Saturday, November 17, 2007

Right-Wing Noise Machine

In a recent piece for The Nation, Christopher Hayes took a look at the roles that email forwards and the internet play in 'the new right-wing smear machine'.

He discusses some old examples-- the now-infamous 'Al Gore said he invented the internet' nonsense-- but uses one recent example as an illustration... the now-debunked 'Obama attended a Muslim madrassa' smear. Hayes looks at the way the story went from a conservative magazine to websites like the Drudge Report to Fox News to repeated email forwards today. Conservatives may be bad at governing, but man are they are organized.

I'd add that a new Obama hit-job has cropped up since this piece was published. This one suggests that the Senator refused to say the pledge of allegiance at a recent Iowa event (this one was even embraced by the totally non-partisan Muslims Against Sharia). This'll make the rounds more if he wins the nomination.

To illustrate how these type of emails, etc, can influence conservatives and the political dialogue, I post this recent IM conservation between a friend and I. My friend's father is a diehard Republican, Glenn Beck fan, and get lots of emails from fellow travelers. Here, my friend and I discuss a recent conversation he had with his father-
Bill: My dad is inventing things that clinton did wrong
Bill: he claims that 240 marines were killed by al qaeda when bill was president
Bill: I looked it up, and he's thinking of REAGAN actually
Bill: al qaeda killed 240 marines in 1983
Jeremy: haha... Yep.
Jeremy: did you tell him?
Bill: yep. he said, "yeah, but clinton dropped the ball when saudi arabia arrested bin Laden and let him go"
Jeremy: wow!
Bill: I said, "uhm....that didn't happen like that"
Bill: he said, "yes, they called him and said that they had bin laden, and he said to let bin laden go"
Bill: I said, "not....really."
Jeremy: that was debunked years ago
Bill: he buys whatever the GOP tells him
Bill: he actually tried to argue that carter was a worse president than bush
Bill: I said, "the worst thing that carter did was not get some hostages out of iran"
Bill: he said, "yeah, that's a weak president!"
Bill: I said, "uhm, actually he avoided war with iran. bush started two failed wars and let 3,000 people die in ONE day."
Bill: He said, "I don't think he's worse than carter"
Jeremy: Ya know I've actually seen conservatives who argue JFK pussed off by not attacking the USSR during the missile crisis
Bill: I said, "well, then you have a pretty skewed idea of a good president"
Jeremy: BTW, heres something to put on your dads fridge (link)

Anyone else have conversations like these?

Finally, check out this great blog-- My Right-Wing Dad-- which collects this sort of thing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Even More Odds and Ends

Roundups of the millionth Democratic debate-- here, here, and here. Video- here.

From what I saw it seems that despite discussing such serious topics as national security v. human rights, Pakistan, immigration, Social Security, constitutional concerns, etc, it felt that everyone-- CNN hosts included-- was just interested in advancing their story lines. It's stuff like that which makes Onion articles like this so true.

(BTW, if National Review commentators say that Hillary's the "trustworthy one on national security", that means the one most likely to bomb stuff.)

What's up with all the corporate scandals lately? It's like the summer of Enron all over again. Are corporate chiefs just getting more incompetent and corrupt? Or is this years of bad economic policy coming due again?

Matt Drudge may say it's decision time on Iran, but I'll let the non-black-and-white news speak for itself: "Iran seems to be honoring a commitment to stem the flow of deadly weapons into Iraq, contributing to a more than 50 percent drop in the number of roadside bombs that kill and maim American troops, a U.S. general said Thursday, [which] marked rare U.S. praise for Iranian cooperation in efforts to stabilize Iraq."

Going full-circle, Jonathan Schwarz & Markos Moulitsas discuss silly Social Security debates.

