Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Trouble the Water

Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner for Best Documentary, Trouble the Water, is currently in limited release. Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott, residents of New Orleans' lower 9th Ward, were there when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Kimberly got a video camera shortly before, and she documented what happened to them. I just saw the film, and it's powerful stuff. Here's the trailer:

The film intercuts Kim Roberts' footage with news footage from the time, and the filmmakers film the Roberts throughout their long trek, checking in with them periodically up to roughly the present. The government indifference and incompetence on display is infuriating. The 9/11 calls, and other moments, are heart-breaking. But there are also some pretty inspiring moments, too — from the Roberts, from the people they huddle in an attic with as the water rises in their homes, from a heroic neighbor. The survivors have been treated very poorly, but they're very appreciative toward the National Guard when they finally show up, and they buoy each other through camaraderie, faith, humor, and in at least one case, music. There are too many striking moments to name them all, and I wouldn't want to spoil them, but two involve the camera just staying on Kimberly – recovering a photo from their devastated home, and performing a rap she's recorded.

The site for the film lists theaters that are or will be showing it. It also has links to organizations working to rebuild New Orleans. NPR's Morning Edition interviewed Kim Roberts, and David Edelstein has a good film review. Check out the film if you can. And especially given how bad things already are, here's hoping that Gustav doesn't make them much worse.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 8/28/08

James Brown – "I'm Black and I'm Proud"

Marvin Gaye – "Let's Get It On"

We've already featured "A Change is Gonna to Come," so here's something to mix it up a bit. Here's to history, and to all those who made it possible, with a tune for the fighters, and one for the lovers. We need 'em both as we march to November, and beyond.

Eclectic Jukebox

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's All the Hullabaloo?

Not that you'd notice anyway, given the infrequency of my blogging, but I'm elsewhere this week. Digby and DDay of Hullabaloo are both in Denver this week for the convention. In what clearly must be an act of madness brought on by the prospect of meeting Stephen Colbert, I've been asked to do some subbing, along with the sharp Dover Bitch (read the two poems on the upper right of her site for an explanation of her great nom de blog).

And no, I'm not feeling any pressure. None at all. Why ever do you ask? (Just because currently I'm looking more like the guy in the bottom pic than the top one... Come to think of it, why would you be reassured by the top pic? I mean, he's admirable and all, but would you really want to be stuck in a room with him in full rant mode? I bet he spits.)

I'll update this post with links to my posts over there, but Digby and DDay are still posting when they can, Dover Bitch is there, and Tristero's even stopped by, plus Dennis Hartley will be coming in on Saturday to talk film.

(Oh, and I plan to work on the next RWCW after this.)

"Everything Helps McCain" (Monday, 8/25/08)

"Thomas Frank (and those Pesky Footnotes) (Monday, 8/25/08)

"The Sporting Life" (Tuesday, 8/26/08)

"The Needy Rich and the Unwashed Masses" (Wednesday, 8/27/08)

"McCain POW Bingo" (Thursday, 8/28/08)

"Cokie's World" (Thursday, 8/28/08)

Jack Lipnick: We're only interested in one thing, Bart. Can you tell a story? Can you make us laugh? Can you make us cry? Can you make us want to break out in joyous song? Is that more than one thing? Okay!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama VP Drama

Silly or asinine coverage is nothing new, but I was struck last night by a few mind-numbing passages in Obama-VP pieces. Those concerns have been eclipsed by Ron Fournier's AP hit piece today, though. Still, there's a continuity in that the press continues to insert themselves into the story, and for the ill.

First up, let's look at this one from The Politico, running on Yahoo:

Obama's striptease may be risky

Fred Barbash
Fri Aug 22, 7:08 PM ET

In dragging out the announcement of his vice presidential nominee to almost the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama has at once demonstrated his willingness to defy conventional political expectations — and to hold the news media in his thrall while doing it.

By keeping the “who will it be?” drama going all week — and at least a couple days past when many media commentators and political operatives thought the answer would become known — Obama discarded a widespread belief in political circles that a vice president should be picked far enough in advance that a nominee can enjoy several days of massive publicity about the ticket.

Delay brings two potential risks for Obama.

As it now stands, his announcement will land on a weekend and bleed right into the nominating convention — a time when a nominee can already expect to be dominating national attention.

What’s more, by keeping expectations hanging for so long, Obama makes it harder to deliver on all the anticipation. A weeks-long strip tease, ending with a naked Joe Biden or Evan Bayh — or some other safe but unsexy choice — might prove deflating.

It goes on. I don't know whether Barbash or his editor came up with article title – I suspect Barbash, based on the fifth paragraph - but "striptease"? They're comparing the Democratic presidential candidate to a stripper now? Nothing against strippers, but it's a rather odd comparison.

Read that second paragraph again. There's a bit of pissy threat in there, I think: 'Obama's defied conventional wisdom and the will of the press corps, and we might make him pay for it.'

"Dominating," "anticipation," "strip tease," "naked Joe Biden" "safe but unsexy," "deflating"... Is this a political analysis piece, or a Viagra ad? There's nothing wrong with having a little fun, but our political press corps is disturbingly sex-obssessed in their attitudes toward politicians. I really don't care about what reporters do in the personal lives but it'd be nice if a political non-story wasn't covered through the lens of their sexual frustration.

The piece overall is exactly that – a non-story. It's not entirely horrible as such pieces go and I imagine they just wanted or needed to file copy. But Obama hadn't announced yet, and there was no actual news - never mind that Obama would announce soon enough and there would be. So on the Friday night before the announcement, The Politico churned out a process story about the lack of news (make that a momentary lack of news) and its great significance... to their libidos. Yikes. Normally I'd call this masturbatory coverage, but given the frustration angle, in this case that would be slightly inaccurate.

On to our second piece, "Obama taps Biden to be running mate," by the AP's Liz Sidoti and Nedra Pickler, which contains this gem about the Obama text message being scooped by the press:

Michael Silberman, a partner at online communications firm EchoDitto, said the campaign gambled when they made such a high-stakes promise and find themselves in a precarious situation where they could risk a great deal of trust with supporters.

"For Obama supporters, this is like finding out from your neighbor instead of your sister that she's engaged — not how you want or expect the news to be delivered," Silberman said.

