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

Friday, June 30, 2006

This Oughta Make You Feel Good

Lat paragraph of a story in tomorrow's New York Times about Sen. Warner's uncertainty on committing to military tribunal legislation for the Gitmo detainees:

The White House has considered military courts unpalatable because of the due process they afford. Officials there said Friday that they were generally against leaving the combatants to the military justice system, not only for its degree of due process but also for strict standards of evidence to which prosecutors are required to adhere.

In other words... there's just too much freedom in the justice system. We have to have EVIDENCE? And there's DUE PROCESS? Nah, can't have that. I mean, we know they're guilty, right?

All right, I'm backing away from the computer. Have a good weekend.


Grumbling Without Doing

Congress appears to be vexed over the President's wanton disregard of the legislative body and the laws of the country, as evidenced by his continuing use of "signing statements" that serve to nullify laws he doesn't like. I don't know if the emotion of being "vexed" will amount to anything more than a few harrumphs and a return to the business of lawmaking, now rendered meaningless by this challenge to Congressional authority.

"It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," said Arlen Specter, a Republican whose Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the issue. "There is a sense that the president has taken signing statements far beyond the customary purview." [...]

In addition to Specter's objections, Democrats called the signing statements an example of the administration trying to expand executive power.

"I believe that this new use of signing statements is a means to undermine and weaken the law," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record) of California. "If the president is going to have the power to nullify all or part of a statute, it should only be through veto authority that the president has authorized and can reject — rather than through a unilateral action taken outside the structures of our democracy."

These are the milquetoastiest of milquetoast statements coming out of the world's most deliberative body. Arlen Specter, the king of tough talk and no action, proposed suing the President on Wednesday. He's apparently "seriously considering" doing so. OOOOHHHH. Seriously considering! Next he'll be "determinedly mulling it over" and "nearing the end of deciding next steps!"

Without Specter stopping the considering and actually doing something, absolutely nothing will change. Such is the case in the majoritarian committees of Congress. And it's amazing to me that we have here a distinct challenge to Congressional authority, and nobody in the Congress seems to be that fired up about it. Maybe they don't care if the NSA is spying on all Internet traffic or if the government is using private data brokers to obtain personal telephone records of Americans. Maybe they feel like that doesn't affect them. But this is personal. It's basically a giant "fuck you" from the President to each and every member of Congress, and indeed every constituent who voted for them. But they must be too busy voting on flag-burning amendments to notice.

The media is similarly unmoved by this rejection of centuries-old Constitutional standards, save for Charlie Savage from The Boston Globe, who did the initial reporting. Dan Froomkin compiled a lengthy list of questions that the press could easily ask about these signing statements. To date, Tony Snow has fielded exactly one of these.

Q. What do these signing statements mean?

Q. What effect have they had? For instance, how do these signing statements translate into internal executive-branch memos?

Q. What precisely is the White House saying about the limits of executive power, if any, and the relationship between Article I and Article II of the Constitution?

Q. What exactly do White House lawyers mean by “unitary executive”?

Q. What does it mean when the president says things like “the executive branch shall construe section so-and-so in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President”? Should that be construed as notice that he plans to ignore it? Likewise when he says a provision will be construed in a manner “consistent with my constitutional authority in the area of foreign affairs” or “consistent with my constitutional duty as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces”?

Q. When the president says the “Executive Branch shall construe as advisory certain provisions” of a law, does that mean he will ignore them? Will he let Congress know if he does so?

Q. From the president's perspective, how does the practice of issuing signing statements fit with the constitutional separation of powers? Why does the President think he can choose which laws to uphold? (Deb Junod, Eagan, Minn.)

Q. Why is it wrong for the judiciary to redefine the law but right for the President? Or: why is "activist judge" bad but "signing statement" good? Or: how is it a problem if the judicial branch takes power from the legislative, but not a problem if the executive branch takes power from the legislative? (Jonathan Krueger, Pleasanton, Calif.)

Q. Are there any statutes currently on the books whose express provisions the Administration is violating, or declining to enforce, in reliance on "signing statements" or the "inherent powers" of the presidency, whether as commander in chief or otherwise? If so, do the American people have a right to know what are they? Does Congress? Will you provide us a list? (Vince Canzoneri, Boston)

Q. Why make a big show of trying to get lawmakers to reach compromises with the White House on legislation (see John McCain's anti-torture legislation) if he's then going to append a signing statement proclaiming that there's no need for him to observe the very law he just signed? Why bother going through the motions at all? (Lou Morin, Freeport, Maine)

That'd be an interesting briefing. I'll be watching C-SPAN Fantasyland intently for it.

The American Bar Association has created a bipartisan task force, including former Reagan/Bush FBI Director William Sessions, to raise public awareness to the issue of signing statements. And I hope they do provide more attention to this danger to the rule of law. But until the Congress understands that they're the ones under attack, I don't see where there is to go. The Republican-dominated House and Senate are acting like Baghdad Bob in the middle of the war, claiming "We are not losing power" when they are clearly being made irrelevant. Somebody needs to say so. And fast.


More from the Liars Who Lie

It's pretty amazing that anyone is letting The Wall Street Journal get away with writing an editorial assailing the New York Times' "disclosure" of the banking records surveillance program, when the Journal wrote a story on that program too, at the same time as the Times story's release. Unbelievably, this is in the Journal's editorial:

Some argue that the Journal should have still declined to run the antiterror story. However, at no point did Treasury officials tell us not to publish the information. And while Journal editors knew the Times was about to publish the story, Treasury officials did not tell our editors they had urged the Times not to publish. What Journal editors did know is that they had senior government officials providing news they didn't mind seeing in print. If this was a "leak," it was entirely authorized....

What's good for this Wall Street Journal goose is apparently not good for the New York Times gander.

And somehow this is seen as 'consistent' on the right...


gabba gabba hey

I'm in Gabbly right now (see below) if anyone's game.


The Never-Ending Story

The Arab-Israeli conflict is likely to go on until after you and your children and your children's children cease to exist. The notion that "cooler heads" could prevail on a conflict lasting several thousand years, based on land rights to the fundamental sites of their respective theologies, is fanciful. Still, it's very distressing that we have what appeared to be a full-scale war over there this week, with kidnappings and air strikes and armed incursions and the arrest of cabinet ministers. The Palestinian Prime Minister is claiming that the Israelis are seeking to destroy the Hamas government, and the Israelis are claiming that Hamas is continuing its goal of elminating a Jewish presence in the region. It's likely that they're both right.

Oddly enough, and this has been completely forgotten by now, the week began with the possibility that a new plan for peace drafted by Fatah and some members of Hamas implicitly recognized Israel's right to exist. Whether that is the true belief of the Hamas government is uncertain, and today, irrelevant. This is a war that will continue to rage for centuries unless some true statesman come out of that hellfire to say "Enough is enough." Statesman are a rare commodity in our modern world, however.


Lies and the People Who Lie

Tom Kean Jr., who's only losing by a mere 6-8 points in the New Jersey Senate race because people think he's his father, the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, has decided to make a campaign film based on demonstrably false charges about his opponent, Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.

Mr. Kean's chief campaign consultant, Matt Leonardo, a strategist for Republican candidates, disclosed the plans in an interview and said the film would be "very similar" in purpose to the commercials used to attack the military record of John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race.

In other words, the film would be a lie, and everyone involved in it would know it was a lie, but they'll broadcast it anyway.

Mr. Kean's most serious charge is that Mr. Menendez was "part of a massive illegal kickback scheme" as a Union City official in 1978, and not the courageous truth teller depicted in his résumé. Mr. Kean charges that Mr. Menendez cooperated with prosecutors to keep himself out of jail.

Mr. Kean's charges are not, however, supported by the public record and were repudiated by independent authorities including the four assistant United States attorneys who prosecuted Union City officials of that era for racketeering and corruption. There is no truth, those former officials say, to the Kean campaign's charge that Mr. Menendez made a deal to keep himself out of prison.

The prosecutors said the actions of Mr. Menendez, as the secretary of the Union City Board of Education from 1978 to 1982, were "gutsy" and "courageous." They said he was never in legal jeopardy. During a four-month trial in 1981 and 1982, the corrupt contractor at the center of the scheme testified that Mr. Menendez created headaches for the plotters when he balked at processing fraudulent paperwork needed for a kickback scheme.

