Thursday, June 30, 2005

MEMO TO SELF Remember not to talk on background with any reporters from Time magazine. Or any of these outlets.

UPDATE: There are a number of reasonable arguments Time Inc. could have put forward in defense of its decision to hand over documents revealing confidential sources.

It could have argued that anonymous sources who use anonymity as a cloak to engage in politically-motivated, legally dubious disclosures forfeit the right to have their names withheld.

Or it could have asserted that while such sources maintain the right to anonymity, a journalist's commitment to a source who has compromised himself through his behavior isn't strong enough justify breaking the law.

But instead, Time Inc. decided to hide behind the Constitution:

The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.

I've grown pretty cynical over the last few years, but I'd still like to think Time is being a bit disingenuous here: Surely there exists some situations (Watergate-type scandals, Constitutional crises) in which Time would disobey a valid court order that the Supreme Court let stand. It's just that the company doesn't think this situation rises to that standard.

And that's fine, if a bit dispiriting.

But what's obnoxious is when Time turns around and says this:

We believe that the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society.
Let's be clear: The Supreme Court's decision isn't welcome to anyone who works in journalism. But it's Time's behavior here--breaking its commitment to anonymous sources--that causes the chilling effect.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

HOW ABOUT THAT Remember Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent and 9/11 whistleblower? She's running for Congress. As a Democrat.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

WITH US, AGAINST US Billmon has written a great post documenting the slow evolution of the Bush administration's rhetorical stance toward Iraqi insurgents. The new party line, if you haven't heard, is that negotiating with these people is no big deal:
It's definitely going to be an Orwellian challenge. Even if Rummy and the gang drop the "terrorist" and "assassin" lingo and go back to "former regime elements," or "Baathist diehards," they still will have to explain the morality of negotiating with butchers who gas their own people and then bury them in mass graves (that is, when they aren't relaxing in their rape rooms.) Such is the problem with wartime atrocity propaganda: In a rapidly shifting situation, it may have too long a shelf life.

TAKE THAT, NETFLIX Looks like Blockbuster is stepping up. From the Boston Globe:
Blockbuster's Evangelist said the company is moving to improve its delivery times and increase its stock of movies. It has asked the US Postal Service to scan Blockbuster return envelopes and send the firm an electronic notification so customers don't have to wait until the envelopes are actually delivered before having the next movie on their to-see list sent out.
Very interesting.

Friday, June 24, 2005

IN CONTEXT Billmon looks at Rove's comments and arrives at some important conclusions:
In retrospect, I think Rove's comments will be seen as both the GOP's opening shot in the 2006 congressional elections and the swan song for Bush's ill-fated Social Security "reform" campaign...

It's hard to see how Rove and the gang can expect to sit down and negotiate seriously with the Democrats over Social Security after launching what looks to be a sustained PR campaign denouncing them as traitors and/or terrorist dupes. My guess is that the decision to launch Operation Scapegoat was based, at least in part, on a hardheaded calculation by Rove (although maybe not the meathead he works for) that Social Security reform is effectively dead, leaving only the question of how to position the GOP for the inevitable fallout.

The Rovian strategy, it appears, is to try to label the Democrats as "obstructionists." It's pretty a weak line, given the complete lack of a popular groundswell of support for trashing the existing Social Security system, but it at least keeps the GOP on the offensive, which is where Rove always wants to be.

The Dems-as-traitors meme is simply an attempt to extend the same strategy to the disaster in Iraq. Obviously, the Rovians would like to focus the debate on "liberal" attempts to expose or question the administration's policies--such as the use of "practices tantamount to torture"--rather than on the abject failure of those policies...

It appears the next 16 months in American politics are going to be particularly ugly -- even by Rovian standards.

EVEN MORE ROVE NYU's Siva Vaidhyanathan says it best:
I think Karl Rove should spend more time in New York. He should talk to my neighbors, check out how these liberals reacted to 3,000 of their friends dying at the hands of Osama Bin Laden.

He should see how New Yorkers still treat fire fighters and police officers with solemn respect unmatched in this city's history. He should listen to the passion New Yorkers muster when they talk about how we might rebuild downtown Manhattan.

If he hung out here a while longer, I would challenge Rove to find one advocate of "therapy and understanding" among my neighbors. I bet he would find a whole lot of families with sons and daughters serving in our military overseas, something that was apparently beneath him and his boss (not to mention his boss's unemployed daughters).

