Filtered news 8/13 (and post #200!)

Big Brother arrives in the Heartland  More U.S. cities will soon have more cameras .

The Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates warn.

Since 2003, the department has handed out some $23 billion in federal grants to local governments for equipment and training to help combat terrorism. Most of the money paid for emergency drills and upgrades to basic items, from radios to fences. But the department also has doled out millions on surveillance cameras, transforming city streets and parks into places under constant observation.

How much surveillance are we talking about here? Thanks to generous homeland security grants, St. Paul, Minn., will have 60 new cameras for its downtown; Madison, Wis., (my hometown --RK) will have a 32-camera network; and Pittsburgh is adding 83 cameras to its downtown. Those are just from announcements regarding big cities over the last month.

And what about smaller towns? They're getting in on the fun, too.

Recent examples include Liberty, Kan. (population 95), which accepted a federal grant to install a $5,000 G2 Sentinel camera in its park, and Scottsbluff, Neb. (population 14,000), where police used a $180,000 Homeland Security Department grant to purchase four closed-circuit digital cameras and two monitors, a system originally designed for Times Square in New York City.

"Being able to collect this much data on people is going to be very powerful, and it opens people up for abuses of power," said Jennifer King, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who studies privacy and technology. "The problem with explaining this scenario is that today it's a little futuristic. [A major loss of privacy] is a low risk today, but five years from now it will present a higher risk."

Obama scores again Barack Obama took on the “black enough?” question at the annual National Association of Black Journalists Convention late last week. “What it really does is really lay bare, I think, that we’re still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong,” , adding it’s the same sort of suspicion many blacks face when they attend a predominately white Ivy League institution. CNN reported, “[T]hat’s when he issued this provocative challenge: Instead of asking Obama if he’s black enough, black journalists should dig deeper, and ask why there exists this mistrust in black America of a black man like Obama running for office? Bottom line: Obama nailed it.” I hope so; can the media stop talking about this now?

"It seems safe to conclude that George W. Bush will go down in history as the biggest taxer and the biggest spender ever," - , on CATO's blog. He's got the data.

Elegy For A Fallen Candidate

O Tommy boy/
the polls, the polls are falling/
from Council Bluffs, and down to Waterloo/
the summer's gone, and /
because you failed/
to /
And don't come back, your time has come and gone, son/
You're just a hack, who /
But you were good for laughs, at least, dear cheesehead/
O Tommy Boy, O Tommy Boy/
we'll miss you . . . see?  So?  I'm sorry, what was that last word?   . . .

Protest = Terrorism....

Armed police will use anti-terrorism powers to "deal robustly" with climate change protesters at Heathrow next week, as confrontations threaten to bring major delays to the already overstretched airport.

...."Should individuals or small groups seek to take action outside of lawful protest they will be dealt with robustly using terrorism powers. This is because the presence of large numbers of protesters at or near the airport will reduce our ability to proactively counter the terrorist act [threat]," the document says.

Note the clever excuse. No one seems to seriously believe that these protesters are either terrorists or plan to engage in terrorism, and normally any lawbreaking would be dealt with using ordinary police powers. However, the terrorism laws are said to apply here because the protesters — who object to a proposed expansion of the airport — might "reduce our ability to proactively counter" real terrorism. This is, needless to say, an excuse that could be trotted out for nearly anything more vigorous than sending a letter to the editor.

This is happening in Britain, not America, and it's not Armageddon. Still, when civil libertarian types start warning about slippery slopes, this is what they're talking about. Anyone who can't imagine how this stuff can be misused just isn't exercising their imagination.

Obermann bids the Turdblossom farewell  With Karl Roves sudden announcement that he would be stepping down at the end of August, you knew this was coming. On tonight’s “Countdown” Keith talks with Newsweek’s Howard Fineman about Rove’s disturbing and delusional presser this afternoon before departing and what lies ahead for President Bush — and his Brain.

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Fineman: “The silence has been deafening from Republicans. From Republican presidential contenders, from members of Congress who by the way, are out of town, another good reason for Rove to leave now. I haven’t heard a word from any Republican leader about Karl Rove because they don’t like Karl Rove. And the reason they don’ t like Karl Rove is that his soul focus has been on George Bush. This notion that Karl Rove’s aim was to build a new Republican majority, ala McKinley, is ridiculous. His only mission was to get George Bush elected. He did it twice, and didn’t really care a whole lot about the Congress, Republicans included.”

