Thursday, March 30, 2006

“who says things aren’t falling apart?”

Forgive me for getting to this so late, but it is so good, it really doesn’t get old. I was in transit to start the week, and missed CBS News correspondent Lara Logan on CNN’s Informed Sources showing Howard Kurtz who is really informed when it comes to the miserable situation in Iraq:

KURTZ: But critics would say, well, no wonder people back home think things are falling apart because we get this steady drumbeat of negativity from the correspondents there.

LOGAN: Well, who says things aren't falling apart in Iraq? I mean, what you didn't see on your screens this week was all the unidentified bodies that have been turning up, all the allegations here of militias that are really controlling the security forces.

What about all the American soldiers that died this week that you didn't see on our screens? I mean, we've reported on reconstruction stories over and over again…I mean, I really resent the fact that people say that we're not reflecting the true picture here. That's totally unfair and it's really unfounded.

Logan has much, much more to say, so take a minute to watch the video—it is worth every minute. The way Logan contradicts the establishment meme about the press underreporting the good news (a related post here) is forceful without being nasty, and the way she manages to be simultaneously emotional and collected made me feel a bit like I was watching some Hollywood dramatization rather than live TV. A rewrite would be hard-pressed to improve upon the scene.

Plus, watch Logan’s not-so-micro expression when she hears Kurtz mention Laura Ingram—priceless.

(Big t.o.t.h. to Rachel at Tomatoes’ for making public her girlcrush and directing me to C&L for the video. Sklar has more on going “to press with the war you have” over at HufPo.)

howdy, neighbor

Lifehacker has a note on a mashup that combines Google Maps with 2000 census information.

guy2k isn’t usually about getting all hopped up over something so techie, but I not only think this is really cool, I think it could be a very useful tool for political organizing and communications strategy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

out of the past

Conrad Mulcahy of the New York Times says, “Scratch the surface of this city and you never know what you'll find,” but in this case, I actually knew.

As the Tunnel Garage is stripped of its crappy modern signage in preparation for its demise, the building is revealing more and more of its unique beauty. In this case, the jewel in the crown, a terracotta relief of a Model T emerging from the Holland Tunnel, has been uncovered, and Mulcahy was kind enough to write about it in Tuesday’s Metro section.

I saw the “medallion,” as the article and the community have come to call it, before it was covered over a decade ago, and because of that, and so much more, I have been fighting to save the garage from the boundless greed of the developers who want to destroy it only to plop another cheap, ugly, mirrored-glass high-rise in its place.

It is almost amusing to read the Times article and hear Robert Esnard, speaking for the developers, talk of “reusing the medallion and other decorative elements” in their new luxury high-rise when Esnard and his Architect, Stephen Jacobs, expressed nothing but open disdain for the Tunnel Garage at hearings before Community Board #2 last summer. They called the garage “unremarkable,” and called desires to save the façade and medallion “faux historicism.”

The community worked with preservationists, local government, and private foundations and came up with a way to preserve the exterior elements of the garage and still make the developers over $11 million of pure profit in the first year alone. Esnard rejected the plan.

The fact is the developers have never seen the garage as anything but an impediment to their making a killing in residential real estate.

It’s really quite simple, if the Tunnel Garage were designated a New York City landmark, then the medallion and all the other wonderful architectural elements would be preserved for Esnard—and everyone else—to admire.

Please take a few moments to read Mulcahy’s article, then take another minute to drop the Times a note stating your support for landmarks designation for the Tunnel Garage (letters “at” nytimes-dot-com).

You might also want to cc that letter to Robert Tierney, Chair of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. . . or maybe call. More information can be found in this previous post.

And, if you are in the area, stop by and take a look at the medallion It’s special, and it’s not often you get such a vivid glimpse into the past.

Monday, March 27, 2006

proof that jetBlue has jumped the shark

Look, pasteurized processed cheese spread is bad enough, and anything that boasts “[food] flavor” instead of just [food] is downright dodgy, but they can’t even spring for Havarti Flavor at Blue. Nope. Not any more. This snack pack offers only “Havarti-type Flavor.”

What the hell is “Havarti-type Flavor?”

Like we always used to say when in the presence of certain Kraft products, “Cheese is cheese, and food is food, but ‘cheese food’ is neither.”

Sunday, March 26, 2006

what do you mean “becoming?”

30 Beheaded Bodies Found; Iraqi Death Squads Blamed

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 26 — The bodies of 30 beheaded men were found on a main highway near Baquba this evening, providing more evidence that the death squads in Iraq are becoming out of control.

I guess those manageable 25 body days are slipping away. . . .

Somebody should probably call John Negroponte and ask him how to better organize those death squads, you know, before they get really out of control.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

credit where credit is due

God knows I’ve got plenty bad to say about the new(ish) Nightline, but some credit has to go to reporter Jake Tapper and producer Zoe Magee for a piece on Tuesday that was billed as a story about a sitcom, shot in Baghdad, starring the “Iraqi Danny Devito” (they did say that a few too many times, and, yes, he’s really, really short).

