Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Time to Focus Intensely on Past Events


[following up on the editorial commentary in the preceding post]

In a recent memo to its clients, the white shoe firm Covington and Burling warned of the increased investigative activity soon to come from the Dem-controlled Hill -- and touted its credentials for representing corporations and individuals who may find themselves under scrutiny.

"Nearly every committee of Congress likely will participate in oversight on a broad array of issues," the memo predicts, "including those that are well anticipated, like Iraq redevelopment fraud, and those that are sometimes overlooked by the press, such as hedge fund oversight. Importantly, while the popular press will focus on high-profile actions like subpoenaing senior government officials or investigating Bush Administration failures, a broad range of private sector companies also will face scrutiny."

The new Congress will be busy ferretting out "sweetheart contracts, administrative cost overruns, waste and fraud, and narrow appropriations earmarks," the slick marketing piece predicted. Also at risk are "[c]ompanies that played a role in what are perceived as Bush Administration failures or abuses" like Katrina and the president's warrantless wiretapping program. And even though Enron was a long time ago, Covington also sees "corporate abuses" as a target area.

. . .. ... ..... ........ oOo ........ ..... ... .. . .

And check out this interesting bit of intense focus ...

& C&L 6.12.2008

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Checks & Balances

a geebus rarity: editorial comment

Words resonating today (posts of geebus past): June 30 , written in the wake of the Supreme Court's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision. And this one from June 6. And May 31, May 21, May 14, May 8, April 17, April 4, March 27, March 23, March 18 (the 'prairie home excoriation') March 10, March 5, March 2.

And the timeless May 2.

I hope it is an uncontroversial notion that Americans have voted for changing course. The first step is to understand the nature of the problems we need to solve. We cannot lose sight of this imperative in the name of comity or bipartisanship or etiquette. Examining the truth about matters leaves plenty of room for comity and civility, even if it is a source of intense discomfort for a lot of people.

This is not the time to gloss over past events so that we can move forward. This is a time to focus intensely on past events so that we can move forward. I say this both because of the obvious importance of learning history's lessons, but also because of society's rapidly increasing ability (and propensity) to assemble, link, and access information effectively in the service of truthful and substantive discourse (another big theme on the geebus).

For it is precisely the historical inability of our society to perform this function in near-real-time that has enabled much of the egregious conduct we have witnessed. Reality has been too malleable; it is still too malleable, even liquid. But it is gaining viscosity. The conventional attitude that it is possible and somehow necessary to gloss over vital facts in order to move forward is now very mistaken. (I don't know how mistaken it was before, say, 5 years ago, given the expenses of investigation -- pecuniary, psychological, and otherwise.)

As evidenced by the referenced posts, many people have understood for a long time the gravity of recent events, keenly perceiving the threat to our constitutional system of government. Others have clued in only much more recently. Many, maybe the overwhelming majority of Americans, still don't get it, even as they resoundingly vote for change. People just want to move on, to return to normalcy and civility. Yet at the same time everybody demands to know "what is your plan to move us forward."

Any good plan would start out by seeking a shared understanding of where we are now, which requires a candid look at certain information about the past. That's what oversight is; that is the only path to the vaunted accountability we seek in our institutions.

It is not the case that every investigation is a diversion and a political witch hunt, and suggesting the contrary is not an adequate response on the merits presented by the prima facie record (especially today's substantial and burgeoning information-age record). In fact, the whole arsenal of rhetorical tricks that depend on distracting attention from the merits of uncomfortable assertions, the whole lot of them are becoming less and less effective. People who keep employing them anyway are more and more visibly ridiculous.

So too bad for convention as it seeks to enforce its demand that we somehow figure out how to redirect the ship's steerage without necessary information about the course on which we've been sailing, about the motivations and methods of those at the helm, about the very machinery of the ship.

. . .. ... ..... ........ oOo ........ ..... ... .. . .

updated some links 5.12.2008

flash forward: Learn History's Lessons 11.12.2008

Jim Derych: Rush Tells His Audience 'I'm Full of Crap'

The Huffington Post

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but doesn't this sound like Rush telling his audience, right in front of God and everybody, that he's been lying to them?"