You have to be friggin' kidding me. To be fair, the AP piece is decent overall, and this section appears quite late in it. Maybe Silberman said a bunch of brilliant things that didn't make the piece, but this take strikes me as pretty ridiculous, without legitimate journalistic value. Obama was a stripper in the first piece, and now Obama supporters are emotionally fragile family members. I've read accounts from a few Obama supporters who expressed disappointment, although in at least one case it was because the message didn't go through, probably due to overloaded circuits (network activity was at 225% of normal according to one piece). I've yet to see any Obama supporter say anything approaching, "I used to trust Obama, but now that despite his best efforts the press leaked his pick a few hours early so the west coast found out about it before I did, I don't know how I can every trust him again!!!" Even if Obama supporters were somehow that emotionally distraught, in this account reporters' own glaring culpability is completely absolved! They destroyed the event for some people, Obama didn't! E.J. Dionne correctly noted on NPR on Friday the high degree of discipline the Obama campaign had shown on the matter. The press squawking over the harm done by their own leak is like a burglar chiding his victims: "Despite their alarms and the safe, I was able to rob the family's jewelry. I'm just not sure I can ever feel safe in their house again."

I'm really hoping this idiotic meme doesn't spread too far, although DDay spotted another instance and had a similar reaction:

Setting aside the merits of Joe Biden for a second (short take: he fits the traditional attack-dog model of a Vice President to a T), late last night as the news nets were announcing the pick David Shuster said something like "Barack Obama has now betrayed his supporters by not giving them the first opportunity to hear his choice..."

Simply an amazing statement on a variety of levels. Actually, who betrayed the public is you, the media, again, because you just couldn't stand not being insiders for ten minutes and waiting out the pick and maybe using those resources of staking out potential candidates' homes and working the phones on, I don't know, illegal wars and torture. The press only breaks out their investigative skills every four years so they can scoop their competition by 20 seconds. Would it have killed them to embargo the story and let the campaign play it out the way they wanted? Would it have mattered to anyone?

This secret was so tantalizing to them, making it necessary to marshal the full resources of the American media, while eight years of secret government and secret law received no such attention. The discovery of the pick was an end in itself, justifying their clubby, insider self-images as the coolest kids in the room. And then, after they've undermined the rollout, they blame the candidate.

It's going to get lost because it happened so late at night, but it was a shining example of how the media works.

Again, for the press, the press often is the story. They were jilted. They didn't get what they wanted when they wanted it, an advance look at the prime gossip (and for some, a dose of Viagra). And they shall have vengeance for it!

And lo, their agent of vengeance shall ride a pale horse, and his name shall be Ron Fournier of the AP:

Analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence

By RON FOURNIER, Associated Press Writer
Sat Aug 23, 2:12 AM ET

DENVER - The candidate of change went with the status quo.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.

He picked a 35-year veteran of the Senate — the ultimate insider — rather than a candidate from outside Washington, such as Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; or from outside his party, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; or from outside the mostly white male club of vice presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't even make his short list.

The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn't beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden pick is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative — a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.

Democratic strategists, fretting over polls that showed McCain erasing Obama's lead this summer, welcomed the move. They, too, worried that Obama needed a more conventional — read: tougher — approach to McCain...

So the question is whether Biden's depth counters Obama's inexperience — or highlights it?

Do read the rest if you can stand it, but that's probably my favorite bit, the last sentence of this excerpt, Fournier pretending to ask a question after he's just spent ten paragraphs and a headline giving us his answer.

Clinton did make Obama's short list by many accounts, depending on how "short" one's making it, and Obama's repeatedly praised her, but Fournier's trying to sell the idea that Obama has shown her disrespect. (Vote McCain, Clinton diehards!) It's also pretty funny that Fournier, given his GOP ties, is smacking Obama around for choosing from the "white male club." I guess Obama's campaign just isn't historic enough for Fournier on its own; yet again, Obama's either too scary or just not black enough for some white guy.

The other pieces may be annoying in parts, but it's hacks like Fournier that really endanger the Obama campaign. You've probably seen Eric Boehlert's piece on Fournier, that the McCain campaign tried to hire Fornier, and he praised the Bush administration in flowery language in e-mails to Karl Rove. You may know that the decline of the AP directly corresponds to Fournier's rise in power there. And while Fournier is biased and unfair, he's on the presidential beat for the AP. It's ridiculous. If he were just another hack like Krauthammer writing sneering op-eds, it wouldn't be quite so bad, but he's pretending to be an actual, somewhat objective journalist.

Steve Benen and Digby have pieces on the Fournier piece, Crooks and Liars' piece has contact information for complaining to the AP, and FireDogLake has set up a way to write your local papers about carrying Fournier. An avalanche of "polite but firm" e-mails would be great.

Let's be honest – regardless of who Obama picked, Fournier was going to write a hit piece. He quotes a few Democrats to give him cover, but the key message he's trying to sell is the same one the GOP has been trying to sell for over a month now: Obama is scared of McCain, and he's weak. It's bullshit, of course, but the GOP can only win if they can obscure how lockstep McCain has been with Bush, and make the election a referendum on Obama. We're going to see a lot more of this crap, and the more we can push back on it, the better.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden Reactions

We'll be seeing an avalanche of Biden pieces in the next few days and weeks, Kathy G has a good overview of the positives and negatives on Biden. Washington Post blog The Fix earlier considered the case for and against Biden. The WaPo also asked a number of people for their reactions, and it's sorta funny and educational to see the Republicans try out their attack lines. Still, the hawkish WaPo op-ed board likes the pick overall (even if the piece is sprinkled through with some bullshit, especially on Iraq, but then, this is the WaPo op-ed board). If the Beltway conventional wisdom is positive (more on that in the next post), that's a good thing.

My main concerns about Biden are about the"Senator from MBNA" thing, most notably his support for that horrible bankruptcy bill. He can be ridiculously long-winded, and has a uncanny knack for putting his foot in his mouth. It's particularly wince-inducing when his remarks involve historically disenfranchised groups. The plagiarism scandal will come up again – and Biden should address it again, as he has before. He's likely to utter some statements parsed endlessly by the press before the election.

On the other hand, Biden is pretty sharp, and extremely knowledgeable on foreign affairs. I remember listening to him on Charlie Rose a few times and being quite impressed. Most of all, he's engaged. When Biden and others proposed the Iraq partition plan, there were plenty of experts arguing for and against it. Regardless, Biden got a conversation going, and was talking about Iraq in far greater detail, complexity and frankness than anything coming out of the White House or its advocates. I don't remember him insisting his was the only way, either.

Being from Delaware, Biden doesn't give Obama an electoral boost, but I think that actually works better from a marketing standpoint – Obama's picked someone on merit, on experience, on practicality and governing ability. Some pundits point to Biden's Catholicism as an electoral plus, and it likely is. The VP debate rarely matters much, but Biden should be strong in it.

