April 09, 2020
No snow? No shit.

Shortly after Mr. Johnson had taken over management of the Vietnam war from Mr. Kennedy, the new president decided that there was no further need to disrupt family life for an undeclared war. Consequently married men would no longer be drafted. My editor at The Washington Post assigned me to do a story on the rush to the altar which was sure to occur — but business at the marriage license bureau turned out to be bumping along at pretty much the usual rate. “That’s your story, then,” the editor said. “Give me ten inches.”

“A classic no-snow story,” an older reporter spelled out for me that evening after work. A no-snow story grew out of the world’s failure to live up to an editor’s expectations. Yesterday’s paper predicted snow, and yet there is no snow. Find out why.

Once the concept was explained to me I began to see no-snow stories everywhere, and still do. Saving Private Ryan’s failure to win the Academy Award for best picture gave rise to a regular blizzard of them. The “Natural Law of Unemployment’s” stubborn failure to exist has caused a decade of no-snow stories on the nation’s business pages. Where oh where can old Mr. Inflation be hiding?, the baffled editors cry. (The answer is the same one it has been since World War II: Mr. Inflation shows up whenever OPEC raises oil prices.)

Never has the real world so disappointed the American press as in the matter of Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton. The finest investigative journalists in all the land rooted and snorted about until they had raised what looked to them, blinded inside it, like the biggest shit storm ever to besmirch the Republic. And yet poll after poll showed that the rest of us saw only a light smudge of no particular consequence, barely above the horizon of our concerns. A persistent groupie finally scored. That’s what groupies do.

But the nation’s most learned and subtle public philosophers—men on the order of George Will, William Safire, William Bennett, William Kristol and the blessèd Father McLaughlin—immediately undertook our moral instruction. Loudly, unendingly, they explained us to us that this small sexual adventure between consenting adults was in fact a threat to the very foundations of the Republic.

To think otherwise would mark us as immoral, indecent, unethical, permissive and godless moral relativists who were in every respect disgraces to family and flag.

Worst of all we would be letting down, God help us, our editors.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:05 PM
June 24, 2016
Bad Press

Ever wonder why your local paper went out of business long ago or sucks so much it might as well have? A 1999 article in the American Journalism Review has your answer. Excerpts:

In addition to minding the books, Ryerson says he had to monitor the amount of film the photographers used, check odometer readings in employees’ cars against expense accounts, and lock up the supply cabinet “because people would be stealing tape to take home for Christmas presents…”

As in New Haven, she says, the operations manager was ordered to check the odometer readings in reporters’ cars. “When you’re paying people so little — we paid $17,000 — and then you sneak around like that, it makes people feel like dirt…”

On JRC’s first day at the helm, September 27, 1993 — still known there as “takeover day” — the company fired 25 employees. Under family ownership the paper had weathered the lean years of the recession without layoffs, so the cuts shocked employees. “They lined us up in two lines like cattle,” recalls Maureen Burk, an advertising sales representative. Each line led to a different set of strangers who would rule on their future. As the top salesperson in her department, Burk was “totally confident” she would keep her job. When she entered a conference room, she says, the new publisher smiled broadly, then told her, “We have no place for you.” When she walked out, “people were crying and sobbing. One woman took her arm and swept everything off her desk…”

The executive called him “an ignorant moron,” Penick says. “I wrote it down. ‘Ignorant moron.’ ” But what triggered his resignation was an incident that took place at another budget meeting — on a Saturday — when he got a message that his son, who lived with his ex-wife in Illinois, had been injured in an automobile accident. He told the group he had to catch a plane. “They said, ‘No, you can’t leave. How bad is he? Call the hospital.’ I said, ‘I don’t believe you people. I’m leaving right now.’ “ Penick now manages home delivery for the Indianapolis Star and News.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:18 PM
June 15, 2015
Lest We Forget…

…what actually happened in Ukraine, as opposed to what the lamestream media has been obediently feeding us. This from James Howard Kunstler:

Ukraine became a failed state due to a coup d’état engineered by Barack Obama’s state department. US policy wonks did not like the prospect of Ukraine joining Russia’s regional trade group called the Eurasian Customs Union instead of tilting toward NATO and the European Union. So, we paid for and enabled a coalition of crypto-fascists to rout the duly elected president. One of the first acts of the US-backed new regime was to declare punishment of Russian language speakers, and so the predominately Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine revolted. Russia reacted to all this instability by seizing the Crimean peninsula, which had been part of Russia proper both before and through the Soviet chapter of history. The Crimea contained Russia’s only warm water seaports and naval bases. What morons in the US government ever thought Russia would surrender those assets to a newly-failed neighbor state?

Was Vladimir Putin acting irresponsibly in this case? The opposite would be a much more logical conclusion. And what interest does the United States have in Ukraine? Surely no more than Russia would have in Texas. And when else in the entire history of the USA all the way back to George Washington did any government official declare Ukraine to be America’s business? Answer: Never. Reason: we have no legitimate interests in that corner of the world. So why in the early 21st century are we making this such a sore spot in our foreign relations? Because our waning influence in the world, in turn a product of our foolish inattention to our own economic problems and failing polity at home, is driving America batshit crazy.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:49 PM
April 20, 2015
A Major Media Fail

None of what follows is news in the sense that it has never been reported before. It is news in the sense that most Americans, due to a combination of incompetence, laziness and spinelessness on the part of our media, are completely unaware of it. Proof of this is the almost universal outrage over Putin’s actions (reactions, more accurately) in the Crimean crisis. Pay special attention to what George Kennan said below. As usual, he was right. And to what Clinton did. As usual, he was wrong.

From the campaign trail on Oct. 22, 1996, two weeks before he defeated Bob Dole for a second term as president, Bill Clinton used NATO enlargement to advertise his assertiveness in foreign policy and America’s status as the “world’s indispensable nation.” Clinton bragged about proposing NATO enlargement at his first NATO summit in 1994, saying it “should enlarge steadily, deliberately, openly.” He never explained why.

President Clinton, thus, reneged on the pledges made by Baker to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. Clinton lamely called upon Russia to view NATO’s enlargement as an arrangement that will “advance the security of everyone.”

Clinton’s tough-guy-ism toward Russia was, in part, a response to even more aggressive NATO plans from Clinton’s Republican opponent Bob Dole, who had been calling for incorporating Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as full members of NATO and had accused Clinton of “dragging his feet” on this. Clinton was not about to be out-toughed.

Those three countries joined NATO in 1999, starting a trend. By April 2009, nine more countries became members, bringing the post-Cold War additions to 12 – equal to the number of the original 12 NATO states.

Clinton made what quintessential Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan called a “fateful error.” Writing in the New York Times on Feb. 5, 1997, Kennan asserted: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.

“Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:00 PM
April 07, 2015
Drinking on the Job?

I came across this yesterday in a posting about something called First Look Media, with which I should probably be familiar but am not. The writer is a former employee:

Employees were initially told that we were free to spend whatever we needed for our reporting and the company simply asked that we spend its money responsibly, as we would if it were our own. But soon new orders came down from management that made it difficult to pay for a source’s drinks — and to report, at least in Washington, it is pretty much required that you be able to take sources out for drinks to have discreet, relaxed conversations. Over time, management began closely scrutinizing expense reports. Some of us became so frustrated, and intimidated, that we decided to simply stop expensing some legitimate reporting costs because it wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to get reimbursed.
More than a half century ago (can it have been that long?) I was a reporter in Washington myself. I don’t remember ever taking sources out for drinks to have discreet, relaxed conversation. I was an editor for a while as well, and to the best of my recollection none of my reporters ever put in for such “legitimate reporting costs.” I think I would have remembered, too. Who can forget a good laugh?

Eventually I turned into a source myself, as a speechwriter for President Carter and later the head of public affairs for the Federal Aviation Administration. I had plenty of relaxed conversations with reporters, all right, many of which turned out to be less discreet than they should have been. (For example it might have been wiser not to tell the New York Daily News guy that writing humor for Carter was like giving tap dance lessons to FDR.) And none of those reporters ever even offered to pay for my drinks, damn it.

My point is not that we had standards back then, by God, not like these kids today. The ethical level of journalism now is probably no worse than it was; for all I know it’s better. I’m just curious. Any reporters out there? Is it routine to buy drinks for your sources these days? Can you expense them?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:40 PM
February 11, 2015
The Great Untold News Story

From Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Guy, a good point:

The real shame is that even though members of the non-“fake” news media respected Stewart, and spoke reverentially about his influence on their understanding of their own business, no one in the legitimate press followed him up Bullshit Mountain to pursue Fox News as a story. Do you understand what I mean by that? Fox isn’t just a news organization with a somewhat different take on current events — it’s an Orwellian propaganda ministry for a large, white nation-within-a-nation that votes in every election and therefore decides the political course of the larger America no matter how much of a lock Democrats seem to have on the presidency.

What Fox has done to America is the great untold news story of our generation. Jon Stewart got that, and mainstream media figures admired him, but the mainstream press never followed up on his stories. The MSM figured he had it covered (or, more likely, figured that he never had to worry about suddenly needing a job in an industry where only Murdoch seemed to be expanding).

The only major takeout on Fox News that I recall was a New Yorker profile way back in 2003. Its focus was on Roger Ailes, the former GOP hitman who still runs the network. But not only is Fox an even more newsworthy target today, it’s also an easy one. By now there must be hundreds of disaffected employees and ex-employees wandering around and willing to talk. They wouldn’t even have to be disaffected, actually: no greater blabbermouth exists than a newsman (or in this case a television “news”man). I’d do the job myself, only I’m on social security now so I don’t have to get my hands dirty anymore.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:14 PM
August 21, 2014
The Occasionally Good Old Days

Back in the late 1950s I worked for a long-dead tabloid called The Washington Daily News. It struggled as the smallest of the three papers in town and was being kept alive, I suspect, mainly to give the Scripps-Howard chain a right-wing voice in the capital. Its editor was John O’Rourke, a remote figure who appeared irregularly in the city room. As far as I can remember, I had never met him.

Until the paper published the first of a three-part series I had written on the crooked practices of local car dealers. Shortly after the paper hit the streets, O’Rourke showed up trailed by four other suits and disappeared into his office. A few minutes later the city editor hollered that Mr. O’Rourke wanted to see me in his office right away. “Tough luck,” the reporter at the desk next to me said. “You’ve just written the world’s first one-part three-part series.” We both knew that auto ads were a major part of the paper’s puny revenue stream.

The four suits in the editor’s office turned out to be the paper’s business manager, its advertising director, and two representatives from the auto dealers. Plainly I was toast.

“Can you back up everything in your pieces?” O’Rourke said without a word of preamble as I stood there.

“Yes, I can.”

“That’s all, then. Go on back to work.”

And so I did. That was the sum total of my first and only meeting with Mr. O’Rourke. The series ran in its entirety.

I mention this because:

Time Inc. has fallen on hard times. Would you believe that this once-proud magazine publishing empire is now explicitly rating its editorial employees based on how friendly their writing is to advertisers?

Last year — in the opposite of a vote of confidence — Time Warner announced that it would spin off Time Inc. into its own company, an act of jettisoning print publications once and for all. Earlier this year, the company laid off 500 employees (and more layoffs are coming soon). And, most dramatically of all, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp now requires his magazine’s editors to report to the business side of the company, a move that signals the full-scale dismantling of the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial sides of the company’s magazines.

Even with all of that, though, it is still possible to imagine that Time Inc.’s 90+ publications, which include some of the most storied magazines in American history, would continue to adhere to the normal ethical rules of journalism out of simple pride. Not so!

Here you see an internal Time Inc. spreadsheet that was used to rank and evaluate “writer-editors” at SI.com. (Time Inc. provided this document to the Newspaper Guild, which represents some of their employees, and the union provided it to us.) The evaluations were done as part of the process of deciding who would be laid off. Most interesting is this ranking criteria: “Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship.” These editorial employees were all ranked in this way, with their scores ranging from 2 to 10.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:35 PM
May 04, 2014
Life Lessons

I now count myself an early adherent to the life school of Ron Kaplan, chief executive of Trex, a manufacturer of outdoor decks. In today’s New York Times, he was asked, “How do you know which people to make your allies?” He replied, “By watching and listening. When people speak, you measure the variance between what they tell you is going to happen and what actually happens. The smaller the variance, the greater the credibility…”

This may at first strike you as a fancy restatement of the obvious, as it did me. But then I thought of the many pundits whose oracular certainties appear and reappear without end — yet are almost invariable proven wrong as to Mr. Kaplan’s “what actually happens.” I thought of Exhibit One, William Kristol, on the Iraq invasion and on the Affordable Care Act, to name two of many topics. I thought of the Times’s columnist Thomas Friedman on pretty much everything. I thought of the pompous talking-head David Gergen, and of the bloodthirsty military strategists John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Wrong, wrong, wrong time and again — but their confident predictions and prescriptions nevertheless continue to pop up time and again as VSPs (very serious pronouncements).

The Kaplan Principle seems therefore not to be obvious at all … and in any case its application is underutilized. Vastly. I have come to realize, as well, that under another banner the principle has been around for a while. In Western New York, where I grew up, we just disregarded someone who was wrong most of the time as being full of shit.


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Posted by A. David Tucker at 05:09 PM
December 30, 2013
Filth

The excerpt below is from Charles Pierce’s double evisceration of the utterly unspeakable Elliott Abrams and the painfully pathetic David Gregory. Read it all here. Please.

The last time a president was as “bold” as Gregory wants this one to be, he lied us into a war that continues to wreak ruin to this day. Elliott Abrams was working for him at the time. The time before that, peasants got slaughtered and American nuns got raped and murdered, and archbishops got ventilated on the altar, and Elliott Abrams, to whom the Dancin’ Master directed his volley of bad history, cheered all of this on, lied about it as part of his official duties, and continues to believe that to have been the height of patriotism and public service. Ghosts of the dead should howl him awake every night. He should be spat upon by the surviving families of the dead every day on his way to teach his history class. History itself should vomit him out of its mouth. Journalism should revolt at the very sight of him. He should be whatever is one rung below a pariah. Instead, he gets a guest shot to tell the nation he has spent his career misleading into armed conflicts in which he never would have picked up a weapon or stood a post that its foreign policy is not blood-soaked enough for his taste. It was a living parable of the uselessness of dead memory.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:00 PM
September 17, 2013
David Brooks Destroyed

Here’s an excerpt by Andrew J. Bacevich from one of the most devastating and satisfying smackdowns I’ve ever read. The victim, left dead and bleeding from multiple wounds, is David Brooks of The New York Times.

On April 28, 2003, beating President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech by three days, Brooks declared that “the war in Iraq is over.” The political and cultural implications of victory promised to be profound. A collaboration between policy makers in Washington and troops on the battlefield had removed any last doubts as to American global dominion. Brooks sang the praises of “a ruling establishment that can conduct wars with incredible competence and skill.” The United States, he enthused, was an “incredibly effective colossus that can drop bombs onto pinpoints, [and] destroy enemies that aren’t even aware they are under attack…”

Implicitly acknowledging the distance separating young Americans who chose to serve in uniform from the young Americans choosing otherwise, Brooks made clear which group deserved his admiration. “Can anybody think of another time in history when a comparable group of young people was asked to be at once so brave, fierce and relentless, while also being so sympathetic, creative and forbearing?” Brooks couldn’t, so he bestowed on the troops the secular equivalent of collective canonization. “They are John Wayne,” he rhapsodized, “but also Jane Addams.” Soldiers were paragons of virtue, their courage and altruism standing in stark contrast to the shallow, self-absorbed liberal culture that Brooks despised. “If anybody is wondering: Where are the young idealists? Where are the people willing to devote themselves to causes larger than themselves? They are in uniform in Iraq.” The gap between the military and society, in other words, was a good thing. It provided America with a great war-winning army and Americans with desperately needed exemplars of virtue.

