Thursday, May 26, 2005

Law & Order Rips Tom De Lay

The Law & Order franchise on NBC prides itself on having plots that are "ripped from the headlines." Last night's season finale of Law & Order: Criminal Intent focused on the assassination of judges. Drudge transcribes a few lines of dialogue for us and provides context:

In the season finale, Detectives Goren and Eames suspect an imprisoned white supremacist is behind the shootings of a judge's family, but their investigation widens when an appellate judge is later murdered...

ADA RON CARVER (COURTNEY B. VANCE) : An african-american judge, an appellate court judge, no less.

MAN: Chief of DS is setting up a task force. People are talking about multiple assassination teams.

DET. ALEX EAMES (KATHRYN ERBE): Looks like the same shooters. CSU found the slug in a post, matched it to the one that killed Judge Barton.
Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-Shirt.

This line is of course a reaction to the comments Tom De Lay made after the Terri Schiavo case, in which courts prevailed over the attempted overthrow of its authority by the legislative branch. What De Lay said then:

This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.
Matt Drudge reports that De Lay will release a letter of protest later this afternoon. We'll update once he has.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bill Maher Strikes Back

On May 23, Congressman Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama, said that comments that Bill Maher made on his May 13 episode of Real Time "border on treason."

What could he have said that's so horrible? The comment in question was during Maher's New Rules segment in which he declared that since the Army is so desperate for new recruits, those that supported the war now have to fight it:

More people joined the Michael Jackson fan club. we've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies.

Treasonous? Here's Representative Bachus's definition of treason:
In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country.

Okaaaay. Well, Bill Maher responds in his usual no bullshit way:

I'm not a congressman, I'm a comedian. There's nothing I can really do to help or hurt our troops (although anyone who's watched my shows or read my books in the last twelve years knows I'm a pretty ardent supporter of the military).

But a congressman, there's someone who can actually DO SOMETHING to help our troops. In fact, a case could be made that it's a lot more treasonous for someone in his position to be wasting his time yelling at a comedian. Shouldn't he be training his outrage at such problems as troops not having enough armor? Wouldn't that ACTUALLY support our troops more? And citizens of this country who claim to support our troops should write this man and tell him GET BACK TO WORK! DO SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO SOLDIERS IN IRAQ!

And by the way, these "comments" were part of a longer, scripted comedy piece in the modest proposal tradition. I can see why administration supporters would want to deflect attention away from the gist of the piece, which was this: now that we can't meet our recruiting goals, maybe it's the people who were so gung ho for this war to begin with who should step up and go fight it. But of course it's always easier to distract people.

The Politics of The Sith

George Lucas offers some political commentary in his latest Star Wars installment, Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith.

Via AO Scott in The New York Times:

'Revenge of the Sith' is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean
ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, 'If you're not with me, you're my enemy.' Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: 'Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.'
Another great line, this one spoken by Queen Amidala:

This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.
Bruce Kirkland of The Toronto Sun elaborates:

STAR WARS is a wakeup call to Americans about the erosion of democratic freedoms under George W. Bush, filmmaker George Lucas said yesterday. Lucas, responding to a question from the Sun at a Cannes Film Festival press conference, said he first wrote the framework of Star Wars in 1971 when reacting to then U.S. President Richard Nixon and the on-going events of the Vietnam War. But the story still has relevance today, he said, and is part of a pattern he has noticed in his readings of history. "I didn't think it was going to get quite this close," he said of the parallels between the Nixon era and the current Bush presidency, which has been sacrificing freedoms in the interests of national security. "It is just one of those re-occurring things. I hope this doesn't come true in our country. Maybe the film will awaken people to the situation of how dangerous it is ... The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we are doing now in Iraq are unbelievable."
Lucas went on about our Iraq policy, according to the AP:

When I wrote it, Iraq didn't exist. We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn't think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam.

Softball With Chris Matthews

Man, Chris Matthews was in rare form last night. Particularly offensive was his ass-kissing session with Republican Senator of Mississippi, Trent Lott. In his quest for "balance," he's clearly demonstrating a bias toward the Republicans on the filibuster issue, or else he was just overcome by Lott's charisma and charm (OK, perhaps it's the former.)