Meanwhile, Biden's greatest asset as a VP pick is that he's not afraid to attack. He relishes it. It's one of the things I like best about him; at his best, he works in substantial points into a great sound bite line or two. Let's revisit what I'd say was the best line of the primary campaigns:

It's funny, it’s memorable, and it's true. It got plenty of play on the news because it's a good zinger, but I think it worked so well because so many people heard it and agreed. As Joel Achenbach wryly put it, "Basically, people liked [Giuliani] less the more they got to know him. That makes campaigning hard." Biden's line articulated what bugged many people about Giuliani, and gave the press an angle by which to ridicule him. Notice, too, that Biden linked Giuliani to Bush in terms of incompetence. That sort of critique - which has 'the added virtue of being true' - is absolutely crucial for this campaign. McCain has bragged about voting with the Bush agenda over 90% of the time, but most Americans don't know that yet. C&L has a video clip of a great salvo today from Biden against McCain. May it be the first of many, many more.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Two Mysteries Solved!

Recently, I discovered that the solution to two big news stories lay in two other news stories. At least, that's the Principle of Economy in Truthiness at work.

Let's turn to our first story, from The Washington Post:

Hair Samples in Anthrax Case Don't Match
Strands From Mailbox in Princeton Are Not From Ivins, Investigators Say

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 14, 2008; Page A02

Federal investigators probing the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks recovered samples of human hair from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., but the strands did not match the lead suspect in the case, according to sources briefed on the probe.

Hmm, the DNA doesn't match. A tale of paranoid fantasies, claims that don't bear out and a mysterious figure.

Who is the object of that search? Who is the true mysterious figure behind all this? Deep down, you've always known. There can be only one answer.

Moving on to our second story, Obama's VP choice should be apparent tomorrow, which has only increased speculation. As the AP reports:

Obama prepares to name veep, no hints yet

By LIZ SIDOTI and NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's potential running mates ducked, dodged and semi-denied their way through a day of political intrigue Friday as the Democratic presidential contender readied a high-tech announcement of his pick for vice president.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, nooooo," Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius told reporters who asked for her latest thoughts on the months-long search.

Oh, but yes, yes, yeeeeeeeeeeessssss! We know the answer. Think about it. Obama needs a proven hand, someone knowledgeable about defeating a myriad of enemies, someone well-traveled and experienced.

He's picked someone who, it must be admitted, became a more divisive figure earlier this year, but still has a great groundswell of support, appeal across multiple demographics, and who will help Obama be competitive even in red states.

Really, Obama's VP choice couldn't be more obvious.

Try to top that, McCain!

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hard to Argue with That

From someecards, via C&L. They've got quite a few funny cards, including this one:

It makes me think of this Simpsons exchange:

Marge: Well, most women will tell you that you're a fool to think you can change a man. But those women are quitters! When I first met your father, he was loud, oafish and rude. But I worked hard and now, he's a whole different person.

Lisa: Mom?

Marge: (forcefully) He's a whole different person, Lisa.

Ah, love.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Obama and McCain secrets revealed!

John McCain's desktop, from Quiddity at uggabugga:

(Click for a larger view.)

Meanwhile, in "The True Story Of Blackazoid," Jesse Taylor at Pandagon has posted "Obama’s real birth certificate":

(Click for a larger view.)

Well, I'm glad all that's settled.

Jerry Wexler Remembered

Another recent loss was legendary music producer Jerry Wexler. Mike Finnigan, who worked with him, has a good remembrance. I'll also pass on NPR's piece. As with Wexler's colleague, Ahmet Ertegün, he will be missed.

Every account I've heard about Jerry Wexler talks about what an encyclopedic knowledge of music he had, and how much he loved music and musicians. For the man who coined the term "Rhythm and Blues," there's another word that also comes to mind:

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac Remembered

Fresh Air re-ran interviews with both Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac.

The Washington Post piece on Bernie Mac looks at the big differences between "the two Bernies," his onstage persona versus the offstage man. His New York Times obituary ain't bad (although reading "Mr. Mac" provides some unintentional comedy).

The WP and NYT obits for Hayes give an overview of his career. In the WP, Wil Haygood also took a closer look at Hayes' musical impact and discussed it with readers.

Lower Manhattanite has a good remembrance for both men.

Bernie Mac is also remembered by skippy, who worked with him.

Both men appear in Soul Men, scheduled to come out later this year.

It's fun to hear Isaac Hayes talk about how he wrote the theme from Shaft, which is a good period piece, sure, but also still a fantastic track.

Meanwhile, I was a fan of The Bernie Mac Show. After seeing his act in The Original Kings of Comedy, I wasn't sure his material and style of comedy would be well received by a larger (and whiter) audience in a sitcom, but Wilmore and Bernie Mac tweaked the genre and made it work. The best episodes had some really sharp writing, and it was pretty cool to see it nab an Emmy for best writing in its first season (accepting was series creator Larry Wilmore, who moved on to The Daily Show). I had heard about Bernie Mac's lung issues several years back, including how his health stopped the show for a while, but he was making enough appearances recently I thought he was doing okay. His brand of comedy wasn't for everybody. But he had some comedic range, from his stand-up to his sitcom to his turns in some popular movies - his one scene in Transformers is really funny, and two of his scenes in Oceans's Eleven, buying the vans ("interfere with my social agenda") and the pickpocketing ("whitejack") are hilarious.

In any case, rather than a moment of silence, I think it's only right to go out with a laugh and some funk:

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 8/14/08

Tilly and the Wall – "Pot Kettle Black"

With the increase in conservative mudslinging, swtifboating and smears, this seemed sorta appropriate...

Eclectic Jukebox

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Sure It's Not April Fool's Day?

(Click for a larger view)

This may be my favorite story of the year so far. The headline title, "Huge inflatable art piece escapes museum, wreaks havoc," is good enough. But it gets better when you read the actual story. The lede had me laughing out loud:

Flying piece of art causes museum chaos in Switzerland
Mon Aug 11, 3:26 PM ET

GENEVA (AFP) - A giant inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window before it landed again, the museum said Monday.

The art work, titled "Complex S(expletive..)", is the size of a house. The wind carried it 200 metres (yards) from the Paul Klee Centre in Berne before it fell back to Earth in the grounds of a children's home, said museum director Juri Steiner.

