2007 - %3, May

CBS Fires Anti-War General; MSM: No Comment

| Fri May 11, 2007 6:41 PM EDT

Here's a prime example of a story the MSM is self-interestedly neglecting to cover. CBS fired General John Batiste, who had served as a consultant for the network, after he appeared in a VoteVets ad opposing the war in Iraq. CBS claims the ad damaged Batiste's credibility by undermining his apparent objectivity. But CBS has now been revealed to allow consultant Nicole Wallace—formerly of the White House communications operation, now on John McCain's campaign staff—to comment on Bush's policies, McCain's beliefs, and life in general. Not only that, but the ad in which Batiste appeared was pretty objective and analytical. Could anyone seriously be accused of diminishing their credibility by saying that we were led to war on false pretenses and don't have an effective strategy for winning? I mean, these are facts.

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Evangelical Leader: "Vote for Romney is Vote for Satan"

| Fri May 11, 2007 5:52 PM EDT

Yikes. Take a look at what an evangelical leader is saying about Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney. His name is Bill Keller, host of the Florida-based Live Prayer TV, and he writes in his daily devotional (which reaches 2.4 million people):

"If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan! ... Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. The teachings of the Mormon cult are doctrinally and theologically in complete opposition to the Absolute Truth of God's Word. There is no common ground. If Mormonism is true, then the Christian faith is a complete lie. There has never been any question from the moment Smith's cult began that it was a work of Satan and those who follow their false teachings will die and spend eternity in hell."

I particularly like this crazy paranoid line, which betrays a deep insecurity:

"Romney getting elected president will ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell!"

I think it's important to condemn this sort of bigotry and ignorance. I know it's fun to watch a party with a problematic history with race relations -- and that is sometimes openly hostile to minority voters -- turn its prejudice in on its own, but liberal bloggers have an obligation to stay consistent. We would condemn this sort of nonsense if the angry reverend was attacking Muslim legislator Keith Ellison (D-MN), so we have a responsibility to condemn it when he attacks a Republican. Even if that Republican has no principles and is in the process of saying whatever he has to in order to be elected.

Man, this is fun, isn't it?

Round Mound of Rebound Sounds Off: Charles Barkley Knows His Stuff

| Fri May 11, 2007 4:17 PM EDT

Former NBA star and current TV personality Charles Barkley has talked about running for governor of Alabama in the past, and all previous indications were that he leaned right. It appears the events of the last five or six years have really changed him. He's knowledgeable, insightful, and sounds an awful lot like John Edwards in this interview with, of all places, The New Republic.

Curious Details Emerge on the Fort Dix Six

| Fri May 11, 2007 1:17 PM EDT

MSNBC has an update on the six foreign nationals who were arrested for plotting to attack Fort Dix Army base and it looks like they might have been a bunch of bumblers egged on by over-aggressive FBI informants -- leading to speculation that an entrapment defense is upcoming. (Spotted on TPM.)

As for the bumbling plotters: "The FBI learned of the alleged plot when the men went to a Circuit City store and asked a clerk to transfer a jihad training video of themselves onto a DVD."

As for the over-aggressive informants: "One of the [accused plotters]... called a Philadelphia police officer in November, saying that he had been approached by someone who was pressuring him to obtain a map of Fort Dix, and that he feared the incident was terrorist-related, according to court documents."

Also, here's the description of one of the informants actions: "He railed against the United States, helped scout out military installations for attack, offered to introduce his comrades to an arms dealer and gave them a list of weapons he could procure, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades."

But that might not be enough for an entrapment defense to fly. Entrapment has become extremely difficult to prove in the post-9/11 world, and as one long-time FBI agent told the AP, "If the source talks them into committing a crime, that is entrapment... [but] if they are predisposed to commit a crime, and you give them the opportunity, that's fine." Pretty easy case to make.

Now I'm obviously in favor of giving the FBI the space and tools it needs to fight crime and violence, terrorism or no. If these guys legitimately had a plan to kill American servicemen, then throw them in the lock-up. But after the FBI and the Department of Justice strong-armed the prosecutions of the Lackawanna Six, John Walker Lindh, and Jose Padilla, you have to apply a skeptical eye to these things. The case of the Lackawanna Six is particularly instructive.

Gonzales Giggles Through Testimony, Ignores Even More New Evidence

| Fri May 11, 2007 12:49 PM EDT

Yesterday I wrote that a ninth purged U.S. Attorney had been found and that Alberto Gonzales, who was going before the House Judiciary Committee, was going to have to answer some tough questions.

Well, as it happens, Gonzales displayed the same combination of (feigned) cluelessness and (unwarranted) chutzpah as he did when appearing before the Senate last month in order to avoid saying much of anything at all. A major difference? No defensiveness -- Gonzales seems to know he can't or won't be fired, and has stopped caring what Congress or the American people think of him. He giggled throughout his testimony, in the face of weighty and sometimes damning questions.

He might want to get serious. McClatchy reports new evidence that Karl Rove essentially used Gonzales' Department of Justice as the enforcement arm for his Machiavellian schemes. Just weeks before the November 2006 elections, Karl Rove and his deputies twice urged the Department of Justice (using Gonzo's chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson as a primary contact) to investigate voter fraud in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- even though it is DOJ policy not to open such investigations shortly before elections because of the possibility of influencing votes.

