings; and divulging classified information that will damage our foreign relations and national security." The officials said that after the complaint, they removed the original report from their Web site, collected the printed copies that they could retract, removed some appendixes and had the reports rebound before the news conference.

This is how these folks operate. Welcome to the Brave New World.
posted by JReid @ 1:44 AM  
Headlines you won't likely see on U.S. news:
The Guardian's Tuesday edition is topped by a report, apparently leaked by Democratic Senate staffers, that shows the Bush administration turned a blind eye to much more oil-for-food mad money for Saddam than anything the Norm Coleman brigate has alleged against French, British and Russian politicians and Kofi Annan's family members.

A report released last night by Democratic staff on a Senate investigations committee presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but did nothing to stop them.

The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate committee against UN staff and European politicians like the British MP, George Galloway, and the former French minister, Charles Pasqua.

In fact, the Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

"The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions
and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions," the report said. "On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.

(Not surprisingly, a Texas firm is right in the middle of this one, indictments and all). Shall we hold our breath awaiting the reaction of the right wing blogosphere? And I'll wager the only cable news show that even touches this story tomorrow will be Olbermann's...
posted by JReid @ 1:23 AM  
Monday, May 16, 2005
Irony alert
Hm. Powerline is also on the attack, predictably, and he seems to be betting the fact farm on Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita's denials (and the Pentagon's discounting of prisoner allegations of Quran/Koran flushing). I won't even go into Laura Ingram's incoherent rant on her radio show this morning...

But none of the wingers is addressing the key question here: why didn't Mr. DiRita or someone in the Pentagon simply refute the story when the Newsweek reporters called them to confirm it? According to Newsweek, Isikoff and co-author John Barry attempted to vet the story through the Pentagon before it was published, and no denial was forthcoming. Said Evan Thomas for the May 23 edition:
A SouthCom spokesman contacted by Isikoff declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, but NEWSWEEK National Security Correspondent John Barry, realizing the sensitivity of the story, provided a draft of the NEWSWEEK PERISCOPE item to a senior Defense official, asking, "Is this accurate or not?" The official challenged one aspect of the story: the suggestion that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, sent to Gitmo by the Pentagon in 2001 to oversee prisoner interrogation, might be held accountable for the abuses. Not true, said the official (the PERISCOPE draft was corrected to reflect that). But he was silent about the rest of the item. The official had not meant to mislead, but lacked detailed knowledge of the SouthCom report.

So the Pentagon found the allegations credible enough to investigate them then, but DiRita and McClellan and by inference, the White House, says they're pure bunk now? Whew! That was one hell of a speedy investigation...!
posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
When in doubt...
Part of the problem with the Newsweek on-again-off-again Quran desecration story is that the original report was just so damned believable. As the folks at Raw Story point out, the story hits a bit too close to home for former Gitmo detainees who have detailed similar Quoranic defliements among the abuses they say they suffered at the hands of American interrogators, including the books being "thrown in a pile and stepped on," urinated on, and yes, chucked in the loo. Some of the insults reportedly prompted hunger strikes, and in one case, a full-on inquiry and rare U.S. apology. From the Raw Story piece today (emphases added):

The toilet incident was reported in the Washington Post in a 2003 interview with a former detainee from Afghanistan:

"Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet. ‘It was a very bad situation for us,’ said Ehsannullah, who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. ‘We cried so much and shouted, Please do not do that to the Holy Koran.’ (Marc Kaufman and April Witt, "Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment," Washington Post, Mar. 26, 2003.)Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guatanamo detainee who was released to British custody in Mar. 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behaviour of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible. They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it." (Center for Constitution Rights, Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, (Aug. 4, 2004, deposition available here.)

In fact, the allegations of abuse at Gitmo don't just come from former detainees. One former Gitmo translator, former U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Saar, has even written a book in which he details the ritual humiliation and sexually charged humliation and abuse of prisoners at Camp Delta, including an incident where a female interrogator rubbed what the detainee thought was her menstrual blood on his face... And a group of U.S. servicemen, all former military lawyers, are currently suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for abuses they say were carried out under his direction:

Former Military Lawyers JoinLawsuit Against Rumsfeld

by Edward Spannaus

"Mr. Rumsfeld's policies have stained our military.... We want to remove that stain," said retired Army Gen. James Cullen, one of two retired military lawyers who are part of the legal team in a newly filed lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [See interview with Gen. Cullen.] The action was filed on March 1 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First, on behalf of eight former prisoners, four Afghan and four Iraqi citizens, who were tortured and abused at the hands of U.S. military personnel acting under Rumsfeld's direction. [Emphasis added]

Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, who is also part of the legal team, acknowledged to a packed press conference in Washington on March 1 that, after 28 years in the United States Navy, "this is not an easy thing for me to do." But, Hutson explained, this lawsuit "is about our national defense, now and in the future; it's about the role that the United States has traditionally played on the world stage; it's about our self-respect and self-image; and it's largely about protecting our own soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are already in harm's way, and who will continue to be so in the future."

Whatever the facts prove to be in this case, there's no disputing the fact that the real U.S. abuses at Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib set the table for this scandal, because they lowered the bar for American behavior into the basement, along with whatever credibility we had in the Muslim world.

That's why we have so little leg to stand on in denying the story. Worse the Bush administration isn't exactly the most believable outfit on the world stage, and so its denials -- along with the Newsweek mea culpa -- are, predictably falling on deaf ears.

The White House can blame Newsweek for the current fiasco (although to reiterate my earlier post, I have my doubts about the sudden about-face), but it can blame only itself and its incompetant execution of the Iraq occupation for the abysmal state of affairs we face with Islam worldwide.

Bottom line: there was a time when a story such as this simply wouldnot have been believable to people of good will. Thanks to Ricardo Sanchez, Dick Meyers, Don Rumsfeld and the whole Pentagon peanut gallery that allowed ritual prisoner abuse posing as interrogation, suspect "rendering" and other assorted nastiness to take place, and thanks to George W. Bush and his family fued with Saddam Hussein, nobody quite believe us, nor are they likely too for a long, long time.
posted by JReid @ 1:39 PM  
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Is it just me, or is there something fishy about the Newsweek flubs the Quran story? The recap: Newsweek apologized today for a story in the May 9 issue which quoted "high level," heretofore reliable (the mag says) sources who claimed that U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Quran as part of their strategy to break terror suspect prisoners there. The story claimed that soldiers had thrown copies of the Muslim holy book in the toilet. The story touched off a week of violent riots that have left at least 15 people dead and scores injured. (In the latest twist, some Afghan clerics this weekend threatened holy war if the alleged book defilers were not brought to justice. And not to be outdone, Saudi Arabia on Friday got into the act.)

Needless to say, the Pentagon was pissed about the report, which stoked anti-Americanism in yet another country we're supposed to be newfound friends with. Secretary of State Rice last week tried to defuse the situation, saying in a statement to Congress that disrespect of the Muslim holy book would not be tolerated, and promising a complete investigation.

So the Pentagon investigates, "finds the story to be in error," and suddenly, Newsweek's source backs off his (or her) claim. Egg on Newsweek's face. End of story ... right?

Saturday's Reuters wire had the investigation turning up no evidence of the toilet incidents in logs kept by Gitmo guards. Joint Chiefs Chairman Dick Meyers said an investigation had turned up nothing nefarious. At least nothing more than this:
Myers said the only incident recorded in the prison logs was of a detainee tearing pages from a Quran and using them in an attempt to block a toilet as a protest, and even that incident, he said, was unconfirmed.

"It's a log entry that has to be confirmed," he said. "There are several log entries that show that the Quran may have been moved and detainees became irritated about it, but never an incident where it was thrown in the toilet."

So the Pentagon's position is that if a Quran was thrown in a toilet, whole or in pieces, it was done so by a detainee (purportedly a Muslim).

