the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

July 3, 2006

The Manchurian Secretary


The right-wing blogosphere has whipped itself into yet another delusion-based, spittle-flecked frenzy, this time over a puff piece the New York Times published in its travel section Friday about the vacation homes of Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Glenn Greenwald has the details. It’s reminiscent of last year’s secret Islamic messages in the Flight 93 memorial, only scarier because it feeds into the extremist rhetoric the right has been increasingly using against journalists in general and the Times in particular — calling for treason prosecutions, life imprisonment, and even death. Now they’re actually saying the Times is working to help Al Qaida kill the secretary of defense and the vice president of the United States.

Today, Glenn follows up with a post titled “What is left of Malkin, Hinderaker and Horowitz’s credibility?” in which he reveals that Rumsfeld himself gave permission for the supposedly security-threatening photos to be taken. Presumably the next step is for Malkin et al. to claim that Rumsfeld has been subjected to advanced brainwashing techniques to get him to cooperate in a plot to kill himself.

Alas, the answer to Glenn’s question is that they still have just as much credibility as they ever did, but that won’t stop them from appearing on television.

Update (8:50pm): Yikes! The Times piece includes a bit of quaint history about Rumsfeld’s place:

The houses have names. Mr. Rumsfeld’s is Mount Misery and is just across Rolles Creek from a house called Mount Pleasant. On four acres, with four bathrooms, five bedrooms and five fireplaces, built in 1804, the Rumsfeld house is just barely visible at the end of a gravel drive.

Thomas M. Crouch, a broker at the Coldwell Banker office in town, says one legend attributes the name to the original owner, said to have been a sad and doleful Englishman. His merrier brother then built a house, and to put him on, Mr. Crouch supposes, named it Mount Pleasant.

But there is some historical gravity to the name, too. By 1833, Mount Misery’s owner was Edward Covey, a farmer notorious for breaking unruly slaves for other farmers. One who wouldn’t be broken was Frederick Douglass, then 16 and later the abolitionist orator. Covey assaulted him, so Douglass beat him up and escaped. Today, where the drive begins, Mount Misery seems a congenial place, with a white mailbox with newspaper delivery sleeves attached, a big American flag fluttering from a post by a split-rail fence and a tall, one-hole birdhouse of the sort made for bluebirds — although the lens in the hole suggests another function.

So Rumsfeld’s vacation house is the home of a 19th-century torturer — one who tortured Frederick Douglass? Rumsfeld isn’t responsible for former owners, of course, but it’s a bit, um, coincidental.

Barney Frank Defends Free Speech on Late Edition


In the spirit of recognizing nonlame behavior from Democrats, let me say that I happened to catch Barney Frank (D-MA) on CNN’s Late Edition yesterday when it was rebroadcast on C-Span Radio, and he did a good job defending free speech. Two passages stand out.

First, Frank highlighted the selectivity of the Republican outrage about the recent story by the New York Times about the administration’s tracking of international financial transactions and the resolution the House passed condemning such stories:

As far as that’s concerned, clearly, let me give an example of the partisanship. In the Republican resolution, which they put through the House, not allowing us to amend it, not allowing us the kind of democracy that we’re fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan, they cited a 1998 leak of how we were tracking Osama bin Laden. A terribly damaging one.

They didn’t mention who did it. Apparently it was The Washington Times. Now here’s the story. When The Washington Times, a very conservative paper, during the Clinton administration leaked apparently information or printed leaked information about how we were tracking Osama bin Laden, I don’t remember a resolution. I don’t remember a demand for going after that. So, apparently, when a conservative paper does it under a Democratic administration, ho-hum. Now, six years later, when a more liberal paper does it in a Republican administration, you get this.

I honestly, at this point, don’t know how serious the leak was. But I will say this. I have heard for some time now that we have been bragging about how we were tracking the terrorists’ financing. And I find it hard to believe that the terrorists, having read that we were tracking the financing, didn’t understand that banks were involved. Did they think we were sneaking in their caves at night and going through their pockets?

Peter King (R-NY) was representing the anti-free-speech side and reiterated his belief that the Times reporters should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917 — a position Greg Sargent has so far found no other members of Congress willing to support.

Later, the subject turned to the recent attempt to pass a Flag Protection Amendment to the Constitution, and Frank was able to tie it to one of the right wing’s recent targets of hysterical overreaction:

I think it’s a great mistake. It’s a failure to understand a very important principle. Support for free speech means allowing obnoxious people to do despicable things. And I’ll tell you, I can’t think of a rationale for arresting people who burn a flag that doesn’t cover those Muslims who wanted to arrest the Danish newspaper for running a cartoon that defaced and abused Mohammed.

I mean, are we saying that, well, it’s OK to degrade important religious symbols, but not a flag? You know, by the way, it’s often when people who burn a flag illegally, it’s got to be your flag. In Massachusetts, you can’t burn leaves out in the open because of purity in the air. So you certainly can’t burn a flag.

But the fact that burning a flag, that we would make that criminal, well then what is the difference between that view and those Muslims who wanted to shut down Danish newspapers? I mean, this notion, people said, well, free speech has limitations. Yes, you can[’t] endanger the safety of others. You cannot impugn, specifically, someone’s reputation with lies. But speech being offensive, that’s what free speech means. It’s very easy to be for the free speech of people with whom you agree.

