As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Hugh Half-wit

I went to the LA Times Festival of Books today. I go every year, mainly for the books, but also because they always have a dizzying array of speakers and panel discussions. In just two sessions, I was treated to Maureen Dowd, Eric Alterman, John Dean, Ken Auletta, Geoffrey Stone, and Arianna Huffington.

I also got to listen to Hugh Hewitt, in a panel about media (which included Auletta, Stone and Huffington). You'll remember him (but you'll regret it) as the writer of "Blog," which is subtitled "Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World," but which should have an asterisk stating "Note: I will only focus on the right-leaning side of the blogosphere." Hewitt was definitely not in his element today, at a book festival populated mainly by Westside lefties.

I think most of the people there didn't even know who he was. Because he started out with some generally bland comments about how the Internet is changing everything, and the crowd generally agreed. When he let loose with "George Bush won a significant victory in November" and "the LA Times is nothing but a left-wing scandal sheet" and "Fox News serves the center-right coalition in this country," the crowd jumped all over him.

Of course, you expect that kind of talk from a hard-right conservative radio host and blogger. This next statement was what struck me the most.

Hewitt was trying to be evenhanded, playing the wishy-washy game of "I even have liberals on my talk show" and throwing out random bits of praise to progressives. He said, in response to a question about the blogosphere, "The number one site on the Internet for political blogs is called the Daily Kos. It's very sticky, there's a lot of content, and a lot of good writers." He then went on to praise Instapundit and Powerline in the same breath. But here's the thing: he mispronounced Kos. He pronounced it "Cause" instead of the correct "Kowse".

Now, this may be a little thing if it were a member of the Corporate Media making this mistake. But when you have the author of "Blog," the self-professed go-to guy in the media for all things blog, mispronounce the name of the biggest site in the genre, I think that's telling. Telling in the sense that it's part of a pattern. Hewitt continually discounts the left blogosphere in his book. While he doesn't chart the course of any one blog, most of his examples of stories driven by the blogosphere are driven by the Right.

Now he can't even be bothered to get the right pronunciation of "Kos," when he's supposed to be the pre-eminent source on blogs in America. How embarrassing. Talk about a guy who doesn't care to check his sources. He went out there talking about blogs and sounded like Judy Woodruff stammering her way through an Inside Politics segment about which she knows nothing.

Tell me, am I making too much out of this? I really don't think so.

p.s. As a side note, Huffington gave some details about her blog, which is set to launch soon. It will run the gamut ideologically, featuring commentary not only from the left but from people like Michael Medved (!). There will be 250 different writers on the site, one as young as 11.

Sounds interesting, if nothing else.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Lying to Congress

In the Clinton years, remember, it wasn't the sex, it was the lying. The House wasn't undergoing a witch hunt, they were protecting the rule of law. So I'm sure those same defenders of the truth will come out en masse to denounce John Bolton, who apparently lied to congress:

WASHINGTON — A former U.S. ambassador to South Korea said Thursday that John R. Bolton, President Bush's choice for U.N. ambassador, might have misled the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about a provocative and controversial 2003 speech on North Korea.

The former ambassador, Thomas Hubbard, also described Bolton yelling and slamming down a telephone on him during a confrontation. It was the latest example of the allegedly confrontational behavior that had helped stall Bolton's nomination.

This is what Bolton said to the committee:

In testimony last week, Bolton implied that Hubbard, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, had approved of the speech in advance and that he had thanked Bolton for his comments afterward.

"And I can tell you what our ambassador to South Korea, Tom Hubbard, said after the speech," Bolton said under questioning by Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.). "He said: 'Thanks a lot for that speech, John; it will help us a lot out here.' "

This is what Hubbard said to the committee:

Hubbard disputed Bolton's testimony.

But Hubbard, a career diplomat who was Bush's ambassador to South Korea from 2001 to 2004, contradicted Bolton, saying in an interview that he had not expressed gratitude for the speech and that he had disapproved of it.

"I didn't approve personally of the tone of the speech, and had urged him to tone it down," said Hubbard, now retired from the foreign service.

Before the speech, Hubbard said, he had urged Bolton and his staff "to tone it down, on grounds that it would be counterproductive to getting the North Koreans to the negotiating table."

But Bolton "rejected that suggestion," Hubbard said.