The inflatable turd broke the window at the children's home when it blew away on the night of July 31, Steiner said. The art work has a safety system which normally makes it deflate when there is a storm, but this did not work when it blew away.

Steiner said McCarthy had not yet been contacted and the museum was not sure if the piece would be put back on display.

(The artist.)

Clearly, this further supports my push for more funding for the arts.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And Another Factor

Speaking of ignored scandals, consider this Josh Marshall observation:

David Gregory speculates that the Edwards' affair may be bad news for Obama. I have a very hard time seeing how Edwards' affair reflects on Obama. What I do know is that this is another of those cases where there is a tacit but uniform agreement among pretty much all reporters and close campaign watchers not to publicly state the obvious: that this is a perilous development for John McCain. Just as Bill Clinton's public undressing in the Lewinsky scandal led indirectly to the exposure of several high-profile Republican affairs, Edwards' revelation will inevitably put pressure on the press in general to scrutinize John McCain under something more searching than the JFK rules they've applied to date. I assure you that this dimension of the story occurred to every reporter even tangentially involved in reporting this race soon after the Edwards story hit yesterday afternoon.

In the Digby post I linked before, she also mentioned Vicki Iserman, and noted:

I personally don't care who and of these people are sleeping with (especially McCain). Marriage is a very complicated institution and I don't pass judgment on how others conduct theirs. I think this is all bullshit. But if the media has decided that even a failed politician who has no chance at the presidency can be subject to this kind of scrutiny, then they need to be a little bit more vigilant about pursuing someone who is the nominee of his party and has been very publicly linked to a specific woman by the paper of record, not the National Enquirer. If these are the rules, then this guy is a far more likely subject of scrutiny than Edwards.

Update: I just heard Barnicle say on Hardball that it was only "a matter of time before they ask Barack Obama and McCain --- well McCain's talked about his past --- Barack Obama, if he's ever had an affair." IOKIYAJM.

"IOKIYAJM" (It's okay if you are John McCain) alone is a keeper. I'd much prefer substantial coverage of real issues and legitimate scandals, but to be really cynical for a moment, perhaps equal coverage of shallow affairs is the highest standard our press corps can achieve.

(Much more on John McCain and his coverage in later posts, since those were already on the docket...)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Hamdan and the Shame of Injustice

Scott Horton's piece on the Hamdan verdict is one of the better ones I've read so far. Do read the whole thing. Here are the standout passages:

So was the Hamdan case a “success,” a feather in the cap of the Bush Administration’s guardians of justice? Hardly. As Matt Waxman , who as a senior official in the Rumsfeld Pentagon helped craft this system, has acknowledged, there was another defendant in that courtroom standing alongside Salim Hamdan: it was the American justice system. Judgment will be taken by history, and the case was played to a global audience. The first returns are in, and they are not positive. Worse, the perceptions are likely to get harsher and more negative over time. Even before the verdict came in, observers around the world were focused on the Bush Administration’s own contempt for the military commissions process. It had announced that it was indifferent to the judgment of the commission—if Hamdan were acquitted, he could continue to be held for life, a Pentagon briefer acknowledged. The Hamdan prosecution reveals more about the Bush Administration and its fear and loathing of justice than it reveals about Hamdan.

After six and a half years in which the name “Guantánamo” has become badge of shame and humiliation, there has at last been a prosecution–of an individual whose role was at best completely peripheral. The former chief Guantánamo prosecutor has now openly acknowledged that an independent, objective prosecutor never would have charged Salim Hamdan, because he was an absolute nobody. This is not to say that Hamdan is an innocent, of course.

The Bush Administration could have handled this matter in the tradition that the nation’s greatest modern attorney general, Robert Jackson, set out at Nuremberg. Jackson personally took charge of the first prosecutions, delivering mesmerizing opening and closing statements and a dramatic cascade of evidence that targeted some of the most heinous criminals from the Second World War. Jackson had two important objectives before he reached the question of the guilt or innocence of the individual defendants: he needed to validate the fairness of the process, and he needed to demonstrate, clearly and convincingly in the eyes of the world, that heinous crimes had been committed which justified this extraordinary tribunal process. Jackson accomplished both goals. He also secured the conviction of key kingpins in the Nazi terror state. He did it all within the first year of the Allied occupation of Germany, through a process that helped transform the German people from enemies to friends. In the end, Jackson and his team demonstrated that the American tradition of justice was a potent tool to be wielded against the nation’s enemies.

By contrast, America has now endured seven years of an administration which fears the rule of law, which operates in the shadows as it contravenes criminal statutes and long-cherished traditions and retaliates mercilessly against civil servants who stand for law and principle. George Bush and his political advisors openly castigate law and justice as weaknesses or vulnerabilities–as public suspicions grow that they have darker reasons to be concerned about the law. Instead of following the historic route and using military commissions that follow the nation’s long-standing traditions, they have crafted embarrassing kangaroo courts. When the Supreme Court brought its gavel down on one of their shameful contraptions, they simply concocted another, equally shameful one, openly proclaiming an inferior brand of justice for those who were “not citizens,” exalting in the right to use torture-extracted evidence and to transact the proceedings in secret.

In "The Rigged Guantánamo Trials and Torture" (which also quotes Horton, among others) we covered some of the many problems with the system set up by the Bush administration. Thinking of the Nuremberg trials, reading the accounts of former Allied interrogators who took pride in obtaining information from Nazis without torture, knowing that Hamdan could have been found innocent yet still not released (and still might not be after his sentence is completed), is all just painful. These are very shameful things that have been done in our name, by men and women in positions of power who were initially scared, perhaps, but long had a hunger for extreme actions, who ignored or punished those who warned them, and possessed a disdain for legality and oversight – and I'd add morality. Much about the Guantánamo detentions and trial process revolves on protecting the Bush administration from war crimes. I don't know any American who wouldn't want to see actual terrorists brought to justice. But the Bush administration has not been seeking that, at least not for a long time. It takes an especially repugnant brand of cowardice and corruption to seek to execute or indefinitely imprison someone to try to cover your own ass.

Horton continues:

So why prosecute Salim Hamdan? Because Osama bin Laden remains at large, as does Ayman al-Zawahiri and a host of other Al Qaeda leaders. Hamdan would not have figured on a list of the 500 most important Al Qaeda figures. The fact that Hamdan was not only prosecuted, but actually turned into a lead case is shameful, a demonstration of ineptitude at least, if not of contempt for law and legal process altogether. That such a loaded, rigged system actually produced an acquittal on the only serious charges is evidence of the breathtaking incompetence of the Bush strategists.

