Copyright © 2005 Frank Lynch.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
I haven't clipped out any paragraphs between those two. And yet, when you do a search in Verisign's "whois" database for GOPUSA.com, this is part of what you get:
Domain Name: GOPUSA.COM
A creation date of 1999 would of course be prior to 9/11. I've emailed the reporter to see if she has any background info which might help clarify.
UPDATE: Rachel Graves, the author of the Houston
Chronicle article, has emailed me to say she didn't mean to
suggest that GOPUSA was founded after 9/11, only that 9/11
heightened Eberle's political interests; Eberle, she writes, told
her that GOPUSA is 4 and a half years old. In my view, the
difference between "4 and a half years old" (August, 2000) and a
domain registration in September, 1999 could be due to either
imprecision on Eberle's part or the not-infrequent habit of
taking out a domain name before content can support a site.
(Remember all those wonderful "site under construction" images?)
Then again, it could be something more, but it's certainly not an
effort on Eberle's part to suggest it was created after 9/11. It
would all feel so much cleaner, though, if Eberle weren't in the
process of scrubbing GOPUSA.com of all its fingerprints. (Note,
for instance, that the WHOIS profile was just revised this past
Thursday, and the revisions could have been made in response to
the Jeff Gannon scandal. There may even have been interim
revisions between the breaking of the scandal and February 17.)
"Me versus the world." Tapes of Bush from 1999 showed us more of our President-to-be than was shown to us during the campaign. I'm sure that's not unusual — we'd probably be shocked by many politicians' off-the-record comments. But some of this reveals a streak of maliciousness I wouldn't have expected from any modern politician, an ability to bear a grudge which overrides patriotism or partisanship:
Mr. Bush threatened that if his rival Steve Forbes attacked him too hard during the campaign and won, both Mr. Bush, then the Texas governor, and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, would withhold their support. "He can forget Texas. And he can forget Florida. And I will sit on my hands," Mr. Bush said.
Let's remember that early in his first term, Bush lost the Republican majority in the Senate because he alienated Senator Jeffords with a series of cold shoulders; Jeffords changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent, taking away a crucial head in the head count.
Were that reporting is really as Anderson Cooper described it. Last night, James Guckert/Jeff Gannon appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, and Cooper gave him a fairly good grilling. Some of what was there was illuminating, such as why Guckert/Gannon received daily passes before his news "organization" Talon News was even established: Guckert says he got in as a "reporter" for GOPUSA, and that Talon News was set up merely to suggest greater credibility for the reports, seeming to come from an independent news organization. (More on that in a moment.) But I about jumped out of my seat when I read this part of the transcript, regarding whether or not Guckert/Gannon should have been so lazily piping the White House line into his reports:
But using the term "reporting" implies some sort of vetting, some sort of research, some sort of -- I mean, that's called faxing or Xeroxing, if you are just lifting transcripts and putting them into an article.
I'm not sure what Cooper was paying attention to in 2004, but the current standard seems to have fallen to he said/she said, not vetting. Guckert/Gannon may not have even risen to the standard of providing the "she said," but I would hope that Cooper realizes there's a great gap between even the "she said" and actually vetting. I can't begin to tell you how many articles I read before our election where a reporter would slap in a comment from, say, Ken Mehlman, and the article would read as if the reporter thought that by doing that they'd done their due diligence. Maybe it's not the reporters, maybe it's the editors and the entire media which have been so neutered by complaints about bias that they can't tell the difference between bias and a truth which paints an unpleasant picture. But to bring it back, I'm not sure that Cooper didn't misframe his question. If the whole idea of establishing "Talon News" was to suggest that GOPUSA was providing an unbiased news source, why did Gannon do what he did?
(I'd like to point you to another post I wrote about here, about a different reporter at Talon News, Mike Minton, who actually pointed out a difference between what McClellan was saying in a press briefing and how it seemed out of touch with the latest intelligence regarding the lack of WMDs in Iraq. That post is here. Unfortunately, because Talon News / GOPUSA.com has been in "damage control mode," old articles are being hidden, so you may have trouble looking for other articles by Minton. And I can't vouch for everything he wrote anyway.)