Mr. Leonardo did not directly dispute that information, published Sunday in The New York Times and The Star-Ledger of Newark, but described it as a "set of views" and said other people held different views.

Politics has become so corrosive because at least one side has absolutely no shame about lying or doing whatever it takes to get elected. Menendez is already responding to this, which is a good thing. But the candidate, not surrogates but the candidate, should be dogged with questions from the press about this deliberate lying, and shamed into distancing himself from it. So far he has refused to answer the question.


Coming With Both Barrels

Today's analysis of the Hamdan decision and its implications in the LA Times and elsewhere make it pretty clear that Cowboy George isn't going to let 5 dudes in black robes tell him what to do. And clearly, he's going to seek approval from the Congress to get everything he already has confirmed and made law:

Meeting the high court's objections required little more than having Congress put its stamp of approval on a system of military tribunals, the White House suggested. And some congressional Republicans quickly agreed.

"The Supreme Court did not require these people to be let go. They simply said, If you want to try them, Mr. President, you need to get Congress involved.' I agree," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a former military lawyer, told CNN.

"Once we do that," he added, "I think this problem will be behind us."

He predicted hearings beginning as early as July, with a vote on a plan in September.

And the White House is likely to ask for the same kind of tribunals that violate the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions. Why they would be legal only if Congress agrees to them is unclear. But the Court's opinions at least offered that as a possible remedy.

There's no doubt in my mind that this will become a campaign issue. The LA Times agrees, but watch them completely contradict themselves in the space of a couple paragraphs:

The White House response was essentially to move the issue into the political arena by announcing it would seek congressional approval for its approach to prosecuting foreign terrorism suspects.

Thus far, the GOP-dominated House and Senate have given Bush almost everything he has asked for when it comes to fighting the U.S.-declared war on terrorism.

Republican strategists are likely to see huge advantages in moving such an issue into the realm of political debate before November's congressional elections. In that sense, Thursday's decision could be a political plus for the GOP.

White House political strategist Karl Rove has said repeatedly that the party's fall campaign will hammer the message that Democrats operate with a "pre-9/11" worldview, and Republicans will attempt to paint Democrats critical of military tribunals as being soft on terrorism.

Still, whatever the immediate political implications, moving concrete legislation through Congress will add a major item to the White House agenda, and some Republicans, especially in the Senate, have grown increasingly wary of the administration's efforts to enhance executive power.

In other words, somebody in Rove's office spun us that this will be a great political victory, even if the White House doesn't have the votes in their own caucus to do it.

The Dems had better get prepared for this one. It's clear that Bush will seek the exact same standard for military commissions through Congress that he's already had. And if anyone objects, they're going to be smeared as obstructionist, as America-haters, as terrorist-coddlers, everything. The President's minions in the House and Senate are going to throw the book at our guys.

All the Democrats have to do is defend the Constitution and the Supreme Court. The wingnuts will smear and smear, but as long as they don't give an inch, and set it up as a choice between monarchical rule and checks and balances, I still have faith that they win on that score.

Digby agrees but isn't sure the Dems will have the stomach for it:

I think this could be used to the Democrats' advantage if they were willing to risk changing the terms of the debate for this midterm election and aggressively confront Karl Rove's "you talkin' to me?" trash talk campaign. The Supremes have provided a basis from which to assert congressional perogatives and a hook on which to hang the discussion. Perhaps they will. I hope so, because I am getting a terrible feeling that a lot of rank and file Democrats are going to take a pass on voting this time; no matter how much they dislike Bush and disapprove of his policies, it's very hard to see at this point what difference it will make if the congress changes hands.

Unless the Dems start making the case that Democrats will confront the president if they take power, it's hard to see why turnout will be high enough to offset the Karl Rove red-meat-travelling-salvation-show. He has made a fetish out of exciting his base for the past two elections and at this point it's all he's got. Unfortunately, the Democratic response, just as it has been since the early 90's, is to run from its base and play to swing voters. This hasn't been working out very well for them and it seems remarkably counterintuitive this time out.

I'm not as pessimistic this time. I think the Democrats might have figured this one out. But it will be interesting to see.


The Random Ten

I kind of like this feature, so I'm bringing it back for a second week (hat tip as always to the originator, TBogg). By the way the Gnarls Barkley album is awesome, but not in my iPod yet, so take that into consideration:

Cinemania - Stereo Total
Ten Storey Love Song - The Stone Roses
Hot Fun In The Summertime - Sly and the Family Stone
Another First Kiss - They Might Be Giants
Everything In Its Right Place - Radiohead
Closet Romantic - Damon Albarn
Mysterious Ways - U2
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter - Nirvana
Poisonous - Dilated Peoples
Carry The Zero - Built To Spill

The U2 song looks a little out of place, don't it?


Thursday, June 29, 2006

I Have Seen The Future

And it is Gabbly. It basically turns practically every site on the Internet into a chat room. All you do is visit your favorite site, then insert in front of the URL, and you'll be live-chatting with whoever else is in the room. You can click a button to get a full feed of the live chat as well. And it fits seamlessly into your browser.

This is undoubtedly (to me) the next generation of the Web. From here it's a hop, skip and a jump to audio chatting and video chatting. Simply amazing technology.

Just an enthusiast, no financial stake. But I was thinking I could hold a live chat on the site if I announced it ahead of time (I don't exactly have the rabid fan base to just have chatters hanging out at all hours). Any interest?


Small Point

But I just got an email from Feingold's Progressive Patriot PAC, and at the bottom, as a throwaway, they added the line "Funny story about Russ in The Onion.

Obviously staffers make these blast emails, but just the fact that they find a story in The Onion and send it on shows a certain cool factor. Ya think "check out this vicious parody of me" gets tacked on to the back of Dubya's emails? Brownback's? McCain's? In fact, the article was about McCain and Feingold: "McCain, Feingold Co-Sponsor Chain Of Integrity-Themed Eateries." This doesn't mean much, but it's not on McCain's Senate site or his Straight Talk America PAC site.

I don't get McCain's emails, so he might have added it there. And it doesn't really matter if he did or didn't. My point is that Russ Feingold, or his people, or whoever, understand that there's a resonance to saying "Hey, check this Onion article" out. It's retail politics for the Internet generation. The LA Times ran an article on Sunday about how the GOP has a major technological advantage over the Democrats (it wasn't exactly sourced, but it's in line with other things I've read). Little targeted things like this move by Feingold suggest that the Dems are maybe getting the message.


The Maverick

In Matt Stoller's excellent and detailed retelling of yesterday's Net Neutrality debate in the Senate, this caught my eye:

In terms of the committee members, all of the Dems stood by net neutrality, including Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, and Mark Pryor. George Allen was sitting on the fence, visibly uncomfortable, and undecided until the last minute. John McCain left his vote with a staff by proxy, and wasn't there for most of the hearings. Always the showboater, he came in only to offer his own amendment, and for final passage of the bill. His own amendment was a pet issue of the Christian right, a la carte cable TV, which was destroyed by 20-2. He also voted against net neutrality and for passage of the final bill, per his orders from the Republican establishment. John McCain 2008 showed up, not maverick McCain. Quel surprise.

I know the media is never going to get over its fascination with Mr. Maverick. But it's so out of touch with his reality. He's a grandstanding hack who votes party line unless he can burnish his credentials to the cocktail-party set by appearing to step off the reservation (but never so far as to displease his masters).


End of the Quarter Fundraising Spiel

Time to cough up some money for your favorite candidates. Sadly, we live in a political system where money is of paramount importance, more than ideas or issues. It's up to those of us who want to take our country back to support candidates we like with our pocketbooks. And the end of the quarter is an important benchmark.

I used the Netroots page helpfully located at the top of this site to kick in a little to Jon Tester (MT-Sen), James Webb (VA-Sen), and Patrick Murphy (PA-08).

