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Saturday, April 24, 2004

Atrios continues to call shenanigans on Big Media's ridiculous coverage of the Kerry/Catholic "issue", but this post in particular gets to the heart of the matter.

The coverage this thing is getting is more clearly illuminating everything wrong with modern journalism -- the laziness, hypocrisy and sheer stupidity -- than anything else I can think of.

Friday, April 23, 2004

I guess that peace the "road map" is leading the Palestinians to is the peace of the graveyard.

I don't think there are any good guys in the Israeli/Palestinian fight at this point -- there's more than enough blood on everyone's hands -- but Sharon is and always has been a murderous thug, and any plan he endorses must almost by definition be a bad one, for all parties.

The Palestinians need new leadership, but somehow I don't think slaughtering the old leadership is the best way to go about it.
This deserves some comment, I think.

Sully has been trumpeting another coup by a blogger ("Daschle's Best Buddy') about a bit of dark business in South Dakota. Cool, I thought -- I rag on Bush most of the time because he's in power, but if there's something nasty going on across the aisle I want to know about it.

Unfortunately, the actual 'expose' is a bit of a letdown. Jason van Beek highlights this passage from a memo:

The Mitchell Daily Republic has given Jim [Abourezk] good coverage the last few weeks, usually run the releases on front page in "News Briefs". (Roberta will confirm that statement) Managing Editor is Dave Kranz, 30, formally of Austin Minn, and Watertown S.D. Went to SDSU (Mu U. with Tom D. and Tom Klinkel) Very much a strong Demo. and have been attending county demo. functions together. If Ron or Al can provide him with good info. on whats happening in D.C. it would be a good venture. He received one call from Ron this week. Thanks Ron...


My God, do you mean to tell me that a journalist is taking talking points from a political party and using them as story fodder? Stop the presses!

Is it a bad thing? Of course. Does it happen every day in every news organization in America? Pretty much. Are there a dozen or more examples of the other guys doing it for every one Daschle? A-yup.

Now, there is another, far more interesting bit later in the memo:

NWPS-Dave Kranz of paper is checking out some of the local biggees in Mitchell to see how much support we have to do something.


Of course from that, van Beek concludes:

Can there really be any doubt that Kranz is doing investigatory work on behalf of the Daschle campaign, in light of the fact that he did investigatory work on behalf of Abourezk "to see how much support we have to do something?"


Err, well, yeah.

The memo quote is highly suggestive, but it's also completely without context. It's a separate item in the memo, so it doesn't relate to anything around it -- which leaves no hints whatsoever as to who the "biggees" are, or what the "something" was.

Does Kranz have some questions to answer? Definitely, and I'd rate his chances of actually answering them voluntarily at something a tick north of zero. If he has been or is currently doing work for a political campaign, he shouldn't also be reporting on that campaign. (He should be pundificating on it instead, the way Carville does.)

But this story isn't anywhere close to shocking, unless you've been living in a hole for the past decade.
Wait a minute, Scottie Mac, you didn't just say what I thought you just said, did you?

Q Yes, can you comment about the report about the Baathists, that we're encouraging -- or that we would like to see some of the Baathists -- former Baathists in Iraq participate in the government, participate in the military? And if that's the case, how will that help to take the oxygen out of the insurgency?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me tell you where we are. We are reviewing how the policies are being implemented and looking at how we can better balance the need for expertise and experience that Iraqis -- that some Iraqis have with the need for justice. And so that's something that we are looking at and we're working to address.

Q But you are -- you are considering letting Baathists participate?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're reviewing the implementation of those policies, with that balance in mind, and looking at how we might be able to do a better job of balancing those two needs I just mentioned.

Q Will that help take the air out of the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, right now, it's under review. So --

Q Why is it under review?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're looking -- well, for the very reason that I stated. Because, one, you want to make sure that people are being held accountable and being brought to justice. But you also have to balance that and look at the need to have expertise in the different sectors within Iraq.


So we're going to bring Saddam's Baathist goons to justice, unless they're useful in which case, not so much?

Gosh that plan sounds awfully familiar...
When will that tinfoil hat loony Bev Harris quit her smear campaign against a perfectly reputable company like Diebold... oh wait, this is the California Secretary of State's advisory panel accusing Diebold of criminal misconduct and recommending (by a vote of 8-0) the state ditch their touch-screen voting machines. Not Bev. My mistake!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I've stumbled upon a bit of a puzzle.

Bob Dreyfuss' latest post contains the single scariest quote I've yet seen about Fallujah:

"We have the potential to turn this into the Alamo if we get it wrong." Those prophetic words were spoken by a senior U.S. military officer to a reporter for The New York Times.


