Saturday, April 14, 2007

Another Moral Exemplar from the Rightist Ruling Class

A woman charged with running a prostitution ring in the nation's capital made good on her threat to identify high-profile clients, listing a military strategist known for his "shock and awe" combat theories as a regular customer in court documents Thursday.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who is acting as her own attorney, said Harlan K. Ullman, a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "is only one of dozens of such officials" who will be exposed as she prepares her defense.
Link.

Lido Rips Our Beloved a New One

Of course, W never gave Iacocca a loan guarantee :)

Speaking of jokes, if Our Leader literally ended up with "a new one" as a result if every time he screwed up in his life, he'd look like what? A lawn sprinkler? A sponge? Swiss cheese?

Seriously, considering the source, this is devastating -- or should be. And these GOP nutjobs are running as a continuation of eight years of complete failure and ineptitude....
Had Enough?

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to—as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

Who Are These Guys, Anyway?

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

The Test of a Leader

I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points—not ten (I don't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choose wisely.

So, here's my C list:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President—the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, "Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't.

Leadership is all about managing change—whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths—for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION—a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President—four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that's not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn't look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don't go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.

You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee, the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know—Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush.

Former President Bill Clinton once said, "I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world—and I like it here."

I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq—a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.

A Hell of a Mess

So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen—and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough.
Link.

The Real Rudy

All these GOP candidates, they flip-flop so quickly they're like dervishes.

Via Rock & Rap Confidential:
In the immediate aftermath of the Don Imus scandal—before there was a resolution, in fact—respectable folks turned their sights on what I guess is the real threat to social harmony in this country: rap music. “A line has been drawn as to what is acceptable and what will not be tolerated,” huffed Today show weatherman Al Roker. “A dialog has been started about race in our country. An opportunity has been created to start holding responsible those who produce and broadcast offensive music lyrics, both rap and rock, that denigrate and marginalizes women." Even more nauseating was the assault—you can’t describe it better—by Kansas City Star columnist, Jason Whitlock, whose position is basically that Imus should have been left alone until the scourge of bad music and out-of-line musicians was repelled. The liberals and progressives I talked to and read mostly thought this a nifty keen thought, though of course Imus had to go, too.

Presumably Roker and Whitlock are merely the warmup acts for the nation’s chief hater of rap, rock and black youth: Bill Cosby, who must have been out making pudding or something during last week’s contretemps. And where was that harridan against hip-hop excess, Oprah Winfrey, all week? The Imus mess certainly has given us a chance to observe the priorities of rich and powerful African-Americans—Cosby, Winfrey, Whitlock and Roker are all black.

Somehow, maybe it would be hard for you to understand why, I found much more frightening than the last Busta Rhymes album (arguably, the best of his career) this New York Times headline

In Alabama, Giuliani Calls Confederate Flag a Local Issue

(from the Wednesday May 11 paper, buried at the back of the A section; you can read it at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/us/politics/11rudy.html?ref=politics)

That is, the leading Republican Presidential candidate is making a naked appeal to states’ rights. If you’re too young to remember, states rights was the pretext for the Civil War and a hundred years of Jim Crow and lynching after it.

According to the deaf, dumb and blind boys who run the Washington and national political press corps, Giuliani is electable partly because he’s a Northerner and not a “social conservative.” (According to Imus, who hung with all those pundits, Giuliani’s candidacy was appealing because he’s “somebody who's willing to take three big ones and drop one on Mecca, one on Jeddah, and one on…Riyadh.” He said this about eight weeks before his “slip of the tongue” about the women who lost a basketball game for Rutgers.)

Rudoph Giuliani has a history very similar to Don Imus, on whose show he was sometimes a guest, and more pertinently, to the last disgraced NYC talk show mouth, Bob Grant, an even more unapologetic racist. Rudy appeared quite frequently on Grant’s show before Bob got bounced off WABC for celebrating the death of Clinton’s African-American commerce secretary, Ron Brown, on the air. I’d say Rudy’s considerably worse than either Imus or Grant, though.

Grant used to refer regularly on his show to Mayor David Dinkins, Giuliani’s immediate predecessor, as “the washroom attendant,” and got away with it. But Giuliani empowered the racism of the New York Police Department in a special way. Giuliani used Grant’s bigot rhetoric to help make himself mayor. In the midst of his 1992 campaign against Dinkins, Rudy cheerfully appeared at a demonstration (which came closer to the description “riot”) of NYPD officers on the steps of City Hall. The cops were outraged that Dinkins had proposed a police review board run by civilians. Sure enough, one of the angry cops referred to Dinkins as “The Washroom Attendant.” Giuliani stepped to the mic, and said nothing about the slur. So he didn’t actually say the words but his unreserved support for the cops was endorsement enough.

During Rudy Giuliani’s terms as mayor, Amadou Diallo was murdered with 41 shots from gun-crazy cops.

While Rudy Giuliani was mayor, Abner Louima was raped with a broomstick by Rudy’s police.

During his mayoralty, Rudy Giuliani slashed the budget of the Civilian Complaint Review Board that was established over his protests. In its first five years, during all of which Giuliani was mayor, the CCRB received 20,000 complaints—4,000 a year. One cop lost his job—until the Louima rape. Then several went to jail. And having learned its lesson, the system allowed the Diallo cops to be tried upstate, instead of by a jury of New York City citizens.

