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

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Saturday Quick Hits

Just your friendly neighborhood blogosphere round up:
  • Howard Dean will be in L.A. on Wednesday. $50 to come see the chairman and support the 50-state strategy. Hey, that's a buck a state, a bargain!
  • Check out the latest 50-sate blog round-up, a great compilation of posts from the state-based progressive blogosphere. And yes, dday, you made the cut...again.
  • Speaking of dday, go check out his take on the Paris Hilton situation over at calitics.
  • What the heck did Barbara Boxer mean by this?
  • This is the latest reminder that on Iraq, we don't have a majority. Remember, everyone, more US troop deaths means we're winning!
  • Looks like criticism of Bush's "pray the gay away" Surgeon General nominee is finally getting some media coverage. James Holsinger's nomination is before a committee that includes Senators Clinton, Obama and Dodd. Good for Clinton for being the first (and thus far only) one of them to say she will oppose his nomination.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Abu G To Face No Confidence Vote on Monday

From CNN's Ticker:
The Senate will hold a “no confidence” vote on embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this Monday, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, announced.

In a statement released Friday, Schumer said if all senators followed their conscience, “this vote would be unanimous.”

“However, the president will certainly exert pressure to support the attorney general, his longtime friend,” Schumer added. “We will soon see where people’s loyalties lie.”

Considering I've thought Gonzalez's resignation has been imminent a couple times now, I won't even dare to speculate but you gotta wonder, is a no confidence vote really something Gonzo wants on his wikipedia entry? Watch for one of Bush's patented "I have full confidence in..." statements. If there is none, Gonzo may be a goner.

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America's Shame

When Democrats say we need to restore US moral standing in the world, this is what they're talking about.

Exhibit one:

Despite denials by their governments, senior Polish and Romanian security officials have confirmed to the Council of Europe that their countries were used to hold some of America's most important prisoners captured after 9/11 in secret.

None of the prisoners had access to the Red Cross and many were subject to what George Bush has called the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation, which critics have condemned as torture. Although suspicions about the secret CIA prisons have existed for more than a year, the council's report, seen by the Guardian, appears to offer the first concrete evidence. It also details the prisons' operations and the identities of some of the prisoners.

And this was done with the full knowledge and complicity of Nato:

The council has also established that within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, Nato signed an agreement with the US that allowed civilian jets used by the CIA during its so-called extraordinary rendition programme to move across member states' airspace.

While this may seem like old news to us in the tubes, this report is significant because, as Dick Marty, the Swiss senator who headed up the inquiry, said:

"What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice."

Exhibit two:

In the most comprehensive accounting to date, six leading human rights organizations today published the names and details of 39 people who are believed to have been held in secret US custody and whose current whereabouts remain unknown. The briefing paper also names relatives of suspects who were themselves detained in secret prisons, including children as young as seven.

Yes, 7.

In September 2002 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s two young sons, aged seven and nine, were arrested. According to eyewitnesses, the two were held in an adult detention centre for at least four months while US agents questioned the children about their father’s whereabouts.

Rachel Maddow interviewed Jayne Huckerby, Research Director at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice on her show last night who referred to the treatment of the children as torture.


The human rights groups are calling on the US government to put a permanent end to the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation programme, and to disclose the identities, fate, and whereabouts of all detainees currently or previously held at secret facilities operated or overseen by the US government as part of the “war on terror”.

In a related action, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), CCR and the International Human Rights Clinic of NYU School of Law today filed a lawsuit in US federal court under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking disclosure of information concerning “disappeared” detainees, including “ghost” and unregistered prisoners.

On September 6, 2006, Bush admitted to the use of secret detentions and forced disappearance. According to Amnesty International:

The transfer of a detainee to Guantánamo in April 2007 proved that the US network of secret detention was still operating, though the authorities have never disclosed how many individuals have been secretly detained.
The Habeus Corpus Restoration Act is a step in the right direction toward returning our country to some recognizable version of its former self, but considering it will likely be vetoed it's clear that no real progress will be made on this until we have a Democratic president.

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Senator Cheney?

No, not that one, the other one. You know, the author.
Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, is being floated in Senate GOP leadership circles as a possible replacement for the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), who died Monday night.
Talk about putting salt in a wound. I mean come on, even Wyoming's gotta have Cheney fatigue, right? Right?


Bush Calls In Sick

He had to sit out the G8 this morning. After all, he might have puked all over the place like his daddy in Tokyo, and the LAST thing George Bush wants is to be an international embarrassment!

OK, I'm really gone now.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Fun While It Lasted

It would be more fun to bring up the immigration bill every three months or so just to watch the right wing pop a vein, but it's officially dead for now, after failing two cloture votes today.

The bill wasn't workable, and with everybody demagoguing the issue to death there wasn't going to be any rational discourse about it. Harry Reid did what he could, but I don't see why he should have to carry water for a bill that's really the President's legacy project. Not to mention the fact that I'm really not interested in bringing de facto indentured servants onto our shores to be exploited by large businesses.

In two years, with a larger share of Congress and a Democratic President, there's a better chance of getting something favorable, anyway.

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New FoxNews Poll

Citing a Fox News poll might be a bannable offense around here but there are actually some noteworthy results to some ordinary and out of the ordinary questions.

Some highlights:

- Bush's approval remains steady at 34%, just 1 point higher than his historical low of 33%, which he hit in March.

- Bush's first term average favorable/unfavorable: 61%/29%. Currently at 34%/57%, Bush is in striking distance of becoming his own inverse, the yin to his first term's yang.

- Of the top 2 candidates in each party, Barack Obama wins "Most Likeable" with 76% (least likeable is Hillary Clinton with 56%;) Rudy Giuliani wins "Strongest Leader" w/71% (lowest score was Obama w/49% but only because they didn't know, not cuz they thought he was a particularly bad leader; interestingly, Hillary ekes ahead of McCain for second place here w/60%;) and John McCain wins "Honest and Trustworthy" with 59% vs. Clinton's low score of 49%.

- As for the horserace, the only real news is the entrance of Fred Thompson, who goes from 8% to 13% after his non-announcement announcement last week. As I wrote over at Right's Field, he seems to be taking support from other candidates (Romney and Giuliani to be precise) rather than from the pool of undecideds in any real way since undecideds drop 5 points or so whether Thompson is included in the poll or not (they asked both.)

- Also, the poll was taken the night of Tuesday's debate as well as the night after so there's likely to be a debate factor in the results as well. For example, McCain drops 2 or 3 whether Thompson is out or in, respectively, which tells me McCain's eloquent defense of his immigration stance during the debate is what's at the heart of his decline.

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Edwards On The Offense

I guess the consensus is that John Edwards didn't have a very good debate in New Hampshire, because he was the attack dog and he "didn't look Presidential." I don't agree. I think that conclusion has been drawn because he dared to utter the great unmentionable, something not even Dennis Kucinich feels comfortable enough to say.

Ed Kilgore remarks "Edwards' efforts to separate himself from Clinton and Obama by deriding the 'war on terror' (accurate as it is with respect to the terminology involved) is politically perilous, to say the least." This is actually what I think is the most significant aspect of Edwards' decision to take this bit of sloganeering on.

He had the balls to say what everyone knows is true (but only parenthetically) and is too afraid to say and ... he wasn't struck down by lightning [...] For years and years this kind of dogma has built-up among Bush administration critics that None May Say The Obvious about the "war on terror" lest they face dire, dire political consequences, but a party that doesn't have sufficient confidence in its national security chops to offer a really banal criticism of the Bush administration is bound to end up projecting that insecurity to voters in a way that's much more damaging than taking a 48 hour hit as the White House borrows the Clinton campaign's talking points.

That's right on so many levels. Barack Obama obviously got it, as within a day he released a statement acknowledging that the world is a more dangerous place thanks to the actions of this Administration, and that the war in Iraq has fueled terrorism around the world. It's not exactly where Edwards is, but it's certainly closer than Hillary and her borrowed talking point of "safer but not yet safe." This led to a New York Times story on the issue, where the Clinton camp decided to narrow the issue to domestic security, particularly in New York City, since 9/11. But that's really unimaginative thinking, and represents a desire to maintain the foreign policy status quo by omitting it from the debate. I agree with Simon Rosenberg:

I have to admit that I am not sympathetic to Hillary's position. With DHS a mess, our military degraded, our standing in the world diminished, the Middle East in much greater turmoil than prior to 9/11, terrorism around the world on the rise, Bin Laden still on the loose, Iran moving towards nuclearization, our great ally Israel weakened, international institutions like the UN and the World Bank under assault, climate change ignored, Russia slipping back into an aggressive autocracy.....are we really safer today? Is America and the world really better off as a result of the Bush years?