“George Bush is counting the minutes till he gets out of town. I always felt about George Bush — that he wanted to win desperately, I’m not sure he really wanted to be president and he’s looking enviously at Karl Rove as he heads back to Texas.”

Like fish outa water Via , the Boston Globe is keeping track of all of Giuliani's flip-flops. From gay marriage to abortion to immigration to gun control, it turns out he's even .

"On 9/11 all [Giuliani] did was run. He got that soot on him, and I don't think he's taken a shower since," - deputy New York City fire chief , who spent months digging for his firefighter son at Ground Zero.

Entertainment, of a sort PoliticsTV put together a of Rove’s “greatest hits.” It’s definitely worth watching.

Corruption watch    The AP reports that “rich federal tax breaks designed to spur rebuilding are flowing hundreds of miles inland to .” The Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005 granted “generous tax benefits available to investors. Now, investors are renting out luxury condos in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which “got only heavy rain and scattered wind damage from Katrina.” “It was supposed to be about getting put housing in New Orleans, Louisiana, or Biloxi, Mississippi. It was not about condos in Tuscaloosa,” said a developer. 

Neocon media play dead 

  After noting the oddities of Roger L. Simon’s on why the “War against Islamofascism” leads him to support gay marriage, Glenn Greenwald raises an that I think often goes overlooked.

Every now and then, it is worth noting that substantial portions of the right-wing political movement in the United States — the Pajamas Media/right-wing-blogosphere/Fox News/Michelle Malkin/Rush-Limbaugh-listener strain — actually believe that Islamists are going to take over the U.S. and impose sharia law on all of us. And then we will have to be Muslims and “our women” will be forced into burkas and there will be no more music or gay bars or churches or blogs. This is an actual fear that they have — not a theoretical fear but one that is pressing, urgent, at the forefront of their worldview.

And their key political beliefs — from Iraq to Iran to executive power and surveillance theories at home — are animated by the belief that all of this is going to happen. The Republican presidential primary is, for much of the “base,” a search for who will be the toughest and strongest in protecting us from the Islamic invasion — a term that is not figurative or symbolic, but literal: the formidable effort by Islamic radicals to invade the U.S. and take over our institutions and dismantle our government and force us to submit to Islamic rule or else be killed.

Glenn couldn’t be more correct about this. I read quite a few conservative blogs every day for one of my , and I’ve found that this belief is pervasive in shaping the far-right worldview. The fear of a global Islamic takeover buttresses their opinions about almost everything. When reading far-right sites, it’s something to keep in mind.

Supreme Court's   The Supreme Court’s most recent term was a difficult one, Justice Stephen Breyer said Saturday, because he found himself on the losing end of several key cases. After the 9/11, attacks, Breyer said: “I began to see that the true division of importance in the world is not between different countries. The important division is , to working out things, to understanding other people, to peaceful resolution of their differences … and those who don’t think that.” 

Harry -- haven't you noticed how they lie? Roll Call reports that a fight has been averted over Bush’s recess appointments. “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has quietly shelved plans to hold the Senate in pro forma session this month after the during the Senators’ August break.”

Rudy's 5 BIG 9-11 Lies   

"All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus," - Sam Brownback's in Iowa. And some say I exaggerate the sectarian nature of the GOP base.

Religious Reich says others can't be Christian or have values  :

The Family Research Council is launching a project aimed at convincing its supporters before the 2008 election that liberal politicians “are spouting God-talk” in order to “confuse people of faith” and hide their “true agenda.” Invoking the Religious Right’s recent favored phrase for its imagined constituency - as well as the “Swift Boat” campaign of 2004 - the so-called “Values Voters for Truth” campaign is an attempt to vilify liberals - and, obviously, Democratic candidates - as enemies of Christianity who are undertaking a conspiracy to “deceive and split values voters.” [..]

As an example of this supposed “fraud,” the letter cites a Democratic presidential candidate who spoke of his “belief in Christ” and also supports civil unions for gay couples. Similarly, the letter warns that a candidate noting a “biblical call to feed the hungry” also voted against an anti-abortion bill. A third candidate is denounced for the “hypocrisy” of wanting to let gay couples adopt children. According to FRC, these supposed contradictions indicate that Democrats discussing their faith and values is merely “lip service,” part of a “campaign of deception” that led directly to the Democrats winning control of Congress in the 2006 elections.