Tester is an organic farmer from Big Sandy, Montana, by all acounts a completely unpretentious and honest progressive, who slaughtered the DLC-backed candidate in the Senate primary and is now taking dead aim at Abramoff crony Conrad Burns. Webb is Reagan's former Navy Secretary, a Fighting Dem who believes the Iraq War was a terrible mistake Despite his conservative bona fides, he's jumped on the protest over Congressional pay raises without first raising the minimum wage. Patrick Murphy is running in my parents' district, an area of the Philly suburbs that went for both Gore and Kerry by about 4%. Murphy is an Iraq War veteran who has a responsible moderate record on the issues, and is just the kind of fresh face we need in Washington.

These are moderates, progressives, conservatives, from the South, the West, the Northeast, all united by their belief in Democratic values and their opposition to the failed policies of the Republican machine. I ask that you check out their campaign websites (Tester, Webb, Murphy) and, if you appreciate them, contribute by tomorrow. (And if you do, tell 'em D-Day sent ya)


A Couple Comedy Notes

We've started Cut And Run Comedy, a weekly airing of jokes and rants from a progressive perspective. Two shows so far, it's lurching toward respectability, and we'll keep doing it until we reach critical mass: 10 audience members! Or fame and fortune, whichever comes first.

LA readers, please stop by. It's every Wednesday night at 8pm at the E-Spot, 13326 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA, 91401.

Those of you in the rest of the world, I have another option. I'm part of a podcast called Dr. Mardozo's Traveling Sideshow. I'll be doing a 5-minute comedy-tary (comedy plus commentary) for this monthly podcast. Others in the first episode include Maria Bamford (Comedy Central Presents) and Jackie Kashian (Last Comic Standing). It should be a hoot. And I don't know when it will be available for download. But keep checking the website for details.


Net Neutrality - Tied in Committee

Well, the campaign to protect Internet freedom continues. Yesterday the Senate Commerce Committee voted 11-11 on the Snowe-Dorgan Amendment to preserve Net Neutrality. All the Democrats voted for it; all the Republicans but Snowe voted against it. Matt Stoller has more:

In terms of the vote, well, we pretty much expected this, though we weren't sure whether we could keep the Dems unified. They held under intense lobbying pressure from the telecoms. I think it's fair to say that we've reversed the momentum on this issue, turning it from a little noticed 23-8 subcommittee vote in the House on April 5 to today's 11-11 tie in Commerce Committee and clearly what will be a contentious floor fight.

Stoller also mentions that George Felix Allen Jr. and Conrad Burns, both facing re-election in November and both on the Committee, voted against Net Neutrality while in the process taking thousands in contributions from telecom companies. See, this is all minimum wage workers need to do if they want their voices heard in Washington. Just spread some money around a bit! I'm not talking a ton, just like $200 to each Senator. You know, a week's pay.

The news isn't all bad, however. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is placing a hold on the legislation that did pass the committee, which could create a two-tiered Internet:

Mr. President, the major telecommunications legislation reported today by the Senate Commerce Committee is badly flawed. The bill makes a number of major changes in the country's telecommunications law but there is one provision that is nothing more than a license to discriminate. Without a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet and without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate, the Internet will be forever changed for the worse.
This one provision threatens to divide the Internet into technology "haves" and "have nots." This one provision concentrates even more power in the hands of the special interests that own the pipelines to the Internet. This one provision codifies discrimination on the Internet by a handful of large telecommunications and cable providers. This one provision will allow large, special interests to saddle consumers and small businesses alike with new and discriminatory fees over and above what they already pay for Internet access. This one small provision is akin to hurling a giant wrecking ball at the Internet.

The inclusion of this provision compels me to state that I would object to a unanimous consent request to the Senate proceeding with this legislation until a provision that provides true Internet neutrality is included. . . .

Every Senator should be put on the record. Do you stand with the people of this country, who want a free and open Internet? Or do you stand with lobbyists who want their clients to be able to build a toll bridge for access to high-speed content?

Call your Senator and get them on the record.


Another Country Heard From

The Supreme Court today decided that the President actually has to listen to a little thing called "the law" as well as the other two branches of government:

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying in a strong rebuke that the trials were illegal under U.S. and international law... The court declared 5-3 that the trials for 10 foreign terror suspects violate U.S. law and the Geneva conventions.

Bush said there might still be a way to work with Congress to sanction military tribunals for detainees and the American people should know the ruling "won't cause killers to be put out on the street."

I heard this press conference this morning. Don't insult my intelligence. The Court is saying that if you want to try prisoners captured in this war, you need to apply federal standards and international treaty standards to which this country is a signatory. This wasn't a "not guilty" ruling. Don't depend on ignorance when you make these ridiculous statements.

Obviously Bush is going to go to the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress to try and provide him some cover so he can continue to play judge, jury and executioner in these trials, denying legal protections for detainees, the ability to read the evidence used in charging them, access to lawyers, et cetera. Justice Breyer's opinion specifically says that he can do so. Ultimately, I've no doubt that the Republicans will turn this into an election issue, smearing anyone who doesn't want to set up illegal, dictatorial courts as "America-haters" who want to set terrorists free. But I agree with Justice Stevens, whose lead opinion states that these detainees should be tried by military courts-martial with the same standards applied to all defendants in those courts.

Marty Lederman at SCOTUSBlog says the effects are wide-ranging:

More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).

If I'm right about this, it's enormously significant.

I don't think the Bush Administration will see it that way, and thanks to the signing statement on the McCain Amendment I doubt the Supremes will get another chance to reiterate this.

However, we do have a reinforcement of the separation of powers rule that is one of the bedrocks of the American system. One branch of government cannot co-opt the ability to run courts in manners that they see fit, and they cannot bypass Congress in setting them up. This rebuke of one-branch government caused the sleeping giant of the Court to awake and defend the sacred principle of monarchical rule:

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a strongly worded dissent from Thursday's ruling and took the unusual step of reading part of it from the bench — something he had never done before in his 15 years. He said the court's decision would "sorely hamper the president's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy."

The court's willingness, Thomas wrote in the dissent, "to second-guess the determination of the political branches that these conspirators must be brought to justice is both unprecedented and dangerous."

See how he turns the determination of the White House into the determination of "the political branches"? Clever, Sir Thomas. Or not.

You can't close Guantanamo without a determination about how to adjudicate whoever's still there; otherwise they'll be moved to a more secret and less controversial location. This is a step towards eradicating this black spot on our national character.

UPDATE: Feingold:

"The Supreme Court’s decision concerning military commissions at Guantanamo Bay is a major rebuke to an Administration that has too often disregarded the rule of law. It is a testament to our system of government that the Supreme Court has stood up against this overreaching by the executive branch."


People Are Afraid To Merge On The Freeways In Los Angeles

I've been saying this for about 10 years:

Davis says in the absence of metering systems, simple politeness would go a long way toward thinning the sludgy traffic near on-ramps. But, letting people merge is helpful only if you don't slow down too much to do so.

"If you can do it without slowing down very much, that allows the driver who's entering to enter at a higher speed," Davis said. "If they have to crawl along waiting for an opening, they slow down the other vehicles on the freeway."

If you can safely move over a lane and allow a vehicle merge, that is even better, he adds.

They need to put merging on the driver's test. People literally don't know how to do it. I've spent years of my life at on-ramps just because some moron didn't decide to get in the other lane until his ended. It kills me.

I've been screaming about this to nobody in particular inside my car for years, and it's good to see your ideas validated, though it kind of doesn't matter at all.

UPDATE: Bonus points if you get the reference in the post title.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle

...we have one Senator whose big idea is to tax da pimps:

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is hoping to stamp out the sex trade by taxing pimps and prostitutes, then jailing them when they don't pay.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning approved a bill sponsored by committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, authorizing at least $2 million toward the establishment of an office in the IRS criminal investigation unit to prosecute unlawful sex workers for violations of tax laws.

This is noble, I guess, but also the most unworkable law since the "Taxing Unicorns Act" of 1966. Pimps don't keep receipts. Also, big pimpin's a crime already. How can you tax something that's illegal? Can you tax murder? up, The Senate Majority Leader, stand-up guy that he is, now blames the 2nd-place cable news channel, watched by not even a million people in the country on a nightly basis, for his party's low poll numbers:

CNN host Miles O'Brien asked Frist why recent polls show that show 54% of Americans will vote for Democrats in the upcoming elections while only 38% planned to vote for Republicans. Frist explained that the people's concerns were being addressed by the Republican Senate but told O'Brein those were the sort of issues "you may not cover and others may not cover."