(By the way, check this story out by Justin Rood if you want to learn more about the Department of Homeland Security, a dumping ground for the worst hack political appointees and fundraisers imaginable. This is who Hillary's banking on to keep America safe?)

But let me get back to Edwards, who is far beyond where Hillary or even Obama is on this issue. He outlined a plan to fight terrorism today that immediately states that George Bush has used the fear of terrorism to push forward an ideological agenda that has resulted in an increasingly dangerous world, and that we have to get past bumper-sticker slogans and start thinking about how to manage this threat if we want to reverse the situation. Here are the steps:

As president, Edwards will take the following six key steps to shut down terrorism both its effects and its root causes. The Edwards plan will:

Rebalance our force structure for the challenges of the new century to ensure the force structure of our military matches its mission. Edwards believes we need to ensure that our force structure is well-equipped for the challenges of the new century. We must have enough troops to rebuild from Iraq; to bolster deterrence; to decrease our heavy reliance on Guard and Reserve members in military operations; and to deploy in Afghanistan and any other trouble spots that could develop.

Ensure our intelligence strategy adheres to proven and effective methods and avoids actions that will give terrorists or even other nations an excuse to abandon international law.

Hold regular meetings with top military leadership. Edwards will also reinstate a basic doctrine of national security management—military professionals will have primary responsibility in matters of tactics and operations, while civilian leadership will have authority in all matters of broad strategy and political decisions.

Create a "Marshall Corps" of 10,000 professionals, modeled on the Reserves systems, to stabilize weak and failing states.

Re-invest in the maintenance of our equipment so our strategy against terrorists is as effective as possible.

Implement a new National Security Budget that will include all security activities by the Pentagon and the Department of Energy, and our homeland security, intelligence, and foreign affairs agencies.

Most of this, like refurbishing equipment and re-jiggering the budget and reinstating the civilian/military decision-making process and outlawing torture and not using the Guard and Reserve as Army Pt II, is just common sense that this idiotic Administration has strayed from. But it's the fundamental approach that really appeals to me. This "Marshall Corps" is a great way to restore our image in the world and make fundamentalist radical Islam look far worse by comparison. And it's lines like this that shows Edwards has the best understanding of how the past six years have transpired: "Today, we know two unequivocal truths about the results of Bush's approach -- there are more terrorists and we have fewer allies."

I believe this vision by Edwards is similar to what Fareed Zakaria laid out in a much-discussed Newsweek article on how to restore America's place in the world. An excerpt:

We must begin to think about life after Bush [...] In 19 months he will be a private citizen, giving speeches to insurance executives. America, however, will have to move on and restore its place in the world. To do this we must first tackle the consequences of our foreign policy of fear. Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face [...]

The problem today is not that America is too strong but that it is seen as too arrogant, uncaring and insensitive. Countries around the world believe that the United States, obsessed with its own notions of terrorism, has stopped listening to the rest of the world.

(Read the whole thing, though Zakaria is somewhat establishment, it's fantastic.)

This is exactly equivalent to what Edwards has been saying, and it's what I think he would work to change as President. We know what the Republicans think; they may be running from Bush on some issues, but on foreign policy they want to be Bush on steroids. Chief among them is Rudy Giuliani, and look what Edwards had to say about him today.

"If Mayor Giuliani believes that what President Bush has done is good, and wants to embrace it and run a campaign for the Presidency saying, 'I will give you four more years of what this president has given you,' then he’s allowed to do that. He’ll never be elected President of the United States, but he’s allowed to do that."

The goal of terrorism is to sow fear. If we succumb to it and use all of our energies to react to it, we have changed America and given the terrorists their victory. John Edwards appears to be the only candidate brave enough to call bullshit on the entire operation, the only one prepared to engage with the world on his own terms rather than on the terrorists'. Chris Matthews picked up on this today on Hardball as it relates to Giuliani, leading to this fantastic commentary...

"I agree with what Fareed Zakaria wrote in Newsweek this week, which is that terrorism isn't bombs and explosions and death... terrorism is when you change your society because of those explosions... and you become fearful to the point that you shut out immigration, you shut out student exchanges, you keep people out of buildings ... and begin to act in an almost fascist manner because you're afraid of what might happen to you, and that's when terrorism becomes real, and frighteningly succesful. That's what I believe, and that's why I question the way Giuliani has raised this issue. He raises it as a specter, and in a weird way, he helps the bad guys."

But what Matthews hasn't seen is that John Edwards is on the opposite pole, unwilling to let America be drowned in fear. This is why, at this stage, I have to announce my support for him.

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So I'm going away tomorrow on a top-secret mission to star in a dinner-theater version of Battlefield Earth that I'm performing at Mitt Romney's house (damn, I spilled the secret!), but I'm leaving you in good hands.

Todd Beeton is one of my colleagues at Calitics. He also writes for the California Courage Campaign and The Right's Field, a blog looking at the 2008 GOP nomination, which if you're not reading, you should. He'll be posting through Monday.

He's new around here, so don't throw spitballs in the back of the room and make fun of his shirt behind is back (though I often do).

I may be able to check in a couple more times tonight, but if not, bonne chance, Todd! (I knew that guy spoke French! Commie!)

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The Alaskan Corruption Tundra

Alaska is a small state way up in the Northern Tier (lovely place, by the way, you should visit sometime). Somehow, its legislators have grown incredibly powerful, and have used that power to deliver favors far outside their state:

It is no secret that campaign contributions sometimes lead to lucrative official favors. Rarely, though, are the tradeoffs quite as obvious as in the twisted case of Coconut Road.

The road, a stretch of pavement near Fort Myers, Fla., that touches five golf clubs on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, is the target of a $10 million earmark that appeared mysteriously in a 2006 transportation bill written by Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska.

Mr. Young, who last year steered more than $200 million to a so-called bridge to nowhere reaching 80 people on Gravina Island, Alaska, has no constituents in Florida.

The Republican congressman whose district does include Coconut Road says he did not seek the money. County authorities have twice voted not to use it, until Mr. Young and the district congressman wrote letters warning that a refusal could jeopardize future federal money for the county.

The Coconut Road money is a boon, however, to Daniel J. Aronoff, a real estate developer who helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young at the nearby Hyatt Coconut Point hotel days before he introduced the measure.

Mr. Aronoff owns as much as 4,000 acres along Coconut Road. The $10 million in federal money would pay for the first steps to connect the road to Interstate 75, multiplying the value of Mr. Aronoff’s land.

This is par for the course for Young, a former chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and it's redolent of the "pay to play" nature of the Congressional strategy of the GOP. And another feature of lawmakers like Young is their sunny nobility in the face of such corruption questions:

When he was approached near the House floor by a reporter, Mr. Young responded with an obscene gesture.

One of Young's counterparts in Alaska, Sen. Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens, has been told to hang on to his records because the FBI might want to take a look at them.

Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, disclosed in an interview that the FBI asked him to preserve records as part of a widening investigation into Alaskan political corruption that has touched his son and ensnared one of his closest political confidants and financial backers.

Stevens, who is famous for bringing home federal earmarks for Alaska when he was Appropriations Committee chairman, was not previously known to be linked to the Justice Department's probe, which has uncovered evidence that more than $400,000 worth of bribes were given to state lawmakers in exchange for favorable energy legislation.

Investigators have used secret recording equipment, seized documents and cooperating witnesses to secure the indictments of four current and former state lawmakers, including the former state House speaker, shaking the core of Alaska's Republican Party.

Two executives of a prominent energy company have pleaded guilty to bribery and extortion charges and are cooperating with the inquiry, which is being run by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section and includes two federal prosecutors and FBI agents based in Anchorage.

"They put me on notice to preserve some records," Stevens said in a brief interview about his legal team's discussions with the FBI. He declined to say what kinds of records were involved but confirmed that he had hired lawyers and that his son, former state Senate president Ben Stevens, "is also under investigation."