Here's a portion of the transcript of Limbaugh's 11/8/06 radio show (here's the video, linked from Crooks & Liars):

Now, I mentioned to you at the conclusion of the previous hour that people have been asking me how I feel all night long. I got, "Boy, Rush, I wouldn't want to be you tomorrow! Boy, I wouldn't want to have to do your show! Oh-ho. I'm so glad I'm not you."

Well, folks, I love being me. (I can't be anybody else, so I'm stuck with it.) The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high. Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country's than the Democrat Party and liberalism does. I believe my side is worthy of victory, and I believe it's much easier to reform things that are going wrong on my side from a position of strength.

Now I'm liberated from having to constantly come in here every day and try to buck up a bunch of people who don't deserve it, to try to carry the water and make excuses for people who don't deserve it. I did not want to sit here and participate, willingly, in the victory of the libs, in the victory of the Democrat Party by sabotaging my own. But now with what has happened yesterday and today, it is an entirely liberating thing. If those in our party who are going to carry the day in the future -- both in Congress and the administration -- are going to choose a different path than what most of us believe, then that's liberating. I don't say this with any animosity about anybody, and I don't mean to make this too personal.

I'm not trying to tell you that this is about me. I'm just answering questions that I've had from people about how I feel. There have been a bunch of things going on in Congress, some of this legislation coming out of there that I have just cringed at, and it has been difficult coming in here, trying to make the case for it when the people who are supposedly in favor of it can't even make the case themselves -- and to have to come in here and try to do their jobs. I'm a radio guy! I understand what this program has become in America and I understand the leadership position it has. I was doing what I thought best, but at this point, people who don't deserve to have their water carried, or have themselves explained as they would like to say things but somehow aren't able to, I'm not under that kind of pressure.

Am I making myself clear on this, Mr. Snerdley [Limbaugh's producer]?


No, I'm not lying. Snerdley's concerned. I've not lied about anything I've said. Let me try this a different way. (sigh) I'm going to have to think about this. I tried to make it as clear as I can. I'm not going to eat my own, and I'm not going to throw my own overboard, particularly in a campaign, and particularly when the country is at war -- and I'm not going to do it for selfish reasons, and I'm not going to do it to stand out, and I'm not going to do it to be different. I'm not going to do it to draw attention from our enemies. I'm not going to do anything I do so that the Drive-By Media will like me or think that, "Ooooh, Limbaugh has changed! Ooooh, Limbaugh is coming around!" That's not my thinking.

My thinking is: the left doesn't deserve to win. My thinking is: the country is imperiled with liberal victory. We may not have the best people on our side, but they're better than what we have on the left. But it has been difficult sometimes, when these people on our side have not had the guts to stand up for themselves, have not had the guts to explain what they really believe and why they're doing what they're doing. When they haven't had the courage to be who they are, when they haven't had the courage to be conservatives.

It has been a challenge to come in here and look at some of the weaknesses and some of the missed opportunities and try to cover for them and make up for them and make sure that the opportunities are not totally lost. But at some point you have to say, "I'm not them, and I can't assume the responsibility for their success. It isn't my job to make them succeed. It isn't my job to make elected Republicans look good if they can't do it themselves. It's not my job to make them understandable and understood if they can't do it themselves -- not in perpetuity, not ad infinitum." So all I can tell you is I feel a little liberated, and I think this is all going to result in a lot of cleansing in a number of areas.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT RUSH: Snerdley said, "Well give me an example of what you're talking about." Okay, let me give you an example. (I'm not going to mention any names.) I've been sticking my neck out to defend people who won't defend themselves and in the process of sticking my neck out, I get it cut off by other people who disavow what I'm doing and saying -- and yet if I didn't stick my neck out these people would have gotten swamped and defeated by far bigger margins than they did! I bring a lot of passion to my belief in conservatism, and my belief that liberalism is harmful to individuals in this country, that it leads them to lives of misery and unfulfilled potential. Those beliefs drive me, and I believe that we are the good guys, and when the people on my side, the good guys, don't have the guts to defend themselves as strongly as I'm willing to defend them, then you get to the point where, what's the point? I'm not running in their races. I'm not asking for votes. I'm not on the ballots. I'm not getting their votes. That is up to them. All I'm saying is it's a little liberating now, once I see the direction we're headed and I look at the reaction to everybody in our movement after this loss. They can take it the way they want to take it, and I'm not going to defend whatever way they go just because they're on my side if I don't believe in the method they're using or the direction they're taking. It's that simple.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blogs Take Lead in Reporting Polling Problems, With Supporting Evidence on YouTube

