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

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Truthiness is the Word of the Year

And here's the best acceptance speech ever:

(Stephen) Colbert, who once derided the folks at Springfield-based Merriam-Webster as the "word police" and a bunch of "wordinistas," was pleased.

"Though I'm no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honor me," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.



John Aravosis has been all over the Ethics Committee report on the Foley page scandal, and understandably so. This has all the earmarks of a coverup. That so many examples of criminally negligent behavior can be described within the report, yet nobody is blamed for breaking any laws or even reprimanded by the committee, is unconscionable. Look at some of the highlights of the report:

• Rep. Jim Kolbe clearly obstructed justice by knowing about sexually explicit messages from Foley to a page he sponsored in 2001, and telling the page to keep his mouth shut about it.

• Rep. John Shimkus, chairman of the House Page Board, admitted to not telling the Democrat on the panel, Rep. Dale Kildee, about his knowledge of the Foley situation because "Dale's a nice guy, but he's a Democrat, and I was afraid it would be blown out of proportion."

• The Committee decided that some members of the House leadership may have covered up the crime because they didn't want to out Rep. Foley as gay, despite nobody claiming that to be the case.

• The Congress presents a present danger to the House pages, which you have to assume means it's ongoing.

I don't know how nobody could be held responsible for coverups and criminal behavior. The Ethics Committee didn't even recommend that Rep. Foley's Congressional pension be taken away from him. Or Rep. Kolbe's (he retired this year), for that matter. Why are taxpayers still footing the bill for someone who exhibited criminal behavior?

The Ethics Committee is dysfunctional. The Republicans obviously are interested in sweeping this under the rug. Rep. Berman's conduct does not surprise me. However, the presence of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio, a solid progressive, on the investigating subcommittee can only lead me to the conclusion that there is an instinct for self-protection and self-preservation among the members of Congress. You cannot run investigations where the members police themselves, that much is clear. A nonpartisan Office of Public Integrity outside of Congress, maybe run by the judiciary, is desperately needed.


Friday, December 08, 2006

30 is low

I've noticed that there haven't been a lot of Presidential prroval polls lately. Maybe this is why, they didn't want to embarrass the poor guy.

The national job approval rating of President Bush has plummeted to 30%, an all–time low in the latest Zogby International telephone poll, sinking below the 31% approval rating he dropped to in early June.

The President’s positive job rating is down from 36% in late October, in the weeks heading into the congressional midterm elections. Since then, the Democrats swept to control of both houses of Congress, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned and was replaced by Robert Gates, who said the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq. Release of the Iraq Study Group’s report calling for significant change in the way the U.S. is conducting the Iraq war came as this latest Zogby poll was in the field.

So some of this happened before the ISG released its report, and all of it happened before the President decided to ignore all of the key recommendations of the report, which should happen any day now. So I don't think we've reached the ceiling yet.

Historically speaking, this is ridiculously low, and represents a real crisis of leadership. We need a President who's at least recognized as something other than a joke for the next two years. But it's not like the American people are just hating. This guy did it to himself.

In a separate poll, people hate the war and don't think any good can come of it. Don't they understand that the era of bipartisanship is upon us and will lead us to a wonderful victory?

Americans are overwhelmingly resigned to something less than clear-cut victory in Iraq and growing numbers doubt the country will achieve a stable, democratic government no matter how the U.S. gets out, according to an AP poll.

At the same time, dissatisfaction with President Bush's handling of Iraq has climbed to an alltime high of 71 percent. The latest AP-Ipsos poll, taken as a bipartisan commission was releasing its recommendations for a new course in Iraq, found that just 27 percent of Americans approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from his previous low of 31 percent in November.

"Support is continuing to erode and there's no particular reason to think it can be turned back," said John Mueller, an Ohio State University political scientist and author of "War, Presidents and Public Opinion." Mueller said that once people "drop off the bandwagon, it's unlikely they'll say 'I'm for it again.' Once they're off, they're off."

Even so, Americans are not necessarily intent on getting all U.S. troops out right away, the poll indicated. The survey found strong support for a two-year timetable if that's what it took to get U.S. troops out. Seventy-one percent said they would favor a two-year timeline from now until sometime in 2008, but when people are asked instead about a six-month timeline for withdrawal that number drops to 60 percent.

I love that line, "not necessarily intent on getting US troops out," when overwhelming majorities want US troops out. Heck, even Tom Friedman, namesake of the Friedman Unit, is on board for withdrawal.

The American people managed to figure out years ago what the wise men of Washington figured out this week; that Iraq is rapidly falling apart. And the people still aren't getting any help from the media to come to that conclusion.


D-Day for President

OK, not quite.

Chris Bowers mentioned the "silent revolution" of running to be a delegate to the California Democratic Party.

About one in every seven or eight members of the netroots is from California. Given this, the upcoming elections for the Democratic State Central Committee of California should be of great importance to the netroots. If my little reformer ward in Philadelphia can sneak two members onto the Pennsylvania State Democratic committee through a local write-in campaign, we the netroots should be able to put several new reform Democrats in the California Democratic Party with more than a month to campaign [...]

I know there are a lot of people who have problems with the California Democratic Party, but rather than just sitting around and complaining about it, this is a great opportunity to step up and do something. And remember, it would not just be a hostile takeover of the party. Serious reformers can bring new energy, new ideas, and new communities to help supplement and improve the existing party infrastructure. For example, in my ward, while we took the ward over, we also managed to massively improve on turnout compared to 2002. Hell, we actually had turnout higher than 2004 in some divisions (precincts), including my own.

I'm 95% likely to be running, and it's going to be a very tough election. I'm in the 41st Assembly District, which goes from Santa Monica all the way north past Malibu and the like and into Calabasas in the West Valley. As I understand it there are going to be two competing slates, one progressive and one more establishment. Both slates are expecting to turn out hundreds of people for the caucus. The meeting room where the caucus will be held seats about 40. It should be absolute chaos.

This will be a major test for the progressive movement. If we can't deliver a slate in a community this progressive, we have to go back to the drawing board. There's a LOT of money in this district, and I'm guessing the establishment slate will be spreading some around.

There's actually an executive board meeting tonight in Anaheim, and the Progressive Caucus is meeting there at 9:30 and will have more information for anyone interested in running or participating. All registered Democrats can attend. More info here. Jerry McNerney will be speaking there as well.


Poverty Hits the Suburbs

While the development reported in today's New York Times, that wages are finally beginning to outpace prices, is encouraging, a far more troubling report has come out suggesting that poverty is not exclusively an urban problem, but a national one.

As Americans flee the cities for the suburbs, many are failing to leave poverty behind.

The suburban poor outnumbered their inner-city counterparts for the first time last year, with more than 12 million suburban residents living in poverty, according to a study of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas released Thursday.

"Economies are regional now," said Alan Berube, who co-wrote the report for the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "Where you see increases in city poverty, in almost every metropolitan area, you also see increases in suburban poverty."

The poverty rate in large cities is still twice the rate of that in the suburbs (18.8% in cities, a number that should anger people, compared to 9.4% in suburbs), so population expansion is the proximate cause here. But as low-wage jobs multiply across the national landscape, more suburbanites are experiencing poverty. The extreme examples are shocking. Suburban McAllen, Texas, has a whooping 43% poverty rate.

The reason I find this crucial is because suburbs aren't nearly as equipped to handle the very poor. They usually don't have the same kind of public transportation options for those who cannot afford their own cars. The infrastructure for social services is generally concentrated in metropolitan centers rather than on the periphery. Emergency room and medical clinics are more spread out and potentially unreachable. Food banks aren't always available. I would guess that if those living in surburban poverty have a car, they're not paying insurance on it, making the whole area more hazardous should an accident occur.

Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said many of the same social and economic problems that have plagued cities for years are now affecting suburbs: struggling schools, rising crime and low-paying jobs.

"I call it the urbanization of the suburbs," Morial said.