Newsweek's editor, Mark Whitaker, took the bullet for writers Mike "Blue Dress" Issikoff and John Barry on the Sunday news circuit, and in a story update posted on Newsweek's MSNBC site. According to the wires:

Whitaker wrote that the magazine's information came from "a knowledgeable U.S. government source," and before it published the item, writers Michael Isikoff and John Barry sought comment from two Defense Department officials. One declined to respond, and the other challenged another part of the story but did not dispute the Quran charge, Whitaker said.

But on Friday, a top Pentagon spokesman told the magazine that a review of the military's investigation concluded "it was never meant to look into charges of Quran desecration. The spokesman also said the Pentagon had investigated other desecration charges by detainees and found them 'not credible.'"

Whitaker added that the magazine's original source later said he could not be sure he read about the alleged Quran incident in the report Newsweek cited, and that it might have been in another document.

"Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we," Whitaker wrote.

So someone int he Defense Department initially let the story stand, yet the department later finds the whole story to be a sham? Not that I feel sorry for Issikoff, who practically dined on Bill Clinton's carcass during Monicagate. But this story, and the Pentagon double-take, is shady.
posted by JReid @ 10:22 PM  
Huffing and puffing
In case you missed Kurtz TV today, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit shared the chyrons with Arianna Huffington, who defended her celebrity blogging monstrosity by trying to explain why people who have columns and TV shows and "lots of things to do -- they're very busy..." need to exorcise their incomplete thoughts by blogging. Vid courtesy of Trey at Jackson's Junction.

By the way, check out the Huffington parodies: Bluffington Post and the much funnier Huffington's Toast.
posted by JReid @ 10:05 PM  
Friday, May 13, 2005
Wapo Watch
Howard Kurtz ponders the question of why the escalating carnage in Iraq is getting such scant coverage, especially by the television and cable networks. Iraq fatigue?

Daily Dose of Death, By Howard Kurtz

Man, this is getting depressing. Day after day, headlines about death and destruction and human carnage... Read the rest here.

And the paper runs with the increasingly disturbing story that President Bush was left out of the loop during this week's off-course plane scare (a scare that touched off a Capitol evacuation), because apparently, the secret service didn't want to disturb Dubya while he was riding his bike...

Dan Froomkin's WH Briefing (May 12):

Yesterday, even as a goodly swath of official Washington was running panic-stricken into the streets, President Bush was riding his bike in the country, completely unaware of what was going on.

Aides reportedly decided that since he wasn't personally in danger, he didn't need to know. But wouldn't the president want to know about a potential terrorist threat serious enough to evacuate major government buildings? And when he is clearly safe, doesn't he deserve the option to decide if he wants to lead the response?

The official White House line yesterday was that "protocols" established post-9/11
were being followed. But what are those protocols? Are they wise? Do they really call for the president not to be bothered if he's personally not in danger? Is that what Bush wants? After September 11, 2001, it was reasonable to assume that lessons had been learned, and that the next time there were signs of a possibly unfolding terrorist attack the president would be promptly and fully informed -- and would be ready to leap into action.

Bad assumption.

um, okay... apparently, D.C. police weren't notified either. But Dick Cheney was!

What makes the incident so outrageous (versus an otherwise mundane wrong-way pilot yarn), is that it indicates that the WH staff has learned nothing from ... well, Fahrenheit 9/11. I'll let MSNBC's conservative gadfly Joe Scarborough explain (also from Froomkin's piece). Just for fun, try reading it aloud in Joe's Florida drawl:

"I don't get it. All of America is glued to their TV sets . . . you've got people rushing out of government buildings all across Washington, D.C., and you don't notify the president of the United States? For an hour? Until after it's all over? Because, what, you don't want to disturb his bike ride in Maryland? I'm sorry, I just don't get it. . .

"After I watched '[Fahrenheit] 9/11,' one of the parts that made me the angriest was the part about 'My Pet Goat.' I thought it was a cheap shot. I said, seven, eight, nine minutes, big deal. But here you have an attack going on -- or something most Americans thought was an attack -- for 15, 20, 30 minutes and the president of the United States not notified. Why?"

Good question. Someone should ask Dick Cheney.
posted by JReid @ 1:54 PM  
A little light reading
If you do nothing else this weekend, find the time to read the Seymour Hersch/Amy Goodman interview on the devolving situation in Iraq (I'll leave it posted over the weekend on the main page). Hersch paints a chilling picture of the war, the press coverage, and the Bush administration, that are not to be missed. He even talks about MyLai. Highlights:

Oh Abu Ghraib prison:
I had been told by Iraqis in the Middle East that I talked to about Abu Ghraib six months earlier that the prison was so bad that the women in the prisons were sending messages home to their brothers and fathers to please come kill them, because they had been defiled in prison by the Americans.

On the administration's response:
Of course, everybody knows what's going on. Are you kidding? The timeline, the chronology, I told you, what does president not do? He doesn't do anything. He doesn't take any steps at all, confronted with Abu Ghraib, not one step to change anything. They just hope they can get away with a couple of low-level court-martials as they did with Calley. They did, but they could have. Anyway, it was a rational chance, rational gamble.

On the insirgency:
But anyway, in the paper today, it’s the lead story in the Times, 100 rebels killed in western Iraq. We're back in the body count, by the way. Sometimes we call them “insurgents” or “rebels,” that's a great word because -- I'm wacko on this word “insurgency.” Just so you know, an “insurgency” means, suggests you’ve won the war and there are people who disagree. They’re rebels or they're insurgents, as I said. No. We're still fighting the war we started, folks. We started a war largely against Sunnis and Ba'athists, in many cases tribal groups that supported Saddam or were at least frightened enough to support him. We started a war against the people we’re still fighting.

On Bush:
He is strange in one way. You know, Wolfowitz, who if nothing, if not smart, would understand this, but Bush is truly a Trotskyite, a believer in permanent revolution. We have never had one as a president before. He wouldn't understand that, but Wolfowitz would. He truly is. And he's doing it -- what he thinks he has to do, the revolutions he has to create, without any information, without any -- without an ability to absorb information that's counter to what he wants to hear. And so, I don't know where you are when you have a man with as much power as he controls and as much ability to do something. I don't know how we can get at him. We can all work hard in the next election and try -- forget the party. Just go find good candidates and support them. I mean the Democratic Party, because I don't know. When you have a devalued opposition party, you have a devalued Congress. On any given day, I can’t decide whether the U.S. Senate is supine or prone. On any given day, you know

Read the rest here.
posted by JReid @ 1:30 PM  
Bye-bye babe
(Trying not to smirk) Dennis Miller's horrid, Bush suck-up cable show is finallly getting the axe...
(Not smirking): Glenn Close won't be back next season on "The Shield" (same link).
posted by JReid @ 11:26 AM  
Political pet projects
Update on the conservative drive to remake PBS in their own image:

Lawmakers Seek Probe Into Alleged Efforts to Politicize PBS

By Doug Halonen, TV Week

Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., and David Obey, D-Wis., have asked the inspector general of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to investigate allegations that Kenneth Tomlinson, CPB's Republican chairman, has been trying to politicize Public
Broadcasting Service programming.