New York Times

That the blog now has a firm place in the choreography of national events — and in elections perhaps more so than in any other cultural exercise — is a boon to the democratic process, said Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet governance at Oxford University and a co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.

“In a lot of ways they’re helping to set the agenda for the mainstream media in fast-moving events like this,” Mr. Zittrain said. “They just need to be able to produce enough that’s credible quickly to give a lead.”

Alluding to some of the voter intimidation reports (see e.g. here) that unfolded on Election Day, he added, “There’s also a real difference between hearing about a call that tells someone they’re not allowed to vote and actually hearing the call as if you are receiving it.”

Some bloggers placed what were said to be digital recordings of such calls online (e.g. here) for the world to hear. (See also MSNBC's report about the blog/robocall angle, linked from TPM.)

Elsewhere online, voting machine problems also filled many posts on Talking Points Memo (e.g. here), a liberal site that seemed to take the initiative in tracking complaints, malfunctions and alleged malfeasance by Republicans (another fine example here; see also Bradblog, run by Brad Friedman, perhaps the most dogged critic of electronic voting machine technology in the blogosphere, also mentioned in the NYT Article.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

The American Conservative Magazine: GOP Must Go!

Breaking the Silence
The American Conservative [about]

It should surprise few readers that we think a vote that is seen—in America and the world at large—as a decisive “No” vote on the Bush presidency is the best outcome. We need not dwell on George W. Bush’s failed effort to jam a poorly disguised amnesty for illegal aliens through Congress or the assaults on the Constitution carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism or his administration’s endorsement of torture. Faced on Sept. 11, 2001 with a great challenge, President Bush made little effort to understand who had attacked us and why—thus ignoring the prerequisite for crafting an effective response. He seemingly did not want to find out, and he had staffed his national-security team with people who either did not want to know or were committed to a prefabricated answer.

As a consequence, he rushed America into a war against Iraq, a war we are now losing and cannot win, one that has done far more to strengthen Islamist terrorists than anything they could possibly have done for themselves. Bush’s decision to seize Iraq will almost surely leave behind a broken state divided into warring ethnic enclaves, with hundreds of thousands killed and maimed and thousands more thirsting for revenge against the country that crossed the ocean to attack them. The invasion failed at every level: if securing Israel was part of the administration’s calculation—as the record suggests it was for several of his top aides—the result is also clear: the strengthening of Iran’s hand in the Persian Gulf, with a reach up to Israel’s northern border, and the elimination of the most powerful Arab state that might stem Iranian regional hegemony.

The war will continue as long as Bush is in office, for no other reason than the feckless president can’t face the embarrassment of admitting defeat. The chain of events is not complete: Bush, having learned little from his mistakes, may yet seek to embroil America in new wars against Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile, America’s image in the world, its capacity to persuade others that its interests are common interests, is lower than it has been in memory. All over the world people look at Bush and yearn for this country—which once symbolized hope and justice—to be humbled. The professionals in the Bush administration (and there are some) realize the damage his presidency has done to American prestige and diplomacy. But there is not much they can do.

There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.

Lies and the Revisionist Liars who Tell Them

by Glenn Greenwald
Crooks & Liars

It is not news to anybody that Bush followers lie repeatedly and aggressively. But what does continue to amaze is that there is literally no limit on their willingness to do so even when — especially when — it requires them to ignore and contradict even the most glaring facts which everyone can see, as clear as day, right in front of our faces.

