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

Saturday, July 28, 2007

John Edwards Gets Tough

This will make all the serious people in Washington lose their minds. That mean ol' nasty Mr. Edwards is engaging in - horrors! - class warfare, and actually suggesting there are powerful elites who will do everything in their power to stop him!

I agree that Edwards is, for a variety of reasons, in the best position of any of the candidates to speak these essential truths. Shout them from the mountaintops is more like it. I believe that this country is ready for far more change than any of the Very Serious People in the Beltway would like to admit. This Obama/Clinton dustup, which attempts to put the front-runner on the side of the status quo, will be a boon to Edwards in his effort to paint himself as the most transformational change agent.

Labels: , ,


The Tribe Has Spoken... Will The Voters?

As the race in California's 37th District showed (to a certain extent), wealthy Indian tribes are no match in the electoral arena for the boots on the ground and organization provided by labor. With this in mind, the February Presidential primary just got a whole lot more interesting:

A coalition of labor and horse racing interests announced Friday that it will ask voters to pull the plug on a huge tribal gambling expansion negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The owner of two racetracks and the hotel workers' union will team up on a campaign that could put four new initiatives on the February ballot and cost tens of millions of dollars. Some tribes with casinos that are not part of the expansion said they might join the effort.

The tracks and union seek to undo legislation Schwarzenegger signed into law July 10 to allow four tribes in Riverside and San Diego counties to more than double or triple the number of slot machines in their casinos.

A few points:

• Unite Here has a lot of organizational muscle and will have enough money to get out the message of how these rich tribes will be expanding their gaming operations at the expense of workers. The Bay Meadows racetrack concern is on board because they believe this expansion will hurt their gambling business.

• This will be an EXPENSIVE referendum if it gets on the ballot. Labor and the richer tribes can raise gobs of cash. This will suck up all of the oxygen on initiatives as much as the alternative energy proposition did last year. This will impact...

• The term limits initiative, which will suddenly have less of an impression on voters. Considering that it's written as a limiting rather than a relaxation, that may bode well for it. But the ballot could be extremely crowded.

People are gathering signatures for 17 other measures, and backers of 11 others are waiting for the approval to begin signature-gathering to try to get their measures on a ballot next year. Those potential initiatives include measures to ban gay marriage, overhaul the state's tax structure, ban cruelty to farm animals and curb government employee pensions.

My calculus is that the more that's on the ballot, the less people want to support them. And the long ballots of the past couple years have been exercises in futility. The direct democracy bug everyone caught with the recall in 2003 has turned into a flu.

Stay tuned...

Labels: , , , ,


Sorry I Was Away

What happened on the Internets while I was gone?

By the way, this is pathetic:

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a powerful member of the Democratic leadership, said Friday the Senate should not confirm another U.S. Supreme Court nominee under President Bush “except in extraordinary circumstances.”

“We should reverse the presumption of confirmation,” Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. “The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.”

Schumer’s assertion comes as Democrats and liberal advocacy groups are increasingly complaining that the Supreme Court with Bush’s nominees – Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito – has moved quicker than expected to overturn legal precedents.

Senators were too quick to accept the nominees’ word that they would respect legal precedents, and “too easily impressed with the charm of Roberts and the erudition of Alito,” Schumer said.

“There is no doubt that we were hoodwinked,” said Schumer, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Hoodwinked? HOODWINKED? The President said he wanted to nominate Supreme Court Justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. He went on to nominate Justices PRECISELY in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. There wasn't a lot of razzle-dazzle there. You hoodwinked yourselves by doing a piss-poor job of advise and consent.

Schumer actually voted against both Roberts and Alito, but he did little or nothing to marshal support for a filibuster. Which, as we now see, Republicans have NO PROBLEM doing. So you have nobody to blame but yourself.

It's nice to say this now, but it doesn't mean a whole lot:

“Alito shouldn’t have been confirmed,” Schumer said. “I should have done a better job. My colleagues said we didn’t have the votes, but I think we should have twisted more arms and done more.” [...]

Schumer said there were four lessons to be learned from Alito and Roberts: Confirmation hearings are meaningless, a nominee’s record should be weighed more heavily than rhetoric, “ideology matters” and “take the president at his word.”

“When a president says he wants to nominate justices in the mold of [Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas,” Schumer said, “believe him.”

Yeah, no crap. You JUST figured this out?

Labels: , , ,


Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Random Ten

Working on a film that will be shown at Yearly Kos, so time is short, but here's music to light up your life.

Forever In Blue Jeans - Neil Diamond (take that MJ!)
Jackie, Dressed In Cobras - The New Pornographers
I Will Survive - Cake
La Primavera - Manu Chao
This Boy - Franz Ferdinand
The World's Address - They Might Be Giants
Allison - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
The Island: Come And See/The Landlady - The Decemberists
Elevate Myself - Grandaddy
I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet) - The White Stripes


Labels: ,


Fair And Balanced

It's a tired analogy, but only because it's so true - do you think that, if a reporter for NBC or CBS or ABC quit his or her job to sign on to work on a Democratic Presidential campaign, wouldn't that be a major, major story for the insaneosphere and the right-wing noise machine?

The word spreading all over Capitol Hill today is that longtime Fox senior congressional producer Jim Mills is leaving his booth on the House side to join the Fred Thompson quasi-campaign as spokesman. NBC has confirmed that Mills will join Thompson's organization effective August 20.

By the way, NBC simply reported this as news, and with a gushing, fellating tribute to "Millsy" thrown in besides. But let's understand what's happening here.

A longtime Fox News "journalist" is becoming the spokesman for a Presidential campaign. Tony Snow was an anchor, and he gave his opinions on Fox News Radio all the time; he made no secret of his conservatism. This is a "senior congressional producer," someone who by any normal journalistic practices would be something less than a partisan hack.

I think that's slightly significant. And couple it with this quote from Ann Coulter, which again commits the sin of telling the truth:

Ann Coulter's latest column claims that "New York cabbies' compliance rate on daily bathing" is less than 48 percent; dilates upon the reporting in the "Treason Times"; and reflects, "Fox News ought to buy a copy of Monday's Democrat debate on CNN to play over and over during the general election campaign," because the only people it could possibly convince to vote for a Democrat are "losers blogging from their mother's basements."

Now why ever would Fox care about electing Republicans, given that they're a news organization in the business of "fair and balanced"?

(To be clear, I don't think Fox News has much of an impact on the debate in this country, at least not anymore; I think that their audience is never much likely to vote anything other than straight Republican ticket anyway, and while the network feeds a lot of nonsense into their heads, I question whether that really does penetrate into the general public. I just think it's funny when their ideological slip shows, especially in the context of all the shrieking about the "liberal media".)

Labels: , , ,


Iraq In Fragments

• Residents in Baghdad had full electricity during Saddam's reign (other areas of the country had less). After massive bungling by the Coalition Provisional Authority, who normalized electricity production all over the country even though the biggest demand was easily in Baghdad, and after four-plus years of war, Baghdad now can count on "only an hour or two a day" of electricity. And you think Baghdad's residents feel like they're being liberated? I'm sure they feel like this is deliberate. And the fact that the US government will stop measuring this indicator doesn't inspire confidence.

• The US Embassy in Iraq: proudly built with forced labor. This is confirmed by some whistleblowers during a House Oversight Committee hearing.

• The one bit of good news out of Iraq recently is that the national soccer team reached the finals of the Asia Cup. This united Iraqis, who poured out into the streets to celebrate. Which is when suicide bombers decided to strike, killing 55. This is deplorable and tragic.

The enemy of my enemy...

U.S. forces in Iraq are striking a variety of "handshake agreements" with Iraqi insurgents and militia groups, sometimes resulting in the release of fighters detained for attacking coalition forces, U.S. military officials said in several recent interviews.

Such informal deals mark a significant tactical shift in the Iraq war and represent a potentially risky effort to enlist former U.S. foes in the battle against hard-line militants. Despite a White House report last week concluding that a formal amnesty initiative would be "counterproductive" for Iraq today, U.S. military officials in Iraq believe that successful counterinsurgency campaigns almost always involve some form of forgiveness as a means to ending the fighting and achieving political reconciliation.