"CPB's own research has shown that the American public believes public television and radio programming is objective and balanced," the two Democrats said in a letter to the CPB. "If CPB is moving in the direction of censorship of public affairs content based on partisanship and political views, this will severely erode the public trust that public broadcasting heretofore has enjoyed."
posted by JReid @ 11:23 AM  
Better late than never
Only took two and a half weeks, but the Wash Post finally catches up with the Tony Blair secret memo story.
posted by JReid @ 10:44 AM  
But will he tackle 'baby mama drama...?"
Jesse Jackson wants radio stations to yank the "bitches and ho's" off the air.
posted by JReid @ 10:37 AM  
Damaged goods
International press plays on the tepid Bolton Senate vote make it clear: even if his nomination succeeds, Bolton will have a tough go at the U.N.:

Bush suffers blow on U.N. choice: "...this rare move by the committee is a slap in the face for a president who was re-elected just over six months ago, says the BBC's Matt Frei in Washington. Even if Mr Bolton's nomination is confirmed, he is likely to arrive at the UN as damaged goods..." [BBC]

Bush bruised by controversy: "Cast your mind back to 4 November last year. Flushed with victory, endorsed by more than 50% of American voters, Bush was back. And, boy were we going to know it. "I have earned political capital, and I intend to spend it," said the relaxed and confident president. Now fast forward to just a few days ago and note the change of tone as the president publicly begged to be allowed to send his nominee to the United Nations. John is a good man, he said almost plaintively." [BBC Americas]

Bush suffers blow on choice of U.N. envoy: "U.S. President George W. Bush was dealt a blow Thursday when a Senate committee refused to endorse his choice for the next ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton." [CBC News]

Setback for Bush's hawk: "The Bush administration had been counting on the 10 Republicans on the 18-member committee voting on party lines to endorse the nomination, paving the way for an expected rubber stamp in the full Senate. Now, however, the White House will have to flatter, browbeat and cajole the Republican caucus for its support or face the humiliating prospect of losing one of its most high-profile nominees." [Telegraph]

Senator lets fly at Bush’s hawk – but won’t ground him: "JOHN BOLTON scraped through his most critical test on the way to becoming American Ambassador to the United Nations yesterday amid high political drama. But President Bush’s controversial nominee was wounded in the process, casting further doubt about his credibility should he win final confirmation to the job. [Times of London]
(emphasis added)

Ironically, it's the liberal Guardian of London that carried the most benign headline:

Panel sends Bolton nomination to Senate: The Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 along party lines to advance Bolton's nomination without the customary recommendation that the Senate approve it. The procedural move spared Bush outright defeat in the Republican-led committee but still represented an embarrassing setback early in his second term.
Australia's Fox affiliated ran with an AFP wire that was short and to the point, with no detail and no specific mention of Voinovich:
Bolton nomination sent to Senate.
posted by JReid @ 12:23 AM  
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Paging Mr. Moustache
Thanks to the miracle of C-SPAN, I finally had a chance to listen to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which Ohio Sen. Voinovich opened up a can of whupass on would-be U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.

Indeed, Voinovich's statement was a blockbuster -- and his courage ought to shame burbling "moderates" like Lincoln Chaffee (who looked particularly constipated througout), who have declaired themselves "concerned" and "apprehensive" but who apparently don't have the stones to stand up to the president, or to prevent the United States from being represented around the world by the likes of Mr. Bolton. The Ohio Senator was beet-red while reading it, and seemed at pains to stress that he had poured over the testimony and done his own interviews and research to make up for missing the actual hearings, in coming to his conclusion.

Take it away, Dana Milbank:

Voinovich, a loyal party man, agreed to let Bolton's nomination continue without a committee recommendation to the floor of the Senate and likely confirmation. But Voinovich's sentiment -- and the mostly tepid defense of the nominee by Republicans at yesterday's hearing -- made it clear that the GOP was driven by deference to the president, not affection for the nominee.

"No one really is excited about him," Voinovich told a swarm of reporters in the hallway after announcing his opposition.

But perhaps the more important statements came from Delaware Democrat Joe Biden, who made a few key points (in that long winded, arrogant, Biden way that so indears the Delaware Senator to those of us who like him), namely:

1. Members of the United States Senate do not work for the president of the United States. Sounds like a simple, self-evident point, but unfortunately it needed to be said. Biden's beef is that the Bush administration continues to deny the Democrats on the committee documents the administration deems "irrelevant." But as Mr. Biden unfortunately felt he had to point out, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is not there simply to rubber stamp the president's wishes, and as a co-equal branch of government, the Senate can decide for itself what's relevant to its committees.

2. The Bolton nomination is smelling more and more like a political payoff. Mr. Biden claims Condi Rice approached him before the Bolton nomination went public, and essentially told him Bolton had to be placed in "an important job" somewhere, and that political considerations (read feeding the right wing base beast), meant he needed to go to the U.N. Ms. Rice, according to Mr. Biden, essentially promised to personally supervise the notoriously nasty Bolton, leading both Mr. Biden and Mr. Voinovich to wonder aloud: why would you send someone to the United Nations as the fourth most important representative of the United States to the rest of the world (after the president, vice president and secretary of state), who needs to be supervised? And why turn such an important appointment into a slab of red meat for the FReeper crowd?

3. Mr. Bolton's poor leadership skills and abysmal interpersonal skills, not to mention his alleged shading of intelligence and abuse of analysts in order to twist intel to match his ideological goals simply make him unqualified for the job of U.N. ambassador. This is particularly true in light of revelations that the president of the United States, along with the prime minister of England, appear to have misled their countries as to when they actually decided to invade Iraq, including "fixing the intelligence to the policy."

4. Opposition to Mr. Bolton wasn't dredged up by the Democrats -- in nearly every case, people who have worked with, above and below Mr. Bolton came forward to make their opposition known. And most of these were Republicans or Republican appointees -- hardly a left wing cabal.

America's reputation for bullying and dishonesty -- a reputation cemented by the Bush administration's Iraq policy, by the way -- can hardly be ameliorated, and our lost honor, credibility and prestige can hardly be restored, by shoving Mr. Bolton's moustache into the faces of the world's diplomats, or by imposing him on our own.
posted by JReid @ 11:40 PM  
Tower trouble
Could the World Trade Center rebuild fiasco be the death knell for New York Gov. Pataki's presidential ambitions -- or even his reelection? The project has been a virtual comedy of errors, culminating in the selection of a Euro-weenie design (by Libeskind somethingerother) that isn't even up to security code, and a stubborn governor insisting on buiding a mishmash of a "Freedom Tower" that most New Yorkers apparently hate.

...which has led more than a few heads, including Donald Trump, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, the majority of New Yorkers and a host of others, to make a simple yet profound suggestion: Why not just rebuild the original Twin Towers?

If you've lived in New York or were born a New Yorker (I plead guilty to both), then you loved those damned towers, and the idea of replacing them with a seethru fluff building reminiscent of the creepy pyramid outside the Louvre (made creepier if you've read the Da Vinci code), is nothing short of repugnant.

If you want to stick it to the terrorists, put the old towers right back up, even taller maybe, but with structural and security improvements (I'm thinking a 100 story tube slight for express service to the ground floor in the event of an emergency...). Then add a beautiful memorial park and monument, and call it a day.

As the Post's Podhoretz (yeah, I'm shouting him out twice today) put it last week (and I rarely agree with anything on their editorial docket, but his one's on the money):
George Elmer Pataki is toast. Put a fork in him, because he's done. No politician can survive the sort of calamitous debacle over which Pataki has presided in and around the 16 acres of Ground Zero. No politician should survive it.

Or as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann blogged it today:

The “Freedom Tower” design wasn’t somebody trying to be disrespectful; it was just the unavoidable project of an architectural trend in which everything must look like somebody just built it with a kid’s erector set. The Hearst/Conde Nast building is just getting finished not far from my home, and it’s that same style: Attach Beam A to Side Support B, Tap Support B with a pen to make sure it sounds as tinny as it looks.

But it was wrong.

The best way - the only way - to further soothe the pain is, as the proponents including Donald Trump are suggesting, to rebuild it as it was. Which brings me to my caveat.

I’d use the original blueprints and design the “new” Trade Center exactly as it had
been. But I’d insist that one of the towers be exactly 229 feet, four inches shorter than the other. It’s an uncomplicated gimmick to guarantee remembrance. Because, as long as these new towers would stand, someone unaware would ask, “why is one of them shorter than the other?” Whereupon an old-timer could explain, solemnly, that the difference between the heights of the towers is intentional - it’s exactly 2,752 inches.

One inch for each of the victims.