In this superb post, Digby uses two examples from this past week – the John Kerry "controversy" and the publication by the Bush administration of how-to nuclear documents – to describe precisely how this process works.

And the Editors provides the illustrated cartoon version of what Digby is describing — a cartoon which would be hilarious if it didn't so accurately convey the process which has destroyed our nation's political dialogue and enabled the most radical and destructive policies imaginable.

This is why I spent the last couple of days focused so heavily on Michael Ledeen's weekend lie in National Review that he "opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place" even though he repeatedly wrote and said the exact opposite. It's not because Ledeen himself matters per se, but because this straightforward incident illustrates the dynamic so perfectly.

Ledeen has no compunction at all about blatantly lying even in the face of a literal wave of conclusive evidence showing that he is lying — and his National Review editors such as Rich Lowry are content to remain silent about it because it's not news to them that their magazine is printing demonstrable falsehoods. It doesn't even warrant a response, let alone a correction, retraction or apology. That's because lying has become not only a perfectly acceptable tactic, but one that is central to their movement. Lying is not something they do sometimes It is who they are. Lying is a central and consciously adopted part of their ideology.

The grandfather of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, long ago explained the "justification" for lying in an interview with Reason's Ronald Bailey (h/t Mona):

There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people . . . There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.
It is from that rotted Stalinist root that the right-wing Ideology of Lying emerged, as embodied by the now-infamous warning issued to Ron Suskind by a Bush "senior advisor" after Suskind wrote an article about Karen Hughes which displeased the Leader: ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out."

The authoritarian Bush movement is so Wise (in the case of neoconservatives) and so Good (in the case of the religious fundamentalists who are their loyal comrades) that everything, including the most blatant lies, is not only justifiable, but necessary. Reality can and must be fundamentally distorted for our own good. As Mona put it — and as the two posts linked above illustrate — "for neoconservatives [which has subsumed the so-called "conservative" movement itself], falsehood is a feature, not a bug."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Richard Dawkins Interview

Dawkins: "I am aware that there are a large number of died-in-the-wool faith-heads who will never be changed, but I think there is a big middle ground of people who actually haven't thought about it very much, but think of themselves as religious, but haven't given it very much thought and I really hope they might be changed."

Richard Dawkins Questions Ted Haggard

Crooks and Liars » Scientist Richard Dawkins Questions Pastor Haggard (6:09)

Excerpt from The Root of All Evil - The God Delusion

More Richard Dawkins on religion (13:14)

Excerpt from The Root of All Evil - The God Delusion

Here is the whole show:

The God Delusion (47:51)

I believe this is part 2 (42:54)

The Root of All Evil -
The Virus of Faith

Talking Points Memo on Perle's Vanity Fair Article

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall
November 04, 2006 -- 02:39 PM EST

"I'm afraid Richard Perle's Vanity Fair concession that had he known then what he knows now he would never have supported the Iraq War is going to grab the headlines.

"But Perle hardly sounds chastened by the disaster, pointing fingers this way and that:

"'Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad,' he said. 'I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, "Go design the campaign to do that." I had no responsibility for that.'"

"Instead he blames the disaster on 'disloyalty' to President Bush from within the Administration. The LA Times suggests this is a swipe at Rumsfeld, but to me it sounds like another knife in Colin Powell's back.
Late Update: Kevin Drum has more on neocon revisionism.

-- TPM Reader DK

Friday, November 03, 2006

Neo Culpa

Andrew Sullivan

I'm just beginning to absorb the full impact of the fact that Richard Perle and my good friend Ken Adelman have just unleashed a critique of the Bush administration that is as brutal as anything I have been writing for the past three years. Coming from them, it's the equivalent of "no confidence" in the Bush administration. From the neocons. Money quote from Ken:
Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself — what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it's not going to sell."
And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked CAN'T DO. And that's very different from LET'S GO."
Thanks, Ken. You're a patriot. You've told the truth about men whom you know and care about. Because America comes first. And this country and its honor must be rescued from this incompetent cabal.

Update: David Frum responds. Money quote:
"I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."