"I hope this says to people that the way to confront poverty is not to wall it off and concentrate it," Morial said. "You really need policies to eliminate it."

Not surprisingly, the rise is poverty is most deeply felt in the Midwest, particularly in Michigan and Ohio.

The current wage increases for below-management level personnel aren't reflected in these statistics, of course, and the tight labor market is a factor in wage increases, but we cannot say for sure if this will be sustained or not. In addition, the one low-wage worker cited in the Times article received her pay raise as part of the SEIU Houston janitor battle. Indeed, it's LABOR that has been pushing for these increases in wages rather than the mysteriously glorious free market. I'm very encouraged that labor will be pushing for the Employee Free Choice Act as a signature piece of legislation in the first 100 hours of a Democratic Congress. It simply makes sense that workers who sign cards asserting their right to organize should give them union status, rather than the convoluted and deliberately slow secret-ballot proposal that is current law.

Still, we have a major problem with the expansion of poverty beyond the conventionally expected "borders" of urban areas. Suburbs simply aren't as equipped to deal with it. And this Congress needs to provide a voice for the voiceless and take the necessary steps to fight poverty everywhere, and ensure that every locality has the proper resources to take up that fight.


Breaking: House Leadership Criminally Negligent but Committed No Crime

This is how the House Ethics Committee split the salami today:

The House ethics committee has concluded that Republican leaders did not break any rules in handling ex-Rep. Mark Foley's improper advances to former male pages but were negligent in protecting the teenagers, a congressional aide said Friday.

The committee was releasing its findings Friday.

The aide, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, was made aware of the committee's findings.

"The Republicans did not break rules but were negligent in protecting the pages," the aide said.

I'm watching the Ethics Committee Leadership pat themselves on the back for how quickly they came to this insane decision. If the Republicans were negligent in protecting underage pages, which I believe is a crime, how could they have broken no laws or rules? This report seems like a good reason to abandon the Ethics Committee process and establish an Office of Public Integrity so that the policemen aren't policing themselves.

Waiting to hear how Bill O'Reilly and the other guardians of morals feel that a group of people criminally negligent in protecting children get off scot-free.


Restoring Our Weakened National Soul

It's a new era in Washington, one in which accountability matters and the rule of law will be enforced. It looks like the Marines who allegedly committed the massacre in Haditha will be brought to justice.

The U.S. military is expected to charge at least five U.S. Marines in the killing of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, and the charges could include murder, defense officials said Wednesday.

It was not known when the charges would come down but a Marine Corps official said it would not happen Wednesday.

A Marine Corps general will brief members of the House Armed Services Committee behind closed doors Wednesday morning about the military's months-long investigation of the case.

That we punish our troops when they step outside the boundaries of acceptable rules is what separates our military and our nation. Unfortunately, this burden typically falls on lower-level officials and never those at the top who authorize bad policy. Except now, at least, some are getting their say in court.

As Donald Rumsfeld prepares to leave his job as secretary of Defense, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking to hold him responsible for what it says was widespread torture carried out at his direction.

Lawyers representing Mr. Rumsfeld and three US Army commanders are set to appear in federal court here Friday in response to a lawsuit charging that the Defense secretary authorized torture and other illegal abuse of military detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq - including at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

The case is important because it represents an attempt to hold US officials accountable for alleged illegal abuse of Iraqi and Afghan civilians who were never detained as enemy combatants or charged with any crime. But some legal analysts say the suit may be aimed more at shaping public opinion than winning in court because such cases are difficult to pursue.

Interestingly enough, this comes at the same time that the Justice Department used an anti-torture statute for the first time to indict the son of the former President of Liberia for torturing a political prisoner. Either the defendant in that case will plead that he was only doing nothing more than the US has done, or critics of the US torture policy will accuse the Justice Department of picking and choosing torture cases. Either way, it's important for decent Americans to stand up for their principles, and to fight against such immoral actions as torture.

Other decent Americans are standing up, too late I feel, for American principles like restoring the 900 year-old practice of habeas corpus:

President Bush's victory in getting the rules he wanted to try suspected terrorists could be diminished.

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled this week that he'll join prominent Democrats in seeking to restore legal rights to hundreds of suspected terrorists confined at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

While the measure to restore the right of habeas corpus has almost no chance of passing before Congress adjourns later this week, the message is clear: When Democrats take over in early January, the issue could resurface.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Bush signed into law in October, prevents detainees who aren't U.S. citizens from challenging their detentions in civilian courts. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who voted for the legislation despite his opposition to stripping such rights from detainees, on Tuesday reintroduced legislation to restore those rights. A similar measure sponsored by Specter failed by three votes in October.

This seems to me and to Glenn Greenwald as too little, too late. Now it must overcome both a filibuster from the Republican side, needing 60 votes, and the veto pen from the President, needing 67 votes. The time to protect and defend habeas corpus has passed. Specter is trying to save what's left of his reputation with this maneuver. Still, it's important to resubmit this every year until we can finally get it through. It's too important that America regain its footing as a moral leader on the world stage.


2008 Matters

I don't have a whole lot for this update, mainly because I'm tiring of the speculation 23 months out from Election Day. But here's a couple things.

• I think it's noble of John Edwards to appear at All Saints Church in Pasadena, the very church that is under investigation from the IRS for criticizing the Iraq War (apparently that's a crime). The All Saints case is an example of the selective politicalization of the Internal Revenue Service, and it's a perfect example of the ways in which this Administration tries to shut down dissent. Edwards has gotten religion (no pun intended) on a war that he supported, and while his judgment can be questioned, antiwar Democrats should give him a little credit for trying to make amends, and certainly for standing up for the principle of dissent.

• John McCain has hired the man responsible for the racist anti-Harold Ford ad to be his campaign manager. This is all evidence of the new ruthlessness of McCain. He's going to slash and burn the rest of the Republicans in the field, learning from the previous winner of the Republican nomination. Terry Nelson, the new campaign manager, is also named in the indictment of Tom DeLay for money laundering, making him an interesting ally of the man who wrote the campaign finance reform bill.

• I know he's dropped out of the race, but Bill Frist, as divisive a majority leader as there has ever been, had the audacity to decry partisanship and plead for unity and compromise in his farewell speech yesterday:

I think, as a consequence, we are moving toward a body that has too much of a two-year vision, governing for that next election, rather than a body with a 20-year vision, governing for the future. As we consider the future of the institution, I urge that we ask ourselves what it is that our forefathers envisioned. Is today’s reality what they foresaw?

I urge that we consider our work in this chamber. What is it really all about? Is it about keeping the majority? Is it about red states versus blue? Is it about lobbing attacks, in some way, across the aisle, back and forth? Is it about war rooms, whose purpose is not to contrast ideas but to destroy? Or is it more?


I think we need to remember this vision of the Senate: that the framers established the Senate to protect people from their rulers and as a check on the House and on the passions of the electorate. And let us not allow these passions of the electorate be reflected as destructive partisanship on this floor.

Yeah, good idea. Let's start by not bringing up uselessly divisive bills like banning flag burning and gay marriage, and let's not do destructive things like misdiagnosing women in a vegetative state on the Senate floor. Frist has to be one of the most full-o-crap politicians to ever disgrace the Capitol.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

FL-13: To Seat Or Not To Seat

Howard Dean says what needs to be said about the Christine Jennings/Vern Buchanan debacle.

Republican Vern Buchanan might be the official winner in a messy Sarasota-area congressional race, but Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean says the Democratic-controlled Congress should not seat Buchanan without another election.

"Absolutely not," Dean said in a taped Political Connections interview scheduled to air Sunday on Bay News 9. "You cannot seat someone if you don't have an election that's valid.

"This election is not valid. There are 18,000 people who may have voted, and we don't know what happened to their votes," Dean said. "You can bet that if the Republicans were 500 votes short they'd be calling for a new election, and they'd be right."