After the Louima rape, Giuliani characterized as “shameful”…his opponents efforts to publicize and politicize it.

We can probably count on him to do the same if his endorsement of states’ rights in the form of the traitor’s flag of the Confederacy is raised in the Presidential race.

That’s exactly why it needs to be raised, raised again and again.

And when Jason Whitlock writes a column on this, he’ll get some respect from me. Until then, he can kiss Busta Rhymes ass, maybe. I wouldn’t have him near mine.--Dave Marsh, Editor, Rock & Rap Confidential

Another Winner

Mitt Romney: Can get the bucks but can't seem to get too many people interested in voting for him....

First, a history lesson:
Yes, the former Massachusetts governor showed off a savvy fund-raising operation by hauling in $23 million, easily surpassing Rudy Giuliani’s $15 million tally and John McCain’s comparatively anemic $12.5 million.

But Mr. Romney’s political and financial positioning at this early stage actually invites a parallel to Phil Gramm and his lavishly funded—and epically catastrophic—quest for the G.O.P. nomination in 1996.

Mr. Gramm, then a second-term Senator from Texas, entered that race by aggressively playing to the party’s right-wing base voters to capitalize on their well-grounded view that front-running Senator Bob Dole was not a true believer. (Newt Gingrich had dubbed Mr. Dole, a creature of the Potomac if ever there was one, “the tax collector for the welfare state.”)

Mr. Gramm, who was fond of noting that he’d flunked the third, seventh, and ninth grades, crafted a stump speech that doubled as a checklist of every conservative interest group’s pet issues, punctuating it with the assertion that he “was conservative before conservative was cool.”

And then there was his Texas-sized bankroll. In the first quarter of 1995, Mr. Gramm, with his Schumer-esque fund-raising abilities, reeled in $8.7 million. That’s nothing compared to today’s numbers, but 12 years ago it was a haul—nearly double Mr. Dole’s paltry $4.4 million first-quarter yield. The political establishment perked its ears up. Chris Dodd, then the general chairman of the Democratic National Committee, publicly predicted that Mr. Gramm, and not Mr. Dole, would be the Republican nominee.

“I have the most reliable friend you can have in American politics,” Mr. Gramm shamelessly boasted, “and that is ready money.”

***

Since shifting his focus from Massachusetts to national politics in 2004, he has walked away from the positions and pronouncements that served him well in the Bay State in order to hew to the wish lists of conservative activists. To the many Republicans who still don’t trust Mr. McCain and who will never abide Mr. Giuliani’s social liberalism, Mr. Romney’s grinning message is simply the following: “I’m one of you.”

Now, after the former Bain Capital C.E.O. has leveraged his plutocratic Rolodex into a hefty war chest, the pundit class is fast warming up to the notion that Mr. Romney has the perfect combination of money and message—just like they once did with Mr. Gramm.

But keep in mind that Mr. Gramm’s campaign ended up collapsing even before the New Hampshire primary. The reasons were myriad: over-inflated expectations, strategic miscalculations, prolonged blundering on a politically sensitive topic in New Hampshire, and an obscene “burn rate” of campaign cash with no discernible benefits in return.

The simplest explanation for his failure was that, beyond some initially promising poll numbers, voters just never took a liking to Mr. Gramm, whose disposition struck many as egotistical and overbearing. His assumption that the conservative base yearned for an alternative to Mr. Dole was correct, but they ultimately turned to Pat Buchanan and his castigations of “leap-year conservatives.”

There are already signs of the Gramm campaign’s profligacy in Mr. Romney’s operation, which last week reported spending nearly $12 million of the $23 million they took in—a burn rate every bit as unsustainable as Mr. Gramm’s.

And it’s only a matter of time before Mr. Romney, who is blessed with a more agreeable personality than Mr. Gramm, sees his early appeal to conservative donors undercut by YouTube, where a steadily accumulating stockpile of videos documents his years of pleading insistently to Massachusetts’ liberal-leaning electorate (as recently as 2002) that he was no kind of a Reagan conservative.
Link.

Why Rudy Rocks; His Genius

The idea of eight years of leadership by Rudy is, well, absolutely dizzying....
Before Rudolph W. Giuliani started to run for President, he specialized in writing books and delivering inspirational lectures on the topic of “leadership,” which has become the theme for his campaign. He is now telling America that in a time of war and terror, he is the leader we need. And he seems to be saying that the determination and strength of “the leader” matter more than where the leader wants to take us or whether he knows where he is going.

***

Mr. Giuliani is a fervent admirer of George W. Bush, whose election he considers a result of “divine guidance,” and a dauntless supporter of the war in Iraq, which resulted from the kind of leadership he advocates.

***

If he is suggesting that he is a leader who should be trusted to make critical judgments about national security and foreign policy, there is plenty of evidence to contradict him.

Advertisement

During the months and years leading up to 9/11—as reporters Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins proved in Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, their superb book debunking much of the “America’s Mayor” mythology—he made several decisions as Mayor that would later prove disastrous.

Against the advice of real experts, he stubbornly insisted on placing his immensely expensive emergency-command center in a World Trade Center building, although terrorists had struck there already and were determined to do so again. The command center went down with the rest of Ground Zero, leaving the Mayor and his aides to wander downtown as the buildings fell.

