Saturday, April 29, 2006

TRUTHINESS TO POWER I have no idea who booked Stephen Colbert for the White House Correspondents Dinner--or why the White House went along with it.

Don't they know who Colbert is? Didn't they realize that he runs one of the most subversive shows on television? And that he practices a form of politically-aggressive performance art that is unlike anything else in the mainstream media?

Maybe they thought that, with President Bush sitting only a few feet away, he would tone things down. But he didn't. And it made for some pretty surreal television.

Some excerpts:

"I believe the government that governors best is the government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
"[Mr. President], pay no attention to the people who believe the glass is half-empty, because 32% means it's two-thirds empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point. But I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash."
"I stand by this man [the President] because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently-flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully-staged photo ops in the world."
"The greatest thing about this man is he's steady, he knows where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday--no matter what happened Tuesday."

The C-SPAN telecast didn't run too many reaction shots of the President, but he couldn't have been too pleased. And after a few minutes, Colbert seemed to lose at least part of the crowd, which slowly came to realize that his sarcastic assault on the administration was more a vicious, no-holds-barred skewering than a good-natured roast.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has video.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

SNOW ON BUSH If you haven't already seen it, here's a rundown of things Tony Snow has said and written about your humble president.

My personal favorite?

“George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.”
--November 11, 2005

Monday, April 24, 2006

BOOK PACKAGING The Harvard plagiarism story took an interesting turn tonight when the New York Times (with egg on its face because it published an early-April profile of sophomore author Kaavya Viswanathan) reported that the book's copyright is shared by Viswanathan and Alloy Entertainment.

The Times describes Alloy as a "book packaging company"--and they're not talking about cardboard boxes and bubblewrap. Here's an excerpt from the company's website:

Alloy Entertainment is a creative think tank that develops and produces original books, television series and feature films. The company originates unique, commercial entertainment properties--often with an eye toward teens, young adults and families--and partners with the leading publishers, television networks and movie studios to deliver these properties to the world.
A "creative think tank"?

Alloy also happens to be a subsidiary of Alloy Media + Marketing, which describes itself as, "one of the country's largest providers of targeted media and promotional programs." (It trades on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol ALOY, and boasts a market capitalization of about $38 million).

Who knows what kind of writing-editing relationship Viswanathan had with these people. But still: Is this what publishing has come to? Is this how Little, Brown finds fresh talent these days?

UPDATE: The Boston Globe adds some details about book packaging:

Packagers are normally employed in specialized nonfiction books such as nature guides and picture books, and sometimes actually deliver finished books that bear a publisher's name more as a distributor.

In this case, Viswanathan's agent referred her to Alloy Entertainment because her original idea for a novel was considered too dark...While Viswanathan said the plot was her idea, she acknowledged in a February interview with the Globe that Alloy had played a major role in fleshing out the concept.

Leslie Morgenstein, president of Alloy, which holds the copyright along with her, said by e-mail yesterday that his firm did not help Viswanathan with any of the actual writing...

A few literary agents contacted yesterday by the Globe raised eyebrows at the packager's active role in conceptualizing the novel. "We would never recommend to an author that they share copyright for something as minor as refining a concept," said Boston-area literary agent Doe Coover.

Friday, April 21, 2006

PLAME WATCH Via Truthout.org:
The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.

In an interview Wednesday, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove remains a "subject" of Fitzgerald's two-year-old probe.

"Mr. Rove is still a subject of the investigation," Luskin said. In a previous interview, Luskin asserted that Rove would not be indicted by Fitzgerald, but he was unwilling to make that prediction again Wednesday.

"Mr. Fitzgerald hasn't made any decision on the charges and I can't speculate what the outcome will be," Luskin said. "Mr. Rove has cooperated completely with the investigation."
I'm not familiar with Truthout.org, and so I'm not putting much stock in the claims about Wednesday's grand jury session. But Luskin's decision to abandon his stock answer about Rove's prospects is notable to say the least.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NEW BLOOD The President has announced four major staff appointments in the last couple weeks: He hired a new Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, OMB Director and US Trade Representative.

