Archive for April 9th, 2007

Crouching RNC, Hidden Mailserver

I hope the Democrats can make headway on this:

When Karl Rove and his top deputies arrived at the White House in 2001, the Republican National Committee provided them with laptop computers and other communication devices to be used alongside their government-issued equipment.

The back-channel e-mail and paging system, paid for and maintained by the RNC, was designed to avoid charges that had vexed the Clinton White House – that federal resources were being used inappropriately for political campaign purposes.

(…)

Democrats say evidence suggests the RNC e-mail system was used for political and government policy matters in violation of federal record preservation and disclosure rules.

In addition, Democrats point to a handful of e-mails obtained through ongoing inquiries suggesting the system may have been used to conceal such activities as contacts with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted on bribery charges and is now in prison for fraud.

The prospect that such communication might become public has further jangled the nerves of an already rattled Bush White House.

Some Republicans believe that the huge number of e-mails – many written hastily, with no thought that they might become public – may contain more detailed and unguarded inside information about the administration’s far-flung political activities than has previously been available.

Ah, the flip side of believing that you’re untouchable.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week formally requested access to broad categories of RNC-White House e-mails.

Waxman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that a separate “e-mail system for high-ranking White House officials would raise serious questions about violations of the Presidential Records Act,” which requires the preservation and ultimate disclosure of e-mails about official government business.

(…)

Some Republican activists say the e-mail request will not create great difficulty for the White House because nothing nefarious happened [ha!] and because the RNC automatically purges some e-mails after 30 days.

“Some”? Define “some.” 30 days seems awfully brief, and… convenient. On the other hand, if their e-mails only go back 30 days, why fight the release? Does the RNC not have more stringent data retention policies than 30 days?

“We’d like to cooperate to whatever level is appropriate,” Republican Party spokeswoman Lisa Camooso Miller said Friday.

I don’t much like the sound of that either.

And just in case there was any lingering doubt about whether the RNC e-mail addresses were used for the express purposes of keeping shady business out of the official books:

Ralston used outside accounts – including at rnchq.org – to communicate with Abramoff and his partners. One e-mail from an Abramoff associate said that White House personnel had warned “it is better to not put this stuff in writing in [the White House] … e-mail system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc.”

Abramoff’s response, according to a copy of his e-mail released by Waxman’s committee, was: “Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her rnc pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system.” Ralston later resigned in connection with the lobbying scandal.

Waxman told RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in a letter that such exchanges “indicated that in some instances White House officials were using nongovernment accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of communications” that could be reviewed by congressional committees or released under the Presidential Records Act.

Here’s the beauty part, though:

Lawyers for the committees say that use of campaign-connected e-mail addresses may make it easier to gather information because it would be harder for the White House to make a broad claim of executive privilege.

Mwahahahaha!!! I really don’t think they’re going to be able to claim executive privilege on communications that were deliberately kept off of the executive mailservers, but I’m sure they’ll try. They’ll essentially be arguing that their cheating and evasion was a lawful attempt to preserve executive privilege.

2 comments April 9th, 2007 at 08:39pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans,Rove

Timing

Interesting quote in today’s Christian Science Monitor, by way of The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin:

“There’s a whole culture of effective oversight, which the Congress carried out in the 1970s up through the early 1990s, that has been very much lost, and there’s a lot of effort now going on to rebuild oversight skills,” says Charles Tiefer, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and a former deputy House counsel.

Well, now, what was it that happened in the 70s? Any events of note that might have driven home the importance of oversight? What about in the early 90s? Did something happen to Congress at the end of the early 90s? Like in 1994, maybe?

Perhaps Congress was taken over by people who believed that congressional oversight was merely a tool with which to bash one’s enemies and cover up for one’s friends? Nah, too unbelievable.