The only problem is, the NYT article he then links to doesn't contain the quote.

So: Is Dreyfuss quoting a different source? (I can't find a record of it, if the source is public.) Did he simply make it up? Or did the Times yank the quote from the article after Dreyfuss had already blogged it?

UPDATE: Mystery solved (thanks to Zodiac over at Kos) -- Dreyfuss just linked to the wrong article, and I didn't get a hit on it when I Googled. Here's the correct NYT piece.
David Ehrenstein puts the lie to the idea of "unnamed sources" -- and spectator-sport journalism while he's at it:

Though the fourth estate may persist in flattering itself with the fantasy that it guards “the public trust,” that very same public, wise to the scandal-mongering that tried to pass itself off as “investigative journalism” during the Clinton years, has come to know better. The source seeking anonymity isn’t “bucking the system” — he is the system.


Definitely a must-read.
Speaking on behalf of the AAA, here's Scottie Mac:

MR. McCLELLAN: Those statements? No, look, the President will continue to communicate what he said last week. We have a unique opportunity to move forward on the road map, which will lead us to the two state vision that the President outlined. This is a unique opportunity for the Palestinian people to realize their hopes and aspirations for a free and viable and democratic state. And the President made it very clear that when it comes to some of the issues that leaders are bringing up, of final status on settlements and issues of refugees, that those are issues that will be decided in negotiations between the parties.

But it's important to look at the reality on the ground and take that into account as we move forward on that. But this is an opportunity to get the process jump-started again and get us moving forward to a Palestinian state.


...

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Secretary Powell spoke very eloquently to this yesterday, when he was asked about some of those comments. The United States is working to help the people of the Middle East realize their hopes and aspirations, and realize a future that is built on freedom. The President has talked about how we have a freedom deficit in the Middle East. And the President outlined the Greater Middle East Initiative to support the efforts in the region to move forward on democracy and freedom, and to move forward on efforts to realize a better economic future for all people in the region.

So the President will continue to remain actively engaged in getting the parties in the Middle East peace process back together and moving forward toward the two-state vision. And that's the way he viewed the proposal by Prime Minister Sharon last week, that this is an opportunity to get back to moving forward on the road map. And the President has also talked about expanding trade in the region to help lift up the hopes of the people in the region. And so we will continue to communicate how our efforts are there to support the people in the Middle East so that they can realize a better future.


Of course what the White House doesn't mention is the huge 'Here There Be Monsters' section of the map between where they are now and where they're trying to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Brad DeLong probably has the best post about the Treasury Department's pimping for the Bush re-election campaign:

Did anyone in Treasury Public Affairs think through the consequences of labeling Americans with taxable incomes less than $200,000 as not "hardworking"? What are the consequences of the Bush Treasury's deciding that you aren't "hardworking" unless your taxable income is greater than $200,000 a year?


The MoveOn ad pretty much writes itself.
Here's another (somewhat surprising) group who may not be drinking the Bush Kool-Aid anymore: the Supreme Court. (Fat Tony and Rehnquist are still on board, of course, but it'll take something like an intervention to get them off the stuff.)

Of course if the Supremes find that even the extra-nationals at Gitmo are being held illegally, the US citizens there might as well be handed Get Out of Jail Free cards.

The right wingnuts don't want to hear this, but: even if you think that it's fine to detain potential terrorists indefinitely, the way the Bush government has pursued the policy -- acting, essentially, like a banana republic and/or fascist dictatorship (pick your favorite metaphor) -- has left the door open for their release. A slightly less power-drunk approach, one with even token nods towards that Constitution thing, would have been both wiser and safer.
Let's not forget that Iraq isn't the only Middle Eastern country in danger of transforming into a virulently anti-American theocracy.

As much as the upside for Bush's thing-that-gets-laughingly-referred-to-as-a-policy in Iraq was all wonderfulness and rose petals and sunshine and dominos, the potential downside is equally horrific -- the destabilization of the entire region, not just Iraq itself.

Neither outcome is likely, of course -- reality usually finds a middle ground -- but the downside is a lot closer to fruition than the upside right now.
The Center for American Progress' David Sirota clearly explains the illegality of Bush's $700 million Iraq money grab. So aside from mere general malfeasance, there are now three separate issues:

- the exposure of Valerie Plame
- the sharing of classified intelligence secrets with Saudi nationals, possibly in exchange for oil pricing considerations
- the mis-appropriation of $700 million from the Afghanistan budget

that in a sane world would likely be impeachable offenses. Good job, Bushies!
I can't decide what's worse -- the possibility that Suskind is right about press conference questions to the president being vetted beforehand, or the fact that the New York Times ombudsperson (and/or his duly appointed representative, Arthur Bovino) sees nothing wrong with the practice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Sigh. Being an unrepentant Wilsonite, I guess I have to go along with this...

