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

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Two Million For That!

Here are the results of the Ames Straw Poll, and I have to say, for $2 million dollars or so and against practically no competition, I'd say Mitt Romney didn't have the kind of victory he sought.

1. Mitt Romney 4,516 31.6%
2. Mike Huckabee 2,587 18.1%
3. Sam Brownback 2,192 15.3%
4. Tom Tancredo 1,960 13.7%
5. Ron Paul 1,305 9.1%
6. Tommy Thompson 1,039 7.3%
7. Fred Thompson 203 1.4%
8. Rudy Giuliani 183 1.3%
9. Duncan Hunter 174 1.2%
10. John McCain 101 0.7%
11. John Cox 41 0.3%

Quick thoughts here. Romney paid two million dollars for 4,600 or so supporters; that's a little pathetic. Huckabee ended up coming out of this looking the best. Tommy Thompson said he needed to be in first place to continue. I'm expecting the press conference in Madison any minute now. Frankly, Duncan Hunter couldn't even beat guys who weren't competing in Ames, so he might want to consider taking a hike as well.

And I think John Cox those 41 votes off his music video.

UPDATE: Oh, and there were major voting machine problems. Thank you, Diebold!

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The war czar, Douglas Lute, has been quiet, and now I know why, because the right is not going to be happy with this latest outburst.

You know, given the stress on the military and the concern about these extended deployments for an all-volunteer military, can you foresee, in the future, a return to the draft?

You know, that's a national policy decision point that we have not yet reached, Michele, because the —

But does it make sense militarily?

I think it makes sense to certainly consider it, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another. Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well. It would be a major policy shift — not actually a military, but a political policy shift to move to some other course.

He's simply being honest, which is such a rarity in the Bush Administration that it is almost blinding. But of course we need a draft. If we're on a course, as General Petraeus has said, to spending 9 or 10 years at or near current force levels in Iraq, then we'd have to do a draft immediately, if not sooner. The bodies aren't there. And it would be just to see the burdens of war spread across racial and class boundaries.

This is not to say that I support a renewal of the draft, because I don't support an increased toolkit in the hands of these warmongers. But if they wanted to be serious about war's real cost, they'd authorize it.

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Republican Vote-Stealing Effort Gains Steam

It's an old joke in L.A. that nobody here knows about a local story until it makes the New York Times. Well, then by now, they've all read about this attempt by GOP lawyers to change the way California's electoral votes are apportioned and hand the 2008 election to the Republicans.

When state Democratic leaders from around the country meet this weekend in Vermont, the California chairman, Art Torres, expects to be peppered with the sort of questions that have been clogging his in-box for weeks.

What is this about Republicans trying to change the way Electoral College votes are allocated in California? Is there a countereffort by Democrats in the works? What does it mean for presidential candidates?

Torres has a couple quotes in the piece, but what interested me is a preview of the messaging that will be used to sell this scheme to the general public. It actually mirrors what every Democrat in the Legislature was saying in the run-up to changing the Presidential primary date...

Far more potentially significant in the near term, however, is a recent move by the lawyer for the California Republican Party to ask voters in a ballot measure to apportion electoral votes by Congressional district. With numerous safe Republican districts around the state, this change could represent roughly 20 electoral votes for a Republican candidate who would otherwise presumably lose the entire state, which has been reliably Democrat (thanks for the slur, New York Times! -ed.) in recent presidential elections.

“We think it is the most effective way of having California count,” said Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the ballot effort, the Presidential Election Reform Act. “Candidates love California in the spring when they come out to raise money. But after that, as long as California is not in play, it tends to be ignored.”

They're going to use a message of fairness and making California count. That's going to be attractive to a low-information voter, and millions will have to be spent to counter it.

According to the Times piece, Eckery's group is fundraising right now, and it will probably take a few million dollars to get the initiative on the June ballot, including about half a million for polling. That's a low bar; and that's why it is so crucial that we get the word out immediately about this effort to steal the vote. Building a war chest is less important than using some CDP money to define what this initiative would represent - a piecemeal solution to a problem that would virtually guarantee a Republican successor to George Bush. This is not something to attack with nuance; the goal is to make it so unpopular that any effort to put it on the ballot would be a suicide mission.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Late Night Snark: The Romney Invasion

(cross-posted at The Right's Field, where I just completed my first week of front-paging. Thank you, Yearly Kos!)

We know that the Five Brothers Romney have bravely answered the call of duty and decided to serve their country by helping their dad win a straw poll against such heavyweights as Sam Brownback. But we didn't know just how many Romneys were headed to the Hawkeye State to do the jobs that Iowans won't do.

They have driven here from California, Ohio, Canada and Texas; flown from Michigan, Utah and Florida. There are aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, in-laws, nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

At last count, 96 members of the Romney clan, a veritable army, have arrived here over the last few days to help out at Saturday’s Republican straw poll, bolstering what is already a huge ground operation for the event that far outstrips any other campaign for the party’s 2008 presidential nomination.

Not a veritable Army, New York Times, an actual Army! A band of brothers! In this case, literally!

I think going this far to win a straw poll when all the most formidable challengers have already backed out is something akin to lobbying judges for an Adult Video News porn award. But let's hear more about the 2008th Fighting Romneys, Election Battalion:

Leading the shock troops will be Mr. Romney’s five sons, who have come to occupy an increasingly prominent place in his campaign, giving speeches, being hosts at fund-raisers, blogging and even weighing in on strategy, all the while helping their father paint a not-so-subtle contrast to some of his leading rivals.

That contrast would be with John McCain's kid, who actually joined the military.

The great TBogg is the undisputed king of Five Brothers blogging, so I won't muscle in on that turf. However, did you know that there's a Sixth Brother?

I guess the message is: you can help America as long as you suck off your Daddy's teet until you are well into your thirties. I must not be helping America because I have my own job (technically, I am in between jobs but since I am a self-employed entrepreneur, even more technically "down time" is part of my job) that Daddy hasn't given me.

If I weren't in the middle of some fairly complicated real estate transactions (there is a lien on a property I own in Irvine and another has been foreclosed upon- not my fault btw but more on that later) I would be in Iraq right now.

Let's get a profile of Tagg, who I like to call "George W. Romney":

Of the hordes of Romneys here, perhaps nobody plays a more central role than Tagg Romney, 37, the eldest son. At debates, he has become one of the campaign’s most visible representatives in the spin room. He is also part of his father’s inner circle, usually the quickest to offer an unfiltered critique about how he performed in an event. In campaign staff meetings, Tagg Romney acts a representative of his father, often pressing others for the kind of additional data to back up their decisions that he anticipates his father will want.

Tagg's just auditioning for his big moment - when he reaches 40 and bottoms out and says "Dad, set me up with an oil company!"

I like how he anticipates his father's decisions, which as we know is quite a feat because they change from minute to minute. But the real amusing part is that Mitt appears to be completely absent from his own decision-making process. He probably gets his ideas scribbled down in a one-page RDB (Romney Daily Briefing) the next day.

And look at what else this brave soldier fighting boldly in the War On Early Indicators Of Candidate Success is doing to raise troop morale.

Even so, those inside the campaign said Tagg Romney wore his connection to his father loosely. His other main function, they said, is that of head cheerleader for morale, organizing softball, touch football and most recently a staff tennis tournament, with the championship held at the court at his parents’ house.

Didn't you know that the most important soldier in a unit is the guy who sets up the tennis tournament? You have to be BATTLE-TESTED to be trusted with something like that, man. A guy puts together the touch football game without the right seasoning, he gets that thousand-yard stare. And the shakes at night. Oh, how the shakes come. But not for Tagg. He can divy up teams and put the round-robin brackets together like a grizzled veteran just back from Fallouja.

I think there is a serious campaign issue here that has not been addressed, however. How is any state in the Union expected to deal with all of these Romneys coming over their borders, using their facilities, their schools, their hospitals? What is Mitt's position on illegal Romneygration? Should we shut down the borders, or enforce the laws on the books, or should we allow every Romney, all 12-15 million of them (these Mormons replicate quickly), a meaningful path to citizenship that includes earned legalization and a touch-back to the statue of Brigham Young at Temple Square? It's a big question for Iowa, and the whole nation.