Jennings is exhausting every available option to try to get a new election. She's suing in a Florida court. But she'll also ask the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal elections, to open an investigation. Word is that Jennings has been all over the Hill drumming up support.

The Administration Committee typically waits until all lawsuits have been decided before opening an investigation, according to the article. In the meantime, the Democratic leadership has a decision to make. Do they seat Buchanan pending the outcome of the lawsuit? Or do they take Dean's advice and refuse to seat him until there is some closure? According to the article, they're leaning toward the former, and I think it's a horrible choice. The Democrats still have a whiff of being afraid of their own shadow, and they're still wary of pissing off the Republicans for some reason. But this guy didn't win the election. He didn't win anything. The will of the voter is completely unknown. I don't know how you can seat someone under those conditions.

This, ultimately, is the problem with voting machines without a paper trail. If this doesn't put the nail in that coffin, I don't know what will. And the momentum is there to get this going.

New federal guidelines, along with legislation given a strong chance to pass in Congress next year, will probably combine to make the paperless voting machines obsolete, the officials say. States and counties that bought the machines will have to modify them to hook up printers, at federal expense, while others are planning to scrap the machines and buy new ones.

Motivated in part by voting problems during the midterm elections last month, the changes are a result of a growing skepticism among local and state election officials, federal legislators and the scientific community about the reliability and security of the paperless touch-screen machines used by about 30 percent of American voters.

The changes also mean that the various forms of vote-counting software used around the country — most of which are protected by their manufacturers for reasons of trade secrecy — will for the first time be inspected by federal authorities, and the code could be made public. There will also be greater federal oversight on how new machines are tested before they arrive at polling stations.

“In the next two years I think we’ll see the kinds of sweeping changes that people expected to see right after the 2000 election,” said Doug Chapin, director of, a nonpartisan election group. “The difference now is that we have moved from politics down to policies.”

The problem is that, if the machine malfunctions the way it did in the Jennings race, and didn't record votes in that particular election, the paper trail would be likely to show no votes in that race as well. A paper trail on a bad machine would be little more than a bad paper trail.

What I do like is if the code is made public and inspected by federal authorities. Sunshine is desperately needed on the source code. Without trust in the vote there is no trust in this democracy. Just because 2006 was mostly error-free (other than FL-13), doesn't mean that we're in the clear.


The California Report

Just a few things I want to talk about in the Golden State:

• The Governor will begin his second term the way he ended the first: with pay to play.

Reelection is behind him, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is keeping his fundraising operation at full throttle, asking donors to pay for a stylish inauguration and seeing to it that he continues to fly private jets and stage public appearances worthy of a Hollywood celebrity.

The governor's political team has approached Chevron Corp., PG&E, Blue Cross of California, AT&T and other businesses, asking for tens of thousands of dollars to pay for a two-day celebration surrounding his Jan. 5 inauguration [...]

A copy of the invitation shows that for $50,000, donors can purchase a "gold" sponsorship that includes 10 tickets to a reception Jan. 4, four reserved seats for the inaugural ceremony the next day and a table for 10 at a legislative luncheon.

"Silver" sponsorship is $15,000 and buys a pair of tickets to the reception, two for the swearing-in and two for the luncheon, among other perks.

The money goes to a nonprofit committee that can take donations of any size.

You know, maybe this is for the future (though he cannot raise for a reelection fund, he can call in chits for future races), or maybe this is a slush fund for later initiative campaigns, or maybe he just wants to live in the style to which he is accustomed and he wants others to underwrite it. But really, I think this is about intimidation. If big business wants favorable legislation, they need to butter up the Governor.

• Now that our future has been mortgaged for infrastructure improvements (some of them needed), the horse trading begins. This $42 billion in bonds is the porkbarrel to end all porkbarrels. Every legislator in Sacramento is going to want a piece of it for their districts. There's almost no chance that the final number on spending gets held to $42 billion. None.

I'm concerned by this report:

Debra Bowen, California's next secretary of state, was accused during the recently ended campaign of hanging too closely with opponents of electronic voting who believe the boxes can be tampered with to rig the results of an election [...]

Now, with her victory over incumbent Bruce McPherson secured (and undisputed, as far we know), Bowen will be California's chief elections officer in January and instantly become perhaps the nation's most prominent and influential skeptic of the technology. Or will she?

I spoke with Bowen last week as she was preparing to leave the state Senate for a month's hiatus from government before she is sworn in as secretary of state. She said she has not made any decisions yet about how to approach the issue of electronic voting. But she did say she doesn't intend to push to return California to a more paper-oriented system, or to encourage the universal use of optical scan technology, which allows voters to make their choices on paper ballots that are then counted by computers.

Instead, Bowen said she will likely focus on making the new voting technology more user-friendly.

There are legitimate practical problems with voting that need to be addressed. But for Bowen to leave aside the question of mandating a paper ballot seems almost like a betrayal to me. Bowen got elected by being the strongest voice in the nation on election matters. Now she's getting cold feet? I still think she'll eventually do the right thing, and California already has a voter-verifiable paper trail and random 1% audits. But she needs to be a strong advocate for the whole country on this issue.

• While the initial thought was that health care would be at the top of the legislative agenda, for the time being it appears to be redistricting reform. The Governor has unveiled a proposal not substantially different from the one which voters shot down in 2005. Actually, voters have rejected redistricting plans over ten times in the last several decades. For the record, I didn't support the plan in 2005, and if it has the same problems that one did, I won't support this one. I believe in nonpartisan redistricting, but that proposal was bad policy. Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee has more. I am not optimistic that this will pass this year, and I feel it should be a major issue in the 2010 gubernatorial election. I don't believe in the spoils of victory. Furthermore, what people don't recognize is that Americans have largely gerrymandered themselves over the last few decades. I don't think a geographical redistricting will actually have much of an impact on party ID levels.

• I'm not a Villaraigosa fan, but this was a good maneuver, to recognize Los Angeles' sins of the past, and give back water to the Owens Valley from which they stole for so many years.

• There's a little bit of talk about netroots Democrats being angry with the California Democratic Party. I will say that I am not happy with how the election was conducted, with their level of voter contacts, with the way they parachute in for a few weeks every two years and never stick around to do the hard work of party building, with the near-total lack of contact with rural communities in the interior of the state. I am looking very closely at the elections for the Democratic State Central Committee coming up in January. There is a dire need to take back the party and at least try to make it work. Here's some information on how to run for the DSCC and become a delegate to the state party convention. This also has listings of the various election sites (it's done by assembly district) in case you would like to participate by voting. It is vital that we get true progressives in the CDP. There will also be some additional online resources that are forthcoming, I'll let you know.


Labor Matters

The bond between the Democratic Party and labor unions is growing stronger, and this is a very positive development, as the two camps share the same goals. There are a couple very important labor issues that deserve full support.

In Los Angeles, LAX-area hotel workers fought for and received a living wage, a difficult and historic action that Mayor Villaraigosa signed into law last month. Now Century Boulevard business interests are trying to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal the law. The hotel workers are fighting back.

This evening 500 hotel workers, community members and faith leaders will participate in a candlelight procession along Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport, beginning at the home of Margarita Uriostegui, a Radisson hotel worker who tragically died two days after the historic September 28th civil disobedience and in whose memory the fast is dedicated.

Eighteen hotel workers will be engaging in a seven-day water-only fast from December 6th to December 12th. These brave workers have chosen to go without food for a week to continue their struggle for a living wage and to honor the memory of Margarita Uriostegui, their late co-worker who symbolizes their struggle to earn the right to receive fair pay for their hard work.

Show them you support them by signing OUR PETITION today.

These are hardworking men and women who simply want to be able to get an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. Right now they have to work two and three jobs to survive, and still 25% of all residents in these communities live below the federal poverty line. They fought for their living wage and got it, and this attempt at a repeal is sickening.