Now, about the idea that the "Talon News" label was created to
suggest its independence from GOPUSA.com in order to increase its
credibility. Have you ever in your life read anything which on
its face so insults the intelligence of not only GOPUSA.com
readers, or the broader American public? I mean, creating "Talon
News" is kind of like creating fake movie reviewers for
newspapers in towns you never even knew existed. It's the kind of
crap that Bill O'Reilly tried pulling with his citation of the Paris Business
Review. Did GOPUSA.com/Talon News owner Bobby Eberle really
think that something so transparent would fool anyone? A news
organization is consistently only heard through one channel, and
GOPUSA.com readers were supposed to think it was legit? ("It was
reported by Talon News! Come on, it has to be
true!") (For the moment we can disregard one other licensor of
Talon News content, no one reads it, something like "News For
Men.") And why did Anderson Cooper let Guckert/Gannon get away
with such a preposterous idea?
Lieberman swaying over Social Security privatization? That's the story, according to Josh Marshall. Personally, I don't think it's such a bad idea for a Democratic senator to indicate an open mind. Why? Because the arguments against privatization are so strong that privatization is dead meat; and that conclusion sounds all the more damning when it comes from a senator who's listened to the arguments in favor of privatization. If the privatizers are going to lose, they'd prefer to be able to complain that partisanship prevented them from ever getting a fair hearing. And if you think about it, the Democrats will have something to say in their behalf if the privatizers can't even win over Joe Lieberman.
Not your everyday uncredentialed White
House reporter... AmericaBlog, which has been one of the
leading sources of information on "Jeff Gannon," is reporting
that a news producer was told by Gannon about the bombing of Iraq
four hours before it was announced by the
White House. If there's a reason Gannon should have known in
advance, I'd love to hear it; but there's certainly no reason for
him to have been blabbing it to others. Who wants to continue
holding the position that it's only news because of Gannon's
outside activities? (Hat tip to Judy O.)
A couple quick items on Social Security...
Taking a deep breath to provide some clarification. My two posts below are appallingly unclear, due somewhat to assumptions on my part that readers click through to read referenced web pages, due somewhat to bad writing on my part, and due somewhat to the order in which I posted them up. Eradicating them and starting from scratch would be wrong (once they're up, they're up, unless I decide to silently edit a typo like their/there or from/form). So rather than do that, please tolerate my restating...
Oy. Bainbridge has responded to what he saw as "quibbles in some of the trackbacks" (possibly mine, but I think my summary is more important than a quibble); his response is to take no stand on whether or not the Gannon story is getting enough attention, and that merely showing that it gets less attention than another story doesn't suggest a press bias. And yet, the standard which Bainbridge crafts (the number of articles about Eason Jordan vs. the number on Gannon) actually reinforces Conason's argument until Bainbridge can show that in comparison to the Eason Jordan story the Gannon story is getting "too much" attention. Bainbridge hasn't done this. In his omission he actually suggests that Conason is correct that the media does not have a liberal bias.
Bainbridge shows a further misunderstanding of the
implications of the story by introducing a comment from Jonah
Goldberg that suggests that the coverage so far has been over
Gannon being gay. That is not the case. The story is about the
White House procedures and its willingness to let someone past
security without merit. It points to some kind of favoritism
and/or complacency, just as does the Bernie Kerik story. It has
nothing to do with sexual orientation.
Not biased because I say so. Professor Bainbridge proves nothing except that he has access to Nexis. Responding to a complaint from Joe Conason that the major media is "ignoring" the Jeff Gannon story (which Bainbridge interprets as getting zero — and I bet you our husbands and wives will tell us we can pay them some attention yet still ignore them), Bainbridge runs Nexis searches which show some coverage of the Gannon story, yet more of Eason Jordan. Bainbridge's brilliant conclusion?