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The Turning Point For Rudy

I think this latest comment from Rudy Giuliani, where he showed his true narcissistic colors and equated his photo-ops at Ground Zero to being a rescue worker, is really going to hurt him. This would have been a bad weekend anyway, with Mitt Romney sucking up all the good press from the Straw Poll he bought. But now, Rudy's 9/11 bona fides are getting some scrutiny. And while this devastating article in the Village Voice won't get national press attention, enough people have seen it to give them a blueprint of Rudy's vulnerabilities on his self-created mythology.

The story, by Giuliani biographer Wayne Barrett, details five big lies that Giuliani has been spreading on the campaign trail about his response to September 11. As John Kerry leaned on his Vietnam experience to provide a campaign narrative in 2004, so too is Giuliani leaning on his 9/11 story; it's told on practically every stop on the stump. There is no real policy apparatus to the Giuliani campaign, so his entire argument for being President seems to be "I protected you on 9/11, Democrats are bad, vote for me." But this theme is littered with inconsistencies and outright lies. Here's just one example.

1. 'I think the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is, I have more experience dealing with it.' This pillar of the Giuliani campaign—asserted by pundits as often as it is by the man himself—is based on the idea that Rudy uniquely understands the terror threat because of his background as a prosecutor and as New York's mayor. In a July appearance at a Maryland synagogue, Giuliani sketched out his counterterrorism biography, a resume that happens to be rooted in falsehood.

"As United States Attorney, I investigated the Leon Klinghoffer murder by Yasir Arafat," he told the Jewish audience, referring to the infamous 1985 slaying of a wheelchair-bound, 69-year-old New York businessman aboard the Achille Lauro, an Italian ship hijacked off the coast of Egypt by Palestinian extremists. "It's honestly the reason why I knew so much about Arafat," says Giuliani. "I knew, in detail, the Americans he murdered. I went over their cases."

On the contrary, Victoria Toensing, the deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department in Washington who filed a criminal complaint in the Lauro investigation, says that no one in Giuliani's office "was involved at all." Jay Fischer, the Klinghoffer family attorney who spearheaded a 12-year lawsuit against the PLO, says he "never had any contact" with Giuliani or his office.

That's just a small example. Giuliani blew the only terrorism case he ever prosecuted (most of the charges were thrown out); he never really discussed terrorism in the 8 years leading up to 9/11; he waited 6 years to even create an Office of Emergency Management; he put the HQ in the World Trade Center complex instead of a secure site in Brooklyn, even though the WTC was hit in 1993 (mainly so he could walk to it easily); he didn't change the non-functional radio systems that caused hundreds of firefighters to never hear the evacuation order, or make them inter-operable with the police radios; he assured rescue workers that the air was safe at Ground Zero for cleanup; he hid the results of his own Administration's field studies showing dangerous levels of toxicity; and then there's this:

The mayor was so personally focused on the siting and construction of the bunker that the city administrator who oversaw it testified in a subsequent lawsuit that "very senior officials," specifically including Giuliani, "were involved," which he said was a major difference between this and other projects. Giuliani's office had a humidor for cigars and mementos from City Hall, including a fire horn, police hats and fire hats, as well as monogrammed towels in his bathroom. His suite was bulletproofed and he visited it often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced. He had his own elevator.

The emergency management center was a freakin' love nest!

The harm here is that this is the ultimate oppo research document, a story from which a thousand TV ads can be culled. And they have the added benefit of being true. Rudy has scrupulously created a hagiographic reading of his role on 9/11 through the years that simply doesn't match the facts. And this slip-up this week is the crack that was needed to call his entire story into question.

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Friday Random Ten

Alas, American never called to say they found my iPod (sigh), so until I get a new one this is coming off the desktop most of my music is stored on:

Cum On Feel The Noize - Bran Van 3000
Slow Night, So Long - Kings Of Leon
Top Of My Game - Robert Pollard
Manic Depression - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Twin Cinema - The New Pornographers
The Animal World - Grandaddy
There Is An End - The Greenhornes
Dance To The Music - Sly & The Family Stone
Wolf Like Me - TV On The Radio
Perfect Way - Sebadoh

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Musharraf In Disarray

First the Pakistani President wasn't going to go to the loya jirga in Afghanistan, now he will. First he was going to declare a state of emergency in Pakistan, then he decided against it.

I think this guy has no idea what he should do. He's constrained by forces inside and outside the country. Watch that space - I fear something terrible's about to happen.

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Loretta Sanchez And The Defense Machine Hustle

As usual, it would be better to quote this Digby post verbatim, but let me just give you the relevant section from the article in question:

(Loretta) Sanchez, Orange County's only Democratic member of Congress, voted in 2002 against giving President Bush authorization to invade Iraq. More recently she voted to begin pulling troops out within 90 days.

Tuesday night Sanchez said she could not support the protesters (who want to cut funding for the war) because the $145 billion in Iraq war funding was in the same bill that would provide money to build the C-17 aircraft in California.

"I never voted for this war," she said. But "I'm not going to vote against $2.1 billion for C-17 production, which is in California. That is just not going to happen."

Sanchez has been consistently against the war, and she cannot be fully blamed for protecting her constituents. But she's constrained by the fact that a major military contractor in her district has a gun to her head. Particularly in California, but all over the country really, the massing of the war machine has a definite impact on policy. They put their factories in all these different districts, so that shuttering an obsolete weapons system will be met with enormous resistance. This ensures that you can never decrease military spending or even keep it the same. And eventually, all these systems have to be justified. Through war.

This is approximately why the nightly news has all of these ads for Lockheed Martin and Boeing on them. I can't buy a 757, but Boeing can keep that news network in line by threatening to drop their ads if they stray from the party line.

Here's Digby:

It's just another way that big money distorts our politics. Sanchez's statement makes it quite clear that the "power of the purse" is not about stopping anything. It's about funding all kinds of things that have been set up over many years to keep politicians like Sanchez in line. She really does have to answer to her constituents --- many of whom make their living off the military industrial complex dime. You can't blame her.

I don't even think public financing will stop this. You're talking about thousands of constituents' jobs. And California embodies this problem as much as any state in the union. It's something we really have to think about. How do we, after 60 years of massive military buildup, put this genie back in the bottle?

(This isn't limited to defense, by the way, John Dingell's attempt to upend CAFE standard legislation preferred by the Speaker comes from him protecting his constituents, just as resistance to gas taxes comes from legislators protecting theirs.)

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I Was A Teenage Ground Zero Rescue Worker

(bumped because there's video now.)

Rudy Giuliani apparently sent a clone or cyborg out to all of those post-9/11 motivational speeches across the country, because he spent all of his available time on the cleanup crew:

ABC News' Jan Simmonds Reports: In Ohio on Thursday, Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) handed his critics new ammunition regarding his role surrounding 9/11.

Speaking to reporters in Cincinnati, Giuliani said, "I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers... I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

Michael Palladino, head of the Detectives Endowment Association, the union of NYPD detectives, told the Associated Press that the mayor's record can't compare to those who spent 12 months sifting through toxic debris for evidence and human remains.

I'm not sure you can get more tone-deaf than this. First of all, if it's true, then Rudy! is completely unfit to be President since he's about to come down with a terrible respiratory disease like 70% of the other rescue workers. But the fact is that it's just a gross exaggeration. Giuliani was only mayor for a few months after 9/11 before being replaced by Michael Bloomberg. And you can trace his steps through the media and find him at lots of speaking engagements, not in the muck at Ground Zero. I mean there's a public record. Which he should be asked about at every opportunity.

In addition, for Rudy to equate himself with those rescue workers, who actually risked their lives doing their job, mainly because they were told by Rudy's office and Christie Todd Whitman's EPA that the area was safe from toxicity, is just the height of tastelessness.