If only there were equally incompetent at lying, propaganda, and public relations. Horton's conclusion:

The Hamdan proceedings now go into the next stages. First sentencing, and then appeal. If the case is reviewed seriously, then the appeals court will come to the obvious conclusion that “material support” is not a war crime, and will reverse the decision. If the American appeals courts fail to do this, the condemnation of the international community will follow. Either way, the Hamdan process has cheapened the image of American justice in the eyes of the world. Justice has been made to appear to be an expression of the will of the executive, and confidence in the independence and integrity of American courts and prosecutors has been seriously eroded. Prosecution of Al Qaeda operatives should have been an important victory for America in its battle with terrorists. Instead it has been converted into a needless and humiliating defeat.

Much of the internal resistance to the Bush administration's radical actions has come from rule of law conservatives. Repairing the damage the Bushies have inflicted will take time, but it's a cause where conscientious conservatives can join with conscientious liberals and civil libertarians. Terrorists should be pursued and if captured put on trial, and all those we've held for years should have their day in a legitimate court. Most of all, those prisoners we know to be not guilty should receive deliverance. Innocents shivering in cell blocks long for precisely what some current officials trembling in high office fear: that justice be done.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Broder Implications

We have some great political reporters in America. We also have a large number of vapid, shallow, gossipy twits, with the percentage going way up among TV journalists (and even higher among cable TV journalists). No offense to the good reporters, but there are times that I despise our political press corps as a whole with the heat of, well, maybe not a thousand suns, but a solid nine hundred. Now is such a time.

For a while now, David Gregory has been trumpeting alarm over Obama's prospects with little cause, often uncritically repeating Republican talking points to do so. Still, trying to tag the Edwards affair on Obama is quite a stretch and a new low. As Media Matters reports, on Friday, 8/8/08, Gregory said:

"Tonight, more on Edwards and the fallout from his admission today about a sexual affair: Is this another skeleton in the Democratic closet that Barack Obama must struggle to overcome?" Gregory also said that, "now, questions about his [Edwards'] future abound in the party and whether this creates another shadow over Barack Obama as he gets ready for the conventions."

Of course the Edwards affair is going to be covered. But this treatment is weak, insipid stuff worthy of the sex-obsessed David Broder or Maureen Dowd, and sure seems to be an attempt to try to justify covering a tabloid story as legitimate campaign news, when of course it isn't. Meanwhile, it just happens to smear the entire Democratic Party and their nominee. Gregory's approach is symptomatic of a wider problem.

It's funny, because for just one example, during the Mark Foley scandal, the press sure covered it, but I don't remember many of them pointing out the legitimate issues absent with Edwards: that Foley was abusing power since he had been overseeing pages he was hitting on, that the Republican leadership knew about this and did nothing, and that Dennis Hastert and his office issued contradictory lies in rapid succession. Most of all, I don't remember the press dwelling on the scandal as indicative of widespread corruption in the Republican party (although for some voters, it was the final straw).

In reaction to Gregory, John Amato came up with a good list of his own:

From the email inbox:

David Gregory just said young people were inspired by him and are let down…and questioned whether it will have “broader implications for the party.” during the election. This week, Ron Suskind’s book revealed the Bush team knew Iraq didn’t have WMD, forged letters, paid hush money, and lied us into war. (Chirp, chirp…) Any broader implications for the Republican party there? How about instead of us buying into all the clamoring to analyze Edwards betrayal (wait, no, BETRAYAL!) we analyze the absurdity of a media culture where THIS is what passes for holding politicians accountable.

Broader implication for the party. OK, let’s talk party.

McClellan said that FOX News got talking points from the White House

Bush authorized rendition.

Bush authorized torture. Yes, that means waterboarding.

Bush authorized a war based on lies resulting in millions of innocent Iraqi and Afghani civilian deaths as well as an ethnic cleansing.

Thousands of our troops have been killed or seriously injured.

The US dollar is in the tank.

The housing/mortgage crisis has almost caused a depression.

How about the trampling of our Constitution with warrantless wiretapping?

Laptops are being confiscated at airports and the border.

Under Bush, oil companies are raking in record profits while Americans suffer.

The US attorney scandal.

A health care epidemic.

Monica Goodling

A standing ovation in Congress for David Vitter’s return.

Military TV Analysts/Generals scandal.

Larry Craig’s bathroom adventure.

And many, many more.

Would any of this have “broader implications” to the Republican party during the election if the media did its job?

Newt Gingrich STILL gets on TV every other day and everyone KNOWS he had affairs, even dumping his wife right after cancer surgery. And yet all these MSM types are wringing their hands about what this means to the Democratic Party. Ridiculous. Throw a stone in DC and try not to hit some one with a little something on the side, and that includes those in the press corps.

And they have the nerve to talk about betrayal of Edwards to the media and his wife — in that order. Why aren’t they more outraged about the betrayal of the White House to get us into a war?

What screwed up priorities.

Let's see, then there's bourgeois concern troll Cokie Roberts attacking Obama for spending a brief vacation in Hawaii where he grew up and where his grandmother lives versus going to Myrtle Beach. There's Fred Hiatt's selective quoting to claim that the Bush administration didn't lie in making its case for war, a claim so blatantly divorced from reality he should have been fired or put on leave immediately. There's Richard Cohen and other hawks still claiming they had it right on Iraq, and Broder and Cohen justifying McCain's reversals (repeatedly), with Cohen even asserting that McCain's stint as a P.O.W. makes it all excusable.

Moving to the "Dean of the Press Corps" Broder alone, his most recent column, "Rivals in Search of Trust," examines whether Obama and McCain like each other .(Who gives a shit? It might be of some interest, but Broder won't cover their policy differences.) Meanwhile his piece before that argues that McCain's been forced to go negative against Obama against his will because he hasn't been getting coverage through town hall debates, or some such bullshit. Earlier this year, Broder argued that the key difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates was a lack of executive experience on the part of the Democrats, implicitly arguing that the massive differences between their policies were irrelevant. (But then, Broder always seems to come up with novel ideas for why you shouldn't vote for a Democrat.) Broder also wrote about the Clinton marriage less than a month after saying he wouldn't. Perhaps worst of all, Broder's also claimed that most of the public doesn't care about the Bush administration's pre-war lies, ignoring evidence to the contrary, and still asserts that Clinton should have resigned for office over his affair, but that Bush shouldn't be impeached. That really says it all about his intellect, perception and moral compass. What screwed up priorities, indeed.