Soon after Brooks published this paean to the American soldier, word of depraved and despicable acts at Abu Ghraib prison began to surface. Apparently, John Wayne and Jane Addams did not exhaust the range of possible role models to whom at least some American soldiers looked for inspiration.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:44 AM
March 07, 2013
Fecal Matter

Now and then life gives you a big, sweet, juicy red apple instead of a lemon. For instance, I just came across this from Wonkette:

James O’Keefe — the blonde bombshell who set the conservative world of hidden-camera YouTube movies ablaze — has just agreed to a $100,000 settlement to calm down the unjustly fired (and weirdly litigious about it) ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera. According to a copy of the deal, obtained late last night by your wonkettes and viewable after the jump, O’Keefe has also agreed to ink an 11-word non-apology apology, that sources close to reality are calling “insincere” and “suuuuuuuch bullshit.”

According to the final 5-page agreement, signed by O’Keefe and his legal counsel Mike Madigan this past Tuesday, the boy detective now publicly “regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.” O’Keefe and his counsel have also consented to fork over the $100,000 within 30 business days of the settlement agreement’s being signed…


This is from the settlement: “O’Keefe states that at the time of the publication of the video of Juan Carlos Vera he was unaware of Vera’s claim to have notified a police officer of the incident. O’Keefe regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.”

O’Keefe, that is, tried to trap Vera into taking part in a plan to smuggle underage girls into the United States from Mexico. When this didn’t work, he doctored tapes of the encounter so as to falsely implicate Vera and sent them to the media. Back in the real world though, Vera had actually called the cops.

It is to the eternal shame of the MSM that O’Keefe was able to play them into destroying ACORN. Any reporter dumb enough to fall for a nasty little shit like O’Keefe is in the wrong business. Or maybe not, now that I think about it.

To get a fuller picture of just how nasty and how shitty O’Keefe is, see this from The Phoenix. And reflect on how even more nasty and shitty his grownup employers must be.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:40 PM
Was Chávez Satan, Or Merely a Lesser Demon?

The two main newspapers in the Soviet Union were Pravda and Izvestia. Pravda means truth, and Izvestia means news. This led to a clever play on words: There is no truth in news, and there is no news in truth. I was assured by several Russians that nobody ever believed Soviet propaganda. They knew they were being lied to about everything. My response was always the same, “I’m not so sure that’s always the case in America.”

But then we have better propaganda. It doesn’t hammer you with turgid dogma. It smuggles its biases in more subtly so that the average reader might not notice. For example, if you’re commuting to work on the subway and just glance through the New York Times, you might not catch on that entire articles about US foreign policy are often based exclusively on official government sources: Pentagon sources say; State Department sources say; According to White House officials … They also quote smart sounding people from smart sounding think tanks that no one outside of the Beltway ever heard of, but who probably play golf with your representative every week. They use bland and even-handed language, which everyone knows is how serious and objective people talk.

It works like magic, particularly with regard to foreign affairs. Your average American, even your relatively well-informed one, rarely develops any genuine understanding of the world. Instead, they come away with hazy and simplistic impressions, and these more or less correspond with official US attitudes. Old Europe is socialistic and effeminate; entitlements are bankrupting them. Scrappy little Israel is always right, the medieval Arabs are always wrong, and they treat women badly; they need us to lead them to democracy. There is nothing from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego but one big coke-ridden Mexico. The Russians are still closet commies. Cutting the defense budget will weaken America. Sooner or later, we have to bomb Iran. Invading Iraq was a well-intentioned mistake, but the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. Then it’s off to the voting both to fulfill your civic duty.

This kind of comic book thinking is most obvious when we appraise foreign leaders, who fall into three categories: good, bad, and French. David Cameron, being the British Prime Minister, is good. So was Tony Blair. Hell, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill were practically American. (Winston Churchill’s mother actually was). Mahmoud can’t-ever-get-his-last-name-right in Iran, is bad. He wants to wipe Israel off the map. Netanyahu is kind of an asshole, but a good asshole. He’s a tough patriot who is willing to call it like it is and make tough decisions, you know, like Harry Truman was. Castro is Satan, and so too was his protégé, Hugo Chávez, who we’re told is now burning in hell (which is where bad guys who nationalize their oil fields always go). Any foreign leader who takes an independent line but isn’t obviously a baddie is French. The UN Secretary General usually falls into this category.

This is precisely the level of sophistication that your average American brings to the table when contemplating war and peace, and it’s not an accident. We are only allowed two possible responses to any international crisis: cower under our beds or go marching boldly off to war. In order to ensure these reactions, the world has to be drawn in stark black and white terms. The fact that this kind of thinking has always been a part of our national character just helps matters along.

This process has been on full display since Hugo Chávez died. The Acceptable Opinion Machine has gone into overdrive to make sure that Mr. and Mrs. America come away with the Right Impression. The cruder right-wing outlets, preaching to the choir, as it were, tell you outright that Chávez was the devil, worse than Stalin even, and he’s burning in hell. But that’s a given. More insidious is the bias in the mainstream press. I found this gem today: “Despite oil donations, offers of Katrina aid, Chávez never caught on as savior of poor in US.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez offered to send thousands of soldiers, firefighters and volunteers to help with the cleanup. He also pledged $1 million in aid plus fuel to help rebuild hard-hit cities like New Orleans.

The offer, swiftly rejected, was part of a larger pattern: Chávez’s repeated attempts to provide humanitarian relief to low-income and distressed U.S. families. Despite those efforts, he was never able to foster his image as a savior of the American poor like he did in Venezuela. More often, he was accused of orchestrating politically motivated ploys that in the end helped relatively few Americans.

It’s possible that Chávez never caught on as a savior of the US poor because his offers were “swiftly rejected.” Who swiftly rejected them, and why? No answer. Instead, we’re left with the impression that, you know, we Americans just don’t go for that commie stuff.

And who accused him of “orchestrating politically motivated ploys”? And why should it matter? The victims of Katrina wouldn’t have cared why Chávez was helping them, they would have just been happy that he was doing it (this is precisely why the aid offers were “swiftly rejected,” of course.) The Marshall Plan was a politically motivated ploy designed to undermine the appeal of communism in war-torn western Europe. Does that make it a bad thing? Motivations don’t really matter; actions do. But that introduces gray into our black and white worldview, so it has to be left out.

A think tanker then puts it all into perspective for us:

“Many people questioned his motivation,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society think tank. “Was this a true humanitarian gesture or was it an opportunity to stick it in the eye of the United States? I think many people in the U.S. thought it was the latter.”

Many people might be curious about what the hell the Council of the Americas and Americas Society think tank is. I’m not exactly sure, but if you go to their web site you’ll read that they are a group of opinion leaders who, surprise surprise, favor open markets. How original. So many opinion leaders, so few opinions. If you click the link that says “COA Corporate Members,” you’ll see a sparkling cavalcade of well-meaning individuals whose motivations are always pure: AIG, Archer Daniels Midland, Bank of America, Cargill, Chevron, Coca-Cola, etc. The list goes on. I wonder, is this a group of selfless opinion leaders who want to help Latin America, or just a front group for corporations who want to stick it in the rear of the Venezuelan people? Many of us think it is the latter. It would have been helpful if our intrepid reporters mentioned this not insignificant detail, but they clearly had bigger fish to fry:

While much of Chávez’s socialist vision would have been in line with that of many American liberals, he never gained widespread admiration in the U.S.

Hollywood actor Sean Penn and director Oliver Stone praised him, but they were the exception, and many were hesitant to embrace a leader with military roots who shut down media outlets and abolished term limits

Everybody knows liberals don’t mind leaders with military roots who shut down media outlets, especially Hollywood elites like Sean Penn and Oliver Stone. Apparently, conservatives have always abhorred military dictatorships in Latin America. Let me remind you that this is not World Net Daily or Fox News. It’s from the Associated Press.

That’s how propaganda is done. The ground is being prepared to bring democracy, USA Inc. style, to Venezuela. One bright shiny morning, free market principles will be restored, and the peasants, liberated from the tyranny of free healthcare and education, can get right with God again.

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Posted by OHollern at 05:10 PM
September 25, 2011
The Fox That Didn’t Bark in the Night

From New York magazine:

The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” finally opened Wednesday at 45–51 Park Place. Last year, Park51, as the mosque–community center two iconic blocks from the WTC is called, was the flashpoint of the most heated New York City public debate in decades, prompting raucous community-board meetings, much incendiary rhetoric about the supposed Islamization of America, and, eventually, the uncommon sight of Mayor Bloomberg crying on television while defending New York as an unending beacon of tolerance where “no neighborhood is off-limits to God’s love and mercy.”

On Wednesday night, however, aside from the cop car that sits outside the building 24/7 and a number of burly, black-clad bouncers, Park51’s recent history was little in evidence…

No one I talked to wanted to discuss the outrageous events of the past year. In fact, neither Pamela Geller or Robert Spencer — the firebrand bloggers who concocted the bulk of the anti-mosque talking points — even mentioned the Park51 opening on their sites. Then again, they may still by lying low in the wake of the disclosure that their views were widely quoted in the papers of Norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik.

From Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones:

The mosque was introduced to the public in December 2009, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. In May 2010 the project was approved, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. A week later, a New York Post columnist wrote a piece called “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero,” Pamela Geller continued shrieking about it, and —

And suddenly Rupert Murdoch’s other New York-based news operation took notice. After all, there was an election coming in November, and what better way to rally the troops? It was just one more log for Fox to toss onto its Bonfire of Xenophobia last summer..


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:32 PM
January 03, 2011
The Medium is the Message

Way back when, I wrote the following:

Lest we forget, American tanks blocked off access to Firdos Square on that triumphant day [April 9, 2003]. Inside were many American soldiers and civilians and a small group of Iraqis, most of them members of Chalabi’s private, U.S.-funded militia. The statue was toppled by an American cable pulled by an American tank retrieval vehicle operated by American soldiers. The American flag which briefly ornamented Saddam’s head was put there by an American soldier. It was an American officer who realized just in time that the stars and stripes were somewhat off-message, and ordered them removed. Somehow or other, an Iraqi flag happened to be on hand…

As an old flack myself, I had recognized a photo-op even as I watched this one over and over on the day it debuted. But I didn’t know the half of it. For the rest of the story, as the unlamented Paul Harvey used to say, read the fascinating full account by Peter Maas in Pro Publica from which this excerpt comes:

Very few Iraqis were there. If you were at the square, or if you watch the footage, you can see, on the rare occasions long shots were used, that the square was mostly empty. You can also see, from photographs as well as video, that much of the crowd was made up of journalists and marines. Because of the lo-fi quality of the video and the shifting composition of the crowd, it’s hard to give a precise number, but perhaps a quarter to a half consisted of journalists or marines.

The crowd’s size — journalists, marines, and Iraqis — does not seem to have exceeded several hundred at its largest, and was much smaller for most of the two hours. The Iraqis who were photogenically enthusiastic — sledgehammering the statue, jumping on it after the toppling — were just an excitable subset of all Iraqis there.

“I saw a lot of people watching with their arms crossed, not at all celebrating,” Collier noted. Closeups filled the screen with the frenzied core of the small crowd and created an illusion of wall-to-wall enthusiasm throughout Baghdad. It was an illusion that reflected only the media’s yearning for exciting visuals…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:14 PM
December 22, 2010
Biotech Versus the “Common Interest”

Like a teacher fresh out of ideas who resorts to requiring memorization of material, the American intelligence community, so called, has often resorted to accusations involving sexual misconduct in attempts to silence, or at least strike back at, critics of the imperial policies.

Not that the accusations are always baseless; it seems that those adventurous enough to join the game are also adventurous in other areas of life, sometimes reprehensibly so. Witness the story of Scott Ritter, for one. But realistically, and without excusing such behavior, sexual escapades are nothing new in the annals of the great game. Not infrequently, the most publicly moralistic are found to act quite differently in private.

But such accusations are becoming rather transparent, a sort of playground vengeance, calling names when no straightforward denial or defense is available. The Secret Government, as Bill Moyers called it in his famous documentary, does not like its methods laid bare to public view. Not only does scrutiny displease the players, whose activities proceed more efficiently outside the spotlight; it seriously embarrasses the officeholders, past and present, who appear as salaried government employees, thus on the taxpayer’s dime, acting as agents of corporations attempting to take over foreign markets. Even more-or-less friendly countries are subject to corporate invasion assisted by all the wiles and strategies of American diplomacy.

Summary: Mission Paris recommends that that [sic] the USG reinforce our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology by publishing a retaliation list when the extend “Reasonable Time Period” expires. In our view, Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the Commission. In France, the “Grenelle” environment process is being implemented to circumvent science-based decisions in favor of an assessment of the “common interest.” Combined with the precautionary principle, this is a precedent with implications far beyond MON-810 BT corn cultivation. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices. In fact, the pro-biotech side in France — including within the farm union — have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin to turn this issue in France. End Summary.


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For the non-agriculturally minded like me, MON 810 turns out to be a genetically modified maize from Monsanto. The cable never actually mentions the company by name, but each of the first four paragraphs includes a mention of MON 810, and the remaining three discuss the anti-GMO movement in Europe. Unless my untrained eye has overlooked something, no other product or corporation is mentioned directly, though the term “science-based decision-making” is used to obscure the reality of corporations deciding on diets rather than people choosing their own. Do we get to eat what we want, or will we eat what corporations tell us to eat? Will we let Monsanto eliminate traditional farming and force every farmer to buy seeds for each new crop every year from now on?

The cable refers derisively to the “common interest” as the alternative to science-based decisions, putting quotes around the term. Then it proceeds to a consideration of possible action.

Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory.

The final sentence of the cable stipulates a variance between US-French cooperation with respect to many foreign policy objectives, and the conflict over what the cable calls “ag biotech”.

We can manage both at the same time and should not let one set of priorities detract from the other.

Foreign policy objectives should not detract from governmental assistance for Monsanto’s attempts to introduce GMO corn to a wary or unwilling population.

Interestingly, the New York Times website produces a page in response to searches for news on Monsanto whose last entry is dated October 7 of this year, and is entitled “Monsanto Income Drops by Nearly Half”. Most likely the Times article on the new revelations from Wikileaks is still in preparation.

Searching the Washington Post website for Monsanto turns up two articles in the last sixty days, the first an obituary for a former employee and the second an AP report explaining that Monsanto’s chairman, president, and CEO Hugh Grant — apparently a different person than the well-known actor, but even more egotistical — has taken a 2.2 percent pay cut this year, mainly because his incentive compensation is down $1.1 million. His salary and “stock-related rewards” climbed.

The article notes that Monsanto is trying to move away from its less profitable herbicide business into the more lucrative area of genetically engineered crops. If that’s such a wonderful thing that the government is engaged in retaliating against EU countries who resist its introduction, then why do people resist its introduction? It’s not just a debate over whether you can trust corporations to tell you what you must eat; it’s a fight over whether corporations will control humanity’s access to food.

If crops worldwide become dependent on new batches of seeds from Monsanto, what’s the point of governments?

[h/t Mike Ludwig at truthout]

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:49 AM
September 29, 2010
Free, and Worth Every Penny

Great catch by Robert Stein at Connecting.the.Dots:

As Glenn Beck’s Dr. Frankenstein, Karl Rove’s rehabilitator and Sarah Palin’s sugar daddy, Murdoch has defined media deviancy down to the point where it matches the now rock-bottom ethical standards of politics.