FRC’s tactic of trying to claim “values” and “faith” as Religious Right-only attributes is hardly new - it was the driving force behind the group’s “” last year, organized before the elections to encourage a disillusioned base to . It is also the premise behind cries of “,” such as at the “” conference, at FRC’s “” events (in which opposition to right-wing judicial nominees was presented as an attack on “people of faith”), and with “” political machines that warn of the “forces of darkness” trying to “deny America’s Godly heritage.”

 In other world-changing news, I'm out of milk.

The Ministry of Rudy  There has to be an Orwell Corollary to Godwin's Law, one that says any discussion of today's Republican Party will invariably lead to comparisons with 1984.  That's the easy place to run when trying to sum up the miasma of misdirection and jingoism that passes for Republican speech.  But, damn it, when the candidates insist on treating the utterances of the Ministry of Truth as a textbook, what can you do?

Freedom is Slavery

"Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

Freedom is about authority.  Rudy not only follows the dissimulations of Orwell's fictional ministry, he exceeds them.  By the way, the other two pithy sayings on the side of the Ministry of Truth?  "War is Peace" and "Ignorance is Strength."  

  Italian anti-Mafia authorities have uncovered a black market weapons ring involving the Interior Ministry.

Sigh.  The public and evolution...  Eric Kleefeld is 47.1 percent of the vote in the Iowa Straw Poll going to avowed creationists: "And we trust these same Republican activists to run the Iowa caucus, where they'll pick the man who could be the next president?"

I'm consistently taken aback by how unaware people are of the popularity of creationism. The data is a murky, but Wikipedia has a of the subject and all evidence indicates that there are tons of creationists in the United States: "A 2005 Pew Research Center poll found that 70 percent of evangelical Christians felt that living organisms have not changed since their creation, but only 31% of Catholics and 32 percent of mainline Protestants had the same opinion. A 2005 Harris Poll estimated that 63 percent of liberals and 37 percent of conservatives agreed that humans and other primates have a common ancestry."

Gallup polled on this and asked how people felt about "Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years." 39 percent said it was "definitely true" with a further 27 percent volunteering that it's probably true. You just need to remember that a majority of people and in . Thanks to Google, one can spend hours freaking oneself out about this sort of thing, but we mostly seem to muddle through.

Think of the children! The Onion on the depredations of No Child Left Behind: "teachers at Washington Street Elementary School were scrambling Monday to deal with a new round of budget cuts that slashed funding for the pipe cleaners and googly eyes they say are the cornerstone of a humanities-based education."

Giuliani: Catastrophe Waiting to Happen  I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know by noting that being mayor on 9/11 doesn't give Rudy Giuliani any expertise on terrorism, no matter what he might think. But it's only crystallized in my mind in recent days -- from watching him speak and seeing who his advisors are -- that Giuliani appears to know virtually nothing about either the Middle East or counter-terrorism policy. And he looks very much like another George W. Bush in the making. Indeed, not the President Bush we now have, who has slowly lost the greater proportion of his more fanatic deputies and has Bob Gates and Condi Rice as his two main policy advisors, but the President Bush of 2001.

With Giuliani you have a man who appears to have very little familiarity with the Middle East but does have a personality which prioritizes gut-instinct, point-scoring and aggression. And like Bush he appears to believe he can make up for his lack of knowledge and experience with attitude and ass-kicking. To round things out, his foreign policy advisory team looks quite like the crowd of neocons who were advising President Bush while he was running for president. If anything they look like a group that was into the original 'vulcans' group.

The fact that he may make for good sizzle. But the direction he'd take US policy on the Middle East would likely be a genuine disaster.

Wingnut warming Are the global warming denialists really trying to make hay over the fact that a Y2K bug caused NASA to overestimate the average U.S. temperature by 0.03 degrees in 1998? I guess tinfoil caps will do that to you.

  The candidate responds succinctly to Karl's departure. 

  Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar, since exonerated of any link to terrorism, spent 10 months in Syrian jail because of unsubstantiated claims made by other prisoners who were themselves tortured. 

'Cause, ya know, Jesus was a well-known bigot     24 hours before it was to hold a memorial service for Navy vet Cecil Howard Sinclair, the High Point Church in Arlington, TX, canceled the ceremony . “It’s a slap in the face. It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,’” said Sinclair’s sister, Kathleen Wright. High Point’s pastor, Rev. Gary Simons, claimed the church acted on “principle”:

“We did decline to host the service — not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle,” Simons told The Associated Press. “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it — yes, we would have declined then. It’s not that we didn’t love the family.”

