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

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Unleashing

I wrote kind of a jokey post about losing Iraq, but I wanted to elaborate on some of the recent developments I touched on in that post.

We know that the President wants to send troops back into the country in a "last big push" to secure the country. But that push may have nothing to do with additional troops but with a change in strategy with regard to the Shiite/Sunni split. Laura Rozen wrote an important op-ed about the change in tactics:

AS SECTARIAN violence rises in Iraq and the White House comes under increasing pressure to revamp its strategy there, a debate is emerging inside the Bush administration: Should the U.S. abandon its efforts to act as a neutral referee in the ongoing civil war and, instead, throw its lot in with the Shiites?

A U.S. tilt toward the Shiites is a risky strategy, one that could further alienate Iraq's Sunni neighbors and that could backfire by driving its Sunni population into common cause with foreign jihadists and Al Qaeda cells. But elements of the administration, including some members of the intelligence community, believe that such a tilt could lead to stability more quickly than the current policy of trying to police the ongoing sectarian conflict evenhandedly, with little success and at great cost.

This past Veterans Day weekend ... almost the entire Bush national security team gathered for an unpublicized two-day meeting. The topic: Iraq. The purpose of the meeting was to come up with a consensus position on a new path forward. ...

Numerous policy options were put forward at the meeting, which revolved around a strategy paper prepared by Hadley and drawn from his recent trip to Baghdad. One was the Shiite option. Participants were asked to consider whether the U.S. could really afford to keep fighting both the Sunni insurgency and Shiite militias — or whether it should instead focus its efforts on combating the Sunni insurgency exclusively, and even help empower the Shiites against the Sunnis.

So what's the logic behind the idea of "unleashing the Shiites"? It's the path of least resistance, according to its supporters, and it could help accelerate one side actually winning Iraq's sectarian conflict, thereby shortening the conflict, while reducing some of the critical security concerns driving Shiites to mobilize their own militias in the first place.

This is essentially advocating ethnic cleansing, allowing the Shiites to undergo their revenge killings in an attempt to crush the Sunnis under foot. The events of the next couple days appeared to show that this strategy has won the day:

A warrant was issued late Thursday for the arrest of Sheik Harith al-Dari, one of Iraq’s most prominent Sunni Arab clerics, on charges of inciting terrorism and violence, government officials said.

Mr. Dari, head of the influential Muslim Scholars Association, is an outspoken critic of the foreign military presence in Iraq and of the Shiite-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The warrant, coming against a man beloved by hard-line and disaffected Sunnis, had the potential to widen the sectarian divide in Iraq and inflame the Sunni Arab-led insurgency.

Yes, to sane people, that would widen the sectarian divide; actually, it would speed the pace of the civil war. But the idea in the Administration is that the Shiites, with superior numbers, could essentially wipe the Iraqi Sunnis off the face of the earth. This would be more likely if the Shiites themselves were invulnerable, but they're not:

Gunmen in Baghdad killed a prominent Shi'ite Islamist politician on Saturday as Condoleezza Rice appealed to Iraqis not to let sectarianism destroy their country.

In what looked like a sectarian assassination, Ali al-Adhadh of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) was shot dead with his wife as he drove in mainly Sunni west Baghdad, police and SCIRI member Adnan al-Obeidi said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rice said during a visit to Vietnam that Iraqis "have one future and that is a future together. They don't have a future if they try to stay apart."

This is what she has to say in public, but privately it seems like the US is betting on the "one future" of Iraq as a future without Sunnis. This is nearly impossible, but hell, maybe they think it worked the other way around for Saddam for 30 years, so why not give it a shot. But of course, this is a short-term solution rather than a long-term fix. The President's motives and what ought to be the motives for facing the future in Iraq are at cross purposes. Bush just wants to get to 2009 without more hijacked convoys and a wider regional war, so he can throw the problem onto somebody else. Since leaving=losing, Bush has convinced himself into believing that we'll succeed unless we quit. And the situation is so colossally fucked that the only road to short-term success, they've decided, is a Sunni genocide. That's what they're advocating. The "Shiite tilt" isn't going to yield a representative democracy. It's going to turn somebody like Al-Sadr into a strongman. The government is irrelevant compared to the militias. And be letting the Shiites run roughshod over the country, you imperil Sunni neighbors like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, you cause a mass refugee and humanitarian crisis, and you put Iraq in the hands of people who are essentially the friends and allies of the country that's enriching uranium and plutonium and has the potential to expand its influence across the entire Middle East.

There aren't any good answers left in Iraq, but "unleashing the Shiites" seems to me one of the worst. I hope the incoming Speaker can stick to her guns and hold this Administration's feet to the fire:

This morning, I visited our brave men and women at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. It is a place of prayers, of honor, of respect, and reflection. And I left there more committed than ever to bringing the war to an end.

I told my colleagues yesterday that the biggest ethical issue facing our country for the past three and a half years is the war in Iraq.

This unnecessary pre-emptive war has come at great cost. Nearly 2,900 of our brave troops have lost their lives and more than 21,000 more have suffered lasting wounds. Since the war began, Congress has appropriated more than $350 billion, and the United States has suffered devastating damage to our reputation in the eyes of the world.

It is an ethical issue. I wonder, what are the ethics behind letting one group of people just go ahead and kill the other group so order can be restored and we can sneak away?


Game Of The Century

And Sean Crable wins the Pert Plus "I Lost The Ohio State Game" Award. A check for $10 will be sent in Crable's honor to the charity of his choice. Congratulations to him.


Friday, November 17, 2006

They've Learned Nothing

Try as they might to paint the picture of the "Democrats in disarray," the Heathers that make up the Beltway press corps cannot deny the biggest political story of the week. Anonymous Liberal noticed it as well. The Republican Party, after a thrashing in the midterm elections, saddled with historically low approval ratings for their Congress, having earned those low ratings by doing pretty much nothing for two years, just went ahead and elected the same leaders responsible for the disaster of 2005-2006. In fact, the only guy elected to a leadership position in the House or Senate was retread racist Trent Frickin' Lott. After two of the worst years a party could possibly have, the GOP Congress just threw the bums IN.

Unbelievable. They've learned absolutely nothing. And I couldn't be happier.


Getting The Message On The Majority

While fools like David Ignatius are already lamenting that Nancy Pelosi hasn't gotten anything done BEFORE SHE'S EVEN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, and while hours and hours of attention are paid to the Democratic leadership races while Republican leadership fights go unreported, at least one outlet is getting the message on who's in charge and how it ought to be covered. After Meet the Press started its first postelection show, in an election decided on opposition to the Iraq war, by featuring war supporters John McCain and Joe Lieberman, this week they're turning to Jim Webb and Jon Tester.

It's a great thing for these two guys to get this kind of national exposure so quickly. Webb and Tester are going to be absolute rock stars in the Senate (and it goes without saying, both were promoted by bloggers since their contested primaries). Webb has already written one of the most audacious editorials in the history of the Wall Street Journal, a fiery, populist essay that laid out the little-noticed problems of wage imbalance and income stratification with piercing clarity.

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

This is literally an unheard-of position among the Washington elite, one that suggests that this Washington Post piece about the coming change in trade policy may be prescient. To have a national figure in the well of the Senate talking about the poor and the downtrodden, talking about the greed of corporate boardrooms, will be a sea change in American politics. And I presume Senator-elect Tester will be right behind Senator-elect Webb to back him up.

Billmon is similarly stunned:

That's beautiful stuff. Paul Wellstone could have written it. So could Bernie Sanders, although Bernie actually might find it a little too radical for his tastes. But the last person -- well, almost the last person -- on earth I would expect to emerge as a tribune of good old-fashioned New Deal populism (or, dare I say it, democratic socialism) is fightin' Jim Webb, Ronald Reagan's favorite Marine.

Not only that, but Webb's now against the war -- just like us unreconstructed '60s (or, in my case, '70s) radicals. I just hope he doesn't mind being tarred as a stabber of backs or a spitter on the troops by the modern-day equivalents of the old Jim Webb. It kind of goes with the territory [...]

