30 December 2005

Krugman: Heck of a Job, Bushie

What a difference a year can make...

A year ago, we didn’t know for sure that almost
all the politicians and pundits who thundered,
during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president
isn’t above the law have changed their minds.
But now we know when it comes to presidents
who break the law, it’s O.K. if you're a Republican.

28 December 2005

Cheesy Greetings

Hope you’re having a healthy and happy holiday season.

I’ll be too busy merry-making and nap-taking to post
much this week. But as 2006 approaches, why not take
a (brisk) stroll down memory lane with Tom Tomorrow,
here and here.


19 December 2005

Cheesy Polemic

Let's be clear about something.

This country is in crisis because the president broke the law.

Americans understand that wiretaps are necessary in the
fight against terrorism. Wiretapping isn’t the real issue.
The issue is a President of the United States who ignores
federal law and orders wiretaps without obtaining legal
This is what Bush did and continues to do -- he
has said so himself

And so far the president and his administration haven’t
been able to answer two essential questions:

1. Why do they need to circumvent the courts?
2. What gives the president the legal authority to do so?

Tim Russert asked Condoleezza Rice these questions several
times in several ways on Meet The Press and she never
gave a real answer. The best she could do was claim that
Bush “has authorities that derive from his role as
Commander in Chief and his need to protect the country,”
and then covered her own ass by repeatedly stating she’s
“not a lawyer.”


The fact is, they can’t provide answers to those questions
because there are none -- not legal ones anyway.

As Josh Marshall points out, the court established by the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has only rejected four
warrant applications during its entire 26-year history. So
you can’t honestly argue that warrants are too difficult to

But what about the issue of timeliness? You know, the
whole “ticking timebomb” doomsday scenario. “We can’t
wait for a warrant,” they say. “We’ve got to go after the
bad guys right now.

Again, Josh writes:

The problem with this argument is that the FISA
Court is specifically designed to get warrants
okayed really quickly and it almost never rejects
a government application...

It turns out that FISA specifically empowers the
Attorney General or his designee to start
wiretapping on an emergency basis even without
a warrant so long as a retroactive application is
made for one "as soon as practicable, but not
more than 72 hours after the Attorney General
authorizes such surveillance." (see specific
citation, here).

Got that? It’s perfectly legal for the government to
immediately begin wiretapping anybody they want -- as long
as they obtain a warrant within the following 72 hours.

When you consider these facts, it becomes clear that the
only logical reason for circumventing this process is that
Bush doesn’t want the courts to know who his administration
is spying on.
And that’s why the alarms are going off in congress,
in the press, and in homes all across the country.

Our nation is now faced with a solemn choice. Do we live
in a democratic republic that respects the Constitution
and holds our leaders accountable for their actions? Or do
we abdicate those rights and responsibilities, choosing
instead to live in a nation governed by blind loyalty and
irrational fear? Time is running out. The president has laid
his cards on the table. It’s all up to us now. Are we in or out?

16 December 2005

Spies Like Us

Some fun facts from today’s NY Times:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President
Bush secretly authorized the National Security
Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others
inside the United States to search for evidence
of terrorist activity without the court-approved
warrants ordinarily required for domestic
spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002,
the intelligence agency has monitored the
international telephone calls and international
e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of people inside the United States
without warrants over the past three years in
an effort to track possible "dirty numbers"
linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The
agency, they said, still seeks warrants to
monitor entirely domestic communications.

Nice, huh? But here’s the kicker...

The White House asked The New York Times
not to publish this article, arguing that it
could jeopardize continuing investigations
and alert would-be terrorists that they might
be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior
administration officials to hear their concerns,
the newspaper delayed publication for a year
to conduct additional reporting. Some
information that administration officials
argued could be useful to terrorists has been

Delayed publication for a year!? WTF!?

Or to put it more elegantly, in the words of Tim Grieve
at Salon:

Our question: When did the White House
make its request, and what does "a year"
mean? The Times is awfully light on details
here, leaving itself open for speculation from
the left as to whether the Times sat on the
story through last year's presidential election.
At the same time, the right is free to speculate
about the Times' decision to run the story
now, just as the Senate was about to take up
and -- as it turns out -- vote down the
reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.

Read the full post for the Times’ official explanation for
this latest act of spineless behavior. Atrios has a good
follow-up question, here.

Finally, what does the president have to say about this?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We don't talk about
sources and methods. Don't talk about
ongoing intelligence operations. I know
there's speculation. But it's important for
the American people to understand that we
will do--or I will use my powers to protect
us, and I will do so under the law, and
that's important for our citizens to

MR. LEHRER: I don't want to "beat a dead
horse" here, Mr. President--


MR. LEHRER: --but the story is now all over
the world.