You can read a written account, very much like the story that aired, here, but the gist of it is that Tapper and Magee went looking for a “good” story about Iraq and came upon Amjad Hamid, the head of entertainment programming for Iraqi TV. Hamid directed them to the shoot for this sitcom, and the ABC team set out to tell one of those golly gosh stories about humanity and its quest for normalcy against a backdrop of chaos.

One problem, the chaos got in the way.

As Tapper tells it, both in print and on Nightline, less than an hour after their arrival on location to watch the sitcom shoot, a call comes in to the producer, informing him (and he, in turn, informs everyone else) that Amjad Hamid, the guy who had set this whole story up, had just been assassinated.

Tapper concludes:

It is American journalists' duty to try to look at the broader picture in Iraq - telling the stories about those brave souls who seek to restore normalcy and laughter into the daily routine here. But there is no denying that the horrific violence will often make that task impossible.

Good for you, Jake, for showing that you can’t just tell a swell human interest story when a country is being ripped apart. And, good for you, Nightline, for airing the piece with its disheartening conclusion.

But I can’t quite let it go at that. You see, it’s not that it is “American Journalists’ duty to look at the broader picture in Iraq.” Not quite. That’s not what Tapper was doing, exactly. As was explained in the very intro to the piece (worded less strongly in the written piece), Nightline had sent Tapper out to find a feel-good story. Yes, they really said that.

And it is there, in that, that I find the real news here. Christ, it’s no surprise that no day in Iraq is a day untouched by violence, but hearing Nightline host Terry Moran and Tapper both assert that they wanted to do a “good news” piece, that they went looking for an uplifting story—the kind that would make the deniers and liars in the White House and Pentagon proud—this “news” confirmed a rumor I had been hearing for months. ABC news wants its reporters in Iraq to send back “positive stories.”

I had heard both Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and radio host Brian Lehrer of WNYC, New York, each say, rather matter-of-factly, on separate occasions, that ABC anchor Bob Woodruff had been injured because he was sent out of his way—out of the comfortably safe zone—to find some “good news.” (Sorry, no links.) Both said this as if it were just understood. I tried to find an independent confirmation at the time, but because I couldn’t, I let it go.

But now we have two other newsmen confirming it on-air, and there’s the real news: journalists looking for stories with a pre-ordained slant. At what point do you stop being a “reporter,” and start being a commentator. . . or a Pentagon shill?

Credit to Tapper, Magee, and Nightline for showing the hard truth; credit (of a different kind) to ABC for trying to invent a happy shiny truthiness.

oh my god, they’ve killed Chef!

You bastards!

*Warning: Spoilers*

Not that I am all about blogging TV shows or nothing, but I thought this was worth a check-in, since I had previously written about Chef-gate. . . and since the Washington Post felt the need to devote two-and-a-half pages to Wednesday’s season premiere of South Park, an episode titled: “The Return of Chef!”

Yeah, that’s right, children. . . but that’s OK, most of the Post article was plot summary! So was most of the page that USA Today devoted to the episode. I mean, they tell you the whole fudging story, right down to the last moment—and neither piece warns you of spoilers.

So, I think we all learned something today: Watch first; read later.

Meanwhile, back to the show itself: South Park creators Parker and Stone have come up with a new euphemism for The Church of Scientology—“The Super Adventure Club”—and they blame this club for taking away their friend. As Stan eulogizes:

A lot of us don't agree with the choices that Chef has made in the last few days. Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can't let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile.

We shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving us. We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains.

Christ, that’s almost classy!

One more thing, the WaPo article mentions that South Park fans (yeah, why not just lump ‘em all together)—also known in the article as “the angry mob” (yeah, why not)—have threatened to boycott Mission: Impossible III if Comedy Central doesn’t re-air the original offending episode, “Trapped in the Closet.”

Somehow, I doubt ViaTom is losing much sleep over that.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bush on US involvement in Iraq: not my problem

So large and in charge he is.

From Tuesday’s press conference:

Q Will there come a day -- and I'm not asking you when, not asking for a timetable -- will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq.

Q So it won't happen on your watch?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean a complete withdrawal? That's a timetable. I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

thanks, I feel much better now

You really have to hear this to get the full force of his “confidence,” but here is Bush at today’s press conference, conveying his feelings about how things are going in Iraq:

I am confident – or I believe; I'm optimistic – we'll succeed.

In other words, we’re fucked, and even the President knows it.

Update: The press conference video is now up. See that confidence-ie-ness for yourself.

when was vietnam again?

Two years ago, President Bush rejected comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam because “it sends the wrong message to our troops.” In other words, it might be a valid analogy, but don’t use it because it tells US servicemen and women that their leaders are just as wrongheaded and clueless about this war as Johnson, McNamara, and Westmorland were about Vietnam.

But never mind all that. Now—now—US military commanders are pleased as punch to tell you that in order to move forward in Iraq, they must first understand the mistakes made in Vietnam.