One gauge of his dual motivation is reflected in the antics of the Journal, which Murdoch has put behind a pay wall online, but which in recent weeks has made freely available to all its most virulent attacks on Obama.

In today’s edition alone, one columnist calls Barack Obama “kind of a jerk,” another parses his “disastrous fall” and still another explains why “Connecticut voters want a smackdown of the president’s policies.”

But if would-be readers are interested in a critique of Stephen Hawking’s views on God or what Congress should do about IPOs to help the American economy on “the road to recovery,” they will have to pay Murdoch for the privilege.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:55 PM
September 08, 2010
A Modest Proposal for the Mainstream Media

It’s not censorship when you do it to yourself, people. It’s editorial judgment.

He whose name ought not to be spoken wants to burn Korans in a southern state on the anniversary of 9/11. He exists as news because various television, internet, radio and newspaper editors and writers decided that he was news. And so he became news.

Another editorial judgment, this one based not on the law of the journalistic herd but on that of common sense, would turn this fool back into nonnews, and restore him to his proper invisibility as pastor of a church with a congregation of fifty. Maybe fifty. Has anybody actually counted, or did you all take his word for it? Because he exaggerates, you know. For instance, he calls himself a Christian.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:31 AM
June 01, 2010
Exactly

Couldn’t have said it better myself, and therefore won’t. Here’s The Economist.

Maureen Dowd doinked Mr Obama Saturday with her silly-straw-like wit, faulting his “inability to encapsulate Americans’ feelings.” Yeah, you know who would’ve killed as the president facing a deep-sea oil blowout? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Or maybe Meryl Streep. Did you see them in “Doubt?”

Ms Dowd’s involvement is fitting, as this may be the sorriest spectacle of content-free public hyperventilation since Al Gore’s earth tones. The difference is that in this case the issue is deadly serious; it’s the public discourse that is puerile. There is plenty of room for substantive critique of the flaws in governance and policy uncovered by the Deepwater Horizon blowout. You could talk about regulatory failure. You could talk about corporate impunity. You could talk about blithely ignoring the tail-end risk of going ahead with deepwater drilling without any capacity to cope with catastrophic blowouts. Precisely none of these subjects are evident in the arguments our pundit class is having. Instead we have empty-headed squawking over what the catastrophe is doing to Barack Obama's image…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:16 PM
May 11, 2010
America the Fanciful

I can remember, vividly, the first time that I learned of the curious psychological concept of “emotional contagion.” It was, for me, an “Aha Moment” that put the incomprehensible 1960s and ’70s, with which I was (not entirely successfully) trying to cope, into slightly better focus. For those who are unfamiliar with the term (but probably quite familiar with the social phenomenon, itself), emotional contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others. It is emotional contagion that makes human group dynamics tick along a vast spectrum of emotions; from a crazed lynch mob to an anti-war peace march, emotional contagion plays a role in human group-think.

Faced with another incomprehensible American epoch, I’ve decided to dust off the old text books and look for some comfort, or at least some sense in the context of emotional contagion. The ability to transfer moods appears to be innate in humans; anyone who has raised a child knows all about this innate ability. That knowledge of human behavior has been used to great effect in “persuasion” of all kinds from advertising to political propaganda. Want someone to buy your ridiculously over-priced anti-aging cream? Share your fear of becoming pathetic human detritus as a result of wrinkling and age spots. Want someone to vote you into the Oval Office? Share your fear of a national security breakdown if you are not elected to keep us all safe. A daily barrage of similar appeals to emotion is a familiar fact of American life.

One fine point having to do with emotional contagion that escaped me in my youth, though, is particularly useful in trying to understand the crazy (and quite unattractive) fits that our country is going through in 2010. That point is this most excellent distinction, made by Erich Fromm, that a higher cognitive development, autonomy, is necessary for human empathy but not for emotional contagion and, as most of us can attest, there is a pronounced variable of empathic capacity among humans. As with so many of our human reactions there is a primal element underlying a higher-functioning, thinking element; clearly, we are not yet so highly evolved that the higher functions always prevail.

With all of that in mind, it is a quite interesting conundrum that our generals and politicians are grappling with at the moment and some of the solutions that are being signaled are undesirable to say the very least. I have to assume that, by today, 99% of Americans are at least somewhat familiar with last week’s events in the Big Apple…


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During the course of a fairly humdrum day on Times Square, a Muslim immigrant (no less) street vendor alerted NYPD that a van was double-parked, idling and smoking up his turf. Investigating officers discovered that the vehicle, a van, contained an odd assortment of potentially incendiary devices (propane tanks for gas grills, fireworks in a can, along with a footlocker full of (non-volatile) fertilizer. Now before any patriots get their panties in a wad over my making light of the danger to Manhattanites — a number of whom might have been incinerated, had this been a real car-bomb — I would emphasize the fact that this was NOT a real car-bomb. It was an ass-hat collection of things that might look remotely like a car-bomb to uniformed beat cops, on initial inspection.

Immediate suspicion fell on a skinny, middle-aged white man caught on camera changing his shirt in Shubert Alley. When the vehicle’s VIN number was traced, however, authorities discovered that it had recently been purchased by a young man from Connecticut who was born in — OMG — Pakistan.

In a cinematic race-against-time, Faisal Shahzad was apprehended on a flight departing JFK for Dubai, which event kicked off a bout of political hysteria.

By the time the Sunday Talking Heads were “on air” there was talk of expanding to a ground war in Pakistan and “modifying” Miranda Rights for terrorism suspects. Sheeeeesh…

Attorney General Eric Holder met little to no resistance from Jake Tapper (standing in for George Stephanopoulos) on This Week, when Holder pronounced that:

“Well, we’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack. We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it and that he was working at their direction.”

It never occurred to Tapper to “get the story” on the evidence that led to Holder’s statement despite plenty of unclassified, well-publicized reports to the contrary. Like these:

  • Gen. David Petraeus, earlier in the week, telling us that Shahzad was apparently acting as a “lone wolf”
  • The Pakistani Taliban publicly disowning him — several times
  • Ample evidence of his utter ineptitude as a bomber that firmly contradicts any notion that he was “trained” in Pakistan (or anywhere else where effective car bombs go off on a regular basis)
  • Mounting evidence that Shahzad’s life was falling apart — his house was in foreclosure, his wife took his two kids and left him, he was being hounded by bill collectors and was forced to go, “hat-in-hand” to his well-to-do relatives for financial help (which probably has more to do with his annual trips to Pakistan).

Then, on 60 Minutes, we had Secretary of State Clinton banging the drum loudly and matter-of-factly reversing our diplomatic stance toward “our Pakistani allies”:

“We want more. We expect more. We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”

Surely, Clinton’s words on Sunday night were a reprise of a message already delivered to “our Pakistani allies” who pledged their allegiance, on Sunday morning, by carrying out a helicopter gunship assault on insurgent hide-outs in the Orakzai tribal region, killing 23 militants, according to local officials.

So now we have to choose between the “emotional contagion” of: the “Pakistanis are training each other to blow up Times Square so let’s pound them into oblivion” appeal or a more measured (and sure to be dubbed “sissy”) approach of gathering evidence and facts so that we can understand what we’re truly dealing with.

Certainly current events can be twisted to support the “Carpe Diem” approach that our politicians and military seem to favor. How fortuitous for the “Pakistan Problem” to rear its head just in time to deflect attention from our fool’s errand in Afghanistan, our tiresome hounding of Iran, or our loosening grip on global power and respect, generally.

Try, for a minute or two, to detach from the fear and loathing that might well prevent you from ever attending another Broadway show and let’s just look at the facts dispassionately…

  • During the period of time that the suspect was thought to be a 40-year-old white guy, there was far less hysteria despite the fact that the net effect, if that car bomb had gone off, would have been the same regardless of the bomber’s racial background (it just wouldn’t have been a credible excuse for a war on Pakistan).
  • We are expected to believe that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, went to considerable trouble and expense, at a time that his life was in a shambles, pursuing an education in bomb-building. Does anyone really believe that Shahzad was such a prize that the Taliban was providing him with an all-expense-paid educational grant to learn the ancient art of car-bombing? Most American teenagers, without benefit of a Taliban education, could build a more effective car bomb than Faisal Shahzad did (I daresay, I could) despite his supposed intensive Taliban training. And, too, most American teenagers would have the presence of mind to not leave the keys to the getaway car in the vehicle rigged with the bomb…
  • And then, of course there is the bomb, itself, consisting of propane tanks without the caps removed, rendering them useless as bombs; a fuse, of sorts, fashioned from firecrackers specifically manufactured so that they can’t ignite each other in a chain reaction, and a foot-locker full of non-volatile fertilizer.
  • A far more compelling argument can be made that Shahzad was just a loser who, faced with having to return home to Mom and Dad, without his family and in financial ruin was at least hoping to go back as the mastermind Times Square Bomber.
  • The Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban) were, at first, tempted to take credit for the commotion in Times Square but, when they realized what a joke Shahzad’s bomb attempt was, they quickly made several public statements praising his bravery but, at the same time, confirming that they didn’t have a clue who he was let alone take credit for training him.
  • On May 6, McClatchy newspapers cited “six U.S. officials” who stated that “no credible evidence has been found” that Shahzad “received any serious terrorist training from the Pakistani Taliban or another radical Islamic group.”
  • In fact, Tehrik-i-Taliban has never attempted, nor do they seem to be interested in, carrying out terrorist attacks on foreign soil.
  • Some American reports have suggested a link between Shahzad’s father, a former military officer, and a radical Taliban leader. But, according to Pakistani police, they questioned Shahzad’s father about his son’s activities, but he is not a suspect in the case. And nothing has come out of Islamabad confirming any connection between the Senior Shahzad and the Taliban.
  • And the far-fetched story of Shahzad being located when his cell phone was detected by a secret spy plane? The rather more mundane fact is that, at the last minute, immigration officials recognized Shahzad’s name on a passenger list and contacted the FBI.

    Some of us may really, really want Faisal Shahzad to be taking orders from the Pakistani Taliban but most of the available evidence doesn’t support that scenario. Of course, if one has secret, inside information and isn’t pressed to produce any substantive facts, well … Bombs Away.

    UPDATE: The New York Daily News published results of a poll of their readership, this morning, in answer to the question: Will the recent bomb-scare keep you away from Times Square in the future? The answers:

    • Yes. I refuse to go there — 15%
    • No. Clearly the NYPD has it under control —73%
    • Not sure yet — 11%

    Good for you New York City!

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    Posted by Frumpzilla at 11:00 AM
March 26, 2010
A No-Snow Job

Back in the early days of our Southeast Asian War Games a Washington Post and Times-Herald editor sent me to the District Building to cover what he figured had to be a mob scene at the marriage license bureau. After all, the White House had just announced that married men would become eligible for the draft in just a few days’ time. I reported back that there was no mob and consequently no news. “There you go,” the editor said. “There’s your story.”

When I bitched about this nonsense to an older reporter he said, “Don’t sweat it, kid. We call that a ‘no-snow story.’ Some idiot on the desk looks out the window and sees it isn’t snowing when it said in his own paper it would. To an idiot it’s news when the world fails to cooperate with him.”

I have been sensitive to no-snow stories ever since, and once you start looking, they’re everywhere. Thus I sympathize with a certain Jonathan Strong who writes for Tucker Carlson’s new conservative website, The Daily Caller. Poor Strong did the best he could with what he had.

The idiots topped his story with this headline, which is almost totally divorced from the perfect blizzard of no-snow that follows it:


GOP AIDES CITE RUDENESS AND CURSING
FROM OBAMA-PUSHED HEALTH-CARE CALLS


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:23 PM
March 02, 2010
Some Modest Inquiries

Would the president’s health care bill fare better if it wasn’t longer than War and Peace and nowhere near as interesting? If it was cut to, say, ten pages, even Republicans would be able to digest it and it might now be the law of the land.

Might we take Rachel Maddow more seriously if she didn’t wear sneakers on her news show? And wouldn’t her news show benefit from more news and less cuteness? On a recent evening Maddow interviewed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate New Yorker who was named to succeed Hillary Clinton when Clinton became capo di tutti cappi di tutti diplomati. When the camera drew back for a long shot of the two women sitting at facing desks we could see that Rachel was ready for some post-punditry hoops. She was wearing what appeared to be Converse high-tops, black with white rubber trimming. Gillibrand, who has shed a few pounds since joining the August Body, is certainly the best-looking Senator and probably one of the smartest. She was soft-spoken, businesslike, not wearing sneakers, and was not in the least bit cute.


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Would Chris Matthews find more viewers if he didn’t constantly interrupt his guests by answering his own questions and spraying saliva all over the place?

During the president’s state of the union address, Justice Alito, who was sitting directly in front of the president a couple of rows back, kept shaking his head from side to side in apparent disapproval of what he was hearing. Shouldn’t our Supreme Court Justices, even those who are runaway ideologues and hypocrites, at least try to maintain some measure of political neutrality?

To be sure, that’s an old-fashioned notion and not one that will find favor with the likes of Alito, or with the oddly creepy Chief Justice, with the sneering Scalia, or Clarence the Clown. These gifted legal theorists have now declared that corporations are the same as people and therefore have the right to spend as much money as they want to elect their favorite candidates. Thus forty or fifty years-worth of laws limiting the pernicious influence of powerful corporate interests on democratic elections was wiped away. And those laws prominently included the McCain-Feingold Act, co-sponsored by the recent Republican candidate for the presidency. Nobody is safe from this court.

What is the O’Reilly factor? Maybe if we could figure out what it is, we could eliminate it. (Ed. note: It is suavity.) Without his factor, might O’Reilly go away, too? Of course, if O’Reilly miraculously disappeared, then Keith Olbermann would have nothing to talk about on his news show and maybe he would also go away. As a recovering MSNBC addict, I can say that might not be all bad. Even if you like Olbermann, you can see that he’s almost as far out of control as Rachel Maddow.

But if Olbermann is out of control, what can we say about Rush Limbaugh? It’s hard to understand the attraction of a man of such spectacular repulsiveness. He’s fat, loud, ugly, mean as a rabid coyote, utterly cynical, totally irresponsible, dope-addled, and breathtakingly dishonest. He spews hate and broadcasts lies, and, despite these traits, or because of them, lots of people think he’s great. A great mystery. But then, lots of people thought Hitler was a fun guy.

A final few tidbits for thought. Why does anyone care what Arianna Huffington thinks? She used to be a loud-mouthed conservative and now she’s a loud-mouthed liberal. Huh?

Who is Glenn Beck and why do we keep hearing about him? There seems to be nothing about him that isn’t reprehensible. Nobody likes him, including his mother. Everything he says is a lie. He lacks charm, wit and intelligence. So why the hell do we keep hearing about him? Let’s put him out with the trash, with Sam Alito’s manners and O’Reilly’s factor.

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Posted by Paul Duffy at 05:32 PM
December 07, 2009
Sometimes the Good Old Days Actually Were Good

For instance, read this:

Some editors at The Dallas Morning News have started reporting directly to executives outside the newsroom who oversee advertising sales, under a restructuring that overturns longstanding traditions in American newspapers aimed at shielding news judgments from business concerns.

A memo sent to employees on Wednesday explains the creation of new positions with the title of general manager, each responsible for ad sales in particular parts of the paper. “In the sports and entertainment segments, the senior news editors will report directly to the G.M. while retaining a strong reporting relationship to the editor and managing editor,” the memo said.