If Conason wants to make the point that the Eason Jordan flap got more coverage, that's true. But I don't think the numbers support Conason's complaint that the MSM is ignoring the Guckert/Gannon story. Or, in particular, that he has uncovered proof that a liberal bias in the MSM is a mere right-wing myth. The story is being covered by the MSM, albeit at a lower rate than the Jordan story. Query, however, whether legitimate news judgment wouldn't regard Jordan as the bigger story?
So therefore, since he (Bainbridge) suggests that the Eason Jordan story is bigger than the Gannon story, one cannot suggest that the Gannon story isn't getting its "fair share" of attention.
So let's briefly review the Gannon story for the Professor.
So Professor Bainbridge, a query: you don't think the White
House's procedures here deserve a lot more attention than they're
getting? They let someone like Gannon in on a daily basis —
for what someone might readily conclude was specifically
because of his political value — and you think the MSM
shouldn't be all over this? Really?
About that "good news" from Iraq. Yesterday, new CIA head Porter Goss warned about increasing numbers of insurgents in Iraq, and that the conflict had become a "cause" for extremists who remain set on attacking the US; chairman of the joint Chief of Staff General Richard Myers told the Senate that five of the US's six military units have fallen short of their recruiting goals thus far in 2005; and an Italian hostage made a video plea for her release.
What was the lead story on last night's "CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown"? A piece of fluffy praise for the US military in Iraq. Detailed orientation sessions for US troops heading back to Iraq, including training on how to differentiate a member of the Iraqi security forces from an insurgent; soldiers going through cultural assimilation (eating with their hands and dancing with locals); and one of those "up close and personal" profiles of one of our commanders.
Now, in fairness, Brown did cover darker news regarding Iraq, but when a story like this leads your coverage, no one can complain that the "good news" isn't getting covered. So let's take a tally of all those warbloggers who might be in denial about their regrets about the war and who have constantly been complaining about the lack of good news; let's see how many of them take the time to note what Brown led with last night. Although, since so many of them were complaining about not getting 24/7 coverage of Nick Berg's beheading, maybe the failure to lead with the Italian hostage will give them an out.
The Gannon-White House connection. "Gannon," you'll remember, reported for GOPUSA.com; on their board sits the husband of the head of the White House personnel office. Great detective work from Liberal Patriots (warning, lots of images, you might want to turn your images off befor clicking if you're on dial-up.) Scalp.
UPDATE: False alarm? A paragraph in th
is post at Daily Kos suggests two different Richard Powells
here... It would be so much simpler if the White House just told
the straight story, wouldn't it?
Fox News is bad for democracy, and the patriotic thing for Roger Ailes to do at this point would be reform it from top to bottom. You see, Fox News has the power to sway elections, and if it can do that it can sway public opinion, too. And if it uses that power recklessly, it's a force for bad: it doesn't bring transparency to issues, it brings fog, lies. Kevin Drum has another write up on Brit Hume's mischaracterization of FDR's views on Social Security, and it communicates very well what Hume did. And of course, it was done intentionally, because you don't hear Brit Hume digging up quotations from Bush I about Social Security. (Bush I respected the implied debt of the US support of pension funds, and referred to the bonds which protected them as being backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Since Hume hasn't bothered to share those opinions, it's clear that Hume is reporting with an agenda.)
How do we know Fox can sway elections? The two PIPA studies
which showed how confused Fox viewers were about Iraq, and how
confused Bush's supporters were. There is no question in my mind:
Fox is bad for democracy. Since it's cable, it doesn't come under
FCC oversight, but maybe we need to start a letter-writing
campaign to Fox's advertisers?
Coincidence and causality. Over at Social Security Choice, Louis Woodhill argues that a tax increase to support Social Security won't help because tax increases hurt tax revenues. To demonstrate the relationship known as the Laffer Curve, Woodhill shows a chart of annual tax revenues for the years 1995 through 2004, with 2005 and 2006 CBO projections; the chart seems to show that Bush's tax decreases increased tax revenues. From this data, he argues that people are so averse to paying higher taxes that they will shoot themselves in the foot and not make more money.