The city’s frantic efforts to cope with the disaster were lethally hindered by faulty communications equipment that the Giuliani administration had purchased—also against the advice of experts who knew better. Both of those fateful errors are more troubling when viewed against the backdrop of political and financial influences that probably distorted the decision-making process.

Yet while Mr. Giuliani is often wrong, he is never uncertain. That same attitude prevailed in his promotion of Bernard Kerik, a truly dubious character, first to corrections commissioner and then to police commissioner. By the time Mr. Giuliani appointed him to head the New York Police Department in 2000, evidence of Mr. Kerik’s ties with a mob-connected construction company had emerged in a background investigation. Mr. Kerik had obtained jobs for his brother and his best friend with that company, and he had interceded with city authorities on the firm’s behalf to win city contracts. Moreover, federal prosecutors had by then indicted Mr. Kerik’s friend, Lawrence Ray, along with a reputed Gambino crime-family figure.

In testimony before a Bronx grand jury investigating Mr. Kerik last year, Mr. Giuliani didn’t deny that he had been briefed on those issues before promoting his former bodyguard to the office of police commissioner. But he insisted that he didn’t remember that briefing—and noted that his investigators had “cleared” Mr. Kerik.

No doubt Mr. Giuliani’s failure of recall allowed him to enthusiastically recommend Mr. Kerik to President Bush as a suitable candidate for Secretary of Homeland Security in late 2004. That potentially ruinous choice was averted only because New York newspapers published timely exposĂ©s of Mr. Kerik’s embarrassing past. As for Mr. Giuliani, he says that he “assumed responsibility” for recommending Mr. Kerik, his old friend and business partner, which he termed “a mistake.”

While it is encouraging that he recognizes the error, there is a persistent flaw in Mr. Giuliani that makes such errors inevitable. He promoted Mr. Kerik because he preferred the loyal sycophant to William Bratton, the smart, independent and competent police commissioner whom he had fired. He ignored the threat of terrorism until it was too late, and arrogantly rejected the advice of those who knew more than he did.
Link.

Required Reading

A seconding of the idea that not all Christian "group" (sects?) are right wingnut goose-steppers. Some actually, you know, believe in Christian (as in "Christ-like") tenets or, you know, following Jesus' sayings -- while, actually, Our Leaders, at the end of the day, are extremely unchristian.

The concept makes one think....

Link
.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Something Different in the News, which you May have Missed

Really. It's important. It's here.

The Wonder of Big Media Journalism

CBS News said yesterday it planned to install a new level of editorial oversight to its Web site since revelations that the CBS anchor Katie Couric read a plagiarized commentary on the site last week.
Link.

A sign of the times, of course: An anchor needs a commentary written for her; she has no real opinion other than what some young snot without enough sense not to plagiarize like in high school and college writes for.

Incredible.

Incredible, really, that anyone relies on the Big Media broadcasts for any information or insight (other than the video).

Maybe it's me but maybe CBS that try hard news accurately reported. You know, get out of the pandering business....

The OoMM Competition

Who does this apply too?
...should have been fired from the jump, not just because of these remarks but because his show has long been a safe haven for racist and sexist comments....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Presidential Portrait of the Day

Firm? Resolute? Crapping in his pants at the disaster he has enabled if not created and is too weak and/or dumb to correct? You decide!
U.S. Counter-Counterterrorism Unit Successfully Destroys Washington Monument
April 11, 2007 | Issue 43•15

WASHINGTON, DC—The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that its Counter-Counterterrorism Unit successfully carried out its largest and most complex anti-anti-terror exercise to date, destroying the Washington Monument in a massive explosion that left 122 dead, dozens more injured, and the area around the National Mall a chaotic scene of smoke and debris.

"We learned from Sept. 11 that we can't just sit back and wait for the terrorists to attack us," said DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff at a press conference held in front of an on-site triage tent, gesturing to the blackened stump of the 122-year-old obelisk as divers pulled bodies from the nearby reflecting pool. "We still have a lot of work to do, but this operation exceeded our expectations. If we hadn't destroyed the Washington Monument today, we would never have known how vulnerable it was to attack."

"Now it can never be destroyed by terrorists," Chertoff added.
[More.]

Vox Populi: One Voice

From the Journal's Question of the Day blog:
Election in ’08? Never happen!

Dick Cheney has been authorized by the leadership of the New World Order to declare Marshall Law in October ’08 and suspend elections indefinitely.

In December of ’08 all of the Democrats in both houses will be arrested on charges of subversion and they will be replaced by GOP yes-men specially chosen by Ken Mehlman, Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson and John Hagee.

In January ’09, rather than an inauguration of the next President, George Bush will be declared President for life and Dick Cheney will be Supreme Leader in Chief For Ever.

Political candidates and national elections are so 20TH Century. The Corporate Leadership of the world is much more capable of taking care of the big decisions.

Don’t worry, over time you will learn to like it.

The Voice of the People: Our Leaders are Wrong

[A]s Greg Sargent notes today, a new Los Angeles Times poll suggests that withholding funds for the war isn't quite the "third rail" of American politics that we assumed it was.

The Times' pollsters asked respondents what Congress should do if the president vetoes, as he says he will, the "emergency" supplemental spending bill with a withdrawal timeline attached. Forty-three percent of the respondents said Congress should respond by approving what the president would call a "clean" bill -- which is to say, funding for the war without any verbiage about when it should end. But slightly more, 45 percent, said that Congress should stand by its guns and refuse to approve any more war funding until the president agrees to "accept conditions for withdrawal."