Well said. And for a nice visual, check out this pictorial rendition of "Twin Towers II". There's also an online petition making the rounds. And last but not least, no WTC post would be complete without a Wikipedia history lesson on the original Towers.
posted by JReid @ 9:31 PM  
MSM meltdown
In The New York Post on Monday, John Podhoretz does the "mainstream media in massive cardiac arrest" story this week, breaking down the industry's woes thusly:
The mass-media melt down is happening everywhere you look - from the multiplex
to the newsstand, from late-night television to drive-time radio.
  • Hollywood is in a panic, because for nine weeks straight, box office grosses
    have been lower than last year's.
  • As Gabriel Snyder wrote in Tuesday's edition of Variety, "In recent years the first weekend of May has seen a big expansion in the marketplace. But if [the current] estimate of $83 million holds when final figures are tallied, it would be the worst weekend of an already listless year. It is also 26 percent behind last year's summer kickoff frame, when 'Van Helsing' opened to $51.7 million - perceived as a disappointment at the time."
  • The editors and publishers of most major American newspapers are terrified, because declines in newspaper circulation are accelerating at an alarming clip. By one reckoning, the Los Angeles Times lost an astounding 13 percent of its readers in a year's time.
  • Television networks are reeling from a dramatic contraction of its audience of young male viewers aged 18-34 - the cohort most desired by advertisers. According to a controversial Nielsen study, their prime-time viewership has declined by nearly 8 percent. The number has been shrinking for more than a decade.
  • Talk-radio audiences in major cities like New York and Washington have fallen since the 2004 election. Meanwhile, radio executives who program music
    stations - and who have been packing every hour with increasing numbers of commercials - are being forced by their impatient audiences to limit the number of ads and play more music.
  • The American recording industry is in tatters, increasingly unable to
    introduce new stars and to sell new music.
Podhoretz chalks up the doldrums to mostly mundane causes: sucky movies, TiVo, satellite radio-induced commercial avoidance and the Internet. But however you slice it, the media as a business model comes up screwed. The best thing the biggies have going for them is brand equity. Now all they have to do is figure out a way to stick those brand names on something people under 40 want a piece of.
Right up his alley: Buzzmachine gives props to BBC for doing just that.
posted by JReid @ 9:18 PM  
In good conscience
TVSPY is reporting a New York-based ethics award is going to some very worthy recipients, in one case, despite the objections of a seriously biased former employer:

Payne Awards Judging Committee Reaffirms Jon Leiberman's Citation In Response to Sinclair Broadcasting Letter

In response to a letter received from David Smith, president of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the judging panel of the Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism has reaffirmed its decision to award a special professional citation to Jon Leiberman.

Leiberman was Washington bureau chief of Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group's news division when he was fired in 2004 for publicly criticizing the company's plan to broadcast a program featuring a slanted view of then-Presidential candidate John Kerry's actions during the Vietnam War less than two weeks before the election.

Sinclair staff are prohibited from discussing staff meetings publicly. Lieberman, who
told The Baltimore Sun he violated the gag order for reasons of professional conscience, will receive the Payne Awards special professional citation. Smith's letter questioned the judges' decision in light of Maryland Department of Labor findings as well as Leiberman's violation of Sinclair's policy.

"Mr. Leiberman upheld the fundamental journalist principles of fairness and balance, even at the risk of losing his job," Dean Tim Gleason wrote Smith in a May 9 letter. "It was a principled stand in the face of significant pressure."

"The Maryland Department of Labor finding that Mr. Leiberman had violated provisions of his contract prohibiting speaking to the press/media without permission and the sharing of proprietary information outside the company does not negate the fact that he acted in order to uphold values that are central to the practice of journalism in the public interest."

The 2005 Payne Awards winners include: freelance photojournalist and military pool reporter Kevin Sites, who made a series of ethical decisions after filming a U.S. soldier killing an unarmed Iraqi; The Denver Post, which reviewed and adhered to its policy of not naming Kobe Bryant's accuser although their competitors were doing so and explained that policy in detail to their readers; and Arizona State University's
independent student newspaper The State Press, which used a thoughtful process to work with the administration when a major donor protested the paper's use of a graphic photo to illustrate a story about body piercing.

The awards ceremony was held today.

posted by JReid @ 4:30 PM  
Not highly recommended
The Bolton nomination is headed for a vote in the full Senate, but conspicuously without a positive recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Time to see what the GOP mods are made of... We've already seen that Voinovich has a spine. Anyone else? My bet is that Hagel might, but the rest will cave.
posted by JReid @ 4:23 PM  
And now, the news...
Two weeks after the story broke in the UK, the American press is finally catching up with the story of secret memos which reveal Tony Blair's compact with George W. Bush in the summer of 2002 to invade Iraq, and to "shape the intelligence" around the policy in order to make it happen. The scoop by the Times of London probably contributed to Tony Blair's slashed majority in parliament last week, given the British public's sharp distaste for the war. But the story made hardly a dent in the United States.

The LA Times frames the story exactly backward in the opening paragraph of a front-page story today, suggesting the story has quickly gone away in England, while erupting like wildfire on this side of the pond. Well I'm not sure I'm confident in the LAT's ability to spot wildfire, but otherwise gives a complete account of the simmering outrage over the revelations among members of Congress, 89 of whom recently sent a letter to the White House demanding an explanation. (They're Democrats, so don't expect the White House to give them one). BTW, the story has yet to make a dent on TV or cable news, and there's little in the way of fulmination from other elements of the MSM.

Why isn't this a bigger story? Because for the American press, it's much easier to provide splashy coverage of the war, than it is to provide coherent analysis of it -- especially if that analysis might pique the Bush administration...
posted by JReid @ 1:56 PM  
Word for the day:
posted by JReid @ 1:37 PM  
You dropped a bomb on me
I managed to miss the bombshell moment in this morning's Senate foreign relations committee (damn that gym membership!), when Ohio Senator George Voinovich ripped John Bolton a new one, calling him "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be" and saying his abuse of co-workers would have gotten him fired if he was working at a private business. Some highlights:

WASHINGTON - A key Republican senator on Thursday questioned John Bolton's qualifications to be President Bush's U.N. ambassador, citing "serious deficiencies."

Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, who had earlier stunned Republican peers by saying he wanted to review allegations against Bolton, portrayed Bolton as “arrogant” and “bullying.” The senator said that while he would vote against the nomination in committee, he supported sending it to the full Senate for a vote.

“John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be,” Voinovich said, adding that Bolton would be fired if he was in private business.

“That being said, Mr. Chairman, I am not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective of the U.S. position in the world community on the rest of my colleagues,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We owe it to the president to give Mr. Bolton an up or down vote on the floor.”

While Voinovich made it clear he wouldn't stand in the way of a floor vote, he was clearly sending a message to his mushier GOP colleaugues.

“After hours of deliberation, telephone calls, personal conversations, reading hundreds of pages of transcripts, and asking for guidance from Above, I have
come to the determination that the United States can do better than John Bolton,” Voinovich said.

He said he hoped the full Senate, where Republicans hold a 55-45 majority, would reject the nomination.

“What message are we sending to the world community?” Voinovich asked.

WaPo focuses on the deeper meaning of the Bolton agonistes.

While Newsweek serves Bolton a late hit on his signature issue: nuclear proliferation.
posted by JReid @ 12:36 PM  
The Coulter effect
The Bush administration seems to be following a pattern familiar to anyone who knows about marketing: when you find something that sells, make more of it. In movies, that means sequel after laborious sequel. In soft drinks, that means extracted lime flavoring in every cola. In nominations to, well, just about everything, that means Ann Coulter.

Why? Because the rightest of the right wing love Ann Coulter. Sure, most of the rest of us find her repulsive (and eerily masculine for someone in such short skirts), but to "conservatives," she's Limbaugh without the drug habit -- ice cream without the sugar and carbs -- a wonderful treat whose better when she's worse, more wonderful when she's more awful, and best of all when she's getting pies thrown in her face.

So the White House, in its Rovian wisdom, has determined to populate its administration with a thousand little Ann Coulters: people the sane world loves to hate, but who make their base drool with delight every time they offend, outrage or just plain screw up.

Hence, we have one of history's most incompetant national security advisors elevated to secretary of state, to the impotent howls of anti-war Democrats ...

...we get the architect of the PNAC war in Iraq as head of the World Bank, with useless howls the world over proving utterly useless ...

...we have a spate of judges only an Inquisitor could love, whose nominations are fueled by the white-hot zeal of religous conservatives, and stoppered up only by the semi-potent rigidness of the party out of power ...

