As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Think I've Got This Back To Normal Now

Remind me to never mess with comments again.


The Comment Follies

I want to thank the comment spammers out there who insinuate themselves into the Blogger comment tool. Also big ups to Blogger for not seeming to give a crap about the problem. And I appreciate how Blogger is having major problems publishing so I can't get Haloscan comments back online. Thanks all around!


Friday, April 07, 2006

The Cheney Connection

Here's what I'm trying to figure out.

Why would Cheney say to Libby that the President authorized the leak? We know that, by executive order, Cheney essentially has the same power as Bush to declassify information. Obviously Libby knows that as well.

Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

Q There is.


Q Have you done it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order --

Q You ever done it unilaterally?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.

Now, why would Cheney feel the need to offer up the "Bush authorized it' caveat if he has essentially the same authority? How would it mean any different to Libby? If the Vice President authorizes it, it's declassified, at least by virtue of that executive order.

Whether or not Cheney said that is unclear. But here's what I think. Libby's protecting his boss and his pal by fingering Bush. It takes the heat off of Cheney, who was the direct link for the authorization. It throws everyone off that trail.

Now, the case is solely about perjury, and Fitzgerald presented this quote to the grand jury from Libby to emphasize the enormity of the situation. Libby's defense is that he was so busy with all of his normal duties that he forgot that he told Tim Russert and Judy Miller about Plame's identity, so that his perjury to investigators is excusable. Obviously if the name of the President is invoked, then this is a big deal, says Fitzgerald, and so the idea that Libby was so consumed with work that he wouldn't remember the Plame leak that grew out of this conversation stretches credulity.

But the context of this is important. Libby gave this grand jury testimony before he was indicted. Self-preservation is obviously his main M.O., and using the "I was just following orders" defense is common. But I think bringing up Bush when he didn't have to is significant. To me, it signifies that Libby was protecting his boss.



Yesterday Jane Harman (the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said exactly what needs to be said:

"If the disclosure is true, it's breathtaking. The President is revealed as the Leaker-in-Chief.

"Leaking classified information to the press when you want to get your side out or silence your critics is not appropriate.

"The reason we classify things is to protect our sources - those who risk their lives to give us secrets. Who knows how many sources were burned by giving Libby this 'license to leak'?

"If I had leaked the information, I'd be in jail. Why should the President be above the law?

"The President has the legal authority to declassify information, but there are normal channels for doing so. Telling an aide to leak classified information to the New York Times is not a normal channel. A normal declassification procedure would involve going back to the originating agency, such as the CIA, and then putting out a public, declassified version of the document.

"I am stunned that the President won't tell the full the Intelligence Committee about the NSA program because he's allegedly concerned about leaks, when it turns out that he is the Leaker-in-Chief."

The Right is trying to backtrack on this; make distinctions between good leaks and bad leaks; mention that the 2002 NIE was eventually declassified, so what's the big deal; claim executive privilege to declassify (when that's hardly the point); decide that as long as the leak was designed to discredit Joe Wilson, the ends justify the means; and so on. Greg Sargent does a tidy job of knocking down these rationalizations. But it's not even necessary to do so. If Libby is to be believed (and I offer that as a major IF, considering the guy's been indicted for lying to a grand jury), the President made a judgment that it's bad to leak classified information that makes his Presidency look bad, but perfectly fine to do so if it makes his Presidency look good. So the question is less one of legality than one of judgment, and those on the Right acting like rubes, confounded as to why this is a big story, are being intentionally obtuse. Plus, the White House is not denying the Fitzgerald court filing, and they're not challenging Libby's statement. Until they do, I'll have to assume it's true.

I find this to be historically bad judgment, and very demoralizing to efforts in the war on terror, actually. Let's not forget that Valerie Plame was investigating efforts by Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. The attendant leak and disclosure of the front company Brewster Jennings eliminated a major source of intelligence on Iran. This is the country we're planning on invading next, and having intelligence should that dastardly scenario come to pass is crucial.

We need a full investigation on this from a Congress that doesn't exist right now: one that actually commits oversight.


Democrats United

The notion that Democrats hold no power in the Congress is true in the sense of simple majorities. However by simply sticking together you can wield tremendous power. Witness the collapse of the Bush budget in the House:

House Republican efforts to forge a budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year collapsed last night amid acrimony and name-calling, as the fissures between GOP moderates and conservatives once again burst into the open.

The failure to secure a budget plan before the two-week spring recess was an embarrassment to a new Republican leadership eager to show it could hold its ranks without the party's chief discipline enforcer, Rep. Tom DeLay (Tex.). After he announced his resignation this week, DeLay took a swipe at his successors, labeling them splintered and "without an agreed agenda."

Moreover, it showed how difficult governance will be in an election year when endangered rank-and-file members are ready to go their own way to prove their independence from a party mired in weak approval ratings.

This wouldn't be an issue if wayward Democrats crossed party lines to push through bills harnful to the Democratic base. One of the astounding things that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have done is to ensure party unity on the big bills. On the budget and on other key pieces of legislation we're now routinely seeing Democrats vote in unison. That strains the GOP to make sure their side is united, which as the article says is becoming increasingly difficult in the current political environment.

This is a complete 180 from how things were working just a few years ago. Republicans would pick off enough Democrats here and there to give a fig leaf of bipartisanship and block legislative filibusters, they'd let a few of their side stray when they could afford it, and their agenda would sail through. These days it's a whole different story.

This is a priceless parting shot:

Boehner last night blamed the Democrats for standing united against the budget plan, but budgets have long been the responsibility of the majority party to pass. With the collapse, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said, it is time the Republican leadership realizes that the deep fiscal problems facing the nation will take bipartisan solutions.

"The decision by House Republican leaders to pull their budget resolution from further floor consideration this week clearly demonstrates that the party is deeply divided and on the political run," he said.

You can't buy that kind of publicity.

UPDATE: I had not read this Amy Sullivan piece or this Sam Rosenfeld follow-up when I had written this, but it appears others are taking notice of this new and surprising Democratic unity. Pelosi and Reid have turned out to be excellent cat herders.


Surgery Fundraisers

Last night I went to a benefit for a fellow stand-up comedian who is diabetic and needs emergency eye surgery to keep from going blind. She has no health insurance.

The whole time I couldn't help thinking of that bumper sticker about the Air Force having to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber. I was seething that we all even had to be sitting here to do this. We had to raise money to make sure somebody doesn't go blind?