UPDATE: One worker tells Rudy to stick it:

"That's insulting and disgraceful. He's a liar. I was down there on my hands and knees looking for my son." -- Fire Captain and Giuliani foe James Riches

UPDATE II: Rudy's on the run, now claiming that he was just showing solidarity. The video doesn't lie. His staff must know that these comments will hurt. He's just opened up a HUGE can of worms. Here's quote machine James Riches again:

“He is such a liar, because the only time he was down there was for photo ops with celebrities, with politicians, with diplomats... On 9/11 all he did was run. He got that soot on him, and I don’t think he’s taken a shower since.”

Wow, this is bad.

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Fiscal Conservatism

The guy who claims that Washington politicians can't control spending is spending up a storm leading up to the Ames Straw Poll.

One candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has assembled an unrivaled operation for the event: a statewide corps of 60 "super-volunteers," who have been paid between $500 and $1,000 per month to talk him up; a fleet of buses; more than $2 million in television ads in Iowa; a sleek direct-mail campaign; and a consultant who has been paid nearly $200,000 to direct Romney's straw poll production, which will include barbecue billed as the best in the state.

Facing off against this are a half-dozen candidates whose combined Iowa expenditures through the end of June did not match the $1 million Romney had spent by that point, not including his many TV ads. Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, advertised in the Denison Bulletin & Review at a cost of $297. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback has been luring voters to Ames by sending out "brown bracelets" to wear around town ("a great conversation starter with friends and neighbors"). Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) is offering a tour of Washington -- dinner included -- to anyone who brings 25 friends to Ames.

$200,000 for ONE consultant to beat Tommy Thompson, Tancredo, Brownback, Huckabee, Hunter and Paul? Five million in ads and campaign materials? And this is the guy to whom we should turn over the federal checkbook?

It also may be unethical, if not illegal:

Romney aides say the payments [...] are not "walking around money," a term that once described the questionable practice of paying precinct workers to round up voters on Election Day.

"This is grass-roots organizing," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. "These are the people who arrange phone banks. These are the people who arrange door knocking." He said the payments are listed in the FEC reports as "GOTV [Get out the Vote] Consulting" because of the agency's rules [...]

Some people in Iowa do not see it exactly that way. They note that while Forbes also paid ground-level supporters in the weeks before the straw poll, it is unprecedented to pay so many people starting as early as Romney did.

Buying a straw poll where his main rivals aren't even running. Wow.

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George Bush: Proudly Enforcing the Laws After 6 1/2 Years

Suddenly the President's a workplace enforcer.

The administration unveiled a series of tough border control and employer enforcement measures designed to make up for security provisions that failed when Congress rejected a broad rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws in June.

The package revealed Friday has 26 elements, and the administration announcement said they "represent steps the Administration can take within the boundaries of existing law to secure our borders more effectively, improve interior and worksite enforcement, streamline existing guest worker programs, improve the current immigration system, and help new immigrants assimilate into American culture.

The border enforcement stuff is nothing new, and will simply increase the number of tourists overstaying visas. But the workplace enforcement rules, most of them already on the books, represent a new focus:

Employers will face tough new scrutiny and requirements. “There are now 29 categories of documents that employers must accept to establish identity and work eligibility among their workers,” the summary says. “The Department of Homeland Security will reduce that number and weed out the most insecure.”

“The Department of Homeland Security will raise the civil fines imposed on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by approximately 25 percent,” the summary continues. “The administration will continue its aggressive expansion of criminal investigations against employers who knowingly hire large numbers of illegal aliens.”

You could have done so much of this without changing any of these laws. What Steve Soto said.

It’s a valid question why after seven years the Bush Administration is just now:

1. Forcing employers to fire employees who use false Social Security numbers;

2. Fully implementing a 1996 law on an exit-control system;

3. Forcing employers to comply with a 1986 law requiring eligibility verification from job applicants;

4. Stepping up the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrant street gang members;

5. Using federal agents across the country to hunt down “alien fugitives;”

6. Expanding its training of local law enforcement on immigration laws.

Why do I get the feeling that this tough talk will not be backed up with action?

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So Get 2/3

Speaker Fabian Nuñez participated in a conference call with California bloggers yesterday. I couldn't make it, but I think I would have hung up the phone after this line:

The budget that was approved by the Assembly was described by George Skelton as a Republican budget. He [Nunez] doesn't believe that. It's not the budget he would have liked for California, but we don't have the two-thirds power to pass a budget that he thinks would work, so he has to compromise.

So do something about it. Use this issue next year in every Republican's district. But that's not likely to happen.

There's this assumption that legislative seats in this state are somehow etched in stone. They're not, they're the result of a de facto non-aggression pact between the parties. This is why you never hear the CDP talking about legislative seats; in my heart of hearts, I don't believe they really WANT a 2/3 vote. Then they'd have too much responsibility for the state if something goes wrong. By having just short of the 2/3 requirement needed for budget and tax bills, they can slough off just enough responsibility on the Republicans to ensure their own jobs.

This is the game. It's a two-bit hustle and it's what you get when you have people running the California legislative majority who are more interested in maintaining their leadership than actually leading.

UPDATE: I should note that there was lip service toward eliminating the 2/3 requirement, which I'll believe approximately when I see it:

SPEAKER NUNEZ: A constitutional amendment that we'd have to put in front of the voters. We're clearly in a bad situation. 38 days late, a lot of people aren't getting paid. We need to use this scenario to demonstrate that the problem is the 2/3rds vote requirement. We're one of only 3 states that does this, and the ultra-conservatives are holding up the budget and they're demanding that I negotiate it, but the only thing that will come out of that is more cuts. And I'm not going to do that. The 2/3rds vote threshold is allowing the 10% minority to hold this up. And hopefully, we can be taken to a 55% or a simple majority budget, which we've tried before but didn't win. This isn't just the legislature holding it up. This is the ultra-conservative Republicans in the Senate.

Eliminating 2/3 is an easy sell, but I think it requires 60% of the vote as a Constitutional amendment, which won't be easy. And again, I'm willing to bet that the energy toward this will magically dissipate once there's a budget. It's one of those things that people grumble about in times of crisis, and then promptly forget. Because the truth is that some of the leadership see that requirement as a GOOD thing.

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The Entire Chickenhawk Movement, Explained

A neoconservative friend just inadvertently, in the course of trying to explain something else, gave me his entire worldview:

War is messy, especially when the people you are fighting hide behind women and children as their shields. A culture of cowards.

Yes, it is difficult for us to talk intelligently about war, and it is messy, because the people I am "fighting", the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, ARE hiding behind shields. Yes, it IS a culture of cowards.

How pithy and apt.

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The LOGO Debate and Hillary's Cautiousness

So I guess Bill Richardson really messed up at last night's Human Rights Campaign/LOGO debate on LGBT issues. He said homosexuality was a choice and really didn't do a good job of damage control. But I want to highlight Hillary Clinton's answer on the subject of gay rights, because I think it's not only damaging, but illustrative of how she'd run her Presidency (at peril to the progressive movement):

I have to say that Hillary Clinton probably didn't win over any new fans tonight; those who support her probably remain in her court. While at ease, at times she was condescending and impersonal, communicating a message that the LGBT community needs to be patient.

"If I were sitting where you're sitting, with all you have gone through in the last 14 years, I'm sure I would feel exactly the same way because, you know, not only did you bravely come out, but you've had health challenges and so much else. And so time can't go by slowly. You want things to move as quickly as possible, which I, you know, understand and wish could happen as well."

Clinton still has this defensive position which tells gays and lesbians to wait their turn until the country catches up, instead of forcing the kind of change needed for the country to catch up. If we waited for civil rights there would still be whites-only drinking fountains in Alabama. It's absurd to continue to look at today instead of planning the future. Hillary Clinton is simply not a leader. She's a finger-in-the-wind establishment politician who will be very competent, but will only push change as far as she believes the most cautious and conservative Democrat is willing to go.

That's not what we need. Because you can bet that the Republicans will push and push and push without giving a damn about public opinion. They'll loudly suggest that the public is with them. And unless we on the other side offer a competing narrative, nothing meaningful will get done.

I agree that Republicans are a trashed brand and that the country is moving further and further away from them. But this is only an opportunity, not a fait accompli, for Democrats. And Democrats that don't stand up and offer principled resistance to the status quo will eventually lead us right back where we were in 2002.