All four positions were filled by people already working in the administration.

McCLELLAN OUT But we'll always have the memories:
Q Scott, does the President retain confidence in his FEMA Director and Secretary of Homeland Security?

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, David, see, this is where some people want to look at the blame game issue, and finger-point. We're focused on solving problems, and we're doing everything we can --

Q What about the question?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're doing everything we can in support --

Q We know all that.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

Q Does he retain complete confidence --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to continue. We appreciate the great effort that all of those at FEMA, including the head of FEMA, are doing to help the people in the region. And I'm just not going to engage in the blame game or finger-pointing that you're trying to get me to engage.

Q Okay, but that's not at all what I was asking.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure it is. It's exactly what you're trying to play.

Q You have your same point you want to make about the blame game, which you've said enough now. I'm asking you a direct question, which you're dodging.


Q Does the President retain complete confidence in his Director of FEMA and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just answered the question.

Q Is the answer "yes" on both?

MR. McCLELLAN: And what you're doing is trying to engage in a game of finger-pointing.

Q There's a lot of criticism. I'm just wondering if he still has confidence.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and blame-gaming. What we're trying to do is solve problems, David. And that's where we're going to keep our focus.

Q So you're not -- you won't answer that question directly?

MR. McCLELLAN: I did. I just did.

Q No, you didn't. Yes or no? Does he have complete confidence or doesn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, if you want to continue to engage in finger-pointing and blame-gaming, that's fine --

Q Scott, that's ridiculous. I'm not engaging in any of that.

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not ridiculous.

Q Don't try to accuse me of that. I'm asking you a direct question and you should answer it. Does he retain complete confidence in his FEMA Director and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said -- that's exactly what you're engaging in.

Q I'm not engaging in anything. I'm asking you a question about what the President's views are --

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely -- absolutely --

Q -- under pretty substantial criticism of members of his administration. Okay? And you know that, and everybody watching knows that, as well.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, everybody watching this knows, David, that you're trying to engage in a blame game.

Q I'm trying to engage?


Q I am trying to engage?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

BAD IDEA OF THE DAY Via the New York Times we learn:
This month, [Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., of Queens] the chairman of the Council's Public Safety Committee, introduced another measure that he calls a lesson in Parenting 101: Children under the age of 10 would not be allowed in movie theaters after 10 p.m., to safeguard both the welfare of the children and the enjoyment of the other moviegoers.
I can understand why a theater chain might adopt this sort of policy, although it seems like a terrible idea. (Where's the threat to safety--or the enjoyment of other moviegoers--in a well-behaved nine-year-old attending a 9pm screening of THE BENCHWARMERS?)

But whatever your view of the policy, does it really make sense to give this kind of regulation the force of law? Do we really want the government, let alone the New York City council, deciding when kids should be home and in bed?

Monday, April 10, 2006

NOT FUNNY Anyone else ready to vomit?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

SERIOUSNESS WATCH From Thursday's House Judiciary Committee hearing:
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: General Gonzales, since you indicated that you don't think that terrorists or suspected terrorists should have access to firearms, would you support legislation that would specifically prohibit terrorists or suspected terrorists from having access to firearms? Because I know you've previously said that you needed to get back to my colleague from Maryland on that, and we have not heard back from you on that.

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: Well, I guess I would like to look at that. And let me give you--

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Are you still looking at--General Gonzales--because you've already told that several months ago to my colleague.

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: I'm waiting for the work of the working group within the Department of Justice.

Now, let me just--

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: How long is too long?


REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thirteen months?

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: Let me give you an--I agree. I'm frustrated as well.

But let me give you an example of why that may be problematic. We may have information about someone that we honestly believe is a terrorist. We may think that they may be involved in some kind of terrorist plot. As part of that plot, they may be wanting to purchase a weapon. We may want them--we may have them under complete surveillance, and we may be okay with them purchasing that weapon because they may lead us to other--

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: General Gonzales, can I just stop you for one second before you go on? Because under current law, we prohibit firearm sales to anyone suffering from a drug addiction. They don't even have to have to have been convicted of anything, and we prohibit firearm sales to them.

