Archive for October, 2005

Corn on Scott McClellan’s Future Apology

Friday, October 21st, 2005

David Corn does some interesting-to-me rambling in his latest item at his weblog: Sealed Indictments in the Leak Case?/Did Dumb Bush Aides Ensnare Bush in a Cover-up?/Cheers for Bono and U2. One part, in particular, caught my eye, maybe because I’ve been watching a lot of White House press briefings lately, and thinking about the relationship between the White House in general, and McClellan in particular, and the White House reporters.

A White House correspondent who says he likes White House press secretary Scott McClellan, recently shared this observation with me: “It’s sad about Scott. He doesn’t know that one day–maybe soon–he is going to have to come out and say to the press corps about the Plame story, ‘I was lied to, I was deceived, and, thus, I deceived you. I’m sorry.’ Scott doesn’t know this. Everybody else knows this. But he’s loyal. He doesn’t understand that such a day is coming.”

Joe Wilson, the Senate Intel Committee’s Report, and Weisberg on Fitzgerald

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Here are some useful links on some of the Plame-affair backstory. Think of it as recommended reading for those who want to argue that 1) Joe Wilson lied, 2) Karl Rove can’t go to jail for telling the truth, or 3) the Senate intelligence committee’s report proved that the Bush administration had nothing to do with the faulty intelligence on Iraqi WMD.

  • Laura Rozen in American Prospect Online: The report they forgot. Some interesting scuttlebutt about the infamous “Phase 2” report from the Senate intelligence committee (you know; the report that was going to look into how the Bush team misused the Iraqi WMD intelligence, the report that Chairman Pat Roberts can’t seem to find the time to complete). Also see Rozen’s blog entry on the same subject at War and Piece: The missing intelligence report.
  • Larry Johnson in the TPM Cafe: The so-called “lies” of Joe Wilson.
  • Matthew Yglesias, likewise in the TPM Cafe: Moral clarity. It’s a succinct debunking of that odd piece by Jacob Weisberg in Slate on how Fitzgerald’s investigation is bad news for Democrats : Illiberal prosecution.
  • Finally, a trip down memory lane: Back in July, 2004, when the “Phase I” report came out from the Senate intel committee, WaPo reporter Susan Schmidt wrote this article about it: Plame’s input is cited on Niger mission. Someone in the right-wing echo-chamber must be making a point of citing it again, because I’ve had it come up twice now in quick succession from two different Friends of Bush. Anyway, back when it appeared the first time, Josh Marshall offered some important commentary on it, and on Schmidt: I’ll dispense with the literary prologue…

Rove Told Bush?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

Continuing my sense of 1974 deja vu, here’s today’s entry in the “what did the President know and when did he know it?” file. From Thomas M. DeFrank, Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News: Bush whacked Rove on CIA leak.

See Joshua Micah Marshall’s commentary: It’s slightly sugar-coated…, A few more thoughts on Tom DeFrank’s article…, and Right at the top of the gaggle…

Fitzgerald doesn’t get to indict Bush (since he’s a sitting president, and apparently that falls outside a prosecutor’s constitutional authority). But evidence that Bush was part of the conspiracy either at the time of the original outing or during the coverup afterward would certainly be politically damaging.

Again: This is all pretty premature. But Fitzgerald is a prosecutor going after a criminal conspiracy. And what does a prosecutor going after a criminal conspiracy do? He puts pressure on the little guys, doing whatever he can to get them to flip and deliver the bigger guys who are higher up in the conspiracy.

It’s pretty much the opposite goal from that of Pentagon investigators looking into Abu Ghraib, or Sen. Pat Roberts looking into the Iraqi WMD intelligence debacle, in which the whole point was to seal off the upper levels from accountability, assigning all blame to the low-level foot soldiers.

Go, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Libby and Rove and… Cheney! Oh my!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Boy, I focus on some programming projects for a day, and bam! All Hell breaks loose.

So, just hitting the high points of the rumors that have been flying around today in anticipation of Patrick Fitzgerald’s upcoming (when? tomorrow?) announcements in his investigation of the Plame outing:

Cheney’s name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge – with help from a secret snitch.

“They have got a senior cooperating witness – someone who is giving them all of that,” a source who has been questioned in the leak probe told the Daily News yesterday.

A senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney is cooperating with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, sources close to the investigation say.

Individuals familiar with Fitzgerald’s case tell RAW STORY that John Hannah, a senior national security aide on loan to Vice President Dick Cheney from the offices of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Bolton, was named as a target of Fitzgerald’s probe. They say he was told in recent weeks that he could face imminent indictment for his role in leaking Plame-Wilson’s name to reporters unless he cooperated with the investigation.