MR. LEHRER: I mean, it's on the front page
of the New York Times, the Washington Post,
every newspaper in America today, and it's
going--it's the main story of the day. So--

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's not the main story
of the day.

15 December 2005

Make Friends - The Bob Novak Way

Bob Novak still won’t say who told him about Valerie Plame.
Gotta protect those confidential sources, you see. But that
doesn’t mean he won’t offer a hint every now and then.

The next presidential press conference should be fun...

Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who
has repeatedly declined to discuss his role in
disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie
Plame, said in a speech this week that he is
certain President Bush knows who his mystery
administration source is.

Novak said Tuesday that the public and press
should be asking the president about the official
rather than pressing journalists who received the

Novak also suggested that the administration
official who gave him the information is the
same person who mentioned Plame and her
CIA role to Washington Post Assistant Managing
Editor Bob Woodward in the summer of 2003.

"I'm confident the president knows who the
source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at
the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., on
Tuesday, according to an account published
yesterday in the Raleigh News & Observer.
"I'd be amazed if he doesn't."

"So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob
Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he
should reveal who the source is," Novak said.

And then he yelled “Bah Humbug!” and went back to stealing
all the Christmas presents in Whoville.

14 December 2005

Love and Death

Woody Allen on George W. Bush:

Arguably the worst administration in the
history of the United States. I didn’t start
out with any hostility; I started out rooting
for him. I was rooting for him, certainly,
after 9/11, and when I was in Europe a few
days after Sept. 11 and people were asking
me questions about him—because I was
from New York and people thought I was
an expert—I was saying, ‘Well, I hope he’ll
do a good job, I’m optimistic, I think he
will.’ He certainly got off to a good start
and showed sympathy and enthusiasm and
said all the right things. But he didn’t. He
let the country down brutally.

The Brooklyn-born auteur turned 70 this month. But the
real reason to celebrate is all the good buzz his latest film,
Match Point has been getting in the press. I’m keeping my
fingers crossed.

Find out Woody’s take on a variety of other topics (including
Chris Rock, Marilyn Monroe, and his favorite beer) in this
by Suzy Hansen for the New York Observer.

12 December 2005

The Comedian that Saved Christmas

I must admit, I’d never heard of Sam Seder before watching
this clip. But it’s safe to say I won’t be forgetting his name
anytime soon.

Bless you, Mr. Seder... and Happy Holidays!

The Narrator that Ruined Christmas

Click here for some holiday cheer from Robert Smigel.

(Hat tip to Brad Blog)

11 December 2005


Vivica Novak, the latest journalist to offer a mea culpa over
the Plame Affair, tells her story in this week's Time:

Here's what happened. Toward the end of one of our
meetings, I remember Luskin looking at me and
saying something to the effect of "Karl doesn't have a
Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt." I
responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin
me, and said something like, "Are you sure about that?
That's not what I hear around TIME." He looked
surprised and very serious. "There's nothing in the
phone logs," he said. In the course of the
investigation, the logs of all Rove's calls around the
July 2003 time period--when two stories, including
Matt's, were published mentioning that Plame was
Wilson's wife--had been combed, and Luskin was
telling me there were no references to Matt. (Cooper
called via the White House switchboard, which may
be why there is no record.)

I was taken aback that he seemed so surprised. I had
been pushing back against what I thought was his
attempt to lead me astray. I hadn't believed that I was
disclosing anything he didn't already know. Maybe this
was a feint. Maybe his client was lying to him. But at
any rate, I immediately felt uncomfortable. I hadn't
intended to tip Luskin off to anything. I was supposed
to be the information gatherer. It's true that reporters
and sources often trade information, but that's not
what this was about. If I could have a do-over, I
would have kept my mouth shut; since I didn't, I wish
I had told my bureau chief about the exchange. Luskin
walked me to my car and said something like, "Thank
you. This is important." Fitzgerald wanted to know
when this conversation occurred. At that point I had
found calendar entries showing that Luskin and I had
met in January and in May. Since I couldn't remember
exactly how the conversation had developed, I wasn't
sure. I guessed it was more likely May.

Is that your final answer, Viv?

... A new meeting with Fitzgerald was arranged for
Dec. 8. Leaks about my role began appearing in the
papers, some of them closer to the mark than others.
They all made me feel physically ill. Fitzgerald had
asked that I check a couple of dates in my calendar
for meetings with Luskin. One of them, March 1,
2004, checked out. I hadn't found that one in my first
search because I had erroneously entered it as
occurring at 5 a.m., not 5 p.m.

When Fitzgerald and I met last Thursday, along with
another lawyer from his team, my attorney, a lawyer
from Time Inc. and the court reporter, he was more
focused. The problem with the new March date was
that now I was even more confused--previously I had
to try to remember if the key conversation had
occurred in January or May, and I thought it was more
likely May. But March was close enough to May that I
really didn't know. "I don't remember" is an answer
that prosecutors are used to hearing, but I was
mortified about how little I could recall of what
occurred when.

