Archive for the ‘Archived’ Category

The GOP Outraged at… What, the Decency of Democrats?

November 6th, 2003 Comments off

Republicans are in outrage against the Democrats because of a memo leaked to the press. The memo, almost certainly stolen by the Republicans then leaked so they could act indignant about it, essentially talks about exposing the lies Bush has told about Iraq. Senator Jay Rockefeller said that it was a draft memo, and not an official one; it “was not approved nor was it shared with any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee or anyone else.”

The GOP, however, will not so easily give up an opportunity to smear their political opponents. Republican Senator John Kyl said, “it is a disgusting possibility that members of the Senate would actually try to politicize intelligence, especially at a time of war, even apparently reaching conclusions before investigations have been performed.”

How’s that for hypocrisy? With the GOP repeatedly politicizing 9/11 and the Iraq war, they’re enraged because the Democrats have a draft memo that suggests they demonstrate how Bush is lying during an election year? How dare they! The fact of the matter is, this memo is about as innocuous as it can possibly be. Among other things, it says that it wants to find “new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials,” to get “Democratic ‘additional views'” attached to reports, and to reveal “the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral preemptive war.” Those bastards.

The memo also states that they will “launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority” (emphasis mine). The memo suggests politicization only after all efforts to cooperate have been exhausted! And the Republicans are furious about this? The GOP standardly politicizes issues before even trying to cooperate.

The Republicans have also politicized just about everything under the sun they can for their benefit, especially matters of national tragedy, intelligence, and war. Remember the leak of the CIA operative’s name? Remember when the GOP used a photo of Bush on 9/11 for campaign fundraising? How they held a seminar on how to use the “war on terrorism” to their benefit? There are countless examples of crass politicization by the GOP, any one of which make the current unofficial memo look like a positive thing.

I suppose it should not be surprising; the GOP is, hands down, the reigning master of dirty tricks and mudslinging politics.

Here is the text of the memo:

We have carefully reviewed our options under the rules and believe we have identified the best approach. Our plan is as follows:

1) Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. We are having some success in that regard.

For example, in addition to the President’s State of the Union speech, the chairman [Sen. Pat Roberts] has agreed to look at the activities of the office of the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, as well as Secretary Bolton’s office at the State Department.

The fact that the chairman supports our investigations into these offices and cosigns our requests for information is helpful and potentially crucial. We don’t know what we will find but our prospects for getting the access we seek is far greater when we have the backing of the majority. [We can verbally mention some of the intriguing leads we are pursuing.]

2) Assiduously prepare Democratic ‘additional views’ to attach to any interim or final reports the committee may release. Committee rules provide this opportunity and we intend to take full advantage of it.

In that regard we may have already compiled all the public statements on Iraq made by senior administration officials. We will identify the most exaggerated claims. We will contrast them with the intelligence estimates that have since been declassified. Our additional views will also, among other things, castigate the majority for seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry.

The Democrats will then be in a strong position to reopen the question of establishing an Independent Commission [i.e., the Corzine Amendment.]

3) Prepare to launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration’s use of intelligence at any time. But we can only do so once.

The best time to do so will probably be next year, either:

A) After we have already released our additional views on an interim report, thereby providing as many as three opportunities to make our case to the public. Additional views on the interim report (1). The announcement of our independent investigation (2). And (3) additional views on the final investigation. Or:

B) Once we identify solid leads the majority does not want to pursue, we would attract more coverage and have greater credibility in that context than one in which we simply launch an independent investigation based on principled but vague notions regarding the use of intelligence.

In the meantime, even without a specifically authorized independent investigation, we continue to act independently when we encounter footdragging on the part of the majority. For example, the FBI Niger investigation was done solely at the request of the vice chairman. We have independently submitted written requests to the DOD and we are preparing further independent requests for information.

SUMMARY: Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public’s concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet we have an important role to play in revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral preemptive war.

The approach outlined above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration’s dubious motives.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Maddening Irony

November 4th, 2003 Comments off

Believe it or not, Linda Tripp is involved in a lawsuit over privacy, and, in an irony of injustice, she’s the one getting an award–$595,000, to be specific. Yes, you heard right. The same woman whose claim to fame was her proud and illegal tape recording of highly private and personal phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky. Her motives were far from honorable–she was being directed by book publisher and veteran GOP dirty tricks master Lucianne Goldberg, undoubtedly with dollar signs in her eyes at a prospective book deal–not to mention the personal and political motivations as well.

So despite the fact that this woman committed what is perhaps the most famous (or infamous) violation of another person’s privacy in the past fifty years or so, she’s the one getting paid–because someone leaked the fact that she was arrested but never charged for a crime she may have committed as a minor. Yeah. I’m sure that leak just ruined her whole life. I am absolutely certain that that leak about her past–which no one in the world remembers and most never even heard of–is the reason why people would not want to hire her in the future. Not because she is known for her felonious betrayal for base purposes. Of course not.

Isn’t the damage this woman did to Lewinsky, the president, and the country as a whole enough? But wait, there’s more–she somehow weaseled out a perk to the deal, in the form of three retroactive glowing reports on her performance at the DoD, where she was employed as she apparently spent a lot of time working sordid details out of Lewinsky. These evaluations will lead to greater retirement benefits. Yes, good work, Linda, for faking friendship, stabbing said friend in the back, and derailing the nation’s politics in one of the most toxic and wasteful dirty tricks campaigns in recent memory.

She cries poverty, saying that her legal bills hit half a million dollars, but gets little sympathy for that–she did, after all, commit far more than the two felonies she was charged with, and was eventually let off scot free. Her fault, no victim she. She was indicted and prosecution began, but she got off on technicalities as the prosecutor finally dropped the case. She also, bizarrely enough, was given, as a gift by an anonymous admirer, $30,000 so she could get extensive plastic surgery and afford a celebrity stylist.

This is one person who most definitely deserves no reward at all.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Ahead of the Game

November 3rd, 2003 Comments off

Nice to know I’m ahead of the curve on some things. Just now, journalists are beginning to call what is happening in Iraq a “guerilla” war; a CNN reporter just said that there is no denying it now, and Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo has brought it up.

I commented on it just over two months ago.

It’s all part of the War On Language that Republicans have been fighting for the past few decades, trying to alter perception in their favor by promoting some ways of talking about things, and attacking others.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Taking Responsibility

November 2nd, 2003 Comments off

Today, a Chinook helicopter was transporting as many as three dozen troops from the lines of battle–or perhaps I should say, the lines of “post-mission-accomplished-peacekeeping”–for some much needed R&R. Many of these guys signed up for weekend duty, not for the long haul halfway around the world while their families go without, their bank accounts wither, and God knows if their jobs will be there when they get back. Over the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a missile struck the helicopter, and it went down. Thirteen of the men died. Another twenty were injured. Iraqi citizens rushed in on the flash point, shouting anti-American slogans, some grabbing souvenirs.