In an interview, Bob Mong, the editor of The Morning News, stressed that no other parts of the paper would report to people outside the newsroom, though advertising managers had been assigned to work with several other areas, like health, education, travel and real estate. Asked if there were plans to apply the structure in sports and entertainment to other parts of the paper, he said, “not at this time.”

And now read this:

Back in the early 1960s I covered the District Building (Washington’s City Hall) for the old Washington Daily News, a conservative paper in the Scripps Howard chain. City licensing officials, I learned one day, were investigating complaints of false advertising and fraud against the city’s new car dealers.

After finding that the allegations were true, I handed in a three-part series. Among my examples were fraudulent ads from the Daily News itself, new car dealers being among the largest sources of advertising revenue for all metropolitan papers.

But the city desk let the story stand. The morning the first installment appeared, so did the paper’s editor-in-chief John O’Rourke — followed by two angry-looking strangers. It was rare to see him before lunch. In two years at the paper, I had never actually met the man.

Minutes after O’Rourke had disappeared into his office, his secretary called to summon me. On my way in, I passed by the desk of a veteran reporter. “Good luck, kid,” he said. “You’ve just written a one-part three-part series.”

Inside O’Rourke’s office were the managing editor, the two strangers, and, even more ominously, the business manager. “Can you back up everything you’ve got. young fellow?” O’Rourke asked. I said yes. “Good,” O’Rourke said. “Now beat it.”

The series ran as written.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:41 AM
September 30, 2009
The News from Bedlam

This from the Rude Pundit, who gets it just right:

Let’s push this further. What if CNN or MSNBC interviewed 9/11 truthers on a daily basis during the Bush administration? Even if the hosts scoffed at them, what if, on a semi-regular basis, someone who thought 9/11 was an inside job or that Flight 93 was shot down was allowed to comment on issues related to that day and allowed to say that the Bush administration destroyed the Twin Towers to bring down the nation in order to maintain power? You know what would have happened? Shit would have burned. Conservatives would have exploded with rage, Democratic politicians would have had to condemn the people who said it, and the news networks that gave the truthers time and investigated what they said would have faced boycotts and threats.

Which all leads to what we deal with today: why the fuck are we even hearing about things like whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States? It’s not a real story. Why the fuck are there serious discussions on the news networks over whether or not the Obama administration’s ultimate plan is to turn America into some kind of socialist dystopia? Or about whether or not Obama is like Hitler (a report that CNN actually did)? Or whether Obama wants to set up “death panels” to kill old people? Why are guests allowed on who believe these things? It ain’t censorship to not give a platform to maniacs…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:08 PM
September 13, 2009
Thank God You Cannot Bribe or Twist the Honest British Journalist…

American, French journos lowball teabaggers by a factor of a hundred; only Brit scribes nail it:

Associated Press:

WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of protesters fed up with government spending marched to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, showing their disdain for the president’s health care plan with slogans such as “Obamacare makes me sick” and “I’m not your ATM.”

The line of protesters clogged several blocks near the Capitol, according to the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Agence France Presse:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Ten of thousands of protestors from across the United States descended on the nation’s capital Saturday, decrying President Barack Obama, “big government” and big spending.

Daily Mail:

Up to two million people marched to the U.S. Capitol today, carrying signs with slogans such as “Obamacare makes me sick” as they protested the president’s health care plan and what they say is out-of-control spending.

The line of protesters spread across Pennsylvania Avenue for blocks, all the way to the capitol, according to the Washington Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:36 PM
August 06, 2009
Dyspepsia from the Right

My old paper the Washington Post, which has never been truly liberal, is now becoming indistinguishable from the Moonie rag, the Washington Times. Here, from what is presented as a news story rather than an editorial, is its take on former president Bill Clinton’s mission of mercy to North Korea. Rush Limbaugh couldn’t have said it better:

Former president Bill Clinton's central role in the return of two journalists detained by North Korea has once again cast a spotlight on his vast web of financial and political contacts, a network that troubled senators who weighed whether to confirm his wife as secretary of state.

In the case of the detainees, Clinton tapped wealthy business people to execute a mission that, without a special federal waiver for the aircraft to travel to North Korea, would have been illegal. A few weeks ago, one of his business contacts had the ear of Hillary Rodham Clinton in her role as secretary of state, an uncomfortable reminder of the former president's far-flung interests and associates…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:54 AM
April 23, 2009
She Broke the Pressmen's Union

I worked all my life as a reporter and an owner of newspapers, and a publisher of papers owned by others. David Simon (see the second post down) is correct in all respects. The owners called newspapers “franchises,” which should give you the idea.

Here’s a story: I was at a publishers’ convention when Katherine Graham entered the room to speak. I was standing beside the Knight brothers, of the old Knight Newspapers chain. They were very short and stood on their chairs to see her.

Hundreds of publishers rose cheering as Mrs.Graham went by. I heard one Knight brother say to the other, “They’re clapping because of Watergate aren’t they ?” The other answered, “Are you kidding? They’re clapping because she broke the pressmen’s union.”

I’ve heard publishers brag that they got a 40 percent profit from a few of their newspapers. Their newspapers were just horrid. The owners would talk a lot about “clean markets” meaning that the paper was a monopoly without unions. I could go on and on.

The point that I’ve been making for years is that the owners starved their papers big time. And when a strong competitor came along, they were so flustered, they decided the best defense was to give what was left of their product away.

Perhaps the newspaper, as we’ve known it, would have died anyway because of the web. But the owners’ overweening greed made the industry an easy mark. Even before the web, newspapers were going down hill fast, losing readership.

One newspaper circulation manager told me a few years ago that his department had to re-sell 25 percent of their circulation each year just to stay even. Now that same paper has a market penetration of only 35 percent of the households in its area.

Yet even today, as the papers cut and cut, the owners continue to demand 20 percent margins. They are eating themselves alive, screwing their readers, their advertisers, and their employees.

They have no answers. For instance, the chief executive of Lee Newspapers for the past decade decided to bury that otherwise strong company under a mountain of debt to buy the Pulitzer newspapers. Then it was trading at $36 a share; now it is 36 cents a share. She’s still the president, drawing a salary of millions.

The stories are endless.

But no longer is A. J. Liebling’s insightful remark —“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” — true. Now local news websites are popping up, at a startup cost which is 4.5 percent of the capital needed to start a daily.

A thousand young voices will rise up to challenge the remaining dailies and the newspaper business will soon become what it was when the founders wrote the Constitution: lots of “papers” in each town and city.


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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 11:02 AM
April 20, 2009
Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Worse…

…along comes Jeff Stein at CQ Politics:

Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington…

And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for “lack of evidence,” it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush’s top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe.

Why? Because, according to three top former national security officials, Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times and engulf the White House…

Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program.

In this sorry story of corruption and carreerism and high crimes, the most shameful player of all is The New York Times. We don’t expect much of Bush appointees and multimillionaire Blue Dog Democrats like Harman, after all. But like beaten curs that crawl back toward their masters, tails wagging, we still hope for the best from America’s best newspaper. Can there be any doubt that breaking the wiretap story on the eve of the 2004 election would have delivered us from evil for four more years?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:15 AM
April 09, 2009
Just One of the Guys

One of the few amusing aspects of Bush’s 2000 campaign was to watch the press corps get snookered by that whole nickname business. The boys and girls on the bus would jump up and down and clap their hands and squeal like middle-school girls. Oh, look, the MSM would chorus in delight, he calls Karl “Turdblossom!” What a regular guy! Why he has nicknames for just about everybody! Even us! Well, some of us anyway. Gee, maybe someday if I pucker up just right…

The true nature and purpose of Bush’s nicknames never seemed to occur to these hardened professional cynics, but then love is blind. So here's a little primer for next time, guys, in the unlikely event that President Obama ever starts to call you “Inky” or “Pudge.” It’s from Garry Wills’ 1981 book, The Kennedy Imprisonment.

[Undersecretary of the Navy] Fay was regularly addressed as “Grand Old Lovable” by Kennedy, who understood instinctively how one asserts ownership over another by renaming him. Thomas Broderick told the Blairs: “Jack was always giving people nicknames. He called me Tommie or the Thin Man.”

To serve its purpose, the name had to be made up by Kennedy himself. Thus men normally called “Jim” by their family and friends became “Jamie” to John Kennedy. “Ben” Bradlee became “Benjie.” Inga Arvad was both claimed as a lover and trivialized as one when Kennedy addressed her, invariably, as “Inga-Binga.”

Kennedy was a Steerforth in the way he could attract people by putting them in their place, expressing superiority and affection in a single name. Steerforth, remember, makes David Copperfield proud that the school hero is familiar enough with him to call him “Daisy.” Only shrewd Miss Dartle sees how the name flatters and unmans at the same time:

“But really, Mr. Copperfield,” she asked, “is it a Nickname? And why does he give it you? Is it — eh? — because he thinks you young and innocent? I am so stupid in these things.”

I colored in replying that I believed it was.

“Oh! said Miss Dartle. “Now I am glad to know it. He thinks you are young and innocent; and so you are his friend? Well, that’s quite delightful!”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:51 PM
February 07, 2009
Econ.101: Spending = Stimulus

Opposite Land, from the New York Times:

Most Senate Republicans remained opposed to the measure, criticizing it as a case study in excessive spending that would do little to lift the economy. Some conservatives indicated Friday night that they would push for time to study the new legislation before any final vote.

“We want to stimulate the economy, not mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren by the kind of fiscally profligate spending embodied in this legislation,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, the defeated Republican presidential nominee, who has emerged as a chief opponent of the proposal.

Real World, from Media Matters:

Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains: “Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple. ... Any reporter who does not understand this fact has no business reporting on the economy.”

Unfortunately, many of the reporters who have shaped the stimulus debate don’t seem to understand that.

ABC’s Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: “And as you know, there’s a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn’t stimulate. A lot of people have said it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus…”

If there’s one fact that should be made clear in every news report about the stimulus package working its way through Congress, it is this: Government spending is stimulative.

That’s a basic principle of economics, and understanding it is essential to assessing any stimulus package. So it should be an underlying premise of the media’s coverage of the stimulus debate. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Indeed, reporters routinely suggest that spending is not stimulative.

Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains: “Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple... Any reporter who does not understand this fact has no business reporting on the economy.”

Unfortunately, many of the reporters who have shaped the stimulus debate don’t seem to understand that.

ABC’s Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: “And as you know, there’s a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn’t stimulate. A lot of people have said it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus.”

That formulation — “it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus” — is complete nonsense; it’s like saying, “This is a hot fudge sundae, not a dessert.” But nonsensical as it is, it has also been quite common in recent news reports.

There’s another problem with Gibson’s formulation, though — in describing the stimulus as a “spending bill,” he ignores the fact that the bill contains tax cuts, too. Lots and lots of tax cuts. And those tax cuts, by the way, provide less stimulus than government spending on things like food stamps and extending unemployment benefits. It probably goes without saying that Gibson didn’t ask if the bill would be more effective if the tax cuts were replaced by additional spending.

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, among others, has repeatedly suggested “welfare” provisions in the bill wouldn’t stimulate the economy. This is the exact opposite of true; those provisions are among the most stimulative things the government can possibly do. There are some fairly obvious reasons why that is true, beginning with the fact that if you give a poor person $100 in food stamps, you can be pretty sure they’re going to spend all $100 of it; but if you give a rich person $100 in tax cuts, they probably won’t spend much of it at all.

But we needn’t rely on logic and common sense to know that welfare spending is stimulative; economists study these things. One such economist is Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com, who served as an adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign. Zandi has produced a handy chart showing how much a variety of spending increases and tax cuts would stimulate the economy. According to Zandi, a dollar spent on increasing unemployment benefits yields $1.64 in increased gross domestic product, and a dollar spent on food stamps yields $1.73 in GDP.

As for tax cuts, Zandi says the most effective form is a payroll tax holiday. A one dollar reduction in federal revenues as a result of such a tax holiday would produce a $1.29 increase in GDP — far less than the benefit realized from extending unemployment benefits, increasing food stamps, providing general aid to state governments, or spending on infrastructure.

Yet if you turn on MSNBC any given morning, you’re likely to find Mika Brzezinski saying something like, “I want to look at the plan and how much of it is sort of welfare programs and how much are things that we know, either from history or because economic experts somehow know this, actually stimulates the economy.” Or like this: “Does this plan add up to the definition of stimulus? I don’t think it does. And I don’t question the value of food stamps and helping low-income people pay for college. It just shouldn’t be in this bill.” Or this: “If you’re gonna have welfare programs in this bill, call them welfare programs and pass them, but don’t call them facets of the bill meant to stimulate the economy. I do feel like there’s some old politics at play here.”

There’s old politics at play, all right — the old politics of demonizing “welfare spending” without any regard for the simple truth that such spending not only helps those Americans who are struggling the most feed their families, it also does more to stimulate the economy than anything else you can think of.

What you probably won’t see is Mika Brzezinski or Charles Gibson or any other TV reporter suggesting that the tax cuts in the bill are not stimulative and should be stripped — even though they are less effective as stimulus than unemployment benefits and food stamps.

At this point, it becomes impossible to ignore the elephant in the room: Television anchors like Charles Gibson are not going to qualify for food stamps anytime soon. But they would certainly benefit greatly from some tax cut provisions that wouldn’t do nearly as much to stimulate the economy.

(This is not the first time Gibson has shown himself to be badly out of touch on basic economic issues. During a Democratic presidential primary debate, Gibson challenged the candidates on their support for repealing President Bush’s tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year by saying that a family in which both parents are schoolteachers would be hit by the repeal. Gibson’s cluelessness was so apparent, the audience actually burst out laughing at him.)

So far, the news media’s coverage of the stimulus debate has consisted largely of repeating false Republican spin and pontificating about which side has been making their arguments more successfully (all the while ignoring the media’s own role in aiding the GOP.)

The bright side is that if reporters care about informing the public, it’s pretty easy to do — they just have to start basing their reports on the true premise that government spending is effective stimulus, rather than on the false premise that it isn’t. Everything else flows easily from there; for example, asking Republicans why they want to lard up the bill with less-stimulative tax cuts rather than unemployment benefits.

(Jamison Foser is Executive Vice President at Media Matters for America.)

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:03 AM
November 29, 2008
A Modern Day American Hero Confronts the Tyrant Doctrine

It’s quite rare for those of us at Bad Attitudes to praise anyone from the current crop of conservatives. Although one can see from the links on the sidebar here that conservatives of another generation are highly thought of here, Albert Jay Nock in particular and my own personal favorite, H.L. Mencken.

It’s probably unprecedented that we would praise a member of the Federalist Society here, but I’m going to award someone a Bad Attitudes Online Medal of Freedom, which coming from this site, is indeed an honor, notwithstanding that many of those medals given by a certain government official who stands at the pinnacle of power, but not for long, are considered by many in this country to be Medals of Shame.

However, Justice Richard Sanders of the Washington State Supreme Court deserves more than just praise and thus I’m going to give him the first Bad Attitudes Medal of Freedom for his principles in standing firm in his belief in the Constitution of the United States of America, and who obviously does not regard it, as some others do, as just a scrap of paper. The Washington State Olympian newspaper has the full story and Scott Horton, a legal scholar of immense talent and ethics who blogs at my favorite legal blog, Harper’s No Comment briefly details the events leading up to Robert Mukasey’s recent fainting spell.