Things are looking extremely bleak for the GOP pirates, and it's fun watching the rats jump off the ship. Now all we have to do is stand for what we believe in and do the difficult work of holding ourselves accountable, standing in the way of Mr. 23% for the remainder of his term, and passing legislation that will benefit the American People for a change, rather than GOP monied interests.

The more I read from Hillary Clinton, the more I see her as the poster child for the 90s-era cautious competence that will simply keep us running on a treadmill rather than changing the paradigm.

(I'm particularly shocked that my state Senator Sheila Kuehl, one of the more prominent gay politicians in America, has endorsed Hillary and given creedence to this "art of the possible" mentality that will put us in stasis for eight years. Yes, politics is the art of the possible, but somehow this worldview suggests that you give up your side of the argument before the battle is even joined. This is why we get crap like the FISA bill passed. The negotiating skills of the establishment Democrats are terrible.)

UPDATE: This quote from Markos is what I'm driving at, although I'm not sure he totally believes it:

"We're proud Democrats, confident and secure in the belief that we're on the right side of history and Americans will side with us if we can only get our message out. The DLC thinks this is a conservative country and we can only win if we blur distinctions with the GOP."

Welcome to Hillaryland.

UPDATE II: I'm completely aware, and ashamed, that the position of all the major Democratic candidates on the issue of gay marriage is anti-gay marriage but pro-civil unions, and that their position is for nakedly political reasons. But I see this pattern for Clinton across a number of political issues, while other top candidates have shown a willingness to buck conventional wisdom in far more direct ways.

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I was worried that Michael O'Hanlon was still advising John Edwards on foreign policy. But apparently, he's endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. A "whew" in my case, because I didn't want to see Edwards tainted by the Serious Foreign Policy way of thinking that has destroyed our credibility around the world. But depressing, too, considering Clinton is the front-runner and support from O'Hanlon should be a disqualifying event, yet I suspect this won't get a lot of attention on the campaign trail.

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Who You Gonna Believe

The President has made a habit lately of telling foreign leaders that they don't know what they're talking about. He disagreed with Hamid Karzai, who called Iran a friend and a help to his efforts in Afghanistan, and yesterday he called Nouri al-Maliki an idiot, which may not be far wrong, but look at the way in which he treats the government he likes to call a democracy like a bunch of children.

Now if the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the Prime Minister, because I don't believe they are constructive. I don't think he, in his heart of heart, thinks they're constructive, either. Now maybe he's hopeful in trying to get them to be constructive by laying out a positive picture. You're asking me to speculate.

This "I know what he's thinking, Maliki's just lying to the Iranians to get them to help" idea is pretty destabilizing, wouldn't you say? Way to overturn a day's worth of negotiation.

Bush has continually flown in the face of evidence with regard to Iran because his government, led by Fourthbranch, really does want to go to war with them.

At a news conference Thursday, Bush said Iran had been warned of unspecified consequences if it continued its alleged support for anti-American forces in Iraq. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had conveyed the warning in meetings with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad, the president said.

Bush wasn't specific, and a State Department official refused to elaborate on the warning.

Behind the scenes, however, the president's top aides have been engaged in an intensive internal debate over how to respond to Iran's support for Shiite Muslim groups in Iraq and its nuclear program. Vice President Dick Cheney several weeks ago proposed launching airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iraq run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in Iran policy.

The debate has been accompanied by a growing drumbeat of allegations about Iranian meddling in Iraq from U.S. military officers, administration officials and administration allies outside government and in the news media. It isn't clear whether the media campaign is intended to build support for limited military action against Iran, to pressure the Iranians to curb their support for Shiite groups in Iraq or both.

It's clear to be that Iran is being used as the convenient excuse for failure in Iraq. To the extent that Iranian agents are involved in Iraq, it's because the Shiite theocratic forces that were installed as the ruling party were put into place by elections the Americans demanded. But they're implicated just enough for them to be used as the overall reason for failure. So we can make an argument, based on scant evidence, that the way to win in Iraq is to take out Iran. It's absurd, of course, but that's the connection they're making.

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Really, We Need A Congress School

I mean this is just thuddingly stupid. Jonah Goldberg called for a test for voters, how about one for Congressmen?

When Idaho State Rep. Bill Sali was running for Congress in 2006, Vice President Cheney visited his state and said, “Bill is ready to make a difference in Washington, and he’s going to be the kind of Congressman who will make you proud.” Now-Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID) is demonstrating his worth by criticizing the new religious diversity embodied in the 110th Congress:

We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes — and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Really? Sali may want to take a peek at Article VI of the Constitution, which notes that there is no religious test for public office.

Nobody should tell him about the two Buddhists in Congress, his head will explode. Sadly, this will probably endear Sali to some sections of Idaho, although Boise is bluing and Larry Grant, who narrowly lost out to Sali last year, is running again. I didn't get a chance to meet him at Yearly Kos, but the word is he's a good one.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Nothing Like A Bush Bounce

So the President came out this morning, touted the economy, did some sleight-of-hand with statistics (ever notice how Bush stats always start at the LOWEST possible point to make the rebound look that much bigger?), and called for even more tax cuts. He also said that the plunging real estate market and its effect on the credit industry was not a concern.

I beg to differ.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 387 points today and other stock prices tumbled around the world as the U.S. and European central banks pumped more than $100 billion of extra money into the financial system to counter tightening credit conditions in panicky markets.

The Dow plunged more than 200 points within minutes of the opening of trading this morning, after investors awoke to news that one of France's biggest banks had been shaken by the problems in the U.S. mortgage market, causing overnight bank lending rates to jump.

I guess in Bushworld, this didn't happen.

The economy is like a 10,000-pound block of steel being carried on stilts. The impending real estate crash could wipe out central banks when all of these subprime mortgage holders can't pay their creditors. Bushworld is a "you're on your own" world, so he won't use any federal monies for a bailout (not for the foreclosed homeowners; the bankers, maybe). And if businesses can't get credit as a result, well, that's when the global recession begins.

The only good news is that Bush is on vacation and so maybe he won't talk so much anymore...

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Big Media Me

I have an op-ed in Capitol Weekly about California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's rare achievement: actually doing what she said she would do. You can find it here.

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CA Congressmen Need To Go To Congress School

We all know about Ellen Tauscher not knowing that Alberto Gonzales can be impeached; she cleared that one up. Now we have a report from the LA National Impeachment Center, including a lot of my fellow 41st AD delegates, on a meeting they held this week with Henry Waxman:

Towards the end of the meeting, Dorothy Reik, President of Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, urged Waxman to use the inherent contempt power of Congress to bring criminal charges against Bush and Cheney and their aides, hold a hearing in Congress on those charges, and then hand down the punishment, prison time. Reik expressed frustration with the refusal of Bush administration officials to testify before congressional committees, despite the fact that subpoenas had been issued.

Your witnesses aren't showing up -- They're ignoring your subpoenas, said Reik, so it is time for you, Congressman Waxman, to recognize that there is a precedent for members of congress to initiate and follow through on criminal proceedings.

Waxman said he was unaware of the inherent contempt power. In a follow-up letter after the meeting, Winograd emailed him information on the inherent contempt precedent.

Inherent contempt hasn't been used in decades, so it's a little excusable. But Congressmen like Waxman ought to know about all of the tools at their disposal in fighting the intransigence of the Bush Administration and getting to the truth.

Since Rep. Waxman is the most dogged investigator in the entire Congress, I think this answer to the question of impeachment is appropriate.

Congressman Waxman, Chair of the House Oversight Committee, told an impeachment
delegation meeting with him in his Los Angeles office, Tues., Aug. 7, 2007, that he would mull over
his constituents' articulate arguments, watch the Bill Moyers' interview on impeachment, and weigh whether there was sufficient evidence to, not just impeach, but convict Bush and Cheney. Waxman told the delegation it was not enough to believe Bush and Cheney were responsible for high crimes; his decision to support or co-sponsor an impeachment resolution must be predicated on the knowledge that there is overwhelming evidence for a conviction.