Sparked by today’s Washington Post story that suggests Vice President Cheney’s office is involved in the Plame-CIA spy link investigation, government officials and advisers passed around rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“It’s certainly an interesting but I still think highly doubtful scenario,” said a Bush insider. “And if that should happen,” added the official, “there will undoubtedly be those who believe the whole thing was orchestrated – another brilliant Machiavellian move by the VP.”

Said another Bush associate of the rumor, “Yes. This is not good.” The rumor spread so fast that some Republicans by late morning were already drawing up reasons why Rice couldn’t get the job or run for president in 2008.

Meanwhile, here’s another tip from a former government official. He says he spoke to a friend who works in the White House, and his pal described the consensus view among the Bush crew. The Bushies, according to my friend’s friend, expect Scooter Libby to be indicted. They believe Karl Rove will be indicted as well, but they still hope he may skate by. They also think that former press secretary Ari Fleischer is a goner. And they anticipate Dick Cheney will be named in the indictment(s) in some manner.

Strange days. I’m getting a really powerful flashback to sitting in my sixth-grade classroom watching the Watergate hearings.

I don’t think I ever really seriously considered that Fitzgerald’s indictments would stretch as far as Cheney. Rove, maybe. But Cheney? Take away Rove and Cheney, and who does Bush have left to do the actual figuring-stuff-out part?

Anyway, nothing’s official yet. But there certainly seems to be a big, dark thunderhead drifting in our direction, with a heavy sense of foreboding in the air and a few stray drops hitting the ground.

Heh. And just as I wrote that, I came across the following from ReddHedd of firedoglake: The gathering storm.

You can feel it, too, can’t you? That ever-growing feeling of pressure and tension in the air. That hint of ozone from the lightning striking closer and closer. It’s not just me this evening, is it?

Nope. It’s not just you.

Real Relationships with Real Dolls

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Salon’s Meghan Laslocky has a story tailor-made for this site, about people having “relationships” with their Real Dolls: Just like a woman.

Thanks to J.A.Y.S.O.N. for the link.

WaPo Editors: Shame on Bush for Torture

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Cementing their position atop my newly reshuffled ranking of mainstream media sources, the Washington Post ran a lead editorial on Sunday that says what needs to be said about the Bush administration’s too-cute attitude toward torture: A future investigation.

Thanks to Holden of First Draft for pointing out the editorial in The WaPo does shrill.

The Weblogger Is a Poopy-Head: Jon Stewart at the Rochester Institute of Technology

Monday, October 17th, 2005

I enjoyed this article by Scott Lieber from the Daily Orange, the school paper of Syracuse University: Comedy Centrist: John Stewart calls them as he sees them, whether you like it or not.

Good stuff. You go, Jon.

Oh, and Scott Lieber, there’s no “h” in “Jon.” One of those mundane details we need to obsess about. Hm. Except the article has it correct. So maybe it was your headline writer (your editor, maybe?) who screwed up?

Anyway, it’s a good article. And yes, I am a poopy-head.

Today Show’s Michelle Kosinksi’s Boat Video

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Don’t miss this great footage from the Today show, as hosted by Crooks & Liars: Today Show boat photo op. In the East Coast feed, reporter Michelle Kosinksi was doing her remote about flooding in Wayne, N.J., from a boat. And in the middle of her segment, two guys walk through the foreground, making it obvious that the water was only ankle-deep.


They re-did it for the West Coast feed, shooting her standing in the water instead. Shades of that wide-angle image from the Katrina aftermath, where we could see that the reporters standing in the water as they did their bit were just standing a little ways into the water, with the camera crew on dry land, framing the shot to avoid revealing that the reporter had chosen to stand there.

Riding Very Fast Through Urban Traffic on Bicycles

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Check out some of the crazy-ass helmet-cam footage of bike messengers racing through busy urban streets: Lucas Brunelle videos. Because I don’t think the guy’s going to live long, and once he dies the site’s probably going to go away.

Wal-Mart Nation: Careful What Film You Develop

Monday, October 17th, 2005

I want to resist the “Oh my _God_; look at what they’re doing now!” reaction. But still: AlterNet: Wal-Mart Coverage: Civics Student… or Enemy of America?

Girl Reporters Gone Wild!