In addition to hotel workers in LAX, nurses in Las Vegas are being locked out of their hospitals in a labor dispute. They have every intention to return to work without a contract in good faith and in the interest of saving human lives, but to repeat, management is LOCKING THEM OUT. They've already been working without a contract since June. They simply want increased staff at Nevada hospitals, where there are over 200 less nurses per 100,000 residents than the national average. Taylor Marsh has been following this story and writes about the real-world consequences.

The good news is that the public outcry of support and the progressive blogosphere's wholehearted backing of the SEIU nurses in the Valley Health System finally forced David Bussone and Universal Health Services back to the bargaining table. But considering Bussone has people like Brent Yessin involved in this fight, it's impossible not to get the real point of Bussone's lock-out of the nurses. He wants to keep unions out of his hospitals. We need to make certain Bussone not only loses the battle in Las Vegas, but the war he's waging against unions in hospitals. Because there is more and more evidence that SEIU nurses are not only important, but critical to saving lives.

This one is going to break your heart. It happened at another of Bussone's Universal Health Services hospitals in Las Vegas, which happens to be non-union. It's also going to make you ask if this tragic story could have been prevented.

Parents plead for answers

Richard and Kathlene Shinn were eager to visit their first-born baby the morning after physicians removed breathing tubes from her delicate 21-day-old body.

But they weren't prepared for what they witnessed when they entered the intensive care unit at Summerlin Hospital at 9 a.m. that November day.

"Alyssa's hands and feet were white. She was critically ill," Richard Shinn said Wednesday.

Within hours, their daughter was pronounced dead.


Now, the Shinns said they are desperate to learn what happened to their baby between the night of Nov. 8, when they left the hospital, and the morning of Nov. 9, when they returned. Alleging hospital officials have not answered their questions, the couple hired attorney Richard Harris.

The trio spoke to the media Wednesday to notify the community of their ordeal and warn others to beware of what could happen to their infants.

"People need to know what happened to Alyssa. They need to hear her story," a sobbing Kathlene Shinn said.

Harris acknowledged that he and the couple know little about the tragedy but speculated that the nursing shortage and overcrowding in the neo-natal intensive care unit might have contributed to Alyssa's death.

People on the right like to rag on unions, but the issues they face are about life and death, they're about giving working people the chance to experience the American dream. It's crucially important that we raise awareness and support this.

I'm cheered that the Democratic Party is getting the message on economic issues by this report from Daivd Sirota.

Today, Citigroup executive Bob Rubin gave a presentation to the new House Democratic Caucus about his prescriptions for economic growth. This is the same Bob Rubin who has, for years, attacked Democrats for trying to reform America's trade policy. As I wrote earlier today, a powerful faction of Democrats for years have worshipped at Rubin's feet, seeking his approval for everything. But a source from inside today's meeting tells me that Rubin was met today with an entirely different Democratic Caucus than he has been used to - most likely because so many Democrats were elected on populist themes this year [...]

Indiana freshman Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) told Rubin he has former Delphi employees in his district who feel that our government sold them out to foreign governments, that they were making $21/hour and are now making $9/hour, meanwhile they're outsourcing, dumped their pension obligations on the government. He demanded of Rubin: "What do you say to that?"

Wisconsin Rep. Steve Kagen (D) noted that Rubin talked about the savings, fiscal and trade deficits -- but what about the "leadership deficit?" Kagen we need not rhetoric but real leadership to address these outsourcing issues and the fact that we are losing our tax base.

Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) said the Democratic Party has lost its way. She noted when Clinton started there was a $70 billion trade deficit and they left with a $370 billion trade deficit, and reminded people she opposed NAFTA and has been a fierce opponent of Rubin on these issues over the years.

Fresman New York Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) said it's a serious problem that we're losing our manufacturing base, she noted that we lose our innovation capacity when the manufacturing base declines, that one goes with the other.

Freshman Kansas Rep. Nancy Boyda (D) complained about the pending NAFTA superhighway going through her district and that the link between immigration and trade is real and a problem (a point I expanded on in my New York Times review of Lou Dobbs' new book).

New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) - my source says he "unloaded on Rubin," telling him that the loss of our manufacturing base is a national security issue. The Chinese are manufacturing our tanks, there is a clear link between economic security and national security.

New Hampshire freshman Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) "took a shot at the Big Box stores," indicting them for their business and labor practices.

Michigan Rep. Sander Levin (D) said that during his six years as Ranking Member of the Trade Subcommittee on Ways & Means, there has not been a discussion with Republicans on trade. He disputed the fake divide people like Rubin push between "free trade" and "protectionism." He said that there is a "hands-off" trade policy and an "activist" trade policy. He assured that during his tenure as Chairman, there will be a discussion about trade policy.

Finally, California Rep. George Miller (D) echoed Bill Greider's recent column pointing out that when Wall Street executives like Rubin talk about intellectual property and financial services in trade agreements, everything is clear. But when they start to talk about labor provisions and the environment, it's supposedly "too controversial" and "too complicated."

This is what we fought for in November: for a Democratic Party that is committed to helping the lives of working people instead of lining the pockets of corporations and neoliberal champions. Labor has a major role to play in that. It's crucially important that the leadership of the Party is not timid in their approach and undergoes a fundamental rethinking of how to level the playing field and restore opportunity for everybody in this country.


Blinkered Stupidity

Just to go back to this disturbing story about the deliberate attempt to mentally destroy Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was not charged with anything for years while being held in complete solitary confinement and made to go mad. The New York Times report shows that, even when Padilla was allowed to leave his cell, he was kept in a state of sensory deprivation.

“Today is May 21,” a naval official declared to a camera videotaping the event. “Right now we’re ready to do a root canal treatment on Jose Padilla, our enemy combatant.”

Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla’s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla’s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.

Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padilla’s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.

The videotape of that trip to the dentist, which was recently released to Mr. Padilla’s lawyers and viewed by The New York Times, offers the first concrete glimpse inside the secretive military incarceration of an American citizen whose detention without charges became a test case of President Bush’s powers in the fight against terror. Still frames from the videotape were posted in Mr. Padilla’s electronic court file late Friday.

Not only is this dehumanizing and unAmerican, it gives us less of an opportunity to actually convict this guy of the charges they eventually brought, since all of this is against the law. But, in what has to be the most absurd blog post of the year, law professor Ann Althouse (that's right, remember that after you read this, she's a LAW PROFESSOR) tried to justify this behavior:

Perhaps there is a fear that he will communicate in code by blinking... I'm not saying Padilla deserves to be treated the way he has over the years, but I am responding to the assertion that there is absolutely no conceivable reason for blindfolding him. Plainly, I have refuted that.

Yeah, plainly. She made the reasonable statement that Jose Padilla, in confinement for years, invented a system of code through blinking and distributed it to his supporters and colleagues, I guess through prison guards since nobody else saw him at that time. It's perfectly logical.

If you're a lunatic.


Fetal Pain Bill Fails

No word on whether they took my advice and offered up other pain bills as amendments.

This is the last time you'll see a divisive bill like this for two years, if you want to cheer yourself.


ME-SEN: Tom Allen To Run?

You know, the speculation never ends. The moment one election cycle concludes, another begins.

The Republicans in the Senate actually had their easiest series of holds in 2006, believe it or not. 40 of their 49 current seats will be up in 2008 and 2010. That's a lot of incumbents that they need to hold. One of the more vulnerable, especially given how we saw New England swing this year, is Susan Collins of Maine. Collins is well-liked, but hides behind a "moderate" veneer when actually she's a pretty reliable vote for the Republican agenda. Most importantly, she'll probably have a worthy opponent.

With Senate Democrats looking to consolidate their midterm gains in 2008, the latest Senate seat being eyed for a possible Dem pick-up is in blue territory currently held by a Republican. Roll Call reports (paid subscription) that Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, has said he is "seriously considering" a run for U.S. Senate against moderate GOPer Susan Collins. Allen, who voted against the war in 2002, has spent only half of the more than $930,000 he raised in the last cycle — leaving him with a warchest for a statewide run that rivals the cash on hand held by Collins.

