Monthly Archives: March 2007

Trickle-Down Stupidity: Education and the RWNM (Updated)

Reagan conservatives are big fans of trickle-down economics and have foisted it on us several times. The idea is that if we let rich people get richer, some of it will eventually “trickle down” to the rest of us. That’s a pretty good description of Bush’s economic “plan” over the last six years, and it has been a dismal failure.

But there is another trickle-down theory that has worked, and worked brilliantly:

Trickle-down stupidity.

For a solid quarter-century, conservatives have relentlessly preached against eggheadism, denigrating smarts not attached to the making of money because the smarter and more educated you are, the more likely you are to be liberal. Liberals are less frightened, less stingy, and less likely to go into anaphylactic shock if someone uses a word with more than two syllables.

Because both conservatives and the religious right depend on blind faith and a near-total ignorance of history, science, and logic for their existence, they have spent a good deal of that 25 years attacking education and educated people. After all, it’s almost impossible to sell someone who has passed a junior high science class the idea that the sun revolves around the earth. You need a nation of morons to do that, and the Right has pursued and encouraged the entitlement of universal stupidity – the doctrine that every American has the right to be dumb as a brick – with undying fervor.

And it’s working. Continue reading

Libby, Doan, and Sampson: Systemic Firewalls?

The key to understanding Kyle Sampson’s testimony yesterday is this:

For all the nonsense being written in the MSM about his “dramatic” appearance contradicting – or “challenging” as the WaPo’s Dan Egger has it – Gonzo’s pathetic attempt to pretend he knew nothing about all this attorney-firing business, the plain fact is that Sampson gave the Committee absolutely nothing it didn’t already have. Every opportunity he had to expand the Committee’s knowledge about the process – who said what, when they said it, who they said it to, etc – Sampson rejected with the litany we have come to know so well from all the Bushies:

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t remember.”

“It wasn’t my job.”

Dana Milbank is much closer to the truth of it when he points out:

Sampson seemed content to fall on his sword rather than naming names when he was questioned about the prosecutor mess. Only the red felt on the witness table concealed the blood. “I could have and should have helped to prevent this,” Sampson offered. “I let the attorney general and the department down. . . . I failed to organize a more effective response. . . . It was a failure on my part. . . . I will hold myself responsible. . . . I wish we could do it all over again.”

The witness fessed up to an expanding list of sins. He admitted that the Justice Department was trying to circumvent the Senate confirmation process. He confessed that he proposed firing Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak case. “I regretted it,” he explained. “I knew that it was the wrong thing to do.”

But this blood-letting was severely confined, a pin-prick rather than a deep incision. Continue reading

The Gonzo 8: Sampson’s Testimony

Spent most of the day watching the Judiciary committee hearing with Kyle Sampson and wanted to jot a quick observation before I have to leave for work.

I have now spent two days in a row – and many more going back to January – watching Bush Admin figures testifying in front of Congress, and the pattern is always the same, what I call the Sgt Schultz Defense:

1. “I don’t remember.” “I don’t recall.” “I have no memory of that.”

This was the way Reagan answered questions in the Iran/Contra trial, but he had Alzheimer’s. What’s everybody else’s excuse?

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The GSA and Rove’s Politicization of Our Govt

The politicization of almost every agency of the federal govt during Bush’s administration as shown currently in both the matter of the US Attorneys who were fired and the political meeting attended – illegally – and participated in – illegally – by GSA Administrator and GOP hack Lurita Doan, along with the multi-layered levels of corruption and corporate purchasing of virtually every said agency, and adding in the comprehensive Bushian policy of putting foxes in charge of every govt henhouse, ought to give us pause to consider in depth what all that politicization was about.

I’m not just talking about the obvious reasons: the Rove/Norquist/Cheney determination to make the US a one-party nation, or Rove’s intention to use govt workers as campaign “volunteers” in much the same way that a mayor might get the fire dept to paint his house on the city dime, or the opportunities to make an illegal buck that it seems virtually every Republican office-holder – including the aforementioned Doan, apparently – jumped at without a moment’s hesitation the instant it was presented to them. I’m talking about something deeper, and the Doan business is the pointer.

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The FBI and NSLs 5: Don’t Trust Mueller (Updated)

FBI Dir Robert Mueller wants the Congress to let him keep the power given him by the PATRIOT Act to use NSLs despite his total failure to supervise that use by his agents.

Mueller expressed concern about any modifications to the USA Patriot Act that might “handcuff us” in terrorism investigations, but he also said that the FBI would be willing to jettison its authority to use national security letters if it is granted the power to use administrative subpoenas to collect the same information.