The problem with Woodhill's analysis is its simplemindedness; merely by looking at a reversal in the slope of the line, he assumes that Bush's tax cuts caused an increase in federal tax revenues. It's as if to say that the tax cuts themselves improved the economy (more jobs and wages), and Woodhill hasn't made that case. He needs to rule out all competing factors.
Another problem is that by focusing on the line at the point of the Bush tax cuts, as well as beginning his line in 1995, he's completely ignored Clinton's 1993 tax increase and how tax revenues went up afterwards. Data from the IRS show that even though Clinton raised taxes in 1993, tax revenues continued to rise. Collections in 1994 were $100 billion higher than those in 1994; 1995's were $100 billion more than those in 1994; and $100 billion (or more) increase continued... Now, to head off the fair point that these revenue figures haven't been adjusted for inflation, an analysis by Jerry Tempalski at the U.S. Treasury does account for inflation, and in Table 2 (page 18 of the electronic copy, labeled page 16 on the printed copy) he attributes (yes, attributes, not just "charts") revenue increases from the 1993 tax increase in the first four year afterwards of $24 bn, $45 bn, $53 bn, and $66 bn.
Just throwing this out as a hypothetical. Bush famously said about his own past transgressions, "When I was young and foolish, I did foolish things." (I think that's the quote.) As a born again Christian, Bush probably knows the power and the need for forgiveness. When you look at his aborted adoption of Bernie Kerik, you kinda have to wonder how much of it was due to a bonding with the macho versus a recognition that Kerik had overcome some missteps in his past. (Can we assume Bush was aware of Kerik's child in Asia, and that he was unaware of all the sordid details of Kerik's more recent past?)
I ask all this because I'm kind of clutching at straws as to why the White House would latch on to "Jeff Gannon" as a vehicle for its political message, both in acting as a slow-pitch questioner at the briefings and as someone to share Valerie Plame information. Was this some weird effort to demonstrate forgiveness of someone who really really looks as if he was a male prostitute?
Now, I don't know the timeline well enough to know whether or not Gannon left a part time job behind in order to be a White House reporter; that would certainly be relevant for any religious motivation to forgive, unless it was a situation where the forgiver's love wasn't tough-enough tough love.
Or, should we think that there was some sort of Kerik model at work, an appeal to macho, which might attract Bush? (Via James Wolcott, we see that Rigorous Intuition has offered the "smoking scalp" theory...)
I'm just throwing this out because I can't understand why, if
the Bush administration's interest was merely to get their
message out, why they would choose "Jeff Gannon" as the vehicle.
Couldn't there have been scores of Young Republicans who write
for some local university newspaper? I know that would be really
sweet and obvious, but Jeff Gannon was the best they could do?
Sorry for the light posting recently. I know there's a certain vanity associated with feeling like you can't get on with the rest of your life without my posting, so I apologize for that, too. We've been distracted by an effort to put together a real estate deal that would move my mother-in-law (an Alzheimer sufferer) closer to here, and because it involves more family members than your normal garden-variety real estate decision (and because we're not sufficiently wealthy to just go ahead and do it ourselves), it's been time intensive. So I haven't even been able to talk about the scandalous sloppiness and-or favoritism on the part of the White House that would allow someone who might have been a male prostitute (and-or pimp) a White House press pass, even after such superficial warning signals as an inability to get a press pass for Congress — somehow he even received access to classified information about a CIA operative. The blog I just linked to is a good source for updates, and I'm sure that sometime soon William Bennett (author of The Death of Outrage, re Bill Clinton) will be writing about the Gannon case and what the differential attention being paid to it says about the lack of moral values on the part of the SCLM.
Your tax dollars at work. Another
missile interception test
fails. $85 million. Isn't this that classic definition of
madness, expecting different results from the same repeated
Humpty Dumpty? You know the rhyme:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Well, the results of the Iraqi elections are in, and it looks like the winners are allied with Iran. Personally, I don't know why this is running on page 8 of the Washington Post: since Bush doesn't read much, it would be better if it were front page, above the fold. Iran, you'll remember, was one of three countries Bush famously identified as being part of an "Axis of Evil." So, Mr. President, howzit goin'? Does this work out okay with your expectations? And how about all you who signed on with the Project for a New American Century, with all your letters wanting military action against Iraq? (That would mean you, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Libby, and Jeb — are you happy with this?)