...if Jim Webb and I are now on the roughly same side on the big issues of the day -- the war, globalization, corporate power, economic fairness, social justice -- it tells you something has fundamentally changed in American politics. It may not be a realignment (a political system this polluted and decrepit may not be capable of such a thing) but when Senators from Virginia start talking like Walter Reuther, it sure the hell isn't business as usual.

This is a voice, very similar to my voice, I have literally never heard in the corridors of power where it counts. Republicans want to point to Webb as an example of how the election proved that the country is conservative; Webb (and Jon Tester) might show the country that it's more liberal than they ever imagined.


Bush Writes New Book: "If I Lost The War In Iraq, Here's How It Happened"

January 25, 2009

NEW YORK (ABCD) - In a bizarre move that his publisher says amounts to a confession, former President George W. Bush has written a book that speculates how, hypothetically, he could have lost the war in Iraq.

The book, "If I Lost The War In Iraq, Here's How It Happened," will be teamed with a companion interview to be aired on the Fox network during the February sweeps period. Bush candidly explains exactly how he would have bungled the war and ruined American foreign policy for decades, if he was so inclined.

"I'm not saying I actually screwed things up, we're obviously still on track for a great victory in Iraq. But if I WANTED to lose, I think it would go like this," Bush said at a press conference held at Regan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Judith Regan, who edited the volume, supported her client at the press conference, but was quoted later saying, "This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession."

In the book, the former President details exactly how one would lose a war in Iraq, starting by going into the country unnecessarily under the false pretense of disarming Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction. "See, if you base the entire case for war on finding WMD, and then you never find them, you kind of start to look like an idiot for going there in the first place. It'd be a key way to undermine support for the war effort." Mr. Bush then went on to explain how shifting rationales for the war after the fact, whether it be to spread democracy in the Middle East, or to liberate the country from a brutal dictator, or to give a warning to terrorist-harboring nations around the globe, would further this discontinuity and sap support even more.

Another key to turning Iraq into a disaster area, says Bush COMPLETELY HYPOTHETICALLY, would be to send in too few troops for the initial invasion, and have no plans to restore order in the country once the Iraqi government fell. "I'll tell you," writes Bush, "someone who wanted to lose Iraq would have not paid attention to any calls for additional troops, and instead gone in without the amount needed to secure anything but the oil fields." Disbanding the Iraqi Army and letting them take their weapons with them "also would help turn the thing into a shitstorm," the 43rd President of the United States added.

"This is almost pathological," said John Pike, defense expert and director of "Here we have an American President saying that if he wanted Iraq to erupt into chaos, he would fail to restore basic services like electricity and water, allow huge stockpiles of arms and explosives to fall into the hands of the insurgents, torture Iraqi detainees (many of them innocent of any wrongdoing), and have no plan to deal with the imminent and blindingly obvious wave of sectarian violence and revenge killings. These are all things he in fact did! But by turning it into a hypothetical, Bush appears to be granting himself forgiveness for his incompetence in managing the war. It's so absurd as to almost be brilliant."

The former President's book covers the entire breadth of the war, from the corruption of the Coalition Provisional Authority (which lost $8 billion dollars during its tenure), to the decision to ram through three elections which then put into power a theocratic Shiite governing body which ruled with an iron fist over its Sunni counterparts, to the difficulties with properly training Iraqi security forces to take charge of their own country, to stubbornly sticking to a non-strategy of "stay the course" when every independent observer could see it was not working, to blaming Democrats and the media for not highlighting the "good progress" being made in the country when it was not to be found, to the ultimate decision to tilt in favor of the Shiites, essentially sanctioning ethnic cleansing, mass arrests of Sunni leaders and clerics, and a hastening rather than a stopping of civil war. This all led to the wider regional war we see in the Middle East today. "Yep, that's how you'd do it all right," Bush said before leaving the press conference to return to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

President Gore could not be reached for comment.


Bo Dies

Horrible news.

Bo Schembechler, the winningest coach in Michigan football history, died Friday after collapsing during the taping of a television show, according to three Detroit TV stations. He was 77.

Schembechler’s death was reported by WXYZ, WDIV and WJBK, which did not cite sources. He died a day before the second-ranked Wolverines were scheduled to meet No. 1 Ohio State in the latest installment of the century-old rivalry.

It's shocking that it happened right before this big game.

I got to Michigan the year after Bo retired. But he still left his mark on the program and on the university. This is a shame. He lived for things like tomorrow.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Quick Hits

A lot up my sleeve. I thought this would get EASIER after the election.

• Let's keep this in mind.

In 1994, in the wake of the Republicans’ landslide midterm victory, Tom Delay ran for the position of majority whip against Newt Gingrich’s hand-picked Lieutenant, Robert Walker of Pennsylvania. Gingrich, like Pelosi, did his best to convince his colleagues to vote for Walker. He ultimately failed and Delay won. It was all quickly forgotten and Gingrich’s authority was not compromised in any significant way.

These inside baseball leadership battles get more ink than they deserve. In this case Pelosi made a strategic error, but it's not going to be remembered for long. Ari Berman has more in The Nation.

• Sudan agrees to a peacekeeping force in Darfur managed jointly by the UN and the AU. Welcome news, I hope it ends up helping.

• Very quietly, but very importantly, the Senate has approved an amendment reinstating the Office of Inspector General overseeing waste and fraud in Iraqi reconstruction. Unsurprisingly, Russ Feingold was the main Democratic sponsor of the amendment. Very surprisingly he was joined by Susan Collins, Norm Coleman and Joe Lieberman. That'd be a bipartisan measure.

• James Carville's crazy jihad against Howard Dean continues, calling him "Rumsfeldian in his competence." Ezra Klein has the best take on this that I've seen, importantly noting that Dean's playing a long game:

David Sirota, for instance, mocks Carville for thinking "Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy had nothing to do with Democrats winning in places like Kansas and New Hampshire, where groups like the DCCC all but abandoned its own candidates." Carville's right, it didn't. And Dean would agree. Credit for the Kansas win should largely go to Kathleen Sebelius, whose skillful exploitation of a moderate vs. conservative crack-up in the state was the greatest, and most underappreciated, political performance this cycle. As for New Hampshire, the Northeastern conversion was largely a structural occurrence -- as Tom Schaller has repeatedly pointed out, it was a realignment. The three or four staffers Dean may (or may not) have put on the ground there likely had little do with it.

None of this is an attack on Dean nor, for that matter, Rahm. Defend Dean's resource allocation if you want. But this election was not a referendum on the 50 State Strategy. It wouldn't have been had Democrats lost, it isn't now that they've won. The 50 State Strategy is an actual long-term strategy, the success of which won't be measurable for many cycles yet. I think it's an important gambit, and given how ready Carville was with the knife, it's a real blessing Democrats did far too well for Dean to be deposed, as this buys him time to pursue his vision.

• There are still plenty of races left to be decided, and in one of them, Republican incumbent Robin Hayes, leading by about 400 votes over netroots candidate Larry Kissell, is systematically trying to disenfranchise voters by trying to get historically legal provisional ballots thrown out. Some sort of actual legal standard on provisional ballots needs to be worked out - this doesn't seem to be working.

• One of the other things I noticed in Ed Schultz' description of his talk with Harry Reid is that Reid announced that there would be votes held on Monday and Friday. Imagine that, a 5-day work week for Congress. They'll accomplish more simply by showing up to do their job almost twice as much.

• I'm very concerned that Arnold Schwarzenegger will challenge Barbara Boxer for the US Senate in 2010. He really has nowhere else to go, being termed out for governor and currently unable to become President or Vice President. Arnold has managed to hoodwink the voters thanks to a star-struck media, and his lust for power trumping any sense of loyalty to his party or his nonexistent principles. He'd have even more tens of millions in corporate money to challenge Boxer.

This video is truly disgusting. The UCLA police used a taser on a student for not having the proper ID card, then tased him AGAIN for not standing up after the tasing.

Tasers are important to subdue violent criminals but are increasingly used just to exert control. A kid in the student union is not a violent threat. He was treated like one because the MO for many police is to bend the subject to their will. I remember when I was in college that I used a student ID at the computer center with a picture of a famous college basketball player on campus on it, such was the obliviousness of the computer center monitors. I guess if I was a Muslim, like this student, I would've had several hundred volts coursing through my system. Thereisnospoon is absolutely right that what's sicker than the tasing itself are the comments on the YouTube age endorsing the practice. Law and order has become so revered that people will willingly succumb to authoritarianism in order to maintain public safety (even when there's no threat to it).