Kiss your Constitution goodbye  In describing the resent FISA "revisions," Newsweek's Jonathan Alter .

I hate to sound melodramatic about it, but while everyone was at the beach or "The Simpsons Movie" on the first weekend in August, the U.S. government shredded the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, the one requiring court-approved "probable cause" before Americans can be searched or spied upon. This is not the feverish imagination of left-wing bloggers and the ACLU. It's the plain truth of where we've come as a country, at the behest of a president who has betrayed his oath to defend the Constitution and with the acquiescence of Democratic congressional leaders who know better. Historians will likely see this episode as a classic case of fear -- both physical and political -- trumping principle amid the ancient tension between personal freedom and national security. [...]  Democrats obtained a sunset clause that requires the whole thing to be reauthorized in six months. But real damage has been done. At a minimum, we have suspended the Fourth Amendment for the time being.

That sums things up quite nicely, actually. In related news...

* Anonymous Liberal why the new FISA law is even worse than it sounds.

* The Washington Post offers a fascinating of how the legislation was proposed, debated, and passed.

* The New York Times editorial board the Bush White House of intentionally keeping the details muddled so as to mislead lawmakers and the public.

* And Kevin Drum wades through the details to that there is "virtually no oversight on NSA's data collection at all."

Unka Dicky forgets himself : Who said “It’s a quagmire if you go that far and invade Iraq”? That was Dick Cheney in 1994. And he was as right then .

Neocon media at play  On Friday’s “Hardball” CNBC’s Erin Burnett spoke with Chris Matthews about the current instability in the U.S. economy and Burnett had these choice words to say about China:   (868) |  (958)   (390) |  (515) (h/t Jane)

“A lot of people like to say, uh, scaremonger about China, right? A lot of politicians, and I know you talk about that issue all the time. I think people should be careful what they wish for on China. Ya know, if China were to revalue it’s currency or China is to start making say, toys that don’t have lead in them or food that isn’t poisonous, their costs of production are going to go up and that means prices at Wal-Mart here in the United States are going to go up too. So, I would say China is our greatest friend right now, they’re keeping prices low and they’re keeping the prices for mortgages low, too.”

Burnett makes a valid point, if China were to revalue it’s currency we’d be screwed — so we should just keep our traps shut, let our children gnaw on lead coated toys and eat potentially lethal food so the Walton family doesn’t lose money? I realize it’s a much deeper issue than that, but she probably should have used different analogies to get her point across.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, if you haven’t yet seen Robert Greenwald’s documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, you can . It’ll make you think twice about setting foot in a Wal-Mart again…

Captain America is dead : In a nation of George Bush, , unfettered eavesdropping, , etc., there’s just no place for a Captain America.

Sali's follies  Last week I noted (R-ID) incredibly bigoted remarks about the Hindu prayer offered in the Senate and serving with a Muslim (Keith Ellison, D-MN) in Congress. Long story short, he doesn't like it a bit and says that it "creates problems for the longevity of this country."

The statements quickly gained a lot of national and local attention, with a few news outlets in Idaho following up, giving Sali the opportunity to dig that hole just a little bit deeper. Sali being Sali, he of course obliged. Speaking with the Nampa , Sali got on the subject of multiculturalism:

Friday, Sali said multiculturalism is in conflict with the national motto "E Pluribus Unum," or "out of many, one." He said multiculturalism would mean "out of the many, the many."

"The question is, is multiculturalism good or not?" Sali said. "I don’t think the Founding Fathers were multicultural. Multiculturalism is the antithesis of (the motto)." Sali said the United States was founded on principles derived primarily from the Scriptures. And he said drifting away from those principles could put the country in danger.

"If we’re going to move away from those principles ... we better consider the blessings of God that have been bestowed on this country and the protective hand of God that’s been over this country," Sali said.

Oy. At , Dave Neiwert discusses:

Actually, E Pluribus Unum is in fact a clear expression of multiculturalism, which is predicated on the idea that our democratic institutions and the values around them are what bind together all Americans from their many diverse walks of life. Simultaneously, it celebrates those differences as part of what makes us great.