Rudy 9/11's Bad Week

It's almost cliche now to make fun of Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 Tourette's Syndrome (even Sen. Biden has joined in), but when he denies mentioning it frequently, as he did in a recent NBC interview, you just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of this man's campaign. Here, in a video that should be co-opted by the DNC for regular use should Giuliani get his party's nomination, TPM lays the smackdown-

Speaking of Rudy, he suffered from bad news with the endorsement of Pat Robertson (wait, it's supposed to be a good thing?) and the indictment of his old BFF. Now, it's getting worse.

Publishing star Judith Regan of ReganBooks-- a subsidiary of NewsCorp-- has some far-ranging accusations. She alleges in a lawsuit that "a senior News Corp. executive asked her to lie to investigators about her relationship with Bernie Kerik, and another executive suggested that she withhold documents, all in order to protect Rudy Giuliani's political career" (Smoking Gun documents- here). Oh my. As they say... stay tuned.

[PS- To be fair, Giuliani has has unveiled his new TV ad. It doesn't mention 9/11. Kudos.]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Awful Truth

So I recently got NetFlix and it is awesome. The DVD I am watching right now is the first season of Michael Moore's "The Awful Truth", which holds up a lot better than I thought it would. If anyone wants to remember the crazed political climate of the Clinton impeachment era (and who doesn't?), this is a must-add to your queue.

The first season has some real gems... Moore conducts his own Ken Starr-style witch hunt on Capitol Hill, forces an insurance company to pay for a man's surgery after staging a mock funeral for him at their HQ, sends Crackers The Corporate Crime-Fighting Chicken to DisneyWorld, and takes on Fred Phelps. And, in some prescient pieces, he looks at the India-Pakistan arms race and protests the policies of the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

He also attracted a smackdown from the NYC government after being issued a restraining order from industrialist billionaire Ira Rennert, whom Moore had awarded a satirical 'Man of the Year' award for his companies' pollution. Here, Moore deals with the effects-

'Bowling For Columbine' and 'Fahrenheit 9/11' were mixed bags for me, but this is Moore at his muckraking best.

More Odds and Ends

Yes, the House passed another withdrawal bill. It's going nowhere. Here's more news...

A Democratic debate is on CNN tonight, sponsored by the good folks in the coal industry.

Semi-encouraging news... this has a good shot of passing today: "House Democrats plan Thursday to consider a foreign surveillance law update that would restore judicial oversight to foreign intelligence gathering efforts aimed at Americans and would not grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated the warrantless surveillance of Americans." AG Mukasey is all mad, telling the Senate not to dare pass this.

All the right-wing torture apologists out there should be required to read this story about an FBI agent who spent a year interrogating Saddam Hussein and brought him to tears... without using torture or physical coercion. Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere?

Pres. Bush sits down for interview(s) w/ Fox News, Fox Business Channel; circle-jerk ensues.

And on the eve of the long-delayed U.S. intelligence estimate report on Iran (trillions of atoms!1!!), this news: "Iran has met a key demand of the U.N. nuclear agency, handing over long-sought blueprints showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads, diplomats said Tuesday." But the U.N. still has concerns. Bomb now!

If you can believe it, the FBI investigation into Blackwater did not find good things.

NY Times columnists Paul Krugman and David Brooks are having a subtle debate on Ronald Reagan and the GOP's use of the racist 'Southern Strategy' to win votes. On his blog, Krugman layed the final smackdown.

NY Governor Spitzer officially drops his doomed illegal immigrant license plan.

Finally, did volcanoes help kill off the dinosaurs? New evidence looks at this possibility.

Another Corner Turned?

With casualty figures in Iraq down from the summer, another roundup of 'We won! Take that Defeatocrats!' has begun. In previous years, such corner-turning moments were greeted by normally skeptical folk like Jon Stewart or Bill Maher as the sign that things had finally turned around. Turns out they hadn't. Lessons learned. Now even formerly cheery Mideast prognosticators are looking at such positive developments with the necessary air of caution.