We also--based on mere suspicion, we limit an individual's ability to even get on an airplane if they're on the no-fly list. So why wouldn't we pass a law--why wouldn't--why can't you unequivocally say that you support a law that prohibits suspected terrorists from possessing firearms?

That seems like a no-brainer.
Let's get this straight.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doesn't support legislation prohibiting people on the government's terrorist watchlist from purchasing guns. Why? Because their gun purchases may fit neatly into the government's own plans.

Can he possibly be serious?

Friday, April 07, 2006

WHITE HOUSE MESS An exchange from this morning's White House gaggle that hasn't received much attention:
QUESTION: Scott, on March the 30th, I believe, last Thursday, Mr. Libby was spotted at the White House Mess. It just seems unusual that he would be coming back to the White House in this situation. Any ideas why he --

Scott McClellan: I don't know anything about that. I don't think so.

QUESTION: You don't think what?

Scott McClellan: I don't think he was here.

QUESTION: What would you do if I--

Scott McClellan: You spotted him?

QUESTION: I have a pretty good source I trust that did.

Scott McClellan: I'll check into it, John, but I don't think that's--
Is Libby still pulling the strings?

FOOT IN THE DOOR Kevin Drum explains why it's hard to know where to draw the line on extra-legal wiretapping, and why it may only get harder.

SPINNING CLASS Scott McClellan can dodge and weave with the best of them:
Q Back when the NIE was released on July 18, 2003, you were asked that day when that had been actually declassified. And you said in that gaggle that it had been declassified that day. And if that's the case, then when the information was passed on to the reporter 10 days earlier, then it was still classified at that time.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're referring--a couple of things. First of all, it was publicly released that day, so that's when a portion of the National Intelligence Estimate that we were making available to the public was released. The second part of your question is referring to an ongoing legal proceeding, and referring to a filing in that legal proceeding. We have had a policy in place, going back to the October time period of 2003, that we are not going to comment on an ongoing investigation or an ongoing legal proceeding. That policy remains unchanged...

Q I understand the reason why you thought it needed to be declassified, because of the debate at the time. The question was, when was it declassified. And you were asked that day, when--the question was, "When was it actually declassified?" And you said, "It was officially declassified today."

If it had been officially declassified on July 18, 2003, then 10 days before, when the information was given out, it was still classified at the time.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're going back to an assertion that is made in a filing related to an ongoing legal proceeding when you talk about the second part of your question. There is no way for me to separate that question and talk about this issue without discussing an ongoing legal proceeding. And I can't do that. We have a policy that's been established, and I'm obligated to adhere to that policy.

Q But answer the question, it's a factual question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but you can't separate that question from the legal proceeding--

Q Was it declassified that day--

MR. McCLELLAN: --because of one of the assertions that was made in the filing.

Well, you can go back and look at comments that were made at that time. That was when it was--

Q Those were your comments.

MR. McCLELLAN: --that was when it was publicly released at the time. I haven't looked back at exactly what was said at that time.

Q Well, let's be really clear about this. It says right here on July 18th, "When was it actually declassified?" Mr. McClellan, answer, "It was officially declassified today." Is that correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're asking me to get into the timing. I'm not backing away from anything that was said previously--that's when the document was released, so that's when it officially --

Q They don't say "released." They say "declassify."

MR. McCLELLAN: I know, Jim. Let me tell you. That's when it was officially released. So I think that's what I was referring to at the time. I'd have to go back and look at the specific comments, but I'm not changing anything that was said previously, so let me make that clear.

Q But if you were--

MR. McCLELLAN: Now, secondly, the question you're going to, again, relates to the timing of when certain information was declassified--

Q I'm not going to that question --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but there's no way you can separate that question out from the ongoing legal proceeding--

Q Scott, you are very careful with your words here. I think if you wanted to say "released," you would have said "released." You said, "declassified."