Now, 45 percent does not a majority make, but the poll should give Democrats in Congress confidence that cutting off funding for the war isn't the political impossibility a lot of us might have thought it was. And there's something else interesting in the Times' numbers: Twenty-one percent of Republicans say Congress shouldn't send Bush more money for the war until he buys into a withdrawal.
Link.

And speaking of the genius that is Our Beloved Leader, see this.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

American Justice, Our Leaders' Style

I am posting the below with the permission of Professor Walter F. Murphy, emeritus of Princeton University. For those who do not know, Professor Murphy is easily the most distinguished scholar of public law in political science. His works on both constitutional theory and judicial behavior are classics in the field. Bluntly, legal scholarship that does not engage many themes in his book, briefly noted below, Constitutional Democracy, may be legal, but cannot be said to be scholarship. As interesting, for present purposes, readers of the book will discover that Murphy is hardly a conventional political or legal liberal. While he holds some opinions, most notably on welfare, similar to opinions held on the political left, he is a sharp critic of ROE V. WADE, and supported the Alito nomination. Apparently these credentials and others noted below are no longer sufficient to prevent one from becoming an enemy of the people.

"On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving."

"When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years."

"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said. "

"After carefully examining my credentials, the clerk asked if he could take them to TSA officials. I agreed. He returned about ten minutes later and said I could have a boarding pass, but added: "I must warn you, they=re going to ransack your luggage." On my return flight, I had no problem with obtaining a boarding pass, but my luggage was "lost." Airlines do lose a lot of luggage and this "loss" could have been a mere coincidence. In light of previous events, however, I'm a tad skeptical."

"I confess to having been furious that any American citizen would be singled out for governmental harassment because he or she criticized any elected official, Democrat or Republican. That harassment is, in and of itself, a flagrant violation not only of the First Amendment but also of our entire scheme of constitutional government. This effort to punish a critic states my lecture's argument far more eloquently and forcefully than I ever could. Further, that an administration headed by two men who had "had other priorities" than to risk their own lives when their turn to fight for their country came up, should brand as a threat to the United States a person who did not run away but stood up and fought for his country and was wounded in battle, goes beyond the outrageous. Although less lethal, it is of the same evil ilk as punishing Ambassador Joseph Wilson for criticizing Bush's false claims by "outing" his wife, Valerie Plaime, thereby putting at risk her life as well as the lives of many people with whom she had had contact as an agent of the CIA. ..."

"I have a personal stake here, but so do all Americans who take their political system seriously. Thus I hope you and your colleagues will take some positive action to bring the Administration's conduct to the attention of a far larger, and more influential, audience than I could hope to reach. "
Link.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Our Leader's Perspective

No principle, just just partisan dishonesty:
As the president spent Easter weekend in Crawford, the White House Communications Office noted that 61 days -- now it's 63 -- have passed since he first gave Congress his "emergency" supplemental spending request for the war in Iraq.

Never mind, for a moment, the fact that 119 days passed between the time George W. Bush submitted and Bush signed the 2006 emergency supplemental -- and never mind, for a moment, that Republicans were in control of Congress then.

Here are some other numerical measures worth considering. Ten more U.S. troops were killed in Iraq over the weekend. The U.S. death toll in Iraq so far this month stands at 35; if the current pace of killings continues, April 2007 will be the deadliest month in Iraq for U.S. troops since November 2004. And the total U.S. death toll in Iraq to date: 3,282.

Outside an Easter service at Ford Hood, Texas, Sunday, the president said he prays for peace.
Link.

Our Leaders in Action

When Karl Rove and his top deputies arrived at the White House in 2001, the Republican National Committee provided them with laptop computers and other communication devices to be used alongside their government-issued equipment.

The back-channel e-mail and paging system, paid for and maintained by the RNC, was designed to avoid charges that had vexed the Clinton White House — that federal resources were being used inappropriately for political campaign purposes.

Now, that dual computer system is creating new embarrassment and legal headaches for the White House, the Republican Party and Rove's once-vaunted White House operation.

Democrats say evidence suggests the RNC e-mail system was used for political and government policy matters in violation of federal record preservation and disclosure rules.

In addition, Democrats point to a handful of e-mails obtained through ongoing inquiries suggesting the system may have been used to conceal such activities as contacts with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted on bribery charges and is now in prison for fraud.

Democratic congressional investigators are beginning to demand access to this RNC-White House communications system, which was used not only by Rove's office but by several top officials elsewhere in the White House.

The prospect that such communication might become public has further jangled the nerves of an already rattled Bush White House.

Some Republicans believe that the huge number of e-mails — many written hastily, with no thought that they might become public — may contain more detailed and unguarded inside information about the administration's far-flung political activities than has previously been available.

***

Waxman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that a separate "e-mail system for high-ranking White House officials would raise serious questions about violations of the Presidential Records Act," which requires the preservation and ultimate disclosure of e-mails about official government business.
[More.]