Am I the only one who thinks this should be a point of shame and not a point of pride?

old guys with funny accents agree: Donald Rumsfeld is an idiot

As noted yesterday, Don of the Dead (I know, I’ve been using that sobriquet a lot lately, but it’s just working for me) put pen to page for Sunday’s Washington Post, and came up with one of the most uninformed and cavalier references to the holocaust tossed around by a cabinet secretary in some time:

Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis.

Well, I’m not alone in my criticism. I’ve got both Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski to back me up. These are not guys who make a habit out of agreeing (with each other. . . or with me, for that matter), but they both Hank and Zbig told CNN that Rummy was full of crap. I think Brzezinski can speak for all of us:

That is really absolutely crazy to anyone who knows history. There was no alternative to our presence. The Germans were totally crushed. For Secretary Rumsfeld to be talking this way suggests either he doesn't know history or he's simply demagoguing.

Update: georgia10 has found someone else who agrees that Rumsfeld is an idiot, and he’s got lots of reasons.

Monday, March 20, 2006

oh, so they have internet on computers now!

Donald Rumsfeld in Sunday’s Washington Post:

The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.

Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.

“Blogs on Web sites???” Where else has Rummy seen them? In fact, has Don of the Dead (or his ghost writer) ever even read a blog? Does anyone over at the Pentagon know that the word “blog” is a shortening of “ Web log?” It’s that little hint of out-of-touch-ness that gives you a window on how these boys could “plan” such a debacle in Iraq.

Further, is he saying that history will show that the terrorists recognize they are losing—that history will reveal the current existing recognition—is that what he’s saying? That’s what he wrote.

And, as for that history. . . .

is it more like pinocchio. . . or the boy who cried wolf?

What do we call it when the puppets contradict the puppet masters?

Former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi:

If this is not civil war, the God knows what civil war is.

Vice President Cankles:

I don’t [agree that Iraq is in a civil war]. . . . Clearly there is an attempt under way by the terrorists, by Zarqawi and others, to foment civil war. That's been their strategy all along, but my view would be they've reached a stage of desperation from their standpoint.

I guess “desperation” is the next step after “last throes” on the Cheney insurgency morbidity scale.

During his appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, Cheney repeatedly referenced Osama bin Laden and the September 11, 2001 attacks when answering questions about the situation in Iraq. At one point, Cheney said “9/11” five times in the span of a minute.

Of course, if anomalous references to 9/11 fail to keep the home fires burning because they’ve been rammed down our throats so often that they cease to evoke enough raw emotion anymore, then, by all means, casually reference the holocaust.

Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis.

That’s Secretary of Killing, Maiming, and Torture Donald Rumsfeld writing in Sunday’s Washington Post. Read it; from start to finish, it’s as stupid as it is offensive.

Friday, March 17, 2006

what the fudge?

By now, you have probably heard about Isaac Hayes, voice of South Park’s beloved sage Chef, quitting the show abruptly this week over an episode that aired last November because it made fun of Scientology, Hayes’s “religion.”

And, by now, you have probably read South Park co-creator Matt Stone’s response that

In ten years and over 150 episodes of 'South Park,' Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslim, Mormons or Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show.

And, you’ve probably heard that Chef, I mean, Hayes wasn’t quittin’ mad when the episode in question, “Trapped in the Closet,” initially aired, but that just maybe someone had since suggested he give up about the best thing he had going. . . .

And, maybe you tuned in to Comedy Central on Wednesday night, as I did, to watch a rebroadcast of “Trapped in the Closet,” only to instead be treated to a rerun of the Sundance comes to South Park episode where Chef sings “Chocolate Salty Balls.”

And maybe you, like I, said, “What the fudge!”

And maybe you, like I, got to wondering. . . .

Well, Mark Ebner of Hollywood, Interrupted is confirming our suspicions:

Sources from inside Paramount and South Park Studios report that parent company Viacom pulled last night's scheduled repeat of the high-rated "Trapped in the Closet" episode after the humorless Scientologist movie star Tom Cruise threatened to cancel all publicity for Mission Impossible:3 [sic] if Comedy Central aired the episode that satirizes Scientology and mocks his sexuality again.

Not only is this the first time that the South Park creators have been officially censored in their ten hit seasons with Comedy Central, Viacom officials also reportedly ordered Matt Stone and Trey Parker not to discuss the reason why their episode was cancelled.

I don’t know whom to hate more here, Viacom or Cruise, so I’ve decided to hate them both as one entity. Behold the birth of “VIATOM.”

Will we all bow down to Viatom? Not yet. HI has posted a very watchable YouTube of “Trapped in the Closet,” and damn funny it is, too.

Take that, Viatom. In the words of Eric Cartman, “Ha ha, charade you are.”

Oh, but there’s more. The New York Post (via HufPo) is reporting that the FBI has questioned Nicole Kidman in a “mushrooming investigation” into illegal wiretaps made by a private investigator hired by Tom Cruise’s attorney during the Cruise-Kidman divorce of 2001.