More to the point: It's true, in fact, that the system devised by the Founding Fathers was, at its inception, the opposite of multiculturalism. They created a system of rule by white male Christians -- white-supremacist rule, if you will. The country, on the other hand, has been breaking away from that system and replacing it with a multicultural one that is consonant with its democratic and egalitarian values for the better part of a century now.

If Bill Sali is opposed to multiculturalism, he is opposed to citizenship for African Americans, which was not part of the Founders' design. He is opposed to suffrage for women. He's opposed to voting and civil rights for blacks and other minorities. He's opposed to citizenship for Asians and a host of other nonwhites.

That would be nonwhites and non Christians that Sali has a problem with. Which raises a whole separate problem for Sali in the great state of Idaho. See, a large portion of Idaho voters would fall into that non-Christian category, being Mormon. That includes the chair of Idaho's Democratic Party, who was so incensed by Sali's remarks that he has demanded Sali either :

"Religious freedom is a bedrock value of America � it is one of our core tenents. And yet, here we have Bill Sali, a United States congressman, showing his disdain for people who belong to religions other than his own. Today, Bill Sali is belittling Hindus and Muslims. Tomorrow, will he do the same with Roman Catholics and Buddists?  Or perhaps Jews and Mormons? Either Sali is too dumb and insentitive to realize that his words are extremely hurtful to others or he really is a religious bigot. Either way, this man does not belong in the United States Congress," Stallings said.

Given Sali's follow-up comments to the Press Tribune, I think fair bet that he's dumb and insensitive and a religious bigot all rolled into one. You might have already guessed that no apology has yet issued forth from Sali. But just to show that Idaho is not a home to only small-minded bigots, Democratic challenger and netroots hero Larry Grant stepped up, and to Rep. Ellison:

"Idaho has been unfairly characterized as being intolerant for too long. Having one of our Congressmen make statements showing his religious and cultural intolerance only makes it more difficult to overcome that false perception."

"It is my hope," Grant said, "that Sali will someday realize how destructive and divisive his remarks were and offer his own apology to Congressman Ellison and the people of Idaho."

Isn't this criminal? Moira Whelan catches leaking classified information to score political points.

Kill or convert, by the Pentagon  Via :

Actor Stephen Baldwin, the youngest member of the famous Baldwin brothers, is no longer playing Pauly Shore’s sidekick in comedy masterpieces like Biodome. He has a much more serious calling these days.

Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a in the near future.  -20248" class="more-link">(Read the rest of this story…)

More on the censorship of Pearl Jam's political speech    (567) |  (579)   (389) |  (334) :

At YearlyKos, I met FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. He’s an amazing man, but he told us something very disturbing. He thinks that the signs are out there that the FCC is getting ready to loosen media ownership rules against the will of the public. They have already done this with the internet, and Congress has not acted to remedy the problem.

A few days ago, the problem because crystal clear. AT&T censored political speech over streaming video by Pearl Jam at a concert. This was overt censorship of political speech. With the , it’s increasingly clear that corporate control over our media system is not only a huge problem but a well-understood problem by the public. AT&T is trying to pass this off though there’s no particular reason to trust what the company has to say, and Wired is reporting that the company may also have censored political speech by . But whether this is a mistake or not is not really important. The question is whether there should be a gatekeeper in front of what we have the right to say. And the answer to that question is obviously no.

I’m going to reprint Michael Copps’s full speech below. It’s a clear warning of some important regulatory changes that are underway right now at the FCC. We’re going to need millions to speak out on this.

Mental midget To me, one of the most sad/funny aspects of contemporary conservatism is that Newt Gingrich seems to count as some kind of towering intellectual figure. Garance Franke-Ruta that she saw him speaking at the Ames Straw Poll where he proclaimed that "Real change is going to require real change." And I suppose it will.

The Bunker  When Rudy Giuliani finally agreed to build an emergency-command center in New York City back in 1996, the city's emergency management director recommended a site in Brooklyn: it was a safe location, had a low profile, and could be built quickly. Giuliani refused. He wanted a location he could walk to, so the command bunker ended up in the World Trade Center instead, where it was destroyed on 9/11.

But there's more. points out this paragraph from

Giuliani's office [in the bunker] had a humidor for cigars and mementos from City Hall, including a fire horn, police hats and fire hats, as well as monogrammed towels in his bathroom. His suite was bulletproofed and he visited it often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced. He had his own elevator.

