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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Amusement on a Saturday afternoon: Poker With Dick Cheney
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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Haven't posted lately, but I have been reading. And in particular, Josh Marshall has been in rare form, with a terrific post here: "It has now become close to a commonplace that John Kerry's policies differ little from President Bush's. Where is the difference, we hear, since both candidates are for an openness to greater troop deployment, a fuller role for the United Nations and the country's traditional allies, and dropping support for the exilic hucksters who helped scam the country in the first place.
This is a weak argument on several grounds. But the most glaring is that what we see now isn't the president's policy. It's the president's triage -- his team's ad hoc reaction to the collapse of his policy, the rapid, near-total, but still incomplete and uncoordinated abandonment of his policy."
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Wow! Read this! Is it just me, or does Al Gore get more impressive every day.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

At some point, you have to conclude that the lying is some sort of pathology. How else can you explain it? They can't really, rationally, believe that we won't figure out they are lying. And yet, they open their mouths, and out pops words that are obviously, demonstratively not true. Kos reports on a more elaborate version of the same lie here.
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Whew!
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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I guess I've just been wasting time on Sunday mornings:
"Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone.
But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Denison Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization -- at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: the organization 'does not have one system of belief."

The full news report is here.
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Sunday, May 02, 2004

John Stewart hits the nail on the head in Thursday night's news segment, titled Indecision 2004, "We love the 70's edition." He begins:

Stewart: With just six months to go before one of the most important elections in modern American history, the presidential campaign is finally starting to crystallize around the key issues. Foremost among them, Did John Kerry throw a medal, or a ribbon, over a fence . . . in 1971?
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Saturday, May 01, 2004

Well, this is cute. I suggest you hurry up and take a look, before Donald Trump's lawyers close the site down.
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A reader (yes, I have an actual, non-relative reader!!) wrote to ask for a more complete copy of the document in which George Bush specifically does not volunteer for Viet Nam. USA Today has a whole archive of Bush's guard documents here. The page with the box indicating he did not volunteer for overseas duty is on page 22 under the sub-heading "grade determination," here.
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As always, Dahlia Lithwick comes through with a dead-on (and humorous) recap of the Supreme Court's oral argument, as well as a terrific analysis of the issues at stake, in Rumsfeld v. Padilla and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Her first paragraph says it all:

"How you feel about the indefinite military detentions of Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla will turn largely on what you think life will look like when it starts. By "it," I mean the moment at which fundamental liberties are curtailed by well-meaning governments and the legal system becomes unable to offer relief. Never having seen "it" happen in my lifetime, I'm hardly an expert. German Jews who survived the Holocaust will tell you that it's hard to know at exactly which instant you've crossed the line into "it." Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American detained during World War II, knows what "it" looks like, and he says it looks a bit like this. Professor Jennifer Martinez, Padilla's oral advocate at the Supreme Court this morning, says we are at the line separating "it" from "not it" right now, today—as the court stands poised to decide whether "the government can take citizens off the street and lock them up in jail forever.""

Lithwick is also, so far I I've seen, the only commentator to highlight the silliness of this gem of an argument:

"Ginsburg asks whether the government has any justification for trying certain defendants (John Walker Lindh, Zacarias Moussaoui, James Ujaama) and locking up others. Clement replies that those terrorists had 'no intelligence value,' so it was fine to put them into the judicial system. (The notion that the government will learn more from interrogating Hamdi, a Taliban foot soldier, than Moussaoui, a man who ate ice cream with ranking al-Qaida members, is so preposterous that it cannot just be left on this page to die.)"

Finally, her article is worth reading as well for the audio clips of the oral argument interspersed throughout. My favorite: Frank Dunham's unusually impassioned final rebuttal. (Unusual, that is, for the Supreme Court. I'm not familiar enough with the Federal Defender in the Eastern District of Virginia to know if it's unusual for him.) I think you can hear the full one-minute (uninterrupted!) speech if you click here.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Somebody get Scott McClellan a dictionary:

Q: How would you describe exactly what it is that the Iraqis will get on June 30th? Is it sovereignty? Is it limited sovereignty? Is it the exercise of the principles of sovereignty? I'm not quite exactly sure what they're going to get.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sovereignty will be transferred to the Iraqi people on June 30th. That is what was agreed to with Iraqi leaders under the November 15th agreement, and we are moving forward to meet that commitment. The Iraqi people want us to meet that timetable. And we anticipate that, in accordance with the oft-expressed preferences of Iraqi leaders, that the Iraqis, themselves, will impose some limits on the authority of that interim government. But sovereignty will be transferred to the Iraqi people on June 30th.