• Something sorely needed: a think tank that will promote thinking. I imagine this is what the Rand Corporation was supposed to be before it became a stalking horse for the defense industry. Count me in on the Thinking think tank. Where do I sign up?

• And finally, an Indonesian put a voodoo curse on the President's trip through Asia this week. If he makes a doll they'd probably sell, that's all I'm saying. Not that I'd buy one. That would be wrong. And anyway, this Presidency doesn't need any help being cursed.


I Would've Gotten Away With It, Too, If It Wasn't For You Meddling Mistresses

The brain trust of the Republican Party has read the exit polls, done the hard research, and figured out the reason for their defeat last week: mouthy women who can't shut up about getting strangled:

Although some glitz has come off Mr Rove, Republicans have been more eager to blame botched campaigns and individual ethics scandals. “Bob Sherwood’s seat [in Pennsylvania] would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn’t whined about being throttled,” said Mr (Grover) Norquist.

Any lessons from the campaign? “Yes. The lesson should be, don’t throttle mistresses.”

Yes, a lesson some Congressmen still need to learn:

With a Bible in his hand and looking haggard from two nights behind bars, Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, walked out of the Sherburne County jail Tuesday seeking forgiveness from his wife, the public and God after being charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic assault after an incident Sunday at his home.

Olson, 51, who was just elected to his eighth term in the Legislature, stopped short of acknowledging guilt for the charges.

"I have failed terribly in my family affairs. I'm grateful for my wife's strength to speak up. First of all I need God's forgiveness and I need my wife's forgiveness and my family's. Then I need the public's forgiveness and all other officials I've done harm to." Olson was released without bail. He was ordered to stay away from his wife and children and from their home.

Though, to be fair, Olson did throttle a wife, not a mistress. So they're learning!

It's almost good, in a way, that movement conservatives have learned nothing from their losses on Election Night. Grover Norquist is often described as "a leading conservative thinker." Once America's newest jailbird Jack Abramoff gets done dishing the dirt, Norquist will probably be the leading conservative thinker in prison.


Insurance Industry Advocates for Increased Insurance

Whaddya know, the insurance industry wants the US to enact universal health care... routed through the insurance industry:

With Democrats vowing to make healthcare a top priority, the insurance industry Monday unveiled a proposal to extend coverage to nearly 47 million uninsured persons.

The move by America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents companies that provide coverage to more than 200 million people, focused attention on an issue politicians have shied away from for more than a decade [...]

The proposal by the insurance trade group combines elements favored by Democrats with some that Republicans have backed. It calls for providing coverage within three years to all uninsured children, currently numbering about 8 million, and within 10 years to virtually all adults.

The plan would rely on a mixture of expanded federal and state programs and tax credits for workers and their families to purchase private health insurance and pay medical expenses. It would also provide federal grants to states that are trying to expand coverage for their residents.

Basically, the plan is getting everyone to buy health insurance. I wonder why the insurance industry would propose that?

Here's Kevin Drum:

Let me get this straight. The private insurance industry favors a government program that would purchase more private insurance for people, but is opposed to anything that would drive down the cost of insurance or guarantee coverage for people the insurance industry doesn't want to cover. That's quite a plan. Why not just ask for grocery sacks full of unmarked bills instead? [...]

No national healthcare plan that relies primarily on private insurance will ever be able to control costs and provide universal coverage. Conversely, every national healthcare proposal that doesn't rely on private insurance — i.e., all the ones that would work in a reasonably efficient and convenient way — will be fought tooth and nail by the insurance industry. I don't blame the insurance industry for defending its turf, but the fact remains that Democrats will never be able to tackle healthcare properly as long as they depend on insurance industry money. This is not an interest group that's on our side, and Democrats should have figured this out a long time ago.

A for-profit insurance industry is incompatible with relieving health care costs - in fact they want the opposite. The SYSTEM itself is broken, not the amount of people willing to pay into the system. To show you just how much, check out this post by HuffPo blogger Courtney E. Martin:

Polly, a curly-haired 30-year-old from Johnson City, Tennessee, was forced to leave eating disorder treatment when her insurance ran out. She explains, "Here I was thinking, It's okay, I'm over the laxatives, I haven't had one in almost three months. But I go outside of Renfrew (Treatment Center) and I wanted them immediately."

Before the rise of cost-conscious, managed-care insurance, the average stay at Renfrew was seven to nine weeks; today the usual stay is only two to four. A recent survey by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders and Glamour magazine of 109 top eating disorder experts in the nation found 100 percent believed some of their patients suffered relapses in their conditions as a direct or indirect consequence of coverage limits.

This phenomenon was captured on film over and over during the course of THIN. Women just beginning to internalize their treatment, just beginning to be honest about their pasts and their problems, just beginning to make healthy, self-motivated choices are yanked from the safety of the Renfrew Center before any of these changes can be actualized. It is as if they punished for taking the first steps in the process of healing.

And what's worse, this approach isn't even saving the insurance companies money. Dr. Janell Mensinger, an expert in eating disorders, explains, "The sad thing about this situation, which happens all of the time, is that everyone gets hurt in the end. The harm to the patient is obvious, but there is harm and financial burden to the system as well a result of such ignorance. The research is clear that the longer the individual has the disease, the more difficult and expensive it is to recover."

Read the whole thing. Any organization primarily concerned with making money is not going to make health care decisions in the interests of their consumers, but in the interests of their bottom line. There's no such thing as "universal" health insurance when it's truncated by cost-cutting concerns. The whole system needs to be upended.


About That New Era Of Bipartisanship

President Bush is partying like it's 2002:

Yesterday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) noted that President Bush plans to renominate several of his rejected judicial nominees:

"In the days following the election, the President spoke about becoming a uniter and working with Congress in a bipartisan way. Regrettably, it appears he will not be keeping that promise. I understand the President intends to renominate a number of controversial nominees. That unfortunate decision evidences that he intends to stay the partisan course when it comes to judicial nominations."

And it's not just judges. Bush renominated Kenneth Tomlinson as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees government broadcasts like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Tomlinson, you'll recall, is the guy who hired outside agents to spy on PBS programs and check for "liberal bias" (because that PBS demo is so dangerously large), put friends on the government payroll, and used his office to bankroll a horse racing operation.

It's morning in America.

And when Bush didn't get all he wanted from the sycophantic Republican Congress on federal nominees, he'd just appoint them when Congress went into recess. That tactic has continued as well, as Bush named Dr. Erik Keroack as the head of the Office of Family Planning. This is a guy who believes things like this:

At the Annual Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas, Keroack defended abstinence (in an aptly titled talk, "If I Only Had a Brain") by claiming that sex causes people to go through oxytocin withdrawal which in turn prevents people from bonding in relationships. Seriously.

[Keroack] explained that oxytocin is released during positive social interaction, massage, hugs, "trust" encounters, and sexual intercourse. "It promotes bonding by reducing fear and anxiety in social settings, increasing trust and trustworthiness, reducing stress and pain, and decreasing social aggression," he said.

But apparently if you've had sex with too many people you use up all that oxytocin: "People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual." Hear that? Too many sexual partners and you'll never love again!

So the next time you hear some DC pundit talking about the spirit of bipartisanship and the nation coming together to solve the collective problems we face, just realize that they're spouting bullshit. The President's going to govern the way he's always tried to govern. He's going to try and bully his way through the last two years.


Glenn Beck Needs To Be Fired

This kind of ugly bigotry shouldn't be endorsed by a supposed news network:

BECK: History was made last Tuesday when Democrat Keith Ellison got elected to Congress, representing the great state of Minnesota. Well, not really unusual that Minnesota would elect a Democrat. What is noteworthy is that Keith is the first Muslim in history to be elected to the House of Representatives. He joins us now.

Congratulations, sir.

ELLISON: How you doing, Glenn? Glad to be here.

BECK: Thank you. I will tell you, may I -- may we have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards face up on the table?