Sad food for thought. In today's New
York Times, Fox Butterfield writes about
suicide rates in rural areas, and how they outpace the national
averages, with rates from gunshot exceeding urban gunshot
homicides. States with the highest concentrations are Rocky
Mountain states, and the concentration seems to be due to the
combined effects of gun availability, isolation, and a culture of
suicide. All these states voted for Bush in the election, so you
just know it's going to be used as fodder for Red State - Blue
State comparisons. Let's try and avoid that, though (plenty of
Red States don't have high suicide rates), and hope the problems
get addressed through better health care, greater humanity, and
sensitivity. I'm not sure we can easily get the big hunters to
start appreciating quiche, but if it saves lives it might be
worth a try. And maybe a little less demonization of coastal
values from the Right would help, too.
"The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail." That's the take of Steve Lovelady at Columbia Journalism Review, over the resignation of CNN's Eason Jordan. Blogs can claim two casualties this week (Jordan, along with Talon News' Jeff Gannon), and I don't think either case really merited a resignation or firing. Jordan withdrew his controversial remarks almost immediately, as he was challenged by Barnie Frank; and with Gannon, the bigger question was never Gannon's private life, nor his point of view, nor his lazy journalism, but how he was accepted by the White House. The White House is the story, not Gannon. Gannon's resignation may only have occurred to provide cover for the White House.
Outrage is a traffic-creating phenomenon for blogs, and by that I mean that extreme views create a certain type of traffic and feeling of importance for the unimportant among us. Faced with the fact that no individual blogger will ever be as big as Time-Warner, each chooses to attract a small piece of readership, and is reinforced by their growing Site Meter figures. They echo each other through linked comments and trackbacks, and become convinced their views are right. Those who disagree must be fools with an agenda.
So Jordan and Gannon's name gets added to a list that also includes Howell Raines, Trent Lott and I don't know who all else. But noticeably absent from the list are the names of George W Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell. These five participated in a fraud about Iraq being involved in 9/11; that they had weapons of mass destruction that could lead to a mushroom cloud somewhere in the United States; that aluminum tubes which were for rockets were actually for uranium enrichment; and that Iraq had sought to buy refined uranium from Niger. These lies led to our invading Iraq not out of necessity, but out of choice, leading to the deaths of perhaps 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, the maiming and deaths of thousands of American service people, and a huge hit on our economy.
By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?
This is not something which opening up the Alaskan acres will
help. It really requires an initiative with all the intensity of
war rationing; as a nation, we can do it, but it takes a leader.
Bush is obviously not an FDR. (And obviously his shortcoming in
that regard irks him, since he seems so intent on tearing down
the FDR legacy.)
Privatizers clutching at straws? Over at Social Security Choice, Andrew Roth takes a statement from Delaware Senator Tom Carper that he's open to discussions about privatization as meaning he's in favor. Here's what Roth quotes from the AP:
Anyone who translates "being open" to "I'm in favor of it" isn't to be trusted with my money. All it means is he'll think about it. Who does Roth think he's kidding?
UPDATE: Josh Marshall has later information suggesting
that Carper has raised a very high bar for the conditions under
which he'd accept privatized accounts: no additional debt and no
decreases in benefits for seniors. Bush has already promised no
reduction in benefit for retirees and those near retirement, but
the debt thing is a significant hurdle.
Cato would be breaking securities laws were it in the business. In a discussion of whether or not the promised benefits under Social Security are "guaranteed" (viewable at their web site, but not permalinked; permalinked elsewhere here), the argument is made that Social Securit benefits are not guaranteed because Congress can legally reduce them. But then there's this point:
Except for one thing: your account could lose part of its
value due to market performance and fees. That means your
benefits aren't guaranteed. Cato can't guarantee performance any
more than your stock broker or a prospectus can. It's against the
law for a reason.
