Friday, June 30, 2006

Bush loses big on Guantánamo

Somehow, by the grace of Athena, the Supreme Court yesterday managed to do, for a change, the right thing on the matter of the men being held illegally at a U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba -- at least half a world away from the places from which they were seized.

You'll recall, mes amis, that the Bush administration had declared itself immune from the protocols of international and domestic law -- not to mention the Military Code of Justice -- in the matter of trials for the Guantánamo detainees. Because they were swept up as part of the so-called War on Terror -- which is being waged against the United States, according to the White House, not by governments but by individuals -- the administration contended that the rules by which our nation is bound in the conduct of warfare did not apply to those it deemed to be terrorists.

Yesterday, the High Court ruled that the show trials of detainees concocted by the administration were not legal, because they did not meet the minimum conditions laid out in Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, to which the U.S. is a signatory.

For its part, the Pentagon claims that the Court's ruling has no bearing on its practice of holding detainees indefinitely without charge, but that line of reasoning is errant on its face. If the show trials (or tribunals, as they are called) are not valid because they fail to meet the standards of international and Constitutional law, then surely detention absent habeas corpus should be struck down by the same decision. At least, that's your blogstress's reading of the matter, which relies more on augury than actual knowledge of the law.

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING...

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Bush loses big on Guantánamo (cont'd)

From Tim Golden in today's New York Times:


The Defense Department [asserted on Thursday] that the court's sweeping ruling against the tribunals did not undermine the government's argument that it can hold foreign suspects indefinitely and without charge, as "enemy combatants" in its declared war on terror.

Privately, though, some administration officials involved in detention policy — along with many critics of that policy — were skeptical that Guantánamo could or would go about its business as before. "It appears to be about as broad a holding as you could imagine," said one administration lawyer, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ruling. "It's very broad, it's very significant, and it's a slam."
Golden reports that some administration officials had argued that the government should craft its rules for Guantánamo detentions to conform with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. However, David Addington, Dick Cheney's present chief of staff -- and the real brains behind the administration's executive power-grab -- is said to have prevailed against the forces for good.

According to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who this week offers a telling portrait of the vice president's capo, former Secretary of State Colin Powell had some choice words for Addington, which he confided to colleagues who joined him for a Redskins game last December.
During the game, between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Powell spoke of a recent report in the Times which revealed that President Bush, in his pursuit of terrorists, had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by federal law.

[...]

According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was terse. “It’s Addington,” he said. “He doesn’t care about the Constitution.”

CLICK HERE TO READ MAYER IN THE NEW YORKER

CLICK HERE TO READ GOLDEN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Congress takes up war on reporters

From today's New York Times:

[Today] the House [of Representatives] is expected to take up a Republican resolution supporting the tracking of financial transactions and condemning the publication of the existence of the program and details of how it works. The resolution says Congress "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified intelligence programs."
Reporter Scott Shane tells us that House Democrats are offering an alternative resolution that expresses support for the bank-record snooping, but says nothing about the media.

Most telling, however, is Shane's lead, wherein he reminds readers that President George W. Bush had announced to the world in 2001 that the bank records of terrorists would be surveilled.

Given the diminished power of the U.S. Constitution at the hands of the Bush administration, the war on the media is yet another step in the march toward authoritarianism. Whatever disdain one might have for the nation's mainstream media, your blogstress humbly urges her fellow citizens to demand more, not less, disclosure from America's news outlets. The framers had their reasons for writing a guarantee of a free press into the Constitution -- and it wasn't because they all enjoyed good press themselves.

In a letter to Edward Carrington, written in 1787, Thomas Jefferson asserted, "If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter."

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

First Amendment survives
Flag-burning amendment fails in Senate

How do you know when it's an election year? When some yahoo puts up a bill for a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the American flag. Thankfully, that amendment failed yesterday in the Senate, likely laying it to rest until the next big election year (2008).

Now, don't get your blogstress wrong -- she is not a fan of flag-burning. She herself has never desecrated an American flag, or any other sort of flag, or any other sort of symbol, be it prefaced by the words national, religious or sex. Desecration of any sort, she thinks, is an act expressive of such hatred as to visit some mighty bad karma on the desecrator. And karma or not, who wants to live a life animated by a fuel so toxic as rage?