So, let me get this straight: Tom Cruise has bullied a man out of job he’s had for nine years, intimidated the media into quashing a broadcast he found personally embarrassing, and has now been found to suborn illegal wiretaps.

Who does Cruise think he is, the president?

Update: The second Hollywood, Interrupted link is not working quite right for some reason. If it directs you to an index page, click on the March archive “view full” and scroll down to “HI Exclusive: Scientologist Tom Cruise Blackmails Viacom.”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I say, let’s flog a dead horse

In Washington Journal, a book about the last year of the Nixon Administration, Elizabeth Drew points out that we don’t really impeach presidents because they break the law or abuse their office, we impeach them because we don’t like them. When Nixon was run out of Washington on a rail, Drew opines, it was more because of his remarkable unpopularity than it was because of any of the specifics of Watergate or the cover-up.

I have often brought this up over the last five years as George W. Bush has committed one officially impeachable offense after another—yes, he’s broken the law, but that’s not what really gets a president impeached.

I am starting to feel less comfortable with using that as an excuse for the remarkable lack of action in the halls of Congress. Sure, John Conyers has called for impeachment, and Russ Feingold has moved for censure, but most Democrats have been afraid to take on a popular president, be it on the war in Iraq, national security, or warrantless domestic spying, Problem is, he’s no longer a popular president—not even close. (Hell, even Jessica Simpson won’t be seen with him.)

Yes, the Democrats are still a minority in both houses, but if they want to be something other than second banana, ain’t it about time they start kicking a man when he’s down?

I think so.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Nana, 1913 – 2006

I guess one of the benefits of having a relatively new and rather under-trafficked blog is that you can pretty much write about whatever you want and not worry about affecting too many daily routines. With that in mind, and apologies in advance to those who came here for something a little less somber, I am going to shift gears today to honor my grandmother—“Nana,” to us—who passed away late Friday, at age 92.

I am now out in Los Angeles for the funeral, where, later today, I will be saying a few words in her memory. Those words will probably go something like this:

It is probably a good sign of the rich life you’ve lived when it doesn’t really fit neatly into a short little speech. Looking over Nana’s long life, filled with stories, too many of which I never took the time to fully learn, I can’t find one that I know that somehow symbolizes all 92 years.

It is easy to focus on tragedy and loss, and when I think about it, I am staggered by the number of really tough and sad moments Nana had to endure. Maybe life, for each of us, is more like that than any of us think while passing through it; maybe it is only when it comes time to take stock that you look at all the hurdles and struggles and you shake your head in utter amazement—how is it possible, after the early loss of both parents, or a brother, or a son, or a husband, or a sister, to see your way through to the next day? When looking back, when feeling the cumulative weight, how do you even summon the strength to lift yourself up out of bed and face the world fresh and, in spite of what has come to those around you, still alive?

I said it was easy to focus on the tragedy and loss, but I did not say that Nana went for the easy way. That’s not the way the Nana I knew chose to live her life.

We are blessed with many, many photographs of Nana, covering almost the entire span of her life, and, as many of us sat around looking at them over the weekend, we remarked at how many of these photos were of parties and celebrations. We were a bit awed by the amount of fun it looked like everyone was having—the fabulous clothes and impeccable hairdos, the dancing and clowning around, the formal tables with the countless champagne bottles and cocktail glasses. . . the wide smiles on everyone’s faces. Nana was there in those pictures, bright, happy, and full of life, and now, 60 or 70 years removed from these birthdays, and anniversaries, and holidays, traditional and invented, it is still easy to see how much it meant to be there, and how much it meant to be happy to be there.

And that’s the message, right? No one event or story tells of an entire life, but neither does any one kind of story. Life is not just about the battles any more then it is about one really good day. A life spent dwelling on either of those would be hard to move through—the pull of the past, happy or sad, would be too strong for even the best of us to maintain a life in the present. Life is lived through and between the sad times, sure, but I think Nana showed us that life is to be celebrated every day. Honor those you have lost, but then turn to the people you have, dance with them, sing a song with them, put on a nice dress or a silly hat, open a bottle of champagne, smile, laugh, and celebrate what is here and what is now.

I will miss Nana and what she has meant to the past 43 years of my life, and I will miss the connection she provided to the years before my time. I will miss her stuffed cabbage and her chopped liver, and I will now, of course, even miss her occasional nagging. I will miss Nana, but I will try to honor Nana, not through the sadness of her passing, but through the message in her memory: no matter what the ups and downs of the everyday bring, live, laugh, love, as best you can. . . because you can.

Monday, March 13, 2006

baby it’s you. . . for now

Maybe this is an example of what Rachel calls “blog synchronicity” (or, upon a second reading, maybe not, however. . .). There were lots of thoughts expressed this weekend about the state of relations between the Democratic Party and the blogosphere. I read many of those thoughts, and, of course, I have my own.