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

And the winner is:

"But these seekers, too, are saved -- by virtue of the inherited symbolic aids of society, the rites of passage, the grace-yielding sacraments, given to mankind of old by the redeemers and handed down through millenniums."


-- Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Well now, isn't this interesting. The White House has put up the transcript for Tuesday morning's press gaggle... but nothing from the Monday gaggle Josh Marshall quoted.

Anyway, Scottie Mac makes something else perfectly clear on Tuesday -- the coalition in Iraq was never anything more than window dressing:

Q Did the President talk to the leader of Honduras, President Maduro, at all, that you're aware of?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Did the President talk to President Maduro?

MR. McCLELLAN: No.

Q Do you know whether he plans to?

MR. McCLELLAN: We always keep you posted on calls, but there's nothing I have at this point.


...

Q What do you hear from Thailand?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Have you heard from them directly, that they will pull out, if attacked?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with others on that. I don't have any information on that.

Q Scott, with the Honduras announcement, is the President making any calls? What is the White House doing to ensure support, shore up support among the coalition members in Iraq? Or is there anything?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look at the strong statements of support from the coalition. The coalition in Iraq is strong and their resolve is firm.


In other words, Bush isn't doing anything to try and convince smaller coalition members to stay in place -- if you aren't newsworthy the way Britain and Spain (for instance) are, you aren't worth talking to.
Another gold star for Atrios.
It's probably a little late, but Woodward seemed to be trying to do some damage control for the White House on Larry King last night:

"I don't say there's a secret deal or any collaboration on this," Woodward told CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday. "What I say in the book is that the Saudis ... hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election, because of its impact on the economy. That's what I say."

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who appeared on the program with Woodward, said his characterization of Saudi policy was "accurate."

"We hoped that the oil prices will stay low, because that's good for America's economy, but more important, it's good for our economy and the international economy," he said. "This is nothing unusual. President Clinton asked us to keep the prices down in the year 2000. In fact, I can go back to 1979, President Carter asked us to keep the prices down to avoid the malaise."

"So yes, it's in our interests and in America's interests to keep the prices down. But that was not a deal."


Fine, except... what's so special about "the period before the election", as opposed to, say, right now? (Oil currently sits at over $33 a barrel, not the "$22 to $28" Prince Bandar says the Saudis would like.)

I mean it's still a better spin job than Scottie Mac managed yesterday, but it still leaves a big question unanswered -- why just before the election? Why not now?

Here are the unassailable facts:

- OPEC controls oil prices
- the Saudis have a lot of say in OPEC
- the Saudi ruling family are great friends with the Bush family

Quite frankly, it would strain incredulity to think that the Saudis wouldn't try to manipulate oil prices to Bush's advantage in the upcoming.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Bob Woodward made two unbelievable -- and legally actionable -- charges against the Bush White House last night. One, that they misused Congressional appropriations intended for Afghanistan; and two, that Bush conspired with the Saudis to fix oil prices to his political advantage.

Show me one headline from a US newspaper talking about either one.

I know, I know, baby steps.

UPDATE: Woodward's denials of a secret deal on oil prices on Larry King Monday night have generated some headlines. Nobody seems to have done any work on their own, though.

When did journalism become a spectator sport anyway? I must have missed the memo.
JMM beat me to it -- mainly because the White House site hasn't put it up yet -- but Scott McClellan lost it at the press gaggle today. Not his temper, or his mind -- he lost the crowd:

Q: We’re missing the allegation here, which is that Prince Bandar and the Saudis have made a commitment to lower oil prices to help the President politically. Is that your --

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those comments to him. I can tell you that what our views are and what he said at the stakeout is what we know his views are, as well.

Q: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I’m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions --

Q: Is there a deal?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- I wouldn’t speculate one way or the other. You can direct those questions to him, but I’m telling you --

Q: I’m not asking you to speculate either. Do you have knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m telling you what our views are and what we've stated, and I'm telling you what I do know, which is that our position is very clear when it comes to oil prices and what our views are. And Prince Bandar spoke to you all just a few weeks ago out at the stakeout after meeting with some White House officials and expressed --

Q: So you have no knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and expressed their view. I'm not going to try to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions to him.