April 9th, 2007 at 06:39pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Politics,Republicans

Lies Of Every Size

Krugman thinks the Republicans are going back to “little lies”:

Four years into a war fought to eliminate a nonexistent threat, we all have renewed appreciation for the power of the Big Lie: people tend to believe false official claims about big issues, because they can’t picture their leaders being dishonest about such things.

But there’s another political lesson I don’t think has sunk in: the power of the Little Lie — the small accusation invented out of thin air, followed by another, and another, and another. Little Lies aren’t meant to have staying power. Instead, they create a sort of background hum, a sense that the person facing all these accusations must have done something wrong.

For a long time, basically from 9/11 until the last remnants of President Bush’s credibility drowned in New Orleans, the Bush administration was able to go big on its deceptions. Most people found it inconceivable that an American president would, for example, assert without evidence that Saddam and Al Qaeda were allies. Mr. Bush won the 2004 election because a quorum of voters still couldn’t believe he would grossly mislead them on matters of national security.

(…)

The Clinton years were a parade of fake scandals: Whitewater, Troopergate, Travelgate, Filegate, Christmas-card-gate. At the end, there were false claims that Clinton staff members trashed the White House on their way out.

Each pseudoscandal got headlines, air time and finger-wagging from the talking heads. The eventual discovery in each case that there was no there there, if reported at all, received far less attention. The effect was to make an administration that was, in fact, pretty honest and well run — especially compared with its successor — seem mired in scandal.

(…)

This is the context in which you need to see the wild swings Republicans have been taking at Nancy Pelosi.

First, there were claims that the speaker of the House had demanded a lavish plane for her trips back to California. One Republican leader denounced her “arrogance of extravagance” — then, when it became clear that the whole story was bogus, admitted that he had never had any evidence.

Now there’s Ms. Pelosi’s fact-finding trip to Syria, which Dick Cheney denounced as “bad behavior” — unlike the visit to Syria by three Republican congressmen a few days earlier, or Newt Gingrich’s trip to China when he was speaker.

(…)

Fox News, which is a partisan operation in all but name, plays a crucial role in the Little Lie strategy — which is why there is growing pressure on Democratic politicians not to do anything, like participating in Fox-hosted debates, that helps Fox impersonate a legitimate news organization.

But Fox has had plenty of help. Even Time’s Joe Klein, a media insider if anyone is, wrote of the Pelosi trip that “the media coverage of this on CNN and elsewhere has been abysmal.” For example, CNN ran a segment about Ms. Pelosi’s trip titled “Talking to Terrorists.”

The G.O.P.’s reversion to the Little Lie technique is a symptom of political weakness, of a party reduced to trivial smears because it has nothing else to offer. But the technique will remain effective — and the U.S. political scene will remain ugly — as long as many people in the news media keep playing along.

Krugman also discusses David Iglesias being fired for refusing to pursue bogus voter fraud investigations, and the Wisconsin US Attorney’s “beyond thin” case against a Democratic state procurement official, which was used as a club by the Democratic governor’s election opponent. The governor won re-election, thankfully, but what if he hadn’t? What legal redress is there for losing an election due to prosecutorial malfeasance? Or any other kind of malfeasance, for that matter?

The Republicans really don’t distinguish between “Little Lies” and “Big Lies” – that would imply a selectiveness and restraint they don’t have. They simply lie about everything. I haven’t been following politics for all that long in the grand scheme of things, but has there ever been an administration or party as fundamentally dishonest as the Bushies and their pet Republicans? I really can’t think of any, except maybe Nixon, and even then there was at least some honesty in the GOP.

April 9th, 2007 at 06:32pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans,Rove

Experiment

Thinking about the Josh Bell violin experiment, and the recent big-bloggers-vs-small-bloggers debates, it would be interesting to see what happened if one of the big bloggers started a new blog completely anonymously, and didn’t use their big blog to link to or promote it in any way. (Assume, for the sake of argument, that they can do this without diluting the content of either blog)

How much traffic would they get? How many people would recognize them? Would their new blog ever make it to the A-list?