Who are these ladies and what do they have to do with it? Click on over to capitoilette to find out.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

never steal anything small

Recently “retired” White House domestic policy advisor Claude Allen was arrested Thursday for trying to bilk Maryland department stores out of roughly $5000 over the past year in a phony return/refund scam. After initially defending Allen, the famously loyal President Bush has now tossed him overboard like his favorite prey, undersized bass. Said the Thief-in-Chief, “Something went wrong in Claude Allen’s life.”


What made Allen so obtuse as to repeatedly go for the chump change when this administration provides a loyal soldier unlimited avenues for the big score?

Sure, Allen had the concepts down: get credit for something you didn’t do, profit from it, and then, when caught, immediately craft an elaborate lie that blames the victim (when caught at a Target in January, Allen quickly called WH Chief of Staff Andy Card and said that the “confusion” stemmed from the credit card company misunderstanding his frequent changes of address—which reminds me, what’s up with the frequent changes of address?). But Claude didn’t understand the finer points of one-party state, institutionalized thievery.

Of course, there is something more disturbing here—the 45 year-old Allen was once a Bush nominee for federal appellate judge. Forget his complete lack of judicial experience, what exactly goes on in a Bush & Co. vet that this sustained behavior (with an easily accessed paper trail) would not turn up, like, immediately?

(TPM has more on Allen and his misdoings starting here, and Josh also reminds us that it was Claude that was responsible for coordinating the White House “response” to Katrina in the early days of the catastrophe.)

glass half fool

Apparently things are getting better in Iraq. President Bush had a meeting, um, photo-op on Saturday to discuss Iraq “strategery” with Monty Meigs—the guy in charge of the Pentagon’s efforts to counter the threat posed by improvised explosive devises—and announced that last year’s IEDs were only half as deadly as they were in the past.

Which, of course, means that the hundreds who died from roadside bombs in 2005 are only half as dead.

Friday, March 10, 2006

two words: donut burger

ESPN reports on a minor league promotion of major proportions. Promising the best, the Gateway Grizzlies of Sauget, IL, have placed beef, cheddar, and bacon on a sliced Krispy Kreme—that’s 1,000 super-saturated calories—all for just $4.50!

Plus, you get to watch baseball while you eat it!

The donut burger boasts 45 grams of fat, so I am looking for a government grant to fly me out to the ballpark (I hear it’s near St. Louis) to once again affirm my favorite axiom: Fat Equals Flavor.

last chance to save this building

There is a beautiful building at the Corner of Broome and Thompson Streets in New York City, but there might not be for much longer. Please take a minute to read my post on capitoilette, and think about helping out in a fight to save this unique and historic landmark.

globalization, I wish I knew how to quit you

Why did I know this before I knew this?

Now that Dubai Ports World has signaled its intention to transfer US operations to a US-owned company, I’ll give you three guesses as to which company that would be. . . and the first two guesses don’t count.

Judd at Think Progress caught AEI’s Norm Orenstein on the News Hour, and, well,

They have got a dilemma now, because there simply aren’t American companies that have the know-how and the breadth to do this. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, what I had heard earlier in the day, as they were looking at those that have the — the kind of resources, Halliburton was a name that came up.

I knew this was coming. I’m afraid the globalization horses are so far out of the barn at this point, that you’re going to need more than a couple of faux cowboys to round ‘em up. . . not that they’d want to.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

would PETA object if I wore lobster?

I had heard about the Kiwa hirsuta a couple of nights ago, but I did not know it would become this season’s must-have crustacean creation until I got a look at its fabulous fur (thanks to Rachel at Tomatoes Are Delicious).

I have a few questions:

  • Can it live on dry land? (I ask not for myself, but I’m thinking after the Chihuahua, ferret, capuchin, and marmoset are played, this baby is the next hot vanity pet).*
  • Does it come in black?
  • And, would it be better hot with drawn butter, or cold with a green mayonnaise?

* It just occurred to me, if it needs water, you could carry it in a watertight version of those armpit pet carriers. . . hey, don’t you even dare—I thought of it first!

I’m gonna be rich!

à bout de souffle

Wednesday was the 35th anniversary of the break-in that exposed the FBI’s nasty, pervasive, and very political domestic espionage program now commonly known as “COINTELPRO.” In the Los Angeles Times, Allan Jalon writes of the importance of that break-in, both then, and, if we would learn our lessons, now.

And, Jalon, in detailing some examples of intelligence abuse committed under the rubric of COINTELPRO, tells the story of Jean Seberg:

Under COINTELPRO, the bureau. . . targeted actress Jean Seberg for having made a donation to the Black Panther Party. The fragile actress ultimately committed suicide after a gossip nugget based on a FBI wiretap was leaked to the L.A. Times and published. The item, suggesting that the father of the baby she was carrying was a Black Panther rather than her French writer-husband, turned out to be wrong.

I reprint this excerpt not just because I am a sucker for Bonjour Tristesse, but also because it is a graphic example of how politically motivated domestic wiretaps can change lives. The battles we must wage today over the illegal warrantless surveillance practiced by the Bush Administration are not just fights about the vague esoterica of Constitutional rights, they are about everyday events that that can affect everyday people in life-altering ways.