So far the Christian right has at least semi-forgiven Giuliani for his stands on abortion and gay rights. And the philandering and the messy divorce don't seem to have hurt him all that much either. But I wonder what they'll think of this? And I wonder which mud-slinging Republican opponent will finally get desperate enough to craft a Willie Horton style attack ad darkly allowing the obvious innuendo here to flit across conservative television screens?

Speaking of health care, look at how stupidly we :

One of the first major studies to quantify administrative costs in the United States was published in August 2003 in The New England Journal of Medicine by three Harvard researchers, Steffie Woolhandler, Terry Campbell and David U. Himmelstein. It concluded that such costs accounted for 31 percent of all health care expenditures in the United States.

More recently, in 2005, a study by the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm commissioned to examine a proposal to provide universal health coverage in California, estimated that administrative costs consumed 20 percent of total health care expenditures nationwide.

And hey, look, ! We're ! USA! USA! USA!

The Red Truck that wasn't   The LAT had an today, speculating about whether presidential candidate Fred Thompson will follow Senate candidate Thompson's style, and campaign in his favorite prop.

Thompson was the front runner for the GOP nomination [in the late spring of 1994], but Rep. Jim Cooper, his presumed Democratic opponent, had a big lead in the polls, greater name recognition and a lot more money. Thompson was in the doldrums.

"He was a very unhappy candidate," said political consultant Tom Ingram, who masterminded the campaign. "He was complaining about all the Republican events -- the coffees and teas and chicken dinners. So I said, 'What would you like to do?' "

Thompson, the son of a used-car dealer who had grown up in modest circumstances, told Ingram he would like to get a truck and drive around the state meeting people. Up to that point, Thompson had been tooling around Tennessee in a Lincoln Town Car. "So why don't you do that?" said Ingram.

As the piece explained, Thompson hopped in an old red pickup and won voters over with his folksy charm, accentuated by the prop.

Now, the LAT includes some perspectives from Thompson detractors, who characterize the actor/lobbyist/senator as a "phony," and the truck as a cynical "gimmick," but as long as this story continues to circulate, it's probably worth reminding folks of the details. The problem isn't just that Thompson drove an old red pickup as a shameless ploy; it's that he didn't really drive the old red pickup at all.

Way back in 1996, Michelle Cottle .

True story: it is a warm evening in the summer of 1995. A crowd has gathered in the auditorium of a suburban high school in Knoxville, Tennessee. Seated in the audience is a childhood friend of mine who now teaches at the school. On stage is Republican Sen. Fred Dalton Thompson, the lawyer/actor elected in 1994 to serve out the remainder of Vice President Al Gore's Senate term (when Gore's appointed successor retired after just two years). The local TV stations are on hand as Thompson wraps up his presentation on tax reform, in the plain-spoken, down-to-earth style so familiar to those who have seen him in any of his numerous film and television performances.

Finishing his talk, Thompson shakes a few hands, then walks out with the rest of the crowd to the red pickup truck he made famous during his 1994 Senate campaign. My friend stands talking with her colleagues as the senator is driven away by a blond, all-American staffer. A few minutes later, my friend gets into her car to head home. As she pulls up to the stop sign at the parking lot exit, rolling up to the intersection is Senator Thompson, now behind the wheel of a sweet silver luxury sedan. He gives my friend a slight nod as he drives past. Turning onto the main road, my friend passes the school's small, side parking area. Lo and behold: There sits the abandoned red pickup, along with the all-American staffer.

Thompson didn't even drive the thing -- as Kevin Drum , "Basically, he just drove the thing the final few hundred feet before each campaign event, and then ditched it for something nicer as soon as he was out of sight of the yokels."

Expect to hear quite a bit more of this in the coming weeks, after Thompson makes his announcement.

We only saw what they let us see.... The Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon caused quite a stir a couple of weeks ago with an , co-written with Ken Pollack, on U.S. "progress" in Iraq. The piece immediately became The Most Important Opinion Piece Ever, at least as far as Bush and his supporters are concerned.

The two, who recently returned from an eight-day visit to Iraq, argued that U.S. forces are "finally getting somewhere in Iraq." O'Hanlon and Pollack added that they were "surprised by the gains" they saw, and now believe there's a potential for "sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with."