Scott blogs for his Thanksgiving blessings, giving special thanks to honorable men like Justice Richard Sanders. As far as I know, Justice Sanders is no relation to Ben Franklin’s alter-ego of almost the same name, or at least I believe it to be so, although Richard Saunders, sometimes known as Poor Richard, was also known to give excellent advice to others even when they often didn’t want to hear what he had to say. Without further ado, here’s a portion of the post from Scott Horton’s blog:

Thomas Jefferson called the heavy-handed, fear-mongering rule of the Federalists from 1798 through 1800 a “tyranny,” and when friends protested, he explained why this term was correct notwithstanding the fact that the Federalists had taken power through the ballot box. They were, he said, tyrannical in their dismissive attitudes towards the liberties of the people, in their use of crass fear to retain and strengthen their grip on power and in their contempt for the dignity of the ordinary human being, something that a genuine democrat recognizes even in the least and most frail members of our species. He was right to use the term “tyranny” with respect to what the Federalists did.

And I am thankful to Richard Sanders, a long-time member of the Federalist Society and a justice of the Washington Supreme Court. As Michael Mukasey stood at the lectern of the society’s annual meeting and delivered a speech saluting the role played by latter-day Federalists in crafting a legal doctrine for the war on terror — a doctrine that included the use of torture as a presidential prerogative, and granting the president the right at his unreviewable whim to hold people in permanent confinement without ever bringing charges against them — Sanders rose and filled the hall with his voice. “Tyrant! You are a tyrant!” he shouted.

Mukasey paused, stunned by the outbreak, and minutes later he slumped to the floor — suffering from what was fortunately no more than a bout of fatigue. No, Sanders acknowledged, Mukasey himself is not a tyrant — he clearly has been the best of Bush’s three attorneys general (which is of course not much) — but the practices that Mukasey was extolling are tyrannical practices. Indeed, these practices — confinement without charge and denial of the writ of habeas corpus — were condemned as such before, by James Madison, whose silhouette appears, ironically, on the logo of the Federalist Society, and by Edmund Burke, to whose political philosophy many of these latter day Federalists purport to adhere, and whose Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol can be read today as a condemnation of Guantánamo and everything it stands for.

Sanders was right. He upheld values that others in the room had surrendered in the interest of political expedience. In 1800, the Federalist war stratagem caused a severe political setback to the party, ultimately leading to its political extinction. And in 2008, as in 2006, the same phenomenon has occurred in an America which has grown weary of hate and fear-mongering and anxious for hope and a revival of confidence in the American Idea.

I concur strongly with Mr. Horton. It is men like Justice Richard Sanders who are the true patriots amongst us, those who dare to speak truth to power. And I am amazed that our mainstream media has failed to let our people know about this story and the heroic actions of Richard Sanders, although we’ve known for some time that most of our press have no idea of what speaking truth to power means nor do they have any intention of letting the public know about all the abuses that have been committed in our name, at least not at this time.

One can only hope that eventually that time will come. In the meantime, be thankful that there are men like Richard Sanders, who are not afraid to confront those who would have no qualms about destorying our sacred Constitution. The torch of Lady Liberty still burns despite the efforts of evil men to put it out.


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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:17 PM
November 14, 2008
No Gloating on the Obama Victory, but Perhaps There is Some Consolation

I’ve promised not to gloat about the Obama victory, primarily because we don’t know how long it will take to clean up the 30-foot-high pile of manure (and growing) that George Bush and his administration have dumped upon the American People.

However, for those of us who suffered (for what seemed like eons), dealing, enduring, and cursing at Thomas Friedman’s faux Friedman Units, there is some consolation in the following news that was just released. Whether those in the liberal blogosphere choose to gloat, I’ll leave that up to each person’s individual conscience.

However, this news from Vanity Fair is quite dramatic and may offer some of those sufferers some consolation. Whether members of the liberal blogosphere wish to protest at those overly generous speaking engagements given to Mr. Friedman, I’ll leave that up to each person’s sense of what is right and what is wrong.

I suggest, even if you don’t choose to protest, that a list be kept of organizations that Mr. Friedman supports or speaks at, and if possible, those in the left blogosphere and reality-based world should protest those organizations and his speaking engagements, or for those working for those organizations, I recommend quitting in disgust.

Do it for truth and honesty and the basic premise that truth must be rewarded and lies must be punished. Better yet, take a lesson from history and boycott any organization that offers Mr. Friedman a forum — despite Mr. Friedman’s attempts at redemption by virtue of his recent articles on global warming.

I would suggest that no one in the left blogosphere buy his books, although I know no one in the left blogosphere who does. I hope everyone enjoys the moment. Long may it last.

It would be easy to dismiss today’s rant (however spot-on it might be) by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as yet another ideological tirade against the U.S. automobile industry. But based on the bad news coming out of shopping-mall owner General Growth Properties [GGP], it is no wonder Friedman is feeling crankier than usual. That’s because the author’s wife, Ann (née Bucksbaum), is an heir to the General Growth fortune. In the past year, the couple — who live in an 11,400-square-foot mansion in Bethesda, Maryland — have watched helplessly as General Growth stock has fallen 99 percent, from a high of $51 to a recent 35 cents a share. The assorted Bucksbaum family trusts, once worth a combined $3.6 billion, are now worth less than $25 million.

But don’t expect Friedman to go from Beirut to Jerusalem begging for money. The distinguished columnist (and former New Establishment member) is still said to get at least $50,000 per speaking engagement on top of the millions he makes writing best-sellers.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 10:06 PM
October 24, 2008
Who Knew?

From The Guardian:

Yes, U2’s Bono is the latest columnist to be hired by New York’s esteemed newspaper. Editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal announced the decision at Columbia’s School of Journalism this week, saying that the former Nobel Peace Prize nominee will pen between six and 10 articles over the course of 2009…

Though rockers and pop stars are welcome, another group faces an uphill battle on to the New York Times’ editorial page — conservatives. “[US Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice is a particularly bad op-ed writer,” Rosenthal said. However, the problem doesn’t end there. “The problem with conservative columnists,” Rosenthal said, “is that many of them lie in print.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:09 AM
September 29, 2008
Shameless Promotion of the Real News Network

Instead of making donations to politicians this year, I made a small donation to The Real News Network. I urge our readers who are able to do so, to do it now. This video explains what they are about and what they will offer us in the future. The founders are from both sides of the political spectrum who, as Jerry Doolittle reminded us, on certain issues meet in common agreement on the problems facing the nation. There is only so far that we bloggers can take things. Americans are so used to the television format that in order to get our message out, the format must be expanded beyond corporate TV news. This a long term plan, as the cable networks are unlikely to take on The Real News network at this time.

I urge you to donate today to help them get started. Maybe this video will convince you.


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Posted by Buck Batard at 01:45 PM
August 01, 2008
Rodent U.

Seymour Hersh says:

There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.

So I can understand the argument for not writing something that was rejected — uh maybe. My attitude always towards editors is they’re mice training to be rats.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:07 PM
April 17, 2008
Social Security: Still Secure

Buck’s Social Security posting, below, sent me back in the archives first to April of 2003 and from there to a post from the gray, menacing dawn of the Bush misadministration. The latter was titled, Contrary to Published Reports, Social Security is Okay. For whatever historical interest it might have, here goes:

On Monday, March 19 of the year 2001, high officials of the Bush administration made it clear that the Social Security crisis was over.

In fact, as they announced at a press conference, Social Security was in better shape than ever before in its history. And it would be on solid ground until at least 2038, when the first of the baby boomers will be 92. Medicare was in good shape, too: its main trust fund wasn’t expected to run dry until 2029.

The news would have been a huge relief to the tens of millions of Americans who believe that little or no money will be left by the time they reach retirement age. But the information never got to those worried millions, or to anyone else except a few thousand news junkies and policy wonks. Television seems to have ignored the story completely. The major papers ran it, but in such a way that for most readers it remained hidden, like Poe’s purloined letter, in plain sight—

The Boston Globe gave it 658 words; the Chicago Tribune thought it was worth 488. The Washington Post ran it on page 5, the Los Angeles Times on page 9. The New York Times also printed it inside, under the gripping headline: “Trustees Extend Solvency Estimates for 2 Benefits.” The lead sentence in the Wall Street Journal was, “Medicare and Social Security, the big entitlement programs for elderly Americans, are still going broke, though more slowly.”

But here are some other possible leads — bearing an equivalent or greater relation to reality—that might have introduced the neglected little story:

“The public relations campaign to scare Americans into turning Social Security over to Wall Street yesterday had a dangerous and perhaps fatal collision with reality.”

Or, “The Bush administration today scrambled to discredit a report from its own officials that undermined the president’s campaign promise to ‘reform’ Social Security and Medicare. Far from needing reform, etc.”

Or, “Even after loading the dice by using what many economists consider to be overly pessimistic growth projections, the Bush Administration was nonetheless forced to conclude yesterday that both Medicare and Social Security would remain solid at least until the youngest baby boomer reaches retirement age.”

Or, “Record budget surpluses — the major justification for President Bush’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut — would disappear if economic predictions used by three of his top cabinet officers are accurate. So would any immediate threat to the stability of Social Security and Medicare.”

All these leads are supported by facts contained in the various stories. And all qualify as news under the dog-bites-man rule: a widespread assumption about the world turns out not to be true after all.

All of the stories were caused by a report from the secretaries of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services, joined by two outside experts. This report and the press conference called to announce it involved federal programs that touch the lives of virtually every American. Widely perceived as on the brink of bankruptcy, Social Security and Medicare prove to be in better shape than ever before — and by a considerable margin, too.

Then why did editors and reporters conclude that the report on the Social Security and Medicare trust funds deserved no better than what amounted to a collective yawn?

Might it have been because the stories were based on the fuzziest of numbers? Although the government may be obliged to pretend it can see decades into the fiscal future, does it follow that responsible journalists are obliged to take the pretense seriously? Of course not.

It would be unkind to dwell on past instances when the press regurgitated equally fuzzy figures with childlike trust, so let’s do it. For more than ten years, the press has been squawking like Chicken-Licken that the sky was about to fall on the whole baby boomer generation. Eventally “more people believed in UFOs than think they will ever receive Social Security.”

The widely-reported quote is from Peter G. Peterson, a former Secretary of Commerce under Richard Nixon and a leader for nearly 30 years in the campaign to destroy public confidence in Social Security. Mr. Peterson’s aim in raising his false alarm was to destroy Social Security. To do this, he proposed to gamble with the fund by diverting billions of dollars away from it and into the stock market. The suckers might win or might lose; the brokers, who would take the house cut off the top, could only win.

So successful had Peterson’s doomsaying been that it still lurks unexamined in the heads of journalists as well as most other economic illiterates. So editors and reporters were reading to believe the latest spin on the old story

After all, that spin was coming from the very people issuing the report. Most of them were members of the Bush cabinet, and it was in their interest to attack the very report they were obliged by law to issue. Like Peterson, Bush wanted Social Security to look broke so he could fix it—by putting billions of dollars from it into the stock market.

One trouble with this plan was that at the moment the thing that appeared to be the most badly broken was the stock market itself. Privatization of Social Security was starting to look about as smart as turning your life savings over to the purser on the Titanic.

Another drawback was that the president, in a striking display of cognitive dissonance, was telling us that the good times were over so we had better cut taxes. The logic was that this would allow us to pay down a little of our credit card debt, while at the same time getting rid of that pesky budget surplus that was looming over the economy. Or something.

At the same time Bush, by arguing for a tax cut spread over ten years, was implicitly predicting that the economy would remain strong enough so that lower taxes would still produce enough revenue to provide needed government services. In other words we could both have our cake and eat it, under the theory that had earlier produced President Reagan’s monumental deficits.

Anyway, Mr. Bush’s cabinet officers were in an uncomfortable position. They really thought — every true conservatives does, in the deep, secret bottom of his soul — that Social Security and Medicare were crackbrained communist schemes that should be terminated at once, and with extreme prejudice. But in a nation of fools, many of them unfortunately voters, wisdom cannot be said aloud. The rabble must be scared into doing what is best for it.

For one thing, the reports in question are an annual affair. The number of years till the projected insolvency of both funds went up last year, too, and had been going up since 1997. This year’s increase, consequently, sounded like old stuff.

In the third place, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “when the programs finally reach their insolvency dates the government likely would have to slash benefits — a 30% cut in Social Security alone, according to the report — increase taxes, or both, officials said.” In 37 years, everybody better watchout. Officials say.

And the Journal says, “Many economists believe the programs represent a burden on all Americans that in the long run is untenable.” Many editors probably believe that, too. Certainly most publishers do.

From this point of view, then, the responsible course is to downplay a story which offers only false and temporary hope. The sad but unavoidable truth is that our reckless generosity toward the old, the helpless and the sick will lead, if unchecked, only to ruin. That this hasn’t happened in the 66 years of Social Security’s existence is a miracle that, in the conservative worldview, cannot possibly continue.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:12 PM
March 16, 2008
At Long Last: Dowd Decodes Dubya

Years ago Esquire had a feature called “Dubious Achievements of 19XX.” It was accompanied by a photo of the disgraced President Nixon, grinning as if he were eating chocolate ice cream or something of similar appearance. The caption was always, “Why Is This Man Smiling?”

Today’s Maureen Dowd column asks the same question. It starts off with:

Everyone here is flummoxed about why the president is in such a fine mood…

Dowd goes on to catalogue Bush’s string of weird public performances these last few weeks— jigging, dancing, giggling, grinning, joking and singing as the new Rome burns all around him.

And she concludes:

Or perhaps it’s a Freudian trip. Now that he’s mucked up the world and the country, he can finally stop rebelling against his dad and relax in the certainty that the Bush name will forever be associated with crash-and-burn presidencies.

Her analysis gives me the opportunity to utter once again the sweetest words known to man: I told you so.

Here’s Dubya’s Creepy Death Wish, from September of 2002.

Then in May of 2006: Mission Almost Accomplished.

And last July, an update in The Smirking Chimp called Dragging Daddy Down.

I’m glad to welcome Ms. Dowd aboard, and only wish she had seen through Bush a little sooner — for instance when her public fawning over the adorable drugstore cowboy from Greenwich during the 2000 campaign caused keener judges of manflesh to mutter in disgust, For Christ’s sake, guys, get a room.




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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:52 PM
Who Knows what Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men Like McCain

While the mainstream media slobbers over Jeremiah Wright’s supposed “sins” (Joyful Alternative tells me that the Prophet Jeremiah was much harder in his approbations of the society that he lived in than Reverend Wright is on ours, but the Bible is not my bailiwick), David Corn, a modern day reincarnation of the great intrepid reporter, the Green Hornet, has been hot on the trail of John McCain and his spiritual adviser, a fundamentalist televangelist named Rod Parsley:

Yesterday, I posted a piece at MotherJones.com that disclosed that a megachurch pastor whom John McCain has hailed as a “spiritual guide’ has called for the destruction of the “false religion” of Islam. This fundamentalist televangelist, Rod Parsley, who is an important political ally of McCain in the all-important state of Ohio, means this quite literally. In a 2005 book, he writes that there is a “war between Islam and Christian civilization” and notes, “The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”

Being a responsible reporter, I called both Parsley and the McCain campaign’s communications director, Jill Hazelbaker, before posting the story. I had to leave a message for Parsley and didn’t hear back from him. And I never got through to Hazelbaker, but I spoke to another communications aide at the campaign. I explained why I was calling: I was about to publish an article noting that a prominent McCain supporter, with whom McCain had campaigned in Ohio last month, advocates a holy war with the aim of eradicating Islam. “Oh,” she said. Can I read you some of Parsley's quotes? I asked. Go ahead, she said reluctantly. I got through three sentences, and she said, “That's enough.”