Rage is the fossil fuel of the emotional world; it emanates from a primitive origin, pollutes all who come in contact with it, and generally raises the temperature of a given environment to destructive ends. Your Webwench, though admittedly a hybrid, seeks to shift her energy balance in favor of such alternative fuels as jazz, chocolate and nookie. But enough about her. (As if there could ever possibly be enough about her.)

From Anne Kornblut, The New York Times offers a sidebar on the role of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the flag-burning debate. You'll recall that Sen. Clinton has proposed criminalizing flag desecration, and yesterday offered a bill that would have done just that as an alternative to the Republicans' constitutional amendment proposal. The essential difference between the Clinton bill and the G.O.P. amendment is that the Clinton bill wouldn't mess with the U.S. Constitution, and could be shot down by the Supreme Court (though given the Court's current make-up, that seems unlikely).

Either way, your cybertrix doesn't buy triangulation as a strategy for the new millennium. She advises sincerity as an alternative to triangulation. One might call it "being on the square."

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More war on reporters; scare tactics


So much of import has taken place since your blogstress left Our Nation's Capital (to which she has thankfully returned) for the wilds of ruburban Massachusetts, to which she traveled for the celebration of the college graduation of her delightfully Webwench-like niece, Megan.

Among the week's notable occurrences was the publication by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post (among others) of reports on the Bush Administration's unprecedented spying on the banking records of thousands of American citizens. This revelation was followed, within hours, by an ostensible foiling of an ostensible terrorist plot, whose ostensible plotters were, conveniently, poor black men with long hair -- just the sort of folks whose mug shots strike fear into the hearts of middle-class white people.


graphic: 1010 WINS

Yesterday, President George W. Bush and his vice president, Darth Vader Cheney, used their scheduled public appearances to condemn the media -- The New York Times in particular -- for having published the report of the bank-record surveillance. Never mind that the spy program's legality seems a little shaky. As Peter Baker reports in today's Washington Post:

"Some of the press, in particular the New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs," Cheney said at a Republican fundraiser in Nebraska.
According to Baker, Bush called the revelation "disgraceful."

Not to be outdone, Rep. Peter KIng (R-N.Y.) upped the ante, according to Baker, by calling the Times's reporting a capital offense:
Neither Bush nor Cheney raised the prospect of investigating journalists, as proposed by Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who called on the Justice Department to prosecute the New York Times for "treasonous" action.
The uproar over the Times's apparently shocking decision to report actual news led the paper's executive editor, Bill Keller, to issue a letter to Times readers, explaining the paper's actions in the matter.
It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it.
Meanwhile, the alleged terrorist bust of seven men -- who had neither weapons, explosives or ties to al Qaeda -- was treated as a Very Big Deal by CNN, which would do well to take a page out of The New York Times, if only to express solidarity, and report actual news.

The most insightful analysis of the alleged terrorist plot and its derailment came from The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, who took on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (otherwise known as the torture fan) for stating that the seven weaponless alleged conspirators were planning to launch "a full ground war" on the United States. Stewart suggested that the execution of a full ground war would require the fielding of at least as many men as a softball team.

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Assisted suicide

Another gem from your blogstress's pal, Geoff Harper (a.k.a, The Bassman):

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Somethin' fishy in the bay

Geoff Harper, the friend your blogstress calls The Bassman (for his groove on the big fiddle -- not on the high seas), smells something fishy in the tale of the disappearance of Washingtonian publisher Philip Merrill, who turned up floating inanimately in Chesapeake Bay due to what the media are calling an apparent suicide. From Thursday's Washington Post:

Merrill, 72, was found with a shotgun wound to the head and a small anchor tied around one or both ankles, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Writes Bassman:
If I were going to commit suicide, I would take my boat out on the bay, tie an anchor to my foot, and jump overboard as I shoot myself in the head with a shotgun. Yes, I think that must be the best way to do it.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A thorn in our side
Bush, Rice meet with EU leaders

Photo: Der Spiegel/DPA

As if we needed any further proof that our commander-in-chief just doesn't get it, President George W. Bush flicked off protests by tens of thousands in Vienna -- where he and his secretary of state are meeting with European Union leaders, in order to make an ill-advised remark on the gender of the U.S. secretary of state and the Austrian foreign minister. While the remark itself wasn't blatantly offensive, one might term it as exhibiting the soft bigotry of low expiation. Herewith, from Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times:

[Bush's] visit, aimed at expanding trade and spotlighting unity, was marked by protests and calls within Europe for United States to shut down its detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Vienna today carrying banners reading "World's No. 1 Terrorist," a reference to Mr. Bush, whose policies on Iraq remain hugely unpopular here.
Stolberg reports that Austrian President Heinz Fischer greeted Bush at the great palace of the Hapsburg emperors, in a room that was once the bed chamber of the Empress Maria Theresia:
The two shook hands for the cameras, standing between Secretary Rice and her Austrian counterpart, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

"This is called thorns between the roses," Mr. Bush quipped.
Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Photo by Josie Duckett, courtesy U.S. Dept. of State


Now, your blogstress is the first to admit that Plassnik is perhaps the hottest creature ever to grace the diplomatic stage, while Condi possesses a certain dominatrix appeal.

But while it is perfectly appropriate for your blogstress to assess and pronounce upon such things -- indeed, it is her job -- there is something unseemly and condescending about the ostensible leader of the nominally free world doing so.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik

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Alphabet soup

What your blogstress won't do for her devotees! For the last two days, mes amis, she has been swimming in a sea of alphabet soup, trolling through the roils of HTML code and Perl, vexing her pretty little head in order to bring the satisfaction of the AddieStan experience to a whole new level for you, her reader.

As this work is not yet complete, her posting may be a bit intermittent today and in the coming days, so she begs your patience, mes cheris. Do bear in mind what they say comes to those who wait. (Hint: ask Martha Stewart.)

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Stay tuned for Radio Free AddieStan

This week will see the launch of Radio Free AddieStan, a podcast featuring discussion, interviews and the writing, acting, musical and voicing talents of your blogstress's colleagues, Tim Caggiano and Frank Gilligan (who also serves as our brilliant producer). Stay tuned as we fine-tune the technology for your listening pleasure.

Radio Free AddieStan is a joint project of Beltway Sewer Productions and Breakaway Radio.

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Spirit
Episcopalians choose woman to lead

From Neela Banerjee of The New York Times comes this ray of hope and specter of controversy:

The Episcopal Church elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada as its presiding bishop on Sunday, making her the first woman to lead a church in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Bishop Jefferts Schori is a controversial choice by the Episcopalians, not just for her gender (pockets of the Anglican union, of which the Episcopal Church is a part, still reject the ordination of women), but for her support of the ordination of Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who is gay, as bishop of the church's diocese of New Hampshire.

Addressing the controversy surrounding her selection, her eminence offerred this, according to Banerjee, at a press conference:
"Alienation is often a function of not knowing another human being," she said at a news conference after her election. "I have good relations with almost all the other bishops, those who agree and those who don't agree with me. I will bend over backwards to build good relations with those who don't agree with me."
Your blogstress still remembers the thrill she experienced when, in 1982, The New York Times Sunday Magazine featured a cover story chronicling the journey of one of the Episcopal Church's first women priests, Rev. Martha Blacklock. The magazine's cover showed the reverend in full vestments, standing in a church.

The rites, rituals and vestments of the Episcopal Church cling so closely to the those of your cybertrix's native Roman Catholic faith that her experience of the photo was visceral; it remains engraved upon her brain. In fact, your écrivaine recalls the longing with which she viewed herself in the foyer mirror of her parents' home in Clark, New Jersey, as she sneakily tried on the cassock and surplice assigned one of her brothers, two of whom served as altar boys at St. Agnes's parish.

The election of Bishop Jefferts Schori brings a lump to the throat of your grateful cyberscribe.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Hogs
Rolling Thunder takes self-righteousness to new ironies

Speaking of Memorial Day 2006, while the denizens of New Brunswick, New Jersey, endured the bad rhymes of so-called Christian rock, we in the nation's capital were rocked all weekend long by the unmuffled din of Harley Davidsons roaring through our streets with no regard for the fact that some of us actually live here and would have liked to hear our jazz and conversation during our family picnics.

Your blogstress fails to appreciate the sound of a Harley; take the muffler off a Japanese bike, and it wouldn't sound all that different. In fact, your cybertrix once had a Pinto with a bad exhaust system from which issued a reasonable approximation of the Harley soundscape.