Such is the moral crisis that is our healthcare system these days.

The universal health care bill that passed the Massachusetts legislature this week is not a perfect bill. I don't like the fact that it has the potential of being punitive toward health care recipients who do not get coverage. It remains to be seen how big the bureaucracy will be for low-income residents to wade through to get the credits necessary for them to purchase insurance. But it's a hell of a lot better than the status quo. And other states are taking notice.

A Republican gubenatorial candidate in Arkansas is practically running on the goal of enacting a similar bill:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that Arkansas should examine new legislation in Massachusetts that expands health-care coverage for that state's uninsured.

Speaking to the West Little Rock chapter of AARP, Hutchinson said he wants Arkansans to have more options for their health care. And the Massachusetts bill that blends the ideas of universal health care with personal responsibility is one example, he said.
"We need to learn from their experience," Hutchinson said. "And we need to look in Arkansas at how we can lower the number of uninsured."

But Zac Wright, spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Beebe, the state attorney general, said Massachusetts and Arkansas have distinctly different problems when it comes to health care. Arkansas has more small businesses that can't afford health insurance for their employees and more residents who don't have access to health insurance.
"What's good for Massachusetts may not be good for Arkansas," Wright said Thursday. "Before Beebe would endorse that kind of tax increase he'd have to exhaust all the proposals to expand access for Arkansans."

The playing field has really shifted. Both sides are arguing over how to implement universal health coverage, not whether or not government should get involved. That is a far cry from the "Hillary-care" debates of the mid-1990s.

Here are another two red states that are intrigued by the Massachusetts plan:

Amid rising health-care costs and growing legions of uninsured, Kansans and Missourians are looking to Massachusetts [...]

“I think it is phenomenal when a state takes an initiative as innovative as this one,” said Marcia Nielsen, assistant vice chancellor for health policy at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “In this case, everybody worked together to hammer out a deal.”

Health officials say 707,000 Missourians are uninsured, constituting 12.6 percent of the population. In Kansas, the figure is 297,000, or 11.1 percent.

So what’s the likelihood of Kansas or Missouri passing a Massachusetts-type law?

Not very high, observers said.

“We’re just nowhere near where Massachusetts is in terms of understanding the issues,” Nielsen said. “Health providers need to understand the concerns that businesses have about health-care costs. Businesses need to understand what the patient’s experience is when dealing with an illness. It’s a complicated process.”

If Massachusetts succeeds, you're going to see the public demanding that their politicians "understand the issues." Even those in the public health sector that criticize the law do so by saying it doesn't go far enough:

Feltman said she had concerns about affordability and the employer mandates of the Massachusetts law.

“I’m concerned that it’s trying to hold together a fragmented, collapsing system, rather than looking at options for totally reforming our health-care delivery system,” Feltman said. “We keep knitting together these pieces that are unfair to patients, unfair to employers and unfair to providers.”

Still, that's a giant leap from where this debate was in the past. And I think I know why. It's because of people like my friend, who had to hold a fund-raiser to get surgery. Luckily she knew enough people that helped her put together a great night which raised enough for her to go forward. But that's not always an option for the 50 million uninsured in this country. It's nearly criminal to continue along on this path, with more uninsured every year, with soaring health-care costs, and with an Administration who's core policy on this issue is "save a lot of money and you can buy health care yourself!" The idea that shopping for health care will decrease costs is ludicrous. Show me the cut-rate "saver" MRI. Show me the person with diabetes who decides "I'm gonna go with only 4 shots of insulin this week until they bring the costs down!"

We should embrace the Massachusetts plan. While not perfect, it's completely changing the stakes of the health-care debate. There is absolutely no downside today for any Democrat to call for universal health care. Thanks to Massachusetts, there will be even less downside tomorrow.


Well Of Course

The reason they're called undocumented immigrants is because they don't have any documents. They don't stamp a date and time of entry on the passport of someone crossing illegally over the border. That's why this silly compromise ended up going down to defeat today. Senators tried to make bargains that have no possibility of being useful in the real world. You either support earned legalization or you don't, if you pass something saying "only if you've been in the country five years" can you gain legal status every illegal immigrant in the country is going to say they've been here five years. All you would be doing is opening up a document forgery racket on things like electric bills (which could prove somewhat that an illegal was here for a certain number of years.

Not everything is negotiable in the familiar consensus-building apparatus of the Senate. You can bargain on the amount of the fine an illegal must pay, or how many years they'd have to work before getting on the track to legal status, but the whole "if they've been here two years, then A, if not, then B" is not helpful. The more I see this, the more I think nothing will get done this term, which opens this up as a wedge issue in the 2006 elections. That is dicey and could benefit either side, as there's generally a split in the country over this. Third-party anti-immigrant candidates would REALLY hurt the GOP, however, whereas there's little chance of that threat happening on the pro-immigrant side.



It took me all of two days to get completely annoyed by Blogger's comment system. Part of it is my fault of assuming "moderate" meant something more like "monitor," that I could view comments without having to go back to the site over and over. I see that comments have been left but I'm unable to read them.

I'll either figure this out over the weekend or go back to Haloscan. Dammit dammit dammit.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cain't Truss 'Em

Digby makes some important points (but since when is that any different?). Essentially what we can't take away from this suggestion by Scooter Libby that Bush authorized him to leak classified information is that the White House, and more to the point this President, will use information for political purposes. They will use it to discredit their detractors and bolster their policy goals. Their is no ethical filter for when and where and how they will use information. The ends justify the means.

Presidents can technically declassify whatever information they wish for "the good of the country," but typically that happens with a CIA document dump. It doesn't take the form of telling the VP's chief of staff to pull selected quotes out of an NIE and give them to the New York Times. At least not usually. And what's crucial about this is credibility. If the President is leaking information solely to make himself look good and to make his opponents look bad, his credibility on all related issues takes a hit. Taking Bush's side on the NSA wiretapping scandal demands that you trust that he is only using the program in the limited capacity he describes. Taking his side on prewar intelligence demands that you trust he did not pick and choose what intelligence to share with the public, and that he did not base his decisions on preconceived notions and sought needles supporting his beliefs in haystacks full of contradictory intel. This Potemkin village is coming crashing to the surface. Already today the NSA scandal has widened:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today left open the possibility that President Bush could order warrantless wiretaps on telephone calls occurring solely within the United States, dramatically expanding the potential reach of the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance program.