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

As more detail emerges about Judy Miller’s Plamegate role, it’s increasingly clear (well, it was clear already, but now it’s highlighted, underlined, and bolded) that she’s got no business calling herself a reporter, and would more-accurately be described as an administration mole. So, thanks Times; thanks Judy.

Kevin Drum: Miller’s memory.

Miller’s excuse for her forgetfulness is that “It is also difficult, more than two years later, to parse the meaning and context of phrases, of underlining and of parentheses.” But it’s not a matter of Miller not remembering a trivial detail two years after the fact. It’s a question of whether she remembered it a week after the fact.

Answer: of course she did. And if she remembered it then, she certainly remembers it now. She just doesn’t want to say so.

Josh Marshall: Quite a lot is contained…

The only editorial accountability imposed on Miller was that she not write on Iraq or unconventional weapons. And yet, Keller concedes, she seemed to self-assign her way back into the same territory. I don’t know what examples Keller has in mind. But a good place to start is Miller’s inexplicable coverage of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal as recently as this past summer.

Not only is the whole Oil-for-Food story by definition about Iraq, it is also far more deeply tied to the weapons back story than it appears to on the surface. One need only note that the purported documents which gave birth to the most inflammatory charges were ‘discovered’ by Ahmed Chalabi.

So it seems that Miller was literally out of (editorial) control at the Times not only after the WMD stories but after they were discredited as well.

And more Josh Marshall: I’ve been out for most of the day…

…But in this case it certainly seems as though the tacit bargain between Miller and Libby was that Libby would provide Miller with information in exchange for her assistance in deceiving her readers. And that violates the rule or principle that amounts to the Occam’s Razor of journalistic ethics — fundamental honesty with your readers.

See also Mark A. R. Kleiman’s The spike.

More On Bush’s Videoconference with the Troops

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

Craig helpfully provided the following link in the comments to my earlier item on Bush’s scripted Q&A session with the troops in Iraq. It’s a brief account of the event from Sgt Ron Long, one of the participants: Speaking with President Bush.

Coming from the media’s perspective, Dan Froomkin’s Washington Post weblog links to lots of interesting detail: Caught on tape.

For the record, I don’t consider it at all surprising that either the military generally or Sgt Long in particular is gung-ho about Bush’s leadership and the mission in Iraq. That is, after all, one of the direct aims of military recruitment and training: to produce a fighting force willing to enthusiastically carry out the orders of its leadership, even when those orders include things like dying.

Besides all the intense, sustained conditioning that military members are exposed to to help them perform such actions, there’s also the influence of basic human nature, which causes us to avoid cognitive dissonance. We tend to justify to ourselves those things we have chosen to do, especially things that involve extreme sacrifice, rather than face the possibility that we might have been wrong.

It really isn’t a soldier’s job to question the larger justifiication of Bush’s military policies. In fact, it is pretty much the soldier’s job not to question those policies.

Yes, I know there are limits to how far a soldier is supposed to go; and things like setting dogs on prisoners or breaking their legs during beatings certainly rises to that level in theory, if not always in practice.

But the thing that the media coverage is focusing on here isn’t really whether the soldiers were sincere or not (though Scott McClellan did try to take that tack for a while during his press briefing). That’s a strawman.

What the media is focusing on is the way the wheels came off this particular piece of attempted image-crafting. Because the feed included the 45-minute prep session that preceded the actual Q&A, we could see how the president’s specific questions, and the soldiers’ specific responses, were carefully rehearsed and tweaked. This is important, because it completely changes the meaning of the event.

Unlike the Internet, which is an incredible tool for drilling down into as much detail on a topic as one could possibly want, making it very difficult to use top-down control to promote a particular false-to-fact perception, TV is all about doing just that. TV is the ultimate technology for using top-of-the-pyramid manipulation to send carefully crafted images that resonate in a particular emotional way and create a perception in viewers that they would not have experienced if they saw more of what was actually going on.

The Bush team is famous for crafting effective TV visuals, and the degree of preparation they engage in is legendary. That’s why it was so surprising to see them screw this up so badly. The main message of this event was supposed to be: Look at how well things are going in Iraq. Look how much the troops support the president. Look at how Bush is working to stay in touch with the reality of what’s happening on the ground. But the story that actually ended up being told was: Look how carefully the people on the ground were rehearsed to make sure viewers (and Bush) were not exposed to uncomfortable realities. And when McClellan tried to deny that that had happened, it was like throwing gasoline on a fire.

