Thursday, November 24, 2005

 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

To friends near and far, readers old and new,
Among my many blessings are each of you.

Be safe, sound and loved during this holiday.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

 

Jose Can You See A Reason?

I hate Reason's Matt Welch!

He basically wrote the nice, clean, detailed article on the Jose "Don't Call Me A Dirty Bomber" Padilla case -- that I had planned to put together today!

Read it here. It's
great. He rightly keys in on the overlooked government public statement about Padilla -- the remarkable press conference last year by Deputy Attorney General James Comey, which laid out a stunning bill-of-particulars against Padilla. Alas, hardly any of them in the actual indictment filed against Padilla on Tuesday.

Matt gets right to the heart of the problem Padilla poses for the administration and for the country:
Don't you want to know whether Jose Padilla, the American citizen held as an enemy combatant from June 2002 until this week, was indeed conspiring—or even
ringleading—a plot to set off a "dirty bomb" somewhere inside the United States?

I sure as hell do, and not just because a negative answer would give people like me another chance to complain that the ends aren't even living up to the means, let alone justifying them.

It's actually to the contrary. I'm begging for confirmation that the "
Dirty
Bomber
"—who was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on three counts having zilch to do with making bombs or planning acts of domestic terrorism—was indeed "a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a adiological dispersion device, or 'dirty bomb,' in the United States" (as then–Attorney General John Ashcroft initially alleged), because if he was, there might finally be a half-convincing real-world argument to support the Bush Administration's expansion of Executive Branch power at the expense of our constitutional liberties.
Exactly.

Government secrecy is not only bad for the common citizen; it makes it harder for the government to continue making credible case for policies that arguably are in the legitimate best interests of the country. As we all know, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." At the same time, that document was designed with the idea that granting the people more access to information ultimately makes for the best form of continuing self-government.

Read Matt's whole thing.

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Clash Of The Big-City Liberal Values

Why would a clearly-identified publication of the Left like the Village Voice basically castigate a local politician as being in the pocket of labor?

Isn't a powerful union movement exactly what the Left wants? Not, apparently, when it clashes with another cherished value of modern-day liberals: campaign-finance control (why call it "reform"?).

In the eyes of the VV's Wayne Barrett, New York City Councilman Bill de Blasio -- candidate for Council Speaker and Hillary 2000 campaign manager -- has committed the cardinal sin of pushing through a bill that gives unions greater power in making political donations. In so doing, it drives a huge hole through the regulatory structure that the city's Campaign Finance Board has created. That structure is the altar to which Barrett and the Voicers worship. Thus, de Blasio is the target of major venom.

De Blasio is a poster boy for conflict of interest on a bill that essentially exempts unions from the same affiliation standards that the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) has long applied to all institutional donors, including corporations and partnerships... the de Blasio legislation sets standards so low that a Times editorial branded them "meaningless," concluding that they would allow ostensibly affiliated unions to each donate the maximum permitted under city law to candidates. In the election cycle that starts now for 2009 contests from mayor to council, the de Blasio bill invites unions to dump maximum donations in favored laps again and again, restricted only by their ability to secure different checking accounts and signatories for every connected entity under one leader's sway.

The two unions whose past donations have resulted in virtually all of the affiliation fines or other proposed penalties so far generated by the CFB, which combined to prompt this bill, are the Service Employees International Union (especially SEIU's Local 1199) and HERE, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. De Blasio was on the SEIU payroll, as was his wife, when he ran for council in 2001. One of his top aides, Peter Colavito, has become the political director of another SEIU local involved in the affiliation controversy, 32BJ. De Blasio's cousin, John Wilhelm, was elected national HERE president in 1998 and is one of the most powerful labor leaders in the country. HERE has allowed de Blasio to use its New York office for a fundraiser, Wilhelm has co-hosted another fundraiser for de Blasio in Washington featuring Senato Clinton, and Wilhelm's son worked in de Blasio's first council campaign.
In full disclosure, the New York Post (where I work) also editorialized about this outrageous bill, but The Post, is working from the position that unions have too much power -- particularly in New York City. (The Post also is opposed to the confusing, open-to-corruption campaign finance system that governs city politics; less regulation on matters of speech and money would be better. However, giving unions a carve-out that corporations or other organizations don't get is outrageous.)