Here's my e-mail to him complaining of several missed opportunities to challenge Lott as he does all his Democratic guests:

Chris, I don't know where you stand politically and I guess it's really none of my concern. But what is my concern is the pro-Republican bias you've been demonstrating on your show lately, especially on the filibuster issue. I used to think you were a pretty rational evenhanded guy, challenging the Democrats and Republicans equally when warranted. But your interview last night with Trent Lott was just a disgusting example of partisan coddling. Why do I say this? My reasons are 4-fold:

1. When discussing the "nuclear option", Trent Lott corrected you, calling it the "constitutional option." Why didn't you call him on the fact that HE coined the term "nuclear option" in the first place and demand to know why he's flip flopped on the terminology. It's your job to reveal the Republicans' attempt to reframe the debate with words for the hollow politicial tactic it is, not to allow him to actually reframe it, although that's exactly why he went on your show.

2. You came right out and said "instead of Democrats pouting and bitching up there, they're going to actually participate in legislation?" First of all, your question is just blatantly antagonistic toward Democrats but even worse, it reinforces a false and Republican talking point that Democrats are the "no" party and merely obstructionist. The fact is that the Democrats have an entire agenda that the Republicans refuse to allow to be brought to the floor. Who's in charge here anyway?

3. You allowed Trent Lott to paint Harry Reid as an obstructionist and himself and the Republicans as the moderates who just want to come to an agreement. How in hell did you not remind Senator Lott that Harry Reid, on several occasions, offered Bill Frist compromise deals that the Republican leader repeatedly refused? In fact, the final deal is quite close to one that Reid offered Frist last week. It's clear who the real obstructionist to compromise has been.

4. And finally, Trent Lott raised the fact that several of the moderate Democrats among the 14 that came up with the filibuster deal are from red states, and you muttered something to the effect of "yeah I noticed that, ha ha." It's true that 5 of the Democrats are from states that voted for George Bush in 2004: Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Colorado and Nebraska. What you failed to mention is that three of the Republicans in the group hail from blue states (Maine and Rhode Island) and two of them hail from states that are purple at best (Ohio and Virginia.)

Why do you let these guys come on and just spread their talking points without challenge? If you're going to call your show Hardball, let's actually see you play some.

Monday, May 23, 2005

New Times Ombudsman Does His Job

This is a surprising turn of events: the New York Times's public editor actually doing the public's business.

Byron Calame begins his stint as the New York Times's new ombudsman today. But he posted to his predecessor's web journal on Friday because of an issue he felt had particular urgency to readers:
My name is Byron Calame and I'm the new public editor. While Daniel Okrent doesn't formally put the title in my hands until Monday, the flood of reader e-mail criticizing The Times's coverage of the so-called Downing Street Memo has moved me to lease some space in his Web Journal a few days ahead of schedule.
He breaks down the coverage of the story:

The Times's coverage of the once-secret memo started alertly with a May 2 article by Alan Cowell that laid out its contents in the context of the possible impact on the May 5 British election. But the news coverage languished until this morning when a Times article from Washington focused on the reaction to the memo there. This has left Times readers pretty much in the dark until today — and left critics of the paper's news columns to suspect the worst about its motives. (On the Op-Ed page last Monday, Paul Krugman did cite the memo high up in his column.)

My checks find no [evidence of] censorship or undue outside pressures. Rather, it appears that key editors simply were slow to recognize that the minutes of a high-powered meeting on a life-and-death issue — their authenticity undisputed — probably needed to be assessed in some fashion for readers.

He even asked the Washington Bureau Chief of the Times, Phil Taubman, to justify his decision not to cover it in depth until Friday. His response is not surprising, nor is it implausible; it ranges from:
Given what has been reported about war planning in Washington, the revelations about the Downing Street meeting did not seem like a bolt from the blue


As I read the minutes, they described the impressions of the head of MI6, who had recently returned from Washington, where he had met with George Tenet. It is mighty suggestive that Lord Dearlove, the chief of MI6, came home with the impression, or interpretation, that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' However, that's several steps removed from evidence that such was the case.