This is a very bad idea. During his tenure, Mueller has made any number of promises to Congress – including a promise made during the hearings on re-authorization of the Act that he would not allow abuse of the power he now admits his agency abused – and somebody’s going to have to point me toward a single one of them he’s actually kept because I can’t find it. Dianne Feinstein rightly complained that there’s no excuse for the lack of supervision Mueller now takes responsibility for.

“This was a very controversial addition to the Patriot Act,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said about the FBI’s authority to use the national security letters. “There were many members that had deep concerns about this. The language was negotiated. We were very specifically trying to put in checks and balances. And then it appears they all just melted into oblivion with sloppy administration.”

Again, Sen Feinstein, it was NOT “sloppy”. It was deliberate. Continue reading

The FBI and NSLs 4: Not Operating in a Vacuum

The FBI is still pretending that their use of National Security Letters (NSLs) to obtain information unconnected in any way with national security was a matter of sloppy paperwork and/or “haste”, excuses that don’t even begin to explain either the high numbers of “mistakes” or the constant lies.

FBI agents repeatedly provided inaccurate information to win secret court approval of surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, prompting officials to tighten controls on the way the bureau uses that powerful anti-terrorism tool, according to Justice Department and FBI officials.

The errors were pervasive enough that the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, wrote the Justice Department in December 2005 to complain. She raised the possibility of requiring counterterrorism agents to swear in her courtroom that the information they were providing was accurate, a procedure that could have slowed such investigations drastically.

Forced to acknowledge the extent of the abuses (as many as 10% of the warrants contained inaccuracies, and possibly a lot more – exact numbers aren’t yet available although IG Fine estimates that as many as 3000 violations may have occurred over the last 3 years), the FBI’s management has moved from minimizing the problem to blaming poor supervision.

In the use of both national security letters and the FISA warrant applications, officials acknowledged that the problems resulted from agents’ haste or sloppiness — or both — and that there was inadequate supervision.”We’ve oftentimes been better at setting the rules than we have been at establishing the internal controls and audits necessary to enforce them,” FBI Assistant Director John Miller said.

But they didn’t “set the rules”, that’s the whole point. What we have here is a process that ignored the rules to get what it wanted. The very same “mistakes” were made on surveillance warrants as were made on NSLs, so the argument that the NSLs got screwed up because agents weren’t used to using them is bullshit.

And what can you say about the idea that after 50 years FBI agents still don’t know how to fill out a surveillance request correctly without supervision?

As disturbing as the lies and weak excuses are, what’s even more disturbing are the way and the reasons they were used. Continue reading

Socialization in the Blogosphere

This is one of those “it started out to be a comment on somebody else’s blog but was too long for a comment so I’m making it a post” post. You might want to go read the post that sparked this one before you wade into it. It may not make much sense otherwise.

Chris Bowers at MyDD writes every so often about the phenomenon of blogging itself. His thoughts/insights are usually interesting but it has often seemed to me that he, like a lot of others in the online world, misses a key point:

Online life ain’t real life.

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George Will Explains It All for You

If you’re angry at the Republicans or President Bush, says George Will, it isn’t because of Constitution-shredding or torture-justifying or runaway corruption or illegal war-starting or 24/7 lying or election-stealing or Plame-outing or theocracy-enabling or corporate-toadying or for letting wounded troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan fester in rat-holes of filth and roaches without treatment or hope of treatment, and mired in a sea of conservative-inspired red tape. No, he explains carefully, it isn’t any of that causing your rage. You’re pissed off because it’s trendy to be pissed off.

[T]here is a new style in anger — fury as a fashion accessory, indignation as evidence of good character.


No wonder Americans are infatuated with anger: It is democratic. Anyone can express it, and it is one of the seven deadly sins, which means it is a universal susceptibility. So in this age that is proud of having achieved “the repeal of reticence,” anger exhibitionism is pandemic.

And it’s all the fault of us lib-rad moonbats. Continue reading

Liz’s Cancer and the Edwards Campaign (Updated)

Twenty-three years ago this week, my mother died of a liver cancer that had been eating away at her for more than a decade. She was diagnosed relatively early but treatment modalities were primitive and not terribly effective in cases like hers. Liver cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bone cancer were, in those days, little less than death sentences.

At the time there were new, experimental treatments cancer specialists were trying to work the kinks out of. When she realized that she was considered terminal, my mother insisted on volunteering for them. My father went along with her, and signed her into the Deaconess Hospital in Boston, which was associated with Sloan-Kettering and the best hospital in New England for cancer research and treatment.

For the next 10 years, she was in and out of the Deaconess undergoing a series of treatments, primarily chemo and radiation therapy. The cancer would go into remission, come back, go away again. She would have a few healthy months, and then it would reappear, sapping her strength. Once it went into remission for almost three years. That was a good time. The doctors said if it stayed away for 5 years, there was a good chance my mom had beaten it for good. We thought – we hoped – she had.