When you think of big-city corruption, you think of Chicago, or Tammany Hall-era New York. Typically you don't think about Anchorage. Maybe you should.

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Keep Wedgin'

Good for The US House for trying to do the work Americans sent them to Washington to do, regardless of Presidential veto threats. The country is on the record supporting federal funding for stem cell research, so why not continue to pass it? The President obviously doesn't care about the will of the people, but Republicans who want to keep their jobs might. Stem cell research is fast becoming a liberal wedge issue, and so until federal funding is allowed, there should be as many votes as possible about it.

By the way, I welcome this potential breakthrough to create embryonic stem cells through skin cells and without destroying embryos. If we can get away from this ridiculous argument that the blastocyst is sacred and move forward on allowing for R&D for medical research, all the better.

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Clean Money Bill Passes, Interesting Debate on Health Care

It's impossible to keep up with all the bills passing in the California Legislature, but there is the good news that the Clean Money pilot program, which would make 3 races in 2010 (1 Assembly race, 1 Senate race, and the Governor) publicly financed, got through the Assembly by a 45-34 vote. It would be amazing to see a true public financing system coming to California. The legislature is doing a pretty good job of getting progressive ideas through their respective chambers. Whether they'll be signed into law is another matter.

And here's some more about the passage of SB 840, the single-payer universal health care bill, in the California State Senate.

This section is telling, and an object lesson on how to deal with Republicans who will lie and lie about health care in this country. It's important for every Democrat who wants to talk about health care to read this.

In the staid Senate, there was little debate on the measure. Being its fifth time around the block, Capitol watchers expect nothing other than a party-line (or near party-line) vote on the measure.

However, Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, did take the opportunity to attack the nationalized health care systems of other countries.

“There’s no question that we have problems with the high cost of health care, but to say we have the lowest standard of health care, or that we’re at the bottom of industrialized nations is not a true statement,’’ Aanestad said.

Contrary to what Aanestad said, though, the U.S. spends more on health care, but gets less, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The latest numbers show that the U.S. spends $7,800 per capita on health care, nearly twice as much as Canada’s $4,050; the UK spends $3,250. Meanwhile, the US ranks 21st in life expectancy (Canada ranks 7th and the UK ranks 18th), and 23rd in infant mortality behind Canada and the UK .

Aanestad went on to say that the “the only universal health care ... (seen) in the US is the outmoded and substandard Veterans Administration Health Care system. Do you really want your American health care to end up in the Veterans’ Administration model?”

Lastly, Aanestad proclaimed that “if I needed bypass surgery, I could not get it (in Canada) because I’m over 60 years old and I would be put on a waiting list because I’m too old to qualify for bypass surgery.’’ On the other hand, in the U.S. “If I needed bypass surgery, I’d have it tonight,’’ he said.

Sen. Kuehl contradicted this statement.

“This notion that waiting lists exists somewhere else, but not in America ? Maybe for the privileged few of us who can get right in. But there are a lot of people in my district – the richest district in the state and the one with probably the highest number of people insured – who are still on waiting lists, whether with Kaiser, or with Blue Cross,’’ said Kuehl, who represents Santa Monica.

“You can’t just run right in and get your bypass surgery,’’ Kuehl said.

Please read and absorb that. The Republicans are going to lie about health care. Everyone in this country knows the health care system. It's easier to lie about something more abstract like Iraq than health care, when everyone knows the deal. This, of course, is why they always shift the debate to health care in Europe. Democrats, all you have to do is SPEAK THE TRUTH. The people are with you.

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The Long Road for Habeas

Yes, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it didn't get one Republican vote other than Arlen Specter. So I don't see this getting the 60 Senate votes needed for cloture. Once you enshrine something into law, it's much harder to get it repealed. Doesn't mean that it doesn't happen on occasion, but it's far more difficult.

And restoring habeas, while vital, is fairly narrowcast, despite the need to go further, and much respect to Chris Dodd for saying so:

Some Democrats are pushing Reid to go further, advocating more comprehensive human rights protections and a repeal of the entire Military Commissions Act. Senator Chris Dodd, the most aggressive defender of the Constitution in the presidential race, is pushing legislation that would not only restore habeas, but also ban the use of evidence obtained through torture and recommit the U.S. to the Geneva Conventions. "We must recognize that our security is enhanced by upholding our nation's historic legal principles as we vigorously pursue terrorists," he said in a statement today. Dodd is giving a major address about his proposal at the Cardozo School of Law Commencement exercises in New York on Thursday, part of a larger effort to prioritize Constitutional rights on the national agenda – and in the presidential campaign. The Dodd Campaign has gathered over 10,000 "citizen cosponsors" for his bill, the Restoring the Constitution Act, while using YouTube, blog and netroots outreach to rally more support.

Obama, Clinton and Biden, the other Senators in the presidential race, have cosponsored the habeas legislation but not Dodd's bill, which currently has eleven cosponsors. The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Armed Services Committee, a much less hospitable venue for Constitutional rights than the Judiciary Committee. But there is one influential Armed Services member who opposed the Military Commissions Act and could jump start the effort to restore Constitutional rights: Hillary Clinton.

Dodd's best answer in the Democratic debate was his last, when he said his top priority as President would be to restore Constitutional rights. It's absolutely vital. When you have a long road like this, you need leaders to step up and do the hard work. Memo to the other candidates: you can lead on this. If Hillary Clinton really wants to unite the party, she can get out into the spotlight.

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Can We Do Anything?

The Senate refused to close debate on the immigration bill today, after an encouraging vote to sunset the now-reduced guest worker program after five years passed late last night. At this point, it's questionable whether this gets to a conference committee at all, where it could get better. The pressure is on the President to have a legacy, so I think that the Democrats could easily make the bill more progressive in conference and not risk a veto. But I don't know if they can find 60 to close debate.

A central problem in this country is that the conservative base (and to a smaller extent the liberal one) has become so amped up about every little vote, thinking that it will bring about the end of civilization itself (which Tom Tancredo actually said in Tuesday's debate), that any kind of compromise just doesn't seem possible anymore. In this sense, Barack Obama's theme of unification is appealing, though I'm not sure it will be bought by the right.

We're talking about immigration here. It's already a problem that's unlikely to be fixed simply by shutting the border down; most people who are in this country illegally did so by overstaying visas. So the alternatives are continue this underground economy and shadow America, or actually try to do something about it. The process of earned legalization seems appropriately arduous, certainly more so than the 1986 amnesty by St. Ronnie. I'm very skeptical about that the workplace enforcement aspects of the bill will actually be, you know, enforced, but a new President with a shred of respect for the rule of law is likely to do so. The relief for agricultural workers who literally can't find anyone to work the fields makes sense. The guest worker program is indentured servitude and I'm glad that the Democrats are chipping away at it.

The conservatives are acting like passing this bill will lead to the end of the world. That's exactly what Lindsay Graham is responding to even while he attacks Obama. He's mad that his party has left reason behind in favor of demonization and fearmongering. Well, tough. You have a responsibility for that as much as anyone, Huckleberry. We have to understand that putting up a brick wall and acting like every tiny issue is as important as, say, Iraq, is counter-productive, and it's why so many of us feel that you simply can't get anything done through Congress anymore. No less than Trent Lott made this point the other day. Hopefully, the post-Bush era can be defined by ramping down the rhetoric. Of course, the Republicans, who started this pie fight and continue to play the fear card at every opportunity, are going to have to take the first step. I'm not hopeful.

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Cheney In Charge

The Justice Department dumped some more documents on the Congress last night, and one of them must have made it through the filter. This is very damning for Monica Goodling.

New Justice Department communications released tonight include an email from Monica Goodling, former counsel to Alberto Gonzales, directing another official to draw up a directive giving her unprecedented authority to hire and fire political staffers. Goodling tells the official, assistant attorney general Paul Corts, to “send [it] directly up to me, outside the system.”

Remember when Goodling said that she "crossed the line" in taking political considerations into account when hiring, but she "didn't mean to"? I think that referred to her not meaning anyone to figure it out.

And Monica isn't the only one who was politicizing the Justice Department. Big Time made time for it as well:

Separately, in written answers to questions from Sen. Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, (James) Comey confirmed that Vice President Cheney blocked a subsequent promotion for a Justice Department official, Patrick Philbin, who played a key role in blocking the recertification of the NSA warrantless wiretap program.