Am I comforted by Mr. Taubman's responses? Not really. What I am comforted by is that there's finally someone at the Times who's actually going to call him out on such decisions on my behalf. The hope of course is that this process will actually impact the Times's coverage in the future. Thank you Mr. Calame for, well, doing your job. It's a great start.

His closing:

So Times readers finally have the Washington Bureau's take on the Downing Street Memo to go with the alert coverage on the minutes the foreign desk provided back on May 2. Overall, it's better than the readers of most other newspapers got. It's just unfortunate that today's Washington perspective, much of it based on reporting that could have been done days ago, didn't land in readers' hands sooner.
So go ahead and contact him with any complaints or complimets about the Times. That was he's there for:

• E-mail:
• Phone: (212) 556-7652
• Address:
Public EditorThe New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959

Friday, May 20, 2005

Senator Santorum: Idiot

On the Senate floor yesterday during the nuclear option debate, Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania (and likely Presidential aspirant) seemed to liken Democrats who argue against the nuclear option to Hitler.

Thanks to the Center For American Progress for this, their Daily Grill:

Senator Byrd's inappropriate remarks comparing his Republican colleagues with Nazis are inexcusable. These comments lessen the credibility of the senator and the decorum of the Senate. He should retract his statement and ask for pardon.
– Sen. Rick Santorum,


I mean, imagine, the rule has been in place for 214 years that this is the way we confirm judges. Broken by the other side two years ago, and the audacity of some members to stand up and say, how dare you break this rule. It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942. 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city. It's mine.'
– Sen. Rick Santorum,
Santorum back-pedaled almost immediately, in a statement:
Referencing Hitler was meant to dramatize the principle of an argument, not to characterize my Democratic colleagues...It was a mistake and I meant no offense.

Of course you meant offense, Senator.

This guy is the Dems' number one target in 2006 and this just gives us ammunition.

Des Moines Register Calls For Iraq Inquiry

On the subject of the Downing Street Memo, the Des Moines Register breaks it down:

Is it the "smoking gun" that proves President Bush misled the nation into war?

Not quite. But it should be enough for Congress finally to see its duty and launch a formal, independent inquiry.
One would think.

They also address the relevance of the memo. Does it really matter? After all, perhaps the lack of interest in the media has more to do with the public's disinterest in such a story.

Perhaps it doesn't matter. The lack of uproar in this country over the Downing Street Memo suggests that the public is more interested in completing the mission successfully than in rehashing how it began. Indeed, that's where the focus should be.

Still, it's important to establish the truth of how the United States came to invade a country that posed no threat to us. It's important for the historical record and for better decision-making in the future. Congress, which authorized the invasion at the president's request, has an oversight responsibility to inquire and to report to the nation.
OK, so it's the Des Moines Register. But hey, it's a start.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

My New Hero

George Galloway, member of British Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow, testified in front of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee yesterday to defend himself against charges that he profited illegally from the Oil For Food Program in Iraq. Now I don't know enough about this whole issue to confidently judge his guilt or innocence but he certainly came off as credible and believeable in his testimony, and better yet, used the opportunity to SLAM the US and British role in going to war in Iraq. Read the whole testimony HERE and watch the video HERE.

On his involvement:

Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let’s be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had ‘many meetings’ with Saddam Hussein. This is false. I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as “many meetings” with Saddam Hussein. As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.
On Iraq:

I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies. I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning. Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Thank God For Paul Krugman

As usual, The New York Times's Paul Krugman doesn't disappoint. In today's column he does his part to try to make up for the willful ignorance and incompetence of the mainstream media (and, well, to be honest, that of Democratic politicians who don't seem to want to touch this...), which has completely ignored the Downing Street Memo story. We wrote about it HERE.

Take it away, Paul.

