the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

July 21, 2005

Supreme Court Disinformation


In covering the Roberts appointment, the press is mostly ignoring the fact that they spent a whole day telling us the nominee was Edith Clement because confidential sources in the White House were telling them she was. Finally Howard Kurtz is talking about the issue, but he avoids the point that Atrios and Kevin Drum make: What’s the purpose of protecting a source who’s lied to you? And how does that work, anyway? When the same source calls a journalist again, does the journalist just pretend not to notice that the information was bogus last time? Or does the administration have an infinite supply of disposable sources ready to call journalists?

The White House apparently views the media, and by extension the public they’re supposed to inform, as an enemy in a war. Therefore it feels justified in using disinformation against them, and us. That’s a dangerous situation for a democracy. And if the Bush administration is willing to lie to us about such a small thing, what else are they willing to lie about? That question has been asked many times before, of course, on topics from whether Dick Cheney had ever met John Edwards to whether aluminum tubes were weapons of mass destruction. The answer seems to be that they’re willing to lie about anything. Lying has zero cost, as far as they’re concerned, so as long as they think there’s any benefit at all, no matter how small, lying is their first instinct.

There are other shameful aspects of how Bush handled the announcement of Roberts. How does Judge Clement feel about being used as a decoy? It shows a serious lack of respect and consideration. Also, originally the announcement was supposed to be made in a week or two, but the schedule was suddenly rushed, presumably to knock the Rove-Plame story off the front pages. Once again, this administration puts politics above everything else.

July 19, 2005

Kaine Fundraiser Tomorrow with Obama


For those of you who haven’t yet noticed, there’s an election this year in Virginia, and we’d like the governor to remain a Democrat. Tim Kaine is the Democratic candidate, and there’s an affordable fundraiser (starting level $35) for him tomorrow with a special guest: new Senate superstar Barack Obama! I’m afraid you will have to venture outside the District, but it’s on the Orange Line:

Clarendon Ballroom
3185 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington (Clarendon Metro)
Wednesday, July 20, 2005, 7:30–9:30pm
More info

(via Kathy at My Own Backyard)

Edward Lazarus at P&P


From the Politics&Prose web site:

Sunday, July 24, 5 p.m.
(Penguin, $18)
Lazarus, who clerked with Justice Blackmun, has updated his 1998 account of the inner workings of the Supreme Court. Lazarus writes about how differing judicial philosophies may affect current discussions about the appointment of justices.

This, of course, was not just another book on the Supreme Court. It’s a rare insider account, and very controversial among Supreme Court scholars. That he clerked for Blackmun, who was the author of landmark decisions on abortion and the death penalty, should make this a really action-packed afternoon.

For those of you who might have assumed that P&P book talks are quiet, tea-sipping events… umh, no.

Dupont Circle to Go WiFi


From the Washington Post:

District-based TechAssist LLC will provide free wireless Internet access in Dupont Circle starting Friday, the information technology consulting firm said yesterday.

The wireless access will work inside the area and may work on surrounding blocks, said Nick Vossburg, president of TechAssist.

Ladies and gentlebloggers, start your laptops.

George W. Bush, Champion of Workers’ Rights


Monday Bush modified his position on whether to fire those involved in exposing Valerie Plame:

Q Mr. President, you said you don’t want to talk about an ongoing investigation, so I’d like to ask you, regardless of whether a crime was committed, do you still intend to fire anyone found to be involved in the CIA leak case? And are you displeased that Karl Rove told a reporter that Ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife worked for the Agency on WMD issues?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We have a serious ongoing investigation here. (Laughter.) And it’s being played out in the press. And I think it’s best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. And I will do so, as well. I don’t know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who’s spending time investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.

It seems Bush is now embracing the idea that it’s wrong to fire someone unless they’ve been convicted of illegal activity. That’s far stronger job protection that any labor union has ever asked for. Do you think we’ve been wrong about Bush’s attitude toward workers all along? Or maybe it’s just that it’s okay if you’re a Republican.

July 18, 2005

Fame and Fortune Are Ours!


Today dcdl.org was mentioned in The Examiner. Okay, it’s a free paper, and maybe it’s not exactly liberal, but we take what we can get. As it turns out, the mention was in an editorial, “Scott McClinton”, that reproduced (badly) the table of repeated phrases from my “Analyzing the ScottBot” post of last week. Notice how they cleverly insert a jab at Clinton into their criticism of Bush — actually I guess it’s really just criticism of Scott McClellan. Still, it’s nice to be appreciated.

Speaking of fame and this blog, you may have noticed that we could use another blogger or two here. If you’re a semiregular (or at least an occasional) at DCDL gatherings and you’d like to contribute to the blog, leave a comment here, e-mail me (keith@dcdl.org), or find one of us at Timberlake’s Thursday.