Maybe Bush will find some way of telling us how this is a good sign. Frankly, I kind of doubt it. Okay, it’s cool that people up north like us, that schools are opening and that people have electricity. Fine. That doesn’t erase the deaths, the injuries, the cost in blood and money.

To this day, 374 Americans and 51 British troops have died in Iraq. A total of 258 coalition forces have died since Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on the aircraft carrier with the flight suit photo-op. (This site does a good accounting of the casualties in Iraq.)

Republicans are trying to tell us that we shouldn’t complain, that if we criticize, then we are saying that we want to cut and run. Sorry, but that’s bull. Others say that by disparaging the president we are helping our enemies, so we should tone it down. That’s even more dangerous bull. This president has claimed that this is his responsibility. Well, responsibility doesn’t mean that you just say you’re responsible and then everybody admires you for it. What it means is that when you screw up, you take a hit for it. People remember it. People lose trust in you.

The fact is, this president has to be held to account for what he’s done. Just because we are where we are, that we have no choice but to stay, that we have to support our troops–does not mean that Bush should be allowed to draw a bye on this one. He screwed up. And we’re paying for it. In blood. In escalated terrorist activity. In regional instability. In worldwide scorn. In billions of dollars badly needed at home.

The answer is not to cut and run. The answer is to not have such a dangerously incompetent fool in office. Even if it were necessary to go into Baghdad and take out Hussein, there were better ways of doing it. Getting the facts straight. Garnering support from our allies. Building a real coalition, not the fiction of one despite however many scathing denials come from this failed administration. Having a plan of action and a sound exit strategy. Having sharp vision, not blinded by political gamesmanship. In other words, doing the job right.

Bush never did that. He initially said he would go without the permission of Congress, even laid out legal arguments. Then he said he didn’t need international support. Then he went to the U.N., but as he asked for help he also chided and insulted them. Then as he claimed U.N. authority as a reason to go in, he flushed out the weapons inspectors, who were just starting to make progress–to hell with the facts, he had a war and it was on a schedule and he didn’t want our troops sitting there waiting too long. And even up to the post-war PR celebrations, he still had no post-war plan, no exit strategy.

This war was not even planned as a war. It was planned as a domestic political campaign. And today, 13 Americans who should have been in Des Moines, Iowa, or wherever, barbecuing, watching their kids grow, making love, living their lives, instead died as their helicopter crashed before jubilant Iraqis. And this president says we have to consider this all as part of a good thing. That it was somehow necessary. That he had good reasons to do it to us.

Many of us were against it from the start, and many trusted the president to do what he knew was right. All of us were betrayed as the man used–no, abused the government for unjust means, for unjust reasons. Taking responsibility means you pay the price for your actions. He was responsible for this. And we are responsible for him and what he has done.

So we stay in Iraq and do the best that we can. We support the troops. And next November, we go and we vote, and if we take our responsibilities seriously, we do anything but to re-elect this unfaithful, irresponsible man to the office he never really earned.

Edit: Updated numbers. Make that 15 men dead in the crash. 376 Americans killed to date.

Categories: Archived, Bush and Character Tags:

The Republican War to Control Perception

November 1st, 2003 Comments off

In trying to make stick the false claim of a “liberal media” (when in fact a majority of editors and publishers, who control the way news is presented, are conservative), those on the right wing are attempting to control the perception of media to their benefit. Similarly, when press reports don’t go their way, presidents try to change perception of the media by mounting efforts to challenge how they are represented (like Bush has with his recent “things are going super in Iraq, really” campaign), again to their political benefit.

But now, the Republican party is not just content to alter perception–this political party wants a direct hand in an artistic representation of history, in the form of the upcoming mini-series, “The Reagans.” Pressure is mounting from the party to represent Reagan the way they want him represented; they have not only asked to view it beforehand, but they say that if it doesn’t meet with their approval, they want the network to run a banner under the picture every 10 minutes claiming the series is not accurate (despite the fact that this is drama, not a documentary, and so that it is not fully accurate is a given)–and the GOP will try to buy air time during the series to run rebuttal ads.

The gist is presented here, but a simple Google News search for “The Reagans” will demonstrate the all-out offensive by the conservative media to do more than just alter perception about this series.

The major advance in this war on perception was set, quite appropriately, in the days of Reagan, and surged more than a decade ago with offensives on the language, such as the senior Bush trying to make “liberal” a dirty word, or Newt Gingrich’s memo to Republicans on how to use language as a weapon.

There is an effort to control the way we see and process information; it is a political effort–and it is most decidedly not liberal.

Categories: Archived Tags:

News Updates — 10/30/2003

October 31st, 2003 6 comments

Just as Bush has trodden on the very soldiers he sends to Iraq (cutting their pay, their benefits, even money for their kid’s education that was supposed to be supplied, while chintzing on their supplies at the same time they hand out non-competitive billion-dollar contracts to Cheney’s firm, God I could go on and on), he does not discriminate–he snubs the families of soldiers everywhere. This is evidenced by Bush’s visit to Australia last week, where he used a soldier’s death to his political advantage, proclaiming: “…in Afghanistan, the first casualty among America’s allies was Australian: Special Air Service Sergeant Andrew Russell. This afternoon, I will lay a wreath at the Australian War Memorial, in memory of Sergeant Russell and the long line of Australians who have died in service to this nation.”

Of course, in order to make it a clean memorial with no chance of a grieving widow becoming an embarrassment to him… neither he nor Aussie Prime Minister John Howard bothered to invite the soldier’s widow. That’s right–a memorial supposedly for the man and his widow wasn’t even informed that it would be taking place. That’s not an oversight. You don’t hold a memorial to a fallen soldier and just forget to inform their next of kin.

To add insult to injury, Bush didn’t even lay the wreath like he promised; two of his men laid it for him.

Michael Schiavo has gotten an incredibly bad rap in the past month, due to a concerted smear campaign fed by so-called right-to-life advocates. If you recall, Schiavo is the man whose wife fell into a persistent vegetative state fourteen years ago. After many years of attempted rehabilitation, experienced doctors concluded that she was beyond any hope of recovery, with her cerebral cortex atrophied to the point of being completely replaced by spinal fluid.

When Schiavo finally decided that there was no hope six years ago, he followed his wife’s stated wish that she not be kept alive by artificial means in a vegetative state, and tried to have her feeding tubes removed. Her parents, after a long absence from the scene, stepped in and fought the decision in courts, bringing in a specialist who said that enough brain material remained to bring her back–but then, this was the same doctor trying to sell them on a treatment he developed, one that Florida officials charge is fraudulent. The parents are also being influenced and supported by right-to-life groups, with an obvious political agenda on hand.