Should Allen run, and Collins seek re-election, he will reportedly base his campaign around two central issues. First, he will take Collins to task for breaking the pledge she made in 1996 to only serve two terms. And he will argue that the liberal-leaning voters of his New England state should not be sending a Senator to Washington who would empower the Republican leadership there. It worked for Rhode Island Senator-Elect Sheldon Whitehouse.

Speaking of empowering the Republican leadership, it looks like Collins was essential in bringing back Trent Lott to a leadership position.

Sen. Trent Lott’s (R-Miss.) stunning return to the Senate leadership was made possible by the last-minute defections of Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) rival campaign for Republican whip.

Ironically, four years earlier, Warner and Collins helped drive Lott from leadership by giving his rivals support at crucial moments during the controversy over his comments at the 100th birthday party of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) [...]

Lott’s allies pursued Collins vigorously right up until the day she was to cast her ballot.

Thune was seen having dinner with Collins and several other people the night before the vote, according to a witness. Thune’s office declined to comment.

Another source said Gregg worked on Collins as well. A third said McCain lobbied Collins, with whom he is close and regularly meets over lunch.

During the secret vote, Collins’s nervous body language led Alexander’s allies to suspect that she had switched at the final moment.

But Collins declined in an interview yesterday to reveal how she voted.

“I’m not going to discuss my votes in the whip race,” she said.

Oh, I think she'll have to discuss that vote. And how does she explain the appeal of Council of Conservative Citizens-lover Lott to her northeastern constituency?

If you thought 2006 was fun, just wait until 2008.


Recommendation 78

Of the Iraq Study Group:

“The Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense should also institute immediate changes in the collection of data about violence and the sources of violence in Iraq to provide a more accurate picture of events on the ground.”

More accurate picture, ay? I guess they mean more accurate than how the liberal media has been reporting it, right? Because they've been overstating the violence for years, right, I mean they...

Study says violence in Iraq has been underreported

The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday [...]

The finding bolsters allegations by Democratic lawmakers and other critics that the Bush administration has withheld or misconstrued intelligence that conflicted with its Iraq policy while promoting data and claims that supported its positions.

Those allegations date back to President Bush's contention before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that Saddam Hussein was hiding illegal nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. His claim proved to be unfounded [...]

On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.

"The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said. "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

"Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals," the report continued.

Oh, never mind.

This essentially calls out the Administration as deliberate liars. The importance of this information cannot be minimized. This is in fact the exact opposite of what the shouters on the right have been saying since the war began. The McClatchy article cites one day in July where the US reported 93 attacks, when in fact that day had 1,100. OVER A THOUSAND MORE.

Oh yeah, also we have 33 Arabic speakers in the entire US Embassy in Baghdad. Good planning.

I'm going to remember this one every time I hear some loudmouth blathering on about how the media isn't reporting what's going on in Iraq.



The poor neocons and hawks had to get together and share their feelings yesterday:

President Bush and some of the most vocal Capitol Hill backers of the Iraq war from both parties gathered yesterday for what an insider described as a group therapy session.

"Or maybe it was more like an intervention," said the source, reconsidering the description. "And the President was grateful and welcoming."

Bush met with a grim-looking gaggle of 14 lawmakers and several White House staffers hours after the Iraq Study Group issued its report urging the President to order an about-face on his Iraq strategy.

"It means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to the American people, to recognize that there are people in this town who are concerned more about the security of this country than they are about the security of their own political positions," Bush said, according to the insider.

More concerned about the security of their legacy and the legacy of their wonderful ideas of miltary might than the security of troops in the field, you mean.

Who was in this encounter group, you ask?

Their wings clipped by the Iraq Study Group's report, the hawks who met with Bush included his pal Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Conn.), California Rep. Jane Harman, who lost her job as top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a 2008 presidential hopeful who wants to send more troops to Iraq.

A sourpussed Vice President Cheney and political guru Karl Rove were among the top administration officials who looked on as the President was advised on how to change course in Iraq, boost Arab allies such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, keep a cautious eye on threats including Iran and work with the new Democratic majority.

"There was a tremendous amount of candor in the room," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, the lone New York Democrat in the session. "It was optimistic in that he didn't dismiss any of the ideas. He heard us all out."

Well, of course he heard you all out, dude, you're all of the ones who've been wrong from the very beginning, just like him!

If the immediate aftermath of this report is to get together with all of your friends to bitch and moan about how everybody's being mean to you and your policy, you can just tell that the report will either fall on deaf ears or be implemented in a piecemeal and deeply rationalized way. The President himself said at his press conference today that he won't implement all of the recommendations. And senators like St. McCain and Honest Joey Lieberman were poking holes in the report on Capitol Hill today.

Many in Congress have praised the group's report, which was eight months in the making. But Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., told Hamilton and Baker that he does not believe their approach will work. The panel called for a phase-out of the U.S. combat role by 2008 and rejected the idea of a short-term increase in the number of combat troops in Iraq.

McCain took issue with that approach, saying he did not agree with the Baker-Hamilton group's conclusion that the U.S. military does not have enough forces available to sustain a troop boost in Iraq.

"There's only one thing worse than an over-stressed Army and Marine Corps, and that's a defeated Army and Marine Corps," said McCain, a Vietnam veteran and a 2008 Republican presidential hopeful. "I believe this is a recipe that will lead to our defeat sooner or later in Iraq." [...]

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (news, bio, voting record), D-Conn., and Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, both said they are skeptical about another of the commission's key recommendations: that the administration approach Iran in search of help in stabilizing Iraq, as part of a regional diplomatic initiative.

"I'm skeptical that it's realistic to think that Iran wants to help the United States succeed in Iraq," Lieberman said.

Baker acknowledged that the Iranians were unlikely to help, even if asked. He said that during the course of the commission's discussions an Iranian official told him that Iran was not inclined to help.

But Baker said he saw no harm in approaching Iran anyway, and if it declines to help, "then we will hold them up to public scrutiny as the rejectionist state they have proven to be."

The neocons are trying to sabotage this proposal. Despite their worldview being completely rejected they still wield a lot of power in Washington. And honestly, as James Moore says, the proposal does a decent enough job of sabotaging itself, so it's not even necessary:

Exactly 20 years ago this month, Lawrence Walsh was named as a special prosecutor to study the Iran-Contra affair - the illegal sale of US arms to Iran to provide funding for an American-backed guerilla organization in Nicaragua. Americans had some hope that their government would get to the heart of the matter and people responsible for clandestine operations using taxpayer money illegally would be held accountable.

They were not. Indictments were issued but so were numerous presidential pardons. Ollie North got grilled and Fawn Hall rose to a transitory cultural icon. Ultimately, though, the leader and his policies, which were responsible for Iran-Contra, were not called to account. Mistakes, we were told, were made. But nothing that bad. The president's team was just trying to do what was right. This was the unimpeachable Ronald Reagan, after all, and nothing like this could happen if it was morning in America. The Iran-Contra Report became a kind of number two Mexican dinner with one taco missing. There were all kinds of information. But not much truth.

What is there in the Hamilton-Baker report that a college freshman in Middle Eastern studies doesn't already know? And that a president should not have to be told? This mundane, tenacious grasp at the obvious is one more painful example of how our culture creates soft places to fall for our leaders who fail to lead. Our obstinate president, who has refused to admit mistakes or make changes, demanded political air cover before trying something new. And we gave it to him. When did we stop demanding that our presidents do their job and start giving them commissions and study groups and blue ribbon panels to hold their hands through the trying times? How hard is it to be a man, to admit a mistake, learn from it, and then do better? We ask it of our sons and daughters.

Spencer Ackerman has more on the report itself, which doesn't fully call for withdrawal or for troop increases or anything, really. It's a perfect mirror of the analyst who reads it; they can see themselves inside.