In response to a question from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said the government would have to determine if a conversation was related to al-Qaeda and crucial to fighting terrorism before deciding whether to listen in without court supervision.

"I'm not going to rule it out," Gonzales said, referring to the possibility of monitoring purely domestic communications.

This already contradicts what Abu Gonzales has said in the past, that the calls monitored are purely international. He's clearly giving himself an out. Maybe new information is about to come to light. Gonzales also hinted about a second, expanded version of the NSA program that may have been going on simultaneously. He did the same thing in Senate hearings a month ago. We don't know what the NSA has been monitoring, but you can be sure that what we know now is the LEAST, not the most, of what they've been doing.

The point is that the American people cannot take this President at his word. Once you lose that credibility it's nearly impossible to get back. You MUST suspect that the President might be using the NSA program to spy on political enemies. You MUST suspect that intelligence supporting prewar claims was cooked in the Defense Department and the Office of the Vice President. You MUST suspect that declassifying documents is a political decision rather than a national security one. You must suspect this because all the evidence pulls you toward that suspicion. And the result is nothing less than a criminal enterprise run out of the Oval Office, concerned only with aggrandizing power at the expense of the rule of law and the Constitution. I'm not usually this forceful, but at this point, it's hard to argue otherwise.


The Good News

I think this post by Larry Johnson, a former Fox News analyst (among other things), could be as important a post as I've read all year. When you scroll down story after story of executions, bombings, mortar attacks, kidnappings, oil pipeline attacks, you get a very real sense of how desperate the situation is over there. We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of deaths every single week. There's no way to disassociate the situation in Iraq from the violence. Talking about "the good news" to the exclusion of this is simply absurd.

I hadn't seen this soundbite by Lara Logan of CBS News before, but it's instructive (and maybe I just like watching Lara Logan talk, just a little bit):

I mean, I really resent the fact that people say that we're not reflecting the true picture here.  That's totally unfair and it's really unfounded. 

...Our own editors back in New York are asking us the same things. They read the same comments.  You know, are there positive stories?  Can't you find them?  You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the State Department and the embassy and asked them over and over again, let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are going on?  Oh, sorry, we can't take to you that school project, because if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked about, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack. 

Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage.  And the last time we had journalists down here, the plant was attacked. I mean, security dominates every single thing that happens in this country….So how it is that security issues should not then dominate the media coverage coming out of here?

They can't even show the reconstruction projects because if they do, they'll be blown up. How does that constitute progress? Furthermore, every time the US does anything to move the Iraqis toward reconciliation, like this week's visit by Secretary of State Rice to try and break the deadlock in creating a unity government, it ends up hurting more than helping. Not only can't we show you any good news in Iraq, we can't even try to fix this monster we created.

This is an impossible situation we've created. We've lost all credibility by bouncing back between factions in the country, by stealing billions allocated for reconstruction projects, by provoking the insurgency (whether through effective smear tactics or our own sins), by being seen as complicit in the violence that continues to define the country. If you want to wrangle some good news out of that, go ahead. But you won't be coming close to giving the whole picture of this tragedy.



"There's just too many leaks, and if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is." [George W. Bush, 9/30/03]

Of course, maybe it was his need to know who leaked information that led him to AUTHORIZE them. There's an answer for everything, see?


Who let this guy in?

President Bush, told by a critic he should be ashamed of his policies, defended the government's secret eavesdropping program Thursday and said he would not apologize for listening in on the phone and e-mail conversations of Americans talking to people with suspected al-Qaida links.

A man who identified himself as Harry Taylor rose at a forum here to tell Bush that he's never felt more ashamed of the leadership of his country. He said Bush has asserted his right to tap phone calls without a warrant, to arrest people and hold them without charges and to revoke a woman's right to an abortion, among other things.

He was booed by the audience, but Bush interrupted and urged the audience to let Taylor finish.

"I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administraiton," Taylor said, standing in a balcony seat and looking down at Bush on stage. "And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and grace to be ashamed of yourself."

This was in North Carolina, by the way. I'm sure the Secret Service agent responsible for sweeping the arena of anyone with anti-Bush bumper stickers or T-shirts will promptly be sacked.

By the way, isn't that nice of the Prez to let Mr. Taylor finish. He's such a firm believer in freedom of speech. That's why it's news whenever anyone deviates from the "I likes you!" script that is de rigeur at these town halls.

[UPDATE] Good AP story on Harry Taylor, the man who spoke up to the President. A key excerpt:

Afterward, Taylor was approached by Barry Richards, a 42-year-old town manager from nearby Cabarrus County. Richards shook Taylor's hand and told him how glad he was that Taylor had spoken. Then came the punchline. "I 100 percent disagree with everything you said, but I'm glad you said it," Richards said [...] Bush ought to be able to handle a little criticism, Richards said. "I know he probably likes the warm, fuzzy campaign appearances, but it's OK to get a cold prickly too."

Maybe we're finally finished with that whole "dissent=treason" nonsense. I respect Richards' disagreement and I'm glad he respects mine. Maybe we're getting back to rational debate in this country.


What A Blow Job Sounds Like In Interview Form

That's what we have here, an off-the-record, not-meant-for-human-consumption exchange between Chris Matthews and Tom DeLay before their interview on Hardball on Tuesday. It makes you sick to your stomach hearing the "I owe you one," the "nothing worse than a know-it-all woman" from DeLay regarding Hillary Clinton, and the general clubby atmosphere between this disgraced politician and the alleged journalist whose job it is to cover him. The entire tenor of the exchange could be used in court for why the traditional media is so very very broken. The groveling for access is not only abhorrent to behold, it's pointless. In the current 24-hour cycle, having the story two minutes before the next guy doesn't mean anything. Especially a story like that one, where DeLay's going to announce his resignation to somebody sooner or later.

But the traditional media still operates on that old model of "scoops" and "gets." In the process they've compromised themselves ethically to such a degree that there's no discernible difference between the politicians and the journalists. That's why they keep marrying each other.

In that climate, why would a member of the media ever want to upset this delicately-balanced system and challenge the government on anything? After all, they have to see these guys at the next cocktail party. There's an overwhelming pull not to upset the status quo.

Maybe that's why not one of them asked about the President's authorizing the leak of classified information. They want to keep their place at the table.