O'Brien defended CNN, "We are covering but I think there is -- a lot of what you say there -- Americans are not hearing that particular message. As the majority leader, isn't that part of your job?"

Frist replied, "Well, you know, it's part of my job and your job and your whole coming into this was, again, saying [from] Harry Reid that we are spending all of our time on marriage -- which is important. That we're spending all of the time on flag without mentioning what we've done of the floor for six weeks. Iraq, the war on terror, making you safer... where's your coverage of that? What you do is concentrate on things that are spun to you from the other side of the aisle and that's why that message doesn't get out."

What a stand-up guy. Nothing's his fault, it's the second-rate cable channel that's bringing down the whole government. I guess Paula Zahn sets the legislative agenda. Wolf Blitzer alloted four days for debate on the flag burning amendment. Anderson Cooper put out that press release on the American Values agenda that has bills like "protecting the Pledge of Allegiance" and banning gay marriage. After all, that link is from CNN! Conspiracy!

Ahh, the persecuted majority.

But taking the cake for the wackiest guy in the GOP is Curt Weldon, who wanted to go on a secret trip to Iraq, without telling the military, to dig for WMD:

[Dave] Gaubatz, who lives in Dallas, is a former Air Force special investigator who served as a civilian employee in Iraq for a number of months in 2003.

While in Iraq, he acquired what he considered reliable information on the existence of WMD caches in four locations - not old stuff dating from the pre-Gulf War days, but recently produced gas and chemical weapons.

He never could get U.S. military officials to look into the matter. They apparently viewed it as too speculative and too much of a drain on personnel who were, after all, engaged in combat [...]

Gaubatz said he first contacted Weldon and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R., Mich.), head of the House Intelligence Committee, to share his info and get them to prod the Defense Department and intelligence agencies to do the WMD searches in the locales.

Instead, Gaubatz said, Weldon latched onto the idea as a "personal political venture" and discussed a Hoekstra-Weldon trip to Iraq, under the guise of visiting the troops, that would detour to Nasiriyah.

Once there, Gaubatz said, the congressmen planned to persuade the U.S. military commander to lend them the equipment and men to go digging by the Euphrates for the cache Gaubatz believed to be there.

He said that Weldon made it clear he didn't want word leaked to the Pentagon, to intelligence officials, or to Democratic congressmen.

As Gaubatz told me: "They even worked out how it would go. If there was nothing there, nothing would be said. If the site had been [scavenged], nothing would be said. But, if it was still there, they would bring the press corps out."

Curt Weldon: one-man Army. A guy so paranoid he doesn't trust the military, and would rather take a shovel himself and start digging in the middle of Iraq.

Jon Stewart was right, "The House of Representatives is filled with insane jackasses."


Getting Tough

I've noticed quite a few instances of Democrats getting tough with Republicans, not buying their narratives, not falling into their traps. This is extremely encouraging.

This Sunday Joe Biden refused to comment on a statement by Dick Cheney about how "cut 'n' run" from Iraq would be such a disastrous strategy. Blitzer asked him to respond (and by association acknowledge) Cheney's remark, and Biden said this:

BIDEN: No, I don’t want to respond to him. He’s at 20 percent in the polls. No one listens to him. He has no credibility. It’s ridiculous…There’s guys like me and a lot of others and on the Republican side, Chuck Hagel and Lindsey Graham, John McCain, across the board, who realize that this requires a political solution…

That's a superb answer. There's no need to give credibility to your opponent by defending yourself against his ridiculous charges.

Then Rahm Emanuel went into a swing district and forced the Republican incumbent into a defensive position on Social Security.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy campaigned together yesterday and hammered Fitzpatrick on his less-than-total opposition to Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.

Emanuel questioned whether voters “could rely on Fitzpatrick’s vote” not to privatize Social Security.

“You wanted a difference; now you got a difference,” Emanuel said, standing in front of a retirement home in northern Philadelphia, but not in the congressional district, with several Murphy supporters, his entourage, and a few reporters.

By bringing up his desire to attempt to privatize Social Security next year, the President allowed Democrats to put this back on the campaign agenda. In 2005 Democrats owned the Social Security debate and built up a lot of goodwill with the electorate. Maybe the White House is giving moderate Republicans who make up their margin of majority in the Congress another issue to distance themselves from the President, but Democrats are defining the opponent early here. Any Republican is a threat to phase out Social Security. That's the narrative. And it's being pushed aggressively.

Then Virginia US Senate candidate Jim Webb would have none of the Swiftboating attacks by incumbent George Allen (who's using negative character attacks 5 months before the election? Talk about scared).

“George Felix Allen Jr. and his bush-league lapdog, Dick Wadhams, have not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb’s position on free speech and flag burning. Jim Webb served and fought for our flag and what it stands for, while George Felix Allen Jr. chose to cut and run. When he and his disrespectful campaign puppets attack Jim Webb they are attacking every man and woman who served. Their comments are nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards. George Felix Allen Jr. needs to apologize to Jim Webb and to all men and women who have served our nation,” Webb spokesman Steve Jarding said.

“While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.’s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada. People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield,” Jarding said.

Ezra Klein noted that calling Allen "George Felix Allen Jr." was a stroke of emasculating genius. Here's a Democrat that is not afraid to fight, and fight immediately, never letting an attack go unmet.

After that, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid decided to embarrass the Republicans over their refusal to raise the minimum wage yet again, keeping it at 1997 levels.

A week after the GOP-led Senate rejected an increase to the minimum wage, Senate Democrats on Tuesday vowed to block pay raises for members of Congress until the minimum wage is increased.

"We're going to do anything it takes to stop the congressional pay raise this year, and we're not going to settle for this year alone," Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said at a Capitol news conference.

"They can play all the games the want," Reid said derisively of the Republicans who control the chamber. "They can deal with gay marriage, estate tax, flag burning, all these issues and avoid issues like the prices of gasoline, sending your kid to college. But we're going to do everything to stop the congressional pay raise."

The minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. Democrats want to raise it to $7.25. During the past nine years, as Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to increase the minimum wage, members of Congress have voted to give themselves pay raises -- technically "cost of living increases" -- totaling $31,600, or more than $15 an hour for a 40-hour week, 52 weeks a year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

This is an obvious bit of political theater, as Billmon called it, a big slow pitch hanging out over the middle of the plate. But Democrats have taken that called third strike many times before in the pre-Reid days, and Harry is giving them hell now. That should be recognized.

Finally, there was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on the use of Presidential signing statements to overturn hundreds of laws passed by both houses of Congress. The Bush Administration took it so seriously that they sent a deputy assistant Attorney General on their behalf. Pat Leahy didn't sit there and take it, calling it what it was and then promptly walking out of the meeting.

Senators said they had been expecting a higher-ranking official from the office of legal policy, and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the committee, chastised the White House for not sending "anybody who would have authority to speak on this."

"But then, considering the fact that they're using basically an extra-constitutional, extra-judicial step to enhance the power of the president, it's not unusual," he said.

He actually left the room, saying "Good luck" to the deputy on his way out. It's very important for Democrats to call a charade a charade.

Now, these are conservative Dems, progressive Dems, moderates, people within the Party establishment and without, all united by an unwillingness to put up with the bullshit anymore. Clearly these unrelated examples show a Democratic Party emboldened by low Presidential approval ratings and the possibility of retaking the majority in November. But there's something more here. It's that spine implant so many of us have been waiting for. The Democrats may be recognizing that drawing contrast is a winning strategy, not becoming Republican-lite. They're understanding that taking stands and speaking up will be rewarded by an electorate that will then see them as a party with some semblance of conviction.

The Democratic Party isn't perfect; everybody knows that. But these examples shows that they're starting to get it.


The Politics of Intimidation

Well, it's that time again. The President is unpopular, the Iraq war is going along as it has been (straight into a ditch), and the Republican majority is seriously threatened. So obviously, it's time to smear the media and accuse them of treason.