This has always worked SO WELL in the past (see Hussein, Saddam and Qaeda, Al).

• The political situation is going swimmingly - as long as you're talking about an individual who can't swim:

Despite the high stakes here, the Iraqi parliament appears to be deliberating at a pace to rival plodding legislative bodies around the world.

Thursday's session, the 50th of the year, convened half an hour late.

A bell rang in the Convention Center in the fortified Green Zone reminding members to take their seats and raise their hands for roll call (the electronic system is broken). It showed 145 in attendance. That dropped to 137 as some members walked out after the first vote. The speaker on occasion has dismissed parliament for falling below the quorum of 100 legislators, but on Thursday, they proceeded. The opening Muslim prayer and 275-name roll call took half an hour, a quarter of the time, in what turned out to be a roughly two-hour session.

Not that the American ship of state is so lightning fast, and not that quick democracy is in any way automatically good democracy, but do you get the feeling that these members of Parliament weren't even given so much as a small briefing on how to run things? It would certainly fit in with the overall level of atrocious planning.

• There's going to be another September report from the Government Accountability Office, and I'm guessing this one will be far more revelatory than the one administered by General Petraeus. And far more honest.

• Finally, Richard Engel gave a really incredible report this week, which challenged the biases that Americans have about this war being all about our goals, and how our ignorance about the region is a key indicator for why we are failing:

The perception portrayed by the White House and Iraqi government in Baghdad—and commonly reflected in the news media—is that the violence in Iraq is a fundamental struggle between two opposing teams: Freedom Lovers and Freedom Haters [...]

While there are certainly elements of truth to this narrative, the reality in this fractured country is much more complex.

This is a country that doesn't really exist, has been held together by arbitrary British lines on a map and strongman, and where passions go much deeper than the point of our involvement.

As pilgrims marched by our Baghdad bureau on their way to Karbala, I could hear them chant: "Kul yom Ashura! Kul ard Karbala!" or "Every day is Ashura! All land is Karbala!" Simply put, they were saying, everyday and everywhere in Iraq, Shi'ites are reliving Hussein's battles in Karbala. There was no talk of democracy or the Ba'ath Party, Saddam Hussein or the U.S. troop "surge," or other subjects that dominate the Iraq debate in the United States. Instead, it is apparent that many of Iraq's Shi'ites believe they are fighting a different war from the one many in the United States see their troops engaged in here, and for different reasons.

Many Sunni groups in Iraq are also fighting a war that seems to have little in common with the official U.S. and Iraqi characterization of the conflict. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies recently formed an umbrella group they call Dowlit al-Islam, or the Islamic State in Iraq. After the group claimed responsibility for bombing the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad's Green Zone in April, the group issued an Internet statement explaining its motivation. The group said the suicide bomber who attacked parliament's cafeteria and killed one lawmaker was motivated to kill "the traitors and collaborators" who had sold out to a "Zionist-Persian" conspiracy to control Iraq. From what they wrote, they seem to believe they are fighting Israel, Iran and their agents, not the U.S. mission to bring democracy to Iraq.

These visions of war are just two of the competing power struggles that U.S. troops in Iraq are trying to quell; the reality is there are many wars within the war.

This is well worth reading. One of our biggest mistakes historically is failing to understand the situation on the ground in other countries when we burst in and try to influence them. I wish somebody with political power would author a speech in praise of KNOWLEDGE as the reall "intelligence" capability we need to bolster.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Breaking The Media Filter On The Governor

Many have remarked upon the new PPIC poll, which shows a trend downward for the Governor's job approval. Brian claimed that the budget impasse is to blame, and the fact that in the last couple days Schwarzenegger has urged in the media for Republicans to pass the plan suggests that's his calculus as well. But I'm not so sure. Considering that the Governor's environmental approval ratings are tracking his overall approval, I think it was the dustup over the California Air Resources Board that dragged him down in recent months. Of the two stories, only the resignations of Robert Sawyer and Catherine Witherspoon got national attention, and it was a direct hit to the issue which Schwarzenegger is trying to use to define himself.

So let's ask ourselves, a propos of Julia's question about blogs and influence, how this seeped into the consciousness of the public, and what role we could play in continuing such, er, seepage.

The Air Resources Board is important and influential, but not exactly a household name. I believe that it was Democratic lawmakers' extreme focus on the situation, to the extent of holding hearings and threatening subpoenas, that got the press' attention, or at least what little of it is left. Schwarzenegger sought to quickly defuse the issue by hiring an environmental stalwart, Mary Nichols, to take over, and indeed her first major act, cracking down on diesel pollution, is a good sign. However, that ruling does not address the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, which of course is the major issue that Democrats in the Legislature were defending when they picked this fight which I believe had an impact on the Governor's approval ratings. We haven't heard a lot about those subpoenas for Susan Kennedy or Dan Dunmoyer lately. Obviously the budget battle is all-consuming right now, and the Assembly is in recess.

So there may come a time shortly to press that issue. The Governor's record on the environment is frankly spotty, and CARBgate actually points to his misuse of the office to push for implementation different from legislative intent. Somehow, this got through the PR filter, and people understoof that Schwarzenegger was trying to slow-walk the global warming issue. So how do we replicate this? Obviously the ferocity of our electeds forced attention on the issue. If and when the governor line-items the heck out of the budget, as appears likely, will they be just as loud? Will that be another opportunity to fill in this image of the Governor as all talk about "post-partisanship" but in the end, a reliable supporter of corporate cronyism? There clearly is potential here but state blogs aren't big enough to drive it; the electeds have to get tough and call the governor out for attacking our environmental future, or programs for the poor.

Labels: , , , ,


3 Bullets To The Head

This is unbelievable stuff (via):

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

This is not dead solid evidence that Tillman was murdered, but it certainly casts some doubt on the "friendly fire" cover story, which was in itself the second story after a "he was attacking Taliban troops" cover story. And there's more to contemplate:

_ In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop “sniveling.”

_ Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.

_ The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman’s death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn’t recall details of his actions.

_ No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene - no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.

That three-star general is likely to be demoted. But Tillman's death became a nationwide rallying cry for the Army, at the highest levels, including the White House. They're not saying much about what they knew at the time about Tillman's death, citing... wait for it... executive privilege.

This isn't definitive evidence that Tillman was silenced because he was turning against the war. And there's nothing to suggest that any premeditation existed at levels above that of his platoon, though they may have capitalized off of the death.

But the doubt this raises, especially because the first story was proven wrong and the Army has proven themselves willing of a cover-up in the case, is striking. I didn't think I could be shocked anymore.

Labels: , ,


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Seen And Raised

You pretty much had to see this coming. Two can play at this game, I guess. Mutually assured destruction and all that.

I think that O'Reilly's added attention to Daily Kos has been a double-plus good in terms of credibility and notoriety for the site, and given that I had a recommended diary there today, for me. But you can't throw around your weight at a couple million opinion leaders and not expect major pushback. Which you're getting.

And getting confronted with your own hypocrisy on your own show, to which you respond by cutting the guest's mike.

This is going to get far, far worse for Falafel. He's desperate and enraged.

Labels: , , ,


The Noose Tightens on Abu G

As if more documentary evidence is necessary, FBI Director Robert Mueller took notes about the March 2004 bedside "Enzo the Baker" meeting between Andy Card, Abu G and John Ashcroft, notes which will almost certainly reveal that the program in question was the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," in contradiction to what Abu G claimed to Congress under oath.

John Conyers wants the notes.

We already know that Mueller believes that James Comey was talking about "the much discussed surveillance program" when he testified to Congress about the meeting. He also confirms that he had reservations about the program, contrary to Gonzales' testimony:

Watt: Can you confirm that you had some serious reservations about the warrantless wiretapping program that kind of led up to this?

Mueller: Yes.