And now, with that in the air, it seems that the reduction of forces in Iraq back to pre-surge levels (167,000 now to 140,000-145,000 by July)-- a matter of necessity due to being unable to sustain the stretched numbers past winter-- is beginning. Slowly, but beginning still.

This has journalists watching things unfold closely now to see if the President's escalation gambit will have accomplished anything other than buy him more time. From the AP-
The first big test of security gains linked to the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is at hand.

The military has started to reverse the 30,000-strong troop increase and commanders are hoping the drop in insurgent and sectarian violence in recent months — achieved at the cost of hundreds of lives — won't prove fleeting...

...As the U.S. troop reductions proceed, it should become clear whether the so-called "surge" strategy that increased the U.S. troop presence in and around Baghdad resulted in any lasting gains against sectarianism. Critics note that the divided government in Baghdad has made few, if any, strides toward political reconciliation that the Americans have said is crucial to stabilizing the country...

...Also important is whether the Iraqi security forces — Iraqi army and police — are ready to take over from U.S. troops. If they are not, Petraeus' strategy could fail and the whole U.S. enterprise in Iraq could unravel.

In short, our entire strategy seems to be based on the good faith that the Iraqis-- who deserve a secure Iraq after all they've been through-- can overcome deep divides and clean up the massive mess created for them by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and four years of the most incompetent occupation ever. Long way from shock and awe, no?

Will it work? Here's one less-than-optimist look inside these efforts-
The U.S. effort to organize nearly 70,000 local fighters to solidify security gains in Iraq is facing severe political and logistical challenges as U.S.-led forces struggle to manage the recruits and the central government resists incorporating them into the Iraqi police and army, according to senior military officials.

Gen. David H. Petraeus and other top commanders have hailed the initiative to enlist Iraqi tribes and former insurgents in the battle against extremist groups, but leaders of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government have feared that the local fighters known as "volunteers" -- more than 80 percent of whom are Sunni -- could eventually mount an armed opposition, Iraqi and U.S. officials said...

...The effort represents an opportunity to shore up local police and eventually relieve U.S. troops, but one that could prove fleeting or backfire if the volunteers are not organized quickly, officials said...

..."It's admittedly slow progress," said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a military spokesman in Baghdad,

Which is fine because, according to our leaders here, we've got all the time in the world.

[Related reading: Inside the Surge--
The American military finds new allies, but at what cost?
(The New Yorker)]

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Senator Clinton: Cribbing From The Bush Playbook?

One thing that has bothered me about Bush-style GOP politics is playing the victim anytime someone makes a substantive critique of you or your policies... ie. Bush cultists insisting those opposed to his policies merely suffer from "Bush derangement syndrome" (a fast-spreading disease). We shouldn't tolerate it on our side either, which is why I am tired of Bill and Hillary complaining that the other Democratic candidates are "piling on" if they challenge the inevitability or the positions of the junior Senator from NY.

Senator Clinton has, of course, long been assaulted by her opponents on the right-- a fight she is comfortable with, and bordering on self-parody at times-- but she doesn't seem too comfortable dealing with criticism from an Edwards or an Obama or a Dodd. Maybe she's surprised to see that other candidates are indeed running against her.

Another Bush tactic that I despise, which I wish Hillary had not embraced, is manipulation of the media. From sneaking Jeff Gannon into the White House press corps to paying Armstrong Williams and other pundits to shill for his programs to town hall meetings where only proven die-hard supporters are let in to phony FEMA press conferences, the President has done everything to keep himself in a bubble, and to avoid any opinions that differ from his own.

Now Sen. Clinton has been caught engaging in similar activity. At a recent campaign spot, a college student asked her, "As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?" An excellent question, to which Clinton had a quick answer ready.... because her campaign had given the question to said student in the first place. This leaves one wondering how often the Senator does this.

Is this the greatest scandal ever, or even the worst of this week? Hardly. But it's a political practice that demeans the system, and should not be so lightly dismissed. I'm sure Clinton would be a smarter, more capable leader than Bush. But the bar shouldn't be set that low.