This is exactly what the GOP is doing over this New York Times disclosure of a secret government program that tracked international wire transfers in an attempt to stop terrorist funding sources. Only it wasn't exactly secret. The program, called SWIFT, has a website. And so does its companion programs. And SWIFT runs a trade show. And a magazine. And the President has mentioned the program to track down terrorist financing as far back as late September 2001.

But it was a secret. And the New York Times shouldn't have revealed it, although The Wall Street Journal is well within their rights to do so. That's the party line, at least, that such disclosures harm efforts in the war on terror. Even if those efforts are done completely out in the open with the full knowledge of anybody with an Internet connection. I laid off this story when it came out because I honestly didn't think that it was that big a deal. Of course we're tracking terrorist funding sources, and of course the terrorists know that; in fact, the evidence shows that they've had to change the way they do business as a result.

Matthews: "So in other words, the bad guys figured out how we were catching them."

Suskind: "Right, it's a process of deduction. After a while, you catch enough of them, they're not idiots. They say, 'Well, we can't do the things we were doing.' They're not leaving electronic trails like they were.' "

So the program was working when it was plainly evident to all those involved. Now that a newspaper prints it, suddenly we're to believe that it's rendered unusable? As the NYT says today, "Terrorist groups would have had to be fairly credulous not to suspect that they would be subject to scrutiny if they moved money around through international wire transfers." Further, Bill Keller writes that bankers are required by subpoena to comply with SWIFT, so it wouldn't halt the program in the least.

But the conservosphere, along with the White House, is now piling on, throwing around the word "treason" because a newspaper wrote about a known program. Dan Froomkin explains the real reason why:

As far as I can tell, all these disclosures do is alert the American public to the fact that all this stuff is going on without the requisite oversight, checks and balances.

How does it possibly matter to a terrorist whether the government got a court order or not? Or whether Congress was able to exercise any oversight? The White House won't say. In fact, it can't say.

By contrast, it does matter to us.

The question here is simple: do you think the government should decide what the press can and cannot publish, or not? Governments around the world use "official secrecy" and "national security" to keep things from their populations that they'd rather not disclose. It always later comes out that the real reason was anything but secrecy. In this case, the clear signal is one of intimidation and the politics of demonization. The hardcore Republican base is predisposed to hating the media with a passion, and so any red meat thrown their way on this front will necessarily excite them. This is as much an electoral strategy, painting the New York Times (but not The Wall Street Journal) as in league with terrorists, and throwing Democrats in as somehow guilty by association. But it's a dangerous line they're walking, or maybe just exactly what they wish, to remove legitimacy from all facts except for their own.

The brilliant James Wolcott has more.

What a gummy uproar. One so loud and ferocious that there almost has to be some follow-through, otherwise you are going to have one frustrated batch of highly indignants. They want the administration to show the Times and the rest of the press who's boss. The neocon contingent is already dismayed with the tiptoeing around Iran's nuclear program, with Ledeen and Perle lodging protests. If the pushback against the Times peters out, if the posse disbands shortly after mounting up, the White House is going to look weak in the bugged-out eyes of its mutant defenders. It'll be interesting to see if the controversy builds or fades over the next few days, and whether or not the Times-bashers will be compelled to call their own bluff. In the meantime, whatever one thinks of the Times's performance leading up to Iraq and the Judith Miller debacle, the ugly threatmongering and barking ("For the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous”) of Peter King shouldn't go unchallenged. Let him climb the Empire State Building if he wants to work off steam.

This is a lot of bluster for no real reason, other than to intimidate and get the base's heart rate pumping. The question is whether or not anyone will step up and put this kind of nonsense in its place.


Shorter Supreme Court

States can change your districts every day if they want.

I guess the whole "states shall apportion their districts every 10 years based on the Census" is one of those quaint Constitutional provisions. Actually, as the case was explained on NPR this morning, there was some question as to its intent. One commentator said this only holds if a court set up the districts previously, another said states could gerrymander at their own whim.

Oddly, the Supremes, after deciding not to get involved in regulating gerrymandering an entire state, DID manage to go micro and get involved in the 23rd District, the gerrymander of which they said violated the Voting Rights Act (you know, the thing Republicans are trying to hold up on renewal). Off the Kuff, a Texas blogger, gives his thoughts as to the implications of redrawing Republican Henry Bonilla's district, the one in question:

I'm not sure at this point if the three-judge panel that originally upheld the new map will be tasked with putting a replacement in place, or if the Legislature has to do it; neither am I sure if this needs to be done for 2006, or if a special election will be required for some point in the future - this could include an open primary in November, as we had in 1996.

What I do think will happen is that at the very least CD28 will be redrawn as well. If it's possible to swap the CD23 portion of Webb County for an equivalent piece of CD28, that could work. What happens after that is a decision for CD28's Rep. Henry Cuellar. He nearly toppled CD23 incumbent Henry Bonilla in 2002 thanks in part to getting 80% of the vote in Webb County. He did knock off fellow Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in the 2004 primary on a similar show of strength in Webb, and he won again in the same fashion in 2006. Without Webb, Cuellar probably can't beat Rodriguez or someone like him with a strong base in Bexar County. With Webb, Cuellar would have a shot at Bonilla, but I don't know that it would be better than a coin flip. Either way, it's a tough call.

Eventually, this could mean a pickup for the Democrats in South Texas, but I'm not comfortable with the Supreme Court picking and choosing what districts they like or don't like while generally endorsing the whole scheme.


Satan is a Good Campaigner

I'm almost upset that John "Satan don't want me in the Congress" Jacob lost last night, it certainly would have made election season more fun.

But of course, now's the time for Democratic hopefuls to sign up Lucifer for their midterm campaigns. I mean, the guy's got a track record now. And, considering that, as Barack Obama so helpfully points out, Democrats aren't people of faith anyway, there won't be any conflict of interest bringing in Mr. Pitchfork to consult either!

...snark alert...snark alert...

Re. Obama, I think Atrios gets this exactly right. Stop telling us what Democrats should do, and instead, actually go ahead and do it, Barack. Matt Stoller gets on his case, too.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Must Not Be 1 of the 18 Families

The Democrats have found a spokesman in their fight to repeal the estate tax, if they pay attention:

Now it is certain Buffett's children will not inherit a great slice of their father's wealth when he passes away. "There's no reason why future generations of little Buffetts should command society just because they came from the right womb. Where's the justice in that?" Buffett has been quoted as saying in the past.

Bill Frist and company are still trying to push forward with a "compromise" that is not a compromise at all, but essentially a stealth repeal. There aren't enough votes yet, but if they do bring it to the floor, it'd be with a deal already in place, I gather.

Warren Buffett, whose children could benefit from it, has put the issue in cleaner, more sensible language than any Democrat I've ever seen. Bottom line, this country is a meritocracy, not an aristocracy. Nobody wants to take all of Paris Hilton's inheritance away, but she ought to pay taxes on that income just like hardworking Americans everywhere do on their own income.

Buffett must not be in one of those 18 families that have bankrolled this entire effort to repeal the tax. See, because he's sensible, smart, and understands how America works.


I Am A Blogofascist

Humorous reactions everywhere regarding New Republic "culture editor" Lee Siegel's description of the progressive online community as "blogofascists," and then providing an origin of said blogofascism.

Can anything really be said about this that doesn't include laughing hysterically and spitting out whatever drink you had just ingested before sitting down to read? People like this think they've earned the right to give their opinion to a dwindling group of thousands, and HOW DARE the regular unwashed masses so much as attempt to give theirs, or worse, talk back to them? I was disappointed to see a lion of the Left like Alexander Cockburn reach basically the same conclusion, in the process lumping Jason Leopold in with the entire progressive blogosphere when he was almost wholly rebuked by it. And how different is an online news site like TruthOut from Counterpunch, anyway? I like Cockburn's writing, generally, but I fail to see how it helps him to be this disdainful of his readership.