You shouldn't put the cart before the horse when it comes to something like this. Indeed, considering that Congress keeps SANCTIONING the illegal acts undertaken by this White House, I'm not sure there's anything illegal left that would constitute a high crime or misdemeanor. But this was an interesting exchange:

At the outset of the meeting, Waxman expressed a hesitancy to come out publicly for impeachment, explaining that his role as a vigorous investigator would be compromised by taking a stand that could be perceived as partisan or partial. Winograd responded with, At some point you, the investigator, have enough evidence to hold these criminals accountable. What is the point of continuous investigations unless an indictment or impeachment process is begun? Showing some hesitancy, Waxman insisted that a successful impeachment trial would necessitate strong and convincing evidence to persuade both Democrats and Republicans that high crimes had been committed. In the next breath, Waxman recited a litany of Bush and Cheney's crimes, everything from the Iraq war to the outing of a CIA agent to illegal wiretapping. "You sound like you are delivering the opening argument for an impeachment trial," said Winograd. With good humor, Waxman nodded and smiled.

Again, Congress enacted the illegal wiretapping into law last week, so I think there's a disconnect going on here.

I'm proud of my AD delegates for holding their representative accountable and for presenting him with new information, on the subject of inherent contempt, that even he didn't know about. Maybe in September we will see a bolder move by the Congress to end this absurdity of White House officials defying subpoenas and skipping out on hearings. And some point you can only write so many strongly worded letters.

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Democracy At 30,000 Feet

A British general had the courage to call out the United States.

A senior British commander in southern Afghanistan said in recent weeks that he had asked that American Special Forces leave his area of operations because the high level of civilian casualties they had caused was making it difficult to win over local people.

Other British officers here in Helmand Province, speaking on condition of anonymity, criticized American Special Forces for causing most of the civilian deaths and injuries in their area. They also expressed concerns that the Americans’ extensive use of air power was turning the people against the foreign presence as British forces were trying to solidify recent gains against the Taliban.

We really are Borat in the antique shop, aren't we?

It's an article of wingnut faith that our pulling out of Vietnam indirectly caused the rise of Pol Pot and the genocide of a million Cambodians. In fact, it was the heavy Cambodian bombing campaign that destabilized the country and gave rise to the murderous dictator. Bombing to stop a counter-insurgency is a sign of desperation. And it's not possible to be successful. You alienate far more of the good guys to make up for the bad guys (and civilian collateral damage) that you kill.

“Everyone is concerned about civilian casualties,” the senior British commander said. “Of course it is counterproductive if civilians get injured, but we’ve got to pick up the pack of cards that we have got. Other people have been operating in our area before us.”

After months of heavy fighting that began in early 2006, the British commanders say they are finally making headway in securing important areas such as this town, and are now in the difficult position of trying to win back support among local people whose lives have been devastated by aerial bombing.

There's a sense of denial here, that as long as you rack up body counts you must be winning. It's simply untrue.

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Is it the policy of the New York Times to print articles based on confidential Army reports that they've only released to partisan outfits, that are contradicted by concurrent reports? I don't think that we're any closer to the truth on the Scott Beauchamp issue, and yet the NYT gives the imprimatur of closure. Their article is a he said/she said article without any on-the-record statements about the veracity of his reports. This sounds right to me:

Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington University, called the Army’s refusal to release its report “suspect,” adding: “There is a cloud over the New Republic, but there’s one hanging over the Army, as well. Each investigated this and cleared themselves, but they both have vested interests.”

Yet the New York Times comes down squarely on the side of one vested interest. The one that has been shown to lie about Pat Tillman, EFPs in Iraq, etc., etc.

Not only do we not know what the truth is, it doesn't matter at all relative to the Iraq war (yes I approvingly cited Rick Moran). The guy who got 110 years in jail for raping and murdering an Iraqi civilian and her family isn't a figment of anyone's imagination. Other soldiers tell stories the right wing apologists don't like, too many and too similiarly for all of them to be false. This quote, for example...

Some say that Iraq cannot be in a civil war because the country's major institutions are not fighting each other with conventional military forces. But this is too formulaic and restrictive for what I saw and heard. On the streets of west Baghdad, almost every person I spoke to told me of a close relative or friend who was killed by Sunni insurgents or Shiite militia members. something that I'm sure will be criticized ("how do we know EVERYONE he spoke to had a friend killed?"), but at some point the preponderance of evidence resists this stupid game. Going after the low-hanging fruit of particular anecdotes doesn't nullify the totality of the failure in Iraq. Rather than pounding away on their laptop, these keyboard warriors need to face reality.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Iraq In Fragments

• Apparently, those damn bookkeepers are to blame for the loss of hundreds of thousands of AK-47s which could be in the hands of insurgents. You may recall this excuse from when Paul Bremer used it to explain the missing $8 billion dollars of reconstruction money. Maybe they should hire some better number crunchers! David Petraeus peddled this line on Alan Colmes show; I guess that means he's ready for tough, biting interviews now.

• Iraqi oil unions are claiming that their voices are being suppressed in exactly the same way Saddam Hussein suppressed them back in the 1980s.

Iraq's new constitution, passed in 2005, enshrines "the right of forming and joining professional associations and unions", and promises that "this will be organised by law".

But since no such legislation has been passed, campaigners say the oil ministry is simply reverting to Saddam-era laws that banned unions.


• Basra is a complete mess, as competing Shiite factions have filled the vaccuum created when Great Britain left and are battling for supremacy. Some may read this as an ominous sign of what may come if and when the United States leaves the country. I say that it may well be the case. But somebody has to explain to me how the military PRESENCE has stopped chaos from happening, before I start worrying about the absence.

Dolschtoss rears its ugly head again, this time from some winger retired Air Force Colonel who's only been to Iraq on a dog-and-pony show.

• Apparently, Robert Gates figured out that Shiites and Sunnis don't often like one another.

• Finally, the Center for American Progress has put together the ultimate Friedman Unit handbook, a compendium of every "we've got 6 months left to win this thing" statement ever made about Iraq, some of which begin as early as July 2003. Fine work by CAP.

UPDATE: Thers lays it out, and this is why I can only view Iraq in fragments nowadays, because the big picture is too horrific to contemplate.

I'm not sure how much more clearly it can be put. The situation in Iraq is impossible. The Surge cannot last forever -- all it can do is postpone the inevitable. We can push down the cork for only so long: the bottle is going to blow, sooner or later.

The fundamental dynamic in Iraq is sectarian violence. The best case scenario is a culturally repressive Shiite theocracy with generally friendly relations with Iran hopefully tempered to some degree by latent nationalism, a suppressed and resentful Sunni minority who can only be suppressed militarily but will still probably always have access to weapons, and an essentially autonomous Kurdish state that avoids war with Turkey and Iran only by virtue of constant ingenious international brinksmanship and a shitload of luck. Finally, as the Sunnis will always be aggrieved and furious, they will always be tempted to turn to... international terrorist organizations who can supply them with weapons. If Al Qaeda in Iraq is ejected tomorrow, something similar will eventually be invited back in.

And you know what the United States can do about this?

Sweet fuck-all.

The lieutenant colonel's op-ed that provided Thers' launching pad can be viewed here. I can't wait to see the Bush apologists claim that the soldier made it all up.

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A Tornado Grows In Brooklyn

I've been working on one of those "extreme-weather" shows, and we've proposed every scenario under the sun, and I don't think we even got around to New York City tornado.

National Weather Service Confirms Tornado Touched Down in Brooklyn National Weather Service meteorologists, investigating storm damage in the Bay Ridge area with New York City Emergency Management officials, have confirmed that a tornado did in fact touch down on parts of Brooklyn Wednesday morning. The tornado's heavy winds, estimated to have been up to 111 to 135 miles per hour, tore through sections of Brooklyn, damaging roughly 40 buildings and downing dozens of trees. Residents in the Bay Ridge, Flatbush and Sunset Park neighborhoods reported damaged houses and hundreds of crushed cars along several blocks.

I hope somebody had a camera, because that will be valuable footage for Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich down the road.

The planet is kind of freaking out with the natural disasters, no? Wasn't there a cyclone in the Middle East earlier this year? And then there was that Robin Williams movie where he played the priest...