...and we have John Botlon, the most Coulteresque of Bush's second-term nominees. A man whose personal qualities most closely mirror those of Ghengis Khan, and whose desire to work at the United Nations -- an institution he clearly loathes -- would be perplexing if it weren't so darned Coulterkitsch. In other words, if he becomes the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., which is likely since the GOP moderates are generally a spineless, useless bunch of White House tagalongs, Bolton will spend the next three years jamming his boney fingers into the eye sockets of the world's diplomatic corps, making outrageous pronouncements that embarass the United States but delight the Dittoheads, and generally making an ass of himself.

And that may drive much of the sane world -- not to mention the Democrats -- to fits of eyeball-rolling insanity, but as Ann Coulter might say, that's what they get for fighting like girls.
posted by JReid @ 12:17 PM  
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Unsurprising headlines
This one is unsurprising based on first responders I've interviewed here in Florida who dealt with Tom Ridge and generally saw him as a stand-up guy. During the campaign, of course, folks on my side of the campaign pond, including the outfit I worked for, clobbered the then HSec director constantly, for raising the candy-coated color alerts at suspiciously opportune times for the Bush administration and campaign... Still, I'm not surprised to see where the blame really lies:

Ridge reveals clashes on alerts

By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY


The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

His comments at a Washington forum describe spirited debates over terrorist intelligence and provide rare insight into the inner workings of the nation's homeland security apparatus.

Ridge said he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.
"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "

Ridge goes on to say his objections centered around the huge amounts of money local governments are forced to spend when the alerts are raised, say from yellow to orange. According to the USAT story, the alerts are raised "if a majority on the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council favors it and President Bush concurs. Among those on the council with Ridge were Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI chief Robert Mueller, CIA director George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell."

And who does Ridge point out by name as one of the chief hellraisers? Then-Attorney General John "Softshoe" Ashcroft, of course...
posted by JReid @ 3:40 PM  
No license for Jesus
A man who legally changed his name to Jesus Christ in Washington is being denied a driver's licence in W. Virginia, because he can't get the name change legalized there, even though his Social Security card, passport and D.C. license all bear the name of the Messiah. Best line in the story, from the hapless new Virginian's attorney (the also colorfly named A.P. Pishevar):

“Christ is not speaking to the press at this time.”
posted by JReid @ 3:31 PM  
Scout's honor
A San Francisco Chronicle columnist gets personal about Jim West, the disgraced, apparently pedophilic, homosexual mayor of Spokane, Washington, who was also once the columnist's Boy Scout leader. Contains links to the icky e-mails that nailed West, plus plenty of the usual liberal diatribe about hypocritical, closeted Republicans (you can skim that part, but overall an interesting read).
posted by JReid @ 12:30 PM  
Giving America the finger
Has it occurred to anyone else that the finger in the chili story out of California -- funny as it is -- is less about nasty fast food than it is about, well, bioterrorism. Or maybe eco-terrorism. The notion has obviously occurred to San Jose authorities, who are investigating the case as far south as Mexico, and accusing the woman now universally known as the 'chili finger lady,' Anna Ayala, of planting said finger in said Wendy's chili. Ayala was apparently planting the nasty seeds of a lawsuit, but that kind of corporate blackmail has much wider implications: the possibility of destroying the short-term economic prospects of the Wendy's in question, and casting a dim pall on the American fast food industry in general (I know I wouldn't set foot in a Wendy's if they paid me to eat the food, regardless of where the finger came from).

Maybe that's a stretch, but imagine if, say, your Joe average bioterrorist decided to plant something harmful in a bowl of chili, then spread the alarm through a lawsuit. What if the incidents multiplied? How many fast food workers would lose their jobs as restaurant traffic ground to a halt? How much money would it cost the retailer to save their reputation? What would be the ripple effect in the community where that restaurant was located?

Remember the tampered Tylenol and baby food scares in the early 1980s? The so-called Tylenol killers, who laced bottles of the over the counter medication with cyanide in 1982, prompting a wave of copycats that hit other headache brands, has never been caught. Four years later, glass was discovered inside bottles of Gerber baby food. Just last year, stories of ricin-poisoned baby food arose in Irvine, California. The substance in the baby food turned out not to be ricin, according to the FDA, but the scare prompted more than a few mothers to reconsider breast feeding...

Clearly a finger isn't poison or glass, but the effect is the same. And that's why authorities are taking the chili finger lady so seriously.
posted by JReid @ 12:14 PM  
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
What Bush really, really wants:
To be loved. What else to conclude from his giddy reaction to the abnormally positive reaction he got this week while traveling in a foreign country? Usually, Bush is whisked around such countries in a phalanx of security vehicles and the streets depopulated, so he won't have to face the angry, anti-Bush and anti-war protesters. But in the Baltics, specifically in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Bush was treated like a king, gifted with a freedom prize by young, pro-American president Saakashvili, and even breaking into an impromptu dance number. Bush's fans in the American press ate it up, and according to them, so did he and Laura.

Caption this photo:

"Now this more like it! Hey Karen - have McClellan set up some hero worship sessions like this for me at home in the states! With dancing girls! hehehe..."
posted by JReid @ 5:58 PM  
Coming apart at the seams
If you needed further evidence that the Iraq war, so cherished by President Bush and his neoconservative handlers, is breaking the United States armed forces, here it is:

WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials say it's not a crisis, but it is a major concern — a battle here at home to win the hearts and minds of potential new recruits.

After more than three years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the all-volunteer military is facing its toughest test yet. In April, the Army missed its recruiting goal for the third month in a row, short by nearly 2,800 recruits, or 42 percent off its target.And for the first time in 10 years, the Marine Corps missed its recruiting goal for the last four months.

"Because the Army and Marines are too small and we're employing them in constant operations, our recruiting posture is now coming apart," says retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an NBC News analyst.

The inability to meet recruiting goals comes amid ever-more lavish signing bonuses, and intense pressure on the recruiters themselves. One I talked to last year (he was too wary to do an interview), talked about the ulcers, the quotas, military personnel being moved into recruiting from other commands, and the difficulty convincing young people, and even more so, their parents, to sign on.

It's clear to anyone with a brain that signing up for the Army, National Guard, Reserves or Marine Corps is a one-way ticket to Baghdad. With the war growing more unpopular by the day, and the Commander in Chief making no effort to encourage his supporters in the red states to turn their Bush-loving patriotism into civic action (on their part or on the part of their children), the recruiting doldrums are no surprise.

So why does it matter? Two reasons: North Korea and Iran. What will we do if there's a full-blown nuclear crisis in one, or if the neocons decide to throw caution to the wind and push for an invasion of the other? Our treaty obligations constrain us to defend South Korea in the event they are threatened by the North. And as Richard Clarke said repeatedly while promoting his book last year, the neocons have learned nothing from Iraq -- they're hardly chastened, they're emblodened by the thrill of "regime change."

But Mr. Bush has severely limited his options by pouring, so far, more than 1 million armed forces personnel into Iraq, and by squandering the military resources left to him by his predecessors.

From Salon last month (reprinted by TruthOut):

The data sheds new light on how all-consuming the post-9/11 wars have been for the U.S. military, and suggests a particular strain on U.S. ground forces. An increasing number of military experts believe those forces -- the Army and Marines -- are months away from being overtaxed to the point of serious dysfunction. The situation in Iraq must continue to stabilize. If it doesn't, and the Bush administration continues to both reject the idea of a draft and rebuff efforts to permanently increase the size of the Army and Marines, U.S. ground forces will break down to a point not seen since just after Vietnam.

"Unless things start to improve, we will start to see a serious problem in six to nine months," said Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine Corps three-star general and a former Marine Corps deputy chief of staff under Ronald Reagan. "I think they [the Pentagon] are betting that things are going to get better. But that could be a miscalculation," said Trainor. "This crowd has been pretty good at miscalculating."

Indeed, the revelation that well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan surprises even close military observers. "Those are big numbers ... a lot bigger than I would have thought," said John Pike, the director of, a defense information Web site that tracks the logistics of war. Pike thinks it is too early to tell what the impact will be on the regular Army, but he said the repeated deployments have already broken the reserve forces.