Spencer Ackerman and Paul Kiel try to put their arms around what Abu G is up to, which appears to be a technicality designed to conceal just how horrible the initial warrantless wiretapping program was:

Alberto Gonzales' testimony that there was "no serious disagreement" within the Bush Administration about the NSA warrantless surveillance program has left senators sputtering and fulminating about the attorney general's apparent prevarications. But a closer examination of Gonzales' testimony and other public statements from the Administration suggest that there may be a method to the madness.

There's a lot of evidence to suggest that Gonzales's careful, repeated phrasing to the Senate that he will only discuss the program that "the president described" was deliberate, part of a concerted administration-wide strategy to conceal from the public the very broad scope of that initial program. When, for the first time, Program X (as we'll call it, for convenience's sake) became known to senior Justice Department officials who were not its original architects, those officials -- James Comey and Jack Goldsmith, principally -- balked at its continuation. They did not back down until the program had undergone as-yet-unspecified but apparently significant revisions. But when President Bush announced what he would call the "Terrorist Surveillance Program' in December 2005, he left the clear impression that the program had always functioned the same way since its 2001 inception.

The administration's consistent refusal to discuss any aspect of the program -- current or former -- aside from what President Bush disclosed in December 2005 appears to be intended, specifically, to gloss over Comey and Goldsmith's objections. If that's the case, it could mean that the public has been presented with an inaccurate picture of the origins and scope of Program X. The Bush administration is currently contesting a Senate Judiciary Committee subpoena for documentation establishing Program X's history -- in essence, trying to ensure that the public never learns more about the program and the internal deliberations over it than what President Bush chooses to reveal.

I actually discussed this the other night at Drinking Liberally with Digby. She consulted a couple lawyers and came to the conclusion that Gonzales is saying that there are two separate programs: what the Administration was doing since 2001, and what was revised after this showdown. He's saying that the program in the showdown, the SAME PROGRAM with revisions, is somehow different. This is designed to conceal what was really so objectionable with the initial program that Comey and others threatened to quit the Justice Department.

What we don't know about this Administration's recklessness between September 11 and the second term could fill several novels. We just learned in the infamous Abu G hearing that Fourthbranch "had been granted authority parallel with the President on intervening in pending matters at the Justice Department." The predations of this Administration are absolutely unbelievable. They have thrown out the Constitution and made up the rules as they went along.

Abu G may go down for this one. But Democrats must see that as a beginning and not an end. If we allow some of these things to congeal into precedent, this will be an utterly different country, and for the worse.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Frederick of Hollywood Lands With A Thud?

The initial flush of "OMG he's Reagan incarnate HEWUZANACTORANDEVERYTHING!!!1!!1" surrounding the potential candidacy of Fred Thompson has given way to the reality that, well, he may not be the savior which the conservative movement was hoping for. First of all, his fundraising is crap, which is pretty stunning considering all the hype:

Sources close to the presumptive campaign tell NBC News that Fred Thompson's fundraising is down "markedly." One claimed it has "slowed down big-time." The pace is described as a consequence of the delayed announcement to enter the race.

"The Friends of Fred, Inc." will report to the IRS its revenue by July 31st. Sources reveal to NBC News that number will be in the range of about $3 million. Five million dollars had been the talked-about June goal. Sources describe an early burst of donations in June and say the summer fundraising has fallen off. While additional fundraisers are planned, sources say the scheduling of fundraisers was "frozen" for a time while the team was going through some internal strains.

Those strains include the loss of his campaign manager, which may have been for Yoko-related reasons:

Tom Collamore, the former Altria exec who had been running Fred Thompson's campaign, has resigned and will be replaced by Randy Enwright. Enwright is a Florida political hand with ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush. Also coming on board in a leadership capacity is Spencer Abraham, the former Michigan senator and Energy secretary.

"We’re making a number of planned changes as we move to the next phase," said Thompson communications director Linda Rozett. "We’re adding political muscle to the organization."

A Thompson aide said that Enwright would serve as the day-to-day manager while Abraham would take more of a campaign chairman capacity.

Collamore will stay on as a "senior adviser" to the effort, but with a diminished role. Accounts vary as to what exactly happened, but Collamore was reportedly unhappy with the level of involvement of Thompson's wife, Jeri, and others in Thompson's inner circle found Collamore not up to the task of overseeing a presidential campaign.

Now, Collamore is more suited to the task of killing people by inches through pushing cancer sticks on them, so maybe that is the reason. But this "level of involvement" from the trophy wife is pretty interesting. She apparently is a former RNC operative. The idea that the woman behind the man is running the show in a campaign is usual war room chatter, but in this case, when you have an inexperienced candidate and an inexperienced team, it could actually be happening. Which is kind of hilarious.

Meanwhile, with more indications that Thompson isn't the movement conservative he purports to be, it appears that he's actually losing his luster before he even joins the campaign. I can't believe that Mitt Frickin' Romney is the odds-on favorite to be the GOP nominee. That just blows my mind.

Labels: , , , , ,


Thugs and Mob Generators

I have sort of followed this flap between The New Republic and the conservative noise machine over a diary posted anonymously by "Scott Thomas," a soldier in Iraq, about atrocities and ethically dubious behavior committed during the war. The reports of beating Iraqis and running over dogs and other "fog of war" stuff didn't fit with the rose-colored worldview of the insaneosphere, so they immediately decided it was a fake.

Then Scott Thomas Beauchamp himself revealed himself as the soldier and author.

So the insaneosphere did what anyone who supports the troops would do: they went after the soldier personally.

MICHELLE MALKIN DEMONSTRATES HOW TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS. Try to intimidate them. When they drop their anonymity to add credence to an article you doubt because it conflicts with your worldview, post their picture on your blog. Post their MySpace page on your blog. Quote people calling them a "pretentious ass" and a "strange chap. Write vaguely threatening lines like "Milblogger/ documentarian J.D. Johannes is headed back to FOB Falcon in Iraq in a few weeks, where Beauchamp’s unit was located (and which Johannes guessed correctly). Johannes has some words for the TNR writer." Find and post their college poetry.

Shit happens in war. Furthermore, that shit that happens has an impact when you're engaged in an occupation and trying to win hearts and minds. It's been true since the DAWN of war; "raping and pillaging" and "the spoils of victory" are fairly old concepts. That the insaneosphere thinks that this war is somehow different, somehow being fought by 150,000 carbon copies of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, is insane, and made all the more so by attacking anyone

The vast majority of our troops serve with honor. Some are beaten down psychologically by the horrors of combat and do something stupid. The military has a system in place to deal with that but it appears to be missing some incidents. That's the bottom line. And when you put troops in an unwinnable situation and in the middle of a civil war without a clear sense of mission, these incidents go up. Period.

But the insaneosphere doesn't want to deal with that, so they attack a member of the military personally. It's revolting. It's grade-A thuggery. To protect the President and his failed war, they will frag an American soldier. Nice people.

UPDATE: Yglesias:

That's just crazy. All these people need to stop. They need to take a deep breath. They need to apologize to the people at TNR who've wasted huge amounts of time dealing with their nonsense. And they need to think a bit about the epistemic situation they're creating where information about Iraq that they don't want to hear -- even when published in a pro-war publication -- can just be immediately dismissed as fraudulent even though the misconduct it described was far, far less severe than all sorts of other well-document misconduct in Iraq.

There's this perpetual sense from the nutters on the right that as long as confusion and doubt can be placed into one story then the totality of the literally thousands of similar stories in Iraq are rendered moot. These people are shameless.

Labels: , , ,


The 2008 Election Just Started

This Hillary/Obama "talking to our enemies" thing is getting pretty big. Obama is continuing to call Hillary's intransigence "Bush/Cheney lite" and saying that this is part of a Washington consensus that is inside-the-box thinking. Hillary struck back by trying to blur the lines of distinction, as has been her tactic the entire campaign, since she's in front:

SEN. CLINTON: "Well, this is getting kind of silly. I've been called a lot of things in my life but I've never been called George Bush or Dick Cheney certainly. We have to ask what's ever happened to the politics of hope?

"I have been saying consistently for a number of years now, we have to end the Bush era of ignoring problems, ignoring enemies and adversaries. And I have been absolutely clear that we've got to return to robust and effective diplomacy. But I don't want to see the power and prestige of the United States President put at risk by rushing into meetings with the likes of Chavez, and Castro, and Ahmadinejad."