He said that Bolton did agree to accept some recommendations on factual errors, and on some phrases that Hubbard "thought would be taken badly or misunderstood by the South Koreans." When he offered thanks, it was for those changes, Hubbard said.

"It's a gross exaggeration to elevate that to praise for the entire speech and approval of it," Hubbard added.

You can almost throw out the charges of mistreating subordinates, of belligerent language, of an inartful tone. The guy lied to Congress. End of story. You don't get promoted for lying to Congress. Unless you're President. Or Vice President. Or Secretary of State. Or Attorney General.

My head hurts now.

p.s. Bolton was also apparently running a secret intelligence operation out of the State Department, intercepting NSA documents and using them to get back at people.



George W. Bush (R-IL)

Oliver Willis shows us what our President and Al Capone have in common; the appearance of tax evasion AND the Illinois address:

They've got a house in rural Texas and a nice home-office setup on Pennsylvania Avenue. But for tax purposes, President Bush and his wife, Laura, claim a Chicago post office box as their "home address."
On the 1040 they signed, which the White House released last week, the listed home address is "Northern Trust Co., P.O. Box 803968, Chicago, IL 60680."

It's probably the address of his blind trust. That doesn't make it his home address. It's another case of an Administration claim that's not technically illegal, but not technically truth either.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Kerry: "Voinovich had the courage to think."

This is a great speech by Sen. Kerry on the Senate floor.  He is just lambasting the Republicans right now.  Saying that "Senators used to show courage and independence all the time.  They used to never think twice about partisanship.  Open your eyes and look what's happening in Congress today."

He's covered DeLay, Bush v. Gore, Frist's "Justice Sunday," the Bolton nomination, the nuclear option.

This guy is making me proud to have voted for him November 2.  I don't care about what you thought of him as a campaigner.  He gets it as a person.
Diaries :: dday's diary :: :: Trackback ::

...directly to Frist now, about the "filibuster of faith": "Mr. President, I resent that." (he means the President of the Senate)

I'll continue to update.

Update: He's reading off what might as well be a playbook for reform Democrats, and it's refreshing. This is a speech that encapsulates the statements in the recommended diary.

Now there's a riff on "the new view." "If you can't win a debate on the merits, demonize." "If you can't win playing by the rules, change the rules." He's going after the specific judges now. "The fact that we even have to debate the nuclear option on these judges means that this is all about power, all about victory... I think it's time to put Americans back in control of their own lives."

Awesome. And before you say "Where was this guy in November," he might have had to go through that to get here.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

House Republicans Beg for Mercy

They're trying to shuck and jive their way out of this DeLay mess. Please, we'll investigate, they say. Not a chance. Their so-called "deal" is no different from the "deal" they sought several weeks ago:

Senior committee Democrat Alan Mollohan of West Virginia quickly rejected the offer, saying his party would continue blocking the panel from operating unless investigative rules imposed by Republicans were changed.

This is the second time in two weeks that Republicans tried to break the deadlock, while Democrats have held their ground and criticized the GOP-written rules for investigating lawmakers, passed in January without Democratic support. Democrats have accused the majority party of writing the rules to protect DeLay.

“The first principle in doing it right is that it be bipartisan,” said Mollohan. “That’s a beginning point for me.”

It's better politics for the Democrats not to buckle and allow a corrupt ethics investigation that will eventually go nowehere. It's better to have DeLay continue to twist in the wind. But it's also better for American government to insist upon a bipartisan, no-strings-attached internal affairs apparatus that is allowed to investigate and castigate members of Congress. That's what Republicans would want if the show was on the other foot. Nothing short of that will suffice.


BREAKING: Supreme Court justice uses Internet!!!!

Hold the phone! Hold your Sony VAIO! It's apparently wrong now for a judge to surf the 'Net:

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," DeLay told Fox News Radio. "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous."

It's stunning, I know, but true. Apparently this America-hating justice "hooks up" his Communist "computer" to an enemy-of-freedom "available phone line," then using a liberal elite "browser" to go onto one of them latte-loving Volvo-driving "Web sites."

I know, we have to put a stop to these activist judges with their readin' and their book-learnin'.


The DANGEROUS Left and the murderous, not-so-dangerous right

So the Homeland Security Department, and sit down for this one, is concerning themselves with possible terror threats from left-wing radical groups like the Earth Liberation Front, but NOT from white supremacists, right-wing militia groups, or anti-abortion activists.