It's no surprise the Edwards affair is being covered. I don't begrudge that. But sadly, it's also little surprise that Gregory would cover it in such ridiculous fashion, since our so-called "liberal" corporate press has a long pattern of such "reporting." It's galling enough to think that these people possess positions of power and are paid large sums of money despite being twits, but even more galling to realize they possess positions of power and are paid large sums of money to be twits. Even so, that would be merely annoying if it weren't for the dire consequences these people have enabled and in some cases the horrendous policies they've advocated for. There are reporters who do feel differently than Broder, Gregory, Dowd, Cohen, Cokie Roberts and their ilk, but it's that crowd who dictate the Beltway chattering class' conventional wisdom, which is almost unfailingly shallow and off the mark. No respect is due to people who still have no real problem with a war of choice, with lying to the public to start a war, with war profiteering, with unprecedented fiscal mismanagement, with spying on Americans without a warrant, with holding innocents for years without charges, with torturing people, and myriad of other assaults on core American values. As HTML Mencken puts it, they care about incivility, but not indecency. As many liberal bloggers have put it in various words (including Blue Gal, Driftglass, Thers, Digby, Atrios), they obsess about obscene language but are very accepting or even defensive about obscene actions. It would also be nice if this crew at least actually tried to justify their positions with, y'know, facts, or a coherent argument, versus merely asserting le droit de seigneur. If I or other bloggers occasionally despise this crew, it's because they are, in fact, despicable. They'll continue to stay mute about blatant villainy, unnecessary death and torture, but fuck someone without their permission, and their goddam heads explode.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

The Edwards Affair

Crooks and Liars provided a roundup of reactions to the Edwards affair Friday night. I found myself agreeing quite a bit both with Digby:

I realize that everybody gets excited about sex scandals. It's human nature. But it's important to keep in mind that John Edwards didn't even come close to winning the nomination and this is just another sleazy tabloid story with absolutely no serious significance other than the sickening spectacle of the prurient slavering of the mainstream media now that they have finally found their hook: it's because he lied to the press about his sex life. How could he???

(Lying to the press about the anthrax killer and WMD in Iraq, well, not a problem.)

Let's assume that the rules now say that denying an affair to the press is a cardinal offense that merits endless bloviating about dishonesty from a bunch of hypocritical celebrities who protect their "sources" when they lie about torture and war. Fine...

...And with Atrios:

The public: Edwards was a fucking idiot for running for president, and betrayed a lot of his supporters by doing so.

The private: everything else is between Edwards and his family. Not for the rest of us to figure out how this is supposed to affect their relationships and their marriage.

Honestly, I felt, feel, disappointed. Generally, I don't care much about public figures having affairs. Having an affair isn't a kind thing to do, but it's fairly common, marriages are complicated, and history shows that marital fidelity and the ability to govern have no correlation. But this was reckless, and Edwards has been one of handful of politicians I've actually liked. Elizabeth Edwards is pretty awesome. I wasn't happy to hear the news.

However, I still think John Edwards' "Two Americas" is one of the best political stump speeches I've heard in the past ten years or so. It starts with a quite scathing – and accurate – critique of the problems in America, and combines that with a fighting, optimistic resolve to fix them. Edwards' policies were among the best, or were the best, of all the primary candidates. His presence in the primaries and the debates pushed the discussions in a progressive direction. He released a detailed health care plan early, along with a proposal to pay for it, that forced other candidates to outline their own. (Well, on the Democratic side, at least, since some of the Republican plans basically amounted to "Pray you don't get sick."). Poverty is not a sexy cause. Unions, workers' rights, health care, are all extremely important causes that don't get enough lip service, let alone action. As we covered in "Where's John?" (and should come as little surprise to political junkies) John Edwards received the least and worst coverage of any major candidate. The Politico ran countless stories on his friggin' haircuts (four in one week alone, if I remember correctly), while ignoring his policies (although in general, they've ignored policies).

I'd kept a certain wariness toward Edwards due to his AUMF vote in 2002, and he let Cheney get away with lying to his face in the VP debate in 2004. I could see the manner he sometimes showed that made others dub him a phony, but most of that seemed to me more like the standard gamesmanship necessary to politics. (Even at his worst, he's never been anywhere close to Mitt Romney, who as Harold Meyerson put it, "approaches the Platonic Ideal of Inauthenticity," whose bald-faced lies were inherently condescending and whose policies were mostly lousy.) With Edwards, as with other politicians, on a certain level I never really cared whether he was "sincere" or not. His apology on his AUMF vote, late though it was, came off as pretty sincere, but even if it wasn't, he spoke out so much on Iraq and Iran that he had made a brand of opposing unnecessary war. He'd suffer politically if he reneged on those stands, and he knew it. Machiavelli cuts both ways, and I hold that it's better that politicians fear the voters' wrath than trust that politicians will do the right thing because they love us. As Brad of Sadly, No's written a few times, politicians are tools for change, and it can be dangerous to look to them for anything more.

There was also an early debate where Obama criticized Edwards for getting it wrong on Iraq, and rather than firing back some variation on the 'easy for you to say, you didn't have to make that call,' Edwards said, you were right, and it's to your credit. It was rather extraordinary. Meanwhile, while I'd say Edwards got in a few sly digs, he played the debates fairly clean, often saying some variation on, 'that's a legitimate point of view, but we do have differences.' I also never saw him echo and validate the most dangerous Orwellian bullshit of Bush, Giuliani and the gang. On the trail and in at least some of the debates, he took it on directly. He dropped out of the race before "Super Tuesday" when it became clear that despite some respectable showings he was unlikely to win a primary. He waited a long time to endorse one of the remaining candidates (even if that endorsement didn't make some people happy).

Again, I really don't care much about politicians having affairs, unless they're using public funds to do it, or go around moralizing to everyone, gay-bashing, maybe opposing comprehensive sex ed. I don't remember Edwards doing a lot of that sort of moralizing. His moral critiques were mostly about corporate misdeeds and abuses of power by the Bush administration. His family and marriage were part of his public image, to be sure, but his campaign had an American dream-populism message, as opposed to Bush in 2000, with his righteous bullshit about promising to restore honor and dignity to the White House by virtue of his fidelity and upstanding character (never mind his belligerent ignorance and incompetence). Katie Couric actually pressed all the candidates in December on the issue of infidelity. Read the whole (short) thing, but I thought this was the key section of her interview with Edwards:

COURIC: So how important do you think [infidelity] is in the grand scheme of things?