I think that in most cases, the new blog would be successful, for the same reasons the original blog was successful, but I think the odds of making it higher than the B-list are slim. Purely speculation, of course, but it would be an interesting experiment. I suppose if Kos or Atrios or Jane or Christy or Digby ever wanted to guest-post anonymously on my blog, I would be happy to have ’em, but I really don’t see it happening (besides, I’d rather earn my meager traffic on my own dubious merits anyway).

7 comments April 9th, 2007 at 03:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere

Wait… What?

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Novak to explain how the Palestinians have brought all their misery and oppression on ourselves, and we should not let compassion blind us to their implacable evil, but he never did.

It’s a week too late for April Fool’s, so I’m at a loss. He couldn’t be suffering from conscience trouble, could he? Or is he just scrambling to jump off the neocon ship before it goes all the way under? Very, very strange, and it would be very encouraging if I could take it at face value.

2 comments April 9th, 2007 at 01:27pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Republicans

Context

Very interesting story on Sunday’s WaPo: They conducted an experiment wherein world-class violinist Josh Bell busked energetically and anonymously on a $3.5 million Strad during the morning rush hour at the L’Enfant Metro station.

He made… about thirty bucks, and only seven people even stopped to listen. In short, almost no-one noticed that this was no ordinary street musician.

I thought the most telling observation was that every single kid who passed by during that time realized that something was up, which the writer attributed to their untouched purity and openness to beauty or something like that, but I don’t think that’s the reason. I think the real reason has to do with their sense of context, or lack thereof. Their parents “know” that any halfway decent musician would not be playing for spare change at a Metro stop, but the kids don’t. So they have no preconceived notions about what the performer’s level of quality must be. They also have not been hardened by years of hurrying past street musicians on the way to work.

I wish I could say that I would rise above my surroundings and recognize the beauty of the performance, but I’m not entirely sure that I would even recognize it if I were tipped off beforehand. I can see beauty in the must mundane and grungy surroundings, but I can’t hear it.

2 comments April 9th, 2007 at 11:57am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Music

Civility Wars Continue

The story is actually not as bad as it intro makes it sound:

Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

I’m not exactly one of the more foulmouthed bloggers out there, but cries for “civility” always make me wary – they usually sound like right-wing bloggers demanding that we liberal bloggers unilaterally disarm.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

(…)

Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself.

Still not great, but it seems targeted more at abusive comments and rumormongering than bloggers who use cusswords. Still, I’m not sure how realistic or practical it is to expect bloggers to police their comments. Big bloggers like Atrios simply don’t have the time to monitor their comments without help. Kos uses a community-based approach, and Firedoglake uses multiple actively-engaged moderators, but most bloggers don’t have those options.

My own blog is too small and obscure to attract many trolls, so I should theoretically be able to clean them up pretty easily. But it seems that the civility advocates are not taking the obsessive nature of trolls into account. They’re not just driving by; they’re checking back constantly to see if they’ve gotten under your skin. If you delete their comments and don’t have a way to ban them, they will camp out and start saturation bombing. You can end up even worse off than if you had just ignored them, and with a lot less free time. But if you want to try, that’s your right, and I don’t think you need an explicit “policy” to give you permission to delete or ban commenters who are threatening or just vile.

On the flip side, if you’re too overzealous about policing those on your side who you think go too far, it can have a chilling effect on commentary. I would at least try to distinguish between genuine threat and hyperbole before I would delete anyone’s comment.

All that said, the comment spammers can fuck off and die. Spam comments are the only ones I will delete without a second thought (except for the very very rare ones with entertainment value).

April 9th, 2007 at 11:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Technology,Wankers

Monday Media Blogging – Educational Edition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQR9cHkyeFM

The giant floating stone head of Zardoz explains why the gun is good and the penis is evil.

2 comments April 9th, 2007 at 07:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging


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