I wonder if a certain rising of temperatures and changing of sea levels can account for this rise in extreme weather events...

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Chickenhawk Quintet Update

The Romney campaign has helpfully provided the YouTube video (or is that the MySpace video) of his untimely remarks praising his family for serving their country by helping him get elected. I don't think the "context" makes this any better.

I'm not seeing much of a difference here. Romney begins by saying we have a volunteer military and his sons chose another line of work, and that's fine. Then he breaks off into talking about a community project (socialism!) where a bunch of neighbors help save his niece from being fined by their neighborhood association. Then the last paragraph is pretty much as reported.

"It's remarkable how we can show our support for our nation and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I'd be a great president. My son, Josh, bought the family Winnebago and has visited 99 counties, most of them with his three kids and his wife. And I respect that and respect all of those in the way they serve this great country."

Isn't this exactly the same as Rick Santorum pleading with a crowd to serve their country by buying one of his bumper stickers? It's a warped notion of national service to equate dying for one's country with tooling around Iowa in an RV. Must be nice to be a Romney.

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Christmas With The Candidates

I agree that in the short term, this impending move of primary days by New Hampshire and South Carolina and Iowa, possibly into December 2007, is good for democracy, because it'll weaken the Iowa effect and put some breathing space between it and Super Duper Tuesday. That also helps the current front-runners, who can now better survive early missteps, it should be noted.

But in the long run, having the primary process be over on February 5 and having a 9-month general election is horrible for democracy and for good government. My ideal would be no primaries until April 2008, on the regional rotation platform, or even picked by lot on New Year's Day so that candidates couldn't camp out anywhere before then. This primary system needs to be blown up and we need some innovative ideas to start over.

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A Shining Beacon of Freedom

Jane Mayer has an incredible piece in this week's New Yorker on the "black sites," the secret CIA prisons where terror suspects were rendered to shield them from public view. The Red Cross has finally had the opportunity to talk to some of those detained, and the classified report based on those conversations shows that a system of torture and abuse was put in place at the highest levels, in complete violation of US law and international treaties to which the US is a signatory, which are also legally binding. And these programs to use the tactics of terror to fight terror have never been fully disavowed:

In late July, the White House issued an executive order promising that the C.I.A. would adjust its methods in order to meet the Geneva standards. At the same time, Bush’s order pointedly did not disavow the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would likely be found illegal if used by officials inside the United States. The executive order means that the agency can once again hold foreign terror suspects indefinitely, and without charges, in black sites, without notifying their families or local authorities, or offering access to legal counsel.

Administration apologists claim that the confessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) prove that these techniques are effective and save lives. Only KSM's confessions cannot be fully corroborated. They conflict with other stories. And they are clearly the words of a desperate man who would say anything to stop the pain. The CIA is only looking at the metric of information, not its veracity. And therefore it considers torturing KSM to be effective. Only it DOESN'T work in providing legitimate intelligence. Yet it goes on due to a twisted ideology in the minds of the very top of our political leadership.

By contrast, the treatment of high-value detainees has been directly, and repeatedly, approved by President Bush. The program is monitored closely by C.I.A. lawyers, and supervised by the agency’s director and his subordinates at the Counterterrorism Center. While Mohammed was being held by the agency, detailed dossiers on the treatment of detainees were regularly available to the former C.I.A. director George Tenet, according to informed sources inside and outside the agency. Through a spokesperson, Tenet denied making day-to-day decisions about the treatment of individual detainees. But, according to a former agency official, “Every single plan is drawn up by interrogators, and then submitted for approval to the highest possible level—meaning the director of the C.I.A. Any change in the plan—even if an extra day of a certain treatment was added—was signed off by the C.I.A. director.”

The interrogation techniques came directly out of Vietnam-era torture programs, and also SERE, a Korean War-era program developed by the American military to teach Special Forces soldiers how to survive Soviet torture techniques. They appropriated the Soviet ideas and turned them around on these detainees.

The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.” [...]

Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

The KGB was looking for propaganda victories, not actual intelligence. They wanted Americans to confess to something, anything, to prove their moral superiority. We took the exact same program and used it to supposedly gather intelligence. But actually we were doing the same thing. The goal was to legitimize the techniques used through any confessions and information possible.

Read the whole article. It sounds like something out of the 13th century. Not only has this kind of torture turned us into the enemy abroad, neutered our voice on human rights issues, and given Al Qaeda the greatest recruitment tool they can imagine, it also doesn't work in giving us a leg up on intelligence. Plus, once we've exhausted the limited time horizon where these detainees can be useful, we cannot put them out into a regular prison population or the larger world because of the crimes we have committed. We've created a small city worth of disappeareds, people with no country, no location, nothing.

I'm disgusted by this and the taxpayer dollars that went to fund it:

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.” The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, “because it’s demoralizing.” The person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said that photos were also part of the C.I.A.’s quality-control process. They were passed back to case officers for review.

And the worst part is that we've taught a generation of psychotic conservatives that not of this degrading and humiliating treatment matters, that it's just harmless, that it falls within the legal principle of who cares. We've built an army of moral zombies who follow their Dear Leader no matter where he leads them. It's a nightmare from which I am hoping to one day awaken.

UPDATE: Jack Bauer in 20 years:

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”

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Wearing Jet Packs In Tora Bora

Many have commented on this comment from John McCain.

I’ve had the great honor for more than 50 years of serving it in the military, in Congress, the United States Senate. And I am fully prepared -- fully prepared, more than anyone else running on either side -- to fight the transcendent challenge of this nation, which will be for all of the 21st century. And that is the struggle against radical Islamic extremism.

Uh, it's 2007. If you asked Teddy Roosevelt what would be the challenge of all of the 20th century, he would have said the Spanish in the Philippines or trusts like Standard Oil. Needless to say he was wrong.

I know this will come as a shock to Republicans, but things change.

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Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

Pervez Musharraf pulled out of today's loya jirga in Afghanistan today, a meeting he was to have held with Hamid Karzai. From what I'm reading this appears to be for security reasons, and not the story the LA Times is trying to weave that Obama's comments about surgical strikes are backfiring. But clearly there are internal politics in Pakistan that we in the United States are only beginning to understand. We also have learned that Musharraf is about to declare a state of emergency which may enable him to continue to control the government while head of the military.

This is a bad situation. Musharraf has been emboldened, not by Obama, but by an appeasement policy that the Bush Administration has delivered. So long as he says he's an ally, without doing much, he can commit himself to whatever power grab he chooses. This has led us down the path where we are now, with a dictator in power and Islamists in the mountains. In truth, the Pakistani people are more moderate, and Benzanir Bhutto is very popular here. If we should be pushing for anything, it should be free elections and the democratic reform movement. Musharraf doesn't have the ability to crush dissent the way Iran does. He's already tried to do so by removing that Supreme Court judge, and the whole country rioted. So transitioning from a unitary executive who makes all the decisions for Pakistan to a democratic movement where popular support can drive change should be the major goal. The problem is that the Bush Administration only seeks that as a goal for countries they hate; they don't care about democracy in countries they can do business with.

The lesson is not to support tyrants, which puts you inevitably in this position. Especially tyrants with nukes.

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Senate-08: Bigger Playing Field

Kos profiles Andrew Rice, a moderate from Oklahoma who is challenging batshit bonkers James Inhofe for the US Senate seat. The way I see the Senate picture shaking out is that moderates in the deep red states (Rice in OK, Noriega in TX, perhaps one of the two seats up in WY) are going to make things a lot easier for the challengers in the bluer states, like New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon and Maine. This is what the 50-state strategy is all about, broadening the playing field so that the Republicans and their corporate money are stretched thin. That's why it's never a waste of money to give to a red-state Democrat like Andrew Rice. Especially because he seems to be a good guy.

(In other Great Orange Satan news, he's going to be debating Harold Ford of the DLC on Press the Meat this weekend. TiVo alert!)