Which begs the question: are things getting better? I doubt it. The increased intensity of the fighting in Iraq, between the hundreds of suicide car bombings and the current deadly offensive in the West, suggest they might be getting worse...

posted by JReid @ 1:31 PM  
Do a good thing
Gotta give a shout out to Trey Jackson. His site provides great video clips that are serious time savers (not to mention the cash you'll save on not having to get TiVo.) I've been a beneficiary of his clip farming myself... Anyway, he's doing an online appeal for support, which I encourage everyone who's able to get down with. Video bandwidth ain't cheap! Anyway, Best of luck, Trey!
posted by JReid @ 11:55 AM  
Monday, May 09, 2005
If this is the future of the blogosphere...
...then shoot me now. Just took a belated gawk at conservative-turned ultra libaral talker Arianna Huffington's new gangblog, The Huffington Post. And, not to be a hater (okay, I'm probably hating, big time) but ...

Unfortunately, the blog -- sort of an "escape from Salon" maxi-forum -- encapsulates the worst aspects of liberalism: self-riteousness, predictability (think Walter Cronkite posing the woefully under-analyzed topic, "what to Democrats stand for?," political correctness and a maddening tendency to be boring (Tina Brown jumps off with a memorable ditty, with "10 things I learned on 'Topic A.'" Well I never watched 'Topic A' and wouldn't if the future of my immortal soul depended on it, so I'm supposed to click on that particular post, why...? Huffington attempts to spike the punch with a few conservative bloggers, including the original ironic Canadian, David Frum, Tony Blankley, John Fund and a top of the fold post by actor Larry David -- who blows our Democratic socks off by... endorsing John Bolton! But for the most part, the cast of characters reads like a John Kerry fundraiser (or a Friday episode of Hardball): Rob Reiner, Warren Beatty, David Geffen, Bobby Kennedy Jr. and, just for irony, Bill Maher.

It's not as if these folks aren't heard, ad nauseum in other forums... and the site doesn't have nearly the cheek factor of Drudge.

Sorry, Ms. Huffington, but I just have no interest in reading the daily musings of liberal celebrity know-it-alls and boring ultra-liberal ideologues. As for the conservatives, I can grab their thoughts just as easly from or OpinionJournal. Want them head to head? They'll be on MSNBC shortly, trust me. I think Slate hit it pretty squarely on the head in describing the site as a cross between virtual echo chamber and post-modern gladiator ring -- you know, the kind with all-intellectual jousting where the stands are populated by cocktail party pals and seat-fillers...
Do these people intend to engage? Is it even in their wheelhouse to debate? How will the Huff Post's liberal core react when its right-wing press contributors, such as Byron York and Tony Blankley, bring a hard one down on their snout? Hollywood liberals such as Aaron Sorkin and Laurie David rarely encounter sharp political disagreement inside the cocoons of their Hollywood salons, and when they do it's not generally with a practiced rhetorician. Or worse still, what sort of psychic meltdown awaits Huffingliberal Rob Reiner if he finds himself in a vicious intellectual rumble with liberal journalists he regards as fellow travelers, such as my friend David Corn of The Nation? When you're used to being patted on the back all the time, a devastating counterargument feels like a sucker punch. Does Huffington keep enough air kisses in stock to mend all the owies?

WaPo's Howard Kurtz (or more likely, his editor), cops the best headline on the new blog outfit: "Blogstyles of the rich and famous."

Buzzmachine is kind (he's on Arianna's blogroll, after all), but the commenters are brutal, and not to be missed.

UPDATE: Arianna sliced and diced on

First Day Tally

The Huffington Post's first day of blogging and whoa nelly I think we have just witnessed the next Talk, Brills Content, and George all rolled into one, or perhaps Ariana has just replaced Ashton Kutchner as the host of Punk'D by pulling off one of the biggest cons in history and exposing the left in all of its un-edited glory. Its almost like she’s our own little Agent Provocateur, Huffington unwittingly has accomplished in a mere day what the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has tried to do for years by allowing the Hollywood/Media left to reinforce nearly every stereotype and label ever tossed their way. So after a full day of "blogging" what did we have:

Lets do the math, today’s tally of posts as of 5:00PM PST, a review if you will:

Number of posts: 63
Number of posts by Conservative leaning commenter/celebrities (scratch the second one they don't exist): 3
Number of posts by Liberal Hollywood Power Elite/Moguls: 7
Number of posts by Liberal East Coast Pseudo-Intellectuals/People who the NY Times would have no problem quoting: 16
Number of posts by Vapid Hollywood Twats: 7
Number of posts about lefty pet causes (aka, Animals, Environment, Children, Healthcare, Gay Marriage etc); 17
Number of posts referencing Clichéd Red/Blue State Terminology: 8
Number of posts referencing How to fix the Democratic Party: 3
Number of posts referencing Crazy Activist Republican Judges/Congressmen/Pundits: 10
Number of posts by Celebrities dropping names of other Celebrities: 4
Number of posts regarding the Evils of Corporate America: 4
Number of posts about Iraqi Quagmire: 3
Number of posts by Dysfunctional Celebrity Couples Commenting on Tedious Pet Issues which the public generally ignores: 2
Number of posts Technical Illiterates: 3
Number of posts playing the Race Cards: 3
Number of posts with Shameless plugs: too many to count
Number of posts with very lame attempts at humor: 6
Number of posts alluding to the OMG GOP THEOCRACY/ IMPENDING INQUISITION: 3
Number of posts where Gay Men Seeking Food Advice: 1
Number of posts by history rewriting megalomaniacs: 4

Ouch! Brutal. Riddled with spelling and grammar snaffus, but brutal.
posted by JReid @ 11:38 PM  
There he goes again

George W. Bush puts the moves on Ludmilla Putin. Did anybody tell him Vlad was a trained KGB killer?

...Easy big fella, I think somebody's going to be jealous...

posted by JReid @ 12:41 PM  
Short-lived victory
I wonder if Tony Blair even got to complete his victory dance before his own M.P.s started turning on him?
posted by JReid @ 12:19 PM  
Unsurprising headlines, take one
"A $9 million lawsuit filed against Real Time host Bill Maher by a woman claiming he promised to marry her has been dismissed."

Maher promising to marry anybody sounds about as realistic as George W. Bush pledging to drive an electric car.

posted by JReid @ 12:18 PM  
Unsurprising headlines, take two

11th Circuit: Nancy Grace 'Played Fast and Loose' With
Jonathan Ringel
Fulton County Daily Report

Nancy Grace, the host of a self-titled legal show on CNN Headline News, "played fast and loose" with her ethical duties as a Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor in 1990, a federal appeals panel has declared.

Monday's decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a triple murder conviction won by Grace, explaining that her actions didn't change the result of the trial. It is the third time appellate courts have admonished Grace for her conduct as a prosecutor in Georgia. Grace served as an assistant district attorney in Fulton from 1987 to 1996, leaving that year to join Court TV as a commentator.

The three-judge panel on Monday criticized Grace for not following her obligations
to disclose to the defendant's lawyer information about other possible suspects. The 11th Circuit also agreed with a magistrate who found it hard to believe that Grace did not knowingly use a detective's false testimony that there were no other suspects.

"Despite the failure of the prosecutor to fulfill her responsibilities," wrote Judge William H. Pryor Jr., the Georgia courts were not unreasonable to have upheld the convictions of Herbert Connell Stephens. A Fulton jury held Stephens responsible for the June 1990 murders of John Davis, Toria Pope and Tony Daniel at the Red Oaks housing project in Atlanta. Stephens was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.

Grace on Tuesday denied hiding that other people might have been involved with the crime, noting one of her witnesses said so in open court.

"While some of the comments of the court are hurtful to me," she added, "I am thankful for the unanimous decision"keeping the verdict intact.

Stephens' lawyer, G. Terry Jackson of Savannah's Jackson & Schiavone, said he was disappointed with the ruling and would consider asking the full 11th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

"It's very clear Mr. Stephens did not receive a fair trial," said Jackson.