While your Webwench may be annoyed by the annual Rolling Thunder rudenessfest in Our Nation's Capital (not to mention the sight of that many fat, furry white people convening here all at once), she cannot hope to match the dudgeon in which her friend Frank Gilligan (your blogstress's partner in musical crimes) found himself, especially in his consideration of the presidential election just past:

You goddam dirtbags went along with the long [swift] boat crap because it was redneck chic to do so. You got that goddam moron re-not-elected, and now you have the nerve to complain about Straight-Line Pure Republican policy as it relates to you and your livelihood?

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Spirit
'Faith nights,' Jersey style

Your blogstress's old friend, Mike from Jersey, responded to the AddieStan post, Sermon on the mound, with his own anecdote from the university town of New Brunswick:

I have my own faith story: last weekend we were at our town’s Memorial Day parade. Singing on a flatbed was a Christian rock band. The parade seemed to stall with these guys right in front of us. The singer was wailing about Jesus and saviors and what-not for about five minutes while tattooed proselytizers were distributing church literature. The tattoos were all bible verse and crosses à la Max Cady ("Cape Fear"). It was pretty wild.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Welcome home, Wemple

For New York-area transplants to Washington such as your Webwench, the hiring of Erik Wemple, editor of Washington CityPaper to lead the venerable, if tumultous, Village Voice, was an exciting turn of events. However sorry we were to lose Wemple's editorial prowess in the service of the city where real people actually live that comprises Our Nation's Capitol, it was gratifying to think that Wemple's sensibility would permeate the Voice, which has been locked in a struggle with its new owners for its very soul.

Well, it seems as if the souless have prevailed; Wemple has rescinded his acceptance of the post at the helm of the Voice. Good for him for having the integrity to refuse the job on any but his own terms. The Apple's loss is our gain, as Wemple stays on at CityPaper.

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Fourth Amendment slashed
The cost of acquiescence

If her devotees had at times seen your blogstress's dire warnings about the state of the U.S. Constitution in a Chicken Little light, your cybertrix finds herself sadly vindicated by yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court, which renders the Fourth Amendment -- the one that ostensibly protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable search and seizure -- virtually toothless. No longer are police required to announce themselves before barging into your home with a warrant. (And, of course, the Great Decider has already determined that his minions do not need a warrant of any kind in order to monitor your telephone calls and e-mails.) From Charles Lane in today's Washington Post:

At issue in yesterday's case, Hudson v. Michigan, No. 04-1360, was the "knock and announce" rule, which has deep roots in Anglo American law. In 1995, the court made it part of what defines a "reasonable search" under the Fourth Amendment, without saying how it should be enforced.

[...]

[Justice Antonin] Scalia's opinion focused on the guilty defendants who go free when otherwise valid evidence is thrown out of court. He concluded that that "social cost" is too high in relation to whatever additional privacy protection residents get from the "knock and announce" rule.
So to those apologists for the rollover executed by the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the nomination hearing for now-Justice Samuel Alito (a.k.a, "Scalito"), don't you dare to ever again tell your Webwench to hold her tongue while the rights of her nieces, nephews, grandnephews and grandniece are sold down the river. This is what your acquiescence hath wrought.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

War on reporters continues

If the nation's journalist weren't chilled enough by government spying on their phone calls and threats of prosecution for the publication of dubiously classified material, today comes word from The New York Times's Neil A. Lewis that the Pentagon has expelled from the illegal U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, reporters from The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times and The Charlotte Observer who had been reporting on the suicides of three inmates, which took place over the last weekend. Lewis's piece is cryptic, but surely more will emerge on this story as the reporters return stateside to write of their ordeal.

READ THE L.A. TIMES ON THE GUANTANAMO SUICIDES

READ THE MIAMI HERALD ON THE GUANTANAMO SUICIDES

READ THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER ON THE GUANTANAMO SUICIDES

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bush: We're staying because I say so

President Bush just concluded a Rose Garden press conference intended as a briefing on his surprise trip, made yesterday, to Baghdad. On the subject of a draw-down of troops, Bush used the press conference to address the Iraqi insurgency this way:

Don't bet on it; don't bet on American politics forcing my hand [to withdraw troops], because it's not going to happen. I'm going to make decisions not based upon politics, but based upon what's best for the United States of America.
In other words, what the American people want will have no bearing on the president's prosecution of the war.