Go read the rest of Corn’s piece to find out what the McCain campaign didn’t have to say on this subject. And of course, as was pointed out on this blog several years ago, America is not and never was a Christian nation and is a friend of Muslims everywhere, at least according to George Washington and a Senate that once had the guts to say so.


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Posted by Buck Batard at 09:36 AM
March 15, 2008
Right Wrong, Wright Right

Good stuff from Dennis Perrin on the MSM’s current fan-fluttering and attacks of the vapors over Obama’s pastor’s ventures into truth-telling.

In the real world, out where the flag-lapel crowd and the yellow ribbon boys never venture, 9/11 was indeed, as Reverend Jeremiah Wright said, the result of stupid and provocative actions taken by the United States in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel.

This is not to excuse the 9/11 attacks. They were evil, murderous and unforgivable. But so had been our own actions in the Middle East and Afghanistan, over many years and many presidents. There are no good guys in this alley fight. This is essentially what Reverend Wright said, and he was right. Get over it, people.

And go read Perrin’s piece on the Reverend, from whence cometh this:

I've been pretty hard on the Obama campaign, and still am; but if anything would soften my view, it's this bullshit furor over Jeremiah Wright. If you are white and don't listen to black talk radio, now would be a good time to start.

Wright's opinions are not deemed crazy there, and you'll hear much stronger denunciations of imperialism and racism than you ever will on a white liberal's show. Sure, some dementia is present: this is America, after all.

But contrast the opinions exchanged between African-Americans to those expressed on the corporate kabuki programs, or worse, white reactionary broadcasts. Which do you think is closer to what's actually going on?

And speaking of white reactionary programs, here’s Rush Limbaugh, who is apparently back on his meds:

Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh dwelled on Mr. Wright in his radio program, calling him “a race-baiter and a hatemonger.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:20 PM
March 14, 2008
What This War Was About

What follows is my transcription of New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman explaining his flat world on The Charlie Rose Show. I don’t think I’ve heard this much concentrated stupidity since listening to Ambassador G. McMurtrie Godley III at country team meetings in wartime Laos.

The transcription below contains the money shot, as they call it in the frankly pornographic rather than the political side of show biz. But if you have time to watch the whole interview you’ll see that Friedman’s performance was well-rehearsed and at least partially memorized. Thus the last three appalling paragraphs were not misspoken, but intentional.

Particularly unattractive, like Bush’s fake Texas accent, are Friedman’s tone-deaf attempts to sound like an ex-Marine Corps pogue tough-talking at the Legion Hall late at night. (Suck on this, Friedman, okay?)

And what we learned on 9/11, in a gut way, was that [the terrorist] bubble was a fundamental threat to our open society because there is no wall high enough, no INS agent smart enough, no metal detector efficient enough, to protect an open society from people motivated by that bubble and what we needed to do was to go over to that part of the world, I’m afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over here basically and take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble.

And there was only one way to do it because part of that bubble said, “We’ve got you. This bubble is actually going to level the balance of power between we and you because we don’t care about it. We’re ready to sacrifice and all you care about is your stock options and your Hummers.”

And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this, okay?”

That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia; it was part of the bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Baghdad because we could.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:32 PM
March 07, 2008
Prematurely Anti-Bush

Susan Sontag, who read books and learned from them and was in many other ways a suspicious person, wrote the following a few days after 9/11. Fools and warhogs, always in the majority, promptly called her a despicable traitor to all that America holds dear. Time has told.

The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public.

Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty” or “humanity” or “the free world” but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq?

And if the word “cowardly” is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards…

Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:45 AM
January 14, 2008
It’s the Economy, Stupid!

As usual, read Bill Greider in The Nation. Immediately. Brief taste below. Full meal here.

Bill Gross, the insightful managing director of PIMCO, the major bond-investment house, has called for virtually doubling the federal deficit in order pump hundreds of billions into new economic activity. When bond holders are more alarmed about the economy than political leaders, you know something is backwards in American politics.

Edwards, alas, probably restrained the size of his stimulus package to convince the media gatekeepers he is not wacko and thus win some coverage for his forward thinking. No such luck. Edwards has his own shortcomings, but he has been victimized by the shallow political culture that empties meaning from presidential campaigns. The press early on consigned him to the “populist” stereotype and largely ignored the serious content of his agenda.

This is the curse that leads to enervating, brain-dead presidential cycles. Substance bores political reporters. Most of them do not understand economics or even know much about how government actually works. Given their ignorance, they prefer to play the role of theater critics and imagine that readers are desperate to hear their highly subjective and utterly unreliable reviews of the sideshow.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:03 PM
January 12, 2008
AirBlogging Is the Newest Craze

Are you as good at playing the Air Guitar as I am? I doubt it.

Here’s the biggest craze to hit these shores since the advent of air guitar playing. For all of you bloggers who revel in YouTube blogging , this video displays the proper method of AirBlogging. Many of our newspaper writers and editors have worked so long at mastering this craft and are so good at doing it well, they are even able to create the illusion of producing a legible, seemingly credible copy, at least to a portion of the populace.



I have much to say about this subject since I have been learning the proper method of becoming a real journalist. Please follow along closely, as I want to relate below the fold what I have learned from a great many of the well paid (mostly conservative) journalists working in their respective fields of coverage. But watch the video first before you read the rest of what I have to say — otherwise you will not be able to understand my message.









































































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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:03 PM
January 10, 2008
That Nice Kristol Boy

It’s possible, perhaps even usual, to be a good writer and a poor thinker. Never having read anything by Bill Kristol, I assumed that literary talent must explain why the New York Times was giving him the most desirable platform in American journalism.

Then his first column came out. Here’s how it began:

Thank you, Senator Obama. You’ve defeated Senator Clinton in Iowa. It looks as if you’re about to beat her in New Hampshire. There will be no Clinton Restoration. A nation turns its grateful eyes to you.

But gratitude for sparing us a third Clinton term only goes so far. Who, inquiring minds want to know, is going to spare us a first Obama term? After all, for all his ability and charm, Barack Obama is still a liberal Democrat. Some of us would much prefer a non-liberal and non-Democratic administration. We don’t want to increase the scope of the nanny state, we don’t want to undo the good done by the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, and we really don’t want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in Iraq.

I won’t waste time on precisely why this is such an awful piece of writing; for that, go here. And I can’t tell you why the Times hired him, except that their stated reason — to give right-left balance to the editorial page — cannot possibly be the real one. A couple of hours poking around the right-wing blogosphere would turn up any number of conservatives who think and write far better than Kristol. And they’d come a lot cheaper.

I suspect Kristol got where he is the same way George W. Bush did: family connections. Kristol’s father is the unspeakable neocon elder Irving Kristol, who was a longtime friend of the unspeakable former editor of the New York Times, the late Abe Rosenthal, whose son, Andrew Rosenthal, became editorial page editor of the Times a year ago.

I have friends, too, and one of them has a friend at the Times, and that friend told my friend who just emailed me “the delicious inside detail that (a) the editors told him, ‘Look, Bill, you actually have to write these by yourself,’ and (b) the copy editors decided to let him… speak in his own voice!”

(Incidentally, since I’ll bet you didn’t know, either — nep•o•tism: mid 17th cent.: from French népotisme, from Italian nepotismo, from nipote “nephew” (with reference to privileges bestowed on the “nephews” of popes, who were in many cases their illegitimate sons).)

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:42 PM
November 30, 2007
The Warhogs

Terrific piece at The Smirking Chimp by Ernest Partridge dissecting and discarding the excuses of those — you know who you are — who joined in Bush’s rush to war out of cowardice or good old American bloodlust.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:05 AM
September 12, 2007
Hit Him Over the Head with a Hammer Long Enough and…

…even Tom Friedman grasps the point. Behind the pay-to-play wall in today’s New York Times:

Iraqis can add. The surge has brought more calm to Iraq largely because the mainstream Iraqi Sunnis finally calculated that they have lost and that both the pro-Al Qaeda Iraqi Sunnis and the radical Shiites are more of a threat to them than the Americans they had been shooting at.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:34 AM
September 10, 2007
Light at the End of the Tunnel!

As usual the liberal media ignored the most encouraging news to come out of General Petraeus’s testimony today. I have scooped up the dropped ball for you:

Iraq is becoming one of the United States’ larger foreign military sales customers, committing some $1.6 billion to FMS already, with the possibility of up to $1.8 billion more being committed before the end of this year. And I appreciate the attention that some members of Congress have recently given to speeding up the FMS process for Iraq.

In the present context, FMS refers to the Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales program. It is not to be confused with False Memory Syndrome, an affliction which has lately devastated the upper ranks of the Bush administration.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:40 PM
May 21, 2007
Tony Soprano’s White House

Janet Reno is lying in the intensive care unit of a Washington hospital, recovering from the removal of her gall bladder. For the moment she is no longer the attorney general of the United States, having appointed her chief deputy, Eric Holder, to act as attorney general during her recovery from acute pancreatitis.

With her are Mr. Reno (bear with me here) and the FBI agents assigned to provide security for their hospitalized boss. At the request of the attorney general’s husband no visitors are allowed, not even her acting attorney general.

Nonetheless the phone rings. It is Leon Panetta, the White House chief of staff. He tells the attorney general’s husband that he and the White House counsel, Lloyd N. Cutler, are on their way to visit the patient.

Mr. Reno, alarmed and upset, calls the acting attorney general, Eric Holder, to tell him the news. Holder immediately knows what this means: Bill Clinton wants the sick attorney general’s signature on an order to continue the president’s unconstitutional and illegal wiretapping of thousands of American citizens.

Holder jumps into an official car with two of his assistants and they race for the hospital, siren blaring, to beat President Clinton’s chief of staff and his legal counsel to the bedside of the stricken attorney general …

They make it in time but Mr. Holder fears that Clinton’s men will order him removed from the room as soon as they arrive. He therefore phones the FBI director, Louis Freeh, and asks him to instruct his agents on the scene to refuse to obey any such direct order from Clinton’s top aides. Freeh so instructs his men.

When Clinton’s men arrive Attorney General Reno seems sick and confused at first, but she somehow finds the strength to tell them firmly that not only she will not sign the illegal order, but that she can’t. By her order, Holder is the acting attorney general.

Frustrated, Clinton’s men leave, but direct the acting attorney general and the FBI director to follow them to the White House. Mr. Holder refuses unless he can bring a witness along. The Solicitor General of the United States, Drew S. Days, III, agrees to be that witness …

All right, enough. Point, I hope, taken. Plainly this story would have sent the Republican Party and the American press into a foaming, frothing frenzy of calls for Clinton’s immediate impeachment.

But as it is, only NBC mentioned — briefly — this dismal affair when former deputy attorney general James Comey revealed it to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. ABC and CBS ignored it. (Fox? Why ask?)

So to see how truly astonishing, how completely off-the-wall, how totally unprecedented, how nakedly revealing of the viciousness of Bush’s administration — in short how supremely newsworthy this ignored story is— you will have to read Comey’s testimony for yourself.

I have trimmed that testimony down to its essentials here, and I hope you will take the time to read it carefully. No other story to come out of this increasingly leaky administration has so well revealed its cruelty and squalor. Remember, in reading it, that this is not how Bush and his men treat their enemies; it’s how they treat their loyal friends.

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(Abstracted from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing May 15, 2007 on the U.S. Attorney firings. James Comey is the former deputy attorney general of the United States. The questioners are Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.)

SCHUMER: …There have been media reports describing a dramatic visit by Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card to the hospital bed of John Ashcroft in March 2004, after you, as acting attorney general, decided not to authorize a classified program. First, can you confirm that a night-time hospital visit took place?

COMEY: Yes, I can.

SCHUMER: OK. Can you remember the date and the day?

COMEY: Yes, sir, very well. It was Wednesday, March the 10th, 2004.

SCHUMER: And how do you remember that date so well?

COMEY: This was a very memorable period in my life; probably the most difficult time in my entire professional life. And that night was probably the most difficult night of my professional life. So it’s not something I’d forget.

SCHUMER: Were you present when Alberto Gonzales visited Attorney General Ashcroft’s bedside?

COMEY: Yes.

SCHUMER: And am I correct that the conduct of Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card on that evening troubled you greatly?

COMEY: Yes.

SCHUMER: OK. Let me go back and take it from the top. You rushed to the hospital that evening. Why?

COMEY: I’m only hesitating because I need to explain why.

SCHUMER: Please. I’ll give you all the time you need, sir.

COMEY: I’ve actually thought quite a bit over the last three years about how I would answer that question if it was ever asked, because I assumed that at some point I would have to testify about it. The one thing I’m not going to do and be very, very careful about is, because this involved a classified program, I’m not going to get anywhere near classified information. I also am very leery of, and will not, reveal the content of advice I gave as a lawyer, the deliberations I engaged in. I think it’s very important for the Department of Justice that someone who held my position not do that.

SCHUMER: In terms of privilege.

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SCHUMER: Understood.

COMEY: Subject to that, I — and I’m uncomfortable talking about this...

SCHUMER: I understand.

COMEY: ... but I’ll answer the question. I — to understand what happened that night, I, kind of, got to back up about a week.

SCHUMER: Please.

COMEY: In the early part of 2004, the Department of Justice was engaged — the Office of Legal Counsel, under my supervision — in a reevaluation both factually and legally of a particular classified program. And it was a program that was renewed on a regular basis, and required signature by the attorney general certifying to its legality. And the — and I remember the precise date. The program had to be renewed by March the 11th, which was a Thursday, of 2004. And we were engaged in a very intensive reevaluation of the matter. And a week before that March 11th deadline, I had a private meeting with the attorney general for an hour, just the two of us, and I laid out for him what we had learned and what our analysis was in this particular matter. And at the end of that hour-long private session, he and I agreed on a course of action. And within hours he was stricken and taken very, very ill...

SCHUMER: (inaudible) You thought something was wrong with how it was being operated or administered or overseen.

COMEY: We had — yes. We had concerns as to our ability to certify its legality, which was our obligation for the program to be renewed. The attorney general was taken that very afternoon to George Washington Hospital, where he went into intensive care and remained there for over a week. And I became the acting attorney general. And over the next week — particularly the following week, on Tuesday — we communicated to the relevant parties at the White House and elsewhere our decision that as acting attorney general I would not certify the program as to its legality and explained our reasoning in detail, which I will not go into here. Nor am I confirming it’s any particular program. That was Tuesday that we communicated that.

COMEY: The next day was Wednesday, March the 10th, the night of the hospital incident. And I was headed home at about 8 o’clock that evening, my security detail was driving me. And I remember exactly where I was — on Constitution Avenue — and got a call from Attorney General Ashcroft’s chief of staff telling me that he had gotten a call...

SCHUMER: What’s his name?

COMEY: David Ayers. That he had gotten a call from Mrs. Ashcroft from the hospital. She had banned all visitors and all phone calls. So I hadn’t seen him or talked to him because he was very ill. And Mrs. Ashcroft reported that a call had come through, and that as a result of that call Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to the hospital to see Mr. Ashcroft.

SCHUMER: Do you have any idea who that call was from?

COMEY: I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don’t know that for sure. It came from the White House. And it came through and the call was taken in the hospital. So I hung up the phone, immediately called my chief of staff, told him to get as many of my people as possible to the hospital immediately. I hung up, called Director Mueller and — with whom I’d been discussing this particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week — and told him what was happening. He said, “I’ll meet you at the hospital right now.” Told my security detail that I needed to get to George Washington Hospital immediately. They turned on the emergency equipment and drove very quickly to the hospital. I got out of the car and ran up — literally ran up the stairs with my security detail.