Just Wow.

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide told prosecutors President Bush authorized the leak of sensitive intelligence information about Iraq, according to court papers filed by prosecutors in the CIA leak case.

Before his indictment, I. Lewis Libby testified to the grand jury investigating the CIA leak that Cheney told him to pass on information and that it was Bush who authorized the disclosure, the court papers say. According to the documents, the authorization led to the July 8, 2003, conversation between Libby and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

There was no indication in the filing that either Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame's CIA identity.

But the disclosure in documents filed Wednesday means that the president and the vice president put Libby in play as a secret provider of information to reporters about prewar intelligence on Iraq.

This may or may not have anything to do with the actual Valerie Plame leak. But it's still a big deal. Basically the President is authorizing selective information bolstering his contentions for war, if we are to believe Libby. In the above article Libby claims the President did this after the war had begun, but in other testimony Libby suggests he was authorized to leak classified information BEFORE the war.

This all plays into a very coherent narrative. The White House would let certain classified information go out into the press, but only those statements that implicate Saddam in having WMD. The press, particularly those like Judy Miller with close relationships with senior officials, then play up these reports in their stories, hyping the threat in the run-up to the war. The White House would then link back to those stories, saying things on the morning talk shows like "We all saw the report today in the New York Times" when THEY in fact set that report in motion.

After the invasion, when the stockpiles of WMD aren't found, and when Joseph Wilson starts making rumblings about false statements on yellowcake in Niger, the White House resorts to what worked before the war: they start leaking classified documents to reporters again. And the President, along with the Vice President, authorize this disclosure. They're leaking this information to knock down Wilson's claims, and to undercut his credibility. If the exposure of Plame's identity is considered part of this classified information that the President allowed Libby to give up, whether implicitly or explicitly, then it's game, set and match. Some will say that as soon as the President authorizes a leak, it becomes immediately declassified. Those same people believe the old Nixon stnadby that "if the President does it, then it's not illegal." Bull. A President who knowingly authorizes leaks for political payback is not fit to lead.

I'm just an amateur Plameologist, I'll leave it to the professionals to make sense of this.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Creep(s) in the DHS

If Cynthia McKinney is somehow indicative of how "Democrats respect security personnel," as Denny Hastert put it today, then this guy is indicative of how DHS employees are all pedophiles. OK? Is that how you want to play it?

Of course not. But it's serious business when a press secretary at DHS is caught soliciting a 14 year-old girl. It's more serious when another guy, this one the former head of DHS' "Operation Predator" program designed to stop child predators, pleads no contest to exposing himself to a 16 year-old. These are serious charges and demand prosecution and further review.

Here's the question: if we flipped the state prison system with everyone working for the executive and legislative branches of government, would we end up with MORE or LESS criminal activity in Washington?

Ruminate on that one.

UPDATE: Via TPM Muckraker, there's now a third. A DHS employee was caught in the infamous Dateline NBC child predator sting.

Are we talking epidemic here?


Who Needs Sleep?

Last night I was fortunate to be at the West Coast premiere of a new documentary by acclaimed director/cinematographer Haskell Wexler called "Who Needs Sleep?" The movie grew out of Wexler's decade-long effort to get saner work hours in the entertainment industry. But the movie branches out and looks at sleep deprivation, government regulation of industry, and the cost of long hours on the job to family life, health and personal safety. This was a remarkable film.

I have to say I've been one of the lucky ones in the entertainment industry, in that I haven't had too many projects requiring obscenely long hours. I have had short jobs where I've worked 14-16 hours at a stretch, and I did one 13-week assignment where all of my time cards were filled out by my supervisor in advance. For MY benefit, I was told. You simply haven't worked in this industry if you don't have stories like that.

And "Who Needs Sleep?" artfully shows some of the more extreme examples of that. The movie's moral center is the case of Brent Hershman, an assistant cameraman on the movie "Pleasantville" who died while falling asleep at the wheel in 1997. He was getting off a 19-hour shift during a week full of 16-hour days. This shocked the industry, and began a long campaign to shorten the ridiculous hours that had become commonplace on movie sets. As one electrician put it, "We're the only mechanical, heavy production industry that's lobbying for a 12-hour workday."

This campaign went absolutely nowhere. The unions, particularly IATSE, didn't get behind it. A petition with 10,000 signatures was turned in to the union offices and then mysteriously went missing. The ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) refused to endorse the tamest of statements, written by the late Conrad Hall (who died after an illness, which may have been due to a torturous 6-month shoot on The Road To Perdition). Producers continue to force crews to work ridiculously long hours with short turnarounds. As everyone on the set is entitled to overtime, this ends up costing them money. But as one interviewee puts it, "we were told they could hide overtime in the budget; they could not hide an extra work day."

Imagine that you're on a movie set. Heavy equipment is everywhere. People are moving lights, cameras, dolly track, sandbags. There are electrical wires all over the place. The environment is already dangerous. Is this the place you want to work your crew for 18 or 20 hours at a time?

The real-world consequences of this are obvious. Families can't connect with one another (One cameraman says "I've never had dinner with my family while I've been working"). Divorces and broken families are commonplace, and that absence undeniably plays a role. Workers may have union protections and rake in the big bucks during the "golden hours" of double overtime, but since jobs are increasingly scarce, and the work schedule practically demands some down time, their annual salaries aren't all that different from plumbers or librarians. Health care in the entertainment unions is almost always predicated on annual hours worked, so when you do have that job, you need to maximize to make sure you can see a doctor once you get off that hellacious shoot.

Incredibly, when Wexler goes to OSHA to see what they can do about this problem, they tell him "we don't regulate time." Actually, under the present Administration, it's hard to figure out if they regulate anything. But OSHA is basically suggesting here that 19-hour days on a worksite with heavy equipment and dangerous pitfalls at every turn doesn't constitute a safety hazard. It's absurd.

This may sound like a bunch of folks in "liberal Hollywood" whining (indeed, on one of the petitions in the film, somebody wrote, "If you don't like it, go sell shoes!"). But nobody should have to endure the kind of work conditions that have become all too routine in this business. And strengthening the community of working Americans is in the best interests of progressives. Fights like this have the potential to become high-profile; everyone watches movies and TV, but not everyone understands the workplace issues involved. The film talks about how there can become this kind of macho "Oh yeah, you can work 85 hours a week? I can work 90 hours!" mentality, where pride in your work is dictated by how long you'll slave to do it. I think everyone, no matter the industry, can relate to that.