Your blogstress also took note of the president's riff on leadership, which he characterized as a determination to succeed at those actions one has chosen to take; he also spoke of willfulness. Ecoutez closely, mes amis, and you will hear not the desire of an executive who seeks to lead his people in their self-chosen destiny, but rather a man determined to make the world over in his own image. It's all about him, mes cheris. You are but the ground on which he treads.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Clinton and Kerry at "Take Back America"

The Associated Press offers coverage of the mixed reception received today by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) from the liberal crowd at the Take Back America conference, from which your cybertrix blogs:

Clinton's attempt to strike a moderate stance on the divisive issue of the war contrasted sharply with the angry words of another potential presidential contender, Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 standard-bearer, who called the war ''immoral'' and a ''quagmire.''
Your blogstress, once an unabashed Hillary fan, now believes that the former first lady suffers from a very bad instinct for timing.

Straddling the center, a technique perfected by her husband during his presidency, was a necessity for any liberal seeking to retain power in the 1990s. But over the course of the last few years, the country has moved signicantly to the left -- and it never was as conservative as conventional wisdom would have it.

Move with the tao, Hillary, and stop thinking so damn much.

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The common good

A spirited discussion, arbited by Robert Borosage, took place today between Michael Tomasky, editor of The American Prospect, and writer Barbara Ehrenreich at the Take Back America conference. The volley focused on Tomasky's premise that, if they care to win elections and generally do the right thing, Democrats need to articulate their vision in terms of the common good. (Tomasky first put forth this idea in his piece, "A Party in Search of a Notion," for the Prospect's May issue, on which your blogstress has previously riffed.)

Ehrenreich appeared to take issue with Tomasky's point, though it was hard to discern on what grounds. Her problem with Tomasky's notion appeared to be that with the gulf that now exists between the haves and have-nots, there's no common ground to be had. Tomasky countered with an anecdote about how President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the 1965 Civil Rights Act to the American people: Johnson introduced the topic in a nationally televised speech by explaining what the bill would mean "for all Americans" -- not just blacks or minorities.

Your blogstress, being all about spreading the love, is still diggin' the notion of a common goodness.

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Kos still making news

Even as an army of liberal bloggers moved themselves from the Las Vegas confab known as "Yearly Kos" to the D.C.-based Take Back America conference, the Kos gathering continued to make news. Here's Howie Kurtz, media critic for the Washington Post:

Well, that liberal bloggers' confab in Las Vegas must have been a big deal--the NYT and WP each sent two reporters. That's more important in the gravitas sweepstakes than a bunch of presidential candidates being there, don'tcha think?

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Rove free to wreck the country

Today comes word that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will not be indicting White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, a fact that brough a tear to your blogstress's eye. Still, however fun it would have been to see the Pilsbury Dough Boy do the perp walk in cuffs, your Webwench knows all too well that even incarceration would have done little to spare us from the implementation of old pasty-face's evil genius in the 2006 elections.

How, you may ask, does your cybertrix know this? Why, she's from Jersey, silly -- the land where some of the nation's larger cities have been run from jail cells.

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Taking America back

Your blogstress reaches her devotees today from the hotel known in Washington as the Hinkley Hilton (so nicknamed because it's the place where John Hinkley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan). What brings your cybertrix to such digs? Why, that would be the annual Take Back America conference hosted by the Campaign for America's Future.

Yesterday, your Webwench attended a lively panel discussion hosted by Mother Jones publisher Jay Harris, which included an all-star cast of progressive media types, including the media structure maven Tracy Van Slyke, publisher of In These Times, Cenk Uygur of the Sirius Satellite Radio show, The Young Turks, Robert Greenwald, the filmmaker who has brought vous et moi such gems as "Outfoxed" and "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," and Alex Walker, executive editor of TomPaine.com. It was Harris who, several years ago, convened a group of liberal media types to create a mutually supportive consortium through which to plot strategy and hash ideas. Since then, the group has evolved into a true incubator of new ideas.

Your blogstress found herself quite taken with panel members Robert Lovato of New American Media, a consortium of some 700 "ethnic" publications, and Julie Bergman Sender, filmmaker and principal of an outfit called "The Cause," perhaps because both affirmed your net-tête when she made her push for opening liberal/progressive media to great representation by artists. This is your écrivaine's great bugaboo -- that her colleagues on the left moan about the movement's own lack of diversity while missing the points that:

a) communities of color often organize and politicize through the arts (hip-hop, homo-hop, poetry)

b) that whitey wonk-speak and Woody Guthrie-era labor songs ain't gonna win us converts from where we need 'em.