I realize that this was no different than dozens or hundreds of other photo ops. The only thing that was different in this case was how we saw Professor Marvel frantically working levers behind the curtain, rather than seeing only the Great and Powerful Oz we were supposed to see. But what’s different is interesting, especially when it reveals an underlying truth. So the media led with that. That’s their job, just like it’s Sgt. Ron Long’s job to think that what they are doing in this case is reprehensible.

I don’t think Long is insincere when he says that. I don’t think he’s insincere when he says that he supports Bush, and that things are going great in Iraq.

I just think he’s wrong.

Turse: Casualties of the Bush Administration

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Via TomDispatch comes a powerful piece by Nick Turse, chronicling 40-some-odd people who have been fired, forcibly retired, or who have resigned as a result of their unwillingness to go along with the fiction that Emperor Bush’s clothes look really, really nice: The fallen legion: Casualties of the Bush administration.

I was already familiar with most of these individuals’ stories, and have posted about pretty much all the high-profile ones before, but seeing them gathered together in one place and reading them in one sitting brought home to me just how proud I am of these people. In their willingness to stand up for what’s right, even at personal cost, they’ve shown themselves to be true patriots, and in telling their stories Turse is giving us a modern Profiles in Courage.

The piece closes with an appeal for people to send in other names for inclusion in the list. Here’s what I sent:

Thank you for the excellent summary of these many great Americans who have taken principled stands in response to the venality that pervades the Bush administration. The one thing I think strikes a slightly off note is the sense I get that they are being portrayed as victims, or “casualties,” of the Bush team. While they certainly are that, for myself I prefer to believe that in sacrificing their own immediate career interests they actually were helping their country, and on a deeper level were helping themselves to live truer, more fulfilling, and ultimately better lives. To me that makes them heroes rather than victims, and I look forward to the day when they will be recognized more widely for their courage to do what their conscience told them was right.

Although their story is a little different than the cited ones, Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson probably deserve a place on the wall. They’ve certainly suffered as the price of doing the right thing for their country. I look forward to the day when they, too, will be acknowledged as heroes.

A story that unfortunately lacks that hope for a happy ending is that of Marlene Braun, whose suicide was covered in the LA Times earlier this year. See the following:

A conservationist’s suicide: National monument official was distraught at shift she said favored grazing over grasslands

BLM suicide ripples across West

In a reckoning of the costs of the Bush administration’s style of governing, I think Ms. Braun belongs in there somewhere.

Thank you again.

John Callender

NYT’s Stevenson on the Bunker Mentality in the White House

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Here’s an interesting write-up from Richard W. Stevenson of the New York Times: Jitters at the White House over the leak inquiry.

Lawyers for most of the officials who have testified before the grand jury have by and large chosen not to share information with one another, leaving colleagues largely in the dark about what others are telling Mr. Fitzgerald.

There is a presumption inside the White House that anyone who was indicted would resign or go on leave to fight the charges, though it is unclear what planning has taken place for that possibility.

The prospect of a White House without Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush’s longtime strategist, has some allies of the president in a near panic, fearful that without him the administration would lose the one person capable of enforcing discipline across a party that has become increasingly fractious and that is almost at war with itself over the president’s nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court.

US Iraq War Deaths for September, 2005

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Late again; sorry. Here are the updated graphs of US war deaths in Iraq for September. Deaths were down, with a total of 49 US fatalities. As always, I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which many have charged is inherently misleading; see disclaimer below).

The data come from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 31 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’m aware that we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn’t get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until some three and a half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above. The starting point for the Vietnam graphs is the death that was identified (years later) by Lyndon Johnson as being the first of the war.

These graphs do not address the relative lethality of the two conflicts on a per-soldier basis. I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Tyra Bank’s (Natural) Breasts

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Hm. My fixation on Plamegate and Bush’s resulting facial tics has definitely left my coverage severely imbalanced. How else to explain my having missed this story? Model Tyra Banks gets nasty rumor off chest on TV.

[Plastic surgeon Garth] Fischer said, “I’ve performed approximately 8,000 breast implant surgeries, I’ve examined you, I’ve reviewed your sonogram… and Tyra Banks has natural breasts.”

Bush’s Staged/Non-staged Video Q&A with the Troops

Friday, October 14th, 2005

So, Bush did a “question and answer” session via video with some troops in Iraq (physically much safer than trying to sneak him in for a turkey dinner, I guess, what with all the progress we’ve been making over there), and it emerged afterward that the questions were carefully scripted in advance. Which wouldn’t be anything worth noting, except for the way Scott McClellan denied the charge to reporters.

Q: How can you tell when Scott McClellan is lying?

A: His lips move.