But she hadn’t, of course. A year after that long remission ended, she was dead.

A little over four years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was an early catch but I didn’t know what that meant. I thought I was walking around dead.

I went into the hospital at noon and was in the “recovery room” – a glorified corridor lined with gurneys – by 2pm. I wanted to leave but the nurses wouldn’t let me. They insisted I rest for at least 2 hrs, and as I was still woozy, I let them have their way. By 4.30pm I was out of the hospital and on my way home. The cancer was gone and it hasn’t returned.

I told you all that so I could tell you this:

The surprise – and occasional expression of disgust – engendered by John Edwards’ announcement that his wife, Liz, has bone cancer but that he is not going to abandon his campaign on that account, is rooted, I think, in the old perception that cancer is an automatic death sentence.

It isn’t any more. Even granting that her condition is incurable, it is, by the Edwards’ own statement, “treatable”.

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Jeff and Hitch Take on Iraq and Family Values

I don’t usually do this, partly because lots of other people do and partly because the right wing is so unimaginative they say the same things over and over and over and the sheer endless, mindless repetition gets to me. How many times can you counter the same stoopid, clueless lies before your brain melts into something that resembles moldy oatmeal?

But today I happened to run across two pieces which are pure perfection and decided to share them with you. Each of them represents conservative hypocrisy in all its glory while at the same time offering us a glimpse inside the arguments we will be hearing over the next year or so about how they weren’t wrong about the war in Iraq, and how “family values” shouldn’t be taken so seriously now that Republicans are openly violating them instead of Democrats. Both pieces are truly precious, priceless examples of right-wing “thought” and more than a little amusing, in a sad, sick way.

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The Myth of Corporate-Style Governing 6: Corporate/Prosecutor Purges

Mark Gisleson has a brilliant post up at Norwegianity explaining how standard corporate power-plays are at the bottom of the Gonzales 8 Scandal.

In this matter, and all personnel matters, transparency is key. That which will not withstand scrutiny, of necessity becomes a matter of veils and subterfuge, just as we’re now discovering with the fired U.S. Attorneys. In not one case are we learning that the fired U.S. Attorney in question had done anything but an exemplary job. But therein lays the rub — our corporatized administration has done pretty much what corporate execs usually do: they lied and cheated, and now they’ve been caught red-handed thanks to incriminating emails and lower-ranking officials who’ve seen plenty of examples of people like themselves being thrown overboard by the Bushies when push came to shucking a perjury charge.

In the corporate world, it’s next to impossible to stop top higher ups from doing pretty much anything they like short of raping their administrative assistants in a public area of the building. And ending that “privilege” of rank wasn’t easy, as any woman over forty can tell you. Government, however, is not business, and the Bushies in their consumate [sic] arrogance forgot they were leaving paper trails, and that they were dealing with powerful individuals who have powerful friends.


Frankly, I despair of ever ridding American corporations of the dumbfuck idea that a loyal monoculture is best for business. No, it’s the best way to make sure that at some future point the company goes down the toilet because of 1) lawbreaking by corporate officers, 2) short-term thinking that destroys long-term business, or 3) any of a number of other unforseen consequences of actions that would have been flagged were the decision-making process open to a more diverse group of people, like actual human beings, for example.

So, unsurprisingly the Bushies tried to claim all the fired USAs were fired for cause. Dumbfuck idea #1, as the Bushies failed to plant said evidence in any of the USAs’ personnel files, and all in fact had excellent performance evaluations on record. Further efforts in that regard are also blowing up in the Bushies’ faces because the proper foundation (i.e., planting of phony work evaluations and written criticisms) wasn’t laid.

Go read the rest. And remember it the next time somebody insists that govt ought to be run like a business – when it is, baaaaad things happen.

The FBI and NSLs 3: How High Does it Go?

Yesterday I asked a couple of simple and, I thought, fairly obvious questions:

Were there any lawyers among the dozen members of the elite CAU [Communications Analysis Unit – MA] responsible for the NSLs? If so, why didn’t they respond to the concerns of the Bureau’s legal staff? And even if there weren’t, how could a slew of “counter-terrorism experts” fail to notice when asking for emergency powers that there was no actual terrorist emergency?

To answer the second question, it turns out there were and they didn’t. In fact, Bassem Youssef, a CT expert with a covert background and several successes to his credit, was in charge of the CAU at the time and says he not only noticed, he “raised concerns with superiors”.

Stephen M. Kohn, the lawyer for Mr. Youssef, said his client told his superiors that the bureau had frequently failed to document an urgent national security need — proving “exigent circumstances,” in the bureau’s language — when obtaining personal information without a court order through the use of “national security letters.”