In order to garner public support, they released a long string of vicious lies and accusations–that he tried to strangle her, that she wanted to divorce him so he tried to kill her, that he was in it for the money, that he denied her rehabilitation, that he denied the parents access–really devastating stuff. Videotape was released which seemed to show Terri as being alert and aware, even trying to communicate. So much public sympathy was generated that Florida politicians were pressured into passing a law specifically to keep Terri alive.

Of course, it all turned out to be fake. Her state was induced by abnormally low potassium levels, there was never any sign of abuse or strangling despite close examination by doctors, the money went into a trust for Terri’s care, and Michael gave Terri years of rehabilitation and even studied to become a nurse himself. The videotape falls apart when you look at it carefully–you can tell it has been edited. Not a continuous stream of images like a regular videotape–rather, a clip here, a clip there, obviously heavily edited to make it appear as though she is responding, with the majority of video showing her not responding left out.

After suffering this assault for weeks, Michael Schiavo finally came out and appeared with his lawyer on Larry King Live, accounting for himself very well. If you are one of the people who feels strongly that Terri is really OK and Michael was virtually a criminal, you should feel obligated to hear his side–you will likely change your mind. The transcript is available here.

Despite a thorough dislike for her political views, one has to admit that Condi Rice, unpleasant as she may be, is highly intelligent. So it makes you wonder how she finds it in herself to put up with working for a doofus like this.

Jeffrey Woodard, a likable and well-performing 18-year-old high school student at the private Jupiter Christian School (motto: “Teaching the Mind … Reaching the Heart … Serving our World”) in Florida (why is so much weird stuff happening down there?) was expelled after a teacher coaxed him into admitting being gay. More “tolerance and acceptance” from an increasingly outspoken minority of Christian authorities who are pushing the envelope of what society will accept.

Personally, I think faith can be a wonderful, life-saving quality, but I believe in the inverse-square law of religious strength: the farther you go from the individual, the more the light of faith diminishes. Churches are fine so long as they support the individual, who is at the center of faith. But organized religion in general, and specifically religious practitioners who deign to judge rather than support, are much more in the dark than in the light in my humble opinion.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Avoiding Responsibility

October 30th, 2003 1 comment

Bush is getting more and more pathetic. He talks big about taking responsibility for things, but he always blames somebody else. Drunk driving? Call it a political dirty trick and blame your opponents. Bad economy? Blame Clinton. 9/11? Clinton. Lies about Iraq’s nuclear program? Blame the CIA. War in Iraq going badly? Blame the liberal media.

Like a 5-year-old child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Bush is blaming everyone but himself for his inexcusable behavior and policy failures. That’s not taking responsibility, that’s called dodging responsibility. And now Bush has taken this vice to a new low.

Remember six months ago, when Bush had an aircraft carrier turn around, delaying its entry at port by a day and costing you and me a million dollars so he could be flown in on a jet and be seen wearing his flight suit for PR value? He changed into a suit, then strutted out before the actual military veterans and declared that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Remember the “Mission Accomplished” banner that was hung just right so that the cameras could frame Bush with it in the background? That banner’s message has come under fire, now that far more U.S. servicemen and -women have died since that PR stunt than before.

Bush is trying to avoid blame for that one, too. It’s the Navy’s fault, he says. Their idea.

Well, actually, not really. The White House had the sign made. But, they claim, it was the navy’s idea in the first place, and they were the ones who strung it up. Yeah. Right. I’m sure the White House didn’t have anything to do with suggesting the idea, or with placing it so it could be framed so visibly, right behind the president from the cameras’ POV. Those Navy guys are real sharp at this PR stuff, not the White House.

This is pathetic. The only thing that could be even more sad would be if the American people continued to buy these sorry excuses from this miserable coward who himself shirked duty while admonishing others not to do so, who lied to get us into this war and is lying to avoid responsibility for it.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Ironically, Fox Almost Accidentally Sues Itself

October 29th, 2003 Comments off

Sadly, the headline here is not a joke. Not in the literal sense, anyway. Nor is it even an actionable parody.

After taking a pratfall for suing Al Franken’s Recent Book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Fox threatened to sue Matt Groening and his animated TV show, The Simpsons, for airing a parody of the Fox News ticker (“Do Democrats cause cancer?”).

Alas, The Simpsons is owned by… Fox. They almost sued their own TV show for parodying their own TV show.

The Simpsons avoided getting sued, but now Fox has a new rule banning such a parody news-ticker. Why? Because, they say, “it might confuse viewers into thinking it’s real news.”

On The Simpsons?

These people need help.

In other Fox News news, Fox has declared itself worthy of the title “Fair and Balanced.” Why? Because they hired Chris Wallace. My first reaction to that was, “Who?” After looking around on the net, I found that people were saying he was a liberal, mostly because of the story about Fox News, though some contended he had conservative leanings. So it’s a bit confusing how the hiring of a single maybe-liberal interviewer now signals that the vastly right-leaning network is now “balanced.” Or maybe they were commenting on how Wallace himself has declared Fox to be “balanced.” Gee whiz, a new hire speaking well of his new bosses? Go figure!

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Conservative Lies #2

October 27th, 2003 1 comment

Sorry for the lull. Had quite a few midterm exams to go over, grading, and all that, and then personal stuff came up. But here we are with another common conservative lie.

Lie #2: “Democrats are racist.”

When Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court was successfully blocked by Democrats in the Senate, Republicans went on a rampage of accusing Democrats of being “racist,” with a few examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Why? Because Democrats slung epithets at him? Because Democrats have a history of blocking any and all Hispanic nominees? Because there’s even the slightest scrap of evidence of racial bigotry? Of course not. It’s simply because they blocked the nomination of a far-right-wing nominee who also happened to be Hispanic. If there is any racism here, it is in the racial exploitation of Estrada by the GOP–part of their campaign to win over the crucial Hispanic vote by putting token Hispanics like Estrada and Alberto Gonzales into prominence, wearing the heck out of their Hispanic origins and rags-to-riches tales, and then admonishing Democrats for assaulting the tokens on any grounds, always claiming race is the only reason Democrats are attacking them.

Naturally, Democrats did not block his nomination because he was Hispanic; they blocked his nomination because he is an “outspoken conservative” (read: “ultraconservative”) and a staunch constructionist. Estrada belongs to the firm that defended Bush in Bush v. Gore. The Bush administration denied the Senate committee access to internal memos written by Estrada when he worked Office of the Solicitor General; his office handled cases that would go before the Supreme Court, and would give a better look into what his legal philosophy is. He flatly refused to discuss his legal philosophy and claimed that he never pondered Roe v. Wade.

Democrats standardly challenge nominees whom they regard as being far too conservative, and conservatives, like Orrin Hatch, try to obfuscate by saying, they don’t want an “African- American on the court who’s conservative,” or a “conservative Hispanic,” suggesting that it is the race, not the political philosophy, which is important.