This is really the opening salvo in this election. Until now everyone's been patient and unwilling to challenge, but Obama's team obviously feels that he sees an opening. For what it's worth, Mitt Romney came down on this on the side of Hillary... how do you think THAT will play with Democratic primary voters.

Hillary is desperate to make everyone think that all of the Democratic candidates are exactly the same, so you might as well go with Brand Clinton. If the other candidates allow her to do that, she'll be the nominee. Obama has obviously seen that this is the moment to strike. Paradoxically, if they take each other down this could actually help Edwards and the other candidates by bringing them back to the field. But really this should help Obama. In a change election, his message is absolutely on the mark.

Labels: , , ,


Going After Blue Cross of CA

The public hearing scheduled for July 19 about Blue Cross of CA and its deceptive, anti-consumer practices will now be held on August 7. Not only are they angering their subscriber base by going out of their way to deny claims and cancel policies for "discrepancies" as trivial as typos, but they're starting to piss off hospitals as well.

Blue Cross of California's latest antidote to rising healthcare costs isn't going down very well with physicians. The state's largest for-profit health plan is set to roll back its payments for about half the services and procedures provided by physicians next month.

And many of the 53,408 physicians in Blue Cross' preferred provider organization (PPO) networks say that's a prescription for disaster.

Doctors say the health plan imposed the new rates unilaterally. In most cases, they say, Blue Cross will get its way because it controls the lion's share of their patient base. But other physicians say they've had it with Blue Cross. More than 300 of them have sent notices threatening to dump the insurer if the rates take effect as scheduled Aug. 6. Some say the new rates won't even cover the cost of supplies. 'I don't know how anybody can afford to stay in practice and accept Blue Cross rates,' said Dr. Charles Fishman, a San Luis Obispo dermatologist who sent a letter telling Blue Cross he would drop its contract if his rates were not improved. A spokeswoman for the insurer described the level of complaints over the new rates as routine, and she said the number of termination notices from physicians over the issue was negligible - less than 1% of the doctors in its PPO networks.

Surely, this will come up in the August 7 hearing, to be held at the Carmel Room Auditorium at the Junipero Serra Building, 320 West 4th St., Los Angeles, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. And It's Our Healthcare is amping up the pressure by demanding that Blue Cross return to the state millions in excess profits:

This year alone, Blue Cross has sent almost a billion dollars in profit out of California to its corporate headquarters in Indiana.

Blue Cross is able to amass such a profit because it currently relies on business practices that harm millions of Californians, such as:

--Spending less of California's premium dollars on patient care than other larger insurers
--Denying coverage for pre-existing conditions?and instead seeking to insure only the healthy
--Selling insurance designed to provide limited benefits, coupled with high deductibles and co-pays
--Raising rates however and whenever it chooses

We urge the state enact meaningful reform to stop these practices and we urge the state to order Blue Cross to return the hundreds of millions of dollars in excess profit to California.

We, the undersigned Californians, ask the state to make Blue Cross reform its business practices to start putting people ahead of profits and stop using California as an ATM.

Blue Cross has already settled out of court on some of these issues, but there is no indication that they have curtailed their practices and cleaned up their act. Blue Cross has also taken the lead in torpedoing meaningful health care reform in the state. It is maybe the most unconscionable company in the state, and I don't know what it takes to get a corporate charter revoked, but theirs ought to be.

At any rate, you can keep the pressure up by signing the petition.

Labels: , , ,


I Picked The Wrong Day To Run Errands

It's like the 24-hour news cycle hit the "hyperdrive" switch.

• Patrick Leahy has issued subpoenas for Karl Rove and Scott Jennings.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Thursday he will subpoena White House political adviser Karl Rove to testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.

"We've now reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine U.S. attorneys last year. Testimony and documents showed that the list was compiled based on input from the highest political ranks in the White House, including Mr. Rove and Mr. (Scott) Jennings, and today I will subpoena Mr. Rove and Mr. Jennings."

Jennings is deputy director of political affairs at the White House.

• Chuck Schumer and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for a special counsel to investigate Abu Gonzales on perjury charges. This comes after Schumer said on CNN that an investigation should start without delay.

• The Justice Department sent a letter informing the House Judiciary Committee that they will not enforce the contempt of Congress charges to Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, citing that contempt charges don't apply when executive privilege is invoked. This of course means that we're headed for the courts on that issue (which will take quite a while, and enhance the opportunity by the Bush Administration to run out the clock) for a final Constitutional showdown. The US Attorney will have the final decision to prosecute, of course, which is about as likely as me sprouting a third arm in my back.

• Bob Gates is backtracking furiously to end the spat between a neocon undersecretary and Hillary Clinton, who merely asked the Pentagon to do its job and draw up contingency plans for withdrawal from Iraq (not unreasonable considering there are contingency plans for just about every foreign policy situation, including attacking Canada). Gates admitted that it's good for democracy to have this debate and was totally on the defensive about it.

• Stocks are tumbling and are now down 600 points in a week.

Most of these stories point to the Democrats understanding the failings of trying to reason with the Bush Administration, and how they know that there is no political downside to making these kinds of challenges.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


The Edwards Hits Keep On A-Comin'

When the media isn't ignoring John Edwards altogether, they're slamming him for spurious reasons. This time, Joe "What Dead Intern" Scarborough smears Edwards for wearing proper biking attire. This one is just stupid - George Bush riding with Lance Armstrong is a well-known bit of recent history, and yes, Commander Codpiece wore (shock!) spandex when he did it. And as Attaturk notes, Edwards had biking shorts on over the spandex, so this particular hit by Joey Scar was a lie in addition to being thuddingly stupid.

I mean, I don't want to take up biking myself because I don't like needles - and maybe a Presidential candidate looking for credibility shouldn't associate himself with the Tour de France - but Scarborough's just being an idiot here.

UPDATE: To clarify, I think the press just likes the Hillary-Obama two-horse race and wants it to continue. For example, nobody bothered to notice during the "I'll talk to our enemies" donnybrook that someone else on the stage, Bill Richardson, um, actually talked to most of the enemies on that list, and in so doing extracted a lot of positive elements through tough negotiation.

In an interview late Thursday, Richardson refused to engage in the sparring between Clinton and Obama on the subject. "But on the substance, you know I've actually met a lot of these guys already - I've met Castro, I've met Chavez," Richardson said proudly in a phone call from Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he was campaigning.

Richardson, the former Ambassador to the United Nations who has negotiated with rogue leaders from Saddam Hussein to officials from North Korea, said the latter would be his top priority if he had to schedule a list of meetings with dictators as president. Last on his list, he said, would probably be Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Everyone, he said, deserved the right to talk to the United States if it would resolve a crisis.

"But I'm not just going to say, 'Yeah, I'll meet with you - for what? For coffee?' No, you have to have hard-nosed negotations," he said.

So cut the crap, media. This is not a two-horse race.

Labels: , , , ,


Republicans can't stand free enterprise

It is kind of a shame that the S-CHIP expansion has to be funded with gimmicks like sin taxes, and this is troubling tobacco-state Democrats. But funding health care for children is so cheap and so vital, I really do think that the eventual benefits to society far outweigh the costs, both morally and financially, even (savings in catastrophic care for kids will be major). And Ezra Klein, in a significant column at TAPPED, explains that George W. Bush walked right into a trap by opposing it:

It's been too long since this town had an argument that was fought on forthrightly ideological terms. And that is what the argument over the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) is proving -- not an argument over a particular program, but an increasingly desperate rear-guard action by the White House (and the Medical-Industrial Complex that funds it) to block any types of public insurance that could push this country one step closer to universal health care [...] is rather hard to oppose fully funding the program that covers uninsured children. So the White House has decided to make this a referendum on government-provided health care instead. This decision is a godsend to Democrats, who should contentedly accept Bush's willingness to equate health care for children with public health care, and allow this to become exactly as grand a battle as Bush appears willing to make it.