I read The Nation for years and years and saw it generate a lot of clucking assent from its small circle of readers and listeners. It inspired me to do almost nothing but despair. After a couple years of participating online I've contributed to campaigns, gotten active in others, honed my arguments and messaging down to a fine-tipped spear, and found thousands of others who have done the same. What is wrong with that? Maybe we haven't "paid our dues" at liberal weeklies and swept up recyclable materials off the floor or something, but the notion that American debate must be closed to a professional class is not only absurd but deeply alienating. The 2004 election had more participation than 2000, and I fully expect 2008 to be even higher. Passionate, insightful, knowledgeable individuals are taking back their democracy one step at a time, and using the people-powered publishing tools to spread the gospel. I can't for the life of me think of a reason anyone would want that to stop. Unless their job security depended on its ouster. Which is clearly the case. Not just from journalists, but the entire Establishment itself:

This is something new, or at least different from what we've become accustomed to. I think it highlights the speed with which the lapdogs of the so-called liberal media are evolving (or I should say devolving) into the watchdogs of the political status quo -- in this case, the ossified and increasingly dysfunctional status quo within the Democratic Party. Kos, and his blog allies and followers, appear to have touched an extremely raw nerve with tribunes of modern neoliberalism (like neoconservatism, but without the strength of its convictions.)

If that is blogofascism, Lee Siegel, stating in plain English what I feel is best for the country, and getting involved to do something about it, call me a blogofascist. I'd prefer "participatory Democrat," but it's your term, so use it well.


You CAN Let Somebody Else Deal With Dead Soldiers

Bush today, on Social Security: "If we can't get it done this year, I'm going to try next year. And if we can't get it done next year, I'm going to try the year after that, because it is the right thing to do. It's just so easy to say, let somebody else deal with it. Now is the time to solve the problems of Medicare and Social Security, and I want your help."

Bush on March 22, 2006, on Iraq: President Bush said yesterday that future administrations will have to grapple with how and when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, indicating that he doesn't see an end to U.S. commitments until at least 2009. "That'll be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

I guess it all depends. If it's keeping sons and daughters in the line of fire, it's OK to wait. If it's funneling cash to private corporate contributors, then NO TIME TO LOSE!


Jackass of the Century

Frank Luntz is the conservative wordsmith who brought us such "This says one thing and means something completely different" phrases as The Clear Skies Initiative, The Healthy Forests Initiative, and The Death Tax. When faced with the problem of global warming, he told his Republican colleagues this:

“The scientific debate remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”

As Al Gore explains in his movie, this is pretty much the same strategy the tobacco companies used to dilute the controversy over whether or not smoking causes lung cancer. "Our Product is Doubt," they claimed in internal memos. Now we know that even secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard.

And we also know that the consensus opinion of the scientific community is that man is responsible for the current warming trend of the planet. The President doesn't know it because people like Luntz haven't bothered to correct him. Because not only has Luntz probably known the truth all along, now he admits it:

NARRATOR: Today, Frank Luntz says the advice he offered the administration on global warming was fair when he gave it. But, he’s distanced himself from their policies since.

LUNTZ: It’s now 2006. Now I think most people would conclude that there is global warming taking place, and that the behavior of humans are affecting the climate.

QUESTION: But the administration has continued to follow your advice. They’re still questioning the science.

LUNTZ: That’s up to the administration. I’m not the administration. What they want to do is their business. And it’s nothing to do with what I write. And it’s nothing to do with what I believe.

Let me get this straight. More than any other man not employed by a petroleum company, Luntz is responsible for the rhetorical pushback against global warming, a pushback that could lead to utter catastrophe if the debate continues, in contravention of all known science. And he can just say "not my problem" and walk away from it? He may not think he has a responsibility as a citizen of the planet to help short-circuit this fake debate. But what a callow, heartless statement that is. Like the rest of the GOP, Luntz believes that actions do not have consequences, that starting a war based on spurious statements doesn't matter, that following judicial review doesn't matter, that due process doesn't matter, that international treaties to which we're signatories don't matter, that Congressional legislation doesn't matter, that checks and balances don't matter. It's disgraceful that Luntz can sit there and live with himself by saying "It's nothing to do with what I believe." You created what they believe. You created the strategy that led them to keep any meaningful action on global warming at bay. You're responsible. You can't walk away.


The Scourge Is Almost Eradicated

As Dana Milbank points out, our long national nightmare is almost over:

The Citizens Flag Alliance, a group pushing for the Senate this week to pass a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution, just reported an alarming, 33 percent increase in the number of flag-desecration incidents this year.

The number has increased to four, from three.

The naive among us may have trouble appreciating how four flag-burning episodes would constitute a constitutional crisis. But the men and women of the Senate, ever alert to emerging threats, are on the case.

Thank Jeebus the fine men and women of the US Senate are stamping out (literally) this affront to American values that happens almost as much as Ben Stiller puts out a new movie.

Passing an Amendment to the Constitution abridging speech that almost never happens at a time when so much else is going on in the country and the world would be... well, it'd be par for the course for this politically motivated Rubber Stamp Republican Congress.

I would like to see an amendment banning the use of the rest of the Constitution as toilet paper, but then we'd have to change Presidents.

This is within a vote of passing. Who is asking for this?

UPDATE: Rude Pundit:

The Rude Pundit walks to a store, maybe even an old time Five and Dime, and plunks down his cash and purchases an American flag. Once he owns it, it's his property. No one has assigned him his Bush-prescribed flag. Chances are it wasn't even made in the United States. Now that it's his, this non-living thing, is he not free to burn it, use it to wash his car, wipe his ball sweat after sex, or hang it from his pick-up until it's just tatters in the wind?

C'mon, nutzoid freeper types. Do you want the government telling you what you can do with your property?

Yes, yes, and... yes.

UPDATE II: The bill lost. Flag burning will still be the periodic scourge to this great nation! And protected speech. As Pat Leahy said, you don't have a free speech clause for popular speech; you have it for unpopular speech. Freedom isn't easy. At least in this case, it still reigns.


Can Satan Get Out the Vote??????

So it's primary election day in Utah. There's a race in the third district that is setting up as a possible bellweather for the immigration debate. Incumbent Republican Chris Cannon is a moderate who supported a guest worker program in the past. His opponent John Jacob (Jingleheimer Schmidt? His name is my name too!) is a hardliner who has assailed Cannon as pro-amensty. Of course, there are skeletons in Jacob's closet as well, having allegedly hired immigrants without work permits.

So, an interesting race, showing the fracture in the Republican caucus over immigration. We'll see what happens. That's it, right?

Well... that, and the fact that Jacob thinks Satan is trying to keep him down:

"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is."

Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.

Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezing money he was counting on to finance his race.

"You know, you plan, you organize, you put your budget together and when you have 10 things fall through, not just one, there's some other, something else that is happening," Jacob said.

Asked if he actually believed that "something else" was indeed Satan, Jacob said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people."

Yes. Yes you are.

The real question is whether or not Satan is actually a part of the Cannon campaign, or is he part of a 501 (c) (3) independent expenditure group. AND, is the Prince of the Night consulting and coordinating with Cannon to get their messages straight. When the Father of Lies spreads locusts across Utah, is that THE SAME DAY as Cannon announces an NRA endorsement? When The Tempter causes the San Pitch River to overflow with blood, is that scheduled around Cannon ads claiming "I will fix the blood river problem, once and for all"?

Incidentally, this is not one statement out of context. Jacob has said this REPEATEDLY.

Jacob initially said the devil was working against him during a Wednesday immigration event, then reiterated his belief Thursday in a meeting with The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board.

"There's a lot of adversity. There's no question I've had experiences that I think there's an outside force," he said.

Jacob, who like Cannon is LDS, said he is not the only one who is being opposed by Beelzebub. He said both Cannon and Sen. Bob Bennett have lost millions of dollars since going to Congress, and he believes their adversity is rooted in the same dark origins.

Cannon's campaign would not address whether Lucifer is opposing either candidate.

Look at the Cannon campaign ducking the issue! Has Lucifer been robo-calling on your behalf or not? Answer the question!

The Democrats have an Iraq War veteran running in this district named Torin Nelson, and Christian Burridge. I don't know if Beelzebub would switch parties and help the Burridge or Nelson campaigns should Jacob win the primary. But clearly, the Lord of Hades does not want John Jacob in Congress, and I believe he's prepared to do whatever it takes.

