Flacks and Hacks

If you haven’t been following the flap over Dan Froomkin’s Washington Post column that began Sunday with this ombudsman article, you can catch up by reading a couple of Editor & Publisher articles, here and here. In a nutshell, somebody complained because Froomkin’s web-only column is not labelled “opinion.” And this is a problem because Froomkin’s outlook is (they say) liberal. Can’t have liberal opinion running around unchecked, you know; got to keep it on a leash.

Yesterday WaPo National politics editor John Harris made a colossal ass of himself in this post at the Washington Post “blog.” Then Jay Rosen interviewed Harris, and through this (via Jane Hamsher) we learn that one of the people whose complaints struck fear and contrition in the hearts of WaPo editorial staff was Patrick Ruffini, webmaster for the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign site.

Ruffini is the embodiment of hackness; a prototypical example of the soulless hard-right putrefaction rotting away our national institutions. Follow the link to view the soft, baby face of nascent fascism.

Then Jane Hamsher writes,

But here’s the money quote. Rosen asks if White House officials are the ones complaining about Froomkin’s column:

    John Harris: They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.

This flap is brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party, who will not stand to see itself criticized by a major media outlet without seeking to take down the one who is doing so. And John Harris bends over and spreads ’em. Of course, considering Harris’s past as one of the people who hijacked the nation and started speaking in tongues over rumors of penis-shaped ornaments on the Clinton Christmas tree, this is hardly surprising.

Dan Froomkin’s column (visit today’s here) is consistently the best feature of the WaPo web site, mostly because Froomkin is one of the few prominent “MSM” writers who can approach the subject of the Bush Administration without kneepads and chapstick. I’m only surprised the VRWC hasn’t gone after him before. In the next few days expect to see Froomkin’s name linked to Michael Moore, Moveon.org, Cindy Sheehan, and everyone else the Republican Party doesn’t control.

See also:

Brad DeLong: “The Future of the Washington Post

Marty Kaplan: “Journalism’s Slo-Mo Suicide

Digby: “Bada Bing


The Associated Press reports that a Swiss lawmaker claims to have evidence that the U.S. is indeed “rendering” detainees outside of any criminal justice system.

A Swiss investigator probing claims of secret CIA prisons in Europe said his committee has evidence that supports allegations that prisoners were transferred between countries and temporarily held “without any judicial involvement.”

“Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards,” lawmaker Dick Marty said in a written report summarizing his investigations so far.

Marty told a news conference he believed the United States was no longer holding prisoners clandestinely in Europe and he believed they were moved to North Africa in early November, when reports about secret U.S. prisons first emerged in The Washington Post. He did not provide any other details.

Stay tuned …

Yellow Weenie Dog Dems

E.J. Dionne nails it:

The administration’s defenders have enjoyed short-term political success by turning attention away from President Bush’s Iraq policies and toward divisions in the Democratic Party on the subject. The Republicans particularly enjoy assailing Democrats who have called for the rapid withdrawal of American troops. …

… Attacks of this sort on Democrats are effective because Democrats help make them so. Democrats are so obsessed with not looking “weak” on defense that they end up making themselves look weak, period, by the way they respond to Republican attacks on their alleged weakness. Oh my gosh, many Democrats say, we can’t associate ourselves with the likes of Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who recently called for a troop withdrawal within six months. Let’s knife them before Karl Rove gets around to knifing us. Talk about a recipe for retreat and defeat.

Especially pathetic when a majority of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is conducted the war.

See also Stephen Pizzo, “Run Away! Run Away!

Passing Judgment

Tookie Williams was executed last night, and in the cold dawn light of the next day right-wingers are still dancing around the embers of their victory bonfires. “Shake hands with the devil,” says one. Michelle Malkin, in her role as tribal high priestess, makes righteous note of the names of those Tookie Williams was convicted of murdering. Those who protested the execution are dismissed as “the freak show.”

So Tookie Williams is dead, and the four people he was convicted of murdering remain dead, also. And the world turns, and the seasons change. In the vastness of eternity, big bleeping deal. Whatever path Williams took last night is one we’ll all take eventually. Whether we “deserve” death or not is beside the point.

And this is a point missed by both advocates and protesters of last night’s execution. Opponents of the death penalty make a huge mistake, IMO, by making the issue about what a prisoner might deserve. Will Bunch wrote yesterday about an anti-death penalty “cult of celebrity” that makes poster boys out of “deserving” prisoners like Williams or Mumia Abu-Jamal. These men are considered “deserving” because of their intelligence and accomplishments. Those who argue for sparing them either dismiss their convictions or insist they are better men now and don’t deserve to die for what they did then.

But if we make the argument about who deserves to die, we’re thinking like righties, who arrogantly believe they know who deserves to live or die. Bunch continues,

To truly oppose the death penalty, one must oppose it not just for the innocent or the remorseful, but for the most vile scum among us. The idea of a government taking someone’s life is offensive to our core religious beliefs — and most likely to yours as well. A so-called Christian fundamentalist who supports capital punishment is going through more twists than a South Philly pretzel. Even the Pope — and maybe even Rick Santorum — can get this one right.

From an editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times,

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER should have granted clemency — to Donald Beardslee, the convicted murderer executed in January. Beardslee didn’t have celebrity advocates making his case, like Stanley Tookie Williams did. But if Schwarzenegger had commuted Beardslee’s sentence to life in prison without parole, he would have made clear that no one would be put to death on his watch. And he could have explained that a civilized society doesn’t kill for retribution and should certainly not continue doing so when it’s become clear that the judicial system’s margin of error is unacceptably high.

Alas, Schwarzenegger failed to stake out that principled position. So Williams, who was scheduled to be executed shortly after midnight, always faced an uphill battle in seeking clemency. The governor turned him down because he does not consider capital punishment to be about our values as a society, but about the merits of the convicted supplicant.

Put another way, executions are not just about what is done to the condemned, but about what is done to us, the executioners.

The death penalty does not deter crime. Nor, I believe, has it been proved reliably to ease the sorrow of those who loved the victim. It only serves to gratify some base instinct that makes us want to cast all aberrations out of the tribe — including the malformed, the odd, the diseased, and anyone else who varies from social and biological norms.

But throughout human history, the great moral and spiritual teachers have urged us to renounce this instinct. If Jesus really said what he is quoted as saying in Matthew chapters 5-7, for example, the rightie tribal dancers need to look to their own souls. “Ye have heard that it was said to men of old, Thou shalt not murder; and whosoever shall murder shall be liable to judgement. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with His brother without good cause shall be liable to judgement. … Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that ye resist not the evil one: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. … Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

About five centuries earlier, the Tao Teh Ching warned (verse 74)

People fear death because death is an instrument of fate.
When people are killed by execution rather than by fate,
This is like carving wood in the place of a carpenter.
Those who carve wood in place of a carpenter
Often injure their hands.

Capital punishment is a failure of civilization. It legitimizes violence. It gratifies our worse instincts. It diminishes us as a people.

It’s not something to celebrate.

See also: Lawyers, Guns, and Money; Eschaton; The Talking Dog, R.J. Eskow at Huffington Post.

Update: See the Rude One, too.