Filtered news 6/19

On the movie front, we rented "" the other night. I don't know why I keep being surprised, but every time I see a Hepburn-Tracy movie, I feel as if I live in a terribly unsophisticated time. The movie is about women's equality -- and it does its job. But the dynamics between husband and wife, the paradoxes of the gender war, the hate that is never far from love, and all of it with such knowingness and fun: this is an artifact of a Hollywood culture far more intelligent than anything we have now. This is not, of course, to detract from the talent and chemistry of the two stars. Has any movie figure been more of a woman -- a full, accomplished, witty, funny woman -- than Hepburn?

How did we not learn about this sooner? From ...

Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

That's the kind of story that ends a campaign, especially one like Rudy's based on standing up to terrorism and hanging tough in Iraq. And that's probably why the campaign put out this , which Jonah Goldberg posted at The Corner ...

As someone considered a potential presidential candidate, the Mayor didn’t want the group’s work to become a political football. That, coupled with time restraints led to his decision.

But wait. If being a presidential candidate was the issue, why'd Rudy accept the appointment in the first place? And did the possibility of running for president make him blow off all the meetings? Was he informally recusing himself? C'mon. In any case, the statement concedes that 'time restraints' (does he mean 'constraints'?) were an issue. So he's not even really denying the claim.

So Rudy's running on terrorism and Iraq. But he got booted off a congressionally-mandated blue ribbon panel because he couldn't be bothered to show up for the meetings. It conflicted with his for-a-price speaking gigs. Like I said, it's the kind of story that ends campaigns.

You might say that it's not that big a deal, or that the press won't touch it or that there are a bunch of other things that should do his candidacy greater damage. Sure. But things that tank campaigns are seldom the things that are really that big a deal. It's the little facts that puncture the premise of a candidate's campaign. It is the the question that can't quite be answered. The story that sticks.

So take Rudy. His whole campaign is about him as Mr. War on Terror. (He's certainly not running on social policy since he disagrees with most of his constituency on those issues. ) But the upshot of this little story is that Rudy's real priority is money. He literally doesn't have time for finding a solution to the problem we face in Iraq. Couldn't make the meetings.

Again, is it that big a deal? Certainly worse things have happened. Rudy was still in his buckraking phase. I guess the Iraq Study Group got on well enough without him. (After all, Rudy doesn't really have any experience or knowledge about foreign policy.)

But how does Rudy respond if one of his opponents raises this in a debate after Rudy goes on one of his tough-guy-9/11 save-the-word-from-the-arabs tears?

I think this sticks to him like tar. Not because it's the worst thing in the world. Not because it's the most important thing about him or his campaign. But because it's like bubble gum on the shoe of his signature issue. Pick your metaphor, a pin to his balloon. A can trailing after his car. Whatever. It will stick in people's minds and it hits him where he's supposed to be strongest. He cares so much about the Iraq War he couldn't bother to reschedule a few rubber chicken speeches. It's just a matter of which of his opponents throws the first gob.

Buy it; read it A new book that will shock even the most cynical among us. Blackwater: The rise of the world's most powerful mercenary army is a must. Jeremy Scahill, our friend from Democracy Now, has blown the lid off the private army of Erik Prince, a radical right-wing so-called Christian, who controls Blackwater. Scahill's book is scary. It reads like a novel and tells us that the corporate media has missed perhaps the most important event of all--the privatization of our armed forces.

Blindly going to war “Only a handful of senators outside the Intelligence Committee say they read the full 92-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s ability to attack the U.S. before voting to go to war.” Just who voted on the war authorization say they read the document before the vote.

Quote of the day: "There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this... From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service. And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable," - , tasked by the military to investigate Abu Ghraib without looking up the chain of command and subsequently fired anyway.

The amoral morons who lead us “Eight months after President Bush signed a bill authorizing the CIA to resume using ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on terrorism suspects, the administration has been unable to agree on what constitutes ‘‘ of detainees.”

The torture documents

Still think Rumsfeld had no idea what was going on at Abu Ghraib? Still believe he didn't personally authorize "verschaerfte Vernehmung"? These documents are .

Hypocrisy watch Several conservative House members who last week “” (and ) attacked Rep. David Obey (D-WI) for weakening earmark disclosure rules have chosen to keep their lists of personal earmarks secret. They House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Dan Burton (R-IN), Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

Neocon media decides for you “We do definitely know that .” Then, there's this (so much fun to see them twist on their own gallows): Chris Kelly :

You know what's great about Google? You get scared that you've opened yourself up to a lawsuit from the Marriott Corporation, so you retype a porn title you've copied, but you get it wrong, and Google replies:

Did you mean: interracial facials?