Sadly, the Democratic Party at the leadership level has jettisoned any kind of strong support for worker's rights. It's up to us in the grassroots to force Democrats to return to those ideals. I believe it's the only way we'll return to prominence.

There's something you can do to support this effort to get some sane labor practices back in the film and TV business. is a nonprofit that's pushing for a mandated standard of 12 hours on, 12 hours off for everyone on a film or TV set. In addition, The Writers Guild of America is trying to organize the storytellers of reality and documentary TV, who aren't afforded the same basic standards and privileges that their counterparts in scripted television are. By raising awareness and contacting the management (namely, those film and TV conglomerates that are making these decisions), we can get improved labor conditions in what I like to call the last manufacturing industry in America.


False Equivalence

Cynthia McKinney is kind of a reactionary, she didn't have her Congressional lapel pin on her (although, THAT'S the line of defense preventing people from entering the Capitol? A lapel pin? Can't that be faked kind of easily?), she can't expect every Capitol policeman to know all 535 members of Congress by facial recognition, and she was a dope for hitting the guy, if she did hit the guy. An apology would be in order, from the policeman if he grabbed her inappropriately, and from McKinney if she hit him.

And that's the end of the story. It's a pointless, stupid incident which is trying to be used by the Right to distract from the deep culture of corruption in Washington. It's got a whiff of sensationalism (ooh, she hit a cop!) and a whiff of racism (ooh, a black chick hit a cop!) so it can be discussed endlessly on AM talk radio for 8 hours a day. To suggest, as to my dismay the Daily Show did last night, that this should be put in the same context as Tom DeLay's resignation and his multiple allegations of bilking the American taxpayer out of millions of dollars is insane. He certainly wants it that way, that's why he's filing an ethics complaint (a fitting, up-is-down capper to his Congressional career). There are little stories like McKinney's manufactured by the GOP Message Machine (still alive and well, as I told you), and there is the systematic project to allow corporations to write the country's laws, to reward Republicans in Congress for supporting this perversion of democracy with gifts and riches, and to turn the halls of the Capitol into a personal ATM machine and lobbyist factory.

Which do you find more abhorrent?


Switched to Blogger Comments

Haloscan was kind of screwing up, and this makes it easier for me to moderate, so there you are. Old comments are somewhere in that Internet ether. I could probably find them again, but I don't know if it'd matter to anyone.


Kerry's Choice

The John Kerry of "How do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake" returned today, two years late, with a sensible call for deadlines in Iraq. He's right, it's the only thing Iraqis have responded to thus far.

So far, Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines — a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and a deadline to hold three elections.

Now we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.

Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. If Iraqis aren't willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they're probably not willing to build one at all. The civil war will only get worse, and we will have no choice anyway but to leave.

If Iraq's leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end. Doing so will empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country. Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain.

This is territory Future President Feingold has trod upon since last August (and he immediately endorsed the Kerry plan today). Essentially the Secretary of State and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw are pushing the Iraqis to form a unity government right now already, so Kerry's idea adds the force of a deadline. It provides far more accountability and asks for far more from the Iraqis than we're currently doing.

This is the least worst option in Iraq. In my view the country is now destined to end poorly. This course is inexorable: militias are arming up, several hundreds die in the streets execution-style with each passing month, and our Defense Secretary has already vowed to stay out of any civil war. Then why not redeploy with quick-strike capability, as Kerry chooses? Why not save the lives of our troops, remove the terrorist PR bonanza of an American occupying force in the Middle East, and bring the whole world to the table for an acceptable political solution? I don't know how successful it could be in the current climate, but it couldn't possibly be worse than staying the course and muddling through a failed mission.

It's been a long time coming for Kerry to be this forthright on Iraq. Clear language like this could have won the election in 2004. His message on Iraq was so muddled, so middle of the road, that it was impossible for swing voters to hang their hat on that message and change leadership in the middle of the war. Kerry is obviously angling for 2008, but I also think he's seen how events on the ground have changed, and how dire the situation in the country is. This is a welcome shift, a decision to bringing the troops home that will only make him unpopular in the hard-right circles that would never vote for him anyway. This is where the country is right now, and at this point we need leaders that reflect the will of the country.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Good Judgment, Very Presidential

If the inside the Beltway crowd is to be believed, Virginia Senator George Allen has the inside track to the Republican nomination in 2008. Via MyDD, here's an early indicator of how foreign policy would be run under an Allen Administration. Apparently, we'd give the crazy crusader guy a full command:

A Senate Republican wants an Army general who drew criticism for church speeches casting the war on terrorism in religious terms to lead the U.S. special operations command.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., recommended Lt. Gen. William G. (Jerry) Boykin, currently the Pentagon's deputy undersecretary for intelligence, for the post at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

The current commander, Army Gen. Bryan "Doug" Brown, is retiring, and the Pentagon has not filled the job.

"I am told, and I believe it to be true, that no special operations officer currently on active duty is more highly respected or admired by his superiors, peers or subordinates alike, than Jerry Boykin," Allen wrote in the letter dated March 31 and obtained by The Associated Press.

Gen. Boykin is as close as Gen. Jack D. Ripper as you can get, only instead of being obsessed with keeping his purity of essence, he's a zealot who thinks what matters in a battle is which side has the bigger God.

...Boykin is the subject of an investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general over comments he made at several church presentations, in which he referred to the United States as a "Christian nation" joined in "spiritual battle" against Satan. On at least two occasions, he talked of seeing demonic forces in black marks on a photograph he took from a helicopter over Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. And, in discussing a Somali Muslim militia leader, Boykin said, "I knew that my God was bigger than his."

Oh yeah, Boykin also was a ringleader at Abu Ghraib, helping fashion the policies that led to the detainee scandal.

And this is the guy that George Allen looks at and thinks, "Now THERE'S someone ripe for a promotion!" I don't know if this is playing to the fundie base or what, but a key element of determining someone's fitness for the Presidency is JUDGMENT. Allen literally found the looniest guy he could dig up to recommend for a high-level posting. He's not under obligation to recommend anybody for this. He went out of his way to do it.

Not only does George Allen not deserve to be in the Oval Office, he doesn't deserve to be in the Senate, a position that he's admitted to being "bored" with. We actually have two great candidates in Virginia competing in a primary. Either one of them would be a welcome addition over Bored George.