Mr. Youssef said his superiors had initially minimized the scope of the problem and the likely violation of laws intended to protect privacy, Mr. Kohn said.

“He identified the problems in 2005, shortly after he became unit chief,” Mr. Kohn said. “As in other matters, he was met with apathy and resistance.”


Mr. Kohn said that Mr. Youssef had had a long familiarity with national security letters from earlier work on counterterrorism investigations, and that he began reviewing recent letters and spotting legal deficiencies almost immediately.

“It was the same issue that was in the inspector general’s report,” Mr. Kohn said Sunday. “They didn’t have the proper legal justifications in writing to back up their searches.”

If Mr Youssef was in charge of the CAU and most of the disputed NSLs were submitted by the CAU, why didn’t he simply stop them? Why didn’t he call in the agents who were improperly filing and sending the NSLs and order them to correct the procedure or cease using them?

To answer those questions, we have to know the answers to two other key questions:

  1. Who were the “superiors” in question? Mueller? Or does it go higher?
  2. Why did Youssef feel it necessary to express his “concerns” about the NSLs to them? It was his department, he was in charge, why not just end the abuse?

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The FBI and NSLs 2: The “Accident” Excuse Unravels (Updated)

As predicted, the DoJ IG’s conclusion that the FBI’s illegal use of NSLs did not constitute a crime is being called into question, and by a Republican no less.

Referring to the exigent circumstance letters, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine: “It is . . . difficult to imagine why there should not have been swift and severe consequences for anyone who knowingly signed . . . a letter containing false statements. Anyone at the FBI who knew about that kind of wrongdoing had an obligation to put a stop to it and report it immediately.”

Yes, of course they did, but report it to who? Alberto?

Charlie’s sudden concern for the possibly illegal use of the NSLs after 6 years of sitting obediently on his ass and watching the Bush Administration and the Justice Dept play fast-and-loose with the Constitution arose yesterday when it came to light that the FBI’s own legal staff were expressing doubts about the way the NSLs were being handled as early as 2004.

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Lost in Space: NeoCondi in the Middle East

Golly, since the Libby trial went to the jury, everybody in the Bush Administration has been out of town: Cheney’s been table-hopping the globe, Bush has been discovering poverty in Latin America, and NeoCondi is in Israel stumbling around trying to sell a quick-dry Palestinian state and getting blind-sided by a move everybody and his Cousin Elmo saw coming a half-mile away.

The United States and Israel have sought to thwart creation of a Palestinian unity government, but U.S. officials are withholding public judgment about the new government until the Palestinian parliament ratifies it tomorrow. But they privately acknowledge that Abbas’s announcement last month that he had struck a deal with Hamas was a blow to U.S. and Israeli efforts to elevate Abbas as an alternative to Hamas.

“Abbas promised us several times he would not agree to a national unity government,” a senior Israeli diplomat said this week. “But then he sold the store to Hamas. He left us flabbergasted and without a strategy.”

Who wants to break it to the fabulous NeoCondi that getting Abbas and Olmert to talk isn’t a strategy so much as a tactic without one? And how come she doesn’t have a back-up when Hamas was voted into the Palestinian govt months ago and the formation of a unity govt has been in the works for weeks? And weeks? And weeks?

U.S. officials say Rice remains determined to try to make headway on the Israeli-Palestinian issue after six years of stagnation.

Hmmm. Six years of stagnation, six years of Bush. Co-incidence?

Is there anybody in this admin who isn’t embarrassing in their ignorance and pathetic in practice?

Bush and Latin America 3: Promises, Promises

Junior’s trip to Latin America has taken a much different path than expected, at least by me. For one thing, the armored bubble in which he usually travels protected from any and all contact with the hoi-polloi has been replaced by personal appearances in “shanty neighborhoods” where he came face-to-face with actual poor people for what appears from his reaction to be the first time in his life.

For President Bush, the six-day voyage through Latin America that ended Wednesday proved to be unlike any of his previous foreign trips. It was one in which he tried ever so haltingly to escape the palaces and diplomatic salons long enough to see how people live and to emphasize that it matters to him.

The inspiration for the unusual itinerary was more about the vagaries of geopolitics than newfound curiosity, but the trip exposed the president to sights and sounds that he rarely encounters overseas. The rhetoric of security and terrorism that usually flavors his visits was replaced with discussion of “the human condition” and how to lift millions of neighbors out of deep, enduring poverty.

“We’re allies in the cause of social justice,” he told the Guatemalans. “The plight of the poor” has drawn U.S. concern, he explained in Uruguay. “We’re all members of God’s family,” he said in Brazil. “And when one of us hurts, we also hurt.”

Uh-huh. Pity he’s never been able to summon up the same empathy for the poor in his own country. But then, we don’t have a massive left-wing movement led by a Hugo Chavez.

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