But the Village Voice hardly believes that labor's power needs restraints. So, it would seem, based on the Barrett article that when torn between allegiance to Labor and Campaign Finance Control, the Left sides with Control. (hat tip: Urban Elephants)

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A Bridge Too (Phos)Far(Ous)...

Democrats and their allies on the left side of the blogosphere obviously have a good talking point on the issue of pre-war intelligence. Whether therewas intentional spinning going on remains an open question for many of us, though Murray Waas' latest scoop certainly bolsters the case of Bush critics. Even if the intel wasn't intentionally spun, embarrassments remain like George Tenet's assertion that the Iraq-has-WMD case was a "slam dunk."

Uh, not quite.

But, given all that -- plus the Abu Ghraib obscenities -- why does the Left have to go even further? Why the need to spin its own fantasies on the perceived venality of American activities in Iraq? John Cole pretty convincingly
squashes the "U.S.-forces-are-using-white-phosphorous-as-'chemical weapon'-in-Iraq" urban myth:
First, you have to discount that no matter how many times Think Progress says it, WP is not a chemical weapon. It is an incendiary weapon, and considered a conventional munition.

Second, you have to believe, completely, that the report is accurate, and that WP was being used as a weapon against Kurdish rebels and civilians. I applaud TP’s new-found faith in all things intelligence.

Third, you have to believe that the report is not some sort of internal agitation designed to, shall we say, make better the case against Saddam.

Fourth, you have to believe that a 10 year old memo somehow lends credibility to the accusations that WP was somehow used against the civilians in Fallujah. It doesn’t.
Cole comes back for seconds and gives another roundhouse here.

Cole is anything but an apologist for the administration. He has had some of the toughest posts on any Republican blog in denouncing Abu Ghraib, the Bush team's generally lax standards on torture, the outing of Valerie Plame and a host of other administration and GOP bungles. Not only does he -- a veteran -- have the factual knowledge to refute Kos and Think Progress (the blog of the Center for American Progress); he also has the clear record of integrity to demonstrate that he's carrying no water other than for the honor of Americans serving in uniform.

C'mon, Lefties, the administration has provided you with more than enough, um, ammunition. You don't have to make shit up and spread easily disprovable rumors (the very crime you've accused Bush & Co. of doing)!

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Giving You Something You Can Feel...

11/22/05: A more-or-less stream-of-consciousness series of impressions of U2's Madison Square Garden performance....

In the new Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line, a recurring line has someone asking Cash, "what's with the black? You look like you're goin' to a funeral."


The automatic response?

"Maybe I am."

U2's Bono is the successor to Cash in the black suit/black shades look (and one-time collaborator). But, rather than casually -- almost willingly -- treading that line between sin and redemption, Bono and his mates know what side of the line they choose to tread. (Bono also chose to go with the black top/blue jeans/black shades look tonight.)

Which is why MSG took on the trappings of a secular church Tuesday night, almost from the opening chords. Bono is as much preacher as singer and the audience becomes his choir, joining in on just about every song. This is no funeral -- it's a revival meeting. Corny as it may sound, U2 believes that rock -- "the devil's music", for some -- is a vehicle to drive to a higher plane.

This is the band for an Interactive Age caught between the technological and the spiritual. They have, somehow -- miraculously? -- managed to convince everyone that Bigness doesn't necessarily mean Badness and Coolness is still possible more than 20 years after the Irish Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

Cripes, they're selling 3rd generation Ipods, yet their raw authenticity still comes through ("Sunday Bloody Sunday")!

U2: They exude Corporate Cool -- which, on the surface, should make about as much sense as, um, "compassionate conservatism."

Even the mild anti-war patter concludes on a grace note: This is perhaps the non-country act around to give a shout-out to the "men and women of the U.S. military" (to a roar of resounding cheers!!)