Bush, after all, is not a man unacquainted with the wonders of government care. As the San Francisco Chronicle's David Lazarus has noted, this steadfast opposition to public care is "coming from a man who just underwent a colonoscopy performed at the taxpayer-funded, state-of-the-art medical facility at Camp David by an elite team of doctors from the taxpayer-funded National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md." It might be worth it for the Democrats to ask why he should receive such gold-plated care from the government, but the nation's uninsured children should be barred from public coverage.

It might also behoove them to ask why the GOP appears so afraid of public competition. S-CHIP, after all, is not a compulsory program. It is open to those who qualify, but only extended to those who sign up. Any family who believes that private insurance would do better by lil' Johnny can send away for Aetna with nary a word from a bureaucrat. What scares Bush and his financial backers is that they won't.

Republicans have NEVER been interested in the free market. They believe in corporate welfare to give them a competitive advantage, whether it's over a government program or a small business supplier. S-CHIP, which is wildly popular and effective, is a Republican's worst nightmare because it pierces the balloon that only private enterprise can be efficient in delivering services. That's simply not true, and while I sigh at the use of gimmick sin taxes to fund it, that's why I fully support nailing Republicans to the wall on this issue in the starkest terms possible. Something like "the GOP wants kids to die."

Labels: , , ,


The Sausage Factory

There seems to be a lot of legislation being spitballed in Congress right now, let's do a rundown:

• The House voted to ban all permanent bases in Iraq. There's enough funding, of course, to already build these installations, but it's somewhat significant to the next Administration coming in that the House is on record for this, and that talk of Iraq being the new Korea is being fully rejected. Hopefully the Senate will join them.

• After a farm bill that retained multibillion dollar subsidies to farmers, but lowered the ceiling for payment eligibility and also tried to tighten offshore tax haven loopholes, suddenly faces a veto threat from the President and Republicans who don't want anything bad to happen to those persecuted rich people.

Democrats said the tax proposal would merely close a loophole that the Bush administration itself has decried in the past. "Who is surprised that the administration takes the side of CEOs who hold beachside board meetings at the expense of programs to feed the least fortunate here at home?" asked Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee [...]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has defended the legislation as an important step toward reform. In addition to paying for traditional farm programs, the bill would provide billions of dollars over the next decade for conservation, biofuel research and nutrition programs such as food stamps. There is new money for organic farmers, rural development and fruit-and-vegetable snacks for schoolchildren.

The farm bill is one of those pieces of Congressional sausage that doesn't get a lot of attention, but really sets the priorities for who we are as a society. The Republicans have set theirs, certainly. But this is always a compromise bill where the interests of farm-state lawmakers are foregrounded and a lot of pork is maintained. Democrats probably did the best they could do on this one, and still Republicans can't allow rich people to have to pay their taxes.

• After the report from a Presidential panel on veteran's care, reforms to the system are being recommended. Maybe we won't see the kind of shocking situation that leads Iraq veterans to sue the VA. What's so depressing is that this plan is cheap:

The commission said fully carrying out its recommendations would cost $500 million a year for the time being, and $1 billion annually years from now as the current crop of fresh veterans and active military members ages and new personnel is in place.

Many of the recommendations of the commission were included in a bill that passed the Senate yesterday.

• Looks like the homeland security bill is finally moving forward.

House and Senate negotiators reached accord yesterday on legislation to implement most of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The deal could be enacted as early as this week. Agreement on a package of lobbying and ethics rules changes should be done by early next week. And congressional leaders hope to pass a significant expansion of the 10-year-old program to provide health insurance for children of the working poor.

They're finally starting to break the deadlocks on some of this stuff, as Republicans may have understood that low disapproval ratings for Congress means EVERY incumbent is threatened, not just Democrats. And with far more Republicans up in the Senate, I'm sure they are getting nervous. And the Democrats are starting to put moderates in a vice in a smart way. To wit:

But against such philosophical stands, there is a stark political problem: How many Republicans are really going to oppose legislation expanding insurance coverage for children, tightening ethics rules and bolstering homeland security?

"They've had a pretty strong quarter," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who praised the insurance bill as "creative" and suggested the homeland security bill would pass overwhelmingly. "The first quarter was not so good, and that's why they're not looking so good in the polls, but this quarter is looking very good for them. They can send their members home crowing about their accomplishments, and they've done it in a bipartisan way, which is exactly what they promised to do," LaHood said.

I don't know if people are paying enough attention; really only Iraq matters in the big picture. But Democrats are starting to expose the obstructionists and break through the media filter.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Harry Reid 1, Fred Hiatt 0

You go Majority Leader:

On reading the July 21 editorial "The Phony Debate," it became clear why The Post's editorial writers have been such eager cheerleaders for the Bush administration's flawed Iraq policies -- the two share the same disregard for the facts en route to drawing dubious conclusions.

The editorial was an inaccurate commentary on the nature of the Senate debate, the reality in Iraq and the president's stubborn adherence to failed policies.

Your editorial wrongly asserted that "a large majority of senators from both parties favor a shift in the U.S. mission." While a majority of the Senate voted again last week for a plan that would keep U.S. forces in Iraq for counterterrorism and troop protection and launch a diplomatic effort to help stabilize the region, Democrats were joined by only a handful of courageous Republicans -- far from a majority of Republicans and not enough to break the Republican leadership's filibuster. And if the president truly supports changing course, as your editorial implied, he needs to do much more than tell us "it's a position I'd like to see us in" -- he must drop his irresponsible veto threats and tell Republican leaders to stop blocking votes on proposals to carry out this change.

Finally, it was disingenuous to assert that Democrats are using Iraq to stir voters' passions; the American people are sufficiently disappointed on their own. Three-quarters of Americans recognize that the war is going badly, three out of five support further funding only if it includes a timetable for transitioning the mission, and nearly all expect their president to work with Congress to do something to change course.

You know, good for the Washington Post for publishing this. Though Reid probably didn't do himself any favors with the Washington Elites - there's probably a run on fainting couches in DC this morning ("I just can't heep 'em in stock!") - he was clear in his language and placed the blame for this continued occupation where it should be, on the Republican obstructionists who can't break with their leader in the White House. Democrats need to use every part of their megaphone to amplify this.

Labels: , , , ,


Billo's Hate Site

This Bill O'Reilly/Daily Kos flap is getting pretty ugly, but if you live by cherry picking comments, I guess you have to die by them, too:

FOX News' Bill O'Reilly has been attacking the liberal blog Daily Kos, and liberal blogs in general, over some extreme comments left by some of our visitors. It's interesting therefore that O'Reilly's own Web site contains some of the most hideous hate you've ever seen. Over the next few hours, we'll be documenting some of that hate. And you'll be interested to know that while O'Reilly holds others responsible for the words strangers leave on their Web sites, on O'Reilly's Web site, he's not responsible at all for the hate and threats his readers leave behind. And I quote O'Reilly's own Web site:
" will not be held liable for any user activity on the message boards. We do not actively monitor user-submitted content."

You see, it's okay when he does it.

And with no further ado, examples of's threats against Hillary.

Posted By: Wildabeast (4638 posts) - 24 July 2007 8:15am PT

Reply: RE: If Hillary WIns, WIll You Be Respectful of Her?

If Hillary wins, I will be respectful of our leader. If you could read my thoughts, I would be on the SS [Secret Service] watch list.

The only thought that would put you on a Secret Service watch list vis-a-vis the president is a possible threat to their life.

Apparently, Lane Hudson took a look at this and called the Secret Service, who is now investigating threats on the life of Hillary Clinton.

It's clear to me that cherry picking random comments and ascribing them to the website's proprietor is a fool's errand. Of course, Billo doesn't seem to think so. He claims that his site is moderated and that any untoward comments are from Daily Kos plants. Well, this guy who posted about Hillary has 1,000 comments on the O'Reilly site, so he must be deep undercover.

I don't endorse random comment cherry-picking. But this is self-defense. O'Reilly went after advertisers, there's going to be pushback. Especially when the hypocrisy is so clear. And this is more about exposing the lies of a Big Media practitioner.