But take a closer look. First, the commission isn't actually calling for withdrawal; it's calling for a reorientation of military effort -- troops won't conduct combat missions, they'll just be helping Iraqi forces conduct them. This is new lipstick on a very old pig. Despite what the commissioners said at today's press conference, it's just a marginal tinkering with the years-old strategy of "putting an Iraqi face" on security operations.

Second, the commissioners say that we "must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq." But that's exactly what the commission's recommendation entails. I asked the Iraq Study Group how many troops the training mission would require, and for how long. Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese gave the vaguest of answers, but he did say that it would necessitate "a considerable force" for logistics, training, force protection, and special operations. "We don't say specifically how long it will last," but it will require a "sustained period of time." There's a reason why the Pentagon is calling this the "Go Long" option.

Finally, it's unrealistic to suggest that with such a U.S. force in Iraq for such an indefinite timeframe, forces won't respond to insurgent or death-squad attacks if either directly fired upon or if their Iraqi counterparts aren't up to the challenge. Indeed, if U.S. troops are in a combat situation but are not positioned to respond as such, the Iraq Study Group's wishful thinking -- and the Pentagon's -- will put them in the worst of all possible situations.

Ackerman concludes by saying that this is a 1968 moment - a point at which everybody knows the war cannot be won, yet nobody wants to be the person on which future generations can pin the losing. So everybody hems and haws and commiserates with one another while more men and women die. The political will for stopping this killing is not there. And so we'll have a major humanitarian crisis to go along with a failed state and a lost war, but everybody in Washington can hold their head up high and claim they showed stiff resolve.



The Latest Vomit-Inducing Statement From The President

So I listened to this morning's press conference between the President and Prime Minister Blair, and there was one particular moment that had me again rushing to find a bedpan or some such bucket to remove what was left of my breakfast from my person. The irony of this statement was somehow lost on this guy.

And one of the things that has changed for American foreign policy is a threat overseas can now come home to hurt us, and September the 11th should be a wake-up call for the American people to understand what happens if there is violence and safe havens in a part of the world. And what happens is people can die here at home.

Today's the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, you idiot.

The attack on 9-11 was only a wake-up call to YOU. It wasn't a wake-up call to those Americans who were alive on December 7, 1941.

Listen to how a threat overseas came home to hurt us 65 years ago.

At approximately 2:30pm in the East on that day, reporters interrupted the Sunday broadcasts for a special news bulletin. It prompted this nation to declare war on Japan and Germany and prompted my grandfather to serve in the Pacific Theater.

Listen to an American President describe how oceans couldn't protect us 65 years ago.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

We remember that day every year since. We didn't forget that there were outside threats willing and able to harm this nation, you did. The American people didn't get a PDB on August 6, 2001, stating Bin Laden Determined To Attack In The US. The American people didn't respond to that PDB and additional briefings about the Al Qaeda threat in the summer of 2001 by saying "All right, you've covered your ass, now." The American people didn't neglect to hold a Principals Meeting on terrorism until the week before 9-11.

You want to talk about being asleep at the wheel? You want to talk about wake-up calls? You want to talk about how people can die here at home? We have the benefit of history as a guide. And we always had it. As Al Gore said yesterday, this is not about you. Just because you thought America was an island unto itself, all-powerful and impenetrable, doesn't mean the whole country did. The problem is that you didn't learn from 9-11. You still think we cannot be challenged in the world, that we only need project massive military power across the globe and everyone will bend to our will. That narrow worldview has brought us to where we are today in Iraq and everywhere else.

There's only one person who needed to learn the lesson of 9-11, and only one person who hasn't: you. And to bring up that same boilerplate statement about oceans not being able to protect us on Pearl Harbor Day is sickening. The world is a dangerous place. Stop making it more so, and open your eyes.


TX-23: Let's Go Ciro

There's been some polling on the last contested Congressional seat of 2006, and with the election next week it appears that the race is still in play. While Survey USA (who were pretty good in the midterms) has it 53-46 for Republican Henry Bonilla against Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, reports suggest that an internal DCCC poll shows it a 3-point race. In the end it'll come down to turnout, particularly in the heavily Hispanic areas of Bexar County which is Ciro's power base.

I get the best information on this race from The Burnt Orange Report, and it appears Bonilla is yet another Republican to have an illegal immigrant employee problem.

Despite being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for employing an illegal immigrant, Bonilla continues to give employers who hire them a free pass. Voters in Congressional District 23 deserve a Congressman who stands up for the best interest of Texas families, not a Representative who skirts the law. Henry Bonilla owes it to his constituents to explain why he is talking out of both sides of his mouth. While he says he's tough on immigration, he votes to let employers, like himself, who seek cheap and illegal labor off the hook.

Basically, Bonilla has voted against fining businesses that hire illegal immigrants, which in my mind is the entire problem. I support in general terms a comprehensive solution to the immigration issue, but cracking down on employers is the most important part. Drain supply and you will weaken demand. I also think working with Mexico and ensuring that they gie hope to their own people is important, but I'm getting off track. Bonilla's a hypocrite.

The Ciro Rodriguez campaign is looking for phonebanking help this weekend to get out the vote on December 12. It would be great to continue the string of victories.

UPDATE: Bonilla must be scared, he's dredging up Sheik Santa:

This is pretty much unsubstantiated nonsense. What it really shows, however, is that Bonilla is desperate. Maybe his numbers haven't moved beyond the 49% he got in the initial election.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Quick Hits

It's been a draining, annoying, shitty day, and I'm still a little out of sorts about it. But I'm going to soldier on and go over some things.

• The first thing you need to do is go watch Russ Feingold on Keith Olbermann's show tonight. Dammit, why isn't he running for President? There's nobody smarter and sharper and more clear-minded about Iraq, and he has been from day 1.

Nice story from CNET on James Kim, full of quotes from former colleagues of mine. It's a very strange day.

• Something that I didn't get around to mentioning, but of incredible importance, is that Pakistan is trying to broker a deal with NATO to get them to accept the Taliban as a coalition government partner in Afghanistan. This is our ally in the war on terror, a country still in bed with a murderous regime that harbored the killers on 9-11. Good thing we've get the party of moral clarity in the White House, huh?

• Hey, good news, the FBI can remotely activate your cell phone's microphone and use it to eavesdrop on any conversation you're having. Cool James Bond kind of stuff, right? Only merged with the destruction of all civil liberties. Other than that, cool.

• Joe Biden: the only man left in America willing to brag about his state being pro-slavery. I mean, now that Strom Thurmond's gone, anyway.

• The last official act of James Inhofe, the outgoing chair of the Senate Environmental Committee, was a hearing on how the media hypes climate change. The incoming chair is Barbara Boxer, who will immediately conduct hearings on climate change itself rather than being outraged by the outraged, will be somewhat different in the role.

"Any kind of weakening of environmental laws or secrecy or changes in the dead of night — it's over," Boxer said. "We're going to for once, finally, make this committee an environment committee, not an anti-environment committee. ... This is a sea change that is coming to this committee."

Good for us and the air we breathe.

• While the whining Republican babies on Capitol Hill are in shock over having to put in a full work week, the residual benefit is that there won't be enough down time for the President to make recess appointments of his most odious judicial nominees. This is good all around. The recess appointment is a relic of history that's been abused by Presidents of every political stripe, and I want my representative to be doing my business five days a week.

• And you wonder why we have a $9 trillion dollar debt? Maybe because we don't even bother to collect royalties from Big Oil for drilling discoveries made on federal property. Incidentally, this falls once again in the sportscaster-turned-only-real-journalist-around category, as Armen Keteyian filed the report.

• Making sure all votes are counted=disgrace to democracy... if you're a Republican.

• Hey, I made this running for President on the Connecticut for Lieberman Party joke a while ago! Although, The Poor Man probably can pull it off better than I can. By the way, Lieberman continues to embarrass himself, saying essentially that the 40 years we talked to the Soviet Union while they were the enemy was a tragic mistake, I guess.

My heart's only half in this one, guys. I'll sleep on it.


Getting It?