Huh...?

And they get away with it.

Republicans are puzzled.

Halliburton executives fire their PR executives ("big is cool?") -- before throwing themselves out the window.

Selling out? Buying in? Wealth can be utilized in good ways?

Embrace the contradictions just as Bono embraces history: He clutches onto life -- even while aware that life ends. Thus the bows to the memory of martyred civil rights activists, presidents and deceased rock stars --whether by their own hand (Michael Hutchence) or by that of others (John Lennon).

This band taps themes of love, patriotism and God. Even as champagne is served in the lower bleachers, they urge the crowd to consider the less fortunate -- reminding them of the millions of Africans saved thru debt forgiveness and AIDS drugs paid by American generosity!

America is the solution, not the problem? Sure.

Bono: "America isn't just a great country; it's a great idea. Hold it tight."

Democrats fire their consultants and hurl themselves out the windows.


*****************************************************************************************

U2 Madison Square Garden Playlist (with offhand, random, notes):

"City of Bright Lights"
"Vertigo"
"Elevation"
"Electric Co."
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
(interpolating what song...?)


"Beautiful Day"
"Original of the Species"
"Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"
"Love & Peace Or Else"
"Sunday Bloody Sunday": (interpolating The Clash's 'Rock The Casbah' -- hardly an accidental choice) -- "co-exist" ("no more" chant) -- (the anti-war part of the show)
"Bullet The Blue Sky" ('dedicated to the brave men and women of the United States military')

"Miss Sarajevo" (followed by a film scrolling the U.N. human. rights declaration)
"Pride (In The Name Of Love)"
"Where The Streets Have No Name" (with flags of the world)
"One" (intro w/ policy address promoing 'ONE' campaign -- only non-conservative line is Bono's exultant boast that ONE now has more members than the NRA.)

"MLK" (dedicated to JFK -- 11/22, appropriate -- even as the day seemed to pass barely mentioned by the media)
"Until The End Of The World"
"Mysterious Ways"
"With Or Without You"


(reminder of INXS' Michael Hutchence dying seven years ago)
"Stuck In A Moment That You Can't Get Out Of"
"Instant Karma" (duet w/Patti Smith) -- STUNNING


My impressions of U2's May concert at the New Jersey Meadowlands Continental Arena can be found here and here. Note the various song-selection differences.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

 

Who Watches...

Over at Liberty & Power, Aeon J. Skoble pays note to what he rightly calls "the Citizen Kane of graphic novels."

You gotta love a guy blogging about comics who shares the same name as one of MTV's
coolest ever animated features -- and upcoming live-action feature starring Charlize Theron.

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Completely Full of Schmidt

This is a complete embarassment.

Not even Colonel Danny Bubp, Rep. Jean Schmidt's stalking horse against John Murtha is willing to defend her comments on the House floor. This has got to be the worst use of a freshman member of Congress since the Democrats pushed Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky to cast a career-killing vote back in '93.

At least Margolies-Mezvinsky's action was pushed on her by the White House and the House leadership. She didn't go out of her way to make a fool of herself twice -- on the floor and then later in trying to backtrack from her on statements.

A Wired
article on experimental pain-management techniques for the war-wounded gives a little bit more insight Murtha's many admirable qualities:

This new war on pain is the brainchild of John Chiles, the Army's chief anesthesiologist. "Places like Duke were doing great things with peripheral nerve blocks, but they had fallen by the wayside in the Army," he says. "I wanted us to be on the cusp of these advances." The Walter Reed program is supported by grants from the Murtha Neuroscience and Pain Institute, founded by the US representative from Pennsylvania. John Murtha, who was wounded in combat in Vietnam, visits the troops once a week at Walter Reed.
(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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Monday, November 21, 2005

 

GOP On The Dole?

NRO's Byron York notes how the National Republican Senatorial Committee is the only GOP organization lagging behind its Democratic counterpart in fundraising (indeed, in cash-on-hand, way behind). York credits the disparity to the person running the DSCC: "[T]he numbers show that top Democratic fundraiser Charles Schumer is pursuing contributions with the same energy that he pursues TV cameras, which is not good news for the GOP."