And I would hope Rove would have the courage to stand there as my neighbors take him to task for letting Bin Laden escape unscathed. Rove should have to explain to the families that lost loved ones that the killer gets to go free so we can launch into an illegal folly that had nothing to do with the attack we suffered.

Karl Rove should hang out long enough to ask my neighbors how they reacted to the attacks of 9/11/2001. He would find that our blood flowed red. Our hearts sunk, yet stayed open and loving. Our eyes teared. We pulled together and pulled twisted metal off our neighbors. We prayed and raged and stood strong in our most troubling hour.

All we asked for was our country's support. All we got was a president who lied about everything, including the dangers we all shared from breathing in the charred dust and smoke of the smoldering wreckage of Ground Zero. He promised us justice. Instead we got shame.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

MORE ROVE Drop what you're doing and listen to this. (Explained here.)

DESPERATE TIMES, MEASURES With the President's approval numbers drifting down into the low-40s in some recent polls, the White House has decided to switch gears.

Remember the 2004 campaign? Bush's message was essentially:

War on terror. Iraq. War on terror. Iraq. War on Terror. War on terror. Iraq. War on Terror. Social Security Reform. War on Terror.
But right after the election, the message changed abruptly to:
Social Security Reform. Social Security Reform. Social Security Reform. Social Security Reform. Iraq. Social Security Reform. Social Security Reform.
And that's been the message ever since. At least until this week. We pick up the action in the middle of today's White House briefing:
Q [Karl Rove] said the Democrats wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. That's not injecting politics into the tragedy of September 11th?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's talking about the different philosophies for winning the war on terrorism. The President recognizes that the way to win the war on terrorism is to take the fight to the enemy, to stay on the offensive, and to work to spread freedom and democracy to defend the ideology of hatred that they espouse, and the ideology of tyranny and oppression.

Q So will the President ask Karl Rove to apologize?

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course not, Jessica. This is simply talking about different philosophies and different approaches. And I think you have to look at it in that context. If people want to try to engage in personal attacks instead of defending their philosophy, that's their business. But it's important to point out the different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. And that's all he was doing.

Q So you're suggesting that Rove's approach to discussing the philosophy that Democrats -- is to say that they want to prepare indictments and seek counseling. That's their philosophy, is that what you were saying?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the comments were saying -- the conservative approach and the liberal approach is what he was talking about.

Q He was saying that that's the comparison in their philosophies?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was speaking to a political organization. There are many who have looked at the war on terrorism and said it is a law enforcement matter, that we should prosecute people. The President recognizes that it is a war and that we must stay on the offensive, we must take the fight to the enemy. The best way to defeat the enemy is to fight them abroad and bring them to justice before they can carry out their attacks here at home.

Q And the therapy? What about the therapy?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's what he's -- and I think that's what he's talking about.
A reminder: the Democratic National Committee is still open for business. And it's still accepting donations.

UPDATE: John Aravosis has more.

COBURN WATCH From the Muskogee Phoenix:
Federally financed health clinics would have to notify parents whose children try to obtain contraceptives at the clinics, under a bill introduced in Congress on Tuesday.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and in the House by Republican Todd Akin of Missouri.

Under the bill, clinics would have to tell parents five business days before contraceptives are dispensed to minors at any of 4,400 federal Title 10 clinics across the nation.

The clinics provide medical and reproductive services to five million poor and uninsured women. Congress spent $286 million in fiscal 2005 on Title 10 clinics.

"I have seen first-hand the painful consequences associated with our federal policy that allows children to make potentially life-changing reproduction decisions without their parent's knowledge, " said Coburn, an obstetrician. "This government-sanctioned veil of secrecy is contributing to a growing sexually transmitted disease epidemic and encourages unintended teen pregnancies and abortions. Few government policies are more irrational or hostile to the vital relationship between a parent and child."

In the Senate, the bill has nine other sponsors, including Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

BÉRUBÉ ON DURBIN Michael Bérubé has some thoughts about this past week's show trial of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). He's especially sharp in his discussion of John McCain:
-- Nobody made John McCain the Arbiter of Justice while we weren’t looking. McCain has been pulling this stunt for some time now, ever since he set the rules for the 2004 presidential campaign. You remember that one: McCain decided that the Swift Boat Vets should not lie about Kerry’s service in Vietnam, and, in the interest of fairness and balance, that MoveOn.org should not tell the truth about Bush’s service (and mysterious disappearances) in Alabama. The Swift Boat Vets won that one, and the “referee” helped immeasurably.
I count myself as someone who was genuinely intrigued by the McCain phenomenon in 2000, and who viewed him as one of the good guys long after he dropped out of that race.