"It's very clear Mr. Stephens did not receive a fair trial," said Jackson. Stephens' original trial lawyer, Fulton public defender Kenneth D. Kondritzer, called the court's description of Grace as playing "fast and loose" with ethical rules "an understatement."

Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor from New York University School of Law, wrote in an e-mail that Grace's actions regarding the detective were serious, because submitting false sworn testimony to a court is probably the gravest violation of legal ethics."


This is the third time Grace's conduct as a prosecutor has been criticized by an appellate court.

In 1997, the Georgia Supreme Court skewered Grace for her actions in prosecuting Weldon Wayne Carr for allegedly setting fire to his house and murdering his wife. Carr later was freed when Fulton prosecutors waited too long to bring him up for a retrial. While the court reversed Carr's 1994 conviction for other reasons, the justices said Grace withheld evidence entitled to the defense and made improper opening statements and closing arguments.

"We conclude that the conduct of the prosecuting attorney in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable," wrote then Chief Justice Robert Benham. Carr v. State, 267 Ga. 701 (1997).

In 1994, the Georgia high court voted 6-1 to reverse a heroin trafficking conviction won by Grace because she "exceeded the wide latitude of closing argument" by referring to drug-related murders and serial rape, which were not at issue. Bell v. State, 263 Ga. 776 (1994).

posted by JReid @ 12:09 PM  
Friday, May 06, 2005
1001 reasons it's good to be a (temporary) celebrity
You can be thoroughly despised by scads of people based solely on your appearance on an otherwise inocuous TV talent show, yet Method Man will still return your phonecalls. ...At least, for now...

...Plus, you'll be allowed to advertise your horrid song and new album on major network and cable TV for FREE! ... (but only during sweeps, and only if you'll also talk about your sex frolics with one of the judges...)

Enjoy the temporary fame, boys, the 15-minute clock is ticking...

Previous reason

Update: Savol gets slagged by the WaPo's style section:

Savol was styled in a jarring puzzle of hip-hop cliches, business casual jackets and debate club eyeglasses. His jeans were oversize and with the kind of washed-out look that announces their designer credentials. His style signature became boxy jackets and loose-fitting camp shirts. He always seemed to be swimming in yards of fabric. Occasionally, he wore a suit jacket. It gave his shoulders more definition and made him look more polished. But then the next week he would be back in a baggy, striped shirt that looked like it had been cut from the same material as a lawn chair.

His glasses did not evoke nerd chic or artistic intellectualism. They certainly did not speak of rock star sex appeal. (See Usher. See Lenny Kravitz. See Bono. See the guy on the corner peddling eyewear.) Savol's glasses said, "I've managed to get you a larger deduction for your charitable giving."

Idols make the audience envious. Covetous. Savol inspired empathy. He darkened his hair and invested in a puddle of gel. He looked like a guy who was trying so very, very hard and not quite getting it right. The audience knows that guy. There's a million versions of that guy sitting at home watching "American Idol." Why idolize someone else for being what you already are?

In Savol's many performances, he had a tendency to wave his hands about in a self-conscious display of thug-boy gestures. All that was missing was a crotch grab and an exclamatory "Yo, yo!" The body language and the clothes and the hair did not give him a charming demeanor. Gesturing like you want to send a shout-out to your homies does not make sense while singing "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha."

posted by JReid @ 9:12 AM  
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Waxing ministerial
Rethinking my previous post about the British public's decision to return Tony Blair to power by giving Labor an historic third consecutive majority in Parliament, and after a confab with my British citizen husband, I'd like to retract the statement comparing Blair's "reelection" to George W. Bush's (though Bush's technically wasn't a reelection -- it was his first time winning the office without a court order).

Clearly, the British public faced a maddening Hobson's choice: vote Labor and risk sending a mistaken signal to Mr. Blair that all is forgiven on Iraq. Vote Tory (yeah, right) and risk pushing the country's social, immigration and other policies much further to the right (if you think you hated Blair's policies, just get a load of Michael Howard...) or vote Liberal Democrat to send a message of rebuke to Blair, and risk, in the P.M.s words, letting the Tories in "through the back door."

It seems the British public split the difference -- something you're allowed to do in a system that isn't "winner take all" like our dear Republic. They retained Blair (for now, at least -- he likely won't serve more than two years of his new term), but with a sharply reduced majority in Parliament that sends the clear message that there will be no more fooling around, on Iraq, on social policy (it's likely headed back to the left) and on the other "new Labor" initiatives Blair sought to Clintonize his party with. (Blair's biggest lefty nemesis, the UK Mirror, went so far as to lay out its demands -- actually this is England, so they're more like polite requests -- of the newly heeled P.M. on election night, and columnist Bill Borrows summed up neatly why he'd be voting for Labor, even though he hates Blair's guts. Here's a hint, half the reasons are "Margaret Thatcher...").

The real test will come next time George W. Bush comes knocking on ole' Tony's door, say for a quick little jaunt to Iran? The likelihood of America's dearest friend climbing on board again, without serious public disclosure and a clear mandate from the United Nations, is probably zilch. At the same time, the Brits maintain the things they like about Labor: liberal policy on social programs, more spending on life's niceties, reasonable firmness rather than race-baiting on immigration, and a somewhat less hawkish view of the world.

Blair himself put it best in a statement as the returns rolled in:

"It's not yet clear what the majority is, but it seems clear...that the British people wanted the return of the Labour government, but with a reduced majority. We have to respond to that sensibly and wisely and responsibly. We have to make sure that we focus on the things that matter to people, that they talked about during this campaign - jobs and living standards, and the National Health Service and schools and law and order."

He added: "I know too that Iraq has been a divisive issue in this country and I hope now that we can unite again and look to the future there and here.

So I suppose the Brits aren't so dumb after all.
posted by JReid @ 11:56 PM  
Who's the dummy now?
Remember when George W. Bush was reelected, and British tabloids went wild with sneering derision over the stupidity of the American people (or at least half of them, anyway)? Well, polls indicate the Brits are about to reelect the other half of the lying on Iraq dynamic duo: Tony Blair, giving him an historic third term via a continued -- if reduced -- Labor majority in parliament.

Polls also show Britons no longer trust Blair. His majority in parliament is expected to be reduced, and Blair isn't even expected to serve out a full term. So what could be the justification for returning him to power? Perhaps the British public believes that a chastened Blair wouldn't dare pair up with Dubya for a second round of Mesopotamian adventures, while nobody really knows what the conservative Tories might do. Or maybe they're just exhausted by the whole bloody thing and willing to let Blair stay on, if only just to turture him for a few more years.

Either way, Blair will likely join Australia's John Howard, Italy's Berlusconi and Mr. Bush himself, in being handed a richly underserved governing mandate.

How could 60,441,457 people be so dumb?
posted by JReid @ 1:01 PM  
Lies and the lying liars who tell them:
The L.A. Lakers' Jerry Buss says he has no regrets about trading Shaq. Yeah, and Kobe Bryant is the most popular guy in the NBA...
posted by JReid @ 12:58 PM  
A current affair
Okay, so the bombshell is that failed Idol contestant Corey Clark supposedly got it on with "straight up" Paula Abdul. Isn't it bad enough that every major network teased the hell out of the story all week, leaving nothing for ABC to excite us with? Why did we also have to be subjected to both Clark's new single and that god-awful pic of Randy Jackson in that crazy 80's Journey getup?

Oh, and Scott Savol is now officially ready for the gospel play and Church's Chicken commerical circuit. (He's off the show).
posted by JReid @ 1:54 AM  
Not exactly what we had in mind...
We can all rest easier tonight: The Texas House has made the West safe for cheerleading by passing the "booty bill." Wouldn't ya know it, the guy pushing the bill is a Democrat. Way to pimp those red state values, homes.
posted by JReid @ 1:52 AM  
Jihad this
A card-carrying member of the evangelical Christian right -- who also happens to be a former New York Times reporter, hits back at the emerging editorial consensus from various left of center NYT and WaPo columnists, that the United States has devolved into a jihadist theocracy:
In more than 50 years of direct engagement in and observation of the major news media I have never encountered anything remotely like the fear and loathing
lavished on us by opinion mongers in these world-class newspapers in the past 40 days. If I had a $5 bill for every time the word "frightening" and its close lexicographical kin have appeared in the Times and The Post, with an accusatory finger pointed at the Christian right, I could take my stack to the stock market.