Hugh Hewitt
discerns a different reason:
But grassroots disgust with the Gang of 14 in the spring, and now the Alito delay, the Kavanaugh deep freeze, and last week's meltdown over the Warner Amendment have crippled efforts to rally enthusiasm behind the 2006 Senate races in which the GOP holds an opening edge because of the map.

Majority Leader Frist has to spend his break figuring out how to get the
base back into the effort to preserve the majority. He should have matched the House GOP's defense of victory in Iraq from Friday, and he can still force the Judciary Committee to act in December to vote Kavanaugh to the floor, and the floor to vote on Kavanaugh and Boyle and of course The Patriot Act.

The Senate is in disarray, and articles
like this one from the New York Times on the effort by Senators McCain, Graham and Warner to conduct their own foreign policy (as well as their own confirmation policy) explain why.

The Majority Leader's presidential ambitions are dissolving in the Senate smash-up. He hasn't got much time to rescue them.
Sorry, but Hewitt is way off the mark here: The fact is that there is very little connection between what goes on day-to-day in Congress and committee fundraising. Indeed, given how the House has contributed to the overall increase in federal spending; given ethical shadows over members of the House and a general sense of drift throughout Congress, the "grassroots" rebellion to which Hewitt refers should also have impacted National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) fundraising as well -- but it hasn't. In percentage terms the NRCC has the greatest margin of any party committee over its Democratic counterpart.

No, York is closest to the truth in figuring out what is going on -- it's the person at the top. But the full explanation speaks to what is a generally-accepted truth in Washington: Whether one speaks to congressional staff or various party apparatchicks, the wide assessment is that Sen. Elizabeth Dole, chairman of the NRSC, is absolutely horrendous at her job.

Don't get me wrong: Schumer is an aggressive SOB and a money-raising demon. That's why he got picked for the job. He's also proven quite adept at candidate-recruitment -- a fact that
hasn't gone unnoticed by the Democratic base.

Dole has
proven efficient at neither.

Indeed, the interesting question to be asked after next year's elections (it would be impossible to replace her now), is how did she manage to beat out the younger, far more aggressive Norm Coleman in getting the NRSC chairmanship in the first place. General scuttlebutt is that husband Bob (a former senate majority leader) called in some favors at the last minute to get her the plum assignment. If so, the ramifications from that "clubhouse" favor could be long-lasting -- and not to the Republican benefit. A recent Bob Novak
column tries to spread the blame around, but actually comes underscores the point: It has a "Tut-tut...Liddy is doing the best she can" feel.

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Reviews Are In!!

Well, one anyway!

Because of a fair bit of craziness last week, I wasn't able to self-promote my return to the stand-up stage, as part of last Friday's "Republican Riot"! (Geez, George, what's the use of having a blog if you can't self-promote!?!?)

Anyway, many thanks to Karol Sheinin for sending out some
shout-outs over at her place. Karol was especially brave sitting up front -- the most dangerous place to be in a comedy venue. Fortunately for me, she had a Democrat sitting nearby at her table -- mmmm....victim!

Anyway, surprise, surprise!!!
Somebody showed up and gave us a pretty nice review. Hmmm...yours truly had "a polished delivery and plainly knows how to work a room." Wow! Clearly, the little something "extra" that Don't Tell Mama was putting in folks drinks really worked!!

Thanks to the one-and-only
Julia Gorin for decamping from Las Vegas to come back to NYC to do another "Riot" after a more-than-a-year's absence.

It was great to be part of the show!!!

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

 

"Stonewall" Bob Slammed...

The Washington Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, takes Bob Woodward to the woodshed bigtime Sunday. She is scathing in her view that Woodward's behavior in the Plame case caused the paper to "take a hit to its credibilty."