ELLISON: Go there.

BECK: OK. No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I've been to mosques. I really don't believe that Islam is a religion of evil. I -- you know, I think it's being hijacked, quite frankly.

With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, "Let's cut and run." And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."

And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.

A lot of bigoted, ignorant Americans will feel that way, the ones that think (like Glenn Beck) that every member of a religion necessarily embodies the worst, most perverted aspects of that religion. Since Glenn Beck is a Christian, I guess he has to prove to me that he's not about to embark on a Crusade using children to free the Holy Land. I mean, Christians did that in 1212, surely they're all the same, right?

You cannot let someone this bigoted and ignorant remain as a featured anchor on a major network.

UPDATE: I forgot to mock the "I like Muslims, I've been to mosques" remark that preceeded the slur. You know what, bigots need to be unrestrained and free. They don't have to couch their statements with "some of my best friends want to kill me and my family." Just go ahead and say you have no contact with the minority of your choice and that's why you hate them. It's far more believable.


Real Election Reform: A Greast Victory for the Netroots

Last week it was largely the blogosphere that brought to the surface the dirty trick of annoying robocalling that the NRCC was performing in dozens of Congressional districts nationwide. We all know the story: the robocall would start by saying "I have information about (Democratic Candidate X)," then leave a pause, and follow with a hit piece on that Democratic candidate, with the disclaimer about the call being sponsored by the NRCC coming at the very end. If the voter hung up early on the call, it would automatically call back 7 or 8 times until the call ended. If you kept hanging up, you were annoyed with what you think is the campaign for the Democratic candidate. If you listened to the end of the call, you heard a hit piece on that candidate.

I was just listening to the top of the Ed Schultz Show, and he said that, in a meeting with incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid, the pledge was given that banning robocalls will be at the top of the Democrats' agenda. This is essentially already happening at the state level, but a federal ban would of course be wide-ranging and have more teeth. I don't know how you would sidestep the free speech issue, but maybe it's a National Do Not Robocall registry to go along with the regular Do Not Call one. Automated calls like this were banned in Indiana and New Hampshire for the 2006 elections. I don't think you can find two states which did better from a Democratic perspective; one picked up 3 House seats, the other sent Democrats to the leadership of the state legislature for the first time in almost a century.

The point here is that, without the netroots jumping on this issue early, promoting it, receiving a wide range of reports throughout the country to prove that it was a national phenomenon and not a local one, the revelations about these robocalls would have only come out much later. By making this a priority during the election, and bringing it to the Democrats' attention, it inspired them to do something about it. As Stephen Burt said last week, this is a tailor-made issue to open with. It's not like anybody likes robocalls, and consumer protection always gets high marks from the consumers themselves. It's a no-lose situation.

Now, the next step is to ensure that the Holt-Wexler bill requiring a voter-verified paper trail in every election held in the country gets a full vote in both houses of Congress. Reps. Wexler and Holt claim that they have enough co-sponsors for the resolution, 218, to earn passage.

Democratic Reps. Robert Wexler of Boca Raton, Fla., and Rush Holt of New Jersey promoted legislation on Wednesday that would require a paper trail at polling places to ensure that ballots can be recounted and verified.

They said lack of a paper backup system at electronic polling places has impeded several close elections around the country, notably in Sarasota County, Fla., where more than 18,000 ballots were cast with no choice recorded in the House race in District 13.

Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan are still locked in a close contest, awaiting final results that probably will be decided by the courts. Both have come to Washington in the meantime to attend orientation sessions for new members of Congress.

It's vital that we continue to push for real electoral reform. Grassroots and netroots activists are the ones pushing for this, and they are clearly getting somewhere. It's brilliant that it's finally bubbling to the surface and getting the attention of Capitol Hill. The difference that the netroots is making is starting to show tangible results.


Moving On

I now expect Nancy Pelosi to give in and allow Jane Harman to be the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. She's been shown that she's not all-powerful to do whatever she wants with the caucus, and in a period where Murtha was bypassed for Majority Leader over perceived questions of ethics, it would be suicide to allow the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee to go to Alcee Hastings, a formerly impeached judge.

Harman is a perfect example of the power of primaries. She faced a battle from Marcy Winograd and immediately learned the right lesson, getting back in touch with her constituents, speaking out on Iraq and building bridges to the progressive community she represents. She's a little close to AIPAC, but who isn't in the current Democratic caucus?

This will fade away as long as the first hundred hours are successful and real legislation, especially lobbying and ethics reform and a push on change in Iraq, gets passed.


The Walkout

This is kind of hilarious. Shelly Sekula-Gibbs is the Republican Representative from Tom DeLay's old district for approximately two weeks. She won the special election for the seat last week, but she lost a write-in campaign (necessitated because Tom DeLay resigned too late to get off the ballot) to Democrat Nick Lampson, who will replace Sekula-Gibbs in January.

The Washington Post wrote a story a couple days ago about this instant lame duck, and her head seemed a little bit in the clouds.

"I'm working hard to accomplish the things I'm working for," she said yesterday. "For tax cuts. For immigration reform. To make sure we have a good solution for the war in Iraq."

All that? In a few weeks?

"If there's a way to do it, I'll do it," she said, smiling beneath her bright blond hair. "I'll deal with the leadership to get as much done as possible."

Good luck with all that, Shelley. I'm sure you'll get a lot done. There probably won't be a budget deficit in two weeks once you're done. In fact, if you deal with the leadership the same way that you deal with your staff, maybe they'll all resign too:

It's not unusual that staff will quit or be fired any time there is a change a new congressperson in office. But it is unusual that so many would resign at the same time.

Eyewitness News has learned five staffers quit from the Washington, DC office of Sekula-Gibbs and two from her office in Stafford.

Sekula-Gibbs was just sworn in Monday as interim successor to Congressman Tom DeLay in District 22. On Tuesday seven staffers who worked for DeLay resigned.

According to a published report, a source familiar with the office says the workers thought Sekula-Gibbs was "mean" to them. She denies that, but declines to discuss the matter further. She calls it a personnel issue.

"I will say that some of the employees who were here from previous were transitional employees and for whatever reason they decided to leave," Sekula-Gibbs told Eyewitness News.

And apparently, this mass resignation happened while the Washington Post reporter was in her office! Somehow that didn't make it into the story. I guess the reporter was mesmerized by Sekula-Gibbs strong agenda. Too much to notice the actual news happening at the same time.

One thing that's troubling is that Sekula-Gibbs won at all. Nick Lampson is clearly the top House target for 2008 in a very conservative district. He's obviously not going to get away with going against a write-in candidate again. But if Sekula-Gibbs looks like this much of a buffoon in her moment in the sun, maybe he can win a rematch. Actually, the local GOP would do best to walk out on her.


Iraq: Over And Over Again

While everybody waits patiently for the wise and noble Iraq Study Group (which includes nobody who's an expert on the Middle East, but does include former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor) to give their recommendations, Iraq continues to pay the ultimate price:

Four more U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, the U.S. military said on Thursday, bringing to at least 10 the number killed over the past two days in gun battles and roadside bomb blasts around the country.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed and two wounded in the eastern province of Diyala north of Baghdad, home to a volatile mix of Shi'ites, Kurds and Shi'ites, when a bomb hit their vehicle during combat operations on Wednesday, the military said.

A third soldier was shot dead in an operation in the same province, the U.S. military said. It was not clear whether the incidents were linked.

Another U.S. soldier was shot dead in Baghdad on Tuesday, the military said, bringing to seven the number killed that day.

At least 44 U.S. soldiers have been killed this month, half of them in the western Anbar province, heartland of the three-year-old Sunni Muslim insurgency.

Is there a plan to get results out of this carnage? Apparently the only one is to bear down and will our way to victory.

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Nobody has credibly explained where these 20,000 troops are coming from. And we've already added troops to secure Baghdad, which is the central part of this "plan." It didn't work. We tried it already.

I read somewhere that the guy who probably feels the worst about this is John McCain. He's been asking for additional troops but didn't think Bush would actually DO it. He wanted it in his holster as his wise advice that wasn't heeded and that's why we lost. If we actually try it, and fail, then he'd be outed as the foreign policy fraud that he is.