Q Well, what does that tell--

MR. McCLELLAN: That's when the information was released publicly.

Q Scott, did you not know--

MR. McCLELLAN: But there was--

Q That's not what--

MR. McCLELLAN: Now, for the National Intelligence Estimate, Jim, it did go through a declassification process; you are correct. And the information was carefully looked at by the intelligence community before the portions of the National Intelligence Estimate were made available to the public--

Q But, Scott, you said, "declassified." If it's declassified on that day, it wasn't declassified before. And you're saying you're sticking to--you're not taking back anything you said before, and what you said that day is it was officially declassified.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'd be glad to take a look at exactly what I said, and I'll do that.

Q You didn't say--I mean, we've got that here--

MR. McCLELLAN: I can't do that here in this room right now, but I'll be glad to take a look at it--

Q Then why are you saying you're not backing up from anything if you--

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what I'm saying is that--I think what I was referring to is the fact that that was when it was made available to the public. So all that information is officially declassified at that point.

Q Then why are you saying you won't back off anything you said before if, in fact, we have transcripts here where you say that's when it was officially declassified? Are you still saying that's when it was officially declassified?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's when it was made available to the public. So it's officially--

Q When was it officially declassified?

MR. McCLELLAN: --so it's officially declassified at that point. I think we're talking past each other a little bit. I'll have to go back and look at the specific transcript--and I'll be glad to do that--and we can talk about it further later.

Q Okay. When was it officially declassified?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, in terms of the timing of when information may have been declassified, that gets into a question relating to the legal proceeding in a filing that was made by Mr. Fitzgerald earlier this week.

Q What were you referring to on July 18th, then? Was that the official release, or official declassification?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what I'll have to check. I'll have to go back and look. But my sense is, and my recollection is--while we're sitting here talking about it is -- I was referring to the fact that was when it was officially declassified for the public.
Q What was the President's reaction to this story? What has he said?

MR. McCLELLAN: "This story"?

Q The story, as it's published.

MR. McCLELLAN: "The story as it's published"? Which story as it's published?

Q You sound like Donald Rumsfeld. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: "This story" -- I'm just asking you to specify what the story is.

Q I'm talking about the filing --

MR. McCLELLAN: The filing by Mr. Fitzgerald, okay.

Q -- I'm talking about what we found out --

MR. McCLELLAN: The filing by Mr. Fitzgerald. I can't get into talking with you relating to an ongoing legal proceeding.

Q I'm not asking you to. I'm asking, did the President say anything about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I can't get into talking about an ongoing legal proceeding. That relates to an ongoing legal proceeding. I just can't do that.

Monday, April 03, 2006

DELAY OUT Tom, any parting words?
Yes, I play golf. I'm very proud of the fact that I play golf. It's the only thing that I do for myself. And when you go to a country and you're there for seven days and you take an afternoon off to play golf, what does the national media write? All about the golf, not about the meeting that went to [sic]. I'm not ashamed of anything I've done. I've never done anything in my political career for my own personal gain. You can look at my bank account and my house to understand that.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

EXIT, STAGE RIGHT Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leaves the reality-based community:
MR. RUSSERT: You’re now voting for the tax cut which you had not voted for.


SEN. McCAIN: On the tax cuts. I do not believe in tax increases. Now, it was a gimmick that was--that the tax cuts were temporary and then had to be made permanent. The tax cuts are now there and voting to revoke them would have been to--not to extend them would have meant a tax increase. I’ve never voted for a tax increase in my life.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, that’s important. But it would, it would, it would mean that...

SEN. McCAIN: But it’s be very important that I finish saying what I think.

MR. RUSSERT: But, let me just, for the record, it would have gone back to tax rates.


MR. RUSSERT: That you had supported.

SEN. McCAIN: Yes. But the economy had adjusted, the tax cuts were there, and if it would have been--and that’s the way it was designed. It would’ve been tantamount to a tax increase. And that’s, and that’s a fact. And I’ve never voted for a tax increase in my life with the exception of...

MR. RUSSERT: So there’s no politics?

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