Ladies and gentleman, how about a round of applause for your
Washington press corps! Aren't they the greatest?

ReddHedd at firedoglake writes:

In my mind a reporter actively working a story, even
when speaking with a friend who is also a source,
might want to pick up a handy device I like to call a
microcassette recorder and log in a few thoughts
after meetings, just to be certain that factual detail
is accurate for later reporting. Call me crazy.

If she's crazy, Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher is howl-at-
the-moon bonkers:

Where will it end, and when will reporters pay with
their jobs? First we learn that Bob Woodward failed to
tell his editor for years about his role in the
Plame/CIA leak case. Today, we find out that Time
reporter Viveca Novak not only kept her editors in the
dark about her own involvement, but even had a two-
hour chat with the special prosecutor about it well
before telling her superiors.

At the end of her first-person account at Time online
today, we are told in a brief editor's note that she is
by "mutual agreement" now on a "leave of absence."
Has she been taken to the woodshed and, if not, why

One reason might be that it's getting awfully crowded in there.

Judy, Bob, Vivica -- not to mention Andrea, Armstrong,
and good ol' Jeff. Hell, throw in Wolf and you've got enough
"journalists" to start another cable network.

And wouldn't we all love that?

09 December 2005

Cheesy Awards Show

Do you remember this year’s Academy Awards?

Me neither. But apparently this actually happened...

"They like to say there's over 100 stars out tonight,"
said Mr. Rock, to a hall filled with Hollywood's upper
crust and a worldwide television audience. "No,
there's not. There's only four real stars. The rest are
just popular people. Clint Eastwood is a star. That's a
star. Tobey Maguire is just a boy in tights."

Mr. Rock also took a camera crew to a Magic Johnson
theater in Los Angeles, where he asked patrons if
they had seen any of the five best-picture nominees;
most had seen none of them. In the aftermath of the
show, some Academy members - a notoriously
solemn bunch - complained that Mr. Rock had focused
on stand-up comedy more than the movies. At the
awards, Sean Penn was moved to defend Mr. Law as
"one of our finest actors" when he came to the stage
to present an award.

But alas, it won’t be happening again.

Sid Ganis, president of the Motion Picture Academy,
acknowledged that some members complained about
Mr. Rock but said that others praised his performance.
This year "we want to do the right job in honoring the
artist, and to make an entertaining show," he said.

The decision not to go with Mr. Rock leaves a small
pool of other likely candidates, among them Billy
Crystal, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg, all
former Oscar hosts. Whoever takes the job does so
after a year when the industry has been shaken by a
declining box office, and when no one movie is
expected to dominate the awards.

Recipe for a suckfest. Come on guys! Think outside the box!
Get the host that would send the ratings through the roof...

C’mon, you know you’d watch it.

At the very least, they should change the current Oscar statues
to look like various woodland animals.

That would at least get me to watch past the opening monologue.

Torture and Lies

In today’s New York Times, yet another reason why
torture is a really bad idea.

The Bush administration based a crucial
prewar assertion about ties between Iraq
and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made
by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody
who later said he had fabricated them to
escape harsh treatment, according to
current and former government officials.

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh
al-Libi, provided his most specific and
elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq
and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly
handed over to Egypt by the United States
in January 2002, in a process known as

The new disclosure provides the first
public evidence that bad intelligence on
Iraq may have resulted partly from the
administration's heavy reliance on third
countries to carry out interrogations of
Qaeda members and others detained as part
of American counterterrorism efforts. The
Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts
as the basis for its prewar claims, now
discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al
Qaeda included training in explosives and
chemical weapons.

08 December 2005

Working Class Hero

October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980

[photo: Astrid Kirchherr]

07 December 2005


ROUND TWO: Another grand jury, another reporter named
, and another flurry of predictions from pundits
across the media landscape.

What's not to love?

Anyway, Lawrence O'Donnell has been way ahead of the
press herd throughout the investigation. (Last July, he
broke the story that Karl Rove leaked Plame's identity to
Time magazine's Matt Cooper.) His latest article at
The Huffington Post asserts that if Rove escapes
indictment, he'll have more people to thank than just
his lawyer, Robert Luskin.

Hey, I like Viveca Novak too. Everyone does. But
in this case, she may have more to answer for
than any other reporter involved.

You're Rove's lawyer. You're sitting there with a
Time reporter discussing another Time reporter's
secret source. You say it wasn't your client. The
Time reporter says that's not what I hear. You try
not to fall off your chair and keep the conversation
going. This moment made every hour Luskin has
ever spent working the press worth it. And it
made every penny Rove has paid Luskin not

. . .