That said, many other ideas were bandied about, but this is your blogstress's blog, so she knows you're here to read about her. However, she does promise to bring you the messages of the thinkers on the panel once the conference has ended, and she has time to loosen the stays of her bustier and go through her copious notes.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Zarqawi and other terrorist curiosities

Your blogstress directs her readers to this post at Democrats.com, where devotees can find the text of an NBC story done two years ago by Jim Miklaszewski about how the administration put the kaibosh several times on capturing Zarqawi.

At NPR, Mary Louise Kelly does a fascinating piece on geek-com-terrorism-expert Evan Kohlmann, who monitors jihadi Web sites in his pajamas -- for a living.

On last night's edition of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a piece poking fun at the 17 suspected terrorists arrested by our neighbor to the north for issuing a statement on their hatred for Canada because of its role as a U.S. ally in the Afghanistan invasion. "Afghanistan?" said Stewart. "That was so two jihads ago."

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Zarqawi: Bush kills his creation

Amid the blanket coverage of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the murderous head of al Qaeda in Iraq, by U.S. forces, your blogstress found most interesting this interview by NPR's Robert Seigel of Zarqawi biographer Loretta Napoleoni, who explains how Zarqawi's stature as a terrorist big was virtually created by Colin Powell's infamous lie-riddled presentation to the U.N.

Napoleoni, author of Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida's New Generation and Terror Inc.: Tracing the Money Behind GlobalTerrorism, explains how, in the very same speech in which Powell falsely stated that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy aluminum tubes for use in the construction of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the then-Secretary of State named Zarqawi as the link between al Qaeda and Saddam. The problem with that statement, Napoleoni explains, is that at the time of Powell's speech, Zarqawi had nothing to do with al Qaeda, and al Qaeda wanted nothing to do with Zarqawi, who was regarded as an ignorant, poorly educated street thug. It was Powell who conferred the crown upon Zarqawi's head that ultimately bin Laden had to accept.

Today on the Diane Rehm Show, David Korn, Washington correspondent for The Nation, noted a certain irony in the fact that bin Laden is as likely to be as pleased by the beheader's death as Bush. There are those, of course, who will find no irony in this at all; just an ever-evolving set of common interests.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Specter of a constitutional crisis

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter -- a maddening figure to righties, lefites and in-betweenies alike -- finds himself in some seriously high dudgeon over the sneaky actions of Vice President Darth Vader Cheney, who went behind Specter's back to prevent the testimony of telecom executives at Specter's hearing on the extensive spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on the telephone traffic of virtually every American citizen.

[Note that the NSA's mission is to focus on foreign threats to U.S. security; the American people are supposed to be protected from its prying eyes by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).]

Specter, a vocal opponent of the NSA's domestic spying at the administration's behest, has backed down in the past after rounds of ferocious-sounding barks, but this time your blogstress has some hope that there's bite behind the bark.

The Associated Press (AP) reports:

Specter is the most vocal Republican to oppose the White House’s directive that allows the NSA to monitor the calls and e-mails of Americans without court approval. Bush administration officials have said the program requires that one party to the communication must be overseas, and terrorism must be suspected.

Specter wants legislation to compel a secretive federal court to examine the constitutionality of the program, and he has expressed displeasure that the White House won’t give him any feedback on his bill.
Cheney's stealthy show of disrespect appears to have reminded the Pennsylvania senator of a recent raft of issues addressed unsatisfactorily by the administration. The AP summarizes the Judiciary Chairman's letter this way:
Specter said he wants to work with the White House on a number of issues dealing with the expansion of presidential power. Among them:

* The Justice Department’s search of the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., as part of a months-long bribery investigation.

* The department’s assertions that newspapers and reporters can be criminally prosecuted for publishing classified information.