SCHUMER: What was your concern? You were in obviously a huge hurry.

COMEY: I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that.

SCHUMER: Right, OK.

COMEY: I was worried about him, frankly. And so I raced to the hospital room, entered. And Mrs. Ashcroft was standing by the hospital bed, Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened. And I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn’t clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.

SCHUMER: At that point it was you, Mrs. Ashcroft and the attorney general and maybe medical personnel in the room. No other Justice Department or government officials.

COMEY: Just the three of us at that point. I tried to see if I could help him get oriented. As I said, it wasn’t clear that I had succeeded. I went out in the hallway. Spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. I handed the phone to the head of the security detail and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances. And I went back in the room. I was shortly joined by the head of the Office of Legal Counsel assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith, and a senior staffer of mine who had worked on this matter, an associate deputy attorney general. So the three of us Justice Department people went in the room. I sat down...

SCHUMER: Just give us the names of the two other people.

COMEY: Jack Goldsmith, who was the assistant attorney general, and Patrick Philbin, who was associate deputy attorney general. I sat down in an armchair by the head of the attorney general’s bed. The two other Justice Department people stood behind me. And Mrs. Ashcroft stood by the bed holding her husband’s arm. And we waited. And it was only a matter of minutes that the door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed. They greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there — to seek his approval for a matter, and explained what the matter was — which I will not do. And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact, which stunned me — drawn from the hour-long meeting we’d had a week earlier — and in very strong terms expressed himself, and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, “But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the attorney general.”

SCHUMER: But he expressed his reluctance or he would not sign the statement that they — give the authorization that they had asked, is that right?

COMEY: Yes. And as he laid back down, he said, “But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the attorney general. There is the attorney general,” and he pointed to me, and I was just to his left. The two men did not acknowledge me. They turned and walked from the room. And within just a few moments after that, Director Mueller arrived. I told him quickly what had happened. He had a brief — a memorable brief exchange with the attorney general and then we went outside in the hallway.

SCHUMER: OK. Now, just a few more points on that meeting. First, am I correct that it was Mr. Gonzales who did just about all of the talking, Mr. Card said very little?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SCHUMER: OK. And they made it clear that there was in this envelope an authorization that they hoped Mr. Ashcroft — Attorney General Ashcroft would sign.

COMEY: In substance. I don’t know exactly the words, but it was clear that’s what the envelope was.

SCHUMER: And the attorney general was — what was his condition? I mean, he had — as I understand it, he had pancreatitis. He was very, very ill; in critical condition, in fact.

COMEY: He was very ill. I don’t know how the doctors graded his condition. This was — this would have been his sixth day in intensive care. And as I said, I was shocked when I walked in the room and very concerned as I tried to get him to focus.

SCHUMER: Right. OK. Let’s continue. What happened after Mr. Gonzales and Card left? Did you have any contact with them in the next little while?

COMEY: While I was talking to Director Mueller, an agent came up to us and said that I had an urgent call in the command center, which was right next door. They had Attorney General Ashcroft in a hallway by himself and there was an empty room next door that was the command center. And he said it was Mr. Card wanting to speak to me.

COMEY: I took the call. And Mr. Card was very upset and demanded that I come to the White House immediately. I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present. He replied, “What conduct? We were just there to wish him well.” And I said again, “After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness. And I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States.”

SCHUMER: That would be Mr. Olson.

COMEY: Yes, sir. Ted Olson. “Until I can connect with Mr. Olson, I’m not going to meet with you.” He asked whether I was refusing to come to the White House. I said, “No, sir, I’m not. I’ll be there. I need to go back to the Department of Justice first.” And then I reached out through the command center for Mr. Olson, who was at a dinner party. And Mr. Olson and the other leadership of the Department of Justice immediately went to the department, where we sat down together in a conference room and talked about what we were going to do. And about 11 o’clock that night — this evening had started at about 8 o’clock, when I was on my way home. At 11 o’clock that night, Mr. Olson and I went to the White House together.

SCHUMER: Just before you get there, you told Mr. Card that you were very troubled by the conduct from the White House room (ph), and that’s why you wanted Mr. Olson to accompany you. Without giving any of the details — which we totally respect in terms of substance — just tell me why. What did you tell him that so upset you? Or if you didn’t tell him just tell us.

COMEY: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me. I thought he had conducted himself, and I said to the attorney general, in a way that demonstrated a strength I had never seen before. But still I thought it was improper. And it was for that reason that I thought there ought to be somebody with me if I’m going to meet with Mr. Card.

SCHUMER: Can you tell us a little bit about the discussion at the Justice Department when all of you convened? I guess it was that night.

COMEY: I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to go into the substance of it. We discussed what to do. I recall the associate attorney general being there, the solicitor general, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, senior staff from the attorney general, senior staff of mine. And we just — I don’t want to reveal the substances of those...

SCHUMER: I don’t want you to reveal the substance. They all thought what you did — what you were doing was the right thing, I presume.

COMEY: I presume. I didn’t ask people. But I felt like we were a team, we all understood what was going on, and we were trying to do what was best for the country and the Department of Justice. But it was a very hard night.

SCHUMER: OK. And then did you meet with Mr. Card?

COMEY: I did. I went with Mr. Olson driving — my security detail drove us to the White House. We went into the West Wing. Mr. Card would not allow Mr. Olson to enter his office. He asked Mr. Olson to please sit outside in his sitting area. I relented and went in to meet with Mr. Card alone. We met, had a discussion, which was much more — much calmer than the discussion on the telephone. After — I don’t remember how long, 10 or 15 minutes — Mr. Gonzales arrived and brought Mr. Olson into the room. And the four of us had a discussion.

SCHUMER: OK. And was Mr. — were you and Mr. Card still in a state of anger at one another at that meeting, or is it a little calmer, and why?

COMEY: Not that we showed.

SCHUMER: Right.

COMEY: It was much more civil than our phone conversation, much calmer.

SCHUMER: Why? Why do you think?

COMEY: I don’t know. I mean, I had calmed down a little bit. I’d had a chance to talk to the people I respected. Ted Olson I respect enormously.

SCHUMER: Right. OK. Was there any discussion of resignations with Mr. Card?

COMEY: Mr. Card was concerned that he had heard reports that there were to be a large number of resignations at the Department of Justice.

SCHUMER: OK. OK. And the conversations, the issue, whatever it was, was not resolved.

COMEY: Correct. We communicated about it. I communicated again the Department of Justice’s view on the matter. And that was it.

SCHUMER: Right. And you stated that the next day, Thursday, was the deadline for reauthorization of the program, is that right?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SCHUMER: OK.

Can you tell us what happened the next day?

COMEY: The program was reauthorized without us and without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality. And I prepared a letter of resignation, intending to resign the next day, Friday, March the 12th.

SCHUMER: OK. And that was the day, as I understand it, of the Madrid train bombings.

COMEY: Thursday, March 11th, was the morning of the Madrid train bombings.

SCHUMER: And so, obviously, people were very concerned with all of that.

COMEY: Yes. It was a very busy day in the counterterrorism aspect.

SCHUMER: Yet, even in light of that, you still felt so strongly that you drafted a letter of resignation.

COMEY: Yes.

SCHUMER: OK. And why did you decide to resign?

COMEY: I just believed...

SCHUMER: Or to offer your resignation, is a better way to put it?

COMEY: I believed that I couldn’t — I couldn’t stay, if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis. I just simply couldn’t stay.

SCHUMER: Right. OK. Now, let me just ask you this. And this obviously is all troubling. As I understand it, you believed that others were also prepared to resign, not just you, is that correct?

COMEY: Yes.

SCHUMER: OK. Was one of those Director Mueller?

COMEY: I believe so. You’d have to ask him, but I believe so.

SCHUMER: You had conversations with him about it.

COMEY: Yes.

SCHUMER: OK. How about the associate attorney general, Robert McCallum?

COMEY: I don’t know. We didn’t discuss it.

SCHUMER: How about your chief of staff?

COMEY: Yes. He was certainly going to go when I went.

SCHUMER: Right. How about Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff?

COMEY: My understanding was that he would go as well.

SCHUMER: And how...

COMEY: I should say...

SCHUMER: Please.

COMEY: ... to make sure I’m accurate, I...

SCHUMER: This is your surmise, not...

COMEY: Yes. I ended up agreeing — Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff asked me something that meant a great deal to him, and that is that I not resign until Mr. Ashcroft was well enough to resign with me. He was very concerned that Mr. Ashcroft was not well enough to understand fully what was going on. And he begged me to wait until — this was Thursday that I was making this decision — to wait til Monday to give him the weekend to get oriented enough so that I wouldn’t leave him behind, was his concern.

SCHUMER: And it was his view that Mr. Ashcroft was likely to resign as well?

COMEY: Yes.

SCHUMER: So what did you do when you heard that?

COMEY: I agreed to wait. I said that what I would do is — that Friday would be last day. And Monday morning I would resign.

SCHUMER: OK. Anything else of significance relevant to this line of questioning occur on Thursday the 11th, that you can recall?

COMEY: No, not that I recall.

SCHUMER: Thank you. Now, let’s go to the next day, which was March 12. Can you tell us what happened then?

COMEY: I went to the Oval Office — as I did every morning as acting attorney general — with Director Mueller to brief the president and the vice president on what was going on on Justice Department’s counterterrorism work. We had the briefing. And as I was leaving, the president asked to speak to me, took me in his study and we had a one-on-one meeting for about 15 minutes — again, which I will not go into the substance of. It was a very full exchange. And at the end of that meeting, at my urging, he met with Director Mueller, who was waiting for me downstairs. He met with Director Mueller again privately, just the two of them. And then after those two sessions, we had his direction to do the right thing, to do what we...

SCHUMER: Had the president’s direction to do the right thing?

COMEY: Right.

We had the president’s direction to do what we believed, what the Justice Department believed was necessary to put this matter on a footing where we could certify to its legality. And so we then set out to do that. And we did that.

………

SCHUMER: Let me ask you this: So in sum, it was your belief that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card were trying to take advantage of an ill and maybe disoriented man to try and get him to do something that many, at least in the Justice Department, thought was against the law? Was that a correct summation?

COMEY: I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end-run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something that the Department of Justice had already concluded — the department as a whole — was unable to be certified as to its legality. And that was my concern.

SCHUMER: OK. And you also believe — and you had later conversations with Attorney General Ashcroft when he recuperated, and he backed your view?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SCHUMER: Did you ever ask him explicitly if he would have resigned had it come to that?

COMEY: No

SCHUMER: OK. But he backed your view over that what was being done, or what was attempting to being done, going around what you had recommended, was wrong, against the law?

COMEY: Yes. And I already knew his view from the hour we had spent together going over it in great detail a week before the hospital incident.

SCHUMER: Yes. And the FBI director, Mueller, backed your view over that of Mr. Gonzales as well — is that right? — in terms of whether the program could continue to be implemented the way Counsel Gonzales wanted it to be.

COMEY: The only reason I hesitate is it was never Director Mueller’s job or position to be drawing a legal conclusion about the program; that he was very supportive to me personally. He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever met and was a great help to me when I felt a tremendous amount of pressure and felt a bit alone at the Department of Justice. But it was not his role to opine on the legality.

SCHUMER: How about Jack Goldsmith, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel? Did he opine on the legality?

COMEY: Yes. He had done a substantial amount of work on that issue. And it was largely OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel’s work, that I was relying upon in drawing my — in making my decision.

SCHUMER: OK. Just two other questions. Have you ever had the opportunity to recall these events on the record in any other forum?

COMEY: No.

SCHUMER: OK. And... COMEY: I should...

SCHUMER: Go ahead.

COMEY: I was interviewed by the FBI and discussed these events in connection with a leak investigation the FBI was conducting.

SCHUMER: And you gave them these details then.

COMEY: Yes. SCHUMER: Thank you.

COMEY: But not — by forum I’ve never testified about it.

SCHUMER: And after you stood your ground in March of 2004, did you suffer any recriminations or other problems at the department?

COMEY: I didn’t. Not that I’m aware of.

………

SPECTER: And as the acting attorney general, you were doing exactly what you should do in standing up for your authority and to stand by your guns and to do what you thought was right. It has some characteristics of the Saturday Night Massacre, when the other officials stood up and they had to be fired in order to find someone who would — deputy attorney general and others would not fire the special prosecutor. So that was commendable. When you finally got to the place where the buck doesn’t stop, when you got to the president — as I understand your testimony — the president told you to do what you thought was right. Is that correct?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SPECTER: So the president backed you up. And it was necessary to make changes in the terrorist surveillance program to get the requisite certification by the acting attorney general — that is you?

COMEY: And I may be being overly cautious, but I’m not comfortable confirming what program it was that this related to. And I should be clear. The direction — as I said, I met with the president first, the Director Mueller did.

COMEY: And it was Director Mueller who carried to me the president’s direction to do what the Department of Justice thinks is right to get this where the department believes it ought to be. And we acted on that direction.

SPECTER: Director Mueller told you to — the president said to do what you thought was right?

COMEY: Correct.

SPECTER: Well, how about what the president himself told you?

COMEY: I don’t want to get into what — the reason I hesitate, Senator Specter, is the right thing was done here, in part — in large part because the president let somebody like me and Bob Mueller meet with him alone. And if I talk about that meeting, I worry that the next president who encounters this is not going to let the next me get close to them to talk about something this important. So I’m — I want to be very careful that I don’t talk about what the president and I talked about. I met with the president. We had a full and frank discussion, very informed. He was very focused. Then Director Mueller met with the president alone. I wasn’t there. Director Mueller carried to me the president’s direction that we do what the Department of Justice wanted done to put this on a sound legal footing.

SPECTER: So you met first with the president alone for 15 minutes?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SPECTER: And then Director Mueller met separately with the president for 15 minutes?

COMEY: I don’t remember exactly how long it was. It was about the same length as my meeting. I went down and waited for him, as he...

SPECTER: And then Director Mueller, as you’ve testified, said to you, the president told Director Mueller to tell you to do what the Department of Justice thought was right?

COMEY: Correct.

SPECTER: Well — but you won’t say whether the president told you to do what the Department of Justice said was right?

………

COMEY: Yes. I — the president and I — I don’t think the conversation was finished. We discussed the matter in some detail. And then I urged him to talk to Bob Mueller about it. And I don’t know the content of Director Mueller’s communication with him, except that Director Mueller — the president didn’t give me that — I can answer that question. The president didn’t give me that direction at the end of our 15 minutes.

SPECTER: He did not?

COMEY: He did not. Instead, he said, “I’ll talk to Director Mueller,” as I had suggested. Director Mueller came and met with him, then Director Mueller came to me and said that, “The president told me that the Department of Justice should get this where it wants to be, to do what the department thinks is right.” And I took that mandate and set about to do that, and accomplished that.

SPECTER: I thought you testified, in response to Senator Schumer’s questions, that after meeting with the president for 15 minutes, he told you to do what you thought was right.

COMEY: If I did, I misspoke, because that direction came from the president to Director Mueller to me.

SPECTER: Well, when you had the discussions with Chief of Staff Card, what did he say to you by way of trying to pressure you, if, in fact, he did try to pressure you, to give the requisite certification?

COMEY: Again, I’m reluctant to talk about the substance of those kind of deliberative discussions. We discussed...

SPECTER: And I’m not asking about the substance, carefully not. I’m going to, but not yet. What did he say which constituted what you thought was pressure?