In a telling detail about Gonzales, the Attorney General apparently planned to promote Philbin to be principal deputy solicitor general. In other words, it would appear that for all the rest we have learned about Mr. Gonzales, he was not inclined to punish Philbin for his role in the Ashcroft-Comey recertification incident. However, Cheney intervened. In Comey's words: "I understood that someone at the White House communicated to Attorney General Gonzales that the vice president would oppose the appointment if the attorney general pursued the matter. The attorney general chose not to pursue it."

It's actually more than that. The Vice President also was involved in urging passage of the warrantless wiretapping program as Comey and his allies were trying to block it. Literally everything that's rampantly illegal about this Administration can be traced back to Cheney. I mean, Gonzales is stupid enough to lie to Congress, and Goodling is just a functionary. But Cheney is the man with the plan, the one pushing an imperial, praetorian executive branch. Digby's right that we have to get a handle on this. Cheney is running the show, and because he's not the President, the accountability is almost nil. The next time, we need to elect a President that's actually in charge.

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Substantial Cuts

Some agreement.

World leaders agreed on Thursday to pursue "substantial" but unspecified cuts in greenhouse gases and pledged to reach a United Nations deal by 2009 on long-term measures to fight global warming.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, hosting the summit of the Group of Eight (G8) in the seaside Baltic resort town of Heiligendamm, had hoped to gain commitments from member countries to slash emissions by 50 percent by 2050.

Instead, the club of industrialized nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- agreed that "resolute and concerted international action" on climate change was urgently needed.

It's an agreement to have another meeting to have another agreement. It's a death by a thousand cuts. Substantial cuts.

And then, apparently Vlad Putin got sweet-talked into accepting the American missile defense plan that doesn't work.

U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met for the first time following a series of diplomatic clashes that some analysts said heralded a new Cold War.

At the meeting, Putin proposed using a radar system in Azerbaijan to develop a missile shield as an alternative to a disputed U.S. plan to base it in the Czech Republic and Poland.

"We can do this automatically, and hence the whole system which is being built as a result will cover not only part of Europe but entire Europe without an exception," Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

So if you funnel money into a Soviet satellite state, we cool. That's the message there.

If you read between the lines at this G8 Summit, you see that the rest of the world continues to get rolled by the Bush Administration. At least the Democrats aren't alone...

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I Wish I Knew How To Quit You

George Bush and Tony Blair need to just own up to the world that they're gay for each other. This is a tolerant society, nobody's going to mind. And it'll be a load off of the mind of that beard Laura:

U.S. President George W. Bush bid a reluctant farewell to his close friend and ally Tony Blair on Thursday as the two met at the British prime minister's final G8 summit.

"This is the last meeting I will have had with him as prime minister. It's a nostalgic moment for me," Bush told reporters, standing beside Blair after bilateral talks at the gathering of the world's top powers in Germany.

"I'm sorry it's come to be, but that's what happens in life. We'll move on," he added.

"Maybe we'll go off to some mountain in Wyoming every year or so for a fishing vacation, you know, just us boys, a mini-summit. We'll wear our cowboy hats and boots and clear some brush. I'd sure like to clear his brush."

Here's the hilarious punchline, apparently the love in unrequited:

Blair, asked later if he was equally as sad as Bush, said he was too enmeshed in the details of tackling climate change at the G8 to think about his imminent departure.

"To be absolutely frank, I'm so into the difference between various linking systems of emissions trading that I haven't the time to feel nostalgic or anything else," Blair said.

"Stupid science, gettin' in the way of our love! Dad-gum global warmin'!"

For such a "steely-eyed hero," there's never been someone more unnecessary maudlin than George Bush. He sounds like a character from a Douglas Sirk 1950s melodrama. Yo, Blair, want some advice? Lock your door in Heiligendamm at night. This could go all Fatal Atraction very quickly.

"Look, I boiled a rabbit for ya, Blair! Don't leave me, Blair! I'm all alone here!"

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's Official: Thompson Amassing War Criminal Chest

So after being a high-profile member of Scooter Libby's Legal Defense Fund team, after having a former Nixon spy run his conference calls, Fred Thompson has bolstered his war criminal chest by hiring master cager Tim Griffin as a campaign aide.

The guy does have a hell of a resume, to be fair - did you hear he was US Attorney for Arkansas?

Oh yeah, apparently Thompson's also lying about his abortion record. But that just puts him on the same level as the rest of the top-tier Republican candidates. I think the GOP might do better with a nominee like a life-size standee of Harrison Ford from Air Force One. At least the cardboard cut-out might not have a legislative past.

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Single Payer, Sentencing Commissions Moving Through The CA Legislature

Thanks to Frank Russo for informing us that Sheila Kuehl's SB 840, the single-payer health care plan which is the the result of years of work and refining, has passed the California State Senate for the second straight year. The mostly party-line vote was 22-14, with only Lou Correa voting with the Republicans against the bill.

Speaker Nunez and President Pro Tem Perata have health care bills up for votes, likely tomorrow, that are expected to pass. Then the other chamber gets a crack at them all, then there will be some process of negotiation and merging of all of these health care-related bills resulting in whatever the Governor and the Legislative leaders decide is an acceptable final product. It's great that, by virtue of continuing to push SB 840 and not backing down, Sen. Kuehl will be in that room for those negotiations. So this is not a fool's errand, it's a vital step to continue to push this state toward universal single payer healthcare and show the nation that it can be done.

In other news that really warms my heart, Sen. Gloria Romero's SB 110, providing for an independent sentencing commission that will have the power to recommend sentencing guidelines, the TRUE way to reform our broken prison system, passed the State Senate. Better yet, a companion bill passed the Assembly, so it looks like this sentencing commission proposal has a very good chance of winding up on the Governor's desk. Lou Correa again was the only Democratic Senator to vote against the bill. I sense a pattern. But it passed, and that's spectacular news. Hopefully the final bill will give the commission some teeth to actually mandate sentencing reform, and take the process out of the hands of "tough on crime" legislators.

And the Senate also voted to put the nonbinding Out of Iraq resolution on the February 2008 ballot. I only really appreciate this in the sense that I'd love to see the Governor have to sign it. Will he protect his party or "let the people decide?" Other than that, I'm apathetic toward it, and I do believe it's a stalking horse to get more Democrats to the polls in February, who may be more disposed to approving the term limits initiative that would allow the Democratic leadership to stay in office.

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Go Big Or Go Home

I don't remember where I saw it, but on some liveblog of last night's Republican debate, there was a comment about the fact that, if the Republicans are so keen to call anything the Democrats do "socialized medicine," no matter if it's an individual mandate or single-payer Medicare for all or just guaranteed issue with some subsidies, then why don't the Democrats offer a plan that's, well, socialized medicine? You're not going to see Republicans praising any plan that comes from Democrats on health care, even if it's completely market-based like John Edwards', which allows a public plan to compete with private insurance to see which type of coverage people prefer.

I would extend this out to health insurers, who are sure to demagogue the issue as well and call whatever plan Democrats come up with, however nuanced, "socialized medicine" or "government-run health care." One thing conservatives still believe they can do is demonize government as the root of all evil. Recent polling shows that most Americans want universal health care and will pay more in taxes to get it done. So why not sign everybody up to a government plan and give the people what they want, instead of trying to thread the needle with a compromise that will never get those bound to criticize it to your side?

I'm arguing this more rhetorically than anything; once you get into the nitty-gritty of legislation, you'll have to get at least SOME moderate Republicans on board. But why can't a Democratic candidate come out and say "You know what, you're darn right it's socialized medicine, it works for every other industrialized country on the planet, and it'll work a heck of a lot better than the for-profit insurance scam we have going on now." My sense is that would work.

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Freedom's on the March

In Pakistan (you know, our great ally in the war on terror):

- A government-led crackdown against the news media and the political opposition intensified here Tuesday, with hundreds of party workers arrested and television stations bracing for raids.

The crackdown came as Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, moved to limit the political fallout from his decision three months ago to suspend the nation's chief justice. Critics have accused the president of authoritarianism and said his tactics are an indication of his slipping grip on power.