Why did Chris go there?

There are vague grumblings on the right-wing web sites about another Mitt Romney values issue. This one involves his ten years as a board member at Marriott, and how they seem to have made millions of dollars off in-room porn. Millions and millions. And millions.

!

Truly too horrifying to contemplate. We may have both the necessary and sufficient reason why Hillary Clinton shouldn't be allowed to be president: her .

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday documenting how White House officials have regularly used RNC and Bush-Cheney ‘04 e-mail accounts for official government business, in apparent violation of the Hatch Act. The report also found that the RNC has overseen “extensive destruction” of these e-mails, which would likely violate the Presidential Records Act.

During yesterday’s press briefing, White House spokesman Tony Snow brushed aside this direct evidence of potential illegality. His response: Clinton did it too. “Those email accounts were set up on a model based on the prior administration, which had done it the same way, in order to try to avoid Hatch Act violations.”

Snow’s statement is false. In 1993, President Clinton’s then-Assistant to the President John Podesta issued a staff memo clearly stating that all administration e-mails dealing with official business had to be “,” stressing that no “e-mail document that is a Presidential record should be deleted.”

The Clinton administration’s policy also made clear that personal and political e-mail accounts — which are generally exempt from the Presidential Records Act — could not be used for official business. Indeed, the Bush administration has seemingly implemented a policy opposite of the Clinton administration’s. Read the full memo .

Cool way to make a point Progressive radio talkinghead Lee Rayburn, in Madison, WI, has an innovative political statement on his page: We are watching the development of a fertilized egg. Our embryo will continue to grow as long as Rep. Mark Gundrum refuses to hold a hearing on the . This bill would require Wisconsin hospitals to make available to victims of sexual assault. Emergency Contraception prevents unwanted pregnancy & unwanted abortions. Emergency Contraception is NOT an abortion in any way, it is an increased dose of contraceptive. There is no debate... Check it out here:

"Bush attended the Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. At the breakfast,
Bush showed off his Spanish by ordering 'El Capitan Cruncho.'"
-- Conan O'Brien

What will America stand for in the world in the Post-Bush Era? In The Idea that Is America, Princeton Dean and TPMCafe regular Anne-Marie Slaughter that we cannot give up the idea of a values-based foreign policy and must reengage the America traditions of liberty, democracy, equality, tolerance, faith, justice, and humility. By reconnecting with those American and universal values we can reclaim our moral standing on the global stage. She'll be discussing the argument in this week with Rachel Kleinfeld, Bruce Jentleson, David Shorr, Suzanne Nossel, Lee Feinstein, Michael Levy and David Rieff. Check it out.

An old BushCo lie revealed Jessica Lynch , in Glamour.

Wisconsin-style corruption Peg Lautenschlager, as AG, sued two legislators for violating open records laws by sharing a draft bill with "experts" and not the public. Which experts? I'm not kidding, they shared it with the NRA. The legislators, with support from the new AG, argue that if they must make drafts available to the public when they share them with special interests, (sit down for this one) it might "interfere with bold and controversial ideas." Had they come up with any bold and controversial ideas on their own, it might be less humorous. The real problem is that Big Biz associations, Right to Life, and the realtors draft the bills presumably because the legislators are too busy raising campaign cash from the special interests, including the lawyers who represent them, to "draft and share." Fact is they don't want us to know they don't draft their own bills. (Wonder if they read before voting?) Private law firms have charged the state $374,000 to defend the legislators. Ouch! We get to pay their lawyers to stop us from getting the drafts? They must be nuts. Is there no end to this nonsense?

Newsweek has gone hunting through Fred Thompson's eight years worth of Senate records that are stashed in a public archive at the University of Tennessee, and they've come to the conclusion that Thompson is as his admirers on the right believe. Abortion is a big problem:

On a 1994 Eagle Forum survey, Thompson said he opposed criminalizing abortion. Two years later, on a Christian Coalition questionnaire, he checked "opposed" to a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of human life. He struggled with the question of when life begins. "I do believe that the decision to have an early term abortion is a moral issue and should not be a legal one subject to the dictates of the government," he wrote...

[Thompson told the Conservative Spectator], "I'm not willing to support laws that prohibit early term abortions ... It comes down to whether life begins at conception. I don't know in my own mind if that is the case so I don't feel the law ought to impose that standard on other people."

Thompson told a different paper, "The ultimate decision on abortion should be left with the woman and not the government." But Big Fred likely won't have to and disavow his previous stance. For all his ambivalence, Thompson maintained a straight pro-life voting record in the Senate. No matter what his personal beliefs, it seems he always knew what was good for him politically.