Sunday, April 08, 2007

More Straight Talk

Frank Rich:
John McCain's April Fools’ Day stroll through Baghdad’s Shorja market last weekend was instantly acclaimed as a classic political pratfall. Protected by more than a hundred American soldiers, three Black Hawk helicopters, two Apache gunships and a bulletproof vest, the senator extolled the “progress” and “good news” in Iraq. Befitting this loopy brand of comedy — reminiscent of “Wedding Crashers,” in which Mr. McCain gamely made a cameo appearance — the star had a crackerjack cast of supporting buffoons: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who told reporters “I bought five rugs for five bucks!,” and Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who likened the scene to “a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.”

Five rugs for five bucks: boy, we’ve really got that Iraq economy up and running now! No wonder the McCain show was quickly dubbed “McCain’s Mission Accomplished” and “McCain’s Dukakis-in-the-Tank Photo Op.” But at a certain point the laughter curdled. Reporters rudely pointed out there were 60-plus casualties in this market from one February attack alone and that six Americans were killed in the Baghdad environs on the day of his visit. “Your heart goes out to just the typical Iraqi because they can’t have that kind of entourage,” said Kyra Phillips of CNN. The day after Mr. McCain’s stroll, The Times of London reported that 21 of the Shorja market’s merchants and workers were ambushed and murdered.

***

As if to confirm we’re in the last throes, President Bush threw any remaining caution to the winds during his news conference in the Rose Garden that same morning. Almost everything he said was patently misleading or an outright lie, a sure sign of a leader so entombed in his bunker (he couldn’t even emerge for the Washington Nationals’ ceremonial first pitch last week) that he feels he has nothing left to lose.

Incredibly, he chided his adversaries on the Hill for going on vacation just as he was heading off for his own vacation in Crawford. Then he attacked Congress for taking 57 days to “pass emergency funds for our troops” even though the previous, Republican-led Congress took 119 days on the same bill in 2006. He ridiculed the House bill for “pork and other spending that has nothing to do with the war,” though last year’s war-spending bill was also larded with unrelated pork, from Congressional efforts to add agricultural subsidies to the president’s own request for money for bird-flu preparation.

Mr. Bush’s claim that military equipment would be shortchanged if he couldn’t sign a spending bill by mid-April was contradicted by not one but two government agencies. A Government Accountability Office report faulted poor Pentagon planning for endemic existing equipment shortages in the National Guard. The Congressional Research Service found that the Pentagon could pay for the war until well into July. Since by that point we’ll already be on the threshold of our own commanders’ late-summer deadline for judging the surge, what’s the crisis?

The president then ratcheted up his habitual exploitation of the suffering of the troops and their families — a button he had pushed five days earlier when making his six-weeks-tardy visit to pose for photos at scandal-ridden Walter Reed. “Congress’s failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines,” he said. “And others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to.”

His own failures had already foreordained exactly these grim results. Only the day before this news conference, the Pentagon said that the first unit tossed into the Baghdad surge would stay in Iraq a full year rather than the expected nine months, and that three other units had been ordered back there without the usual yearlong stay at home. By week’s end, we would learn the story of the suspected friendly-fire death of 18-year-old Pvt. Matthew Zeimer, just two hours after assuming his first combat post. He had been among those who had been shipped to war with a vastly stripped-down training regimen, 10 days instead of four weeks, forced by the relentless need for new troops in Iraq.

Meanwhile the Iraqi “democracy” that Mr. Zeimer died for was given yet another free pass. Mr. Bush applauded the Iraqi government for “working on an oil law,” though it languishes in Parliament, and for having named a commander for its Baghdad troops. Much of this was a replay of Mr. Bush’s sunny Rose Garden news conference in June, only then he claimed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was taking charge of Baghdad security on his own. Now it’s not even clear whom the newly named Iraqi commander is commanding. The number of military operations with Iraqis in the lead is falling, not rising, according to the Pentagon. Even as the administration claims that Iraqis are leading the Baghdad crackdown, American military losses were double those of the Iraqi Army in March.

Mr. Bush or anyone else who sees progress in the surge is correct only in the most literal and temporary sense. Yes, an influx of American troops is depressing some Baghdad violence. But any falloff in the capital is being offset by increased violence in the rest of the country; the civilian death toll rose 15 percent from February to March. Mosul, which was supposedly secured in 2003 by the current American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is now a safe haven for terrorists, according to an Iraqi government spokesman. The once-pacified Tal Afar, which Mr. Bush declared “a free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq” in 2006, is a cauldron of bloodshed.

If Baghdad isn’t going to repeat Tal Afar’s history, we will have to send many more American troops than promised and keep them there until Mr. Maliki presides over a stable coalition government providing its own security. Hell is more likely to freeze over first. Yet if American troops don’t start to leave far sooner than that — by the beginning of next year, according to the retired general and sometime White House consultant Barry McCaffrey — the American Army will start to unravel. The National Guard, whose own new involuntary deployments to Iraq were uncovered last week by NBC News, can’t ride to the rescue indefinitely.

The center will not hold, no matter what happens in the Washington standoff over war funding. Surely no one understands better than Mr. McCain that American lives are being wasted in the war’s escalation. That is what he said on David Letterman’s show in an unguarded moment some five weeks ago — though he recanted the word wasted after taking flak the morning after.

Like his Letterman gaffe, Mr. McCain’s ludicrous market stunt was at least in the tradition of his old brand of straight talk, in that it revealed the truth, however unintentionally. But many more have watched the constantly recycled and ridiculed spectacle of his “safe” walk in Baghdad than heard him on a late-night talk show. This incident has the staying power of the Howard Dean scream. Should it speed America’s disengagement from Iraq, what looks today like John McCain’s farcical act of political suicide may some day loom large as a patriot’s final act of sacrifice for his country.