One of the Washington Post's high priests actually apologized for his own ignorance today:

In a column last week, I praised Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel for his prescient early warnings about the risks of U.S. involvement in Iraq. Some readers complained that for all his prescience, Hagel still voted to support the war, and that I was ignoring the many Democrats who were similarly wary of Iraq -- and who voted against war funding. These readers are right. Hagel took political risks expressing his concerns back in 2003, but so did Democrats who voted against the Iraq mission despite a vitriolic barrage from the administration.

Despite the fact that the Iraq Study Group report is largely meaningless, it has started to change the tone in this country (although the election probably had more to do with it) about the terrible mistake that has been made, and I think the punditocracy is starting, not all the way there but starting, to act a little more human in acknowledging their own errors of judgment. They don't have to; everybody knows where they went wrong and how much of a disservice they did to their country. But accountability matters, whether in journalism or politics.

That's why so many Bush Administration officials are apparently leaving government service rather than face accountability through Congressional oversight. They're less human than Beltway journalists. And that's daying something.


10 American soldiers died today

I'm somewhat shaken already, and now this news:

Ten U.S. military personnel were killed in four separate events Wednesday in Iraq, American officials said.

The military confirmed that the 10 Americans had died but gave no further details.

"Casualty announcements will follow when appropriate. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those family members who have lost loved ones today," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said in a statement.

But don't worry, the fine men of Washington are finding a bipartisan consensus so they don't have to admit that those evil liberal hippies were right.

This piece by Digby gets at the heart of why we went over there more than anything I've read.

It's similar to what happens when a wild animal like a bear comes down out of the hills and mauls someone. Back in the day they used to round up a posse (now they call in the professionals) grab their guns and go out to kill the bear. It doesn't really matter which bear just that the defenders of civilization can bring home a bear carcass and show everyone that if a bear kills one of them they are going to get revenge -- preferably by killing one that was even bigger than the one that did the killing. They always say that it was because the bear was dangerous and it had developed a taste for human blood or something like that. (The people don't ever really know if the dead bear is the one, do they?) The purpose isn't really to kill the bear that did the deed. And it isn't as Kissinger says, to show the other bears that they will be killed if they do this again. It's to quell their own fear by proving to themselves that they are not helpless.

George W. Bush was very, very frightened after 9/11 and for a variety of motivations his administration persuaded him that killing the Iraq bear would make him feel better. The public's support or lack of support was irrelevant.

We need the courage to stand up and not destroy ourselves and our military and our society by continuing to put young men and women into the meat grinder. We're beyond any conceivable military solution to this mess. The region is already in chaos, we don't have to wonder what that would look like if we left. We broke Iraq and those people will now suffer the consequences at our hands. Diplomacy and training are nice, but we need to withdraw responsibly and stop making a bad situation worse, and if Tom Vilsack keeps saying it this clearly and honestly I may have to pay more attention to him.


A Moment of Silence

For James Kim. RIP.

Very sad news.

Go to to leave your condolences.


Russ Feingold on the ISG

Run, Russ, run. Save us from these fools.

Unfortunately, the Iraq Study Group report does too little to change the flawed mind-set that led to the misguided war in Iraq. Maybe there are still people in Washington who need a study group to tell them that the policy in Iraq isn’t working, but the American people are way ahead of this report.

While the report has regenerated a few good ideas, it doesn’t adequately put Iraq in the context of a broader national security strategy. We need an Iraq policy that is guided by our top national security priority – defeating the terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11 and its allies. We can’t continue to just look at Iraq in isolation. Unless we set a serious timetable for redeploying our troops from Iraq, we will be unable to effectively address these global threats. In the end, this report is a regrettable example of ‘official Washington’ missing the point.

Did you know that 60% majorities of Americans want us out of Iraq now? Official Washington doesn't. David Broder doesn't. He thinks it's great that 10 rich people can slap each other on the back and claim what a great civilized time they had making recommendations that won't be taken, while thousands die.

These people are relics. Bipartisanship is not a strategy, especially when that twisted view of it rejects any kind of actual ideological balance (there was not one liberal on the ISG).


Reyes' Folly

I just want to reiterate how ridiculous Silvestre Reyes' plan is to send in 20,000-30,000 US combat troops specifically to disarm Iraqi militias. That entire idea is a nonstarter until the Iraqi government allows the militias vital to their continued existence to be disarmed. We've already been through this. The government wouldn't even allow checkpoints to be set up in Shiite areas after the Mahdi Army kidnapped an American soldier. The militias aren't going to be disarmed, and risking more American lives based on a wish is insane.

Kevin Drum may be right on this one.

That's just great. Which is better: someone who got it right in the beginning but has since lost his way, or someone who originally made a mistake (Jane Harman) but seems to have learned something since then? I think I'd pick door #2.

Of course, if the Pentagon takes the "get more Americans killed for no reason" option, favored not only by Reyes but Joe Lieberman and John McCain, then St. John loses his ability to claim that he was the only one willing to escalate the war and win it the right way but nobody would listen to him. If they in fact DO listen, and it still gets no better (which is likely), then McCain can't be the "serious man who nobody listened to." In short that would really fuck up his Presidential chances.


Admit the Truth

I agree with Kos too.

This isn't a solution to anything other than the pressing problem of "how do we get more people killed."

We can talk about international assistance, but countries are cutting their losses, not doubling down or jumping into this mess. We can talk about training Iraq forces, but it just ain't happening (the only people paying attention in class will turn their guns on the Iraqi government as soon as we leave).

So congrats, ISG, you just proposed two more years of heavy American (and Iraqi, and allied) casualties without any real hope that the outcome would be any different than a quicker exit.

The most hilarious part of the ISG report is about how we should embed combat forces with the Iraqis at the company level and give them the lead in military operations. How has that worked out so far?

The bullets flew from every direction -- from rooftops, windows, alleys and doorways.

Soldiers from the Iraqi army's 9th Division were pinned against a wall. They were under a covered sidewalk. According to accounts from U.S. forces who were with them on Friday, a suspected insurgent with an AK-47 assault rifle aimed at them from a doorway. Pieces of concrete fell as the insurgent's fire ripped into the wall above the Iraqi soldiers.

That's when they froze.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kent McQueen, 37, arrived to help. As he tried to get them out, he was hit. The night-vision goggles perched on his helmet fell down his face. They were dented. He had been shot in the head. "God was definitely on my side," McQueen said Saturday.

The scene played out during Operation Lion Strike, the U.S. soldiers recalled. The goal was to capture insurgents in the Fadhil district of central Baghdad. It was the first time the Iraqi army's 9th Division was to be in complete control of an operation in the two years it has been training under the Americans. Teams of U.S. advisers remained close, but planned to leave the fighting to the Iraqis.

"It started out that way. But about five minutes into it, we had to take over," Staff Sgt. Michael Baxter, 35, said.

The training of Iraqi forces has been a joke. They have no fealty to the Iraqi nation, and no desire to fight for it. Putting them "in the lead" means that everyone in the company will get killed unless the US troops push them aside. That's madness.

The members of the ISG are right that the situation is grave and deteriorating. They're unfortunately constrained by politics to prevent them from recommending what actually need to be done. So they put together this compromise pastiche based on wishful thinking and the power of hope. The report has the effect of admitting the truth without allowing anything to result from that truth.

UPDATE: Silvestre Reyes, the "compromise candidate" for the House Intelligence Committee, wants to add 20,000 troops. That's more wishful thinking, the idea that you can win this militarily at this point. Hell, there are 100,000 contractors and mercenaries in the country, why don't you shift them onto the battlefield? Reyes says they're needed to disarm the militias. The Iraqi government won't let us disarm the militias. This is more denial of reality.

UPDATE: The other thing I really liked was the admission that a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem is the only way forward to viability in the broader Middle East. America must return to its honest broker status. As good a guy as Anwar Sadat was, without Carter's involvement we wouldn't have sustained peace between Israel and Egypt.