Progress? Or Kabuki?

Hey, speaking of Pakistan, there was some news from there this morning.

The 'emergency rule' stays in place through the January elections-- which may or may occur-- and protestors and activists are still being rounded up by the Musharraf regime, but a concession was quietly made today. The AP reports that-
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday he expects to step down as army chief by the end of November and begin a new presidential term as a civilian, warning that Pakistan risked chaos if he gave into opposition demands to resign...

....The U.S.-backed general had originally planned to quit as chief of the powerful army by Thursday, when his presidential mandate and the term of the current parliament expire, but he said he was forced to delay the restoration of civilian rule until a court ruling on his recent re-election.

He said the timing would depend on the Supreme Court — which he purged of independent-minded judges when he suspended the constitution Nov. 3 — but expected it to happen this month.

Of course, unless real democratic change follows this move (and as you can see, it's merely tentative), then it is kabuki. Musharraf can officially step down as military chief in theory, while remaining the real military dictator of the country in practice. There's no sign yet that Musharraf is serious about restoring constitutional rule in his country, or about stopping extremists. "The only terror that Musharraf's regime seems able to confront is the terror of his own illegitimacy," opposition leader Benazir Bhutto (herself no prize) said.

Finally, the NY Times' Frank Rich has a column comparing the struggle in Pakistan with the subtler one here at home.

Our Man in Pakistan

Bill Moyers opened his show with the Pakistani crisis this past weekend. Here's video-

I got into a debate this past weekend on this topic with a conservative commenter on the LJDemocrats community. It was over my post about the crappy media coverage on the origins of the emergency rule. After throwing ridiculous strawmen at me (Barack Obama running for President = what Musharraf is doing... seriously!) and refusing to address the main issue, all he would do was shrug his shoulders and say "We want an ally in Pakistan who is helping us fight terrorists."

And there folks is the collapse of President Bush's democracy agenda, which looked at the world in stark black and white terms. Those who argued that maybe Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein-- the odious, but secular, dictator-- because he kept the influence of an al Qaeda or an Iran at bay, and argued that throwing the flames of war all across the region wouldn't solve all its ills? Perhaps they weren't moonbat monsters after all. Yes, maybe Musharraf is better than what would follow his fall... but such a compromise invalidates the entire foreign policy of the past 7 years.

Sometimes you make compromises to avoid larger conflicts. You use diplomacy, etc.

Of course, as Moyers notes, previous such compromises (arming strongmen to fight common enemies)-- Hussein, bin Laden, etc-- blew up in our faces. I hope this one's different.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Headline of the Day

AP: ' Intel official: Expect less privacy'

I think most are unfazed by this. Give us liberty or give us a cell phone that takes pictures.

"I'm Jack Bauer, And I Approve This Message."

And the award for craziest campaign ad so far goes to... Tom 'Deytookurjobs!' Tancredo!

Combining 'open borders' rhetoric with terrorism fearmongering? Genius. It just barely beats out Mitt Romney's ad on jihadism, aka "this century's nightmare". True, the Romney ad took seriously the far-right paranoia that islamofascists are going to "unite the world under a single jihadist caliphate" by "collapsing freedom-loving nations like us" (so totally plausible), but the Tancredo ad went for the full '24' monty. So he wins. Kudos.

[New Tancredo Ad Depicts Fictional Terrorist Attack (TPM Election Central])

Veto Fever -- Catch It!

Once again, President Bush demonstrates that his post-GOP Congress government philosophy can be summed up thusly... Domestic spending = BAD! Irresponsible! Unlimited military spending = GOOD!

From the AP-
President Bush on Tuesday vetoed a spending measure for health and education programs prized by congressional Democrats. He also signed a big increase in the Pentagon's non-war budget.

I can respect demands of fiscal responsibility from our leaders, if applied honestly and evenly. This isn't it, and in the case of George W. Tax Cuts, has never been it. This is just partisan pettiness. If it had been Speaker Hastert handing him this bill, it would be signed without question. Is it 2009 yet?