This is not the first time that Republicans have tried to exploit race as a shield against turning down an ultra-conservative judicial appointment. They did so with Clarence Thomas, who “just happened” to be black, a sorry sop to the African-American community, as if Thomas somehow represented them in any way, not to mention being any kind of replacement, judicially or otherwise, to Thurgood Marshall. But the Estrada nomination is just an example of the acceleration of this exploitation; expect Alberto Gonzales’ name to come up next.

Nor is this the only situation that conservatives use to try to tag Democrats as racist. A long-standing charge against liberals is that Affirmative Action (the conservative code word for quotas) is racist–not just reverse-racism against whites, but also racist against minorities, because it regards them on the basis of race. Well, how else are you going to regard people who have been victims of racial discrimination? Quotas may be a bad solution, but the alternative is far worse: allowing racism to go unchecked. More on that topic in this post.

Bottom line: Democrats, for all their faults, have been the people who have always fought racism in all of its forms; conservatives, when not outwardly racist, have always associated with and defended the institutions that contribute to and benefit from racism.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Conservative Lies #1

October 22nd, 2003 2 comments

It has gotten to the point that I am hearing outright, bald-faced lies from conservative commentators on such a regular basis, I feel the need to address them in some manner. So here goes a series of small posts, in each a conservative claim and the truth of the matter.

Lie #1: “Clinton Sent Troops into Somalia.”

Heard this one on Crossfire the other day, and found several instances of it on the web as well, a notable one in The Washington Times. The claim is used as a way to criticize Clinton for his foreign policy, and to contrast this with Bush’s purported “success” in Iraq.

The fact: Clinton did not sent the troops. George H. W. Bush did. On December 4, 1992, Bush ordered 25,000 U.S. troops into Somalia. Remember the night-vision video of the beach landing on the news? One thing Republicans know, it’s how to script news coverage. Bush sent the troops in a month after losing the election, and one and a half months before Clinton took office, knowing full well that he would get the initial glory and that Clinton would get stuck with the quagmire. If Clinton had done the same to Bush Jr., conservatives would have been howling like mad, accusing Clinton of every political dirty trick in the book, claiming he was sending our soldiers into harm’s way just to embarrass Bush Jr. But Bush Sr. doing it to Clinton, that was OK. In fact, conservatives quickly erased the fact that Bush sent them in and blame the whole thing on Clinton, showing how he didn’t know how to handle such things.

In fact, Clinton’s handling of Somalia beats Bush Jr.’s actions in Iraq to hell. Clinton was anxious to bring the troops back, he didn’t have to wait until the whole country was screaming at him before he decided to do that. And unlike Bush, Clinton was able to get the U.N. forces into Somalia, cutting U.S. troops down to 4,200. Unfortunately, he could not pull them all out–despite conservative sneers that Democrats like to cut and run, Clinton stood ground with the U.N. forces as long as it seemed that good could be done–and so, naturally, conservatives lashed out at him when a mission went wrong in late 1993, where eighteen U.S. soldiers died in the mission that went so famously wrong. Soon after, Clinton ordered a withdrawal, the mission no longer publicly tenable, but U.S. troops still held ground there, staying until late March, 1994.

It was a fiasco, but it was a Bush fiasco; Clinton simply did the best he could with what he had been given.

Source: The History Channel: George Bush, Forty-First U.S. President.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Where Are You Politically?

October 20th, 2003 3 comments

The Christian Science Monitor has this quiz you can take to see where you land on the political spectrum; an OK test, but the results are a bit disappointing–you are only told if your answers rate, on average, as isolationist, liberal, realist, or neoconservative. No specifics, no spectrums. It wasn’t too surprising, or very interesting, when the quiz told me I was a liberal. Shock!

A much better quiz is the Political Compass, a six-page test with a great number of multiple-choice questions (on the agree-disagree scale). After you take the test, you are not pigeonholed into one of four categories, but you are placed specifically on a 2-dimensional chart, where the ends of the two axes represent liberal, conservative, authoritarian and libertarian extremes. You can then compare your position (see chart, upper right) to the positions of famous political figures (shown on a separate graph, I did some Photoshopping). Not too surprising to see George. W. Bush up there with Thatcher and Sharon, nor that he is closer to Hitler than Gandhi. More surprising is seeing Pope John Paul II in the neighborhood of Stalin, Hussein and Arafat. I guess that makes sense from an ideological point of view, but you don’t think of it that way, usually. And that’s me, right next to the Dalai Lama.

The test is not perfect, as there are some questions which could be interpreted differently by different people, and a few with no choices that exactly represent your views. Still most people report that they get placed pretty accurately, and it is fun to see where you come out. Go ahead, give it a try. If you do, come back here and share the results.

Categories: Archived Tags:

Media Filters and the Tools of Perception

October 16th, 2003 Comments off

We’ve seen it before, you know. Back in the Reagan administration, when things were seen as not going well in the nation, Reagan’s people blamed the media back then, just as Bush is blaming them now. They said that the media only reported bad news, and that they should “balance” their reporting with good news. And before him, Nixon also gave it a try–with his vice president Spiro Agnew denouncing the “nattering nabobs of negativity.” The suggestion, of course, was as hollow back then as it is now; the real reason behind the claim was not due to a fault or lack on the part of the media–it was due to falling poll numbers for a conservative presidency, unpopularity caused by factors beyond the control of the presidency. And since the root problem could not be helped, the president tried to make people believe that the root problem was not so bad–it’s just that the media is making it look that way.

Reagan’s attempt to spin the media was perhaps the embryonic beginning of the conservative myth about the liberal media; the reason behind creating that fiction is very much in line with the current administration’s attempt at massive media spin. It all has to do with perception, the kernel of American politics.

It’s like the old haggling ploy of trying to place the perceived center as close to your side as possible. Let’s say that you have to negotiate with someone and come to a settlement. When people start to dicker, the assumption is that they will compromise towards a central point. Let’s say that the fair settlement is 100. You want 200, your counterpart wants zero. Your counterpart, not wanting to insult you with a zero offer, starts at 50. You see an opportunity to move the center closer to you, so you start at 250. That puts the center at 150, much closer to the place you want to be–and your counterpart is now at a disadvantage, because they have to make you give up more than they do.

And that’s more or less what conservatives have been trying to achieve with the entire “liberal media” canard: to place the perceived “center” of fairness closer to their side. By claiming the media is liberal, they create the appearance that the truth is not what the media says it is, but rather the truth is much closer to what they say it is. If media stories show a conservative figure in a negative light, such as Rush Limbaugh, we are supposed to discount it because of the “liberal media,” and believe that he is less culpable than he appears. If a liberal cause is perceived as popular in the media, such as a gun control measure, we are again supposed to discount it and believe that few people really support it, and it is being propped up by those liberals in the media. If you can get people to believe there is a liberal bias in the media, then, you can push public perception to the conclusion that the truth is more on the conservative side of things. That is the motive for the right wing to engender, espouse and sustain the illusion of left-wing bias in the news that we receive.