But what about campaign finance? The McCain-Feingold bill that irritated a number of conservatives and was supported strongly by Thompson. In fact, he helped write the bill.

My response: eh. Thompson will have to flip-flop on that one. It's not like flip-flops are hurting anyone this campaign season -- . The more damaging claim against Thompson might be that , or serve as one. That's been getting . I mean . Really, like, . The Thompson-is-lazy links keep on coming. Here's . And . This guy must really not like to work hard.

Neocon media Time magazine concluded that religious Americans were "unlikely to be seduced" by Democrats so long as the party stuck to its "core positions," as if some obvious-but-fundamental conflict existed between the two that did not even warrant definition. A report you'll want to read on this issue is called "Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media." Among the study's key findings:

  • Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.
  • On television news -- the three major television networks, the three major cable news channels, and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.
  • In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.

Despite the fact most religious Americans are moderate or progressive, in the news media it is overwhelmingly conservative leaders who are presented as the voice of religion. This represents a particularly meaningful distortion since progressive religious leaders tend to focus on different issues and offer an entirely different perspective than their conservative counterparts. It's all .

We are governed by genuine idiots This is what we have come to: Supreme Court justices Hollywood for constitutional principles:

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. "Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.

"So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes."

Lest we forget, Scalia was one justice dead-set against looking to international law for guidance :

Justice Antonin Scalia chastised the "arrogance" of U.S. judges who seek to decide politically charged questions involving gay rights and the death penalty by citing international law..... Scalia bemoaned a recent trend on the high court in citing international opinion to support decisions interpreting the U.S. Constitution, including those decriminalizing gay sex and banning the execution of the mentally retarded.

Got that? Fictional super-heroes are perfectly reasonable to introduce into panel discussions about the legality of torture. International judicial opinions, on the other hand, are to be discarded as un-American.

Next up: How H.G. Wells' made irrelevant the Bush administration’s failure to provide for post-invasion Iraq.

SiCKO....

I got to see Michael Moore's new movie, SiCKO, last night, which opens a week from Friday. Run don't walk. This movie is going to be huge — and have a huge impact. At the screening I attended, 1500 people were on their feet cheering through the entire credits.

It's true that I wish Michael Moore were a wee bit more scrupulous with the facts in his films, but I sometimes wonder if he doesn't insert random distortions into his movies deliberately. With rare exceptions, after all, they're small things that could just as easily have been presented correctly without damaging his narrative at all. But the end result is the kind of publicity money can't buy, and it's the sweetest kind of publicity of all: the kind that's subsidized by his enemies, who helpfully boost ticket sales by furiously denouncing his films for weeks on end.

With SiCKO, though, I'm willing to bet Moore mostly sticks to the facts. When you're dealing with the American healthcare industry, after all, the facts alone are usually hard enough to swallow. Anything more would simply seem implausible, like expecting us to believe that Katherine Heigl has a hard time getting a date.

Which, of course, explains why he shot part of SiCKO in Cuba. Sweden or Canada would have worked just as well, but probably no other country in the world could have produced the kind of howling denunciations from the National Review set that Cuba has produced. Even the State Department got briefly into the act. Really, Moore's brilliance at getting his mortal enemies to do all his publicity for him is unparallelled. His enemies' willingness to go along with this time after time is astonishing.

Corruption watch Grand jury probe Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) fishing buddy.

Hunters & Greens I spent last weekend in Roanoke, Va., at the annual get-together of the Outdoors Writers of Association of America, the national hook & bullet journos group. This is my second year in attendance. A few things were different this time: The conversation about hunters and greens working together, last year bubbling below the surface, was front and center this year. Global warming is now an accepted premise — a part of landscape in which other conversations about conservation take place. Though I wouldn't make too much of it, I did hear someone pining for Al Gore in '08 (the rundown: Romney is a ; McCain is crazy on Iraq; Hillary is too divisive; Obama is too novice). A few other things I learned:

  • The Sierra Club, among the leading green groups in partnering with sportsmen, recently added 12 new regional staffers to work on outreach; some of their state chapters have also begun facilitating hunter-safety training courses.

     

  • Ducks Unlimited has been working with National Wildlife Federation to inform its members about the potential effects of climate change.

     

  • In the most recent national survey, the number of hunters and anglers overall continues to decline, due to increased urbanization and other factors. Hunters in households with incomes below $40,000 have declined the fastest. But for hunters in households making more than $100,000, the retention rate has actually increased since 1996.