In doing so, Howell does help clarify Woodward's role at the paper. In doing so, it does slightly force me to readjust something I said in
my post on Friday. I said:
Talk about a walking conflict of interest! On the one hand, he is a reporter,
which means that he is, technically, "staff"; on the other hand, he is
"Assistant Managing Editor," which means he is management.
Howell explains, "While Woodward is listed as an assistant managing editor, he has no management duties." Whether that means it would have been harder for him to influence Post reporter Walter Pincus, as I surmised, is open to question. However, Howell is still devastating in detailing Woodward's unique power and freedom:
He comes and goes as he pleases, mostly writing his best-selling books on what happens behind the doors of power, and he reports only to Executive Editor Len Downie. He is allowed to keep juicy stories to himself until his latest book is unveiled on the front page of The Post. He is the master of the anonymous source.

Last week we found out that he kept the kind of information from Downie that is a deeply serious sin not to disclose to a boss -- the kind that can get even a very good reporter in the doghouse for a long time. He also committed another journalistic sin -- commenting on National Public Radio and "Larry King Live" about the Plame investigation without disclosing his early knowledge of Plame's identity.

The Post's story Wednesday put the paper in a terrible light. Woodward refused to answer Post reporters' questions beyond a prepared statement about his deposition to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald -- even questions unrelated to his pledge of confidentiality to his source in the Plame case.
Howell also detail how political reporter Dan Balz was "totally stunned" by Woodward's failure to tell Downie what he knew about Valerie Plame -- and when he knew it -- until just before Woodward testified before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury. The comparison with how New York Times reporters came to feel about Judith Miller is unmistakeable.

Two things that Howell should have addressed more: First, why isn't Downie's management style in giving Woodward such a free hand called more into question? Howell says that, "Downie needs to meet with him frequently or assign him to another top-line editor here. In any case, an editor needs to know what he's working on and whom he's talking to. The Post needs to exercise more oversight." Well, duh!


However, this arrangement has been going on for years. Downie -- perhaps just continuing on from Ben Bradlee? -- has arguably been dangerously negligent in not reigning in his Reporter-Monster.

Second, why isn't the newspaper/book conflict more of an issue for Howell? What does The Washington Post get out of an arrangement that lets its star "asset" save so many of his sources and "scoops" for a long-term project which enhances Woodward far more than the institution for which he is principally attached. Indeed, the Post becomes little more than a marketing attachment -- printing excerpts of Woodward's book, which helps him with his promotion.

How is this in the Post's best interests?

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Losing China In Iraq?

A DC Republican writes:
Bush's trip to the Far East has been a complete waste, and history will prove it to be a complete disaster. He needed this trip to be presidential and this White House has totally misplayed it. The fact they felt the need to send Rumsfeld out to all the [Sunday] talk shows to clearly step on what should have been the Adminstration's message (China rising and our response) clearly shows this Administration has lost complete control of events. Congress (more specifically the 2006 Congressional elections and the half dozen '08 Presidential hopefuls that reside within Congress) now is the clear dynamo driving events, actions and messages.

Bush needs to regain the agenda soon, or (and this would be truly ironic) the Adminstration hell bent on restoring this nation to a strong executive branch will end up weakening it even further.
Bush's statement Sunday, I would add, praising John Murtha essentially confirms the point:
"Congressman Murtha is a fine man, a good man who served our country with honor and distinction as a Marine in Vietnam and as a U.S. congressman," Bush said.

He did not repeat the White House accusation that Murtha was from the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party like Moore, the "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker who is a liberal celebrity loathed by American conservatives.

"I know that the decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops by congressman Murtha was done in a careful and thoughtful way. I disagree with his position," Bush said.
Yes, the president gets to play "good cop," compared to the harsh comments congressional Republicans -- and, ahem, the White House press office -- delivered to Murtha last week. However, anyone seeing this on television had to be jarred: With Chinese characters clearly seen in the backdrop, the president seemingly tries to play peacemaker in addressing a political firestorm taking place in the halls of Congress back home.

This should have been a time for him to discuss the impact of whatever discussions he had had with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao. Instead, the time -- and the headlines -- are taken by Iraq policy and the impact they are having on domestic politics.

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