Seriously, this should absolutely be a campaign issue in November if Jacob pulls this one out. What a lunatic.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Around The World

A sampling of world news:

• Hey, we're winning that war on drugs! Anyone think that the reason world opium production may be down is because one country controls 89% of the world's fields? That would be Afghanistan, by the way, where "because of continued political turmoil, poverty and violence, Afghanistan's 'drug situation remains vulnerable to reversal'." Centralized production can lead to certain effeciencies, putting the other guys out of business. The drug economy is a market, too.

• Still relentless violence in Iraq, but certain Sunni insurgent groups may want to reach the bargaining table. Or not. Apparently school enrollment is up as well, according to the NYT. And oil revenues. And the death toll for Iraqis could be as high as 50,000. So a mixed bag. A somber, insecure mixed bag.

The new Islamist leader in Somalia says he wants Sharia law but not a Taliban-style state. Stonings, yes. Burqas, no. Good that the US has paid so much attention to that part of the world.

• I thought I told everyone just to let North Korea test their missiles. Apparently nobody listened, as we're shipping out Patriot missiles to Japan in case they're needed to shoot down the Taepodong-2 test. Considering the success rate (scroll down to "accuracy") I don't see the point.

• A week to go in the Mexican elections which will have wide-ranging effects on the immigration debate. A leader there that will invest in his people and actually try to lift them out of poverty, like Lopez Obrador, would go a long way to stemming the flow across the border.



Rush Limbaugh, radio host, Bush-Cheney campaign consultant, hero of the right, parole violator.

Rush Limbaugh was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after authorities said they found a bottle of Viagra in his possession without a prescription.

Customs officials found a prescription bottle labeled as Viagra in his luggage that didn’t have Limbaugh’s name on it, but that of two doctors, said Paul Miller, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

A doctor had prescribed the drug, but it was “labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes,” Roy Black, Limbaugh’s attorney, said in a statement.

You can do that? (no, you can't -ed.) Boy, rich people get all the perks.

This isn't likely to get Rush fired or anything, although given prior statements on the subject I expect him to turn himself in. However, if he ever does find himself out of work, Rush now has some major career choices. After all, can you imagine how many heroin balloons he could swallow in one sitting? World's biggest mule, I tell you.

As for the Viagra, I'm wondering if anyone has a account, because here's a snippet of what he says at this link:

This is the most oversexed country in the world. Just look at Viagra sales, and that will tell you everything you need to know.

Oversexed is right!


Lowly Joe and His Friends in High Places

Yesterday I posted about how Russ Feingold made the obvious statement that he would support the Democrat who wins the primary in Connecticut. Chuck Schumer doesn't think it's so obvious:

Schumer, a consummate Washington insider, is now using his position as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to try to crush his own party’s activists in Connecticut. According to Time Magazine, Schumer has pressed Senate candidate Ned Lamont (D) to abandon his run against Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) - the Democratic incumbent who has repeatedly and destructively undermined the Democratic Party for years. Schumer has also said he would consider backing Lieberman’s bid for re-election even if Lieberman leaves the Democratic Party.

None of this is surprising. Schumer’s been a Washington politician for decades - and grassroots energy frightens people like him. But what is surprising is how Schumer has become so desperate, he is now flinging out wild stories to justify his actions. Time reports that “Schumer has told colleagues he thinks that if Lieberman lost the primary, it would send a bad signal to moderate voters and might hurt the party’s chances of winning Senate seats in places like Montana and Missouri in November.”

That's completely insane and I think Schumer knows it's insane. No moderate voter in Missouri or Montana could give two shits about the Lamont-Lieberman primary; in fact, how many do you think even know there is a Lamont-Lieberman primary? Furthermore, a moderate voter incensed by a progressive victory in Connecticut would then retaliate by not voting for a moderate in their own state? Forgive me, but I just don't get the vast moderate agenda.

But Chuck really has nothing else to use to defend his fealty to incumbency over the party rank-and-file. Just because Ned Lamont is not part of the Kool Klub, he's apparently not allowed to be part of the Democratic process. According to this critique, democracy exists only for the few. How is that democratic?

When you shrink the net of activists and supporters, when you shut the door on the people most profoundly interested in helping you, the necessary consequence is Republican victory. Resurgences in politics always bubble up from the grassroots. The Republicans proved that 40 years ago. Now we finally have a situation where Democrats are using the grassroots to start their own resurgence, and some Party leaders are openly fearful of it, and what to silence it. Given their prowess in getting elected in the past decade, you'd think they'd welcome the help. But winning elections is apparently not as important as holding on to control of your little fiefdoms.

The Time article, by the way, is devastating for Lieberman.

Then, in the small town of East Lyme, Joe Barry, a retired Vietnam veteran and local Democrat, literally got in Lieberman's face.

"Senator, that was the plan, to get rid of Saddam," Barry said, sitting with about 12 people in a senior center that Lieberman had stopped at. "We got rid of Saddam, now let's get out of there. What are we looking for, Vietnam, where 50,000 people died?" Lieberman calmly responded, "We have a plan," but Barry shot back, "Who has a plan?" "The United States Military, the United States Government," Lieberman said, naming General George Casey, who leads American forces in Iraq.

Lieberman was standing right in front of Barry, and as the discussion continued another minute, the burly veteran stood up face-to-face with the Senator to emphasize his point. "I'm not going to let it go," Barry said, adding, "I would love to see your plan." Lieberman didn't give any ground either. "I'm not for an open-ended [commitment] but I don't want to leave like that," he said, snapping his fingers. Barry can't even remember the name of Lieberman's opponent, but still he says that Lieberman's strong support for the war has left him unsure if he can vote for him. "I would probably vote for Donald Duck right now," Barry said.

Here he denies something that's on tape and in pictures:

Connecticut party officials were particularly incensed when President Bush kissed Lieberman on the cheek following his 2005 State of the Union address. In meetings with state Dems, Lieberman tried to assuage their concerns, but also kept reminding party officials he had a 70% approval rating. Even so, the attacks on the kiss became so vocal that an exasperated Lieberman told one group of Democrats "I didn't kiss him back," a response that didn't exactly hearten them. (The incident has become so radioactive that Lieberman now denies Bush actually kissed him, telling TIME last week "I don't think he kissed me, he leaned over and gave me a hug and said 'thank you for being a patriotic American.'")

"I didn't give him tongue!" Lieberman protests.

There are still some shots in the Time piece at the liberal blogosphere (with whom they compete for readers, at least that's their perception, so the animosity is blindingly obvious), and the article is openly critical of Lamont, unfairly so in my opinion. So you can't have everything. Time is as much a part of the institutional establishment that creates a Lieberman as anyone, so how can you be shocked when they editorially side with him? In the state, among the citizens, where it counts, people see ads like this and understand the essential truth therein: that Joe Lieberman hurts the Democratic brand by parroting Republican talking points and relentlessly criticizing Democrats. Some of those same Democrats want to do everything in their power to keep him in the fold. They're desperate, thinking about what might happen if he wins. What they should do is prepare for what happens when he loses.



There have been a series of 5-4 rulings with Sam Alito in the majority, many of which fundamentally change bedrock Constitutional principles like the preponderance of evidence standard for deciding death-penalty cases, and the "knock and announce" rule, which Publius considers rightly decided, though others disagree, seeing some hypocrisy in the process:

By the by, (Antonin) Scalia, writing for the majority, is happy to set his originalism aside and argue that the growth of “public-interest law firms and lawyers who specialize in civil-rights grievances … [and] the increasing professionalism of police forces, including a new emphasis on internal police discipline … [and] the increasing use of various forms of citizen review can enhance police accountability” all mean that the fourth amendment can be reinterpreted.

I've always thought that originalism was more a PR strategy than a guiding ideology.

But the point is that Samuel Alito has indeed moved the court to the right in ways that are fundamentally changing the meaning of the Constitution, notwithstanding today's ruling on Vermont's campaign-finance laws, which has such little consensus that there were 6 opinions for 9 Justices.

I bring this up because a very important case is headed to the Court, one who's impacts could be vital to the future of the planet:

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether the Bush administration must regulate carbon dioxide to combat global warming, setting up what could be one of the court's most important decisions on the environment.

The decision means the court will address whether the administration's decision to rely on voluntary measures to combat climate change are legal under federal clean air laws.