But something happened to McCain in 2004. And it happened soon after an irreverent, Bush-bashing appearance on The Daily Show early in the year. (No longer archived online, unfortunately.)

Almost immediately after that appearance, his tone changed. He joined the campaign trail and, ultimately, spoke at the Republican convention. The rest is history.

Monday, June 20, 2005

POFFO ONLINE Lanny Poffo, whose poetry collection WRESTLING WITH RHYME is reviewed here has unveiled a shiny new website. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

APOCALYPSE WATCH I've learned to expect the worst from Rush Limbaugh. But every now and then he still finds ways to surprise me.

And he's not the only one who thinks torture is funny.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

[Michael Jackson jury foreman] Rodriguez explained that the jury did not have enough evidence to convict Jackson beyond a reasonable doubt in the case before them.

Grace later pressed Rodriguez for his personal view on what Jackson did with boys in his bed. Rodriguez said he only wanted to talk about the evidence set before the jury.

"I was very stunned to hear a juror refuse to state what he thought Jackson does in bed with all of his line of little boys, say he didn't want to stick his neck out by telling what he believed," she said. "I mean, isn't that the point of the justice system, to do what you believe in, what you think is right, for Pete's sake?"

NETFLIX CROSSES OVER Everyone's favorite dvd rental site is now selling previously viewed movies. A couple dozen titles are currently posted for $9.99--including shipping.

Variety has more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

WHERE'S THIS GUY BEEN? Earlier today on the House floor, in a speech that called for US withdrawal from Iraq, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) seemed to be speaking his mind: He went off on a few nutty tangents. He got bogged down in a discussion of a "worldwide commodity standard of money."

But he also slammed the Bushies--and hard. In fact, the speech contained some of the harshest langauge we've heard from a sitting congressional Republican in the last couple years. Some excerpts:

There’s essentially no one, not even among the neo-con crowd, claiming that the Iraqi war is defensive in nature for America. Early on there was an attempt to do so, and it was successful to a large degree in convincing the American people that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was connected to al Qaeda. Now the justification for the war is completely different and far less impressive. If the current justification had been used to rally the American people and Congress from the beginning, the war would have been rejected...

So far the American people have not yet felt the true burden of the costs of this war. Even with 1,700 deaths and 13,000 wounded, only a small percentage of Americans have suffered directly--but their pain and suffering is growing and more noticeable every day. Taxes have not been raised to pay the bills for the current war, so annual deficits and national debt continue to grow. This helps delay the pain of paying the bills, but the consequences of this process are starting to be felt.

Direct tax increases, a more honest way to finance foreign interventionism, would serve to restrain those who so cavalierly take us to war. The borrowing authority of governments permit wars to be started and prolonged which otherwise would be resisted if the true cost were known to the people from the beginning.

Americans have an especially unique ability to finance our war efforts while minimizing the immediate effect. As the issuer of the world’s reserve currency, we are able to finance our extravagance through inflating our dollars. We have the special privilege of printing that which the world accepts as money in lieu of gold.

This is an invitation to economic disaster, permitting an ill-founded foreign policy that sets the stage for problems for years to come...Foreigners will not finance our excessive standard of living and our expensive war overseas indefinitely. It will end! What we do in the meantime to prepare for that day will make all the difference in the world for the future of freedom in this country...

Since we are not fighting the war to defend our homeland and we abuse so many of our professed principles, we face great difficulties in resolving the growing predicament in which we find ourselves. Our options are few, and admitting errors in judgment is not likely to occur. Moral forces are against us as we find ourselves imposing our will on a people six thousand miles from our shores.

How would the American people respond if a foreign country, with people of a different color, religion, and language imposed itself on us to make us conform to their notions of justice and goodness? None of us would sit idly by. This is why those who see themselves as defenders of their homeland and their way of life have the upper hand regardless of the shock and awe military power available to us. At this point our power works perversely. The stronger and more violent we are the greater the resistance becomes...

Parents of martyrs do not weep as the parents of our soldiers do; they believe the suicide bombers and their families are glorified. These religious beliefs cannot simply be changed during the war. The only thing we can do is remove the incentives we give to the religious leaders of the jihad by leaving them alone. Without our presence in the Middle East, whether on the Arabian Peninsula or in Iraq, the rallying cry for suicidal jihadists would ring hollow.