* Presidential statements that are attached to new legislation, suggesting to Specter that the White House is cherry-picking which parts of the law it wants to follow.
Your Webwench's main bone to pick with Darth and his empire, however, is old Helmet Head's total defiance of the U.S. Constitution, so the closing graf of Specter's letter is the one that turned the the pretty little head of your net-tête:
All of this is occurring in the context where the Administration is continuing warrantless wiretaps in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and is preventing the Senate Judiciary Committee from carrying out its constitutional responsibility for Congressional oversight on constitutional issues. I am available to try to work this out with the Administration without the necessity of a constitutional confrontation between Congress and the President. [Emphasis added by cybertrix.]
Think Progress has the text of the letter; click on the words "en route from the buffet to my table." Apparently Cheney failed to avail himself of the opportunity, at a luncheon attended by both, to inform Specter of the former's machinations regarding the telecom execs. On a brighter note, your écrivaine is pleased to note Specter's improved health, as evidenced by trips to the buffet table, after a bout with cancer.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bloggus interruptus

Today, mes amis, the breakaway republic of AddieStan requires some maintenance of a technical sort, meaning that your blogstress will likely not be posting today.

Fear not, devotees, she will return tomorrow -- goddess willing!

Your cybertrix must admit, however, to some dread in contemplating her tinkerings. Technology can, indeed, be a wonderful thing (think: Spandex), but your Webwench being a creature of her senses, she often finds herself flummoxed in the binary world of cyberspace.

So let's wish her luck as she endeavors to create an ever-more inviting stop on the information superhighway.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Milbank: Reality bites

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank dished about White House press operations on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" last night after Olbermann played a clip of White House press secretary Tony Snow being challenged by CBS newsman Bill Plante over the definition of the term "civil rights:"

OLBERMANN: Big picture here. We had dictionary time with Tony Snow at that news conference. We got this memo from the communications director, Dan Bartlett, to the press. He‘s described all the progress that the White House has made on everything from Iraq to immigration, as if we, you know, we‘ve been out or something for the last five years.

But does the—does the administration, the White House, still believe its main, if not only, problem is getting its message out correctly?

MILBANK: Well, I don‘t think that they believe that. But it‘s the only thing that they can do something about right now. So I—you had this sort of unfortunate thing where Dan Bartlett‘s memo says the economy is flourishing, and then the market‘s down 200 points today. It‘s very hard to control reality.

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Base instincts

The liberal blogs were all abuzz yesterday afternoon over White House press secretary Tony Snow's comparison of the Marriage Protection Amendment to "civil rights matters." (The proposed Constitutional amendment, being debated today in the Senate, would, if passed, forbid judicial challenges to anti-gay-marriage legislation at both the state and federal levels.) Raw Story has posted the relevant piece of the transcript from yesterday's White House press briefing:

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY TONY SNOW: Whether it passes or not, as you know, Terry, there have been a number of cases where civil rights matters have risen on a number of occasions, and they've been brought up for repeated consideration by the United States Senate and other legislative bodies...

BILL PLANTE (CBS News): You mentioned civil rights. Are you comparing this to various civil rights measures which have come to the Congress over the years?

SNOW: Not -- well, these -- it --

PLANTE: Is this a civil right?

SNOW: Marriage? It actually -- what we're really talking about here is an attempt to try to maintain the traditional meaning of an institution that has maintained one meeting for -- meaning for a period of centuries. And furthermore --

PLANTE: And you would equate that with civil rights?

SNOW: No, I'm just saying that I think -- well, I don't know. How do you define civil rights?

PLANTE: It's not up to me. Up to you.

SNOW: Okay. Well, no, it's your question. So I -- if I --

PLANTE: (Chuckles.)

SNOW: I need to get a more precise definition.
Think Progress has the video.

John Aravosis of America Blog asks, "How dare they?" He also makes the observation that in television coverage of President Bush's address today on the Marriage Protection Amendment, none of the eight religious right leaders, including Pat Robertson and James Dobson, who were present at the event were visible on camera.

In the meantime, together with PoliticsTV.com, Aravosis is leading a posse of readers into calling senators and asking them about their personal sexual practices.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Marriage "protection" and the 2006 elections

Today heralds the kick-off of Marriage Protection week in the Senate, mes amis, leaving your blogstress to wonder when that venerable institution had become endangered. Has there been a sudden downturn in the fortunes of wedding gown designers? Are the florists suffering for lack of nuptial blossoms? Are the caterers letting go of staff?