Odds and Ends

Wow, did you read that whole rant? Good for you! Anyway, here's some news...

Yes, Virginia, there is a difference between the two parties: "House Democrats on Friday pushed through an $80 billion bill to block the spread of a dreaded tax on middle-income people. The White House and Republicans, protesting tax increases in the bill affecting mainly investment fund managers, maintained that it would never become law."

Here's a helluva headline... 'Justice Department returns to enforcing voter laws'

Barack Obama has helpful advice for all the right-wingers accidently (winkwink) referring to him as Osama to help them tell the difference. "I have a lot of trouble growing a beard, and he lives in a cave," he said.

The Democratic candidates were in Iowa this past weekend for another key campaign event. Rolling Stone has video of the speeches given by Obama, Edwards, Clinton, and Richardson.

Al Gore, President? No. Al Gore, green venture capitalist? Yes.

NY Gov. Spitzer may be backing down from his plan to give licenses to illegal immigrants.

Finally, right-wing 'war on Christmas' hysteria arrives earlier and earlier each year. Sigh.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Joe Lieberman's Concern Trolling

Wikipedia defines a concern troll as "a pseudonym created by a user whose point of view is opposed to the one that the user's sockpuppet claims to hold. The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed 'concerns'. The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group."

This is prevalent in politics, with countless GOP operatives offering Democrats faux-advice, which basically amounts to telling them that if they don't do exactly what the GOP wants, they will lose badly (ie. this from 2006).

Karl Rove had a Wall Street Journal op-ed this past weekend along these lines, not only criticizing Democratic congressional efforts, but also offering his expert advice on how to get back on track. "No energy bill. No action on health care. No action on the mortgage crisis. No immigration reform," etc, he laments, inadvertently making the case for the larger Democratic majority needed to get all those things past GOP obstruction. How nice of the former architect of the permanent Republican majority-- how'd that work out, by the way?-- to be so helpful! :-D

Needless to say, Democrats tend to do very well when they ignore such 'advice'.

But the ultimate concern troll is Senator Joseph Lieberman, of the Connecticut for Lieberman party. Holding onto the spotlight as long as he can in the face of a certain increased Democratic Senate majority next year which will leave him irrelevant, Joe is offering advice to his former Democratic friends. Give peace war a chance!

(Hey, here's a health-care solution... bomb the HMOs! Victory through superior firepower!)

I found his statement this week proudly posted by the Bush cultists at Blogs for Bush. Since the full statement is ridiculously long, I will focus on the excerpt BFB posted. Let's begin-
"In the weeks and months after September 11, Democrats and Republicans put aside our partisan divisions and stood united as Americans. As late as October 2002, a Democratic-controlled Senate voted by a wide bipartisan margin to authorize President Bush to use military force against Saddam Hussein."

Unity = A hive-like, paranoid national mindset which tolerates no dissent, worships President Bush, and authorizes war without question or concern for the consequences? Truly the golden age of American civilization. More-
"As the Iraq war became bogged down in a long and costly insurgency, however, and as President Bush’s approval ratings slipped, Democrats moved in a very different direction—first in the presidential campaign of 2004, where antiwar forces played a decisive role in the Democratic primaries."

Ummm, I seem to recall you running against the President in that campaign, Joe. Why did you hate America? And that "long and costly insurgency" you mention was something the powers-that-be were deep, deep in denial about then. Of course, now (whenever that is) things are 'turning around'. As they always are.

As for "antiwar forces" playing the "decisive role" in those primaries, that must be why the cautious, originally pro-war John Kerry was nominated over the more populist, anti-war Howard Dean. Right? More-
"As you may recall, they also prevailed in Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary last year."