Report from Iraq

A year ago, Donald Vance learned what its like to be falsely accused by the U.S. military of aiding terrorists. He was held without charge for more than three months in a high-security prison in Iraq, and interrogated daily after sleepless nights without legal counsel or even a phone call to his family.

On Wednesday, the former private security contractor was honored for his ordeal in Washington and for speaking out against the incident. At a luncheon at the National Press Club, Vance received the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, an award named in memory of Army helicopter gunner Ron Ridenhour who struggled to bring the horrific mass murders at My Lai to the attention of Congress and the Pentagon during the Vietnam War.

Vance was joined by former president Jimmy Carter, who won a lifetime achievement award, and journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post who was recognised for his recent book, "Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone".

As hundreds at the luncheon finished their lobster salad, Vance, a two-time George W. Bush voter and Navy veteran, recounted the events of his imprisonment and the grief of his fiancé and family. They did not know if he was alive or dead, he said. They were already making inquiries to the U.S. State Department on how to ship his body home.

He then drew a wider circle around his ordeal to include the countless others who have been held falsely without charge and denied normal legal constitutional protections under law. "My name used to be 200343," Vance said recalling his prisoner ID. "If they can do this to a former Navy man and an American, what is happening to people in facilities all over the world run by the American government?"

Vance's nightmare began last year on Apr. 15 when he and co-worker Nathan Ertel barricaded themselves in a Baghdad office after their employer, an Iraqi private security firm, took away their ID tags. They feared for their lives because they suspected the company was involved in selling unauthorised guns on the black market and other nefarious activity. A U.S. military squad freed them from the red zone in Baghdad after a friend at the U.S. embassy advised him to call for help.

Once they reached the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, government officials took them inside the embassy, listened to their individual accounts and then sent them to a trailer outside for sleep. Two or three hours later, before the crack of dawn, U.S. military personnel woke them. This time, however, Vance and Ertel, Shield Security's contract manager, were under arrest. Soldiers bound their wrists with zip ties and covered their eyes with goggles blacked out with duct tape.

The two were then escorted to a humvee and driven first to possibly Camp Prosperity and then to Camp Cropper, a high-security prison near the Baghdad airport where Saddam Hussein was once kept. Vance says he was denied the usual body armour and helmet while traveling through the perilous Baghdad streets outside the safety of the Green Zone or a U.S. military installation.

It was not the way the tall 29-year-old with an easy charm and keen mind had expected to be treated. Vance claims that during the months leading up to his arrest, he worked as an unpaid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sometimes twice a day, he would share information with an agent in Chicago about the Iraqi-owned Shield Group Security, whose principals and managers appeared to be involved in weapons deals and violence against Iraqi civilians. One company employee regularly bartered alcohol with U.S. military personnel in exchange for ammunition they delivered, Vance said.

"He called it the bullets for beer programme," Vance claimed while relating the incident during an interview this week at a cigar bar just walking distance from the White House.

But his interrogators at Camp Cropper weren't impressed. Instead, his jailers insisted that Vance and Ertel had been detained and imprisoned because the two worked for Shield Group Security where large caches of weapons have been found -- weapons that may have been intended for possible distribution to insurgents and terrorist groups, Vance said.

In a lawsuit now pending against former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and "other unidentified agents," Vance and Ertel accuse their U.S. government captors of subjecting them to psychological torture day and night. Lights were kept on in their cell around the clock. They endured solitary confinement. They had only thin plastic mattresses on concrete for sleeping. Meals were of powdered milk and bread or rice and chicken, but interrupted by selective deprivation of food and water. Ceaseless heavy metal and country music screamed in their ears for hours on end, their legal complaint alleges.

They lived through "conditions of confinement and interrogation tantamount to torture", says the lawsuit filed in northern Illinois U.S. District Court. "Their interrogators utilised the types of physically and mentally coercive tactics that are supposedly reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants."

Rumsfeld is singled out as the key defendant because he played a critical role in establishing a policy of "unlawful detention and torment" that Vance, Ertel and countless others in the "war on terror" have endured, the lawsuit asserts, noting that the former defence secretary and other high-level military commanders acting at his direction developed and authorised a policy that allows government officials unilateral discretion to designate possible enemies of the United States.

Because the incident and allegations are now in litigation, the Pentagon has no comment, spokesman Army Lieut. Col. Mark Ballesteros said. He referred all inquires to the U.S. Justice Department, which also had no comment for similar reasons.

But darker allegations are included in the complaint over false imprisonment. Because he worked with the FBI, Vance contends, U.S. government officials in Iraq decided to retaliate against him and Ertel. He believes these officials conspired to jail the two not because they worked for a security company suspected of selling weapons to insurgents, but because they were sharing information with law enforcement agents outside the control of U.S. officials in Baghdad.

"In other words," claims the lawsuit, "United States officials in Iraq were concerned and wanted to find out about what intelligence agents in the United States knew about their territory and their operations. The unconstitutional policies that Rumsfeld and other unidentified agents had implemented for 'enemies' provided ample cover to detain plaintiffs and interrogate them toward that end."

It may take some time to sort out the allegations as the legal process grinds forward, but, in the meantime, Vance is raising new questions about his detention. He still wonders why his jailers didn't just call the FBI and have him cleared. They had access to his computer and cell phone to determine if his claims were true.