UPDATE: Another comment promotes a terrorist attack on the US Capitol. Again, this isn't about comment cherry-picking as much as it's about "what's good for the goose is good for the Billo."

Labels: , , , , ,


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Obama Comes Right Back

Good stuff.

Look, one thing I'm very confident about is my judgment in foreign policy is, I believe, better than anyone else in this race, Republican or Democrat.

"And I don't base that simply on the fact that I was right on the war in Iraq. But if you look at how I approached the problem. What I was drawing on was a set of experiences that come from a life of living overseas, having family overseas, being able to see the world through the eyes of people outside our borders.

"The notion that somehow from Washington you get this vast foreign policy experience is illusory.

In fact, that Washington bubble may give an inverse amount of wisdom regarding foreign policy, because it sets up a consensus, completely out of the ether, to which you have to conform.

I mean, Washington approaches to foreign policy problems bring us things like consulting advertising experts to improve the military's "brand" in Iraq. And making idiotic compromises like "how about 70,000 troops to do the job 150,000 troops can't." And rubbing their chins and assenting to consistent moving of goalposts to disassociate with those dirty fucking hippies that want out of Iraq yesterday.

The Washington consensus has given us an unaccountable, imperial President who takes full advantage of their laziness and general hatred of hippies to take vast new powers for himself. Any resemblance to what the Founders intended in the Constitution is completely out the window at this point.

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

Many critics of the Iraq war are reluctant to suggest that President Bush went into it in anything but good faith. But James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed,” he warned. “It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

Read the whole thing. Obama, at least, is coming from a completely different place than these wise men of Washington, who have damaged this country through their cheerleading for a despot.

UPDATE: Obama had more to say and hit directly at Clinton and her judgment:

"The general principle that I was laying out is that we should not be afraid as America to meet with anybody.

"Now, they may not like what we want to hear -- so if I’m talking to the President of Iran, I’m going to inform him that Israel is our stalwart ally, and we are going to do what's necessary to protect them -- that we will not accept a nuclear bomb in Iran, but that doesn’t mean we can’t say that face to face. And obviously, the diplomatic state work has to be done ahead of time.

"But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on -- and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevents us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies, and I am not interested in continuing that.

"I know that she has said in the past that we have to talk to our enemies -- well that’s what this is about. And if we say that we will not talk to them unless they meet a series of preconditions, then that’s the same position that Bush and Cheney have maintained over the last six years, and it has made us less safe. And that’s what I think is going to be a significant part of this debate in 2008 [...]

That ultimately is what’s going to create the environment in which we can reduce some of the threat levels we are facing. To fail to do that is the same conventional Washington thinking that led many including Senator Clinton to go ahead with the war without having asked adequate questions."

The Clinton team is very experienced but they are a group of consummate insiders. So are some of Obama's team, actually, but the mere presence of Samantha Power gives him a leg up. And he is absolutely right to link Hillary Clinton with Iraq, the Washington Elites, and insiderism. That's a winning message.

Labels: , , , , ,


Game Set And Match

I believe they call this documentary evidence.

Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [...]

A Gonzales spokesman maintained Wednesday that the attorney general stands by his testimony.

At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe [...]

A four-page memo from the national intelligence director's office says the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.

The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, details "the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program," wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

It's OK, because Abu G is going to clear it up with Congress. OK, he's going to have his spokesman clear it up. Actually he doesn't know what the spokesman's going to say. But it's all fine.

Anyway, what he lied about is classified, so you totally can't know about it, so you don't know if he lied. So there.

This is a clear case of perjury, repeated and willful perjury, a lie to cover up another series of lies. It's time to impeach Alberto Gonzales.

UPDATE: The best "defense" of Abu G that can be mustered:

On the other hand, former GOP House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss, "does not recall anyone saying the project must be ended,' spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck said.

As long as nobody said it should end, that constitutes an endorsemdent. By extension, as long as nobody says that I DON'T own the million dollars I just found in the street, I'm allowed to keep it.

Labels: , , , ,



I'm not sure how different it is to offer a troop withdrawal without a timeline, as Jack Murtha did today, as opposed to one with one for Republicans; in their minds surrender is surrender (even when it's not). But one thing he said made me wince:

While he opposes leaving any U.S. troops behind, Murtha said he'll bring an amendment to the House floor next week that requires the White House to start redeployment within 60 days of enactment, without setting a deadline for completion.

"I'm hearing signals. They (Republicans) are trying to work out a deal where we leave 70,000 troops over there ... That's the White House telling them to do that, I'm convinced," he told reporters.

"I'm hoping there will be an agreement between Democrats and Republicans and the Senate and the House and the White House and I think you'll see that happen. I think you'll see that happen by September, October," he said.

I believe that this is starting to be the Washington consensus, to pull back troops (which they have to do, the rotation schedule demands it) while leaving a smaller force in place. What nobody seems to ever explain is, just what can 70,000 soldiers do that 160,000 are unable to do? How would you have these 70,000 go about their business? Do you want them to go out on smaller patrols? Try to control a civil war with less forces?

There's actually nothing that 70,000 nen can do to secure Iraq, they'd just be a sacrifice to the egos of those who don't what to admit failure. We can't unshit the bed, and the impact of 70,000 foreigners with a continued American presence is not only insufficient, but far worse than the impact of leaving the country and taking the American face completely off this thing. A residual force is maybe the worst possible solution. But it's a compromise, which is why it's seen as the wise and sensible thing to do by the David Broders of the world.

Labels: , , ,


Hillary's Word Games

This mini-controversy between the Clinton and Obama camps over remarks at the YouTube debate is simply absurd. Obama responded to a question about meeting with world leaders from "enemy states" in overly broad terms, setting out a vision of not negotiating out of fear, but never fearing to negotiate. Clinton took that and twisted it into "OMG Obama wants to have tea with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez America Hater ZOMG!!!"

That's silly, and we've been down this road before:

When Nancy Pelosi went to Syria earlier this year, she got reamed for it in the conservative mediasphere and blogs. The Confederate Yankee labeled it "propaganda coup that will be used by Syria, the terrorists they sponsor, and Islamists worldwide." Michael Rubin writing in National Review Online wondered before the trip "if she will cede the Assad regime a propaganda victory, as did Sen. Arlen Specter?"

You remember the whole spiel. At the time, I think most liberals -- and, indeed, most Americans -- understood this to be both unfair and also reflective of a pretty weird and wrongheaded underlying worldview. And yet, this is pretty similar to what Hillary Clinton's saying in her criticism of Barack Obama. There's this similar notion that the US can be mortally wounded by perfidious leaders having their photos taken with important American politicians, or that engaging in high-level diplomacy with a country is a reward we offer for good behavior rather than a standard method of relating to the world.

As well as Clinton does in debates, and as much as her campaign has the netroots' back in this jihad from Bill O'Reilly, it's stuff like this that both make me think that (a) she's a devastating campaigner and (b) I don't want any part of this ignorant campaigning. Anyone with the brain of a 4 year-old knew what Obama was saying, just like said 4 year-olds understood John Kerry when he said unilateral wars of choice have to meet "the global test" and that we want to reduce terrorism to a "nuisance." If you're going to campaign by playing silly word games, it's hard for me to believe that you're serious about running the country as much as you are serious about simply running to win.

I don't want to see this same kind of ignorant talk about diplomacy, as if it's a gift to be bestowed on people instead of a way to engage in the world and reach global solutions. There's this depressing streak of almost neoconservative hawkishness here that really disturbs me.

(I also think that this was designed to reach conservatives more than to attack a chief rival, which is smart for someone who's in front in the primary election and is looking toward the general, but it still smacks of playing to the basest impulses in the electorate, which I cannot endorse.)

Labels: , , , ,



John Conyers starts the process in motion:

The House Judiciary Committee voted contempt of Congress citations Wednesday against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and President Bush's former legal counselor, Harriet Miers.

The 22-17 vote — which would sanction for pair for failure to comply with subpoenas on the firings of several federal prosecutors — advanced the citation to the full House.

A senior Democratic official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the House itself likely would take up the citations after Congress' August recess. The official declined to speak on the record because no date had been set for the House vote.