Joe Conason does an excellent job of upending that cliché in his book, “Big Lies,” where he compares it to “working the ref.” In basketball, if the referee calls a penalty against a team, the coach goes out of his way to protest, calling the decision unfair to as far a degree is possible in the hope that the ref will give the team some slack to make up for it next time. Conason points out that while a majority of reporters vote Democratic, a greater majority of editors and publishers–the real ones that decide bias and direction–are conservative. And he reports on conservatives who have, in candid moments, owned up to the truth; Bill Kristol, for example, in 1995, saying that “the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used by conservatives for conservative failures.” Even Rush Limbaugh has claimed that the media today is more conservative. And that is hard to deny, with Fox News leading a frightened CNN into the conservative realm, and with a seemingly endless line of conservative radio and TV commentators with their own biased shows, with nary a liberal in sight with even a half hour of his or her own.

The grand Republican tradition of swaying perception simply continues with George W. Bush; nothing here is new. With his Iraq policy in shambles, and things looking grim for an election year, there’s not much he can control that would improve things–he can’t stop the guerillas, and he can’t guarantee the capture of Saddam Hussein. He can’t pull the troops out, he won’t be the humble leader he promised in 2000 in order to get the U.N. to sign on, and he can’t avoid spending yet more and more billions of dollars. Without the ability to make any substantive changes, he does the only thing he can do to try to win the day, the tactic that has served the GOP so well over the decades: blame the media for making things look so bad.

It’s a tough sell, with American soldiers dying daily, car bombs blowing up streets every week, with the world largely against us and the patience of the American people wearing thin.

But then, conservatives are very, very good at this game.

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Using the Troops: How Low Can You Go?

October 13th, 2003 Comments off

A local newspaper in Beckley, West Virginia, got a ‘letter to the editor’ from a soldier in Iraq. “I have been serving in Iraq for over five months as a soldier with Company A, 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as ‘The Rock,'” wrote 19-year-old Pfc. Nick Deaconson, son of Dr. Timothy Deaconson, a Lt. Col. who served in the first Gulf War.

“Things have changed tremendously for our battalion since those first cold, wet weeks spent in the mountain city of Bashur. … The majority of the city has welcomed our presence with open arms.” The letter went on to tell how well things are going in Iraq, contrary to news reports.

When Dr. Deaconson read this letter in the paper, he was so proud. The writing style was excellent, better than he expected from his son. He decided to call Nick to congratulate him on getting published.

When he did so, his son simply asked, “What letter?”

Pfc. Nick Deaconson was recovering from shrapnel wounds in his legs at a hospital. He said he didn’t send any letters to the newspaper.

And soon, newspapers across the country were beginning to notice that the same letter was running in “Letters to the Editor” sections nationwide. Each one was identical.

According to one soldier, the company’s platoon sergeant passed out the form letters, bearing the name of each soldier, and asked everyone for the name of his hometown newspaper. The soldiers were then asked to read the letters, and if they agreed with them, to sign them. The company administration, apparently, then took care of mailing each one to the hometown newspaper. So far, at least a dozen newspapers have been found to run the letter (I found them in New Mexico, Pittsburgh, and Charleston; I have seen reports of the letter in New Jersey, Montana, Washington, and the above-mentioned West Virginia. Two letters so far found were unsigned, and both soldiers whose names were used report that they did not give consent.

Now, there are a few things about this that are pretty despicable. First, some of the letters were sent out unsigned, but bearing the name of soldiers who never consented to have their names used in a propaganda offensive. And second, it should be illegal for any superior officer to “suggest” that any soldier write letters saying anything at all. Each soldier knows that if they decline, it will be noticed and they may be disciplined or looked down upon as disloyal. You don’t want to put a soldier in that position. Every soldier has been trained to be loyal to the military authority, and this action is a crass violation of the trust that said authority will not be abused.

It is bad enough that this administration is taking these young men and women, putting them in harm’s way, getting so many killed and injured… then lowering their pay, cutting their insurance and educational benefits, even making some pay for the food they eat while recovering in hospitals–the list of how badly this administration has been treating our men and women goes on and on…

And now this.

I’m sorry, but this sickens me.

Thanks to Sako for pointing this story out to me.
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Ashcroft: Special Prosecutor Needed

October 13th, 2003 Comments off

No, of course he didn’t say that about the Bush White House. He would never do that. It’s only when there’s a liberal in office that we have to do that.

On October 4, 1997, when Al Gore was accused of using a White House telephone instead of a private telephone to make fundraising calls, Ashcroft demanded a special prosecutor. Why? A law was violated. Well, a much more important law was violated in the Bush White House. Ashcroft also said a special prosecutor was needed because there’s a conflict of interest–only because Janet Reno and Al Gore were in the same administration. But in the current case, the focus of the investigation is someone who not only worked with Ashcroft, but also is the man who got Ashcroft his job. That’s not a conflict?

Here’s the quote:

ASHCROFT: The truth of the matter is that if the law’s been violated, we should be able to ascertain that. We can, if we have an independent person without a conflict of interest…

ROWLAND EVANS: …The attorney general has shaved down all the allegations that Vice President Gore apparently down to one single allegation — which telephone he used to make these fundraising calls from. Do you really think that alone is worthy of a special prosecutor?

ASHCROFT: …you know, a single allegation can be most worthy of a special prosecutor. If you’re abusing government property, if you’re abusing your status in office, it can be a single fact that makes the difference on that.

So my own view is that there are plenty of things which should have caused [Attorney General Janet Reno], a long time ago, to appoint a special prosecutor, an independent investigator. We asked for that on March the 13th of this year in letters from Republican members on the Judiciary Committee. And she’s in a bad position…

…The man who signs her check is the man that she’s investigating, and she hasn’t been very aggressive about it.

Again, what we have here is outright hypocrisy. Or, as Paul Krugman writes in his latest column, the Republican concept that Democrats should be held to far higher standards than Republicans themselves. We had 8 years of massive partisan attacks by Republicans against Clinton, but now we’re tired of that and Democrats should lay off Bush. Republicans demanded special prosecutors whenever someone in the Clinton administration so much as got football tickets in a way the GOP didn’t like, with Republicans abusing the special prosecutor law and the justice system as well to unbelievable extremes, but now, even with an obvious crime far worse than anything that Clinton was even accused of and with blatant conflicts of interest, Republicans are criticizing Democrats for even suggesting a special prosecutor.

Let’s dispense with the pleasantries, shall we? There is massive hypocrisy in play here on the part of the GOP, even as they try to falsely smear the Democrats with that same charge for having the gall to want a special prosecutor in this one, extreme case.