In Saudi Arabia, another ally:

I'd heard about Saudi Arabia, that the sexes are wholly segregated. From museums to university campuses to restaurants, the genders live corralled existences. One young, hip, U.S.-educated Saudi friend told me that he arranges to meet his female friends in other Arab cities. It's easier to fly to Damascus or Dubai, he shrugged, than to chill out coeducationally at home [...]

I spent my days in Saudi Arabia struggling unhappily between a lifetime of being taught to respect foreign cultures and the realization that this culture judged me a lesser being. I tried to draw parallels: If I went to South Africa during apartheid, would I feel compelled to be polite?

The rules are different here. The same U.S. government that heightened public outrage against the Taliban by decrying the mistreatment of Afghan women prizes the oil-slicked Saudi friendship and even offers wan praise for Saudi elections in which women are banned from voting. All U.S. fast-food franchises operating here, not just Starbucks, make women stand in separate lines. U.S.-owned hotels don't let women check in without a letter from a company vouching for her ability to pay; women checking into hotels alone have long been regarded as prostitutes.

In Iran, where our continuing belligerent talk has stifled efforts at political reform:

Tehran's jailing of Haleh Esfandiari, a 67-year old grandmother who holds dual Iranian-American citizenship, as well as the interrogation of others with similar papers, is evidence that Washington's latest attempt to foist change on Iran is backfiring — as Iranian democracy advocates had warned. The Bush administration had trumpeted its $61.1 million democracy program, including Farsi-language broadcasts into Iran, education and cultural exchanges and $20 million worth of support for "civil society, human rights, democratic reform and related outreach" as an important effort. However, sources tell TIME that several key Iranian reformers had repeatedly warned U.S. officials through back channels that the pro-democracy program was bound to expose them as vulnerable targets for a government crackdown whether they took Washington's funds or not.

Iranian civil rights activists contacted by TIME say that the cases against the Iranian-Americans have fostered the most repressive atmosphere inside Iran in years, making democracy advocates terrified to work or even speak on the telephone. Many are deeply reluctant to leave or re-enter the country, fearing that they will meet the same fate as Esfandiari, who was initially detained while heading to the airport after an eight-day visit to Iran to see her 93-year old mother. She and at least two other Iranian-Americans were charged with espionage. Esfandiari is the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mideast Program in Washington. The Wilson Center has strongly denied that she or the center has received any of the Bush administration's funds.

In Cuba!

The continuing hostilities with the US have played into Castro's hands. It was as an embattled nationalist leader of a small island, standing up to an aggressive, neighbouring superpower, that Castro preserved his revolutionary credentials most effectively. The shortcomings of life under his regime were, he argued, attributable mainly to the US embargo. Many swallowed the argument. He knew, too, how to capitalise on the latent anti-Americanism in Latin America, Europe and Canada to give his struggle more universal appeal [...]

In fact, the regime seems to act with zeal to ensure that the embargo continues. When it looks as if the US government might consider ending it, some heavy-handed Cuban act ensues that the status quo prevails. In 1996, when Clinton was keen to initiate rapprochement, the regime shot down two US planes manned by members of a Cuban exile group rescuing those escaping the island on rafts. When, in 2003, an influential cross-party lobby in the US seemed set to dismantle the embargo, the Cuban government promptly incarcerated 75 prisoners of conscience and executed three men who hijacked a tugboat with a view to getting to Miami.

But don't worry, there's good news: turns out the Cold War is over!

"Russia is not our enemy," Bush emphasized as relations between Washington and Moscow fell deeper into an icy chill with Putin's threat to retarget rockets at Europe.

When the best foreign policy move all week is pleading with everybody that the Cold War is over, you know things are pretty bleak.

There's a very good reason for this rise of authoritarianism abroad. The neoconservative project to bully the world has produced an equal and opposite reaction. It's removed any moral authority from the United States to press democratic reforms because we refuse to set a decent example. So it gives allies a safety valve to rule with dictatorial means, or just to reject it since we don't have a real argument to make. It also forces other nations, like Iran, to crack down out of fear that they are being undermined and will be toppled in the name of democracy promotion. So you get a more repressive society while intending to get a less repressive one.

We need to relate to the world in a more honest and a less unilateral way. Unilateralism breeds unilateralism. And it makes this a far less safe world.

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Think Progress Turns Into Dump Doolittle

A double-shot of Doolittle dirty deeds on the Center for American Progress' blog.

First, they note a visit by Doolittle to a local elementary school, where he shows that he knows less about global warming that your average junior high school student.

Is the government doing anything to stop global warming?

Answer: Well, there’s a lot of talk about global warming. But the fact of the matter its uncertain as to what the facts really are about global warming.

Committees have been formed to discuss the subject.

I think its way overblown in the terms of the impact mankind actually has. Ninety-eight percent of Antarctica is getting colder, not warmer and Iceland has some of the thickest ice in decades. The earth is a pretty big place and a resilient place.

Did John Doolittle just fail "Are You Smarter Than A 7th-Grader?" I think so.

The second item concerns a vote by the full house on whether to refer "Dollar Bill" Jefferson (D-LA) to the House Ethics Committee, to start a process of possibly expelling the corrupt member. Of the only 26 members of the House who voted against the resolution, one was John Doolittle. Even Gary Miller and Jerry Lewis managed to vote to refer Jefferson to the Ethics Committee. Think Doolittle's wondering about if the shoe will ever be on the other foot?

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A Dim Hope On Habeas

After the stunning dismissal of charges in two military tribunals a Guantanamo Bay, the Democrats in the Senate aren't wasting any time to capitalize on this opportunity to restore Constitutional rights:

A day after two military judges ruled against the Bush administration’s system for trying terrorism detainees, Democrats seized on the rulings on Tuesday as evidence that Congress should restore the right of those held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge their detentions.

Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is the majority leader, said he would be willing to bring such legislation to the floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing to approve such a plan on Thursday.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the rulings on Monday in two cases added urgency to the push to restore detainees’ right to file habeas corpus suits. Congress eliminated that right last year while redesigning the military tribunals after the Supreme Court struck down the first plan.

Mr. Leahy criticized the administration for insisting on an approach to the tribunals “which even conservative courts say no to.”

The pathetic excuse by John Warner is that Congress shouldn't rush to change the law in response to the rulings, which is of course exactly what the Bush Administration did in creating these unworkable military commissions in the first place. The truth is that there aren't a lot of options to make this flawed system of tribunals work - they never even wrote an appeals process into it. The system should be scrapped, and restoring habeas corpus would move us down that road.

I'm glad to see that my Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is one of the cosponsors of the habeas corpus restoration bill. She also wants to add an amendment to close Guantanamo altogether. I don't see eye to eye with DiFi on everything, but she's been outspoken and principled on this issue. In addition, every Democratic Presidential candidate in the Senate is on board with this bill, as well as 18 Democrats in all and Arlen Specter.

Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy wants you to take action by contacting your Senators and asking them to support the restoration of habeas corpus. It's a fundamental right that it trule one of the dividing points of civilization. Please do what you can.

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Candidate Null Set

Mitt Romney wins the Lie of the Night award, answering the question "Was it a mistake to invade Iraq?"

Well, the question is, kind of, a non sequitur, if you will. What I mean by that — or a null set — that is that if you're saying let's turn back the clock and Saddam Hussein had opening up his country to IAEA inspectors and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein therefore not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in. But he didn't do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in.

Um. Saddam Hussein did let the inspectors in. Hans Blix was in Iraq right up until a few days before the war, when George Bush ordered him and his team out. And they weren't finding anything.

This is the "big lie" about the Iraq war, and I'm sure most Americans don't even know the truth here. As Matthew Yglesias notes regarding Giuliani's suggestion that Iraq is "part of the overall terrorist war on the United States," the Republicans are going to lie with impunity in this next election, and the Democrats need to be ready for it.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the way political reporters in practice cover this stuff is much better exemplified by my other colleague Marc Ambinder who merely notes that "Giuliani linked Iraq to the broader war on terror and kept accusing Democrats of burying their heads in the sand."

I don't like it, but that's the way the game is played. What I'd really like to see, though, is the politician with enough confidence in his or her own command of the national security issue to just shoot back as if we live in a sane universe wherein BS like that from Giuliani demonstrates not "toughness" but his unfitness to lead the country.