This is the House Judiciary Committee doing what they've been forced to do. The White House is openly thumbing its nose at any kind of normal processes between the branches of government. There's nothing else to do.

Now we see what happens when the US Attorney for DC demurs (at the Justice Department's insistence) to prosecute. Will they cite inherent contempt charges and throw these lawbreakers in the Congressional pokey (there is a jail on the premises)?

Labels: , , , , ,


California Republicans Set Their Budget Priorities

And those priorities are...

Leaving poor people on their own to die:

After holding up the state budget nearly a month past deadline, Senate Republicans offered Tuesday to end the impasse if Democrats would move tens of thousands of poor families off welfare and make dozens of additional program cuts.

The linchpin of the plan, Ackerman said, is a $324-million cut in the state's welfare program. The cut was initially proposed by the governor in January, but Schwarzenegger had not been aggressively pushing for its inclusion in the spending plan adopted by the Legislature [...]

Advocates for the poor were alarmed to see the governor's January proposal revived. They said it would result in as many as 40,000 families losing state assistance.

... and ensuring that the planet continued to be destroyed by man-made causes:

Several Republican Party Senators have threatened to block the entire state budget unless the California Legislature accepts a recent polluters’ plea to ignore global warming pollution when assessing a project’s environmental impacts under CEQA. This “ostrich exemption” would allow polluters to continue sticking their heads in the sand, pretending that projects like oil refineries, freeways, and suburban sprawl simply don’t create greenhouse gases. It’s dangerously loopy logic, but if they can convince the Senate to play along, we could see California’s bourgeoning fight against global warming come to a skidding halt.

Hey, at least we know where they stand, right? Now I know why they were hiding their criticisms for so long...

Labels: , , , ,


Republicans will go to the mat over denying health care to children. Wow.

Anyone who thinks that someday, Republicans facing electoral disaster in 2008 will somehow "come to their senses" and march up to the White House en masse to tell the President that his reign of terror is over, that they will suddenly break from Bush, really needs to get a load of this one. It appears that the Republican leadership is willing to do whatever it takes to... block health care for children. Why? Because their President says so.

There's all you need to know.

Republican leaders of the House and Senate on Tuesday attacked proposals that call for a major expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to be financed with higher tobacco taxes.

“Republicans will fight these proposals,” said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.

In an unexpected turn of events, the top two Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Trent Lott of Mississippi, said they opposed a bipartisan bill that the Senate Finance Committee approved last week and would offer an alternative on the Senate floor.

This isn't just one of those "bipartisan bills" that's called bipartisan because it got one wayward opposition party vote. It passed the Finance Committee 17-4. And it did so because anyone who's looked at the issue understands that S-CHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, is one of the most successful government initiatives of the last several years, so much so that states are looking to expand the coverage to cover more and more children in anticipation of the additional funding.

The program works. Preventive children's health care is probably the cheapest kind you can find, and the savings in emergency room and urgent care costs are enormous. In addition, we're talking about CHILDREN, and ensuring that they are cared for is abour the most pro-family idea you can possibly muster. For this and a bunch of other reasons, expansion of S-CHIP is wildly popular. I mean like 84 percent to 11 percent kind of popular.

And the only reason that the President has offered against it is one on ideological grounds; that if you start covering children, people might start to get the nutty idea that health care is a right and not a privilege, and pretty soon THEY'LL want some juicy health care of their own:

“[T]he program is going beyond the initial intent of helping poor children,” Bush said in a speech July 10. “It’s now aiming at encouraging more people to get on government health care.”

Bush did not specifically say he would veto the Finance Committee’s deal on SCHIP renewal but said, “I’ll resist Congress’ attempt to federalize medicine.”

And the Republican Bush defenders have decided to go along with this line of argument. Here's House Minority Leader and part-time used-car salesman John Boehner:

“Dragging people out of private health insurance to put them into a government-run program is ‘Hillary care’ come back.”

Yes, those uninsured children are going to be kicking and screaming as they are "dragged into" a public health care plan. Oh wait, they're screaming because their impetigo hasn't been treated.

In fact, S-CHIP is offered as a voluntary alternative to a private plan for those who qualify. Nobody is forced into it, it's simply an option. And because it's a successful option, and because it's coming from the government, Republicans want to shut it down. Because the greatest evil they can possibly think of is a successful government program. It upsets all of their theories about government being the problem. Americans are on record as being willing to pay more in taxes in return for services. They actually don't need to pay much more at all; many services are already in place which can provide quality medical care, for example, at an affordable rate.

This is clearly about denying Democrats a victory and making sure no American gets the idea that government can offer a helping hand to those in need.

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, a leading proponent of the House bill, said: “For the longest time, I was mystified why Republicans would oppose expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to kids who are eligible but not enrolled. Now I realize. They are trying to deny us a political victory. They want to be able to say that Democrats can’t get anything done.

“Unfortunately,” Ms. DeGette said, “Republicans are pursuing this strategy on the backs of poor children.”

Let's be very clear about what's going on. Republicans want to DENY HEALTH CARE TO POOR CHILDREN. That's their specific intent. This is how far-reaching the strategy of ensuring no legislative movement from the Democratic Congress is. It is certainly having an impact on the nation; check out Congress' approval ratings and the public's frustrations. But right here is the reason. The Republican leadership doesn't want anything to pass this Congress, and they would rather ELIMINATE A SUCCESSFUL CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM than do the right thing.

If Democrats can't make hay out of this, I don't know what they can do. This is served up on a silver platter.

There's more at MyDD. Time to start edjumucating the public on this one, folks.

Labels: , , , , ,



I get the feeling that if Fourthbranch Cheney had to endure questioning from the Congress the way Fredo Gonzales has, it would actually go just as bad, because behind the evil lies a very confused and unintelligent man. Skill in maneuvering does not imply intelligence. Case in point:

In a “chance meeting” on the Senate floor with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in June 2004, Vice President Cheney told Leahy to “f*ck yourself.” According to Leahy’s spokesman, the “exchange began when Leahy crossed the aisle at the photo session and joked to Cheney about being on the Republican side.” Cheney then “‘lashed into’ Leahy for remarks he…made criticizing Iraq contracts won without competitive bidding by Halliburton.”

In the new biography of the Vice President by Stephen Hayes, Cheney claims that the reason he shouted the expletive was because Leahy had been too “close” to him:

"Leahy came over and put his arm around me. And he didn’t kiss me but it was close to it. So I flashed and I told him — I dropped the F-bomb on him. … It was heartfelt."

Leahy was not “close” to kissing Cheney; all he did was try to shake his hand.

This is a guy, by the way, with a lesbian daughter who just had a child with her partner. And apparently anyone coming within a few feet of his personal space deserves a heartfelt "Go fuck yourself." Isn't that close to hate speech, in the legal definition of the term?

Of course, this cover story bears no resemblance to the truth. But that Fourthbranch would come up with this convoluted a lie - that Patrick Leahy's all gay and wanted to make out with him - serves to prove my point that this is not a smart man. So the logical thing for him to do, then, is to run for President. (Since he's already been President for two terms, isn't he constitutionally ineligible?)

Labels: , , ,


Al Qaeda Al Qaeda Al Qaeda Al Qaeda Al Qaeda

Um, Mr. President, we know Al Qaeda is a threat, that's why we're so upset that you've given them safe harbor in Pakistan and allowed a foreign government to sign a peace treaty with them. It's not that we're not concerned about the handful (less than 1%) (responsible for less than 15% of the attacks) of foreign fighters in Iraq, it's just that you spend so much time touting how the Iraqis themselves have turned on Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia that we can't take you seriously when you suggest that they'd take over the country if we leave. In fact they'd be in just as big a quagmire as we're in now, caught in the middle of the civil war where they're an enemy to everyone.

Of course, this might just be your way of bringing the wingnuts back into the fold.

Or you're just going back to the playbook. Muttering Al Qaeda and Iraq in the same sentence seemed to work well in 2002, why not in 2007?