The White House, GOP presidential candidates, and the rest of the GOP establishment embraced the op-ed as gospel -- and proof that any talk about troop withdrawal is premature. After all, the right said, O'Hanlon and Pollack work for the "liberal" Brookings Institution, and are "" of the war.

Within a few days of the NYT op-ed being published, the two started backpedaling , conceding the lack of political progress in Iraq, which was, of course, the original point of the surge. O'Hanlon shed additional light on his perspective in a with Salon's Glenn Greenwald, which was published today.

The whole thing is worth reading, but Glenn emphasized a point that was omitted in the original Times piece, and went largely unmentioned in the ensuing coverage: O'Hanlon's and Pollack's perspective was shaped in large part by what the Pentagon allowed them to see.

GG: The first line of your Op-Ed said: "viewed from Iraq where we just spent the last eight days interviewing American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel..." How did you arrange the meetings with the Iraqi military and civilian personnel?

MO: Well, a number of those -- and most of those were arranged by the U.S. military. So I'll be transparent about that as well. These were to some extent contacts of Ken and Tony, but that was a lesser number of people. The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed.

It's a very informative interview. Be sure to .

David Letterman: The Hard Left? 

They were discussing the Iraq war. O’Reilly in his usual abrasive way asked Letterman “do you want the United States to win in Iraq?” To my surprise (and dismay), Letterman appeared totally unable to answer the question and paused, as if really having to ponder the options. O’Reilly then added that “it’s an easy question.” Letterman, in what may have seemed like a good response to daily Kossacks but in my mind was rather pathetic, replied “it’s not easy for me because I’m thoughtful.”

I’m all for nuance and embracing complexity since most things in life are not, in fact, black and white. But, come on! Do you want the US to win in Iraq? What answer could you possibly give but “yes.” Letterman’s response captures all that is wrong with the hard left’s approach to foreign policy. It’s reactionary, simple-minded and all too often descends into laughable self-parody. Moreover, if I was living in some Red State watching Letterman doing his best John Kerry impression, I would probably freak out and pull the lever for the Big Red (elephant).

Yes, I dislike O’Reilly just as much as the next liberal, but let’s not lose sense of what’s at stake here. The Iraq War is not about scoring points against conservatives – it’s about trying to do what's best for the Iraqi people who deserve and demand more than the spectacle of disaffected liberals using Iraq as an excuse for reactionary Buchanesque forays into foreign policy.

What's reactionary, simple-minded, and laughable self-parody is the concept that we can describe any kind of decent outcome in Iraq as wanting the "United States to win in Iraq." It ain't ours to win and never was.

This was just creepy. If you haven’t seen it, check out this video of Chris Matthews fawning all over CNBC’s Erin Burnett on last Friday’s “Hardball.” Anyone who watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” knows Burnett gets the same slimy treatment from Joe Scarborough too. He’s like a giddy school boy at the mention of her name. into the piggish nature of Matthews behavior…   (1039) |  (1562)   (442) |  (930) (h/t ) More from :

MATTHEWS: Could you get a little closer to the camera?

BURNETT: My — what is it? Is it zooming in strangely?

MATTHEWS: Come on in closer. No, come in — come in further — come in closer. Really close.

BURNETT: What are you — what are you doing?

MATTHEWS: Just kidding! You look great! Anyway, thanks. Erin, it’s great to — look at that look. You’re great.

BURNETT: I don’t even know. I’m going to have to go look at the tape here. I’m in a strange location.

MATTHEWS: No, you’re beautiful. I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. You’re a knockout. Anyway, thank you, Erin Burnett.

BURNETT: All right, Chris. See you later.

MATTHEWS: It’s all right getting bad news from you, even, OK? Thanks for coming on Hardball.

Actually, this is more than just creepy, it’s possibly even sexual harassment. Erin Burnett is a media professional who anchors a program on CNBC. She was making a serious point about a pressing economic issue. What Chris Matthews did was belittle her, on the air, for being attractive. He didn’t care what she was saying, he didn’t care about reporting information for his viewers; he wanted to play a childish game and call attention to Burnett’s appearance.

It’s 2007, for crying out loud. I don’t know Burnett, but I suspect she, and many women like her, often have to work extra hard to be taken seriously, because there are still too many idiots in positions of media power who care more about women’s appearance than professional skills.

Usually, these offenses happen behind the scenes, in newsrooms and editorial meetings. Matthews put it on national television — on purpose.


August 13, 2007 - 11:21pm