Michael Hirsh, a very smart commentator who's been over in Iraq for awhile, tells the inconvenient truth:

The U.S. response to Iraq reminds me of those TV ads about the comically slow suitor who, after his girlfriend asks him if he loves her, waits long minutes until she has stalked out of the restaurant before answering "yes" to the empty chair across the table. Bush and Tony Blair are now arguing about whether to talk to Iran and Syria? Two or three years ago it might have made a difference, before the Sunni insurgency that was supplied and supported from outside the country spiraled into sectarian warfare. Back then, had you engaged Syria fully, you might have stopped the cross-border depots and training centers that kept a flow of jihadis and weapons to Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, one of the chief authors of the sectarian hatred, and the other original insurgent leaders. Back then, had you dealt with Iran as it must be—as a major regional power—you might have been able to curb the Shiite militias and their death squads, which were just getting started. But now? The sectarian killing has its own dynamic. What's happening is an internal Iraqi affair, and Iran and Syria have become, for the most part, bystanders.

It is the story of this administration, of course: the inability to adjust prefixed ideas to reality, embodied in an incurious president who is unable to get on top of a problem because he doesn’t follow up on details. Four years ago U.S. officials disbanded the Iraqi army, then sat stunned in their Green Zone bubble while the looting raged and the incipient insurgents began to poke their heads out of the rubble. Slowly the Bush administration began to rebuild the army. Too late, it came to realize it needed Iraqi police as well. Indeed, as army training faltered, U.S. officials labeled 2006 "the year of the police." But again, it was a year or two too late. And now that the police have become tools of the empowered sectarian militias, the Bush team is talking about relying on the Iraqi army again.

It'd be funny if it weren't so tragic. We write position papers and study and come up with grand plans and they all amount to nothing. Iraq is lost.* The sooner people wake up to that reality, the better.

* - I'd love to be wrong about that, but, um, I'm not.

UPDATE: John Abizaid wants to train more Iraqis. Yeah, THAT hasn't been tried for 3 years. Gotta give it up to Hillary for saying what needs to be said.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) took exception with Abizaid's talk of all the steps that the Iraqi government needs to take. "Hope is not a method," she told him. "We've had testimony now for four years about what 'must be done' -- and it doesn't get done."


It's Steny Hoyer

And it wasn't even close. 149-86.

I hope he and Pelosi can patch it up. Although, they worked together this past year, and the caucus was kept together pretty well. Of course, the last thing we need is a continuation of the narrative of "Dems in disarray." And frankly, ethics reform should STILL be at the top of the agenda. Hoyer's swimming in special interest money.

The whole point is that the progressive movement is just at the beginning of remaking the Democratic Party. The corporatists still hold some sway. It's a big tent ideologically, but the Republican-lite corporate wing really has no place here. Progressives have come a long way in the past 4 years, but the end is not near and the work goes on.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lottsa Luck

The return to dominance of Trent Lott really puts my mind at ease about this Democratic leadership battle. Sure, the cable nuts are going to squawk about ABSCAM (26 years old, Murtha cleared of wrongdoing) and ethics issues, but Democrats now have a counterpoint: "Didn't you guys just elect the segregationist lover?" The funniest thing I've heard today was that Trent Lott was made Minority Whip because he loves whipping minorities.

But beyond the embarrassment of putting this guy back in the Leadership, this is a major blow to those ideologues who wanted to get the party back to its conservative roots. Because Trent Lott is despised by those people. He's the one who said this gem in response to lobbying and ethics reform:

"Now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks," said Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi. "Where are you going, to McDonald's?"

Yes, God forbid you have to dig into your own pocket for something to eat. It's your divine right as a Senator to be fed lobster bisque from a nude lady-servant in return for porkbarrel projects! Trent Lott is the guy who defended building a railroad to nowhere in the middle of Mississippi, nowhere near the recent Gulf Coast hurricanes.

"I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble ever since Katrina. We in Mississippi have not asked for more than we deserve. We've been very reasonable."

He's the poster boy for pork in Washington, matched only by the Alaska duo of Ted Stevens and Don Young of "Bridge to Nowhere" fame. AND, Bush hates him. When Lott made his comments about Strom Thurmond, the President saw it as an opportunity to install his sock puppet Bill Frist. Reportedly the two can't even stand to be in the same room together. Now you have a situation where the #2 GOP man in the Senate may do nothing but undermine the President and his initiatives at a time when you need as much unity as possible while being in the minority.

For some reason, the story with the cable nuts is Murtha. The real story is that Lott's back, and how this destroys any attempt for conservative ideologues to take back their party, any attempt for the President to find allies in the Senate, and any attempt for Republicans to cleanly decry corruption on the other side (not that they could anyway).


Does He Want To Get Caught?

Honestly, have you ever seen anything like this?

Fox plans to broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson in which the former football star discusses "how he would have committed" the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, for which he was acquitted, the network said.

The two-part interview, titled "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened," will air Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, the TV network said.

Simpson has agreed to an "unrestricted" interview with book publisher Judith Regan, Fox said.

"O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," the network said in a statement. "In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."

Is this an Onion article?

How far is this going to go? Will there be Nicole Simpson blow-up dolls used as props? Will there be a re-enactment where OJ smears blood on his car? This is completely insane.

When the OJ trial was going on, I was actually working for the NFL. We were under a gag order to put anything about OJ in our shows (at one point we had to cut out a shot of the Ring of Fame in Buffalo because it showed OJ's number), but we all discussed it incessantly. When the verdict was announced they piped a feed into the NFL Films screening room, which was basically a huge movie theater. Watching the not guilty reading on a 30-foot screen in living color was memorable. This story brought it all back.

UPDATE: By the way this is going to be on Fox. Classy as always.


This is Worrisome

This is what pisses me off about the prospect of Majority Leaer Murtha:

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) told a group of Democratic moderates on Tuesday that an ethics and lobbying reform bill being pushed by party leaders was “total crap,” but said that he would work to enact the legislation because Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports it.

Murtha and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are locked in a battle for the House Majority Leader post, and both men made presentations for to the Blue Dog Coalition on Tuesday in a bid for their votes.

“Even though I think it’s total crap, I’ll vote for it and pass it because that’s what Nancy wants,” Murtha told the Blue Dogs, according to three sources who were at the meeting. . . .

I'm starting to think there shouldn't be a Majority Leader.

I really don't want the new Democratic Congress to be anything like the last Democratic Congress. Corruption is not a partisan issue, it's an issue where all Americans can come together and reject the kind of practices that would be banned by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. I'm sure conservatives are chortling about this kind of statement, but they should be as appalled by it as they weren't by corruption in their own ranks. There's a report from ABC about Jack Abramoff (America's newest prisoner!) giving up the names of "6 to 8 corrupt Democratic senators." It's unsourced, and the wave of allegations against Sen. Reid (again rearing its ugly head) have been largely discredited (like when he voted AGAINST what Abramoff's lobbyists requested, again left out of Brian Ross' report), but if the evidence shows corruption, get 'em out. I have no desire to carry water for anyone who abuses the public trust. Honest conservatives ought to believe the same thing.

UPDATE: According to a Rep. and a reporter Murtha never said this. The fear of blogging is that you jump the gun. If he didn't say it I apologize and Roll Call needs to check their sources.


Republicans Hating Republicans

I don't think committed Republicans are going to like reading the same stories us Democrats have been reading for 6 years about our party being in disarray. In truth it's damn near impossible to have your entire caucus in lockstep forever, and while winning masks the differences, losing highlights them. And for the Republicans, it's highlight time.

First there was anger over the firing of Donald Rumsfeld. OK, not so much the firing as the timing of it.

The White House is trying to soothe Republicans who say the party might have fared better on Election Day if President Bush had not waited until after the vote to oust Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld [...]

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has suggested that if Bush replaced Rumsfeld two weeks before the election, voters would not have been as angry about the unpopular Iraq war. Republicans would have gained the boost they needed, according to Gingrich, to retain their majority in the Senate and hold onto 10 to 15 more House seats.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed with that assessment.

Bush should have removed Rumsfeld "as soon as he had made up his mind. And that's a hard thing to calculate. But it's highly doubtful that he made up his mind between the time the election returns came in on Tuesday and Wednesday when Rumsfeld was out."