I don't know if there's anyone out there on the Democratic side willing to challenge that assumption and call out the lies for what they are, but I certainly hope so. It's a smackdown waiting to happen, but it has to be broadcast loudly to drown out the Republican noise machine.

UPDATE: I should also mention that null set is a math term and has absolutely no relevance in Romney's statement. Maybe it means something different on the planet of the Psychlos.

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Cold, Turkey

You're harshing the President's war buzz.

Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, Turkish security officials told The Associated Press.

Two senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the raid was limited in scope and that it did not constitute the kind of large incursion that Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks.

"It is not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands," one of the officials told the AP by telephone. The official is based in southeast Turkey, where the military has been battling separatist Kurdish rebels since they took up arms in 1984.

What's several thousands of troops crossing an international border amongst friends? I'm sure that the peshmerga will have no problem with it!

The news from Iraq lately may not have the 'zazz of mass casualties (though that's happening too), but it's been just as terrible. The Parliament is moving to assert themselves and take the lead on whether or not to kick out US troops. Graduates in Iraqi universities are fleeing in droves, robbing the country of its intellectual class. The idea that the military will spend 50 years in Iraq has not gone over well, to the extent that an ABC story laying the groundwork for a longer stay was abruptly removed from their site. In fact, the idea of staying in Iraq long-term flatly contradicts signed US law mandating that there will be no permanent bases in the country. A Sunni group signed a peace treaty with Al Qaeda in Iraq to fight against the common enemy, us. And the Maliki government may be just about done.

Iraq's government is teetering on the edge. Maliki's Cabinet is filled with officials who are deeply estranged from one another and more loyal to their parties than to the government as a whole. Some are jostling to unseat the prime minister. Few, if any, have accepted the basic premise of a government whose power is shared among each of Iraq's warring sects and ethnic groups.

Maliki is the man U.S. officials are counting on to bring Iraq's civil war under control, yet he seems unable to break the government's deadlock.

Even Maliki's top political advisor, Sadiq Rikabi, says he doubts the prime minister will be able to win passage of key legislation ardently sought by U.S. officials, including a law governing the oil industry and one that would allow more Sunni Arabs to gain government jobs.

"We hope to achieve some of them, but solving the Iraqi problems and resolving the different challenges in the [next] three months would need a miracle," Rikabi said.

You can throw those benchmarks out the window. And add yet another foreign incursion into the mix in the North, and you can see that Iraq is simply combustible right now.

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CA House Races Roundup - June 2007

Surprisingly enough, considering it's 17 months out, there's actually been some measure of news in the California delegation, most of it pretty good for Democrats. Let's take a look at the top pickup opportunities for Democrats, as well as the top hold races. We'll start with the seats that may be contested (there are only two):

1) CA-37: This is the open seat vacated by the late Juanita Millender-McDonald, which will have an open primary on June 26 and a general election (if nobody gets 50%) a couple months thereafter. There are debates this week (Friday) and next (June 14), but so far this has been a battle of endorsements. The CA Democratic Party and the League of Conservation Voters have backed State Senator Jenny Oropeza; the Legislative Black Caucus and the CA Federation of Labor of LA County have backed Assemblywoman Laura Richardson. I do believe that Richardson's endorsements probably mean more on the ground; of course, there's also Millender-McDonald's daughter, Valerie McDonald, who some believe will "split the black vote" and hand the primary to Oropeza. This is a very safe Democratic seat, so the winner of the primary on the Democratic side is all but assured to be the next Congressman.

2) CA-11 (McNerney): Antiwar advocates were pleased with Rep. McNerney's vote on the Iraq funding bill. Former Assemblyman Dean Andal has announced that he'll run for the seat. Obviously, the first re-elect is the toughest, so McNerney will have a fight on his hands here, whether against Andal or somebody else. However, I don't think that attacking McNerney by attacking Nancy Pelosi, which the NRCC has done in recent radio ads, is going to work, considering the Speaker is more popular than Bush as well as previous House Speakers like Newt Gingrich.

OK, on to the Republicans. I'm going to rank them in order of most possible pickup, including their number from the last roundup. I'm also adding the "Boxer number," an excellent system for measuring districts given to me by a reader whose name escapes me. Basically, seeing how Boxer fared in her 2004 re-election against Bill Jones in a particular district is a decent indicator of how partisan it is. If I put "57," that means Boxer received 57% of the vote. Anything over 50, obviously, is good.

1) CA-04 (Doolittle). Last month: 1. Boxer number: 40. John Doolittle's stayed out of the courthouse thus far, but he's clearly damaged goods and the GOP knows it. A number of prominent Republicans have made waves about challenging Doolittle in the primary, including Air Force reservist Eric Egland, a former Doolittle supporter. Schwarzenegger flack and former Bush-Cheney campaign guy Steve Schmidt apparently has his support. In the article, he calls Charlie Brown a "Cindy Sheehan Democrat," which is ludicrous on several levels, but undeniably more effective in that reliably Republican district than we may think. Doolittle believes that he still has majority support, but then again he thinks rogue Democrats in the Justice Department are conspiring against him. Charlie Brown still has a better chance against Doolittle than a fresh face.

2) CA-26 (Dreier). Last month: 2. Boxer number: 48. Not much new to report here. David Dreier is the ranking member of the Rules Committee and his name comes up on occasion, but he's been pretty mum about his low fundraising totals. Like almost all Republicans, he voted to fund Bush's war, saying "We cannot and will not abandon our mission just as real progress is starting to be made." I would think a decent campaign could make some hay out of that remark. Declared Democratic opponent Russ Warner has sent out fundraising letters, but hasn't been incredibly visible at this early stage.

3) CA-41 (Lewis). Last month: 9. Boxer number: 43. Obviously, the big story is Robert "Douchebag of Liberty" Novak's leak (he's used to those) that Jerry Lewis won't seek re-election, which would make this an open seat. Of course, it would still lean to the GOP in this fairly red district, but an open seat will at least give Democrats the opportunity to find a candidate and force the other side to put in some resources. Lewis' people have denied the report that he's retiring. I previously speculated that Lewis may be wanting out of the Congress to defend himself in a long-dormant corruption investigation, now that the hiring of a new US Attorney for Los Angeles, a fiercely independent former DA, is imminent. We're still waiting for attorney Tim Prince to jump into this race.

4) CA-24 (Gallegly). Last month: 4. Boxer number: 47. Novak also mentioned Elton Gallegly in his report:

District 24: Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) decided to retire last cycle for health reasons, only to change his mind at the last minute and run. California Republicans continue to wonder what his '08 plans will be. The congressman may not be sure himself.

Gallegly's probably safe if he runs, but nobody really knows what will happen. An open seat means a pretty good pickup opportunity relative to the others.

5) CA-50 (Bilbray). Last month: 3. Boxer number: 48. What surprised me was that the Boxer number was so high in a district everyone calls "hard right." Brian Bilbray has been demagoguing the immigration issue of late, which for all I know works in this district. Michael Wray, the former Francine Busby staffer who looks to be running here, hasn't been very visible this month.

6) CA-42 (Miller). Last month: 5. Boxer number: 41. As reported at Trash Dirty Gary, Miller has tried to shift the blame for his ethical troubles by blaming the cities and counties he represents, in a roundabout way. This tactic was blasted in an op-ed by the Daily Bulletin.

Caught in the fallout from recommending legislation two years ago that would advance the projects of a major campaign contributor, Rep. Gary Miller now says he plans to tighten the process.

Only instead of dealing directly with that issue, the Brea Republican is going to start requiring that all cities and counties that seek federal aid from his office certify that the request will benefit the community, and not a specific individual, organization or business entity.

That's good. We would hope that government agencies making appropriations requests would be doing so on behalf of public constituents.

But Miller's attempt to turn things around by putting the certifiction burden on cities and counties seems like political subterfuge, at best.

People are on to this guy. Now there just needs to be a dynamic candidate who can breathe some life into the Democratic organizations in that district and force Miller to play defense. Stay tuned...

7) CA-45 (Bono). Last month: 8. Boxer number: 49. Mary Bono continues to focus on tangential issues while voting in lockstep with the Republican leadership. The Boxer number here suggests that there's an opportunity if there's a good candidate. None has yet materialized.