COMEY: I don’t know that he tried to pressure me, other than to engage me on the merits and to make clear his strong disagreement with my conclusion.

SPECTER: So then Mr. Card ultimately left it up to you to decide whether to give the certification or not?

COMEY: I don’t know that he left it up to me. I had already made a decision and communicated it on that Tuesday, that I was not going to. And it didn’t change in the course of my discussions with Mr. Card.

………

SPECTER: He didn’t threaten to fire you?

COMEY: No, he didn’t. And Mr. Card, as I said, was very civil to me in our face-to-face meeting. The only time...

SPECTER: Well, you can suggest being fired and be civil about it.

……

SPECTER: And when you talked to White House Counsel Gonzales, did he try to pressure you to reverse your judgment?

COMEY: No. He disagreed, again, on the merits of the decision. And we had engaged on that, had full discussions about that. But he never tried to pressure me, other than to convince me that I was wrong.

SPECTER: Well, Mr. Comey, did you have discussions with anybody else in the administration who disagreed with your conclusions?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SPECTER: Who else?

COMEY: Vice president.

SPECTER: Anybody else?

COMEY: Members of his staff.

SPECTER: Who on his staff?

COMEY: Mr. Addington disagreed with the conclusion. And I’m sure there were others who disagreed, but...

SPECTER: Well, I don’t want to know who disagreed. I want to know who told you they disagreed.

COMEY: OK.

SPECTER: Addington?

COMEY: Mr. Addington. The vice president told me that he disagreed. I don’t remember any other White House officials telling me they disagreed.

SPECTER: OK. So you’ve got Card, Gonzales, Vice President Cheney and Addington who told you they disagreed with you.

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SPECTER: Did the vice president threaten you?

COMEY: No, sir.

SPECTER: Did Addington threaten you?

COMEY: No, sir.

SPECTER: So all these people told you they disagreed with you? Well, why in this context, when they say they disagreed with you and you’re standing by your judgment, would you consider resigning? You were acting attorney general. They could fire you if they wanted to. The president could replace you. But why consider resigning? You had faced up to Card and Gonzales and Vice President Cheney and Addington, had a difference of opinion. You were the acting attorney general, and that was that. Why consider resigning?

COMEY: Not because of the way I was treated but because I didn’t believe that as the chief law enforcement officer in the country I could stay when they had gone ahead and done something that I had said I could find no legal basis for.

SPECTER: When they said you could find no legal basis for?

COMEY: I had reached a conclusion that I could not certify as...

SPECTER: Well, all right, so you could not certify it, so you did not certify it. But why resign? You’re standing up to those men. You’re not going to certify it. You’re the acting attorney general. That’s that.

COMEY: Well, a key fact is that they went ahead and did it without — the program was reauthorized without my signature and without the Department of Justice. And so I believed that I couldn’t stay...

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:30 PM
March 22, 2007
Letter From A Birmingham Jail Redivivus

Recently the New York Times printed an article about Presidential Candidate Barack Obama that can, at best, be described as disingenuous. The Minister of Barack’s church, Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, in a letter to the author of that story, lashes out at the New York Times. Although the Times may have changed, Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is still relevant today.

Whatever we think of Rev. Wright’s sentiments, all of us who read the Times regularly and remember some of its more controversial writers — such as Judith Miller — share to some degree or another his concerns about whether the “Paper of Record” is fulfilling its mission. Although African American leaders may not be locked up in jails these days, distorting what they say in respectable forums can be just as devastating, or perhaps more more so, than placing them in a jail cell. Shame on the Times for distorting truth in the name of politics.

As I was just starting to say a moment ago, Jodi, out of two hours of conversation I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack’s taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print? You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed “sound byte” and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.

I have never been exposed to that kind of duplicitous behavior before, and I want to write you publicly to let you know that I do not approve of it and will not be party to any further smearing of the name, the reputation, the integrity or the character of perhaps this nation’s first (and maybe even only) honest candidate offering himself for public service as the person to occupy the Oval Office.

Your editor is a sensationalist. For you to even mention that makes me doubt your credibility, and I am looking forward to see how you are going to butcher what else I had to say concerning Senator Obama’s “Spiritual Biography.” Our Conference Minister, the Reverend Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman who belongs to a Black church that Hannity of “Hannity and Colmes” is trying to trash, set the record straight for you in terms of who I am and in terms of who we are as the church to which Barack has belonged for over twenty years.

The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth. I do not remember reading in your article that Barack had apologized for listening to that bad information and bad advice. Did I miss it? Or did your editor cut it out? Either way, you do not have to worry about hearing anything else from me for you to edit or “spin” because you are more interested in journalism than in truth.

Forgive me for having a momentary lapse. I forgot that The New York Times was leading the bandwagon in trumpeting why it is we should have gone into an illegal war. The New York Times became George Bush and the Republican Party’s national “blog.” The New York Times played a role in the outing of Valerie Plame. I do not know why I thought The New York Times had actually repented and was going to exhibit a different kind of behavior.

Maybe it was my faith in the Jewish Holy Day of Roshashana. Maybe it was my being caught up in the euphoria of the Season of Lent; but whatever it is or was, I was sadly mistaken. There is no repentance on the part of The New York Times. There is no integrity when it comes to The Times. You should do well with that paper, Jodi. You looked me straight in my face and told me a lie!

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:29 PM
February 11, 2007
A Reasonable Approximation Thereof

Our friends down at their sweet home in Moon of Alabama further debunk the NY Times article that reminds us all that the New York Times itself fits neatly into an aluminum tube, or at least for NY Times work, a reasonable approximation thereof:

It is “aluminum tubes” all over again. When Gordon writes stuff like this, he is just repeating but never questioning the ridiculous assumptions whispered to him:

“According to American intelligence, Iran has excelled in developing this type of bomb, and has provided similar technology to Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon. The manufacture of the key metal components required sophisticated machinery, raw material and expertise that American intelligence agencies do not believe can be found in Iraq. In addition, some components of the bombs have been found with Iranian factory markings from 2006.”

There is nothing sophisticated with shaped charges. These are known and used since world war one. To convert, let's say a regular 155mm artillery grenade into a shaped charge, one needs a piece of solid copper and a lathe or a hydraulic metal press. If those are not there hammer and anvil will do too. These materials and the tools are well available in Iraq. Any half competent mechanic can produce these things.

Gordon also writes:

“American military officers say that attacks using the weapon reached a high point in December, when it accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq.”

Indeed iCasualties.org, which is based on Pentagon reports, does count 71 soldiers killed by IEDs during last December.

But 41 of those died in or near Baghdad and north-east thereof, another 21 died in the western Sunni Anbar province. Gordon's sources say the shaped charge weapon is mostly used by Shia in the south and was very deadly during December. How does this fit the facts?

It does not, but stenographer Gordon does not care to do those 10 minutes of research that it took me to debunk the claim.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:05 AM
May 26, 2006
Mainstream Media Drops the Ball

Avedon links to Skimble, who reminds us how far the ball is being dropped by the mainstream media. Pardon me for my prudishness, maybe your children visit here to see our sweet cats, so I’ve slightly sanitized the words spoken by the real truth-teller about these matters, namely Skimble:

Exactly how often do George and Laura f**k? In what positions? How often do Dick and Lynne f**k? How about daughter Mary? Scalia? Rice? Rumsfeld? How about Ken Mehlman: pitcher or catcher? What is Grover Norquist’s idea of foreplay? What are Abramoff’s kinks? How vigorous is Karl Rove? Where's the list of who Jeff Gannon f****d inside the White House? What about the quickly-forgotten Porter Goss and his hookers? And WaPo sex columnist David Broder — what's up with his sex life, or lack thereof?

These are important questions that deserve accurate answers. Because if we as a nation can spend our public discourse tittering in veiled language about the marriage of the Clintons, demonstrably more popular in or out of power than any Republicans, then we can spend a little of it speculating about Republican genital activity as well. They’re the Abstinence Party, after all.

That would be fair and balanced.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:26 AM
February 28, 2006
Credit Where Credit Is Due

Over the past few years, the NYT’s graphics have emerged from okay into frequent magnificence. I didn’t have time to make this point in yesterday’s post about the Bush Administration’s gutting of the Defense Contract Audit Agency’s audit of the Halliburton mess, but now I do.

Tremendously effective graphic presentation of numeric information.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 05:34 PM
February 17, 2006
The Thoughts Seem So Quaint

Monk at Inflatable Dartboard caught a surprising little tidbit that must seem quite quaint to anyone working in the corporate media these days. Thanks to Spiiderweb for the link on his sidebar:

Eugene Meyer had a vision of what makes a newspaper truly great, and that vision included serving the public according to seven principles. He offered them in a speech on March 5, 1935 and published them on his newspaper’s front page.
The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth can be ascertained.

The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.

As a disseminator of news, the paper shall observe the decencies that are obligatory upon a private gentleman.

What it prints shall be fit reading for the young as well as the old.

The newspaper’s duty is to its readers and to the public at large, and not to the private interests of its owners.

In the pursuit of truth, the newspaper shall be prepared to make sacrifices of its material fortunes, if such a course be necessary for the public good.

The newspaper shall not be the ally of any special interest, but shall be fair and free and wholesome in its outlook on public affairs and public men.


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Posted by Buck Batard at 11:12 AM
February 13, 2006
Cheney Didn’t Do It!

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Posted by Buck Batard at 05:12 PM
February 08, 2006
Truth To Power

I once told Mrs. Batard that you can’t really understand the South unless you understand that the black church in the South is not only a center of religious power, but also a center of political power. Historically the church was the only place that blacks could speak up and organize in the South. That’s why the KKK blew up a black church in Birminham, Alabama, more than forty years ago. A folk song was written about the bombing, the last line of which goes “…and the choirs kept singing of freedom”. Apparently a few comments were made at Corretta Scott King’s funeral that offended “the powers that be”, namely George W. Bush and now the media. Apparently all of the white folks on network television are up in arms about church etiquette. I heard today on the television “that’s not the way you behave at a funeral”. I once attended a funeral in a small African American church in the rural South and I must say it was quite refreshing, despite the circumstances. The deceased, a good friend of mine, was not only lauded with praise, but his failures as a human being were also brought to light without any equivocation. I am told this is quite the norm at most African American funerals. White folks, like me, are much more willing to tell lies about their dead.

Jane at firedoglake posted an entry on this subject, and then posted some comments of readers of her blog regarding the post. One of them, by Debbie, caught my eye.

The black church is one of the few institutions in this country that isn’t about white people or white peoples’ power. Whites don’t understand the black church and what blew their minds about what they saw yesterday is that it’s something they don’t or can't control (the occasional sellouts like T.D. Jakes excepted). Think about it — a black man told George Bush like it is with George Bush sitting right there to hear it. Can any of you think of a time, ANY time, when ANYONE told George Bush like it is to his face?

Rev. Lowery had all of the power yesterday in the church and George Bush had none and, in the minds of Tucker and Friends, that’s not the “natural” order. That’s why they’re all atwitter.

Amen, Sister. Tell truth to power. The media sure isn’t doing it, and while we’re at it, let’s haul George into church more often. The media can go with him. They sure need a lot more of it, but first they need to learn some etiquette of their own.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 06:21 PM
January 27, 2006
NYT Regurgitates Rove Talking Points

Remarkably irresponsible polling and journalism by the NYT in today’s story about the illegal wiretapping. They fell into the exact debate the administration and Karl Rove want to have: are you for or against wiretapping terrorism suspects? Falling directly into the dishonest trap being set by the Republicans, which is that they are somehow tougher on terrorists than the Democrats would be.

Here’s the bogus stuff:

The poll, conducted as President Bush defended his surveillance program in the face of criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that it is illegal, found that Americans were willing to give the administration some latitude for its surveillance program if they believed it was intended to protect them. …

In one striking finding, respondents overwhelmingly supported e-mail and telephone monitoring directed at “Americans that the government is suspicious of;” they overwhelmingly opposed the same kind of surveillance if it was aimed at “ordinary Americans.”

That’s not “striking;” that’s beside the point: no one on either side of the aisle wants to wiretap anyone the government is not suspicious of. Rather, the issue is, does or does not the government need to demonstrate to a judge why it is suspicious?

Democrats support tapping suspected terrorists as much or more than any Republican. The only question on the table — one that the NYT ignored entirely — is whether or not Americans for the first time in history want to cut judges out of the wiretap approval process entirely, and for the first exempt the executive branch from the check and balance of having to run wiretaps by a judge. Bearing in mind, of course, that under FISA, the government in an emergency can immediately start to wiretap somebody, so long as they get court permission within three business days.

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 03:51 PM
January 20, 2006
Scrape Her Off

Ever been lost in the desert for five blazing days with some asshole who 45 minutes in started complaining about being thirsty, whining about a blister, sharing her unhelpful opinion that there was no likelihood of rescue, and viciously blaming everyone but herself, even though she’s the one who dropped the map and compass down the mine shaft? The answer to this is, “No.” No one who is alive today has ever had such an experience, because there is literally no way to survive such a difficult and dangerous ordeal without ditching the loser.

I say we scrape this one off. Otherwise, we all go down with her.


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(The column is behind the scumsucking NYT pay barrier, so hit “…Read on” below for excerpts. If you want to be annoyed, that is.)

From Maureen Dowd’s latest frankly misogynist, mean-spirited Irish bully whine:

The Democrats were throwing haymakers at the White House this week, but they will never succeed as long as they’re perceived as the party in skirts.…

Two of them, who could have stopped W. and Dick Cheney before they undid 230 years of American democracy, didn't, because they allowed themselves to be painted as girlie men. The other, a manly girl, has been so cautious and opportunistic about weighing in on everything from Schiavo to Alito and Iraq that when she finally sang out on Monday and railed against W., she sounded more soprano than basso profundo.…

Ever since the 2000 race, the Democrats have let Republicans caricature them as effeminate. The Democrats have let the G.O.P. give them their shape, and it’s an hourglass.…

If the Democrats are like the dithering “Desperate Housewives,” the Republicans have come across like the counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer on “24”: fast with a gun, loose with the law, willing to torture in the name of protecting the nation. Except Jack Bauer is competent.

The Democrats’ chronic impotence led to the Republicans’ reign of incompetence.

As if Maureen Dowd’s vicious and deeply frivolous attacks on Al Gore in 2000 were not critical to Bush’s ascension to office. See this 2003 post, “A Turtle on a Fencepost Didn’t Get There by Himself”, by Jerry. Also, see this earlier Bad Attitudes attack on Dowd: “What a failure, and what a waste of a bright mind and a real life force.”

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Posted by Wayne Uff at 06:45 AM
January 09, 2006
The Politics of Cocktail Gossips and Other Liars

Thirty thee years ago, in 1973, David Wise published The Politics of Lying. I ran across a few choice morsels that I found particularly compelling, and decided to share them. Goodness gracious, things sure haven’t changed in thirty three years, have they? Well, actually,you’re right. Things have gotten much worse.

The government’s relationship with the television industry offers special problems. Television, as Ben Baddikian has noted is “the President’s medium” Like Everest, television will be used by Presidents because it is there. It offers frightening opportunities for Presidential deception and manipulation. Television has not only increased the impact and speed of communication, it has made it much easier for the government to mislead the public. At the same time, as the only federally licensed medium of communication, television is uniquely vulnerable to government pressure and intimidation. It might be useful, and could even have a deterrent effect, if the press as a whole would quickly and prominently report cases of government pressure directed at the news media, and particularly at the television networks. Such pressures are legitimate news; there is no reason that they should remain the province of cocktail gossip among network executives and editors.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 01:46 PM