Labels: , , ,


Impeach Alberto Gonzales

I signed the initial petition urging Senators to vote No on Alberto Gonzales and block his appointment to the Attorney General spot. It was clear even then that he didn't have the distance from the President needed to carry out equal justice, nor the ability to distinguish right from wrong, having been an endorse of the legal policy of torture that has damaged our moral stature. So it is with little surprise that we've come to this moment, where Abu G can lie to the Congress repeatedly; where he can simply refuse to answer questions without citing any privilege, basically telling a legal body "Eat me"; where he can continue his policy of firing US Attorneys, politicizing the Justice Department and acting as an arm of the White House and the Republican Party without accountability.

I mean, this is just a blatant lie:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified yesterday that top congressional leaders from both parties agreed in March 2004 to continue a classified surveillance activity that Justice Department officials had deemed illegal, a contention immediately disputed by key Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), who were briefed on the program at the time, said there was no consensus that it should proceed. Three others who were at the meeting also said the legal underpinnings of the program were never discussed.

"He once again is making something up to protect himself," Rockefeller said of the embattled attorney general.

This doesn't even approach telling the truth. He's asserting that Democrats agreed to a program when they didn't. It's easily refutable. Tom Daschle and Jane Harman said the same thing, that Gonzales is out of his mind suggesting this.

This is someone who was openly laughing at Congress during his hearing yesterday. He somehow thinks that being in the clear means being free to lie. I don't see how you could do anything but impeach this pathetic figure. And I don't think that would cost you with the American public; quite the opposite, anyone who defends this maroon will see their approval ratings tank. This is a total incompetent running the Justice Department, who has damaged that institution markedly. If anyone deserved a forced removal from office, it should be him.

And as I said yesterday, none of these investigations should stop until indictments are handed out, and a lot of pressure should be put on the next President not to pardon them.

Joseph Palermo gives a nice summation of Gonzales' crimes in office and why he, the "low-hanging fruit" (and boy is it low. It's on the ground), should be impeached.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Hat Trick In Alaska

Don "Bridge To Nowhere" Young was the "most likely Republican to be under criminal investigation" for a while now, and apparently that has come to pass:

The Wall Street Journal reports that 18-term Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is under criminal investigation for his dealings with Alaska oil services company Veco Corp.

While the investigation into Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) ties to Veco, including the remodeling of his Girdwood home, has been widely reported, this is the first time Young has been implicated in the scandal.

If you add in Lisa Murkowski's shady riverfront land deal, then every single member of the Alaska delegation in Congress, Republicans all, are either under suspicion or under formal investigation.

As for Young, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. He's obviously been raiding the federal treasury for decades now, and using the appropriations process to make himself and his business buddies rich. That's what he sees as his role as an Alaska congressman. Truly. Look at this outburst when a fellow Republican offered an amendment to an education bill that would take funds out of a native Hawaii and Alaska bill:

Aside from "you want MY money" and the digs on New Jersey and Young referring to himself as a mink who will bite people, my favorite part is when he calls Alaska a "new state." Um, 1959 was a WHILE ago. Yet Young pulls that out to justify appropriations robbery under the guise of "representing his state." Because that's all a representative is to him. A profit-taker.

UPDATE: And apparently, Stevens and Young will face formidable challenges from the left AND right. Should be a fun 2008 in the tundra.

Labels: , , , ,


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Robbing From The Voters

Last night on Warren Olney's Which Way LA?, which everyone should be podcasting, Dan Walters from the Sacramento Bee made a very interesting point about the budget that has been somewhat unremarked-upon to this point. I'm not generally a fan of Walters, but it's hard to argue with this.

The budget that passed the Assembly took $1.2 billion designed to go to transit and put it back into the general fund, with the reason given that the infrastructure bonds are financing transit improvements so there would be some duplication there. That's not what voters approved in November at all. Not even close. The infrastructure bonds on transportation were meant to be additional funds that the state could use to start new projects. It was in no way meant to stand in for the regular finances received from the state regarding transportation.

So we now have a situation where bonds have been floated to finance existing projects and maintenance. Is this a preview of things to come, a get-out-of-the-deficit-free card by using Arthur Andersen-style creative accounting tactics? Voters approved those bonds because they wanted to see new mass transit options and new carpool lanes. They did not approve an addendum to the state budget to solve the fiscal mess.

(We of course see this also in the cut to Prop. 36 funding for drug treatment in prisons, also approved by voters, which I guess doesn't matter. It's a good thing nobody covers this state in the media, or there would be some howling going on)

Labels: , , , , ,


Things That Make Me Scream

• Iraq war veterans have to take the step of suing the Veterans Administration and its recently-resigned Administrator Jim Nicholson over them being denied disability pay and proper mental health treatment. These bastards are actually trying to classify PTSD symptoms as "pre-existing" conditions. Right, from that other war they fought at home in Arkansas.

• Executives from Purdue Frederick, the company that marketed OxyContin as a cure-all for pain years after they recognized it was horribly addictive and ruining the lives of thousands of Americans, got a slap on the wrist from a federal judge, with no prison time and a fine that sounds hefty ($634 million) until you realize that the bulk of it will be absorbed by a company that raked in tens of billions selling OxyContin over the years. The worst part is that the judge clearly was sympathetic to the idea of putting these bastards (I seem to be fixated on that word today) behind bars, but...

In announcing the unorthodox sentence, Judge James P. Jones of United States District Court indicated that he was troubled by his inability to send the executives to prison. But he noted that federal prosecutors had not produced evidence as part of recent plea deals to show that the officials were aware of wrongdoing at the drug’s maker, Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn.

That evidence is pretty available and supported in Barry Meier's book on the subject, so I'm guessing the prosecution just dropped the ball... or, given that this is the Bush Justice Department we're talking about...

• An NBC correspondent received $30,000 for a speech in which he proceeded to attack John Edwards on personal grounds. Not only is it unethical to accept speaking fees, how can this correspondent ever go back and report on Edwards again, knowing what we know?

• On a related front, this is three years old but I never knew this story, and it fits in with the idea of the press choosing sides in political fights:

An edgy moment of own-expense laughter is the best that reporters and an about-to-drop-out presidential hopeful can hope for, as a campaign enters what everyone knows is its final hours.

Hence, candidate -- and media critic -- Howard Dean reacted with humor Tuesday in Milwaukee as journalists presented him with a long-sleeve white T-shirt. It carried the motto "Establishment Media" in front, and a slogan swiped from Dean in the back: "We Have the Power, Dean Press Corps 2004."


• Here's another story that this media which is so concerned about picking winners and losers is missing: the US government is poisoning Americans by providing FEMA trailers to the citizens of the Gulf Coast which have unacceptable levels of formaldehyde inside. The real outrage here is that TWO YEARS after Hurricane Katrina, people are still living in FEMA trailers.

That's about all I can stand right now...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Edwards Is Tubular

I have only seen snippets of last night's debate but Digby's impression sounded spot-on to me.

The emerging roles in these debates look like this to me: Clinton is commanding, Obama is charming, Edwards is earnest, Biden is righteously indignant, Richardson is surprisingly off-beat, Dodd is normal, Kucinich is arrogantly unapologetically liberal, and Gravel is the grumbling curmudgeon. These roles have begun to gel in my mind, although they are likely to change as the list gets smaller and they begin challenging each other more directly.

That sounds about right, and Edwards' earnestness was really in full force on this exchange on health care, where he used anecdote (which I usually don't like) in an extremely powerful way to advocate for universal health care. I think the campaign sensed that Edwards really nailed it last night - and also they appreciated their own work on the Hair video that sought to deflate the B.S. "You can't be rich and talk about the poor" frame. Here's part of a letter from Joe Trippi:

Dear David,

Something happened in last night's CNN/YouTube debate.

A stark difference between the candidates became clear. When John Edwards said what needed to be said, if we want "real change, big change, bold change...we can't trade our insiders for their insiders." And then urged all of us to stand up for what really matters.

That's what it amounted to last night. Edwards continues to be the only one on that stage arguing for big, bold, transformational change.

(By the way, Obama offered a nice batch of populism in that answer... it's from his stump speech, but it's nice.)

Labels: , , , , ,