EDWARDS: I think the most important qualities in a president in today's world are trustworthiness-- sincerity, honesty, strength of leadership. And-- and certainly that goes to a part of that. It's not the whole thing. But it goes to a part of it.

COURIC: So you think it's-- an appropriate way to judge a candidate?

EDWARDS: Yeah. But I don't think it's controlling. I mean, I think that, as you point out, there have been American presidents that at least according to the-- to the stories we've all heard-- that were not faithful, that were in fact good presidents. So I don't think it controls the issue. But I think it's certain-- something reasonable for people to consider.

I remember reading at least one claim at the time that Edwards' response was a swipe at Bill Clinton, although actually, it's more of a defense of him. Most of the rest I took to be the unremarkable politician's move of not chastising scandalized voters for being upset over whatever's scandalized them. He said infidelity wasn't "controlling." But yeah, it's fair to say that Edwards said it's fair to criticize him on this point.

In any case, you can see Edwards' entire interview with ABC here, or at ABC (annoyingly, they'd previously posted only short clips of what they considered the headlines). Judge for yourself. There are sections where he's obviously holding back. I understand not going into prurient detail, but I think it hurt him a bit not to say the month and year the affair started and ended. On the other hand, he's pretty blunt on the arrogance and narcissism angle, and I was grateful he didn't have Elizabeth there during the whole thing. (Eliot Spitzer's poor wife is the most recent example of a woman subjected to that gruesome public ritual).

If you missed it, you can read Elizabeth Edwards' statement here. She's known about the affair since 2006, they've gone through their process, and she's forgiven him. Given that, it seems silly to be angry on her behalf over the personal, private side of this. It's their marriage.

Reading over her statement, it reminds me yet again that, unless an affair has some direct bearing on the politician's conduct, policies or rhetoric, it really just shouldn't matter. Infidelity is pretty damn common. But we still have some very puritanical elements in our society. Out here in Los Angeles, it was frankly refreshing that there wasn't a huge public uproar over Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa having another affair. (Maybe it's also that the city and state are troubled enough that umbrage seems like a luxury, while with Clinton and Gore versus Bush, where the country was doing pretty well overall, the naïve attitude toward Bush – at least from the press – was, "How bad can he be?")

The problem, though, for Edwards, is that in our current society, in our current political climate, with the GOP and the press operating the way they do, such things do matter. I understand the shame and the desire to keep something like this secret. If Edwards hadn't been running for office, it wouldn't matter. But admitting to the affair publicly before (or shortly after) starting his run for president was a necessary price of admission to the race. Such news is just too much of a political bombshell in today's landscape. Realistically, it would have hurt Edwards' chances, although I think he still might have made a decent showing... although it's rather moot now.

Like I said, I'm disappointed. I'm most of all disappointed that some liberal or populist causes might be temporarily hurt by this. I'm disappointed because Edwards was an effective spokesman for those causes, some like fighting poverty are important but unpopular, and this hurts his reputation. I don't blame those who feel this story's utterly trivial, but nor do I blame those who feel a (sincere rather than feigned) sense of betrayal or anger. I also think the folks lambasting those who are upset should grant them a day, a weekend, a week to be upset. This came as a shock to quite a few people, and certainly plenty of liberals did or do like John and Elizabeth Edwards. When I heard the rumors and that the National Enquirer was involved, I thought the charges was preposterous. And it bears noting that there was some very irresponsible "reporting" going on, with allegations reported as fact. But part of the story was true. I think this revelation was or is for some people emotionally sorta what Clinton's affair was for others back in the 90s. As Digby pointed out, Edwards wasn't even the nominee, so the stakes were/are much lower, and there are other glaring differences. But emotions are funny things.

It's not a terribly important story in the grand scheme of things, but I've had enough conversations about this that I thought should write a quick post on it (and will cover the press reaction in the next one, since some coverage on this story has been predictably preposterous).

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 8/7/08

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – "Red Clay Halo" and "The Way It Would Be"

In honor of this past weekend's Newport Folk Festival (NPR now has the audio posted), here's Welch and Rawlings, with two selections showing off their versatility. (Welch is perhaps best known for "Look at Miss Ohio.")

Eclectic Jukebox

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

8-6-01 Revisited

(Graphic by Tengrain. Thanks to Blue Gal for spreading the word again this year.)

Last year, in "8-6-01: A Date That Should Live in Infamy," I opened by writing:

While the Bush administration rattles sabers once again and insists on more unchecked surveillance power and fewer civil rights for Americans, and Democrats seem set to capitulate for no good reason, it's worth taking stock of the Bush administration's actual record on terrorism.

Boy, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose and all that. But let's look at what we knew and some new developments.

Last year, we spent some time on Condoleezza Rice's lies, evasions and obfuscations about the 8-6-01 Presidential Daily Brief, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside U.S." (alas, a video we linked is no longer available). Since attacking someone's patriotism seems to be all the rage again among conservatives – well, more so than usual - let me just say that anyone who puts covering their ass and that of their colleagues above the well-being of the United States is no patriot. The same goes for smear merchants and apologists such as Glenn Reynolds.

Last year, we also looked at a passage from Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine about that crucial PDB, delivered in person by a CIA briefer flown to Crawford to make sure Bush (who's not much of a reader) heard it. The kicker from that longer passage was Bush's reaction:

He looked hard at the panicked CIA briefer.

"All right," he said. "You've covered your ass, now."

Rice never volunteered that information. No one in the Bush administration did to the 9/11 Commission. The White House never denied that account, yet the press remained relatively silent about the revelation, and others in Suskind's book, such as how the Bush administration tried to browbeat the CIA into saying there was a Al Qaeda-Iraq connection, when of course there wasn't. Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer and several CIA insiders had told similar tales before. And the Bush administration's monumental incompetence has been pretty obvious to all those willing to look. Let's turn to Suskind again, who has a new book out:

Jonathan Schwarz points out two important angles on Suskind's reporting, "George Tenet And White House Admit Iraq's Intelligence Chief Told Them Iraq Had No WMD" and "CIA Agent Allegedly Involved In Forged Iraq Letter Ran Previous Operation To Create Pretext For War." Put those together with Hersh's recent tale about Cheney's plot to manufacture a casus belli for war with Iran, reminiscent of Bush's discussions with Tony Blair about manufacturing a casus belli with Iraq. It's shameful anything the Bushies and their pals say is trusted at all. It's shameful they haven't been investigated. It's shameful so few in our press corps seem to acknowledge that these are impeachable, criminal, damning offenses.