Why, no, mes cheris, indeed they are not. But the Republicans, standing with the veil yanked from their money-grubbing, treasury-looting, murderous agenda, desperately need an issue for the 2006 mid-term elections, so they have introduced the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment in the Senate, a bill that, if enacted, would amend the Constitution of the United States to protect anti-gay-marriage legislation from the equal rights clauses of all constitutions, state and federal. Muddling through the merde that is his approval ratings, President Bush needs to pacify the religious right he has so riled up with his "guest-worker" (indentured servitude) program for immigrants (brown people), especially now that everybody else has had it with him.

For more, your cybertrix directs her devotees to her piece, published this morning, at the Web site of the Women's Media Center, a new venture recently launched by Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan.

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Spirit
Thou shalt not violate zoning ordinance

A mere two blocks from your blogstress's Oppo Factory sits the highest court in the land, where nine black-robed justices reign Supreme. Just across the street from the Court's side entrance -- and the entrance to its underground parking garage -- an 850-pound granite monument displaying the Ten Commandments has been placed in the front yard of a house belonging to a religious right group, in defiance of city ordinances. The Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein has been on top of this one from the start, and yesterday, with colleague Nikita Stewart, she reported on the continuing controversy:

An evangelical Christian group unveiled an 850-pound granite sculpture of the Ten Commandments yesterday at its Capitol Hill rowhouse a stone's throw from the Supreme Court, despite a threat of $300-a-day fines.

Faith and Action, which is headed by the owner of the house, the Rev. Robert Schenck, lacks the permits needed to erect the monument, said Lars Etzkorn, associate director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, the agency that oversees public displays in the city.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Check out your blogstress on PoliticsTV.com

Those boy geniuses at PoliticsTV.com have created a Blogger Channel, and today's featured blogger is your very own Webwench. Check her out!

And while you're there, run your eye over the blogging done by producer David Grossman.

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Sermon on the mound
"Faith nights" the new craze at ballparks

Just when your blogstress thought that the American religious landscape had reached its peak of fantasmagoria comes word, via The New York Times, of "Faith Nights" taking their place alongside Bat Days and Frisbee Nights. Michelle Boorstein reports that the Atlanta Braves have three Faith Nights planned for this season, while the Florida Marlins and the Arizona Diamondbacks intend to follow suit.

Herewith, Boorstein's description of a Faith Night event at a minor league football game:

Before kickoff, a Christian band called Audio Adrenaline entertained the crowd. Promoters gave away thousands of Bibles and bobblehead dolls depicting biblical characters like Daniel, Noah and Moses. And when the home team, the Birmingham Steeldogs, took the field, they wore specially made jerseys with the book and number of bible verses printed on the back.
As graven images go, bobbleheads are certainly a new twist on the old dashboard Jesus.

But if they dare to bobble the Big Ma (a.k.a., the Blessed Mother), there's gonna be some heck to pay your Webwench.

CLICK HERE TO READ BOORSTEIN'S ARTICLE

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bogie-man
Safavian trial exposes golf's seamy side

Dana Milbank has a delicious column up today about the dominance of golfspeak at the trial of David Safavian, the Bush appointee who was led out of the Old Executive Office Building last fall in handcuffs for his dealings with the infamous lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.

You'll recall, mes amis, that one of the doings that first brought Abramoff into the media spotlight was his sponsorship of a golf outing in Scotland of which former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay availed himself.

Earlier this month, a treasure trove of e-mails between Abramoff and others implicated White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, currently under investigation in the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, in the tangles of the Abramoff web. From Milbank's Washington Sketch column:

A thick stack of e-mails between Abramoff and Safavian -- which prosecutors have used to demonstrate Safavian's aid to Abramoff as he tried to acquire GSA properties -- also describes a golfing partnership in which regular rounds during the workday were par for the course.

"Can't pull weekday golf until I'm a bit more ensconced as chief of staff," Safavian writes.

"Loser!" Abramoff replies. "I told you to come with me and not the gov!! You'd be playing golf non-stop."
In another e-mail, Safavian demurs on an Abramoff invitation, writing, ""I am a hard working civil servant and I have the people's business to do."

For her part, your cybertrix fails to see the charm of a sport in which the clothes are so ugly. Is there a reason for this? (Until the golfing industry introduces some becoming Spandex togs, your Webwench will stick to cycling.)

That the media have paid such scant attention to the Safavian matter pains your blogstress's heart, so rich is the broth from which it is drawn.

And whatever happened to that supposedly pending Rove indictment?

CLICK HERE TO READ ALL OF MILBANK

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