July 17, 2005

Creationism, Science, and Doublethink


This weekend, I finished 1984 (mentioned in my previous post). I also caught up on reading Slacktivist. I go there most weekends to read Fred Clark’s obsessive but entertaining and often enlightening series of posts on Left Behind, which are now a weekly phenomenon, and to see what else he’s got to say as a member of the religious left (and what his commenters have to add).

This time Fred had four posts about creationism (one, two, three, four), starting with one about his middle-school science teacher, Mr. Caruthers. Like many of Fred’s posts, it includes a reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It also includes this passage about Mr Caruthers’ ability to believe in young-earth creationism and science simultaneously:

At root, there’s a deliriously strange, pot-think aspect to this view. It suggests a radical, unbridgeable, gap between perception and reality. But Mr. C. wasn’t worried about such philosophical matters. And so, even as he taught us that the world was not as it appears to be, he also taught us the science of the world we can see. As long as you don’t think too hard, apparent-age creationism allows you to pursue legitimate science, to experiment and theorize about the world as it appears to be.

Shortly after reading that, I came across this passage in 1984, in which O’Brien is explaining that the universe is no older than humans are:

“What are the stars?” said O’Brien indifferently. “They are bits of fire a few kilometers away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the center of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.” […]

“For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometers away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?”

The Party in Oceania is hostile to religion, but it seems they have something in common with some proponents of “creation science” or “intelligent design”.

I had been planning to post about another passage in 1984 and its similarity to the dismissive comments about the “reality-based community” by the Bush aide quoted by Ron Suskind, but Rob Goodspeed (a DCist contributor who for all I know may have shown up at DCDL some time) beat me to it by nine months.

July 16, 2005

Republican Crimestop


I’ve been reading Orwell’s 1984, DCDL’s book of the month, and for some reason a particular passage has been resonating lately — and I have a feeling the resonance may increase in the coming weeks (emphasis and paragraph breaks added, since Emanuel Goldstein seems addicted to page-long paragraphs):

A Party member is expected to have no private emotions and no respites from enthusiasm. He is supposed to live in a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party. The discontents produced by his bare, unsatisfying life are deliberately turned outwards and dissipated by such devices as the Two Minutes Hate, and the speculations which might possibly induce a skeptical or rebellious attitude are killed in advance by his early acquired inner discipline.

The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.

But stupidity is not enough. On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one’s own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body. Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the Party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts.

The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.

Of course we don’t live in the world of 1984, and there is no threat of arrest, torture, or execution for those guilty of thoughtcrime. Instead people are training themselves in crimestop of their own free will. I’m not sure whether that’s better or worse.

The DCDL discussion of 1984 was postponed indefinitely. Are people still up for it? Do you have suggestions of other books we should read and talk about? If so, leave a comment.

July 15, 2005

Talking Back to Washingtonpost.com


As part of the reworking of washingtonpost.com, some of what used to be eColumns are now blogs. For example Campaign for the Supreme Court, covering the Supreme Court nomination, should be interesting.

Now that I’ve made at least a minimal attempt to blog this afternoon, I have a favor to ask. Can anyone recommend a good Mexican restaurant? Of the places I’ve tried so far: Alero, Guappo’s, the Cantina (next to the National Cathedral), the location has always been pretty good, but the food itself has been pretty unremarkable. The Cantina at least has draft Dos Equis, which counts for something in my book.

I ask hoping that you commentors-in-waiting, who no doubt have been intimidated by Keith and myself, will get whipped into a frenzy, and burn up the thread.

Politics Above Security in the White House: Did London Pay the Price?


The White House’s destruction of Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative (one investigating weapons of mass destruction) to punish her husband, Joe Wilson, for saying things the administration didn’t like is hardly the only time the Bush administration has weighed political advantage as more important than national security. Probably the worst example is Bush & Co.’s use of the September 11 attacks to divide the country for political purposes and alienate the rest of the world — squandering a unique opportunity to unite the country and make use of the sympathy from the global community to make us all safer.

For a more specific example, think back to the time of last year’s Democratic convention. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge raised the alert level to orange for some cities and financial institutions, and he politicized his alert by including the statement “the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President’s leadership in the war against terror.” When people were skeptical about the alert (which was based on three-year-old information), the administration — apparently desparate to show that the threat was real — revealed the name of a captured Al Qaeda member who was the source. Unfortunately, the informant, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, was cooperating and acting as a mole at the time (other Al Qaeda members didn’t know he’d been captured), and after his name was revealed his usefulness was ended. Undercover agents within Al Qaeda aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, but the Bush campaign/administration destroyed one to reduce a political embarrassment.

I bring this up now because Americablog has a long post detailing the connection between the Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan incident and last week’s London bombings (Juan Cole has more). It’s possible that if Khan had been able to continue as a mole the network responsible for the bombings could have been unraveled before they were able to kill scores of people. But that would have required the Bush folks to value something above scoring political points.


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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