Wednesday was also a noteworthy day over at the US Capitol, where a rubber-stamp Republican Intel Committee failed to exercise its Constitutional right to investigate the Executive branch. Is this the last gasp for our system of checks and balances? Will the loyal opposition learn how to be a little less loyal and a little more oppositional? Do the seemingly breathless members of the media need some guy with a crowbar to do their investigative work for them?

(I know, this is starting to sound like an episode of Batman, or any teaser for the new Nightline, but it is really just a lead-in to my post on capitoilette.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

here’s what I’m thinking, and I don’t like that I’m thinking it

I have just realized the way the Bush administration is going to exit Iraq: east.

While Dick Cheney and Condi Rice turned up the rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear program, Don Rumsfeld made bold (and, it seems, unfounded) claims about Iran’s meddling in Iraq. “They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq, and we know it.”

Of course, Peter Pace, at the same event, said that we most certainly don’t know it, but Rummy replied with this clearly incontrovertible evidence: “The Revolutionary Guard doesn’t go milling around willy-nilly.”

I mean, how can you beat that?

So, let’s accuse Iran of something we have no evidence of—exporting insurgency, for instance—then let’s toss in some tough talk from Deadeye Dick: “The United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime.”

Does that sound vaguely familiar?

I have to admit, naïve lil’ me, that until November of 2002, I refused to believe the Joint Chiefs would let Bush go into Iraq—it’s just too stupid to happen, I thought—so I want to get out in front early on this one.

The rationale will sound something like this (pretend Texas homeboy accent optional):

The United States has a deep and abiding commitment to the people of Iraq. We want to see democracy flourish in Iraq and throughout the region, but it can’t if a fundamentalist, terrorist regime that exists next door continues to meddle in Iraqi affairs.

In addition, Iran has failed to obey international law by pursuing “noo-cue-ler” weapons. They have already threatened Israel. We cannot allow a terrorist regime to possess weapons of mass destruction.

Therefore, in order to preserve the freedom the Iraqi people have fought so hard for, and in order to protect the world from the threat of “noo-cue-ler” terror, we must take the fight to the enemy before he takes the fight to us.

The Iraqi people have stood up to the challenge of democracy, and have made great strides toward building their own security forces. We will continue to help when needed. But as the Iraqi security forces stand up to protect the Iraqi people, the United States will continue the march of freedom and liberty into the heart of the terrorist insurgency.

That is why I come to you today to announce that American forces have crossed into Iran—Operation [insert stupid spin-name here] has begun.

Sometimes I scare myself.

Update: It just occurred to me—how does Rumsfeld know the Revolutionary Guard is milling around? Oh, yeah, this is how.

Bush loves carpet

Just read this and try to tell me our Commander-in-Chief isn’t a total simpleton.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I am hereby coining "regurgitate" as a noun

  • Oh, good, someone else both hates the right wing regurgitate coughed up by ABC “news” and admits to watching it.

And a few other quick hits. . . .

  • That the South Dakota forced reproduction statute is scary awful is a given, but it was passed with a “sister” statute that might be even scarier. You can now essentially buy an unconstitutional law if you agree to pay for the court fight.

  • If you’ve “opened a Pandora’s box,” is it still just “potential?”

  • What freedoms are we spreading exactly? Check out what you can and can’t look at it if you surf the web from a Marine base in Iraq.

Monday, March 06, 2006

nice tux, though

George Clooney:

"I would say that we're a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. It's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. This academy, this group of people, gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar (best supporting actress, Gone With the Wind) in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.

"I'm proud to be a part of this academy. I'm proud to be a part of this community. I'm proud to be out of touch."

Not Quite. I think the point you wanted to make, Mr. Clooney, is that being on the side of human rights and human dignity is in the mainstream. Hollywood is in touch—it’s the other guys who are out of touch.

that ain’t cricket

The headline on the news said something like “Bush Beaned,” so I watched closely when the piece ran. They played the tape a couple of times, and something didn’t look right. . . I mean, beyond the obvious.

There’s George, “playing” cricket, and there’s that “wicked googly” bouncing up and hitting him, but the bounce seemed odd. I went online to look for pictures—the ball seems small, and the seams, yes, that’s it. . . . The seams on a cricket ball are right around the circumference, but these seams twisted, like a baseball. . . or a tennis ball!

I kept searching, and sure enough, in a CNN account:

Bush, in a blue shirt with sleeves rolled up, played with tennis balls, which are much softer than stone-hard cricket balls.

Damn straight, they’re softer!

Of course that didn’t stop the Yale cheerleader from macho-ing up and yelling out to the bowler, “Put something on it!”

But that wasn’t the biggest irony of the day. . . sorry, “irony” is too nice a word. . . let’s go with “outrage.” While Bush was making a big show of getting down with the Pakistani peeps by playing their national game, Pakistani cricket’s biggest name was being detained by Pakistani police.