As for whether we're safer, well, as Joby Warrick reports for The Washington Post (via Froomkin):

The Bush administration's terrorism-fighting strategy has not significantly undermined al-Qaeda's capabilities, according to a major new study that argues the struggle against terrorism is better waged by law enforcement agencies than by armies.

The study by the nonpartisan Rand Corp. also contends that the administration committed a fundamental error in portraying the conflict with al-Qaeda as a "war on terrorism." The phrase falsely suggests that there can be a battlefield solution to terrorism, and symbolically conveys warrior status on terrorists, it said.

"Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors," authors Seth Jones and Martin Libicki write in "How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al-Qaeda," a 200-page volume released yesterday.

"In most cases, military force isn't the best instrument," said Jones, a terrorism expert and the report's lead author...

In Muslim countries in particular, there should be a "light U.S. military footprint or none at all," the report contends.

"The U.S. military can play a critical role in building indigenous capacity," it said, "but should generally resist being drawn into combat operations in Muslim societies, since its presence is likely to increase terrorist recruitment."

None of that should be shocking. And the Bush administration was told all that before it embarked on its reckless course of action. As for the Bush legacy, Dan Froomkin recently provided a good roundup:

Jane Mayer writes in the New York Review of Books: "Seven years after al-Qaeda's attacks on America, as the Bush administration slips into history, it is clear that what began on September 11, 2001, as a battle for America's security became, and continues to be, a battle for the country's soul.

"In looking back, one of the most remarkable features of this struggle is that almost from the start, and at almost every turn along the way, the Bush administration was warned that whatever the short-term benefits of its extralegal approach to fighting terrorism, it would have tragically destructive long-term consequences both for the rule of law and America's interests in the world. . . .

"Instead of heeding this well-intentioned dissent, however, the Bush administration invoked the fear flowing from the attacks on September 11 to institute a policy of deliberate cruelty that would have been unthinkable on September 10. . . .

"When warned that these policies were unlawful and counterproductive, they ignored the experts and made decisions outside of ordinary bureaucratic channels, and often outside of the public's view. . . . Far from tempering these policies over time, they marginalized and penalized those who challenged their idées fixes."

As for Bush's claim that he deserves credit for having averted further terrorist attacks, Mayer writes: "In the absence of government transparency and independent analysis, the public has been asked to simply take the President's word on faith that inhumane treatment has been necessary to stop attacks and save lives.

"Increasingly, however, those with access to the inner workings of the Bush administration's counterterrorism program have begun to question those claims. . . .

"In 2006, a scientific advisory group to the US intelligence agencies produced an exhaustive report on interrogation called 'Educing Information,' which concluded that there was no scientific proof whatsoever that harsh techniques worked. In fact, several of the experts involved in the study described the infliction of physical and psychological cruelty as outmoded, amateurish, and unreliable.

"In confidential interviews, several of those with inside information about the NSA's controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program have expressed similar disenchantment. As one of these former officials says of the ultrasecret program so furiously defended by David Addington, chief of staff and former counsel to Vice President Cheney, 'It's produced nothing.'"

Alan Brinkley sums up Mayer's new book in a New York Times book review: "Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Dick Cheney in effect took command of the national security operations of the federal government. Quickly and instinctively, he began to act in response to two longstanding beliefs: that the great dangers facing the United States justified almost any response, whether or not legal; and that the presidency needed vastly to enhance its authority, which had been unjustifiably and dangerously weakened in the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate years. George Bush was an eager enabler, but not often an active architect, of the government's response to terror.

Here, too, it's the details and confirmations, not the broad strokes, that are news. For every major disaster perpetrated by the Bush administration, they were warned beforehand, including by people within their own administration. It happened for 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, reconstruction, Katrina, spying on Americans, fiscal mismanagement, torture, you name it. As we've often noted, it's not as if the Bushies have made mistakes because no one warned them, or because (contrary to the desperate cognitive dissonances of David Broder and his ilk) they weren't warned politely enough. If they ever were, they long ago ceased to be men and women of good faith and honor. It's also no coincidence that bullies unconcerned with facts, who deliberately set up a bad decision-making process, made bad decisions. As Digby often says, the corruption and incompetence are features, not bugs. It's really impossible to overstate how fearful, vengeful and arrogant they have been. They knew what they were doing was radical – that's why they've lied about so much, to the American public, to the media, to Congress, and to conscientious members of their own administration. Compared to the key players of the Bush gang, Narcissus suffered from poor self-esteem, King Lear was as introspective as Hamlet, Othello was overly cautious, and Macbeth lacked ambition.

In his play Stuff Happens, British playwright David Hare depicts an impassive Bush who is consistently warned of the consequences of his actions, most of all by Tony Blair and Colin Powell. If Bush were the tragic hero, his flaws would be his unwillingness to listen and his utter disinterest in trying to act wisely. Hare actually casts Powell as more of the tragic hero, although in retrospect he was far too generous. And while the Bush administration's failures on and leading up to 9/11 were shameful, sadly there were many more shames to come.

A teacher of mine in Moscow, Tolya Smeliansky, told us harrowing, moving tales of life in the theater and other arts in the Soviet era, with Stalin's reign of course the most cruel. One of the most important things Tolya drove home was how, in the face of wrongdoing, honest memory can be an act of conscience. As horrible as the Bush administration has been for the United States, the majority of Americans haven't faced woes of that magnitude. But all those unnecessarily killed, tortured, displaced or otherwise made miserable due to the Bush administration might feel differently (if they all could speak). Because it's sadly unlikely most of the Bush administration will face prosecution, and they will never stop voluntarily, it's especially vital that they at least be prosecuted in the court of public opinion and permanently discredited. Honest memory is essential to that, and this anniversary it's important to recall the colossal failures and craven cover-ups centering on 8-6-01.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

McCain Ad Parodies

(By the way, there's some profanity in a couple of these, if you're at work or that matters to ya, although I'm guessing - No!)

First up, let's see this effort by Thers, Watertiger and Dan:

What's scary is that there are folks out there who think, "that ad told the truth!"

Then there's McCain and Britney, together again:

And I mean, come on, Britney?!?

The subtext of McCain's actual ad is bad enough, but there are also problems with McCain smearing Paris Hilton when her parents are donors.

This might be my favorite, though (h/t Blue Gal):

That's pretty much all they got. Obama's arrogant, he's popular… plus, he exercises and he's thin. Speaking of thin… (Not that this crap still can't work.)

Bonus: Via BG at C&L, here's the Jesus' General Ghostbusters version of the McCain ads:

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)