BULLIES, PULPITS, ETC. It's no wonder that the US faces a military recruiting shortfall. But over at Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas has been marveling, recently, about the failure of Iraq war-supporting pundits and pols to call on their constituents to enlist.

At first, I found the charge a bit precious. But it did get me to pay attention. And the more I hear, the more I think Kos was onto something: it's surprisingly difficult to find prominent Iraq war supporters who've used their megaphones to call on their ideological brethren to enlist.

Kos skewers Gary Bauer's attempt to tap dance around the issue here.

THIS IS NOT JOURNALISM As I remarked the other day, Fox News is a threat to reasoned discourse. It's different from outlets like The Weekly Standard and The National Review--and not just because it has a bigger megaphone.

Those publications have conservative points of view, and side almost always with Republicans. But their rhetoric doesn't--or at least doesn't always--mirror the rhetoric coming out of GOP headquarters.

The same can't be said of Fox.

Andrew Sullivan picks up the thread:

This is a free country, and Sean Hannity and Fox News can broadcast what they want. Fox is far more entertaining than the other cable news channels and I can see its appeal, and the need for a less liberal network. But this [Sean Hannity's interview of Vice President Dick Cheney] was not journalism. It was propaganda, cloyingly arranged between interviewer and interviewee, based on talking points adhered to by both sides, and broadcast as if it were a real interview. I worry that viewers actually begin to believe that this is journalism, that asking questions designed to help the interviewer [sic--should be interviewee] better make his case, in fact often supplementing his answers to improve their rhetorical power, is somehow what real journalists do. It isn't. I wish I could provide a better kicker for this blog item than Sean Hannity did. But I can't. So here's his sign-off: "Lynne, I was too tough on him."

Monday, June 13, 2005

NEW YORK POST HEADLINE? Over here at CONTRAPOSITIVE, we're thinking "Back to Neverland" or "Jackson Beats It." Or, if the folks at The Post are feeling especially saucy, "Jackson Gets Off."

UPDATE: What? The Post and The Daily News both go with the tepid "Boy Oh Boy." Meanwhile, The Sun, based in England, shouts, "He Beat It." But we've yet to find any exact duplicates of the headlines we suggested yesterday.

PADILLA WATCH Earlier today, from Bloomberg:
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a chance to scrutinize the Bush administration's anti-terror tactics, refusing to intervene in the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held without charges since 2002.

Padilla, arrested in Chicago and later accused of plotting to blow up apartment buildings, asked the justices to take the unusual step of bypassing the appeals court level in his case. A federal trial judge ruled in February that the U.S. must either charge Padilla with a crime, hold him as a material witness or release him.

``Further delay poses real risks to security and liberty,'' Padilla's lawyers argued in court papers filed in Washington.

The rejection is at least a temporary victory for the Justice Department, which urged the court not to get involved. U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement told the high court it should let the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, proceed with a scheduled July 19 argument on the government's appeal.

A NEW NETWORK? The Poorman posts a must-read story about the evolving media landscape.

(Via Atrios.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

It can't be said enough that the problem with Fox News is not that it's conservative, it's that its essentially a mouthpiece of the God's Own Party. I can't think of any other media outlet, except maybe Rush Limbaugh, which so perfectly functions as an RNC puke funnel--not the ideological press in Europe, not the Weekly Standard and National Review, not even the New York Post.
Fox News isn't a joke. It's a serious threat to honest, good-faith public discussion and debate.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

BEST CARTOON EVER? If Tom Tomorrow's latest isn't the definitive political cartoon of our time, it's certainly up there.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

STILL NOT TIRED Rumsfeld flashback:
At some point the Iraqis will get tired of getting killed and we’ll have enough of the Iraqi security forces that they can take over responsibility for governing that country and we’ll be able to pare down the coalition security forces in the country.

--September 14, 2004

POPULARITY CONTEST Eric Alterman tells us:
George W. Bush’s approval rating is now a full twenty points lower than Bill Clinton’s was on the day he was impeached.

JEWISH QUESTION REDUX From Seymour Hersh at The New Yorker:
It was late in the evening on May 16, 1973, and I was in the Washington bureau of The Times, immersed in yet another story about Watergate. The paper had been overwhelmed by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting for the Washington Post the previous year, and I was trying to catch up. The subject this time was Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national-security adviser.

I had called Kissinger to get his comment on a report, which The Times was planning to run, that he had been involved in wiretapping reporters, fellow Administration officials, and even his own aides on the National Security Council. At first, he had indignantly denied the story.