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My Monthly Obligatory Sports Post

Good for Barry Bonds. I've never liked the guy as a player, but there's one important thing to note here. Baseball isn't football. Brute strength is not an automatic guarantee of success. It may give you a few more homers a year, but home-run hitting is about bat speed and reading pitchers. It's not like Barry Bonds hits 302-foot shots that barely clear the wall thanks to his new-found pumped-up-itude. He hits towering shots and he did so before he bulked up. I have no doubt he used steroids and that's a violation of current rules. But it doesn't mean he's not a great athlete.

(Actually, the biggest factor in increased hone run output in the past two decades, I would argue, is the expansion to 30 teams and the dilution of the talent pool, particularly pitchers who shouldn't be in the major leagues pitching to the likes of Barry Bonds.)

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Chickenhawks For America

(cross-posted at The Right's Field, where I've been writing lately.)

Mitt Romney's fighting-age kids are proudly serving America - by riding on a campaign bus.

BETTENDORF, Iowa - Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday defended his five sons' decision not to enlist in the military, saying they're showing their support for the country by "helping me get elected."

"The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that's the way we're going to keep it," Romney told some 200 people gathered in an abbey near the Mississippi River that had been converted into a hotel. "My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard."

He added: "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president." [...]

Romney noted that his middle son, 36-year-old Josh, was completing a recreational vehicle tour of all 99 Iowa counties on Wednesday and said, "I respect that and respect all those and the way they serve this great country."

This certainly should endear Romney to members of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists from around the nation, who also think that driving in an RV and writing a blog puts them on the front lines against Islamofascism. They consider themselves noble warriors, too. Maybe they can all get the Oklahoma war on terror license plate and boldly fight for freedom while leaving the actual fighting to others.

I'm simply awed at the sacrifices the Romney boys have given to this nation. They could be out there being selfish. But no; they're choosing to help campaign for their dad, a thankless job that has never amounted to anything. What bold spirits! What proud freedom fighters!

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The Triumph of Hillary

Let me say that while I've been taking a critical look at Hillary Clinton's recent statements, I'm well aware that each passing debate solidifies her hold on the Democratic nomination, particularly among conservative Democrats and independents. And I think there's a very distinct reason for that. We've been propagandized by 16 years of Rush and the right-wing noise machine to consider Clinton this divisive radical liberal feminist. Those of us paying attention knew that was never true, that her tendencies are centrist. But her command of the issues and intelligence has clearly disarmed those who thought of her as this radical polarizing figure, and her negatives have dropped. The electability argument has been taken off the table, and I think that was a major impediment for her. Many now see Hillary as someone they can rally behind, and someone battle-tested enough to go up against the Right and emerge victorious.

So her lead has grown and grown. But I do think we're reaching a tipping point. With the electability argument put aside, Democrats are starting to take a closer look at actual positions. And the lobbyist issue has revealed a vulnerability, one which Obama and Edwards are likely to hammer over the next few months. My guess is that change will win out over experience, which is why Hillary is trying to represent herself as someone who embodies both narratives and who can unify the party. We'll see if that facade is able to stay upright.

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The Wisdom Of Jon Stewart

He made an insight last night that I hadn't seen that shows Hillary Clinton's real difficulty on the issue of lobbyists. She simultaneously said that lobbyists are people too and that she takes their money because she wants to be President of all Americans, and simultaneously said that she can't be effected by them because her principles are strong and look at her record. Watch it:

"So basically, Hillary Clinton is saying, yes I take money from lobbyists because they're real people with real needs. But don't worry. I don't listen to them."

That argument is not going to hold up.

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The Pakistan Flap

If you don't agree with Barack Obama that, when faced with the resurgence of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in northwest Pakistan, we should not defer to Pervez Musharraf if he demurred with a go-ahead for air strike against actionable terrorist targets, then you don't believe in the current policy of this country, as Joe Biden rightly suggested last night. This notion that Obama said he was going to invade Pakistan is nonsense. I can see, when the issue moved for no good reason into the area of nuclear weapons, why people would get pissed off.

Twenty years ago, everybody in this country (give or take a baker’s million blazing nutjobs) understood that the use of nuclear weapons was a cataclysmic, final act of madness, a step towards global suicide to be avoided at (almost) any cost. Now, absent an enemy with any real ability to do us harm, the idea that nuclear weapons should be available to use on caves full of crazy idiots armed with weapons that were the height of military sophistication approximately seventy years ago, this idea is the conventional wisdom? Of the Democratic Party? The party that ostensibly wants to end the war in Iraq? Where have you gone, Robert McNamara / A nation turns its loony eyes to you, doot doot doo.

Indeed. And it should be mentioned that nukes were thrown into the discussion by reporters, and it certainly wasn't the impetus of Obama. It should also be mentioned that nobody in the Congress on the Democratic side has done more to stop nuclear proliferation than Barack Obama. I understand that some in Pakistan are protesting the notion of military action whatsoever, and are claiming that Obama's comments weaken the war on terror. And even Republicans are calling his statements "dangerous" (these are the guys that all agreed on tactical nuclear strikes against Iran).

I'm sorry, but I don't agree. Pakistan is not a reliable ally so long as they're allowing safe havens in their own country. I believe these safe havens threaten the sovereignty Pakistan itself, as we've seen from the series of attacks over the past month. Obama spoke softly and carried a big stick, and preferred to do it in public rather than behind closed doors as Hillary Clinton would prefer ("there are some things you just don't say"). Samantha Power, who I repsect greatly, wrote a long note to this effect, framing the Pakistan situation as one in which Obama challenged the stale conventional wisdom that has brought us to the foreign policy disaster we now face. Obama didn't create this mess; he didn't support Musharraf's peace treaty with the Taliban; he didn't look the other way as wealthy Saudis funded terror (and he certainly didn't offer them billions of dollars in weapons for their trouble). He simply is trying to deal with solutions to the problems as they exist, and in DC this is considered something too brash and fresh for words.

Over the last few weeks, Barack Obama has once again taken positions that challenge Washington’s conventional wisdom on foreign policy. And once again, pundits and politicians have leveled charges that are now bankrupt of credibility and devoid of the new ideas that the American people desperately want.

On each point in the last few weeks, Barack Obama has called for a break from a broken way of doing things. On each point, he has brought fresh strategic thinking and common sense that break with the very conventional wisdom that has led us into Iraq [...]

Terrorist Sanctuaries: For years, we have given President Musharraf hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, while deferring to his cautious judgment on how to take out high-level al Qaeda targets – including, most likely, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Here is the result:

* Bin Laden and Zawahiri – two men with direct responsibility for 9/11– remain at large.
* Al Qaeda has trained and deployed hundreds of fighters worldwide from its sanctuary in northwest Pakistan.
* Afghanistan is far less secure because the Taliban can strike across the border, and then return to safety in Pakistan.

By any measure, this strategy has not worked. Conventional wisdom would have us defer to Musharraf in perpetuity. Barack Obama wants to turn the page. If Musharraf is willing to go after the terrorists and stop the Taliban from using Pakistan as a base of operations, Obama would give him all of the support he needs. But Obama made clear that as President, if he had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan – and the Pakistanis continued to refuse to act against terrorists known to be behind attacks on American civilians – then he will use highly targeted force to do so.
Barack Obama’s judgment is right; the conventional wisdom is wrong. We need a new era that moves beyond the conventional wisdom that has brought us over-reliance on an unreliable dictator in Pakistan and an occupation of Iraq.
Nuclear Attacks on Terrorist Targets: For years, Washington’s conventional wisdom has held that candidates for President are judged not by their wisdom, but rather by their adherence to hackneyed rhetoric that make little sense beyond the Beltway. When asked whether he would use nuclear weapons to take out terrorist targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Barack Obama gave the sensible answer that nuclear force was not necessary, and would kill too many civilians. Conventional wisdom held this up as a sign of inexperience. But if experience leads you to make gratuitous threats about nuclear use – inflaming fears at home and abroad, and signaling nuclear powers and nuclear aspirants that using nuclear weapons is acceptable behavior, it is experience that should not be relied upon.

Barack Obama’s judgment is right. Conventional wisdom is wrong. It is wrong to propose that we would drop nuclear bombs on terrorist training camps in Pakistan, potentially killing tens of thousands of people and sending America’s prestige in the world to a level that not even George Bush could take it. We should judge presidential candidates on their judgment and their plans, not on their ability to recite platitudes.