"And if Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have made a difference," Specter said. "I'd still be chairman of the Judiciary Committee."

In truth, my perspective is the firing of Rumsfeld wouldn't have made a damn sight of difference in the election as long as the policy remained the same. Voters were fed up by the results in Iraq, not who was managing them. This is just scapegoating by people who wanted to keep their committee assignments and their jobs.

Then the White House faced criticism over Rumsfeld's replacement Robert Gates, particularly from neocons, who feel he represents a foreign policy realism with which they disassociate. Indeed the entire remaking of the Bush brain trust in the image of his father's team, with Bush 41 in the role of Poppy coming to save the day, has angered those who didn't think Bush Senior ran the best Presidency in terms of foreign policy.

Did 41 help bring Gates to the Pentagon? The White House denies it, but, as a Bush friend told NEWSWEEK, "his fingerprints are all over this." (The friend refused to be identified for fear of alienating the family.) Given the mists of secrecy that envelop the 41-43 relationship, it is striking that the broad Bush circle believes he had a hand in the Rumsfeld succession: as an old CIA director, 41 rarely leaves any clues at all.

This is the realist paleocon vs. fantastical neocon battle that has always been simmering. At this point, the neocons are completely discredited so it's not much of a fight. However, the next major move by the Bush team, to install Mel Martinez as head of the RNC, is slowly becoming a major blunder. Just look at the first couple paragraphs of this Washington Times piece, it says it all:

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, co-author of a bill to grant amnesty to illegal aliens, has been picked by White House strategist Karl Rove to be general chairman of the Republican National Committee, RNC officials confirmed yesterday.

Some RNC members greeted the news as another example of White House cronyism, reminiscent of President Bush's attempt to name his personal friend and general counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, a nomination withdrawn in response to outrage from the party's conservative supporters.

The hilarious thing about this is that Martinez won't run the party at all. He has day-to-day duties (theoretically) as a Senator, and so the actual operations will be administered by a functionary. But the GOP bled Latino support in last week's election, and so they desperately needed a public Hispanic face to portray a softer image to the fastest-growing voting bloc in the country. I'm sure the calls were put out to all the activists saying "Don't worry, he's just a figurehead!" But such an insult to the intelligence of the conservative base almost made it worse, and this controversy is actually growing.

President Bush's decision to back Sen. Mel Martinez to help lead the Republican Party, a move intended to appeal to disaffected Latino voters, drew sharp criticism Tuesday from some of the party's core conservatives, who disdain the Florida lawmaker's support for liberalized immigration laws [...]

Criticism of Martinez came Tuesday from several conservatives, including Curly Haugland, an RNC member from North Dakota, who said he believed the party was far too focused on pandering to minorities.

"We're losing our base in droves because they don't get campaigned to," he said, referring to GOP-leaning conservatives.

Randy Pullen of Arizona, another RNC member and an activist against illegal immigration, likened Martinez's selection to the episode last year in which Bush named his longtime friend and legal counsel to the Supreme Court, only to reverse himself after a furious conservative backlash.

"I'm hoping that it's not another Harriet Miers moment," Pullen said.

The GOP's problem is that they understand the long game, that winning under 30% of the Latino vote will consign them to the minority for decades to come, but they fail to acknowledge that their core base hates brown people. If anything, the election made that bifurcation more stark. The entire leadership of the GOP in the Senate now comes from the South. They're a marginal regional party. And they're bursting apart at the seams.

You know, schedenfreude is wrong... but that's doesn't mean it feels bad to engage in...


Fair And Balanced

This is an internal memo from Fox News, in the aftermath of the election, advising its news team on how to cover stories that day. Note the line "And let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress."

Why should a news organization be on the lookout for statements from Iraqi insurgents about anything? Is that news? Are we to take enemies at their word? Or is this simply designed to put terrorists and Democrats in league with one another?

By the way, somebody gave Palestinian terrorists $2 million dollars to release two Fox News journalists a couple months ago. I don't know who would be interested in doing that other than Fox News itself.

We should be on the lookout for any statements from these Palestinian insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a $2 million dollar gift from Fox News.


Big Tent Party

Trent Lott is the #2 Republican in the Senate.

This is a great day for the civil rights movement.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Quick, Open, Honest, Bipartisan Florida

Now that's doing it right.

Democrat Joe Courtney's victory over Republican Rep. Rob Simmons in their U.S. House contest was confirmed Tuesday by results of a roller-coaster recount that stretched nearly a week and uncovered significant vote-counting flaws.

Recounts showed that Courtney won by 91 votes instead of the 167-vote margin counted on election night, according to results tabulated by town clerks and reported to The Associated Press. Nearly 250,000 votes were cast.

Both parties monitored the recount and confirmed that Courtney had the final edge, although their figures differed. Republicans said their count showed Courtney winning by 96 votes, while Democrats had the margin at 93.

"This is doing it the hard way," Courtney told the AP.

It was a close race, yet there were no recriminations on either side. The count, canvass and recount was done in less than a week. There were little smudges here and there, but they were caught and fixed, and in the end the count changed by a grand total of about 70 votes. Despite the close count, the loser conceded and didn't fight the result.

Now compare that to what's happening in Katharine Harris' old district:

Lawyers for Democratic House candidate Christine Jennings threw down the gauntlet yesterday, asking a state court to secure electronic voting machines and data used in the election.

The move would preserve the equipment in Florida's Sarasota County for scrutiny by Jennings' legal team. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for this afternoon.

It's just the first step of what is likely to be a litigious aftermath to a close and ugly election (thanks in part to the NRCC's rampant robo calling in the district). The state began a recount and audit of the election yesterday. Once the audit and second recount is completed and the results certified on November 20th, the Jennings campaign has ten days to contest the results of the election if they still show Jennings down. Before the recounting began, she was down 386 votes.

The fight will center around the district's Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters (13%) -- what's called an "undervote." That's compared to only 2.53% of voters who did not vote in the race via absentee ballots.

A study by the local paper, The Herald Tribune, found that one in three of Sarasota election officials "had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record" on the electronic machines for the Congressional race. Since 53% of voters in Sarasota County picked Jennings over the Republican Vern Buchanan, those missed votes would likely have put Jennings in front.

Did I mention that Connecticut uses old-school voting machines (yeah, with the curtain and the lever)? Was there a compelling reason to go away from them?


If Murtha's the Majority Leader, Ethics Reform Must Happen Immediately

John Murtha was right, before practically anyone, on the major issue of this Presidency, and more important, he's a key ally of the Speaker, and the last thing we need is another opportunity for the media to write "Dems in disarray" stories.

But, the ethics questions are real. Even if they're not real, they're perceived, which might as well make them real. So if you want Murtha to be Majority Leader instead of Steny Hoyer, which I do, ethics and lobbying and earmarking reform MUST be the first item on the agenda.

This would completely disarm those who would be ready to pounce on the Democrats for electing someone who's ethically compromised in their #2 spot. The "drain the swamp" legislation is already slated to be in Pelosi's "first 100 hours." It needs to be in the first hour in a Murtha-led House. It ought to be the centerpiece. It ought to ban gifts, take lobbyists off the House floor, close the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street and open an Office of Public Integrity to take the policing apparatus away from the lawmakers themselves.

And Murtha should sponsor it.

It's really the only way to defuse the issue. Sure, the haters on the right will still replay the ABSCAM tape and make their little comments, but if we actually deliver on the promise of cleaning up Washington that talk will fade away. I have no interest in keeping corrupt officials in the corridors of power. Jack Murtha needs to publicly come out in favor of this legislation, and not be the guy who forestalls reform in the backrooms.


Quick Hits

Odds and sods:

• The reason I had light posting for the last few days was because of a documentary project I've been working on called Walking On Dead Fish, the story of a high school football team in La Place, Louisiana right after Katrina, who took in 20 displaced players and tried to balance winning games with rebuilding their lives. It really got me thinking about how we've still largely forgotten the good people of the Gulf Coast. It's a good story, well told, and it's supposedly being converted into a feature film as well.

• Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States, Rudy Guiliani!