This despite the fact that yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terror attack (the largest on US soil prior to 9/11) carried out by a right-wing hate group allied with the Michigan Militia.

The Earth Libertion Front, to date, has set Hummers on fire. Tim McVeigh set people on fire. So did Eric Rudolph, an anti-abortion activist who proudly pleaded guilty to bombing abortion clinics and other sites, killing 2 and wounding 120. Under this Homeland Security department, he would not be singled out for scrutiny in favor of groups that set animals free from pet stores.

(By the way, Rudolph's rambling, unapologetic manifesto of a confession letter justified his behavior by claiming that "abortion is murder." Hey, know what else is murder? Murder! Rudolph apparently is road-testing the brand new "not guilty by reason of they're killing people too" defense.)

The DHS defended their policy with this mealy-mouthed statement:

Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the internal document — which was not meant for public distribution — identifies only general categories of threats and vulnerabilities, and is not meant to be a comprehensive list.

The defense amounting to the fact that "you weren't supposed to see that."

Homeland security is the last thing in this country that should be politicized. Nonetheless, it has been. The intimidation and selective priorities of this administration is shocking.


One Year

This blog was created on April 20, 2004. It's been a lot of fun to do over the past year. I got into this because I wanted to type hundreds of thousands of words and have virtually nobody read them.

I've proudly accomplished my goal.

Thanks to my phalanx of readers, and occasional contributor Cosmo. I'm not going anywhere, so keep coming back.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Thank Voinovich

Here's a web form you can use to thank Sen. George Voinovich from Ohio for having the courage to speak out against the nomination of John Bolton today in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. He needs to hear from constituents, obviously, but even those out of state have a cause to let him know we support his efforts today. Here's my letter:


I am not a member of your party, and I must admit I disagree with you on a variety of issues. But I want to thank you for your courage in today's Foreign Relations Committee hearings. You are that rare bird (lately) in American politics: an honorable politician. I take you at your word when you expressed serious reservations over the nomination of John Bolton to be UN Ambassador, that you were swayed by new allegations that cast his career in an unfavorable light.

I urge you to continue to be a voice of reason and consideration on the Foreign Relations Committee. Thank you for your efforts.

David Dayen


Someone on high WANTS Bolton through

This is high theater at the Bolton nomination hearings. The ranking member Sen. Biden tried to take the Foreign Relations Committee into closed session to discuss new allegations, and Chairman Sen. Lugar closed debate, citing an 18 year-old incident to do so. This is important because in closed session, you can protect the names of people who decided to speak up against the nominee. Sen. George Allen basically said, in not so many words, "Fuck you. We have the votes. There's nothing you can do about it." During the closed session vote, you could hear Democrats saying "This place is lost," "This is shocking," and the like.

The Democrats on the committee are screaming and making mincemeat of the Chairman's lame rationalizations, but the overriding sense one gets is that it doesn't matter. Bolton's going to be confirmed today, and the Republicans will stop at nothing to make sure that happens. Even breaking with tradition, breaking with established committee rules.

My favorite quote was from Sen. Dodd: "The UN ambassador is not that important a job. But what Mr. Bolton did is."

It shouldn't be rewarded. But it's about to be.

There was an eerie look on the faces of the Republicans in this hearing. Only Lugar and Allen are talking. The rest of them are stone-faced. It's like they've been told: "Get this guy through, whatever it takes. Get it done as soon as possible."

Sarbanes is browbeating Lugar right now. Lugar is under the gun. It's very clear. He wanted to cut off debate right there.

Now Biden is shouting. Lugar looks like a 90 year-old in a hospice. Just doddering away, waiting out the storm. Biden is bringing up the Melody Townsel letter I posted earlier. "You wouldn't hire this guy as a member of your staff!"

I'll continue liveblogging as this goes on.

...Wow, what a hail mary out of left field!!!!!

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) wasn't even at the Bolton hearings, but based on what he's heard today, he doesn't feel comfortable voting him out of committee.

This is an unbelievable turn of events.  Biden, Dodd, Kerry, Boxer and Sarbanes deserve nothing so much as our respect for turning Sen. Voinovich around.

This was after Hagel's wishy-washy "all things to all people" notion that he will vote him out of committee, but won't necessarily vote for him on the floor of the Senate. And "these are serious charges" and all that.