''This is the whole ball of wax. This will determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency is to regulate greenhouse gases from cars and whether EPA can regulate carbon dioxide from power plants,'' said David Bookbinder, an attorney for the Sierra Club.

I don't know that you get bigger than a case like this. And with Roberts and Alito firmly ensconced on the bench, the odds are not in favor of regulation. I fully understand that elections have consequences, but if the Court rules that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and cannot be regulated, it would be almost impossible to unentangle. And the Earth might not be able to wait for such a disentanglement.


Best Friends Forever

It's kind of a big deal that Jack Abramoff, according to a daming Senate Indian Affairs Committee report, used nonprofit groups like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform to funnel money to his cronies:

Newly released documents in the Jack Abramoff investigation shed light on how the lobbyist secretly routed his clients' funds through tax-exempt organizations with the acquiescence of those in charge, including prominent conservative activist Grover Norquist [...]

Among the organizations used by Abramoff was Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. According to an investigative report on Abramoff's lobbying released last week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Americans for Tax Reform served as a "conduit" for funds that flowed from Abramoff's clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist's organization kept a small cut, e-mails show.

A second group Norquist was involved with, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received about $500,000 in Abramoff client funds; the council's president has told Senate investigators that Abramoff often asked her to lobby a senior Interior Department official on his behalf. The committee report said the Justice Department should further investigate the organization's dealings with the department and its former deputy secretary, J. Steven Griles.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Norquist and Abramoff have been buddies since their days leading the College Republicans. This is crony capitalism, plain and simple. Ralph Reed's also caught up in this:

The Senate committee report also details Abramoff's dealings with two others from the College Republicans crowd: Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition executive director; and Amy Moritz Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, which sponsored a golf trip in 2000 to Scotland for then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

"Call Ralph re Grover doing pass through," Abramoff wrote in a stark e-mail reminder to himself in 1999, a year in which Norquist moved more than $1 million in Abramoff client money to Reed and Christian anti-gambling groups. Reed was working to defeat lotteries and casinos that would have competed with Abramoff's tribal and Internet gambling clients.

The "spinning and spinning spin of the day" goes to Norquist, who claims that Americans for Tax Reform worked with Abramoff's gambling clients because they share anti-tax principles. How does "work together" equal "got money from the clients and sent it on to functionaries"?

With one conviction already under its belt, the Justice Department is likely to turn up the heat on the Abramoff probe, not down. This could be bad news for Grover Norquist, whose credibility has shrunk to the size where it can be drowned in the bathtub.


The New Consultants

Happy to see that my friend thereisnospoon is teaming up with bonddad and Chris Bowers to create a fully netroots-based political consulting firm. Politicians might need consultation, they just don't need it coming from the Washington bubble where it's self-sustaining and consequence-free.

This is just the latest in the ways in which the netroots community is changing the political dynamic by coming up with their own ideas. I haven't weighed in on this bizarre pie fight with Jason Zengerle of The New Republic, who basically claimed that there's some giant backroom conspiracy by Kos to shut up liberal bloggers (and he cites a non-existent email to prove it). Clearly what's going on is that the Establishment is scared out of their minds that the people might actually aggrandize some power, and they're demonizing like crazy to push the people back to the margins where they think we all belong.

The conservosphere, delighted as they are in this turn of events, would do well not to side with the traditional sclerotic Establishment on this one. Sooner or later they'll feel the smear brush too. DC does not want a people-powered movement. They view it as a threat. I imagine the dinosaurs didn't want an asteroid to crash into the planet either.


Kerry on Climate Change and Energy Independence

Both of the last two Democratic nominees for President, the elected and the unelected, understand the importance of combating climate change. This whole speech is here. Here's the key idea in my mind:

Here’s the bottom line: within the next decade, if we don’t deal with global warming, our children and grandchildren will have to deal with global catastrophe. It is time to stop debating fiction writers, oil executives and flat-earth politicians, and actually take on the other mortal threat to America after terrorism, which, because of our oil dependence, is a decisive front in the war on terrorism.

...Our reliance on oil not only props up decaying and dictatorial regimes, but those that tolerate and sustain terrorist groups. Any long-term strategy for winning the war on terror must be matched with a determined effort to reduce our dependence on petroleum. It demands an international response, linked to the rapid emergence of new energy technologies, in order to ensure that emerging economies don't become the new enablers of Middle East autocrats. Make no mistake, our long term mission in the war on terror depends on long term energy independence. We must end the empire of oil.

Each of us can do something. And together all of us can insist on leaders who secure our energy independence, not ones who barter it away. We wouldn’t elect a candidate who said terrorism wasn’t a threat. We wouldn’t tolerate a candidate for national office who didn’t say he was committed to capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden. But for too long we’ve tolerated those who treat the threat of energy insecurity and the truth of global climate change as an inconvenient myth. Well, from now on, every American who walks into a polling place can and should vote to kick out anyone who stands in the way of energy independence.

There are so many reasons to support energy independence and combating climate change, so maybe this one will help make those rigid ideologues sit up and take notice. For too long we've been funding both sides of the war on terror, one when we pay our taxes, and the other when we pay for gasoline. Our auto companies made the mistake of siding with Big Oil and ditching fuel-efficient vehicles, and now they're paying the price in market share. Our foreign policy experts have made the mistake of siding with Big Oil too, and in so doing have funneled wealth to those who fund terror and radical Islam.

This is a good speech. I hope to see some good action. Before 2009, please.



So I went to see the premiere of Who Killed the Electric Car at the LA Film Festival on Saturday. The film tells the story of the Saturn EV1, a plug-in, no-emission car promoted by GM and then suddenly abandoned, despite some popularity, especially in California. It surmises why these cars, only available for lease, were abruptly taken off the market, not offered for purchase by the lessees, and then crushed, even the new ones.

We parked in an assigned lot for the festival, which you pretty much have to do if you're going to be able to park in Westwood (UCLA campus). The Festival had shuttle buses waiting to take people from the lot to the various movie theaters. There was no real need for these shuttles, as every theater was within a few blocks of the parking lot. But I wasn't exactly sure where my theater was, so I boarded the bus for the shirt journey.

My friend and I were the only ones on the bus. The shuttle driver proceeded to take his proscribed route, which wound up and down the streets of Westwood. He ended up driving about 2 miles to get us all of 2 blocks away, depositing us at the theater.

The movie ended up being sold out. But I don't know if I needed to see it. I think I had just lived it.

I did get my environmental entertainment fix this weekend with Tom Friedman's "Addicted to Oil" documentary on The Discovery Channel (which would have been fine if the Moustache of Understanding Friedman didn't insist on being the story the whole time, participating in the documentary and generally doing a low-grade Michael Moore impression) and An Inconvenient Truth, which was supposed to include a Q&A with Al Gore afterwards, but we got the day wrong and I gave a Q&A instead. Sadly nobody stuck around for it.

An Inconvenient Truth is an important movie which mainly strikes a perfect balance between understanding the climate change crisis and understanding Al Gore the man, except for one unfortunate exchange where Gore is on the phone playing like a sleuth to figure out some Bush functionary's connections to Big Oil (it just doesn't work at all, it looks like it belongs in some 80s spy thriller). I guess The Wall Street Journal took another swipe at Gore today, but really these efforts are pretty sad. Almost 1,000 peer-reviewed journals have come to a complete consensus that man-made factors are warming the Earth. The LA Times echoed the movie yesterday with a story about the shrinking of the ice sheet over Greenland. The evidence is empirical and entirely consistent.

Both Friedman's escapade and the Gore movie made the same point, that we have all the technological capability to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and that these new technologies have the potential to be an economic engine for this country in the decades to come. There's another trillion gallons of oil still in the ground, which has a $100 trillion dollar price tag on it, and the oil companies don't want to give that up. But the choice between gold bars and the Earth, made by Gore in the film, is no contest.

I'm changing all my light bulbs this week. What are you doing?

UPDATE: Interesting story about how corn ethanol plants are reshaping rural economies. I don't know how good a thing this is, considering the energy required in harvesting corn. Other sources of ethanol (like cellulosic) are much more efficient. But it's good to see that we're subsidizing an industry for the right reasons, for a change.