Senator Dad to the Rescue

This is pretty disturbing. I don't know what's worse, the fact that the kid did this, or that his famous father is trying to get him out of serving jail time:

The son of state Senate President Ken Bennett admitted in court Monday to assaulting middle school boys with a broomstick in their rectal areas, but a judge allowed charges against him to be reduced from 18 to one, and he may avoid jail.

Three of the 18 victims, all boys between the ages of 11 and 15, are from Tucson, and the families are angry that 18-year-old Clifton Bennett and co-defendant Kyle Wheeler, 19, were not charged with sexual assault.

Also, the families said Bennett is being treated favorably by the court system because of his father's position in the Legislature. Bennett's plea would allow the court to classify the aggravated-assault conviction as a misdemeanor, which means he could go on to become a teacher or counselor and would never have to disclose the so-called "brooming" incident.

"I think he got a sweetheart deal," said the father of one of the three Tucson victims, a 12-year-old boy who attends a local Catholic school. "I'd like him to get a year in prison. The victims should have been heard from before the plea was agreed to. If this was 18 girls who were victims, it would have been sexual assault."

So an 18 year-old kid makes a terrible mistake, sodomizing his camp charges with broomsticks for fun (hey, I guess he learned about such hijinks from those Abu Ghraib reports). It's a mistake which at the least should require some jail time. And his dad gets the charges reduced. By the way, State Senator Bennett is a Republican. This is from the people who brought you "the era of personal responsibility."

Incidentally, this is the kind of story on which cable news crusades are made. Let's see if Nancy Grace or Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity touches this one.



Funny email from Democracy for America, and entirely true:

Tom DeLay announced he's quitting Congress today because he's afraid of losing his seat to a Democrat.

Democracy for America has dogged DeLay for years.  With TV commercials and billboards, at rallies and online, DFA has been on the front lines of the battle to clean up Congress.  But we didn't think DeLay would "cut and run" like he did.

If he did nothing wrong -- as he claims -- then Tom DeLay shouldn't be afraid of a re-election campaign in a district he drew for himself.  But he is quitting by mid-June. 

Let's help send Tom DeLay the rubber chicken award he so richly deserves:

For every $50 Democracy for America raises today, we'll send Tom DeLay an authentic rubber chicken for his mantle.  It'll be our goodbye present.

There is something to the fact that DeLay still proclaims his innocence, yet has to resign. Is the Democratic message machine just too powerful? The vast left-wing conspiracy just too vast? Is the guy with 11 terms under his belt too afraid to fight?

Well, like I said, he knows what he's doing. The district has a better chance of staying red without him, and he has a better chance of getting rich out of Congress and on K Street. But the crying innocence and whining about how "nasty" the election campaign would be shouldn't stand.


Culture of Corruption, Not Symbol

The conventional wisdom is that the departure of Tom DeLay from the national stage will undercut the Democratic argument about the culture of corruption in GOP-controlled Washington. Certainly I think that's what DeLay believes, although he's thinking locally here, expecting a Republican to win his seat and defeat Nick Lampson, though he would probably not be able to do so. But the culture of corruption is just that, a culture, and one man's exit from the stage will not be able to change that. Indeed the departure of DeLay while under this ethical cloud does nothing but bolster this argument. And Josh Marshall will be quick to point out all of the Republicans in Congress who voted for the "DeLay Rule," which would have allowed him to keep the Majority Leader post while indicted, and all of those who gave or received money from DeLay's campaign funds and various PACs.

Here's just one, just TODAY'S example of the culture of corruption in practice, this time not in DC but at the governor's office in Maryland:

Maryland Senate officials prepared yesterday for a legal showdown with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. over 15 bills that they rushed to pass by a key deadline but were prevented from delivering to the governor because his aides had locked an office door.

Senate clerks said that when they found the door to the governor's legislative office locked Friday afternoon, they slid the receipts - and, in some cases the bills themselves - underneath and tried Saturday to deliver the remaining bills in person.

The difference in timing has major implications for the fate of the legislation, which includes a measure to limit pollutants emitted by power plants and another designating polling locations to be opened early, both of which are opposed by the governor.

Because it is an election year, the General Assembly cannot override any Ehrlich vetoes after legislators adjourn Monday at midnight unless they return for a special session.

The governor must decide whether to sign or veto bills that reach him within six working days of the end of the session. Aware of the deadline - which was Saturday evening - legislators scrambled to pass bills that they thought the governor might reject in time for override votes.

The guy's locking his door on purpose so he can delay bills that come do his desk, so when he vetoes them they can't be overridden until the following year. Add that to the revelation that the Secretary of State of the most hotly contested battleground in the 2004 Presidential election
bought stock in Diebold,
the electronic voting machine maker which has a virtual monopoly on Ohio.

This kind of corruption, dishonety, and secrecy is endemic to Republican governance. There are those that would say it's endemic to government as a whole. I don't think so, but if that's the case, certainly Tom DeLay's walking away from his Congressional seat wouldn't change such a overwhelming problem.

Democrats can still run on bringing honest leadership and open government back to the Capitol, with or without the Hammer.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Blog of the Year 2004


It's too bad, I think. DeLay was an effective leader, albeit too liberal in recent years.

No wonder TIME didn't give out a Blog of the Year for 2005.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Shrewd to the Last Drop

Just learned that Tom DeLay's going to resign. Well, the guy didn't get to where he was without being a tactician. I think he genuinely believes in his innocence, so I don't buy the argument that he's leaving the political arena to focus on keeping his ass out of jail. But even if he were, the way he managed to do this was brilliant, and amoral, just like the rest of his career.

He's going to change his address to Virginia, disqualifying him from seeking the Congressional seat. The governor will then call a special election, where the winner cannot simply get a plurality of the vote to win. There were going to be several independents on the ballot in the November matchup between DeLay and former Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson. That would have drained votes from DeLay (one of the independents was Steve Stockman, a former Republican Congressman) and lowered Lampson's treshold of votes needed to win. Now if he wins the initial special election but doesn't receive over 50%, Lampson would be forced into a runoff. Word is that the Republicans already have a candidate picked out, the former mayor of Sugar Land.