Amazing. This is riveting political junkie TV.


Pope Benedict XVI

Hardliner, antigay, alleged former Hiltler Youth named Pope.

The hits just keep on coming, don't they?

...update: the Hitler Youth thing is not alleged, apparently. But if you were a German at that age in the 1940s, you were either a Hitler Youth or you were dead.

I'm more concerned about the divisiveness, against women, gays, and any kind of moral issue commensurate with the 20th century. This is a generational thing, I gather, and at 78, Benedict XVI belongs to the old school. But a few more of these Popes and the Vatican II reforms will be tossed completely out the window.

I'm Jewish, by the way, and only nominally so, but the Pope has a tremendous influence on world opinion and therefore is an important concern for everyone.


We Have an Agenda

I'm tired of this garbage being thrown out by Republicans as a catch-all parry against charges about DeLay, Bolton, Social Security privatization, or whatever else paints them in a negative light. You've heard it, I'm sure. "Democrats don't have an agenda, they don't have any ideas, so they're just blah blah blah blah."

This has cropped up too many times to be coincidental. It's obviously a strategy to paint Democrats as out of ideas, as the party of No!, as therefore valueless. This is obviously picking up on John Kerry's perceived wavering during the election campaign, which was more often than not manufactured by RNC press releases, though Kerry could have been more articulate in many cases. But we need to absolutely push back against this growing meme. Fortunately, it has the aspect of being untrue.

Democrats are out of power. They has no ability to present a legislative agenda on the floor of the Congress in anything but a piecemeal fashion. One of the reasons DeLay is in the trouble he's in now is because of the strongarming of the GOP agenda through the Congress, and the stifling of any contrary views. That's fine; as Majority Leader it's his job to make sure his side's bills get passed (I'm saying it's his ends-justify-the-means techniques that have left him open to ethics criticisms). But it turns this Republican griping about how "Democrats have no agenda" into nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortuantely, casual observers of politics (or worse, Fox News observers of politics) will not see this version of events.

Despite the incredible difficulty of getting bills out of committee, Democrats have been able to get parts of an agenda to the Congress. These include:

-Elements of the GI Bill of Rights (regarding housing for military families and health benefits)
-Playing hardball with China by threatening high tariffs if they don't revalue their currency (Sen. Schumer's bill)
-The Put Kids First Act (Sen. Kerry's bill for universal health coverage for uninsured children)
-Election reform (Sen. Clinton's variety of reform for fair elections)

These are distinct parts of an overriding agenda for fairness, equality, and opportunity. Democrats do need to do a better job of highlighting these accomplishments, and pushing forth their ideas. It's difficult in an environment where the Republicans are given the freedom, by virtue of their position and the slavishness of the corporate media, to set the terms of the debate. But the next time you get in an argument with somebody and you hear the old saw "Democrats have no ideas" you might want to rattle off a few of these listed here.

You might also want to mention that Republicans have no GOOD ideas (at least not for working people).


Monday, April 18, 2005


Last year, you'll remember, the State Department was embarrassed when a report on terrorist activity throughout the world had to be changed. You see, they were touting that terrorism had decreased to all-time lows, when in fact they were at their highest level since record-keeping began. The problem must have been that the State Department report only looked at part of the year in determining its figures.

This was deeply embarrassing for the Administration. The incoming Rice State Department had to figure out a way to get this right.

Rice did (at least for the Bush Administration's purposes). She simply won't put out the report:

WASHINGTON - The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Several U.S. officials defended the abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.

But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who was among the leading critics of last year's mix-up, reacted angrily to the decision.

"This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world. It should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold it - or any of the key data - from the public. The Bush administration should stop playing politics with this critical report."

The Bush Administration innocently says that the National Counterterrorism Center is where information like this should be generated. It remains to be seen whether they'll actually put out a report similar in substance to "Patterns of Global Terrorism."

But more importantly, this fits into a pattern where the Bushies simply scrub information that they don't like. As David Sirota notes, the President has acted in exactly the same way when it came to statistics on mass layoffs, state budget outlays, discrimnation against women, and health information on government websites. If the information was damaging to the Administration, it was deep-sixed.