Actually, this would make me consider him as a candidate more, at least he has a sense of humor about himself. Sadly, not this image but what it represents, and by extension Rudy's beliefs on gays and abortion, will likely disqualify him among the far-right base for the Republican nomination. I'd have disqualified him because he was a pretty shitty mayor until 9-11.

• More 2008 stuff: I agree that former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's entry into the race largely makes the caucuses irrelevant. Whether that's good for Hillary, however, is debatable. Edwards has a lot of staff in Iowa, and even if he made it close against the favorite son, it'd be seen as a victory. And the two new early primary states have built-in advantages for him (South Carolina was his birthplace, Nevada has a heavy union membership).

• The President thinks we should all be thrilled that he allowed elections in a time of war. I'm thrilled he even lets me write this blog without being thrown in jail! Thank you, Dear Leader!

• Lots of HuffPo links in this Quick Hits. In this one, Tony Hendra (yes, Ian Faith from Spinal Tap) makes the audacious claim that Borat won the midterm elections:

Whether it was the sweet-pertater-pie cooing of bourgeois Southern morons trying to coach Borat in the niceties of social intercourse or the Pentecostal pseudo-Christians ululating gibberish to bamboozle the gullible into 'cures for Jeezus', this movie was all about George Bush's base. I'd bet good money that a substantial number of the 2.4 million people who went to see it on its first weekend, were not necessarily going to vote Democrat two or three days later. I'd give the same odds that a substantial number of them were Republican-leaning or Independent voters who were expecting a mildly funny movie about a mad foreigner loose in America. Instead they were left helpless with laughter by an irresistible 'reality' satire of people who even if they were - officially - model Americans, said voters secretly believed to be bigots, prudes, hypocrites, thieves and assholes. An awful lot of what happened in the voting booths on November 7th was about non-Democrats voting their secret misgivings about Republican icons.

It's a theory.

• I actually haven't seen Borat yet, but I'm likely to see "Shut Up And Sing" tonight, and I'll come back with a full report.

• One man's excited about the Democratic takeover of Congress: Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger! The thing about Arnold is that he's desperate to be popular, to be the most loved person in the world. If that means selling out all of your principles and your friends, so be it. Great standard-bearer for his party in California.

• I jumped on this moments after it came out of the President's mouth: he flat-out lied to the press about Donald Rumsfeld staying until the end of his term, and he ADMITTED it in a press conference. I mean, it was unequivocal. But despite all that evidence, Howie Kurtz can't seem to figure the whole thing out. Is it that the media is just so cynical and used to lying that another one leaves them cold? Or can they not find it within their hearts to tell the world that the President is a serial liar?

• I have now praised Ed Morrissey and, Lord help me, Rich Lowry, in the course of a couple of days. But most of his myth-shattering about the election (not all, but most) is pretty right on IMO. It's never as simple as "Party X won because of Y." It's a huge country and there were hundreds of elections with all kinds of countervailing factors.

UPDATE: Like I said, only most of it was right.

National Review editor Rich Lowry slips into the passive voice:

Liberals cannot count on conservatives being associated with corruption, incompetence or an unpopular war forever.

Funny how that “association” just kinda happened to conservatives, of all people. Wrong place, wrong time and all that. It’s like how, when Bush stopped being popular, it suddenly occurred to National Review writers that he was really a great big liberal. It’s funny what you notice when you’re fucked, and, for months before the election, it was pretty easy to see this one coming down the pike, unless your name happened to be “Karl Rove”.


The View From Jail

While Donald Rumsfeld, like those failed Secretaries of Defense before him, is probably already sentenced to a slow and painful death of the conscience, the German government wants to add a physical component:

Lawyers for inmates of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay asked German prosecutors Tuesday to open a war crimes investigation of outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials for their alleged roles in abuse at the detention centers.

Although the lawyers who filed the lawsuit acknowledged while there was little chance of seeing Rumsfeld in a German jail, the point was simply to increase the pressure on top brass they say are culpable. German federal prosecutors said they would examine the case.

"We are not expecting that Rumsfeld will appear in a court, but we are hoping investigators will begin looking into the case," said Wolfgang Kaleck, a German lawyer involved in the suit.

I guess we're so used to outsourcing in this country that even our war crimes tribunals will be administered by another country.

What's interesting here is that Janis Karpinski has decided to assist the prosecution:

Former U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq, said she would testify against her superiors because only a handful of low-ranking soldiers have been convicted in the abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

Karpinski, who was relieved of her command and demoted to colonel last year, said she wanted to "be a voice for my soldiers."

"They were tried and convicted in the world court before they ever set foot in any courtroom ... while people who are far more culpable and responsible have walked away blameless," Karpinski said during a presentation of the case in Berlin.

It's very clear that there was torture committed by US troops in locations around the world in service to the war on terror. It's very clear that the authorization for that torture reached the highest levels. It's become clear, just today, that the CIA was writing memos authorizing the aggressive interrogation of detainees. We know that the Pentagon was writing the same memos. As well as the Special Counsel for the President.

It's also clear that this business of torturing has had a deleterious effect on human rights around the world, to the extent that our coalition partners are licking their chops at the prospect of weakening their own standards for torture. It creates terrorists out of detainees later found innocent, gives the enemy a recruiting tool and made our own troops more susceptible to the same manner of treatment. It's clear that the results for these techniques are spotty at best, and revealing of false information at worst. And it's clear that torture debases all of those involved to such an extent, the more noble among them don't wish to go on living:

In 2003 a young soldier died in Iraq, but there was a mystery. Alyssa Peterson was a local Flagstaff girl who was one of our first war fatalities. Alyssa was also best friend to the daughter of one of my friends. We talked about what could have happened. She was shot with a service rifle. Was it murder or suicide? What happened? Well finally someone searched for an answer.

"Army specialist Alyssa Peterson was an Arabic speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at the Tal-afar airbase in far northwestern Iraq near the Syrian border....Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed [...]

Instead she was assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards. She was sent to suicide prevention training. But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle."

Someone higher than a buck private out to face consequences for this behavior, which has destroyed countless lives and harmed our national security. What the German government is doing is largely symbolic. Nobody reasonably expects Don Rumsfeld to spend any time in a jail in Berlin.

But he should.



Has a way of clarifying everything. Kent Conrad of North Dakota simply wanted an amendment providing disaster relief to battered farmers and ranchers in his state. The majority denied it. He fought back.

SEN. CONRAD: I've been advised that the other side may intend to raise Rule 16 against my amendment. I would just ask them before they make that judgment...if were going to get treated this way...they should be prepared for me to play hardball, too...if others are going to give us short shrift...then I am prepared to play hardball, too.
Little Ricky stood up and issued his point of order.

...this is how emergency disasters have been dealt with year after year after year...what I am seeking to do is get a they can deny the vote, at least tempoorarily, but if they think that is the end of the story they are wrong, we're going to be back. Look, if my colleagues are going to invoke Rule 16 on this measure...[and] prevent a vote, then things are going to get very tough around here. I know the rules of the Senate, and if people think they can just ramrod things and prevent farmers and ranchers in this country a vote on desparately needed disaster assistance, then this body is going to slow way down. So my colleagues can use their rights and I will use mine. Let there be no doubt about what the result will be. This place will have a hard time functioning...

This is why the current Congressional lame duck session will live up to its name. Republicans have only one way of negotiating - push right through the opposition. And that Democrats will say "go ahead and try it, and prepare for two long years." And with Mr. 31% in no position to use the bully pulpit, it's clear that the fears, while well-founded, of Republicans being able to ramrod through dangerous legislation in the lame duck session will amount to little. Democrats, for the first time in a while, have something over on the Republicans. And they're not afraid to use their newly acquired power.

So if you want to get anything done in this session, or in the 110th Congress, on both sides, then compromise. It's what the people want.


Trent Lott, THAT Trent Lott, Is Running for Minority Whip

I want to say this about Trent Lott. When he ran for Majority Leader, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, and kept him on instead of Bill Frist, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either.