In other words, it'll be much easier to keep the seat through a special election. Of course there would be a rematch in November, but two races so close to one another rarely have different results. I believe DeLay knew exactly what he was doing. Another top aide of his just pleaded guilty in the Abramoff case, and surely the noose was tightening. But foremost on DeLay's mind was keeping a Republican majority. He resigned himself to the fact that TX-22 had a better chance staying red without him. So he wins the primary to keep the other challengers off his back, then quits the seat, forcing a special election with a handpicked successor. Then he bolts for the lobbying sector, whose ties he's fostered for 20 years, and he goes on to make more money than God while helping to maintain that Republican majority.

Sounds like the perfect plan if it weren't for all of the indictments. But rich guys have a history of evading what appear to be impossible circumstances as they wind their way through the legal system. The guy's a complete bastard, but he knows how to play the game, I must admit. There oughta be a law against it. There probably is.

The only thing DeLay loses is the pride of being the Hammer in the US House. And to be honest, the Republican Leadership hasn't been the same since he stepped aside. But like any good snake, DeLay knew that he had to shed his skin, and start over. He wasn't ever going to be able to get his leadership position back. And there was no way he could live life as a backbencher. Now he'll get to be a million-dollar lobbyist who will help write the laws instead of just making sure they get passed. And none of that pesky Ethics Committee to deal with.

This guy is everything good and bad about the American dream rolled into one. The lowly exterminator turned powerful man, the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" guy, who learns every trick in the book to make the system work to his benefit. And even in disgrace, he gets things his way. Complete bastard, but shrewd to the last drop.


The Broken Message (Not the Machine)

CNN is reporting that the changes in the White House staff will not stop with Andrew Card. Rumored to be on their way out are Scott McClellan (no, not my favorite whipping boy Scotty!) and Treasury Secretary John Snow:

The possible departure of both men could be among "several senior-level staff" announcements to come within the next couple of weeks, said former White House staff members, GOP strategists and administration officials.

"You're going to have more change than you expect," one GOP insider said [...]

In his new role as chief of staff, (Josh) Bolten is focusing on improving White House communications and legislative affairs to regenerate the administration's message and performance, said sources familiar with his thinking.

"There are two positions he is anxious to turn -- Scott's position and legislative affairs," said a source with close ties to the White House.

"It's not about who but what is broken. He does not view it ... in terms of personalities, that's the way Josh thinks," another source said. "Josh keeps his counsel fairly close. He's very logical, and the logical place to start looking is communications."

It's obvious that Scotty's job is all about communications (he had to embarrassingly answer questions about his own future today). But the job at Treasury has essentially become a communications job as well. Under this Administration, the job of Treasury Secretary has become nothing more than an economic "cheerleader-in-chief." John Snow has not had much to do with any economic policy decisions during his tenure. His problem is that the White House sees positive economic indicators and a healthy stock market, but polls that suggest that most Americans disapprove of Bush's economic performance. It never occurs to these guys that the vaunted recovery might be a mile wide and an inch deep, impacting only the investor class while leaving the lower and middle classes behind. No, the problem must be that John Snow's not getting the message out, that he's not clapping loudly enough.

Bolten's thinking is to blame the messengers (Snow and McClellan) for sagging approval ratings rather than looking at the policy presecriptions. Events on the ground, domestically and internationally, have driven this President into the ground. It wasn't the PR machine's fault that Iraq is in a civil war, that Katrina decimated an American city that still is nowhere near any kind of recovery, that Medicare Plan D has failed our seniors, that gas prices are still historically high despite record profits for the oil industry. The public has generally tuned out this spin that Bolten is working so hard to fine-tune. Booman gives some credit for this to the progressive blogosphere:

The left is not doing much on legislative issues. In that role we are stuck in a purely defensive role. But, it is increasingly clear that the left is holding its own, and even winning some key battles, in the court of public opinion.

The public at large is much slower to absorb our message than we would like. This is especially true because the public still relies on the networks, cable news, and mainstream newspapers and magazines to get the bulk of their news. And those sources are still too concerned with the war effort and the so-called immanent threat of devastating acts of terrorism, to present the news in a straightforward and honest way. But the truth is seeping in to the public's consciousness.

That the public at large still relies on traditional media seems to undercut the argument that liberal blogs can credit themselves for this phenomenon. I just think that it gets harder and harder to defend the indefensible. You can go on about how the facts "hate America," but the effect to the public is that record player seems stuck on the same song for the last five years.

This is further cemented by the fact that, elsewhere on the right, their message machine hasn't really skipped a beat. They're still distracting and muddying the waters with issues like decrying protesters flying Mexican flags, hyping the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, castigating recently freed journalists who "love the terrorists," and posting endlessly about the Yale Taliban guy. Republicans still have their AM talk radio and Fox News and the right blogosphere. The problem is not the message machine. It's this message, from a White House that has used up all it's political capital. Anyone from the senior staff talking invites its listeners to tune them out. By going with the stubborn "stay the course" strategy, not just in Iraq, but down the line on every issue, they've achieved their own irrelevance.

And changing the guy at the podium isn't going to do a thing.


Not Taking the Credit...

Because my voice is far too small, but now that Crooks and Liars has posted the video of Bush flying the Mexican flag, and Kos points to a Jeb! campaign ad that includes all sorts of flags, and they make absolutely the right points about them, I would say that my instincts were dead-on about this. Precious silence so far from the Malkins of the world, but soon their anger at seeing an AMERICAN President with a MEXICAN flag will bubble over, IMO. This might even ruin Take the American Flag to Work Day.


Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

Send the lawyers to Iraq to prosecute companies like this who don't fulfill their contractual obligations:

A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary health centers across Iraq is running out of money, after two years and roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

The contract, awarded to U.S. construction giant Parsons Inc. in the flush, early days of reconstruction in Iraq, was expected to lay the foundation of a modern health care system for the country, putting quality medical care within reach of all Iraqis.

Parsons, according to the Corps, will walk away from more than 120 clinics that on average are two-thirds finished. Auditors say the project serves as a warning for other U.S. reconstruction efforts due to be completed this year.

Send money because there won't be any left for reconstruction by the end of the year:

By the end of 2006, the $18.4 billion that Washington has allocated for Iraq's reconstruction runs out. All remaining projects in the U.S. reconstruction program, including electricity, water, sewer, health care and the justice system, are due for completion. As a result, the next nine months are crunchtime for the easy-term contracts that were awarded to American contractors early on, before surging violence drove up security costs and idled workers.