8) CA-44 (Calvert). Last month: 10. Boxer number: 45. Ken Calvert got some negative publicity when he took over for John Doolittle on the House Appropriations Committee, despite his own corruption issues. Conservative blog RedState vowed to wage war on him, but that hasn't seemed to go anywhere. So we'll see if this gains any traction.

9) CA-25 (McKeon). Last month: 6. Boxer number: 45. Not much to report here at all. If Buck McKeon runs again, he's very likely to win.

10) CA-52 (open seat). Last month: 7. Boxer number: 44. Despite it being an open seat, I don't expect to see anyone beat Duncan Hunter's son while he's serving in Iraq. He might not actually live in the district (scroll down and you see that Hunter for President press releases describe his son as living in Boise, Idaho), but that hasn't stopped anyone else, like Brian Bilbray, from winning.

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Booga-Booga Be Afraid!

Rudy Giuliani at the Republican debate.

And we just saw it just last week in New York, an attempt by Islamist terrorists to attack JFK airport; three weeks ago, an attempt to attack Fort Dix.

These are real problems. This war is not a bumper sticker. This war is a real war.

His handpicked successor, Michael Bloomberg, the actual Mayor of New York City, yesterday, about the "Islamist terror" plot to ignite jet fuel in pipelines, which is an almost entirely impossible action:

"There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life. You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist."

I should mention that Giuliani was, in fact, almost struck by lightning last night.

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Happy Anniversary

In what is becoming an annual tradition, I'd like to redirect all of the wayward Googlers who found this site today on the anniversary of D-Day (less now, as the Google monkeys have dropped me down on the main page).

National D-Day Memorial Foundation

Wikipedia entry

American Experience on D-Day from PBS

Webring of D-Day

Random wingnut argument that "Democrats would have pushed for an armistice before D-Day" or "If the media was around during D-Day they would have printed troop movements!" when in fact the Democrats were in charge during D-Day and newspapers existed then too.

Enjoy your anniversary! My grandfather was at Okinawa, maybe I should change the blog's name...

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Right Between The Eyes

Bill Kristol, last seen getting every single thing wrong about foreign policy since the day he was born, has the gall to criticize someone for not taking risks from the comfort of his penthouse apartment in Manhattan and not on the streets of Baghdad.

Will Bush pardon Libby? Apparently not--even if it means a man who worked closely with him and sought tirelessly to do what was right for the country goes to prison. Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, noting that the appeals process was underway, said, "Given that and in keeping with what we have said in the past, the president has not intervened so far in any other criminal matter and he is going to decline to do so now."

So much for loyalty, or decency, or courage. For President Bush, loyalty is apparently a one-way street; decency is something he's for as long as he doesn't have to take any risks in its behalf; and courage--well, that's nowhere to be seen. Many of us used to respect President Bush. Can one respect him still?

There's so much that can be said about this, but none of it half as good as what TBogg said. he goes again talking about "courage" and "decency" as if this hump has ever done a courageous or decent thing during his shiftless privileged life. Bill Kristol is worried about his PNAC neocon buddy Scooter when:

More than 4 million Iraqis have now been displaced by violence in the country, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday, warning that the figure will continue to rise [...]

These are the consequences of the actions and chest-thumping policies of people like Scooter Libby, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Doug Feith, etc. They play a game where only other people lose, but never themselves. Then they just move on to think tanks and visiting professorships and book contracts where nobody ever points out to them that they fucked up. They fucked up really bad.

If there was a shred of decency or an ounce of courage in any one of them, take your pick, they would each be making an appointment with Mr. Heavy Rope and Mr. Stout Overhead Beam, and their last act on earth would be to pin a note to their shirt that simply states: "I'm sorry. I was wrong."

Amen. TBogg only gets serious about as often as the cicadas come out from underground to terrorize the Midwest, but when he does it's thrilling to watch.

On a related note, Rick Perlstein takes a look at the letters to the court from Libby's band of neocon well-wishers and finds them to be a fascinating study in GOP thinking, where none of their friends can do any wrong, where they're all paragons of virtue or simply misunderstood, where forces conspire against them from simply doing the right thing for them and their families. But:

What's missing from every single one - every one: a single forthright statement about the magnitude of the offense for which he'd already been convicted.

But who cares, Libby loves families!

It's nothing short of enormously gratifying to see this two-bit huckster get everything that's coming to him. And hearing the right-wing noise machine in full bleat tickles me as well.

UPDATE: I should mention that the majority of the Republicans at the debate would pardon Libby if they were President, and the best answer was Mitt Romney's, an encapsulation of his whole campaign really, as he made the principled statement that he's never pardoned anybody because he doesn't believe in overruling juries, but in this case he probably would because that's what he thinks primary voters want him to say.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Steps Forward and Backward on Fighting Global Warming

In a week where a bipartisan group in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged the President to address climate change in a significant way during the G8 Summit, and not by agreeing to have more talks, some Democrats in the House are attempting to shanghai important climate change legislation already passed by the states.

Congressman Rick Boucher, representing Virginia's 9th district comes from coal country. Today he teamed up with Congressman John Dingell (MI-15) to propose legislation that would wipe out California's ability to regulate auto emissions in ways that both cut down on smog and reduce total CO2 emissions. In effect, Representative Boucher wants to use his seniority to shove a little more auto smog and coal-fired smoke down Californians' collective throats.

Boucher and Dingell are senior Democrats who don't give a rat's ass what anyone in the grassroots or netroots that just won them a majority perch in Congress thinks of them. They pitched this legislation just as Speaker Nancy Pelosi returned from a trip to Europe building support for progress fighting global warming. Coincidence? Sure. Truth is, Boucher and Dingell were going to do this anyway, and for one reason...they are senior Democrats, hence, they can and they think nobody can stop them.

And, um, nobody can, at lease in the sense of current electoral politics. John Dingell's an institution who will probably drop dead on the House floor. He's been there 50 years. Having lived in his district, there's no chance of anyone booting him. And there's no chance of booting him off the Commerce Committee - too much seniority.

Like it or not, he's also representing his constituents - carmakers. So's Boucher, to an extent: as KO said, he's from coal country.

Frustratin', ain't it?

Fortunately, Madam Speaker is having none of it.

Any legislation that comes to the House floor must increase our energy independence, reduce global warming, invest in new technologies to achieve these goals and create good jobs in America.

Any proposal that affects California’s landmark efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or eliminate the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will not have my support.

The question, of course, is this: will it simply not have her support, or will she actively work in her position in the leadership to keep it from coming up for a vote?

You stop these things by electing more and better Democrats who can keep these kinds of pernicious pieces of legislation down. While you're always going to have competing interests in a big-tent party, you can blunt Rep. Dingell and Rep. Boucher on this issue by showing them they have no support. In fact, every Democratic legislator should hear from their constituents on this one and tell them just that.

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Run Against Bush: The Reviews Are In

The AP noticed, too.

President Bush drew sporadic, startling criticism Tuesday night from Republican White House hopefuls unhappy with his handling of the Iraq war, his diplomatic style and his approach to immigration.

"I would certainly not send him to the United Nations" to represent the United States, said Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and one-time member of Bush's Cabinet, midway through a spirited campaign debate.

Arizona Sen. John McCain criticized the administration for its handling of the Iraq War, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said, "I think we were underprepared and underplanned for what came after we knocked down Saddam Hussein."

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said the current administration "has the slows" when it comes to building a security fence along the border with Mexico.

Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado recalled that White House aide Karl Rove had once told him "never darken the door of the White House." The congressman said he'd tell George W. Bush the same thing.

The criticism of Bush was more in keeping of the type of rhetoric that could be expected when Democratic presidential contenders debate [...]

McCain has long criticized Bush for fumbling the aftermath of Saddam's fall, and Romney has recently begun to make some of the same criticisms.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee added his voice to those criticizing the war effort. He added that the Bush administration "lost credibility" with its response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

That's all they've got. "I'm not like Bush." And considering the voluminous public record out there, it's just not going to work.

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Run Against Bush

That was a STRONG statement by Tom Tancredo right there, in the debate. He said that Rove called him and told him that, because of his criticism of the President, that he was no longer welcome in the White House, and that if he became President, he'd say the same thing to Bush. It got an ovation from the crowd.