Imran Kahn, hero of the 1992 cricket World Cup, and now an elected official, was arrested with dozens of others in order to quash an anti-Bush rally in advance of the US President’s show of athletic faux prowess.

"Bush professes his policy is to support freedom and democracy and here he is supporting a military dictator," Khan said in a telephone interview with CNN.

Bush, faking it on the hustings and faking it on the pitch, summed it up this way, “Haven’t quite got the skills yet.”

No, George, you don’t.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

the lies of George W. Bush

I say it over at capitoilette, but I gotta say it here, too:

The man lied about cheese!

(headline apologies to David Corn)

for hijackers in a hurry

The TSA, faced with shortages of qualified personnel and equipment (not to mention cold, hard cash), has diverted over half-a-million bucks, and pulled security officers, luggage x-rays, and bomb-sniffing machines from area airports to staff a lower Manhattan heliport that promises to shuttle passengers to the American Airlines terminal at JFK in just eight minutes. Starting at the end of March, shuttle patrons will be pre-screened at the heliport, and thus get to skip the lines at airport security, all for just $159 each way! (The story was all over the local news today, and the price has already gone up 20 bucks from when the service was first announced about a month ago.)

An official for US Helicopter, the company that will run the shuttles, said that the service will alleviate somewhat the long lines at airport security checks. . . he said this with a straight face. . . . Each copter will hold a maximum of eight passengers.

Since the TSA, in its infinite wisdom, already cut staff at New York area airports by 6.5 percent last summer, one has to wonder who the good folks at US Helicopter paid off. . . oh, I mean, one has to wonder to which campaigns they contributed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Texas two-step

Look at the misdeeds and misdoings of the Bush Administration, and a pattern emerges, time and again. There is the lie, and there is the lie about the lie. There is the incompetence, and there is the incompetent response to the incompetence.

There is the crime, and there is the cover-up.

This pattern holds in cases as diverse as intelligence abuse, Plame-gate, Katrina and its aftermath, and numerous instances throughout the Iraqi war and occupation. But, perhaps, case one in the list of lies told by President Bush are the lies told to Congress in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq—because lying to Congress is an impeachable offence.

Murray Waas writes this week of two instances—with regard to the “aluminum tubes” and with regard to the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States, either directly or through aiding terrorists—where Bush was told, in advance of his public statements to the contrary, that intelligence did not support the administration’s position. Waas reports on two classified documents that prove on paper that Bush knowingly lied in his 2003 State of the Union (an on numerous other occasions) while fanning the flames for war.

Waas also details how other officials, such as Condi Rice, lied afterwards when claiming the President had never seen these classified reports.

Whether you believed in the necessity of invading Iraq or not, it is incontrovertible that you can’t go to war in this way—a president can’t lie to Congress, period. And, whether you support the war or not, it is hard to deny that it is, at present, going very badly. Can anyone trust these habitually dishonest leaders—the liar-in-chief, himself—to help it go any better?

evil incompetence enables incompetent evil

The Washington Post reports this morning:

A classified document that an Islamic charity says is evidence of illegal government eavesdropping on its phone calls and e-mails was provided in 2004 to a Washington Post reporter, who returned it when the FBI demanded it back a few months later.

Two points quickly come to mind:

1) The first party to let the cat out of the bag about illegal domestic NSA spying was, as the story reveals, the United States Treasury Department. Not some rogue NSA geek, not the New York Times, but the Federal Government, itself.

2) The WaPo reporter returned the letter to the FBI “a few months later,” in November of 2004. This means that the Washington Post had evidence that the Bush Administration had engaged in illegal activity several months before the presidential election, and they sat on it. Said nothing. Kept mum.

Congratulations Len Downie (executive editor of the Post), we now have two examples of how you helped re-elect George Bush. (The other being colluding with Bob Woodward to conceal the source of the Plame-Wilson leak).

Alberto Gonzales, if you are reading this (and I know that you are). . .

. . . you are a crappy lawyer.

And a liar.

And an evil little shit.

But let’s start with crappy lawyer:

Is this why the Republicans on the Committee voted unanimously against putting Gonazles under oath when he testified? Gonzales had weeks to prepare for this testimony. He is a trained lawyer. Unlike most witnesses in a lawsuit, he was never cut off by the questioner. He was free to speak at will in response to every question for as long as he wanted, and to say whatever he wanted. Why is it necessary for him to issue a 6-page single-spaced letter, the bulk of which is devoted to "clarifying" what was his unambiguous (false) testimony to the Committee just a few weeks ago?

Glenn Greenwald picks apart the Attorney General’s letter of “clarification” that pretty much renders everything he said in his day of testimony to the Senate Judicialry Committee to be untrue. . . false. . . a lie.

Which, I guess, brings me to my second assessment: Gonzales is a liar.