Anyway, Kevin Drum has the links and relevant quotations: Photo-op hell. But really, for the full effect, you need the video from MSNBC’s Countdown program, which has been helpfully liberated by Norm of Onegoodmove: A train wreck. Be sure to watch all the way to the end of clip #3, when Keith Olbermann and Dana Milbank are talking about the recent poll showing Bush with 2% approval among blacks, with a “3% margin of error,” and they chuckle to each other about the possibility that Bush’s real approval rating among blacks is -1%.

Update: See also Today from Holden’s obsession with the gaggle, and the Crooks & Liars video showing Scottie getting into it with Helen Thomas: Scottie’s heated press conference.

Thomas’s “how many have we killed?” question was heart-breaking for me. Queue up the Aaron Broussard waterworks.

More Fitzgerald Chatter

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Mark Kleiman has some interesting analysis of what is (and isn’t) knowable at this point about what Patrick Fitzgerald is planning to do: Conspiracy and the White House Iraq Group.

I’ve been guessing for months that at the end of the day Fitzgerald will charge Rove and Libby with violating 18 U.S.C. 793(d), a section of the Espionage Act…

I also expect that Fitzgerald will charge other officials with conspiring with the primary defendants to violate that law. Those other people, including members of the White House Iraq group, could either be indicted for conspiracy (i.e., conspiracy to break that particular law) or named as unindicted co-conspirators, which would make their actions admissible evidence against those who were indicted as members of the conspiracy. In addition, I expect ancillary charges of false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice relating to attempts to frustrate the investigation, and perhaps of conspiracy to commit some of those ancillary offenses.

In my optimistic moments, I have allowed myself to imagine that Dick Cheney might be named as an unindicted co-conspirator. I have largely managed to repress the thought that Cheney might be indicted, or that George W. Bush might also be named as a co-conspirator. (No matter what the evidence shows, I strongly doubt that Fitzgerald would want to face the constitutional and politcal sh*t-storm that would be provoked if he indicted a sitting President.)

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post (no! not the Washington Post!), Richard Cohen has ruffled many Bush-hater feathers by arguing that the Plame inquiry is just politics-as-usual, and Fitzgerald should just pack up and go home: Let this leak go. There have been many good reactions to Cohen’s piece; Casey Morris of democracycellproject had this one, for example: Dear Richard Cohen.

WaPo, Herbert on the Anti-Torture Rider in the Defense Appropriation Bill

Friday, October 14th, 2005

I failed to link to it when it came out, but this editorial from the Washington Post (again with the WaPo fixation!) was important, I think: End the abuse.

Let’s be clear: Mr. Bush is proposing to use the first veto of his presidency on a defense bill needed to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan so that he can preserve the prerogative to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In effect, he threatens to declare to the world his administration’s moral bankruptcy.

Now, that’s my kind of clarity.

Bob Herbert, writing behind the NY Times’ for-pay barrier, continued the discussion in his column last Monday, which I can now link to thanks to its having been liberated by the good little pirates at Who isn’t against torture?

Senator McCain met last week with Capt. Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate who was one of three former members of the 82nd Airborne Division to come forward with allegations, first publicly disclosed in a report by Human Rights Watch, that members of their battalion had routinely beaten and otherwise abused prisoners in Iraq. In a letter that he sent to the senator before the meeting, Captain Fishback wrote:

“Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as al-Qaida’s, we should not be concerned. When did al-Qaida become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

Senator McCain and Captain Fishback get it. Some people still don’t.

VandeHei and Baker on the Bush Team’s ‘Perfect Storm’ of Scandal

Friday, October 14th, 2005

I’m beginning to think it must be me: I’ve been going through the Washington Post this morning, and finding item after item that crosses my threshhold of post-to-lies-a-bility. Maybe it’s my continuing sense of injury over the NY Times’ TimesSelect changes.

Anyway, here’s the latest example of my newfound WaPo-love. From Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker: Scandals take toll on Bush’s 2nd term.

“The Rove thing has gotten to be enormously distracting,” said one outside adviser to the White House. “Knowing the way the White House works, being under subpoena like this, your mind is not on your work, it’s on that.”

“It looks like a perfect storm,” said Joseph E. diGenova, a Republican and former independent counsel, who noted that so many investigations can weigh on an administration. “People have no idea what happens when an investigation gets underway. It’s debilitating. It’s not just distracting. It’s debilitating. It’s like getting punched in the stomach.”

Besides talking about Rove and Plamegate, it also talks about the Abramoff, Frist, and Delay scandals.