Q: But it doesn't seem to fit the true definition of sovereignty, because they will not have control of the country, they will not have control of security --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's keep a couple of things --

Q: There's some thought, even, of collapsing the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's separate out sovereignty and let's separate out authority and let's keep this in context....

Ah, the internet is a wonderful thing: Here's a definition of sovereignty, curtesy of MSN's Encarta.
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Sunday, April 25, 2004

And here I always thought I was a Hardworking American: I guess I'll need a couple more promotions and raises until it's true.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Wonder if the right wing is second-guessing itself for demanding the release of John Kerry's service records. See the first sentence of this document. Better yet, compare the document, which begins with the sentence "I request duty in Vietnam," with Bush's Volunteer Sheet, on which he explicitly does not volunteer for overseas duty of any kind. For ease of reference, here is a side-by-side comparison. Daily Kos has a more detailed comparison of Bush's and Kerry's service here. Good reading.

Back when Kerry's people were hemming and hawing about releasing the records (was that yesterday? perhaps even this morning), Counterspin Central speculated that Kerry "could be setting a trap for the press and the Bush campaign by PRETENDING he's got something to hide, making a big stink about privacy, etc., and THEN releasing them only to show that there was nothing in them to be concerned about." Counterspin ultimately concluded, "Frankly, however, I doubt they are that clever."

Ah. But they just might be.

Kerry's records are available on his website, here.
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It looks like the rumor has been refuted, at least for now. And it also looks like the assistant ombudsman at the Times is in for a good talking-to. Nevertheless, I stand by my earlier analysis: that the allegation was so readily believable speaks volumes, both about the administration and about the press.

And now there's no excuse for the lame questions.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Here's my mini outrage of the day: At last week's press conference, Bush was asked to identify a mistake he had made since 9/11, and began his answer by lamenting, "I wish you had given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it." This struck me, at the time, as both silly (he hadn't anticipated this question?) and pathetic (is the President really so lacking in introspection?). But this exchange between blogger Tony Wright and the New York Times ombudsman suggests that Bush might have been chastising rather than merely bumbling. Wright's email to the Times was prompted by an allegation, attributed to Ron Suskind, that "for each press conference, the White House press secretary asks the reporters for their questions, selects six or seven of the questions to answer and those reporters are the only ones called upon to ask their questions during the press conference." Wright wanted to know if this was true, and the response from the Times was, well, less than responsive.

I hasten to add that Joshua Marshall spoke with a couple of friends from the White House press corps who strenuously deny this alleged practice.

Nevertheless, the rumor raises several concerns to me.

On one level, I would like to believe it is true, because that would, at least, explain the unbelievably lame questions asked at the press conference. The questions were vague, meandering, and for the most part, empty -- of the kind generally associated with local newscasters rather than the inquisitive political reporters I would expect to cover the White House. ("E.g., "What's your best prediction on how long U.S. troops will have to be in Iraq"? "[D]o you feel any sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?" "Will it have been worth it, even if you lose your job because of it?") By the way, the Daily Howler did a terrific, and detailed, analysis of what, exactly, was wrong with the questions asked at the press conference, and also took the time to explain what a good question would look like.

On another level, I would hate to believe the rumor is true, because if it is, I wouldn't know where to direct my anger: to the White House, which controls information so tightly it's as if they simply don't accept the basic tenets of a democratic system? Or to the White House press corps, which not only goes along but, by going along, misleads the American public into thinking they are actually watching out for us while they a significant part of the problem?

In the end, the rumor, true or false, makes me sad: sad that the administration's credibility is so completely lacking, and that their deceit and manipulation so painfully obvious, that, upon hearing this rumor, I didn't have any difficulty at all believing it was true.
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Sunday, April 18, 2004

And speaking of great video, check this out.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

You have to love Moveon.org! Check out this video.
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Dahlia Lithwick, one of my all-time favorite court-watchers, asks the key question about a bizarre incident in which US Marshals seized audiotapes from reporters who were covering Justice Scalia's speech to a group of high school students. Lithwick asks: "[W]ho are these marshals, and who do they think they answer to?" Her answer is as perceptive as the question: "[U]nlike most federal and state officials, they simply don't believe they answer to any body of law—they are pretty certain that they answer only to the justices. Imagine a police force answerable only to the mayor or federal prosecutors answerable only to John Ashcroft. The marshals have gone from providing security to the justices to being the court's own private militia."
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My new favorite website of the week: If you haven't bookmarked the Center for American Progress, I highly recommend you do so. It's chock full of terrific information and analysis. A must read.
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Several excellent "truth squads" on the net, including David Sirota.
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