Of course, now Gonzales says he lied when he said he lied. In a phone conversation with the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman (CA), Albi-G said the administration is not conducting any illegal warrantless domestic surveillance beyond the illegal warrantless domestic surveillance that the White House has already acknowledged.

Uh-huh. Like you always see in the courtroom dramas, you just gotta ask, “Where you lying when you said you were lying or when you said you weren’t lying?”

As for evil little shit, read this.

Friday thought problem

I was at a community forum with a bunch of state and city politicos earlier and I got to thinking:

If Washington, DC, is “Hollywood for ugly people” (and that’s what they say), then what is local politics?

I’m thinking it’s like dinner theater in Woonsocket.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

this is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!

Robert Reich hits the nail on the head:

I don’t mean to minimize the real danger that a terrorist might sneak into an American port or plant a nuclear bomb in a container heading toward an American port, or a container mounted on a truck that crosses an American border headed for Kansas City.

But if that happens it won’t be because of the nationality of the company that has a contract to run a port, or of its managers, or even its workers on the ground.

It will be because this nation didn’t want to pay for the gamma-ray monitors and radiation scanners and inspectors necessary to oversee more than a tiny percent of containers heading into America. Because we didn’t want to bother with security checks and special ID cards with fingerprints and other biometrics for workers at all ports and border crossings. Because all of this would cost about $7 billion a year, out of a defense and homeland security budget of hundreds of billions, and might slow down commerce through our borders just a bit, and reduce some corporate profits.

You see, the real issue here isn’t about nationality. It’s about what we’re prepared to pay for our security, and whether we pay mostly for a war in Iraq or we finally get serious about security here at home.

a belated valentine

Dear Dr. Dobson:

This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months.

I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family during this period.

As I said when I spoke at my formal investiture at the White House last week, the prayers of so many people from around the country were a palpable and powerful force.
As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me.

I hope that we'll have the opportunity to meet personally at some point in the future.

In the meantime my entire family and I hope that you and the Focus on the Family staff know how we appreciate all that you have done.

Sincerely yours,
Samuel Alito

Yes, that’s Dr. James Dobson of the hateful and hate-filled Focus on the Family, and yes this is real—Dobson released it himself.

(t.o.t.h. to Jane at firedoglake)

a streetcar named denial

When I was writing earlier about Bush’s problems with reality—as exhibited by his statements about violence in Iraq and the response to Katrina in an interview with ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas—I had no idea that I would be provided with such stunning backup by the AP:

WASHINGTON - In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

The tape, which now can be seen over at Crooks and Liars, shows the President, sitting quietly in Crawford, as FEMA and NOAA officials explicitly warn Bush and Chertoff (via video link) of virtually everything that actually happened once Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

So, now, Shrub can’t even claim that he lacked “situational awareness,” as he has done with every other breath, of late. He was told of the situation. Clearly. Graphically. With urgency and anxiety and shit like that.

So, what are we to understand from this? Either, Bush was completely disengaged during the briefing (and uttered the “fully prepared” bullshit only after someone kicked him under the table), he is totally incapable of grasping the responsibilities of his position, he is too stupid to understand what the experts were telling him, he has a psychological problem that prevents him from processing bad news or contrary thought, or he just flat out lies a whole heck of a lot (like when Bush told Diane Sawyer four days after this briefing “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of those levees.”).

Update: I think I might have to go with lying. Jane at fdl has word that the White House has leaked a transcript of the daily noontime briefing of August 29 to Newsweek in order to overshadow the AP story. Problem is, during congressional investigations into Katrina, the administration said that this transcript didn’t exist. Yes, you read that right. Read more here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bush: clear about being vague since 2000 (or maybe 1999)

Elizabeth Vargas had a good long chat with President Bush before he took off for India, er, Afghanistan. Here, from the end of the interview, is yet another example of what a hands on, informed, decisive, and forthright guy Bush is:

VARGAS: Finally, Mr. President, one last question. Just a few days ago, the legislature in South Dakota passed the most restrictive abortion law in this country with the intention, they say, of getting that all the way to the Supreme Court. They would like the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Will your administration file a friend of the court brief on that?

BUSH: I haven't paid attention to that, to this particular issue you're talking about. I can tell you I will put people on the Court without a litmus test. In other words, I haven't said to these judges, you know, "Give me your opinion on this case if it would be coming your way." And, you know, their job is to strictly interpret the Constitution.

So I am not going to prejudge how the Supreme Court is going to judge a particular issue.

VARGAS: This law would outlaw abortion except when a mother's life was at stake. The life was at stake, not health. Would you support that kind of law being the law of the land?

BUSH: Well, that, of course, is a state law, but my position has always been three exceptions: rape, incest and the life of the mother.

VARGAS: Rape and incest you would include?

BUSH: Yeah.

VARGAS: What about health?

BUSH: Well, health is, you know, the life of the mother is how I view health.

VARGAS: So you would lump that together. It doesn't have to be she's going to die if she doesn't get this abortion.

BUSH: No. I said life of the mother, and health is a very vague term, but my position has been clear on that ever since I started running for office.