There has been notably little U.S. coverage of the Downing Street memo" - actually the minutes of a British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, during which officials reported on talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. But the memo, which was leaked to The Times of London during the British election campaign, confirms what apologists for the war have always denied: the Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted.

Here's a sample: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and W.M.D. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
But, Paul, is it really necessary to rehash this old news? After all, Bush was re-elected.

Yes: any path out of the quagmire will be blocked by people who call their opponents weak on national security, and portray themselves as tough guys who will keep America safe. So it's important to understand how the tough guys made America weak.
Krugman also links to a brand new website,, launched by three enterprising bloggers who were sick and tired of the media not doing its job. Check it out and take action HERE to demand that the media covers this story. Krugman's article is the New York Times's most e-mailed story of the day and the website is well past 100,000 page views just today, and yes, apparently, CNN actually interviewed John Conyers today on the subject. One of the website's founders talks about the success over at dailyKos.

At the very least, our administration should be pressed to respond to the content of the memo, which does make some explosive charges (although one man's explosive charge is another man's conventional wisdom.)

This is a perfect example of trickle up journalism. If they don't do their job, we'll do it our damn selves.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

John Bolton Hearings

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is meeting as we write this to debate the nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the U.N. The committee is made up of 10 Republicans and 8 Democrats (so a party-line vote goes to the majority party) and if he clears this committee he will then go to the full Senate for confirmation. Coverage can be seen on CSPAN3.

This guy is widely considered to be a bully, to have been complicit in manipulating intelligence to help sell Bush's march to war and, if his own words are to be believed, to have utter contempt for the U.N. In other words, he's a classic Bush nominee.

The committee actually has some pretty reasonable Republicans sitting on it, including Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and George Voinovich of Ohio. All of them have expressed reservations about Bolton but the administration has decided that losing this nomination would be a major blow and so has expended some political capital to keep the Republicans in line. As of this writing, the latest headlines have read Voinovich Slams Bolton but OKs Senate Vote and Chafee Says He'll Reluctantly Back Bolton. In other words, despite their reservations, they will allow this guy's nomination to go to the floor of the Senate and let the full body decide. What will happen there is still in doubt, as the Democrats still have the filibuster at their disposal...well, for now they do. And hey, ya never know, Larry Flynt's latest piece of investigative journalism into John Bolton's sex life {shudder} may catch on and stop Bolton's nomination cold.

The committee is scheduled to vote at 3:30pm EDT/12:30pm PDT.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

UK Intelligence Memo

What? Bush had already decided to attack Iraq as early as 2002? And, wait, what's this, they were determined to mold the intelligence to fit the policy? You're fucking kidding me!

Check out the British intelliegence memo dated July 23, 2002 that was leaked in the UK in advance of the elections last week but hasn't made front page news here yet. Here's an excerpt:

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest IC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Good stuff right? But perhaps my favorite part of the memo is its plea for confidentiality:

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

So this seems like big news, right? So why haven't you seen it on the news or in the major newspapers? According to Media Matters, The Washington Post, supposed stalwart of the "liberal media," has only mentioned it 3 times, once in a column by Tina Brown, once in an article about the British elections and finally, in a column by the paper's ombudsman, Michael Getler, in which he notes simply that:

A handful of readers last week also faulted the paper for not following up on a London Sunday Times disclosure of a secret memo by a foreign policy aide to British Prime Minister Tony Blair after a Bush-Blair meeting in July 2002, eight months before the invasion of Iraq.
An ombudsman is the reader's editor. In this role his mandate is not only to listen to and air complaints by readers, but also to address those concerns with action or at the very least with an opinion/comment of his own. Let him know we expect him to challenge his paper's laziness at best, complicity with the administration in burying this story at worst. He can be reached via e-mail at

Let's not allow this story to go away.

We're Back

It's been 6 months to the day since our last post. That's enough silence. Yes we got the wind knocked out of us in November. And yes, we're damn busy with other things. But now that they've retained power and have signaled their determination to wield it to further their radical agenda, we have even more work to do. Luckily, we actually appear to have some united allies in Washington fighting for us these days. It's an interesting time. It'd be a shame to miss it.