"When I told them to do that, they just got angry and told me to stop answering questions I wasn't being asked," Vance said. "I think they were butting heads with the State Department. I just snitched on the wrong people. I took the bull by the horns and got the horn."

And why weren't managers with the Shield Group held and interrogated?

Interrogators were certainly interested in these other individuals, according to the lawsuit. They wanted to know about the company's structure, its political contacts, and its owners -- most of whom are related to a long-established Iraqi family who fled Iraq during the years the country was ruled by Saddam Hussein, Vance said.

More startling even now is that the company has reformed. At the time they left, Shield Security held U.S.-funded contracts with the Iraqi government, Iraqi companies, NGOs and U.S. contractors. As far as Vance knows, the company still does -- but under a different name: National Shield Security.

"I built their web site," he said. "And they are still being awarded millions of dollars in contracts."
Link.

Another Triumphal Success for Our Leaders!!

Yet again, Our Leaders are so inept that they accomplish more for our enemies than they do for our nation. First, we replace Sunni-controlled Iraq with a Shiite-dominated state making Iran, a far greater threat than Saddam-led Iraq ever was, with a significant ally.

And now this! Our puppet meets with our enemies! (It's when Our Leaders' political enemies meet with our enemies that there's any problems....)

But thank God we're not led by weak wishy-washy Dems....

The Puppet Master in Action



Link.

Another Administration Appointee-Loser/Nutjob

Incompetent gets appointed U.S. Attorney, top staff quits.

And it gets better. Don't believe the "nutjob" part? Look at this:
Rachel K. Paulose’s swearing in on March 9 as the United States attorney in Minneapolis stirred debate in local legal circles because of the ceremonial trappings, including a performance by a municipal choir and a Marine Corps color guard, at the event attended by more than 300 people at the city’s University of St. Thomas law school.

Jean Pieri/St. Paul Pioneer, via Associated Press

Rachel K. Paulose has drawn criticism since her swearing-in ceremony last month as the United States attorney in Minneapolis.

But the complaints about Ms. Paulose’s investiture seem mild in comparison with the uproar ignited on Thursday, when three of her top deputies stepped down from their leadership positions. Several of their associates described the action as a protest over what the three deputies regarded as Ms. Paulose’s ideologically driven and dictatorial managerial style.

And more about this abomination is here and here. She even scared the administration that appointed here -- according to Faux Nooz!!!

Public Service Announcement

I blog (obviously), therefore I am, like, required to post this in its entirety because it proves that I am necessary.
The Liberal Media by Eric Alterman

The Politics of Pundit Prestige...

[from the April 23, 2007 issue]

Back in the pre-Internet days of yore, political punditry was the best job in journalism and one of the best anywhere. You could spout off on anything you wanted, and almost nobody would call you on it, much less find a place to publish and prove you wrong. And once you had established yourself as "credible," it required little work, save coming up with a few semi-memorable phrases. (George Will's chef-d'oeuvre was opining that the Reagan Administration "loved commerce more than it loathed Communism.") With the advent of television talk shows, riches arrived in the form of corporate speaking gigs that paid tens of thousands of dollars an hour just to say the same damn thing you said on television. When Fred Barnes famously pronounced on The McLaughlin Group, "I can speak to almost anything with a lot of authority," he was right, at least to the degree that he was really saying, "I can speak to almost anything without anyone pointing out how full of shit I usually am."

The advent of the Internet--particularly the blogosphere--has changed all that. Now, not only are the things pundits say and write preserved for posterity; there are legions of folks who track pundit pronouncements, fact-check their statements and compare them with previous utterances on the same and similar topics. They also demand a degree of transparency about methods of inquiry and the reasoning behind conclusions drawn. While proving pundits wrong--over and over and over--has not yet cost anyone a job, it has contributed to a precipitous decline in pundit prestige. The reaction to this decline varies from pundit to pundit, to be sure, but more often than not, it bespeaks a kind of panic.

America's most powerful and influential television journalist, NBC's Tim Russert, has taken a real blogosphere beating of late for his Libby trial admission that while, yes, he does consider himself to be a journalist, he does not think it proper to ask any news-related questions of top Bush Administration officials when they happen to phone him because, well, it's bad manners. (Libby was foolishly calling Russert to instruct him to shut up Chris Matthews.) His response? "Bloggers," said Russert in a recent speech, "all force candidates to accept a position, to play [an adversarial] role." This, unfortunately, in Russert's view, "puts pressure on those of us in the mainstream media [if we're not] sufficiently adversarial." Bad bloggers, bad.

Similarly, Tom Friedman's pleasant, well-remunerated life as America's most important foreign affairs columnist since Walter Lippmann would presumably be even pleasanter were he not consistently reminded of his proclivity to pronounce "the next six months in Iraq" to be the do-or-die period for the Bush Administration. (He did so four times during a single twelve-month period, as many in the blogosphere frequently note.) You can find the term "Friedman Unit"--also known as "one Friedman" or "one F.U."--in Wikipedia, credited to Atrios, as referring to "six months in the future." More broadly, "many political observers measure any date-specific statement by a public figure regarding the future of Iraq or the Iraq War in Friedman Units, thus suggesting that the speaker's predictions of a near-term resolution of the Iraq War amount to that speaker's de facto defense of the status quo."