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News Points, 10-11-2003

October 11th, 2003 Comments off

The music recording industry is just embarrassing itself more and more every day. Recently they’ve gotten bad press, and for good reason. They said that they had the right to release powerful viruses that could spread to innocent computer users; they claimed to have special police powers to subpoena people’s private records; and they have sued a truckload of users, including a 12-year-old girl and an 71-year-old grandparent. They even had to withdraw one suit aimed at an elderly lady when she revealed that she owned a Mac, not a PC, and therefore couldn’t even use KaZaA.

Their technical achievements are not much to crow about, either. Sony tried to release a new multi-million-dollar technology called “Key2Audio” which they thought would prevent copying the CD–until someone discovered that you could defeat it by using a felt-tip pen. And now, SunnComm released its own super-duper foolproof copy protection technology–which a college student found you could disable by holding down the “Shift” key.

How embarrassing. But they’re not making the situation better by making sounds of suing the college student.

It’s a dying industry, and they’re really not dying with much grace at all.

“Cuba will soon be free,” said Bush recently, and he promised to “hasten the arrival of a new, free, democratic Cuba.” How? By restricting Americans from visiting Cuba even more than is done today (how will that help, as it has not done anything but made Cubans suffer and not hurt Castro at all?) and accepting more Cuban immigrants, making it safer by informing them “of the many routes of safe and legal entry into the United States.”

News Flash, George: it’s an island. Without plane flights or boat trips that are not closely watched by Castro’s people, exactly what are those other routes? You don’t think the Cubans have thought of just about any way to get off the island by themselves after 40 years?

And increasing immigration–I don’t object to the concept, but that idea, and the whole Cuba initiative itself is such a blatant election-year sop in a crucial electoral-college state that it is rather sickening to behold.

Tony Jenkins, North American Bureau Chief from Expresso newspaper in Portugal, has just been on Diplomatic License on CNN, making a very good point: that Schwarzenegger never answered any substantive questions during his campaign. He related one incident where Schwarzenegger, according to his supporters, was answering serious questions (ergo, he didn’t need to go to those pesky debates). Well, he didn’t get asked serious questions. He brought on Dana Carvey to do his Schwarzenegger-like impression from SNL. After several minutes of this, Jenkins wanted to ask a serious question, and tried to point out that this was not a political press conference, it was a circus–but his American colleagues shushed him, saying, “It’s Dana Carvey!”

Quite rightly, Jenkins referred to them as “pansies.”

Schwarzenegger, in the meantime, says he will ask Bush for federal funding to help California. The journalist in the articled I just linked to doubts it, and I have to say, if Bush comes through now, it will be such blatant political favoritism using taxpayer dollars as to be practically criminal. California needs the money, but it should not be used as a political weapon in an election year.

Instead, why not try to get the $9 billion back from companies like Enron who stole that much and tens of billions more? Unlikely; during the energy crisis, Schwarzenegger held a closed-door meeting in Beverly Hills with Enron Chairman Ken Lay. I doubt they were discussing a movie deal, or that Arnold was desperately trying to get Lay to stop robbing Californians blind. We can all too likely wave bye-bye to California’s suit to get some of that money back.

Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, is checking into drug rehab–again–and has made a non-admission admission to his drug abuse problem, doubtlessly to play to future clemency. He has hired high-power criminal defense attorney Roy Black, and is in full gear to engage the usual rich-white-guy defense.

The real question here is, if Limbaugh returns to radio or other commentary, will he now be for treatment over incarceration for drug abuse? Because if he’s not, then he’d either better surrender himself to authorities and do hard time in prison, or else come across as a hundred times the hypocrite he’s already seen as–and in Rush’s case, that’s really saying something.

Odds are this guy doesn’t do a day in jail, and he’ll probably come out ‘born-again’ on the drug issue, in the sense of being stronger and more vehement as ever on incarceration.

In the meantime, here is a choice quote from Limbaugh 8 years ago:

“What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we’re not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too.”

— Rush Limbaugh show, Oct. 5, 1995
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The Democratic Debate: An Immediate Commentary

October 10th, 2003 1 comment

First of all, as I watch it live here in the late a.m. in Japan, it strikes me as a very good debate, especially for one very early on the process. The candidates are on message when it comes to the basics of the Democratic platform: keep the tax cuts for the middle class, roll them back for the wealthy; yes to keeping order in Iraq, now that we are there (despite differences in how to achieve that); be more honest and contrite with other nations, and rely on their support more; protect the environment, build education, and so on. All of them performed well in opposing Bush, his programs and his record (not too tough a thing to do), and only a few stooped to direct attacks against others (which of course media reports jumped on).

Gephardt scored points for pointing out the Democrats are good stewards of the economy and the Clinton years were the best economic times we have ever seen. His line: if you want to live like a Republican, you’ve got to vote for a Democrat. Kerry scored points with me by mentioning a guest worker visa program; many had strong stands on Medicare, health insurance and prescription drug programs, but Kerry got the one-liner of the evening when he said you could go with his plan, or you could “hire Rush Limbaugh’s housekeeper.” Sharpton, as usual, was a good speaker with good points to make, and did well for praising Edwards and his rise from a blue-collar standing to being a millionaire and a presidential candidate–hope being the focus. That’s the kind of positive message and amicable sentiment which would do the party well in these debates.

There were different ideas about what to do in Iraq, and one thing that stood out was that even the poorest of them (Kucinich’s) was far better than what Bush is doing now. One of the themes running through this debate is the argument of who stood up to Bush against the Iraq situation (and tax cuts for that matter) and who did not. All are saying that they did, but naturally, some have less currency on the issue than others. Clark fell under attack for his past good words about Bush, and had a hard time defending that–but he managed to, at least barely.

Most of the candidates did well; only a few said things that rubbed me the wrong way. Joe Lieberman lost points in my esteem in his rather unabashed attack on Wesley Clark; they may be questions about his past stands, but Lieberman’s comments were too rough for my tastes. These debates should expose differences, but not tolerate internal attacks, especially against specific individuals. Dean skirted the edge of that error as he stated the difference between those on the stage who supported Bush and those who did not, and from what time. He did not quite go over the edge as he tended to frame the criticism in terms of how he did not, rather than just an outright attack against the others. It is, after all, a valid point. Kerry lost a few points in the same manner, and it was in part due to his staff distributing some anti-Dean points backstage, which interestingly made it on stage.

Gephardt did well most of the time–he has a good speaking style and can express his criticism of Bush in a smart and biting way–but when it comes to defending his record on voting in Bush plans, he kind of falls apart, and you can see him struggling to say he was against Bush when he went along with Bush because Democrats saw it as being politically expedient to do so. Additionally, Lieberman lost points for being rather loud and unwilling to give up the floor.