Credit Where Due

Finally, somebody is understanding that while no one person decided the fate of Democrats in the 2006 elections, one person charted the course to victory:

Dean ran for chairman on a platform to devolve power and spending authority to state parties. Dean believed the national party committees were too closely aligned with – and therefore only serviced – the interests of the Washington establishment. He redirected the flow of money and responsibility outward to his patrons in states. He legitimized the grievances and complaints of the party’s grassroots army, who had grown frustrated with their status as outsiders looking in. The RNC pioneered a ground-game first approach in 2004; Dean became the first Democratic chairman to validate the work of volunteer ground warriors.

Whether Dean was right, in the normative sense of the word, is irrelevant. He did what he did, and the consequences speak for themselves.

Three years ago, Howard Dean-style politics was too outré for the Democratic Party to bear. Today, arguably, Dean Politics is Democratic politics. Embedded within Dean's campaign theme was a broad critique of the Republican approach to power. Iraq was simply its worst manifestation. But Dean also evinced his distaste with Republican "corruption." He talked about how Democrats - and independents and even Republicans -- were interested in results, not ideology. In his eyes, Americans wanted a fresh approach. He urged, first Democrats, then Americans, to take their country back. He also urged the party to overlook interest group apostasy; remember that Dean got an “A” rating from the NRA as Vermont's governor. He clumsily endorsed an outreach to "the guys with confederate flags on the back of their pick-up trucks."

Leave the Internet aside: the architecture of Dean Politics has become the de mode style for the entire party. Dean promoted a vocal, confrontational style of campaigning, one that did not cede an inch to Republicans. His primary campaign was predicated on a 50 state strategy. He urged Democrats to adopt issues that would drive wedges between the Republican base and the party’s weaker adherents (mostly in the suburbs). He rejected the politics of inoculation, pronouncing himself proud to be the talisman of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. He intuited that the party (and voters) wanted the Democrats to be the opposition party.

This is some really good analysis by Marc Ambinder. Dean's entire mantra has been to decentralize to win. Instead of the top-down approach, where every candidate in the country gets a set of DC-approved talking points and doesn't bother with the details of individual districts and states, Dean empowered the grassroots and the state parties to set their own agenda. He essentially allowed them to do their own party building, rather than basing it from Washington. He also proudly proclaimed his status as a member of the opposition party and made the case for change.

Essentially this win in 2006 has its roots in the Sleepless Summer tour of 2003. That's when Democrats saw some hope for their party, that they understood the country was being driven into a ditch and that the only way to change it was to announce your opposition boldly, and to give everyone the tools they needed to fight back. As a result, three years later, one party has a 50-state strategy while the other is largely confined to the South. I expect the Republicans to ape Dean's strategy of mobilizing the grassroots and the state parties to fight it out on the ground. I know that the Labour Party has taken notice - that's right, Tony Blair's Third Way, Clintonite Labour Party, who has hired Dean to be a consultant advising them on strategy.

Everybody deserves some credit for the election and its victories. Howard Dean deserves credit for resurrecting the Democratic Party and exponentially expanding its reach.


New Kind of Speaker

The Speaker of the House is historically the leader of the majority. Only in the DeLay era was power invested in the Majority Leader, and a big pile of nothing installed as the Speaker. Nancy Pelosi will reassert that position and so Hoyer or Murtha will be less relevant. By attempting to hand-pick the position she's doing so, and Jim Moran says she'll get her way.

I only support Murtha because that way there won't be any backstabbing between the two spots. Hoyer is not on Pelosi's team and you don't need to give the media another reason to write their "Democrats in disarray" stories. Murtha's conservative but so is his district, and on economics he's actually fairly populist. Having in the Majority Leader post someone from the Rust Belt who's constituents have practically all lost their manufacturing jobs might shift the balance in Washington away from neoliberalism and globalization that sells out our industrial base.

Murtha's ethics problems are real (though some are VERY old), but they could be blunted by immediate ethics and lobbying reform at the top of the agenda. I hope Pelosi made that clear to him. I don't like hearing that he's fighting against reform behind the scenes.

In an excellent but little-noticed piece last month, the New York Times brought us up to speed:

"In the last year, Democratic and Republican floor watchers say, Mr. Murtha has helped Republicans round up enough Democratic votes to narrowly block a host of Democratic proposals: to investigate federal contracting fraud in Iraq, to reform lobbying laws, to increase financing for flood control, to add $150 million for veterans' health care and job training, and to exempt middle-class families from the alternative minimum tax."

This would be ominous and terrible if it suddenly became the way business got done in the House. But I honestly think Nancy Pelosi will set the agenda, and Murtha can take the flak from the right as the so-called "liberal hate-the-troops boogeyman" when in fact he may be their ally, in some ways.

UPDATE: To add, Taylor Marsh is right, Murtha deserves a leadership position because he led on the issue most prominently facing the country, Iraq. He was out in front of practically everyone because the military trusts him enough to get him the information he needs to make decisions. That's a good person to have in a time of war.



Idiots and those who think we can impose our will on other countries if we just believe we can do it (coined as The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics) think that the time to double down in Iraq and win decisively is now. This is echoed by people like John McCain's call for more troops, a sentiment echoed by... well, by John McCain. But they aren't seeing that somebody's already won decisively in Iraq, geniuses. Chaos has won:

Gunmen dressed as police commandos kidnapped up to 150 staff and visitors in a lightning raid on an education ministry office Tuesday, the largest mass abduction since the start of the U.S. occupation. Five senior police officers — including the neighborhood police chief — were later arrested, the government said.

At least 82 people were killed or found dead in murders, bombings and clashes nationwide.

Alaa Makki, head of parliament's education committee, interrupted the body's session Tuesday morning to say that between 100 and 150 people, both Shiites and Sunnis, had been abducted in the 9:30 a.m. raid at the ministry offices, calling the kidnapping a "national catastrophe."

In any campaign of ethnic cleansing, you get rid of the smart people first. That and the means of communication (and that's happening too). The brain drain in Iraq is enormous. It's what's thrown what was once the leading health care system in the Middle East on the verge of collapse. The universities have been completely shut down in response to this kidnapping.

There is absolutely no difference between Iraq right now and Yugoslavia in the darkest days of their breakup. The solution there was a political and diplomatic one, culminating in the Dayton Accords. A military action was never ruled out, and was in fact implemented later when NATO bombed Serbia to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo (and accomplished their goals without a single NATO casualty, I might add, under the direction of Gen. Wesley Clark). What we did not do was try to "double down" and win a war in a scene of sectarian strife and chaos. We tried to stop the killing. The truth is that there's no war left to be won or lost. Obviously a pullout of the kind Carl Levin supports is not a call to abandon the region; in fact, the pressure is on the White House to engage FURTHER instead of less. But the idea that now's the time to "get the terrorists" (who by and large aren't even close to being the problem in Iraq right now) is simply ridiculous and has no hope of advancing the situation. I'd allow that these magical thinkers ought to go over and look at what's being proposed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in a strategy that's eerily familiar:

During the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) likened the war against terrorist networks to fighting crime, suggesting that both could never be fully defeated but their impact on our lives could be drastically reduced:

“We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance,” Kerry said. “As a former law-enforcement person, I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling. But we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise. It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.”

In an interview with MSNBC, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Peter Pace, explained that the Bush administration is currently pursuing the same strategy that Kerry advocated in 2004. Watch it:

"PACE: Winning to me is simply having each of the nations that we’re trying to help have a secure environment inside of which their government and their people can function. Example: Here in Washington, D.C., there’s crime, but there’s a police force. And the police force keeps the level of crime below the level at which the government can function. That’s really what winning in the war on terrorism is."

Obviously the White House has dialed down victory so much that it's essentially irrelevant. We lost in Iraq because we pursued a silly strategy of democracy through a gun barrel to begin with, where elections=democracy rather than the actual work that goes into building democratic institutions. We allowed a separatist group of fundamentalist Shiites rise to power and enact revenge. We took a fragile, loosely affiliated nation and allowed its citizens to set upon one another. We never restored order from day one. Now we're just trying to get the government to function.

And now, NOW is the time to double down? Wrong. Now is the time to reach a political and regional settlement, and end this nonsense.

UPDATE: The other part of this is that there are simply no troops to do the "double down" thing right now, but I suppose the magical-thinking war hawks will just conjure some up for us.