But of course, the Bush Administration is likely to ignore that and anything else they don't like, so this is all a moot point.

UPDATE: The escape clause, where full removal of combat troops is seen as "a nice goal" but only in the event of the rosiest and most unrealistic scenario, is still in the report, rendering it almost meaningless. Matthew Yglesias is dead right.

It’s worth saying that from the beginning the Bush administration has always had a plan to withdraw the bulk of US combat forces from Iraq in 12-18 months. It’s just that the “plan” has always gone something like ‘we’ll do this super-awesome stuff, then the situation will improve, and then most of the combat troops will leave.’ The problem, of course, keeps being that the situation ‘unexpectedly’ fails to improve. The policy’s failure therefore becomes the justification for continuing the very policy that’s failing.

Amen. The notion that somehow we never thought to reduce the force levels is asinine.


Here Baker-Hamilton Come To Save The Day

The Iraq Study Group Report is here. I agree with Atrios that just because the report is bipartisan doesn't mean it's automatically effective.

There certainly is a time and place for compromise and bipartisanship, but it's a means not an end. Good advice and good policy is what matters, not political asscovering. Splitting the baby is not always a very smart thing to do.

More than that, this sounds like very bad advice indeed. Who was it who said that the report calls for us to "pretend to leave"? That sounds about right.

That said, I like a couple things Lee Hamilton had to say this morning. First, he admitted that there is no magic solution to what will almost certainly end in chaos. "There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved." That's true. The options are all "least bad" at this point. I also am happy that open-ended commitment is being (at least rhetorically) rejected, as well as any claim to permanent military bases.

RECOMMENDATION 22: The President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. If the Iraqi government were to request a temporary base or bases, then the U.S. government could consider that request as it would in the case of any other government.

And this recommendation could end the insanity of "emergency funding requests," as if nobody in the government realized we might need cash to keep the war effort going.

RECOMMENDATION 72: Costs for the war in Iraq should be included in the President’s annual budget request, starting in FY 2008: the war is in its fourth year, and the normal budget process should not be circumvented. Funding requests for the war in Iraq should be presented clearly to Congress and the American people. Congress must carry out its constitutional responsibility to review budget requests for the war in Iraq carefully and to conduct oversight.

Of course, virtually none of this has a shot of effecting meaningful change, in my view. The White House is already backing away from the report, calling it "one out of many studies" currently being undertaken. They're trying fiercely to shape and change the debate in Washington. Meanwhile people continue to die, and consensus viewpoints are just as likely to recommend bad policy as eeevuhl partisan ones. After all, going to war in the first place was a consensus viewpoint.


CA-10: Look Who's Talking (to President Bush)

The Democratic leadership ought to be talking to the President every day. Ad hoc groups of Democrats who aren't in the leadership who are meeting with the President to discuss areas of mutual cooperation should be seen for what it is: undermining the Democratic Congress before it even takes power. And that's what happening... and gues who's part of the group?

President Bush has invited leaders of the conservative Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions to the White House Friday to discuss areas of “mutual cooperation” in the words of one Democratic Congressional aide.
The outreach comes at a time when Bush’s image on Capitol Hill and around the country has taken a serious beating. The meeting is scheduled just two days after the Iraq Study Group is scheduled to release its findings and one day after the Senate Armed Services Committee plans to hold hearings on them.

Reps. Alan Boyd (Fla.), Dennis Moore (Kan.) and Mike Ross (Ark.) will represent the Blue Dogs, a coalition of usually southern, conservative-leaning Democrats and Reps. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), Artur Davis (Ala.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Adam Smith (Wash.) and Ellen Tauscher (Calif.) are set to represent the New Democrats, a group of business-friendly centrists, at the meeting, which the president is expected to attend.

The President is deeply unpopular because his policies are deeply unpopular. While the midterm elections may not represent a mandate, but certainly the country is giving the Democrats the opportunity to govern. Except for these Democrats, who think it's still 2002 and want to suck up to the White House in the belief that it will... what? Help their career? Make them popular in their districts as bold compromisers?

Ellen Tauscher is symptomatic of a DLC mentality that thinks the only way to capture power is to subvert all Democratic principled. She couldn't be more wrong, and she and her colleagues are signaling what amounts to a mutiny. This misbegotten belief that Democrats won by tacking to the right this cycle is just not true. If anything, economic populism was ascendant.

I'm all for a big tent and welcoming of opposing viewpoints within the party. Going outside of it and breaking protocol to try and make deals to make yourself look like a maverick independent (instead of a right-wing shill) is damaging to the party brand. That's what Ellen Tauscher is doing.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Other Pain Bills Congress Could Take Up

In one of its last official acts before jetting out of town to do holiday shopping, the Do-Nothing Congress is voting tomorrow on a bill declaring that fetuses feel pain, and requiring abortion doctors to offer anaesthesia for their unborn child.

There's nobody more qualified to determine the point at which an unborn baby feels pain than a group of mostly white men who aren't doctors. And I'd be kind of surprised if women who decide on abortion weren't getting anaesthesia already. In fact, it's an open question in the medical community as to whether you can even provide anaestesia to a fetus. So this is a bill that's more about making social conservatives happy and making women feel guilty than any kind of actual policy.

But it occurs to me that if Congress considers themselves experts on pain, then I have a whole slew of bills they could consider. Because there are is no shortage of Americans feeling pain that could use some relief.

• H.R.111101: Declares that any of the 46 million Americans without health insurance do feel pain when they get sick, even though they cannot afford to visit a doctor and receive any treatment. Maybe they can be offered anaesthetia by the government for their illnesses. Or something.

• H.R.111102: Declares that the families of the close to 3,000 US troops who have died in Iraq (including the 4 Marines yesterday) feel pain and suffering for their loss. Also declares that the troops themselves felt pain before they died in service to a disastrous policy. A rider in the bill could add that the Iraqi people, practically all of whom have had friends or family who have died in this war, feel pain for their loss and for the collapse of civil society and security in their nation.

• H.R. 111103: Declares that the 35 million people suffering from hunger (yes, it's called hunger) in the United States feel pain when they go to bed hungry, when they wake up with nothing to eat in their pantries, when they have to decide between food and medicine for themselves and their children.

• H.R. 111104: Declares that the 1 in 8 people living in poverty in this country feel pain out of need, out of humiliation, out of the loss of hope and the belief that they will always be poor and never get to experience the American dream.

• H.R. 111105: Declares that a substantial percentage of soldiers coming home from Iraq feel pain from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an illness that the Army is loath to admit as a problem, preferring to ignore it or to throw sufferers out of the miilitary. This bill would require treatment for this pain our heroic troops feel after being tossed into the nightmare that is war.

• H.R. 111106: Declares that any human being on the planet, no matter his race, color, religious affiliation, or combatant status, feels pain when tortured and deprived of all sensory input until he or she is made to go mad. This bill would state plainly that anything designed to cause severe pain for the purposes of intelligence, a practice that is not only immoral but ineffective, ought to be outlawed by societies who are supposedly committed to upholding some sort of ideals.

There are about 1,000 other examples I could make, stories of the downtrodden and the helpless and those who feel pain, all of whom are living right now and can bear witness to that pain. But why would I expect Republicans to give a shit about them?

For some reason, Democrats are "shying from the fight" on the fetal pain bill, refusing to hold a whip count for the caucus. And the biggest pro-choice organization in America has remained bizarrely neutral on a bill that could be construed to make many forms of birth control illegal, given that it defines pregnancy at conception. Why dcan't anyone very simply offer up these other pain bills as amendments and force Republicans to do exactly what they want Democrats to do? From the WaPo article:

The National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson dared Democrats to vote against the bill. If it passes the House, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) will try to pass it in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote.

"Somebody will object," Johnson said. "We want to know who that person is."

Somebody would object to defining the uninsured as in pain. Same with the hungry. The mourning. The grieving. The poor. The tortured. Those made mentally ill by war.

I'd like to know who that person is.