One thing that stood out, and I mention it to point out a conservative fallacy about Democrats and the military, is that when a soldier stood up to ask a question and he was introduced as having served in Tikrit, there was spontaneous, rousing applause–not one person or a few people clapping and everyone else chiming in, but everyone coming in at once. As Wesley Clark put so well, Republicans like weapons systems; Democrats like the soldiers.

In the end, nobody stood out as a clear winner, nobody really emerged as an apparent front-runner, but it is, after all, very early in the process–and while no one stood out, only a few did poorly, and most of them did very well. It was not a squabble, it was not a mud-wrestling competition. THere was good criticism of what Bush is doing, and there were good stands on good ideas. Once the primaries start whittling down the list, it should be very interesting simply because there are so many strong candidates in there, looking better and better each day against George W. Bush.

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Headline News

October 8th, 2003 Comments off

I believe that the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California is, to say the least, a travesty. Here are the reasons:

  • Democracy Amok. The success of the recall in California will lead to anarchy in the short-term; I am certain a new recall process is beginning this moment, and I know many people who are eagerly awaiting the chance to sign the petitions. A new recall would be carried out for no better reason than to demonstrate how much of a sham the first one was. A majority of the Californian people do not want another recall, but there will be one. That’s the whole point. And you can be certain that politicians elsewhere in the U.S., especially Republicans (who have shown a recent pattern of trying to grab power in any way possible), will start working on them right away in every state that allows a recall. We will have endless campaigning that will only subvert the Democratic process, as Walter Cronkite warned. This will disrupt the workings of government and be abused relentlessly until people find the good sense to either vote out recalls or rework them so they cannot be exploited as they have in California.
  • Moral Bankruptcy. This was not “the will of the people” or the proper execution of a check or balance, it was a base, partisan political grab for power. There was no intent to do what people wanted–the people’s will was demonstrated last year when Gray Davis was chosen by California in normal elections. The recall is a subversion which those who drafted the recall law did not envision or intend. Furthermore, it is hypocritical in the extreme: the idea proffered by the Republicans was that we have to recall Davis because of the budget deficits–but Bush has far greater deficits, and he is more responsible for creating them. But Republicans love him for it, because it means tax cuts for the wealthy and the advancement of the conservative agenda.

    In short, the recall was not by any means a democratic process, it was, in effect, a gigantic dirty trick. Speaking of which–

  • Dirty Tricks. There were dirty tricks in this campaign, to be certain. But Davis was not behind them–Schwarzenegger was. The first was blaming the deficits on Davis, an untrue charge. Most of the budget is California is mandated and untouchable; much of the rest is unavoidable. And the greatest part of the deficit came from things like the deregulation of energy–something put into effect by a Republican governor, which allowed the energy companies in Texas and elsewhere to overcharge Californians to a ridiculous extreme. Most of that money came out of the state budget. The only agency which could have stopped it was the federal government, but Bush refused to do a thing to stop the shakedown–brought on by his oil buddies, surprise surprise–especially when we’re talking about a blue state here.

    Then Schwarzenegger blamed Davis for not telling the people of California about the deficit until after the election. But that was beyond Davis’ control–even he didn’t know it. The numbers for the budget are a public matter in any case, and cannot be “hidden.” This is in contrast to Schwarzenegger’s economic plans, which he decided to hide until after the election, along with an explanation about how he groped all those women. Talk about hypocrisy!

    Then Davis got slammed for the car tax. However, Davis was not to blame for this–it was an automatic readjustment which was created by–you guessed it–a former Republican governor. The tax had been cut to 1/3 of the original amount, and the law required that the fee rise again in case the state had a shortfall of funds and could not pay for the tax cut. That tax hike kicked in, automatically, when the deficit came along. Again, not Davis’ fault–but Schwarzenegger vilified him for it, the same way he vilified Davis for the loss of jobs (can you say “national recession”? “Tech bubble burst”?).

    Then Schwarzenegger pulled the biggest dirty trick of all: he blamed Davis for his own misdeeds. Schwarzenegger obviously has a problem with groping women; this was not a secret before he entered the election. But Schwarzenegger knew that this would hurt him, so from the outset, he started crying “dirty tricks” and “puke politics” before anyone else even had a chance to say anything. And when the L.A. Times, not Davis, came forth with the story of 6 women, and when 9 more women came forth of their own volition, what was the charge? Davis’ dirty tricks. Even the out-of-context Hitler story was by ABC–does Davis control ABC? No, but that wouldn’t stop Schwarzenegger from blaming Davis.

    In short, Schwarzenegger pulled a laundry list of dirty tricks, while Davis himself behaved in a more exemplary fashion than ever before, and certainly conducted himself in a far better manner than Schwarzenegger.

  • The Success of the Non-Campaign. Schwarzenegger demonstrated how one can win an election, not by discussing the issues, but rather by making carefully controlled appearances, manipulating the debate system, and promising to explain himself only after he is elected. He appeared in only one debate, and the questions were released a week in advance, allowing for scripted answers. Schwarzenegger and his people claimed he was answering questions all over the place, but in fact, every “town meeting” or campaign stop was carefully controlled so that only Republican supporters could attend–and, predictably, he was thrown a continuous stream of nice, easy softballs. Compare this to Davis, who allowed non-scripted questions and stood up to criticism against him. Less glitzy, but ballsy and honest.

    Schwarzenegger also ran as a Hollywood star, with one-liners and movie references galore–but no substance. No realistic plans–he borrowed a page from the Bush campaign book and told us we would find after the election how he would cut taxes, increase spending, balance the budget, and bring in all those nice, juicy jobs. Yeah, right.

And the galling thing is that Schwarzenegger will have an easy time from here–Davis has already done a lot of work to ameliorate the budget crisis (for example, rush-building lots of new power plants, which Schwarzenegger will happily take credit for), and much of the deficit will disappear on its own as the energy crisis abates. Schwarzenegger can get away with doing absolutely nothing and the deficit will fall a great deal all on its own–and again, he will shamelessly take credit for it.

Worse, the liberal social policies credited to Schwarzenegger are most decidedly not held by his political advisors and patrons, who are the people who will wield the real power in Sacramento–do you really think that action movies and after-school programs have prepared him to govern a state? He’ll be mugging for the cameras and super-charging his ego, while the Bushite power players will be doing the real work outside the spotlight. Expect a hard-core conservative agenda at all levels of the executive branch to predominate in this mostly Democratic state.

This is nothing but a complete sham, an utter disgrace to the state of California, partisan politics and dirty tricks at their most damaging. The only thing to hope for: over the next several months, evidence and perhaps charges filed by many of his victims will take the luster out of his image (perhaps before Davis’ remedies take effect to Schwarzenegger’s benefit), and he won’t have Davis to blame for his scandals any more (though he may well try anyway). And by that time, the next recall will have its signatures and may be forced on its way.