Man, I'd love to be in Germany with the President's team right now. They ought to expect more of this for the next 18 months. He's the lamest duck there ever was.

UPDATE: And in a later answer, Tancredo said, "The President ran as a conservative and governed as a liberal."

Here we go again.

This has been going on for some time. Every time a Republican President screws up - or in other words, every time there's a Republican President - the convenient excuse is that he's not really a conservative. Digby has talked about this over and over again.

There is no such thing as a bad conservative. "Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.

Get used to the hearing about how the Republicans failed because they weren't true conservatives. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed by weak-minded souls who refuse to properly follow its tenets. It's a lot like communism that way.

This is where we're at right now, and Tancredo, an anti-immigrant conservative, is the perfect example of this. The idea is to save the Republican Party by pretending that the guy who's been their standard-bearer for the last 6 years, the guy who they went to the ends of the Earth to defend right up until the moment they figured out that the voters didn't like him anymore, has actually been a closet liberal all these years.

Everything Bush did will be seen as wrong. They'll highlight the immigration issue (called by a few Republicans the "Kennedy-McCain-Bush" bill), spending, even diplomacy (no less than Duncan Hunter questioned the idea that you don't talk to your enemies). Conservatism is not so much an ideology as a series of think tank and magazine jobs that are struggling to stay in business. The movement must be preserved above all else. And so we have a group of conservatives trying to jettison their President, dismissively calling him a liberal instead of what he is, a through-and-through 21st-century robber baron conservative, embodying all of the ideals of fearmongering, profit-taking and patriotism-questioning that you see on display thoughout the GOP.

UPDATE II: Let me unpack this for a second. Tancredo was responding to a question about "what would you have George Bush do for you if you were President?" Brownback essentially said he thinks the President will step aside for him. Thompson said something like he'd have him run a lecture series or something nonspecific. Tancredo shot back with his broadside. That's normally a lay-up question, a chance for everyone in the Party to praise their leader and say a few graceful things. They didn't even want to give the appearance of doing that.

The other thing is that this may be something that works with hardcore conservatives who are always looking for something to believe in to validate pissing away their vote all their lives, someone who is, finally, "different!" But why would this work with independent who are already skeptical of the trashed Republican brand, which is not limited to George Bush but the Congress as well? I guess I don't see this being a workable strategy, but parties are always trying to reinvent themselves.

And the problem with this strategy is that every one of them that has a public record either voted with Bush 90-95% of the time, or supported his policies in soundbite after soundbite. Including Rudy "Thank God George Bush is our President" Giuliani and Mitt "yes we should have sent more troops to Iraq" Romney.

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Ceci n'est pas une surge.

This kills me.

In April, during the congressional debate over war funding, Gen. David Petraeus pushed back against a withdrawal timeline from Iraq “because we’re only about two months into the surge,” assuring Congress that he would be able to report on progress in September:

"We’re only about two months into the surge. We won’t have all the forces on the ground until mid-June and I pointed that out to them, and noted that Ambassador Crocker and I would be doing an assessment in early September and provide that to our respective bosses at that time."

But now that the debate on timelines has passed, Petraeus is asking for even more time. Today in an interview with Lara Logan of CBS News, Petraeus tried to argue that the surge hasn’t even started yet:

"We haven’t started the surge — the full surge — yet. So let me have a few months."

These are the same people who say that the only reason that the death tolls for American soldiers are rising is because we're in the midst of a surge. It's "surge for me but not for thee."

Maybe they decided that they haven't started the surge yet because what they're doing now isn't working.

An internal US military assessment indicates that three months after the beginning of a troop "surge" in Baghdad, the military has been able to establish tentative control over fewer than one-third of the city's neighborhoods, The New York Times reported on its website Sunday.

The newspaper said that the assessment, which was completed in late May, found that US and Iraqi forces were able to "to protect the population" and "maintain physical influence over" only 146 out of 457 Baghdad neighborhoods.

In the remaining 311 neighborhoods, troops have either not begun operations aimed at rooting out insurgents or still face "resistance," according to the one-page assessment, which summarized reports from brigade and battalion commanders in Baghdad, the Times report said.

Let us know when it begins. Somehow I have a feeling it'll only start when they decide it's working.

UPDATE: Doesn't Ricardo Sanchez know that the surge hasn't started yet?

“I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat,” Sanchez told the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s also kind of important for us to answer the question, ‘What is victory?’, and at this point I’m not sure America really knows what victory is.” […]

“I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time and we’ve got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years,” Sanchez said, “better than what this cohort of political and military leaders have done.”

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Republican Debate Aiming For A Lie A Minute

I'm kind of half-listening to the debate on CNN Pipeline, and already I've heard Rudy Giuliani say that Iran will get weapons "very soon" or something (in contrast to the truth, that they're many years away), and I heard Brownback, in the midst of basically endorsing Joe Biden's three-state solution, say that he "chaired hearings" in a Middle East subcommittee during the run-up to war, when in fact the Democrats were in charge of the Senate and he didn't chair anything at that time.

Tommy Thompson claimed that the Maliki government should give the Iraqi Parliament the ability to vote on whether or not the Americans should withdraw. Um, they did. Today.

Huckabee just claimed that the Taliban is fighting Ronald Reagan. Reagan ARMED them!

I'm pretty much done with this thing. The truth is gasping for air.

(Parenthetically, Ron Paul just got CHEERS, in a Northeast audience but a Republican one, for calling for a quick withdrawal of Iraq...)

UPDATE: I love how Duncan Hunter thinks he built the border fence in San Diego by himself. You think he's ever held a hammer? It's also interesting that he calls it the "Bush-McCain-Kennedy" bill. These guys can't run away fast enough from the President.

UPDATE II: Shorter Mike Huckabee: "Who knows how the world was created? What's it matter?" Ahem, I want to know if my President believes in the scientific method. That has application to a vast majority of Presidential decisions.

Also, I do want to add that every single one of Ron Paul's answers have been met with cheers. I haven't necessarily agreed with all of them, but the Republican audience appears to have.

Romney's being deliberately stupid about Big Oil. He's saying "these companies should just build more refineries" when in fact they aren't for a reason, because it jacks their price up. The Republican line on global warming is nuclear power. Pretty much it. Maybe they can bury the waste in their own backyard.

UPDATE III: Duncan Hunter just told us the new standard of winning in Iraq. "A modicum of freedom." Smell that modicum!

UPDATE IV: Watching Republicans talking about healthcare is kind of hilarious. Tommy Thompson at least has a smidgen of credibility on this, being the former HHS secretary. Everyone else literally has no idea what they're talking about. Watch Mitt Romney run away from his policy in Massachusetts (which isn't that good, by the way, as those premium prices are skyrocketing despite an individual mandate). Watch Rudy Giuliani talk about useless Health Savings Accounts. Watch them all lie about the actual Democratic policies on the issue. But they ALL know that the public is worried about health care. So they try to talk about the issue without actually saying a word.

UPDATE V: Tancredo - "Bilingual countries don't work!" Yes, those animals in Canada are living in a wasteland!

UPDATE VI: McCain - "I'll veto every bill that has pork!" Which will reduce the deficit from $300 billion to $294 billion.

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The Days And Nights Of Bradley Schloz

There's great coverage at TPM Muckraker of today's Bradley Schlozman trial. Patrick Leahy in particular got incensed about Schlozman's equivocating about bringing indictments against Democratic registration groups like ACORN (eventually tossed out) right before the 2006 elections. Sheldon Whitehouse just got exasperated. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. He just listened to an outrageous whopper by Schlozman and sat there staring at him, with a bemused expression on his face, for what seemed like a minute. Then he said "I think I've had enough of you."

Schlozman was raked over the coals, but he didn't give up any new information. Todd Graves is up now; he was the former US Attorney in Missouri who Schlozman replaced. From his opening statement, I can't determine whether or not he'll be willing to offer up any information. He did just use the epithet "Democrat Party," so I don't quite know... I do think that he believes the institution of the Department of Justice has been sullied by this entire mess.

UPDATE: Leahy makes a funny:

You know, I tend to think that perhaps you use this (the US Attorney's Manual) more as a doorstop than as something you actually had to follow. … I think you’re trying to break Attorney General Gonzales’ record of saying you “don’t recall” or you “don’t remember.” I’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve said that.

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