But that was the point. The cases that Rove wanted investigated where shams -- the allegations of voter fraud in Wisconsin, for example, were two years old and had already been thoroughly investigated, with no results. And obviously the voter fraud Rove wanted investigated was all one-sided stuff -- Republicans being disenfranchised by Democrats and not the other way around. How do we know? Rove's evidence of voter fraud came from a 30-page report compiled by Republican activists.

That's right -- conservative activists on the ground were in direct contact with the president's top political adviser, who in turn tried to turn the activists' loony schemes into official Department of Justice policy. Are we a banana republic yet?

Political Persecution of Michael Moore!

| Thu May 10, 2007 8:32 PM EDT

michael_moore.gifThe federal government is investigating Michael Moore for violating the trade embargo on Cuba in filming his latest documentary, Sicko. Read more on The Riff.

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Political Persecution of Michael Moore!

| Thu May 10, 2007 7:54 PM EDT

michael_moore.gifMichael Moore's latest attack film, Sicko, will skewer U.S. health care: a fitting target at an opportune time, you have to admit. In true Moore fashion, he proves his point with well-executed sensationalism: He takes workers whose health deteriorated after they participated in the 9/11 cleanup to get care they can't get in the United States in Cuba. Take that, conservatives. Only thing is, the Bush administration now has film footage of Michael Moore committing a crime—or, well, violating a trade embargo, but either way, they were not about to pass up an opportunity to make the filmmaker pay for Fahrenheit 9/11. In a letter dated May 2, Moore was notified by Treasury that the department is conducting a civil investigation into his violation. We wish him luck, even though he was a notorious a-hole during his brief tenure as editor-in-chief of Mother Jones.

New Evidence that Administration Withheld Emails About Rove

| Thu May 10, 2007 6:53 PM EDT

A new twist in the lost email/purged attorneys scandal.

Murray Waas reports that the "Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas."

Specifically, the emails -- which Waas saw courtesy of a mutinous "executive branch official" -- show that Alberto Gonzales' then-chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson consulted with the White House when drafting a letter to Congress explaining what Karl Rove did and did not know about the installation of Griffin (intro to Griffin here).

Of course, Sampson told Congress Rove wasn't involved, which he was. The executive branch official who showed the withheld emails to Waas also told Waas that Gonzales not only knows about them, but has reviewed them all, and has elected to stay silent on the point.

I suspect that the average man on the street long ago lost track of every detail of the U.S. Attorneys scandal, and every different bit of foul play over at Justice. But things are getting so complicated, with so many moving parts, that pretty soon journalists, bloggers, and government officials are also going to lose track.

Maybe that's part of some exceptionally smart and exceptionally devious plan. But in my eyes, when the federal department you oversee is so poorly run, so wracked with scandal, and so thoroughly politicized that it's making everyone's head spin -- it's probably time to, you know, resign.

Troops Now Face Longer Deployments AND Less Time at Home

| Thu May 10, 2007 6:23 PM EDT

The troops have to be pretty upset with the military brass right now.

In April, SecDef Robert Gates announced that tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were being extended from twelve months to fifteen months. The move was necessary, Gates said, if the Army wanted to ensure that every combat veteran had at least one full year at home before being sent back into a war zone.

Well, word is leaking out that those twelve months at home are just a fantasy. According to Stars and Stripes, a company in Europe is headed back to Iraq only nine months after a 13-month tour.

Other companies made find themselves in the same situation, because a Pentagon spokesman is calling the one year at home between tours a "goal" instead of a guarantee. As for Gates, he's as confused as anyone. "I'll be very interested in finding out more about that," Gates told Stars and Stripes. "We just need to find out about that, because I made it clear that people would have 12 months at home."

Spotted on ThinkProgress, who highlights a LA Times article from a few days back titled "Long tours in Iraq may be minefield for mental health."

New Info on the Ninth Purged U.S. Attorney as Gonzales Goes Before Congress

| Thu May 10, 2007 11:43 AM EDT

I wrote yesterday that there is speculation on the blogosphere that the eight purged U.S. Attorneys were actually nine purged U.S. Attorneys. Today, the WaPo has all the major papers have confirmed it.

The Post runs down Todd Graves, former U.S. Attorney from Missouri and the center of yesterday's speculation, and gets him on the record. He says that one of his bosses at the Dep't of Justice made it clear in January 2006 that the DOJ wanted a change of leadership at Graves' office to "give another person a chance." According to Graves, the conversation "made clear to me the fact I was getting a push... I felt like I was no longer welcome in the department."

The emergence of Graves is significant because it means the DOJ was forcing U.S. Attorneys out of their offices months earlier than previously suspected, and because it contradicts Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony that the scandal was limited to the eight Attorneys already well-covered in the media. And the "give another person a chance" rational is exactly the same as the one given to other purged Attorneys.

As for the developing notion that voting rights are at the center of this storm, check out this paragraph:

Graves acknowledged that he had twice during the past few years clashed with Justice's civil rights division over cases, including a federal lawsuit involving Missouri's voter rolls that Graves said a Washington Justice official signed off on after he refused to do so. That official, Bradley J. Schlozman, was appointed as interim U.S. attorney to succeed Graves, remaining for a year until the Senate this spring confirmed John Wood for the job. Wood was a counselor to the deputy attorney general and is a son of [Republican Missouri Senator Kit] Bond's first cousin, although the senator's spokeswoman, Shana Marchio, said Bond did not recommend him for the job.

Alberto Gonzales is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee right now, where he will face questions about this topic and about the allegations of a stunning lack of diversity in the DOJ's civil rights division.