King’s defense of the amendment was half-hearted and included the sentences “Obviously it’s not the most important issue facing the country” and “The country’s not going to come to an end.”

Keep up the good work, Barney!

June 30, 2006

“Fascism With a Microsoft Face”


I’ve been trying not to waste too much time following every twist of the blog war The New Republic (TNR) launched against Jerome Armstrong (founder of MyDD), Markos “Kos” Moulitsas (founder of the Daily Kos), and eventually everyone in the liberal blogosphere. I look at MyDD and the Daily Kos every day or so, and I occasionally post comments (mainly on MyDD since the Daily Kos comments have grown too numerous to handle). But I don’t consider either site essential to my blog reading, and I certainly don’t accept marching orders from Kos or Jerome or agree with everything they write.

Maybe there’s some scandal involving one or both of them that’s somehow different from what happens every day among commentators in the offline media, but I doubt it. If there is, though, my online life won’t be affected much. (Though the relevation that Jerome is into astrology does make it harder for me to take him seriously as a leader in the reality-based community.)

TNR’s attempts to dig up dirt and smear liberals throughout the Internet are so far over the top — culminating in an extensive explanation by Lee Siegel that yes, he really did mean to call us fascists and thugs — that I’m not sure what to make of them. Maybe the people at TNR have an irrational fear of bloggers (even though they themselves blog). Maybe it’s a misguided attempt to defend Joe Lieberman from the netroots Lamont supporters. Maybe they just want to increase web traffic through controversy. Regardless, at this point they deserve every bit of ridicule they get. Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has a ridicule rundown, and piles on more of her own. Tapped is now describing itself as “Non-stop blogofascism from The American Prospect’s staff.”

One of the many bizarre points in Siegel’s original rant was his description of blogs as “hard fascism with a Microsoft face”. The phrase echoes “socialism with a human face” from the 1968 Prague Spring, but in the earlier phrase, making socialism human was supposed to be something new and a bit surprising. Humanity was something far removed from socialism as people viewed it.

In Siegel’s phrase, there’s no equivalent seeming contradiction. Microsoft isn’t inherently fascist, but it’s certainly not the first thing I’d think of when asked for the opposite of fascism. Microsoft worldview is totalitarian, and that’s how it’s gotten where it is, regardless of Bill Gates’s philanthropy. Does Siegel somehow view Microsoft as warm and cuddly?

The other thing I wonder about the phrase is what Microsoft has to do with blogs anyway. Yes, lots of people use Microsoft Windows on the computers they read and write blogs with, but the vast majority of blogs, like the vast majority of websites in general, are running on open-source software that has nothing to do with Microsoft. Is Siegel one of those idiots who think Bill Gates invented the Internet?

June 27, 2006

Reid Says Minimum Wage Increase Must Come Before Congressional Pay Raise


Harry Reid isn’t going to let last week’s defeat of a minimum wage increase be the Senate’s the final word on the subject. He says Democrats will block an upcoming congressional pay raise if necessary to force the issue:

“Congress is going to have earn its raise by putting American workers first: A raise for workers before a raise for Congress,” said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Reid refused to spell out exactly how he will block a $3,300 pay raise scheduled for January 1 for members of Congress, who currently earn $165,200 annually. He said with 40 Senate Democrats backing the maneuver, “We can stop anything they (Republicans) try to do with a congressional pay raise.”

The Carpetbagger is delighted to see this move, and so am I. You’d almost think Reid was trying to give Amy Sullivan material for the “brilliant” side of Thursday’s “Democrats: As Lame as You Think or Secretly Brilliant?”

In the earlier vote, all the Democrats stuck together (except Rockefeller, who was absent recovering from surgery) and were joined by 8 Republicans, 4 of whom are up for reelection this year. All the other Republicans (except for Shelby, who was also absent) voted against the increase, and the amendment failed 52-46 — it required a 3/5 vote because of a procedural rule (something oddly missing from the Senate vote page).

Ten Republicans voted against the increase even though they’re up for reelection. In rough order of decreasing vulnerability, they are

Let’s hope their Democratic opponents ask them during the campaign why they opposed to giving a raise to the lowest-paid workers among us.

June 26, 2006

“Democrats: As Lame as You Think or Secretly Brilliant?” — Amy Sullivan at Drinking Liberally Thursday


The conventional wisdom seems to be that while Republicans have badly blown their time in government and are becoming increasing unpopular with the American public, Democrats are failing to take political advantage of Republican corruption and incompetence and thus will still have a hard time in this year’s elections. How much of that is because of Rovian political brilliance among the Republicans? fondness for Republican talking points among the media? Democratic cowardice and ineffectuality?

Amy Sullivan is a contributing editor at the Washington Monthly and author of a forthcoming book on religion and politics. Hear what she thinks at Drinking Liberally Thursday, June 29, at 6:30pm in the back room at Timberlake’s, 1726 Connecticut Ave NW (Dupont Circle Metro). Her talk will be “Democrats: As Lame as You Think or Secretly Brilliant?” — riffing on the themes developed in her May article in the Washington Monthly.