You're the special prosecutor. You're on the verge
of indicting one of the most powerful White House
aides in history on lying to the FBI and perjury.
His lawyer makes a last minute pitch that really
muddies your waters. At trial, the lead prosecution
witness is going to be a Time reporter testifying
about his conversation with the defendant. Now
you learn that the lead defense witness is going to
be another Time reporter testifying about her
conversation with the defense lawyer. You know
this is going to sound too weird for a jury to get
past reasonable doubt. You don't indict.

Instead, what Fitzgerald is doing now is getting
Viveca Novak under oath to check how her story
is going to sound to a jury. If Fitzgerald does not
indict Rove after hearing from Novak, then it will
be Viveca Novak who saves Rove. Which is to say
it will be Luskin's relationship with the press, with
Viveca Novak in particular, that saved Rove. If
Rove beats the rap, it will definitely be the product
of Bob Luskin's particular skill and cleverness.

04 December 2005

Worse than Buchanan?

James, not Pat. (Though he might be worse than him too.)

Richard Reeves writes:

He was the guy who in 1861 passed on the mess
to the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.
Buchanan set the standard, a tough record to beat.
But there are serious people who believe that
George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse
than Buchanan. I have talked with three significant
historians in the past few months who would not
say it in public, but who are saying privately that
Bush will be remembered as the worst of the

There are some numbers. The History News
Network at George Mason University has just
polled historians informally on the Bush record.
Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those
contacted, answered -- maybe they were all
crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial
as it was interesting. These were the results: 338
said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said
he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was
the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should
be noted that some of the criticism about deficit
spending and misuse of the military came from
self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush

• He has taken the country into an unwinnable
war and alienated friend and foe alike in the

• He is bankrupting the country with a
combination of aggressive military spending
and reduced taxation of the rich;

• He has deliberately and dangerously attacked
separation of church and state;

• He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind
word, the American people on affairs domestic
and foreign;

• He has proved to be incompetent in affairs
domestic (New Orleans) and foreign (Iraq and
he battle against al-Qaida);

• He has sacrificed American employment
(including the toleration of pension and
benefit elimination) to increase overall

• He is ignorantly hostile to science and
technological progress;

• He has tolerated or ignored one of the
republic's oldest problems, corporate
cheating in supplying the military in wartime.

And don't forget that he has also condoned and defended
the use of torture against “enemy combatants” that are held
indefinitely without due process -- a policy as ineffective as
it is inhumane.

David Cole explains:

... more than four years after President Bush
created military tribunals, not a single case has
gone to trial. Only a handful of the hundreds of
detainees have even been charged. One probable
reason for the military's reluctance is the real risk
that any trial will turn into a trial of the United
States' own interrogation practices. Although the
military tribunal rules do not exclude the use of
testimony extracted by torture, no trial will ever
be viewed as legitimate if it allows such testimony,
and defense lawyers are certain to make this a
central issue in any proceeding.

In short, by electing early on to violate the
universal prohibition on torture and cruel,
inhumane and degrading treatment, the
administration has not only inflicted unconscionable
harm on detainees from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo,
and done incalculable damage to the U.S. image
abroad, it has painted itself into a corner. It is
becoming increasingly unacceptable to hold
so-called enemy combatants indefinitely
without trial. But we have shielded the vast
majority of them from being tried for the wrongs
they may well have committed.

President Bush vowed shortly after 9/11 that
he would capture the terrorists and bring them
to justice. But his own tactics have made that
promise impossible to deliver.

History will not be kind to this president -- not that it really
matters to him. Just remember how he answered Bob
Woodward’s softball question, “How’s history going to
judge this?”

“History, we won’t know. We’ll all be dead.”

That is, if we’re not dead already.

02 December 2005

Holy Cheese

And the Lord said, “Let there be limbo.”

And the Pope said,Not so much.”

01 December 2005

Defining Moments in Torture

Editor & Publisher has confirmation from Trudeau that
last Sunday's strip was indeed “fact-based.”

"Totally fact-based," replied Garry Trudeau, in
response to an E&P e-mail query. "Bush's comment in
panel seven is a direct quote, which is why I put it in
quotation marks. In the original Yale Daily News
expose, we ran a photo of a pledge's seared backside."

The branding, which was exposed by the Yale paper,
was first covered by The New York Times in a Nov. 8,
1967, article. Trudeau much later told Rolling Stone in
an interview that he drew his first editorial cartoon for
the Yale Daily News during the branding controversy.

According to that 1967 Times article, "The charge that
has caused the most controversy on the Yale campus is
that Delta Kappa Epsilon applied a 'hot branding iron' to
the small of the back of its 40 new members in the
shape of the Greek letter Delta, approximately a half
inch wide, appeared with the article." It added that a
former president of Delta revealed that "the branding is
done with a hot coathanger. But the former president,
George Bush, a Yale senior, said that the resulting
wound is 'only a cigarette burn.'"