Now, some of you probably think there is a kind of -- a bank, a Social Security trust bank. But that's not what's happened over time. Every dollar that goes into Social Security has been paid out, either to retirees or government programs. It is a pay-as-you-go system; it is a flow-through system. There is no kind of -- there are empty promises, but there's no pile of money that you thought was there when you retired. That's not the way the system works.
It may not be a pile of greenbacks — that would be stupid, like stuffing your money into a mattress — but it's a pile of U.S. Treasury Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
Bush minimizing the size of the fund diversion. This point has been raised before, by Atrios, me, and others. When talking about how much money Bush wants to divert from payroll taxes into private accounts, precision is important. Yesterday in Pennsylvania, Bush said,
Now, the program that we're suggesting to Congress is that personal accounts start slowly so that we can better fund the transition to personal accounts, and that eventually, though, workers should be able set 4 percent of their payroll taxes aside in a personal account.
That doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it's not "4% of payroll taxes" he wants to allow diverting, it's 4% of your payroll. And since you already contribute 6.2% of your payroll into Social Security, that 4% is effectively 65% of your payroll taxes, not 4%.
At the same event he was also disingenuous in describing the Thrift Savings Plan which federal employees are offered:
Now, people say to me, what does a personal account mean? Is there an example of a personal account? Tell me -- this sounds like a brand new idea. It's not a new idea. If you're a federal employee, you've got what's available -- what's called a thrift savings plan, that says you can take some of your money and invest it in stocks and bonds. So we've done this before. My view is if it's good enough for federal employees, it ought to be good enough for younger workers.
There's a key difference between the Thrift Savings Plan and his privatization plans that he omitted: the TSP represents additional money set aside, not money that's diverted from regular Social Security contributions. The TSP is something which would be fine, and it's been talked about by some Democrats (you might hear it referred to as "Social Security Plus").
If you've been reading up, you also know that the President's
privatization plans will not shore up Social Security for its key
dates of 2042 or 2052 (that point when the Trust Fund is expected
to fall short of its obligations if no changes are made). Oddly,
when the President went from discussing these years, and then
changed to the topic of private accounts, he forgot to mention
their insufficiency as a solution.
If your memories go back to, say, last April and Condoleezza Rice's testimony to the 9/11 Commission, it won't be difficult for you to see that either she's incredibly stupid or she lied to the panel. I don't see any other possible interpretations of her characterization of the August 6 (2001) Presidential Daily Brief. That PDB was entitled, "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike In The U.S.," and she told the panel that they viewed the PDB as "a historical document," that is, no longer having active relevance... You know what else she said, to try and justify the Administration's response to threats?
There were no specifics, and, in fact, the country had already taken steps through the FAA to warn of potential hijackings. The country had already taken steps through the FBI to task their 56 field offices to increase their activity. The country had taken the steps that it could given that there was no threat reporting about what might happen inside the United States.
Got that? She thinks the FAA did all it needed to. GO back now
and read the transcript of her testimony, and realize that far
too little was done, that it seemed adequate to her, that
3,000 people died needlessly, that we got into a war with Iraq as
a result of this new pretext. It makes me sick.
A coup in the US government. Alarmist? No. Loud? Yes. The New York Times reports that final 9/11 Commission reporting on the failure of the FAA to seriously address terrorist warnings including hijackings and suicide operations in the summer of 2001 have been blocked for at least five months. And five months would take us prior to the last Presidential election - - that moment of accountability which that wanker in the White House claims happened in the election.
Just how many Americans died on 9/11? And just how many Americans went off to clear brush on 8/6, after being delivered a Presidential Daily Brief warning that Bin Ladin was determined to strike in the U.S.? (And just whose NSA at the time was recently promoted to Secretary of State?)
I could not be more pissed. And you have to read this. And you have to also remember that the Senate reports on how the White House acted on intelligence regarding WMDs in Iraq were also forced to not come out prior to the election.