As usual, we’ll have free appetizers and drink specials until 9. The talk will begin around 7:30, but get there early to be sure to get a seat — and to get in some socializing.

If you’re not on our e-mail list, subscribe to get announcements of future speakers and events.

June 25, 2006

Ron Suskind at Politics and Prose


In October 2004, journalist Ron Suskind gave us the term “reality-based community”, in a New York Times Magazine article. Now his new book, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, is burning up the blogosphere with further revelations about the Bush White House.

Monday, June 26, at 7pm, Suskind will be doing a book event at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave NW. Several DCDL Thursday regulars will be going, and we’ll likely go out for something to eat or drink afterward. Join us if you like — look for the Drinking Liberally buttons.

Update (June 26): Suskind appeared on the Diane Rehm Show this morning. The audio should be available on the WAMU site within an hour.

Alexandria Drinking Liberally Launches This Week


David Swim stopped by DC Drinking Liberally Thursday last week to let people know he’s starting an Alexandria chapter. It debuts Thursday, June 29, at 7pm at Nick’s Nightclub, 642 S. Pickett Street (Van Dorn is the closest Metro station, but I don’t think it’s particularly walkable). Every DL chapter attracts its own crowd and evolves in its own way, and I’m sure this one will be quite different from our Thursday group at Timberlake’s, so if you live somewhere where either is an option, try both and see which fits you better (and don’t forget the Wednesday chapter at Mark and Orlando’s). The location is still within the Beltway, though (by several hundred yards), so it will share in the weird political radiations we experience here.

To follow this new chapter as it develops, read its blog, participate in its forum (which Dave plans to keep more active than the average DL forum), and subscribe to its e-mail list.

Good luck to Dave and the new chapter as they bring the gift of Drinking Liberally to those in Virginia who’ve been thirsting for it!

June 23, 2006

It’s Top Secret — and Everyone Already Knows It


Last month I posted a comment on Balloon Juice mocking the way right-wing bloggers and commenters were pushing two contradictory arguments about the USA Today story on the NSA’s database of phone calls:

Old news. Nothing to see here. This sort of thing has been going on forever, and we’ve always known it was happening. Anyone with half a brain knew the NSA was doing this. In fact, it’s practically the definition of what they’re supposed to be doing. No one would expect them not to be doing it.

Oh, and USA Today and the other media outlets reporting the story are traitors. Those so-called journalists should be hanged for endangering the country by revealing important secrets to our enemies — things our enemies had no way of knowing and could never have guessed.

I said in a later comment that unfortunately I hadn’t been able to find the two arguments being made at the same time.

Now, thanks to the uproar in the right-wing blogs about the Bush administration sifting through millions of banking transactions, I have an example. Captain Ed at Captain’s Quarters manages to get the two inconsistent arguments into a single sentence (emphasis added):

Excuse me, but no one voted to put Bill Keller in charge of our national security, and the laws covering classification of materials does not have an option for journalists to invalidate their clearance level. The continuing arrogance of Keller and his two reporters has damaged our national security, and in this case on a ridiculously laughable story that tells us absolutely nothing we didn’t already know in concept. They keep pretending to offer news to their readers, but instead all they do is blow our national-security programs for profit.

Apparently it’s difficult for Bush supporters to grasp, but if these are perfectly normal, legal government operations that everyone already knows about, then clearly the terrorists already know about them and have taken what steps they can to evade detection. If that’s true, how does publishing the stories help the terrorists or otherwise endanger national security?

And if the operations are violating the law, isn’t it the job of journalists to inform the American people of that? Besides, do terrorists really care whether their actions are being monitored legally or illegally? They know the monitoring is happening, and they don’t care whether those spying on them have a warrant or are otherwise subject to oversight to prevent abuse.

June 22, 2006

“The Dark Side”


Tonight at Drinking Liberally we were talking about Wednesday’s Frontline episode on Vice President for Torture Cheney, but most of us hadn’t gotten a chance to see it. Fortunately, PBS has put the entire 90-minute program online, along with pages of supplemental text and charts that could keep you occupied for hours. Here’s the blurb from the site:

After 9/11, Vice President Richard Cheney seized the initiative. He pushed to expand executive power, transform America’s intelligence agencies and bring the war on terror to Iraq. But first he had to take on George Tenet’s CIA for control over intelligence.

The episode is called “The Dark Side”, taken from Cheney’s Vaderian statement shortly after 9/11, “We have to work the dark side, if you will. Spend time in the shadows of the intelligence world.”

I’m just starting to go through it all now. I doubt Dick is happy about this, but then is he ever really happy?

Bush Defaces Flag (Again)


With the Congress gearing up to amend the Constitution to partially repeal the First Amendment in order to address the grave threat of flag burning, Bush decided to take out a little time in Austria to scrawl his signature on American flags for some fans. This is a repeat of a flag-autographing stunt he pulled in 2003, for which there is photographic evidence:

Bush signing flag

If desecrating the flag is such an outrage, shouldn’t these Constitution amenders be drawing up articles of impeachment?


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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