Q: The President is confident that the American elections are not being manipulated by the world's largest oil producer?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our view is that the markets should determine --

Q: The market doesn't. It's a cartel.

MR. McCLELLAN: But our view is that that's what -- that the markets should determine prices. And that's the view we make very clear to producers around the world, including our friends in OPEC.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I haven't said anything about Ashcroft's bizarre Chinese Wall accusation against Jamie Gorelick because, well, it was pretty stupid, but Gorelick herself spells out why in today's WaPo.

Atrios is correct though -- it's pathetic that Gorelick herself has to do the media's work for it.
So, a few hours after Kerry on MTP emphasizes that Bush is essentially a pariah internationally, new PM Zapatero orders the withdrawal of Spanish troops "in the shortest time possible."

I guess Kerry wasn't talking about Kim Jong Il after all?

OK, maybe the timing is a coincidence. But Zapatero's decision caught just about everyone flat-footed, so I'll stand by my suspicions for now.

But of course the Spanish are just Islamoappeaserwimps, right? Thank God the British are still with us.

During an interview in Basra last week Brig Carter acknowledged that the Coalition's presence in southern Iraq was entirely dependent on the goodwill of the local Shia Muslim leader, Sayid Ali al-Safi al-Musawi. He represents Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's leading Shia cleric. "The moment that Sayid Ali says, 'We don't want the Coalition here', we might as well go home," Brig Carter said.


Oops.
The best part of Chris Matthews' Sunday round table show: the cut-backs to him blinking vacuously while one of his guests talks.
As with Bush, Russert finished up by joking about Skull and Bones. I guess he didn't get in! (Actually Russert attended John Carroll before going to law school at Cleveland-Marshall, so I think it's more of a "you poseurs call that a secret society? I studied with Jesuits -- we know things that would make your head explode!" deal).
Oooh. Kerry on changing fuel efficiency goals and alternate energy sources: "I don't think any young American should be held hostage to our need for Middle Eastern oil." (rough paraphrase)
That said, Kerry is doing well on his economic plan. Kerry's actually judo-flipping Russert, using his own words in interviewing Clinton to put the lie to the idea that Medicare and Social Security are about to go belly-up (Russert said they were projected to be bankrupt by 2001). Nice!
Kerry seems far more comfortable, far more at ease with himself, when talking about Vietnam than when trying to feel his way through talking points (specifically, talking about his '71 Congressional testimony -- how proud he was he'd done it, but how with the full benefit of experience and hindsight he would have phrased some things less abrasively.)

That's natural, of course -- it's always easier to simply talk than recite memorized material. But it also explains why Vietnam keeps coming up with Kerry. It's his strongest card to play when he speaks.
Timmy, Timmy, Timmy. Russert just said that when Bush was on MTP and asked about his Guard record, he agreed to make all his military records public. And of course, Bush did agree... but then he broke that promise.

Rusty, needless to say, doesn't mention that bit.
Kerry's now back-pedalling -- and frantically -- on his 2000 statements about our Cuban policy being out-dated and useless, and being determined entirely by Florida politics.

And Russert's calling him on it, challenging him that an embargo is stopping the kind of cultural evolution that we're seeing in China.
Now Rusty's getting a little snippy, asking Kerry about the "foreign leaders" thing. Kerry hit that one out of the park: "I would be stupid to answer that, to say so-and-so told me this, because they still have dealing with this administration." He then stressed that nobody relates details of their private conversations, and that it's without question that the Bush government is reviled (my word, not his) internationally.
That wasn't so good. Russert challenged him about Kerry's statement that everything he said publicly would be phrased with the troops in Iraq in mind, and if his criticisms now broke that pledge, and Kerry came dangerously close to saying that he avoided criticisms while the war was going well, but now that it was going to hell it was OK to trash it.
Kerry: "Iraq has nothing to do with al Qaeda. We need to get that straight."
Nice. Rusty trotted out a quote from 1970 where Kerry said he only wanted US troops abroad at the directive of the UN, and Kerry up and said, "Well, that's the kind of stupid thing a kid fresh back from Vietnam would say."

Wow, a presidential candidate who admits he was wrong about something. Shocking.

And now Kerry is getting a chance to answer the $87 billion "flip-flop". Russert is really playing softball with him today. Also very interesting...
Kerry on MTP has been speaking for about seven minutes now, and six of them have been Bush attacks -- specifically how he's lied to just about everyone under the sun. He's also jumping on the accusations in Woodward's new book early, singling out Powell (though not by name) twice as someone who was duped and marginalized. Interesting...

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