Translation: 'Waaaaahhhhhhhhh!' Those pesky voters whom Joe Lieberman claims to represent disapproved of his performance and tried to take 'his' seat away in a process known as democracy! Luckily, our very mature Senator here is not at all bitter about it. More-
"Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror..."

Yes, because an expanded military (hey it only constitutes a mere 50-55% of the federal budget!) is quite necessary to fight a small, but focused, group of guerillas operating out of deserts with no formal connections to any nation. Think of those poor starving defense contractors, Dems! :-( More-
"...or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East..."

Riiiighhht, because this has been a very focused campaign. I think the Hamas election invalidated this cure-all, not to mention our support for the decidedly undemocratic Musharraf regime. Move on, Joe. More-
"...or to prevail in Afghanistan."

Because we all know how much the neocons really care about Afghanistan. More-
"It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically-elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush."

Actually, it's long been Bush's plan to hand off said defeat to his successor. More-
"No Democratic presidential primary candidate today speaks of America’s moral or strategic responsibility to stand with the Iraqi people against the totalitarian forces of radical Islam, or of the consequences of handing a victory in Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran."

Actually, they've all discussed this to some extent, but have also stated that our occupation of Iraq exacerbates the problem. As even the blessed Gen. Petraeus has acknowledged, it is only an internal political solution that will save Iraq, not military pressure. Oh, and kudos for sneaking an Iran mention in there, you sly dog. Finally-
"But another reason for the Democratic flip-flop on foreign policy over the past few years is less substantive. For many Democrats, the guiding conviction in foreign policy isn’t pacifism or isolationism— it is distrust and disdain of Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular."

Actually Joe, it is called... learning from your mistakes. You see, that is what grownups do. And they don't insist that those who don't share their worldview must simply have nothing deeper than personal hatred for them. If anything, Democrats have admittedly been quite lenient of Mr. Bush, all things considered.

In conclusion, insanity like this will be all over the place as the elections-- primary and general-- grow closer. They tried to scare Democrats away from taking on the President and his war last year and failed. They're hoping that being in power has made the Democrats cautious enough for it to succeed now. I hope they're wrong.

Veteran's Day

Veteran Day's is observed today. Daily Kos' RenaRF has a good post on vets and memorials.

Look For The Union Label

The TV/film writers' strike enters its second week today. Some people may still be confused as to what this strike is all about. I found a good video-- courtesy of the Writers Guild official YouTube channel-- on the issues that caused them to go on strike. Pass it around.

Also on YouTube, the writer/actors of 'The Office' have fun on the picket line.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Darn That Liberal Media, Pt. 8,784!

Courtesy of TPM, CNN uses creative editing of a recent Pelosi quote for their story on how much Democrats suck-

"I admit it -- the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures." - Bill Kristol in the New Yorker, 5/22/95

[Related reading: Why voters don't like Congress (Salon - Joan Walsh)]

The Anger of a Liberal

This review of Paul Krugman's book hits the nail on the head regarding the origins of the polarization today in politics, and why liberals grew in their anger and mobilization over the past decade. Well worth reading.

(Conservative Jones, boy detective, investigates this mystery as well.)

Mr. Krugman, ever the optimist, sees this anger as a transformative force. He states "that the 2006 election wasn't an aberration, [and] that the U.S. public is actually ready for something different— a new politics of equality." I'm more cynical than that, but-- like Fox Mulder-- I want to believe.

As for his dream of a 'new' New Deal (a key theme in the book), again I won't hold my breath. Franklin Roosevelt got the New Deal pushed through due to a mix of Great Depression realism (people living in shanty towns tend to realize the system is screwed up) and goodwill he gained as WWII began. There's no world war on (despite what the neocons think). And while economic disparity is growing, far too many people seem unfazed (credit cards allow us to buy happiness beyond our means now).

The best I hope for from the next President is getting back to the pre-Bush status quo (and maybe institute some policies that pave the way for more progressive ones in the near future). Anything above and beyond that is pure gravy. And yes, that's how low the bar is for me right now.