Sometimes, one can only fight fire with fire, as repugnant as the recall process has come to be. Best-case scenario: another recall ousts Schwarzenegger, and the recall embarrassment is itself recalled, and we can go back to a system where the guy with the most votes wins.

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Blaming the Source

October 6th, 2003 1 comment

Schwarzenegger blames Gray Davis for the fact that now fifteen women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment. The Bush White House is trying to get people to not take the leak of the CIA operative’s name seriously because the man’s wife is a Democrat. Supporters of Rush Limbaugh blamed his current racial slurs of the liberal media. Go back further, and you will find all sorts of claims of this sort, to George W. Bush dismissing his drunk driving arrest as a “dirty trick” played by his political opponents.

The question is, is it reasonable to try to excuse a wrong action by claiming your enemies released the news? The answer, of course, is no, for a few different reasons.

When it comes down to it, how the news was released has no bearing on what you did. If someone stole a car, it would make no difference if that person were turned in by a loved one or a lifelong enemy; the fact would remain that they stole a car. No matter that an avowed opponent released the information, or that it was released the day before the accused was to start a new job critical to their career. The leaker may be an unkind person, but that does not excuse the person who committed the crime in the first place. If you did wrong, you must be held accountable for that action. If the person who released the information had malicious intent in doing so, then that may also be wrong–but it is a separate matter. Any attempt to draw attention from the person who committed the crime and focus it on the person who released the information is nothing less than a dirty trick in itself.

Schwarzenegger claims Davis is behind the 15 women coming out with claims of sexual harassment. His proof? None. That could easily be a dirty trick–to take your own crime and turn it into a smear against an opponent. What about the Bush administration claiming that Ambassador Wilson is a Democrat? Yes, he made campaign contributions to Democrats, but he also did for Republicans; yes, he has appeared for Democratic events, but he has also appeared for Republican ones. Even George Bush Sr. praised him once. The claim that the crime is mitigated by the allegation about Wilson is as reprehensible as the attempts by Novak, Carlson and other right-wing pundits to try to make people believe Wilson’s wife was an analyst or a secretary, in which case no crime was committed–while they knew full well that the nature of her job was still classified, and so their lies would be veiled by the same laws that made the leak illegal in the first place.

In the end, only one thing matters: was there a crime, and if so, how serious was it? The leaking of the CIA operative’s name was a federal felony; that is indeed serious. That a presidential candidate was arrested for drunk driving is also relevant; it speaks volumes to judgment.

Conservatives will say, oh, you weren’t saying that when Clinton was accused of things? What about the “vast right-wing conspiracy”? Aren’t Democrats hypocrites for crying foul about Clinton prosecutions and then demanding the same for Bush?

Many points here.

The things Clinton was accused of were, far more often than not, without veracity. Take the Paula Jones case as an excellent example. First of all, her case was far too weak; it was widely agreed that if she had brought the same case against someone not the president, it would have been dismissed immediately on the basis of merit. The only reason it survived and was investigated was because Democrats were too willing to maintain the appearance of impartiality. If Paul Jones had brought that case against Bush, there would never have been any investigation; Ashcroft would have outright refused to appoint a prosecutor.

Second, there is ample evidence that Jones was indeed prodded to start her case by Clinton’s enemies, and was in fact given legal support and funding from parties avowed to destroy Clinton politically. As I mentioned, an accusation of releasing information for political purposes is a separate matter; and as a matter divorced from the allegations made against Clinton, the fact that Paula Jones’ case was spurred, financed, and abused by Clinton’s political enemies was, in itself, reprehensible.

Most importantly, when Clinton was accused of a serious matter, Democrats took it seriously, and agreed to the investigations. But the GOP so badly abused the special prosecutor statute that, toward the end, prosecutors were being demanded for the vaguest of rumors and the most piddling of offenses. It was never prosecutions for serious crimes that the Democrats opposed, it was rampant abuse of the legal system as a political weapon in cases where there was absolutely no merit or just cause whatsoever.

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The Framing of the Question

October 6th, 2003 Comments off

I am beginning to get very tired of the rather biased framing of questions concerning conservative scandals in the press. The idea of unbiased journalism is to not present one bias over another, to state the situation and possible considerations as evenly as possible.

We must be aware of the fact that a journalist’s question on a topic can sway viewers. The question itself provides a sort of grounding of the issue, a statement which the audience often assigns as the common assumption which will be believed until a great enough case is presented to disprove it.

For example, if you were to ask about the allegations concerning Schwarzenegger and women, a balanced question would be: “Are these stories about Schwarzenegger a last-minute attempt to smear him, or are they a legitimate story that should raise concerns in the minds of voters about the candidate?” The question does not assume a side in the question, and presents both possibilities, as any responsible journalist should do. It does not make any assumptions, and keeps the issue open. Perhaps the question could be more evenly stated to include other possibilities, but you see my point here.

However, in the press recently, the question is slanted: “Are these stories about Schwarzenegger a last-minute attempt to smear him?” This version of the question takes a side, and ignores or devalues the other perspective. Yes, the question can be answered to clarify the issue, but the damage has been done: the journalist has given the audience the impression that the smear idea is the one that has the most credence, and will stand until a preponderance of evidence can be brought to show it is untrue. That is biased journalism.

And the conservative scandals have been getting this kind of journalistic bias quite a bit in recent days. Has Rush been the target of the liberal media? Are Democrats taking a minor political blunder and trying to politicize it into a new Watergate? These questions are unacceptable from anyone who presents themselves as an unbiased journalist.

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And the Proof of Dirty Tricks Is… ?

October 5th, 2003 Comments off

Well, the media had a hard time not paying attention to six major concurrent Republican scandals, and so for one day, a lot of attention was given–but the day is over, and the media seems to be winding the stories down as quickly as possible.

Schwarzenegger, in fact, is getting a big break from the press, especially on the “dirty tricks” charge against Davis. The media had been lightning-fast in calling out Dean or Clark for making statements not supported by fact, but they’ve been pretty much supporting Arnold on his wholly unsubstantiated charge that Davis is somehow orchestrating all the bad news that is coming out about him.

Were all those women, now eleven of them, somehow created by the Davis campaign? Did Gray Davis tell them all to make up stories and then wait for this day to come out? Hardly. Nor is the timing suspect–the allegations have been around since before the campaign. The fact is, this campaign is so short, any timing could have been called “suspect” by some standards. In fact, if I were heading up a dirty tricks commission, I would consider this bad timing–rather, I would have had three or four women come forth initial maybe 15-20 days before the election, then timed it so that on or two more women would come forward every few days, so that a bad impression could be made early and sustained longer.

But Schwarzenegger is not being asked, or at least is not answering, any questions about what evidence he has that these reports are somehow part of a dirty tricks campaign. Instead, he is being given a free ride and allowed to create a completely false impression, one favored by Republicans in trouble:

Blame everything on the liberals.

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