The writer, John McCandlish, makes some good, sobering points, including the fact that once upon a time, the idea of absolute separation between church and state wasn't even a question.
Evangelicals are concerned about the frequently advanced and historically untenable secularists' view of the intent of our non-establishment/free exercise of religion clause: that everything that has its origin in religion must be swept out of federal, and even civil, domains. That view, if militantly enforced, constitutes what seems dangerous to most evangelicals: the strict and entire separation of God from state. This construct, so desired by some, is radically out of sync with much in American history that shows a true regard for the non-establishment of religion while giving space in nearly all contexts to wide and free expressions of faith.

And he correctly points out that some of the more novel innovations on the left surely seem as "radical" to traditionalist Americans as the fundamentalist yearnings on the right:
If any "emboldened minority" is aiming to "remake America according to its dogma," it seems to many evangelicals and Catholics that it is the vanguard wanting, say, the compact of marriage to be stretched in its historic definition to include men cohabiting with men and women with women. That is, in terms of the history of this nation, a most pronounced and revolutionary novelty.

That said, the disturbing noises coming out of the political right, which I believe is bilking the evangelical movement with promises it cannot, and will not deliver (outlawing abortion and end of life choice, forcing creationism into the nation's public school carriculum -- outside of a few red state haunts, quashing the movement toward some form of gay civil recognition, killing stem cell research, etc.) are real and undeniable. There is an almost frenzy of activity on the right, which seems to be racing to implement an agenda they know deep down is out of sync with the majority of Americans, but which must be taken care of before Bush and his friends in Congress completely run out of political gas. If they succeed, America will be a less pleasant place to live (especially if you're a high school science teacher...) But the left is a bit overwrought in assuming that they will (win, that is).
posted by JReid @ 1:35 AM  
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Below the fold
Michigan Congressman John Conyers nailed in yesterday in a quote about the U.S. media's lack of attention to the leaked UK memo suggesting that President Bush and Tony Blair essentially agreed to invade Iraq much earlier than either admitted to their respective countrymen, and that they sought a rationale for the invasion despite clear cut findings that "regime change" in itself, was not a legal basis for war. Raw Story posts Conyers' statement:

"Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the United States was too busy with wall-to-wall coverage of a "runaway bride" to cover a bombshell report out of the British newspapers," Conyers writes. "The London Times reports that the British government and the United States government had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in 2002, before authorization was sought for such an attack in Congress, and had discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so."

The actual text of the letter asks some of the very questions the MSM should be putting to Mr. Bush, and that enterprising reporters should be running down instead of the ad nauseums on the Georgia "runaway bride," namely:

1) Do you or anyone in your Administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?

2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?

3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?

4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

We have of course known for some time that subsequent to the invasion there have
been a variety of varying reasons proffered to justify the invasion, particularly since the time it became evident that weapons of mass destruction would not be found. This leaked document - essentially acknowledged by the Blair government - is the first confirmation that the rationales were shifting well before the invasion as well.

We'll see if anybody but Keith Olbermann picks up the story. Manwhile, the British press has been all over the story, including its implications for the impending parliamentary elections.
posted by JReid @ 4:33 PM  
Thinking the unthinkable
The Hill wrings out the horrifying probability that John Kerry will try to run for president again in 2008, and that he's using his mega-mailing list to lay the groundwork. OK, feeling ill now...
posted by JReid @ 4:28 PM  
A is for Abstinence
Brazil has rejected U.S. AIDS money, because the Bush administration continues to insist on linking such funding to fundamentalist proselytizing.

The US development agency, USAid, had offered Brazil around $40m (£21m). But Brazil's top Aids official, Pedro Chequer, said the US' conservative approach to treating the disease would not help.

Correspondents say references to prostitution are likely to become a condition for all US Aids funding. Washington says it is important not to promote prostitution, and does not want any of its funds to be spent on treating prostitutes.

So you can have the money to try and stop the spread of AIDS, unless you plan to use the money to treat prostitutes, who have got to be among the leading vessels for the spread of the disease? That's almost as dumb as prohibiting the funds to be spent promoting condom use...! Oh... wait... they do that, too:
Much of the spending is being channelled to programmes that advocate abstinence, rather than condom use, and cannot be used for abortions or to treat prostitutes.
Exactly how does the U.S. want these funds spent? Holding "Love Waits" rallies at local churches?

In other news of the absurd, an Indian man has been sentenced to life in prison after his victim rejected the marriage proposal he made to her -- thinking it would reduce his jail time.
posted by JReid @ 4:19 PM  
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Pucker up and say "oooooiiillllll"

Double pimp move of the day: Bush cheating on Condi, right in front of her face...

posted by JReid @ 5:13 PM  
20 questions
20 things to think about ...
1. Are the Van Gundy brothers the new Williams sisters?
2. Why would Phil Jackson ever consider reuniting with spoiled rotten Kobe and the Lakers?
3. Is there anything scarier than the thought of a U.S. military academy becoming an evangelical Christian cult?
4. When is the media going to finally call out the Bush administration for completely screwing up the war on terror?
5. Worse, has Bush's insistence on invading Iraq despite the lack of any compelling reason to do so actually increased the risk of the United States coming under attack by either terrorists, or even conventional means, by leaving our military undermanned and overstretched?
6. If it is time to review the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in order to solve part of the military recruiting problem, what do you do about the very real privacy (group shower, fraternization, etc.) and unit cohesion issues? And shouldn't the media call the pro open service advocates on that?
7. If the Bush administration and it's "allies" in Europe cannot pressure Iran or North Korea to give up their nuclear ambitions, is that a failure on the part of the administration, or an illustration of the reality that no country, and no superpower, can really put the brakes on the nuclear train?
8. Does anybody really believe Michael Jackson's ex was telling the truth when she gushed about the King of Pop on the witness stand? If you were fighting a custody battle with this guy, would you trash him at his child molestation trial?
9. Why should the Democrats lift a finger to help Bush "fix" Social Security? Is there any incentive at all in offering a plan that will only become fodder for the next Club for Growth commercial?
10. How much lower do Bush's approval ratings have to go before the major media stop kissing his ass? On that note, is there any room left on Laura Bush's ass for the press folk to smooch?
11. Could Tony Blair really be the one to go down for Bush's war, even after Bush himself, Australia's Howard and Italy's Berlusconi survived?
12. And how is it that the same media types who were declaring Bush invicible a couple of months ago can now say, with equal conviction, that he's in trouble?
13. Instead of fighting to force a 13-year-old girl in state custody to give birth, shouldn't the state of Florida be investigating how a child in the custody of the state got pregnant in the first place?
14. Am I the only Democrat who finds Ed Schultz annoying?
15. ... and "The Majority Report" unbearable?
16. When will the media's silly, pandering, faith obsession end? It's one thing to cover stories regarding religion with more context, it's quite another to shamelessly hawk religion stories every friggin minute.
17. Does Joe Scarborough really believe anything he says? When he's on panels with matthes, Fineman et. al, he has real lucid moments. But his show and Web rantings are pure "play the right wing guy role" product.
18. If we're going to handcuff 5-year-old Black girls, why is there even a question about arresting that screwball Georgia bride?
19. ...and on the same note, do you smell a plot twist coming? What would cause an otherwise normal seeming woman to run -- not just quit the wedding, but to fake her own disappearance -- away from her wedding to a prominent member of a prominent, wealthy family? Media to commence digging into the jilted groom in three ... two ... one...
20. What do Democrats not get about Republicans? Answer: everything (and hopefully that's the last thing I'll be posting about Larua Bush...)
posted by JReid @ 4:11 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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