This is the most secretive government in US history, worse than Nixon, and attempts to conceal the truth are deeply disturbing for those of us who would rather our government acted out in the open. They don't want you to know that terrorist attacks have INCREASED, not decreased, since the "war or terror" has begun. They don't want you to know the content of secret energy meetings between the Vice President's office and oil & gas interests. They don't want you to know, really, anything. That doesn't work here in America. At least it shouldn't.


Chimney Watch

Just when I thought CNN couldn't get any worse: there's a shot of the chimney out of which smoke will signal whether or not a new Pope has been chosen (black for no Pope, white for new Pope). Not a taped shot of the chimney blowing smoke, but a static, continuous, ALWAYS ON THE SCREEN live shot of the chimney.

This is what the news has come to: chimney watch. Andy Warhol must have been prescient when he filmed an 8-hour static shot of the Empire State Building and made it into a movie.

...I just watched Kyra Dunderhead and Delia Bigger Dunderhead actually arguing about whether or not the smoke was black or white. "We don't have the color confirmed," they said, as the black smoke was flying out of the chimney.

Jesus wept.


Republican Jesus

hat tip to Jesus' General.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Connecting the Dots

Once Bill Frist came out and decided to participate in "Justice Sunday," a telecast to be beamed nationwide into churches next week to paint the Democratic filibuster of far-right judicial nominees as anti-faith, it was like a light bulb going off in my head. Everything became clear. The throughline from Schiavo to the Supreme Court was complete.

GOP leaders likely knew that no matter what they did, Terri Schiavo wasn't going to have that feeding tube reinserted. They were gambling that the country would rally around their moral grandstanding, and they could with full backing paint the judiciary as out of control, which would be a nice segue into getting "their kinds of judges" confirmed onto the bench. Now, never mind that such a narrative actually defies logic; conservatives are screaming about unaccountable judges, and want to do away with the filibuster, which does nothing but make judges LESS accountable to the Senate.

By casting the so-called "nuclear option" as a matter of faith, GOP leaders are saying to their base that the martyrdom of Terri will be remembered by making sure that other lives are saved. In other words it's all about outlawing abortion. The idea was to whip up public support for a culture of life by getting everybody all shocked at a very public death; then, the people would support changing the Senate rules, paving the way for filibuster-proof nominees to the Supreme Court this summer, hopefully enough to change the ideological balance of the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. If the conservatives accomplished that their Christian right base would be forever grateful, they figured, and would continue down the road to a permanent majority.

But something happened on the way to the station. People were repulsed. Repulsed by the shameless grandstanding. Repulsed by Tom DeLay's using a brain damaged woman to get the heat off his own back. Repulsed by the trashing of the Constitution to affect one woman. Repulsed by the subsequent calls for judicial intimidation (or in some cases, outright violence).

But the die had already been cast. The GOP is following the script as if the entire country supported their efforts in the Schiavo case. They feel like the time is now because of the many Supreme Court appointments just around the corner, because their President with each passing day becomes ever closer to being a lame duck, because quite frankly that's what the script called for. People who thought the Schiavo case was one of overreach are probably thinking the same thing now. So the opportunity is there for the Democrats to slam on the brakes, to say "We'll defend the Constitution to the bitter end," to carry through on Sen. Reid's threats to shut down the business of the Senate if the nuclear option is triggered.

The biggest advocacy group ended up putting out a cartoon called Phil A. Buster. Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight.

This is serious business. The GOP was thinking three steps ahead when they intervened in the Schiavo case, but they miscalculated on public opinion, and faced with no recourse, they're now bulling forward with the same plan. This is the time to take a stand. Not with cartoons, but with good old-fashioned rhetoric. The end of the republic. The death of free speech. Biblical, end-of-time kind of stuff. This has to be conveyed to those moderate Republicans who still make up enough of the Senate to block this thing. If Frist goes nuclear and the trigger's a dud, he's done. Done as a leader in his party, done as a Presidential candidate, done. Kaput. And the best thing will be, he did it to himself.

Winning this fight is better than shutting down the Senate, so that both parties can lob insults at the other and ordinary Americans just get alienated. I want Reid to carry out on his threat if he has to, but the better option is to nip this right in the bud. All it takes are a few simple words: "Someday, you'll be in the minority."

This is a critical moment in the life of the Democratic Party, I feel, one that could make the difference between daring to lead or doomed to follow. The next few weeks will tell the tale. As badly as the Republicans botched their game plan, they should in no way be allowed to win anyway.