When I told him that I had information from sources in the Justice Department that he had personally forwarded the wiretap requests to the F.B.I., he was silent, and then said that he might have to resign.

The implicit message was that this would be bad for the country, and that The Times would be blamed. A few minutes later, the columnist James Reston, who was a friend of Kissinger’s, padded up to my desk and asked, gently, if I understood that “Henry” was serious about resigning. I did understand, but Watergate was more important than Kissinger.

Alexander Haig, Kissinger’s sometimes loyal deputy, had called a few times during the day to beat back the story. At around seven o’clock, there was a final call. “You’re Jewish, aren’t you, Seymour?” In all our previous conversations, I’d been “Sy.” I said yes. “Let me ask you one question, then,” Haig said.

“Do you honestly believe that Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Germany who lost thirteen members of his family to the Nazis, could engage in such police-state tactics as wiretapping his own aides? If there is any doubt, you owe it to yourself, your beliefs, and your nation to give us one day to prove that your story is wrong.” That was Watergate, circa 1973. The Times printed the story the next day, and Kissinger did not resign.
Ah, the glory days.

Friday, June 03, 2005

NETFLIX GETS LOCAL According to NetFlix, members in New York city are renting the following twenty-five titles, "much more than other Netflix members":
1. The Americanization of Emily
2. 12 Angry Men
3. Network
4. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
6. Rashomon
7. Angels in America (2-Disc Series)
8. 24: Season 2 (7-Disc Series)
9. Spellbound
10. 24: Season 1 (6-Disc Series)
11. Lilya 4-Ever
12. P.S.
13. Citizen Kane
14. Blue
15. My Architect: A Son's Journey
16. The Battle of Algiers
17. Seven Samurai
18. Chinatown
19. Arrested Development: Season 1 (3-Disc Series)
20. The Magdalene Sisters
21. The Fog of War
22. The Office Special
23. Enduring Love
24. Amores Perros
25. Sex and Lucia
The only real surprise--aside from THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (?)--is the influence of Broadway theater coverage on dvd rental habits. Still, it's an interesting list.

Compare it to the group of titles that are disproportionately popular in decidedly red-state Salt Lake City:

1. Donnie Darko: Director's Cut
2. What the #$*! Do We Know!?
3. Primer
4. The Motorcycle Diaries
5. Maria Full of Grace
6. The Final Cut
7. Troy
8. I Heart Huckabees
9. House of Flying Daggers
10. The Sea Inside
11. Six Feet Under: Season 3 (5-Disc Series)
12. Shark Tale
13. Garden State
14. Hotel Rwanda
15. Being Julia
16. Napoleon Dynamite
17. Ray
18. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
19. The Notebook
20. The Woodsman
21. Sideways
22. The Incredibles
23. After the Sunset
24. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
25. Finding Neverland
Fewer classics and foreign films, more childrens fare and less TV.

Still, the two lists aren't as different as one might expect. (NetFlix users can play with this new feature on their "Friends" page.)

SCHUNDLER'S DEANIACS The Brett Schundler (R-NJ) for Governor web team demonstrates how not to use Photoshop in a political campaign.

HOOK DRINKS THE KOOL-AID Joshua Marshall has the details.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

RAPP BOOK BANNED? The local school board in Muhlenberg, Pennsylvania has apparently reversed its ban on THE BUFFALO TREE, an excellent novel by Adam Rapp, a writer better known for his plays.

Still, The Times' report leaves the impression that the book's opponents have succeeded in removing the novel from the curriculum.

Written as a twelve-year-old's account of his time in a juvenile detention center, THE BUFFALO TREE is often billed as a young adult novel. But that classification doesn't do justice to the story's complexity and sophistication.

The book is an all-around good read.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

VIA ANDREW SULLIVAN One more reason to discount, dismiss and ignore anything and everything that comes out of the mouth of Vice President Dick Cheney:
They will do everything they can to disrupt the process up to those elections in January because they know that once you've got a democratically elected government in place that has legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Iraq, they're out of business. That will be the end of the insurgency.
--October 28, 2004
The man, quite simply, can't be trusted.

THE JEWISH QUESTION Gotta love Nixon. From The Times' story about the Deep Throat revelations:
The Watergate tapes disclosed that Nixon himself had singled out Mr. Felt for special suspicion, once asking his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, "Is he a Catholic?" Mr. Haldeman replied that Mr. Felt, who is of Irish descent, was Jewish, and Nixon, who often liked to see Jews at the root of his troubles, replied: "It could be the Jewish thing. I don't know. It's always a possibility."

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.