     

  • Hunters are predominantly male. Yet the folks who've been most successful in reaching out and forging partnerships haven't been green dudes, talking man to man — but rather the enviro ladies. A few possible explanations present themselves.

     

  • John Edwards, the talk went, wears a lot of make-up on the stump. (FYI, I'm not making a comment on this, just passing along what I heard folks talk about; I'm always curious where impressions spring from, what gossip sticks. confirms detail.)

     

  • Climate change is driving species to higher latitudes and elevations. National wildlife refuges, lands set aside as habitat based on where critters used to live, aren't so mobile.

There was a whole roundtable on advice for hunter-green coalitions, so I'll post more on that later.

Corruption watch, II : yet another former Justice Department official's testimony is called into question. This time it's voter suppression svengali Hans von Spakovsky.

Welcome to right wing America. Back in the early days of his presidency, Bill Clinton introduced legislation to reform the federal student loan program. Instead of the feds setting interest rates and guaranteeing loans made by private banks — hardly a paradigm of the free-market in action in the first place — why not just cut out the middleman and have the feds make the loans directly?

It was a good idea and in 1993 the Direct Loan Program was duly created, but more than a decade later 75% of student loans are still made via the old subsidized system. Why? Are private lenders more efficient after all? Hardly. The subsidized loans are unquestionably more expensive for the government, As Jon Chait explains,

It now turns out that the private lenders' success came not through superior efficiency but through superior graft. The emerging college-loan kickback scandal is a vast scheme by private lenders to bribe colleges into foisting their services onto students. Lenders plied college-loan officers with meals, cruises, and other gifts. Some loan officers were given lucrative stock offers.

....The very thing that drove conservatives to oppose Clinton's reform — the vast private profits made available by guaranteed loans — is what enabled the scandal. Almost any government program creates at least some potential for cheating. The hallmark of the conservative approach is that the scale of the profits is so huge. Sallie Mae, the largest student lender, was recently sold for $25 billion.

The old system was created in the 60s, when existing banks were the only reasonable way to originate loans in large quantities. Since then, technology and capital markets have both evolved tremendously, making the direct loan program possible. It's also made the loans much cheaper for banks to administer, and the combination of 60s-era government subsidies and 90s-era capital market efficiency has made the student loan business very lucrative indeed. It's no wonder that neither the financial industry nor the members of congress they donate money to want to do away with it.

As a result, a toxic combination of conservative true believer-itis in free markets (the stated reason) and old-fashioned corruption (the real reason) costs the taxpayers about $3 billion per year. For just this one program.

At least it wasn't the queen Fred Thompson's decision to in order to court Margarat Thatcher "which his advisers hope will enhance his support among devotees of former President Ronald Reagan" sure does seem a bit strange. Did word not get to him about the Revolution? It all points to a weird quandry fro the follow-the-leader party. Bush is too unpopular to be the ring everybody wants to kiss, Reagan is dead, and H.W. Bush is the incumbent's father. Newt Gingrich, of course, steadfastly refuses to fade away and play the elder statesman role. So you've got Thatcher serving as a kind of ersatz symbolic leader of American conservatism. And, of course, if the USA circa 2007 actually exhibited the problems associated with British statism circa 1977 rather than, you know, the actual problems we actually have, I, too, might be tempted by the idea that we need a dose of Thatcherism.

Dubya's legacy who have been forced from their homes by worsening violence are for themselves and their unborn, according to a new report by a national humanitarian group. … Rape, theft and drug addiction have also become ‘commonplace’ among the displaced.”

Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a confirmation hearing for John Rizzo, President Bush’s to become the C.I.A.’s general counsel. Rizzo has served as an acting general counsel “, serving without Senate confirmation.” During his tenure, the CIA has engaged in a wide variety of highly questionable and potentially illegal interrogation practices.

In 2002, of a memo drafted by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that stretched the definition of torture in order to make torture permissible in the course of an interrogation. To be torture, the Bybee memo concluded, physical pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain , impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

Sen. Ron Wyden asked Rizzo at the hearing, “Do you think you should have objected at the time?” to the Bybee definition of torture. Rizzo answered, “I honestly — I can’t say I should have objected at the time.” To which Wyden replied, “I think that’s unfortunate because it seems to me that language on a very straightforward reading is over the line. And that’s what I think all of us wanted to hear — is that you wish you had objected.”

Also during the hearing, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked Rizzo “whether we’ve ever rendered detainees to countries which use torture.” Rizzo said “it’s difficult to give a yes or no answer” in a public hearing and asked that he provide an answer in closed session. Levin noted that in Dec. 2005, Bush said “.”

Published

June 19, 2007 - 5:11pm

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