Stuart Bowen, the top U.S. auditor for reconstruction, warned in a telephone interview from Washington that other reconstruction efforts may fall short like that of Parsons. "I've been consumed for a year with the fear we would run out of money to finish projects," said Bowen, the inspector general for reconstruction in Iraq.

Send guns because there's a thirst in the marketplace for them:

Iraq has long been awash in guns. But after the bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra in late February, sectarian tensions exploded, and more Iraqis than ever have been buying, carrying and stockpiling weapons, adding an unnerving level of firepower to Baghdad's streets.

The average price for a Russian-made Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, which is perfectly legal here, has jumped to $290 from $112 in the past month, according to several gun dealers. Bullets have climbed to 33 cents each from 24 cents.

Hand grenades, which are not legal but are easy to get, run $95. Pre-Samarra, they were about half that. The swiftly rising prices are one clear sign that weapon sales are hot.

While you're at it, send our troops to the periphery before more of them die.

To quote Warren Zevon, "The shit just hit the fan."



I would have been happy enough just reading Future President Feingold's takedown of Chris Wallace's attempts to denigrate his attempt as pushing a resolution for censure. That interview was inspiration enough. But it has come to my attention that I actually know one of this cycle's Fighting Dems.

Eric Streit is really a friend of a friend, but back when he was still producing for television I talked with him about a show idea I had. He was pretty supportive and a good listener. I had no idea he had moved back to Kentucky and embarked on a campaign to unseat 6-term Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield. I also didn't know he was in the Navy for almost five years. His positions are solid and well thought-out, with an emphasis on jobs, health care and energy independence (he's calling Western Kentucky part of a potential "energy belt" with their preponderance of soybean and corn crops). I'd like to see some kind of statement on Iraq, but virtually everything else is covered pretty well.

It's inspiring to see someone drop their past life and make a real commitment to public service. Go Eric.


Please Stay in the Race

Dear Rep. Katherine Harris:

I know things may look bleak. Yes, practically your entire staff has left your campaign. Yes, you've been forced to sink your entire father's inheritance, your entire personal fortune into the race, even though it's not your entire personal fortune (but that's semantics). Yes, you're mocked mercilessly by your opponents' supporters and the latest poll shows you down by 28 points.

That doesn't mean you should give up!!! 28 points is just a few away from 25! And there are some great staffers out there just waiting to be picked! You should keep that steely resolve to be campaign right through to November! Nothing can stop you, Katherine! PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STAY IN THIS RACE!


By Any Means Necessary

The Administration captured Jose Padilla, an American citizen, on terrorism suspicions, and held him as an enemy combatant for three years without being charged and without access to a lawyer. Once they saw that their legal arguments were not going to hold up in court, they abruptly charged him and moved him from Guantanamo to a federal jail. That set up today's rejection of Padilla's appeal by the US Supreme Court.

Padilla was moved in January to Miami to face criminal charges, and the government argued that the appeal over his indefinite detention was now pointless.

Three justices said the court should have agreed to take up the case anyway: Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

And three other court members, including Chief Justice John Roberts, said that they would be watching to ensure Padilla receives the protections "guaranteed to all federal criminal defendants."

An appeals court panel had all but called for the high court to deal with the case, saying it was troubled by the Bush administration's change in legal strategy — it brought criminal charges only after it looked like the Supreme Court was going to step in.

Stevens, Roberts and Kennedy essentially said in their opinion that if Padilla wasn't suddenly charged after three years of dormancy and moved into the criminal justice system, they would have heard his appeal. The charges they brought against Padilla aren't even the "dirty bomb, wanted to blow up apartment buildings" charges that they issued to detain him in the first place. They are more subtle conpiracy charges.

The point is that, to this Administration, a victory on a technicality is a victory nonetheless. They have no problem breaking the law, then changing their tune when challenged, making their lawbreaking moot. That's completely out of step with the entire history of American democracy, but completely in step with the total lack of accountability that has characterized the Bush Administration from Day One.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Shocking! Bush with a Mexican flag!

I personally could care less, but someone might want to forward Lou "I don't think we should have St. Patrick's Day" Dobbs this LA Times article about the President's views on immigration, which features this interesting nugget:

During the 2000 election, Bush previewed a campaign video from ad-maker Lionel Sosa that used emotion-laden themes to woo Latinos.

As he watched, Sosa recalled, Bush's face lighted up. "How much do you need for this?" Bush asked as the two men sat with Rove in the governor's mansion in Texas, Sosa said.

Sosa replied that it would take $3 million. According to the ad-maker, Bush then turned to Rove, saying: "Give him five."

Four years later, Sosa produced a variation of that video for the 2004 campaign that was mailed to Latino voters across the country.

The video includes images that would probably rile those who today are calling for the most restrictive immigration laws. At one point, Bush is shown waving a Mexican flag. The footage was shot, Sosa said, during a Mexican Independence Day parade in San Antonio in 1998, when Bush was running for reelection as governor.

The President already has little support for his ideas on immigration from the hardcore anti-immigrant right. I don't know how much worse it could get. But I'd be willing to bet you that if Rove and Co. could dig up a picture of John Kerry waving a Palestinian flag, they'd FedEx overnight it to every national news bureau. Or they'd digitally insert the flag themselves.

But I don't think we should find this video and call attention to it. No. It woud be completely wrong to exploit fissures in our opponent's base like that.

Actually, I DO kind of think it would be wrong. This revelation about Bush actuallly humanizes him a smidge, IMO. I think the proper way to use this kind of information is in the context of the Administration being run in a "say-one-thing, do-another" kind of way. I mean, the facts about Bush's preferred policy on immigration is that it would create a permanent underclass of low-wage workers who would never be able to earn a path to citizenship. Slowly you would see less and less visas being handed out, increasingly the guest-worker option would become pretty much the only way to stay in the US. And the fact that last year THREE employers were fined for hiring undocumented workers, in the whole darn country, is proof that the President pays lip service on this issue.

But putting out a picture of Bush holding another country's flag, if not the point of the ad, would have a certain effect amongst his base. WE certainly didn't intend it that way. Oh no.

This is the kind of hard-knuckle politics the right has mastered over the years. Of course, this information has been out there for at least 8 years, it's casually slipped into an LA Times article. I don't know if there's anyone in the Democratic establishment that understands how to talk to your base AND the other side at the same time.