* * *

& flash forward 10.21.2008

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Frank Rich: Tremendous Sense of Frustration

Eat The Press Frank Rich
The Huffington Post

"What I've found everywhere else — whether in Seattle or Kansas City, though Houston is yet to come — is a tremendous sense of frustration at having been misled and lied to about the Iraq war, an appetite for harder-hitting media that can be trusted, and concern about whether the Democrats will be any better at leading the country out of the morass.

"Three big issues, and he nails them. There can be no doubt that

the spin is off the Iraq war — see the desperation pervading these final days as the attacks on the left (or perceived left) are carried out willy-nilly — but it is also clear that the Democrats are basically running on a campaign of backlash. As for the media, Rich makes an important point about how the news was filtered in the run-up to war:

We now know that Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel of the Knight-Ridder Washington bureau — now McClatchy newspapers — were on to the story ahead of most others. We also know that there were reporters at the Washington Post and the New York Times who were on to the story, but whose stuff was unfortunately downplayed, compared to the big-footing journalists who got it wrong on page one. There were people like [Walter] Pincus and [James] Risen and others who were on to it but went unnoticed.

"And, for the people who continue to pooh-pooh the real work behind the Daily Show: '[Jon Stewart] was the first person to do what television news should have been doing, which is go to the video clips and see what they said two months ago' [see also]. As for his colleagues in the TV news biz: 'I think there's nothing to be said for television news at all.' Yikes. (Though Rich does note that, now that the tide has turned against the administration, everyone is on the bandwagon, which is good.)

"Rich has some thoughts on the liberal hawks who supported the war way back when: 'The only one who, in my view, successfully fessed up to it and did the reporting to redeem himself is George PackerThe Assassin's Gate' (not, as Rich has noted, Peter Beinart). On Bob Woodward: 'State of Denial fills in some very interesting details on a story that Bob Woodward seems to be among the last of major journalists to figure out.' Oh, zing.

"It's a very interesting interview and available here — worth a read just for the reminder about what that famous quote about ignoring "the reality-based community" really meant (hint: It meant plotting to sell the Iraq war, 'like Cheerios'). Worth remembering."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Of Bubbles and Eyebrows

Al Kamen - An Administration Ally Goes Off-Message -

Sensing GOP vulnerability, the Democrats' campaign ads focus on voter unhappiness with the Iraq war. The Republicans, in turn, prefer to talk about keeping us safe from terrorism.

So eyebrows popped up last week when none other than Richard Perle, former Reagan assistant secretary of defense, former Bush brain-truster on the Defense Policy Board, and a key promoter of the war to find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, blistered the administration as "dysfunctional" when it comes to stopping someone from bringing "a nuclear weapon or even nuclear material into the United States."

"Knowing that there are people who wish to do that," Perle said, "knowing they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, you would think that we would have put in place a system or at least be working assiduously in the development of a system that would allow us to detect nuclear material entering the New York Harbor or Boston Harbor or what have you.

"But we haven't done that," he said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies gathering [wmv 1.25 hr]. "And the reason we haven't done that is hopeless bureaucratic obstruction. Somebody needs to shake that loose." Perle added that while some have tried to overcome the bureaucracy, no one has succeeded.

"I think we have an administration today that is dysfunctional," Perle said. "And if it can't get itself together to organize a serious program for finding nuclear material on its way to the United States, then it ought to be replaced by an administration that can."

But President Bush , Perle emphasized, is not to blame for this sorry state of affairs. "I haven't the slightest doubt that if one could . . . put this proposition to the president, he would first be shocked to learn that we don't have the capability. Secondly, [he] would immediately order that we develop it."

[Editorial Comment: The buck stops with the president. If a president runs his administration in such a way that news of this sort doesn't reach him, then he is to blame in the most fundamental way. Especially for a so-called unitary executive president. Ultimate responsibility is a concomitant of ultimate power. This does not minimize in any way the responsibility of others, especially those who, as Mr. Perle believes, are responsible for distorting the president's view of reality to such an extent as to produce the present "sorry state of affairs." There is no plausible deniability here.]