How does the fabulously wealthy and influential Friedman defend his faulty analyses? He doesn't. Asked about them on CNN, Friedman complained that his critics--on the left and the right--just "want to be proven right."

The "left and right" dodge is particularly popular with pundits who wish to avoid responsibility for what they say and do. You can find Howard Kurtz, frequently criticized in the blogosphere for his glaring conflicts of interest--he reports on CNN for the Washington Post and on the Washington Post for CNN and to top it all off is married to a Republican political consultant and National Review contributor--taking the same tack. Though it may "disappoint people on both the left and the right," Kurtz responds, he is not "a super-opinionated ideologue who is going to tear down news organizations because they don't see the world as I do." Similarly, in a lengthy exchange in The Politico between the writers and editors of that publication and the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America over some of the former's inarguable (and admitted) journalistic lapses, ex-Washington Post political editor John Harris noted, "When something is so freighted with either left-wing or right-wing baggage, there is a tendency in most newsrooms to simply dismiss it as so much ranting." Harris appears to believe that this is a proper response. You see, MSM reporters have no "ideology"--which was why, presumably, they were able to report so many of George W. Bush's ideologically inspired lies about Iraq and other issues without thinking to question them.

Still, the folks at The Politico look admirably open-minded and eager to engage their critics compared with the likes of, say, Time's Joe Klein. My previous criticism of Klein's work--and only his work--resulted in a hysterical hate-filled interview he offered a blogger named Rory O'Connor. More recently on my Media Matters blog, Altercation, I reprinted without comment Klein's apparently airtight December 2000 prediction that "given the circumstances, there is only one possible governing strategy [for George W. Bush]: a quiet, patient, and persistent bipartisanship." I noted, in addition, how few of the large stable of columnists employed by Time had demonstrated the good sense to oppose George Bush's war. Klein responded with another series of schoolyard insults, terming yours truly "obsessed," "still- obsessed," "futile and pathetic," "still pathetic," "still after" him, "a suck-up," "intellectually dishonest," "not reliable" and full of "non-stop crap."

Perhaps I am. Still, the problem persists. To put it bluntly, most MSM pundits are lazy, ill informed and in thrall to the specious arguments of the powerful people they are supposed to critique. The punditocracy may not like the blogosphere's diagnosis, but there is really only one way to get it off its collective back: Work harder, do a better job. It's really that simple.
Link.

Even Republicans Hate Our Beloved Leader....QUESTION: Do you favor a withdrawal of all United States military from Iraq within the next six months?

I suppose this makes him a uniter after all (or is he still a uniter even though he appears to be a uniter?)....
QUESTION: Do you favor a withdrawal of all United States military from Iraq within the next six months?

ANSWER: Yes 52% No 39% Undecided 9%

No, those are not particularly shocking numbers.

We have known for a long time that Americans favor the rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

What is interesting about these numbers is who they come from.

The Strategic Vision polling group asked 600 likely Iowa caucus goers the question in a survey conducted March 30-April 1, 2007.

To be more precise, the survey queried 600 likely Republican caucus goers.
Link.

Speaking of the Brilliance of Our Beloved Leader....

The Easter strip:



Link
.

Incredible! The Straight Talker is Almost as Intelligent as Our Beloved Leader

Or: Hohoho! What a Kidder! Can't You Take a Joke?!
Senator John McCain has issued an apology of sorts for his remarks after visiting a Baghdad market last weekend, saying he misspoke when he declared that his ability to walk freely around the marketplace was a sign of a significant improvement in security in Iraq.

He led a Congressional delegation through the Shorja market under tight security, with 100 heavily armed American troops guarding the group and attack helicopters and snipers watching over them. Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, and another member of the delegation, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, said the conditions showed that the decision to deploy more than 20,000 additional American forces to Iraq was having the intended effect.

Baghdad residents expressed astonishment at Mr. McCain’s rosy remarks, saying that he visited the marketplace, the scene of numerous deadly bombings, under unrealistic conditions. Democrats and antiwar bloggers ridiculed him for blindly supporting the administration’s so-called surge policy.

Mr. McCain, in an interview to be broadcast on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, acknowledged that his critics were right. “Of course I am going to misspeak and I’ve done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future. I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but you know, that’s just life.”

Link. (Link to photo.)

Josh notes the follow-up; retaliation for being an American schmuck's photo-op:
Earlier today I posted this clip from the Times of London that reported that "21 Shia market workers [from the market John McCain visited the day before] were ambushed, bound and shot dead."

Now, we know that people get killed in Iraq every day. And there are inter-sectarian murders for various retaliatory, symbolic or terroristic reasons. But 21 workers from this same market attacked, bound and shot in what sound like execution style killings? Right after McCain was there the day before in a walkaround to demonstrate the success of the surge?

This hadn't occurred to me until I saw this email from TPM Reader KT who wrote. "Do we know whether the ambushed market workers were the ones who had done business with McCain's group, and therefore with the US military? I really hope not."

I don't know if claims of collaboration would have to be the issue. It could be as simple as sending a counter-message.

Before going any further, let me say clearly that I don't know anything about this particular market. How big it is. Whether things like this happen there routinely or whether this incident stands out in a particular way. More local knowledge could quickly show these two events are totally unrelated. But if the Times report is accurate, I think this bears more scrutiny.




Link.