I completely agree.

UPDATE: I knew I heard Hillary say the exact same thing about Pakistan once. This argument seems to be about almost nothing.

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Songs of Innocence and Experience

I think we're starting to see a realignment in the Democratic Presidential primary with a Washington insider/Washington outsider split. I admire and respect Chris Dodd, but he and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are clearly on one side of this, wedded to conventional thinking, while Barack Obama and John Edwards are on the other. Richardson is outside of this debate and under the radar, Kucinich is to the ideological left, and Gravel is on his porch and wants you off his property.

Biden was clearly the defender of Washington convention wisdom, the David Broder candidate, at last night's AFL-CIO debate. He took shots at Obama and Edwards at various points for their lack of experience. This exchange was typical:

Throughout the 90-minute debate, each sought to show superior labor credentials, producing one memorable scrape between Edwards and Biden.

"It is fine to come up on this stage and give a nice talk," said Edwards, who is competing hard for union endorsements. "The question is: Who's been with you in the crunch? In the last two years, 200 times, I have walked picket lines. I have helped organize thousands of workers, with 23 national unions."

Minutes later, Biden issued a withering putdown, saying he has walked with and fought on behalf of labor for more than three decades, often in difficult circumstances. "That's the measure of whether we'll be with you when it's tough," he said. "Not when you're running for president in the last two years, marching on 20 or 30 or 50 picket lines."

Right, it's not tough to stand with labor when the Bush Administration is pushing back against unions at an historic rate. Apparently organizing thousands of workers is the wrong thing to do. Biden's actually demeaning it. Somehow I don't think that's a winning answer. Nor is this ideological blind spot that says that only bipartisan solutions will pass. Seems like we've had a relentlessly unipartisan President accomplish a good bit of what he's wanted over that past 6 years. And it reveals a crucial disconnect between the Biden mindset and that of the country outside of DC.

If there is anything that has been apparent since the Democratic takeover of Congress, it’s that many and probably most of the current Republican members of Congress will NEVER work with Democrats for the good of the country. Since the rise of Newt Gingrich, the majority of Republicans in Congress have demonstrated that they don’t care about the good of the country. Grover Norquist is inadvertently one of the most honest of conservatives, and when he referred to bipartisanship as date rape, he wasn’t revealing just his own personal view, he was describing the mindset of much of the Republican Congressional caucus and it’s allies in think tanks, among campaign hacks and activists, and in a sizeable chunk of its electoral base.

It’s a realization many of us had come to long ago. It’s one of the reasons many of us ended up on progressive blogs, the knowledge that George W Bush, his allies in Congress and the people who push them in to power will use unscrupulous means to attain, maintain and exercise power. They know they have to conceal their unscrupulousness from the public. While the Republican party has veered farther and farther to the right, the American people haven’t really budged. In fact, on individual issues, the American public is more liberal today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and far more liberal than it was when Lyndon Johnson crushed Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election, which provided the mandate to enact our major civil rights legislation and the most major extension of the social welfare state since the New Deal and World War II [...]

Senator Biden, please look around, and realize that the solutions to our nation’s woes, the answers to our challenges, aren’t bipartisan. The involvement of people looking for solutions and to meet our challenges could eventually be bipartisan, but current evidence suggest otherwise. No more than four House Republicans have voted for any of the most meaningful pieces of legislation dealing with Iraq. Only four Republicans have joined the Senate Democrats on Iraq. The Republican Study Group in the House engages in delaying tactics almost every day; to see one reason why the House—which has passed significant legislation—isn’t doing more, look at how many bullshit procedural votes the Republican offered last week. In the Senate, the Republicans continue to use the filibuster and cloture votes to bottle up almost everything the Democrats try to accomplish. The Republicans go along with just about everything Bush and Cheney shove down our nation’s throat.

And it's in this category where Hillary Clinton is lining up. Her starpower and a fond look back at her husband has propelled her far out in front of the field so far. But the true colors are starting to show. She's starting to take hits for having a top aide whose PR firm includes a union-busting shop. The Yearly Kos debate was memorable for her only through her stirring defense of those poor, downtrodden Washington lobbyists. And last night's debate offered more missteps.

I'm watching the AFL-CIO debate, and Clinton has made some more major mistakes that open her up to charges of being an elitist and out-of-touch insider. In the argument over Pakistan, Clinton just said that if you are running for President you "shouldn't say everything you think", and got booed.

Earlier, she had fleshed out her opinion on Iraq. While outlining her plan for the country, most of it was focused on withdrawal, but there was an important caveat.

But if it is a possibility that Al Qaeda would stay in Iraq I think we need to stay focused on trying to keep them on the run as we currently are doing in Anbar province.

Anbar is tactically meaningless, as Al Qaeda has left the region and gone elsewhere in Iraq due to tribal pressure. That Clinton is saying that Anbar province is an example of the success of the surge suggests a serious lapse in judgment. She has learned nothing. I have heard that O'Hanlon is an advisor of hers, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case. She is making the liberal hawk argument for remaining in Iraq, or even, supporting the surge.

Clinton's been trying to blur the lines on all of these fronts, trying to get the Democrats on stage to unite behind her, but it's not likely to work; the rest of these guys want the job too. And the true measure of how she's feeling the heat is the fact that she's doling out the pork, offering temporary bailouts for homeowners facing foreclosure. It has a lot of merit, particularly the predatory lending penalties and eliminating early payment penalties, but that doesn't seem to me to be a long-term solution. It's a short-term fix to engender compassion for her and her campaign. Because there is some faltering going on right now.

I would think that the last thing Clinton wants is for Biden and Dodd to join with her on the experience train. Obama and Edwards run the risk of cancelling each other out if they don't differentiate themselves, but clearly this is a change election. Presidents historically don't have a lot of Washington experience. That's just not what the country likes. And it's because Washington experience breeds a kind of contempt for real people and real solutions, rather than bipartisan "serious" solutions. This moment at the AFL-CIO debate cannot be credibly answered by Washington insiderism.

QUESTION: After 34 years with LTV Steel I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy. I lost a third of my pension and my family lost their health care.

Every day of my life I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can’t afford to pay for her health care. What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?

That is where the country is at right now, and I question whether Hillary Clinton will be able to make the sale that she's the one to change it.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Michael Gordon Strikes Again

Judy-In-Disguise pens another neocon mash note, claiming that Iran is totally killing every American in Iraq, based on... military sources.

Attacks on American-led forces using a lethal type of roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran reached a new high in July, according to the American military.

The devices, known as explosively formed penetrators, were used to carry out 99 attacks last month and accounted for a third of the combat deaths suffered by the American-led forces, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, said in an interview.

I thought nobody was dying in July, wasn't that last week's talking point?

This is absurd. The idea that EFP's can only be made in Iran has already been debunked. They're not really that hard to make. Accepting the military statements (and they're the only ones in the article) from commanders, perpetually looking over their shoulder to wonder if the Bush Administration will fire them, is not good enough. Especially when the military is kind of fucking up all over the place when it comes to weapons:

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

The author of the report from the Government Accountability Office says U.S. military officials do not know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 through early this year as part of an effort to train and equip the troops. The highest previous estimate of unaccounted-for weapons was 14,000, in a report issued last year by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

How in the world can a media figure trust the same government sources that have dissembled again and again and have a clear agenda to continue the war machine? I guess I don't understand because I'm not a member of the liberal media.

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Bob Allen Wins The "Most Offensive Excuse" Award

Florida State Representative Bob Allen, one of John McCain's co-chairs in the Sunshine State, was arrested a couple weeks back for offering an undercover policeman 20 dollars to perform oral sex on him. I wrote about it at the time. The police report is pretty unambiguous.

The officer: "I was standing against the far wall of the stall. Allen closed the door behind him and stood against it. I said "what's up" and Allen said "Hi." Allen then said "this is kind of a public place isn't it." I said "do you have somewhere else where we can go?" Allen said "How about across the bridge it's quite [sic] over there." Allen engaged me in a conversation in which he agreed to pay me $20.00 in order to perform a "blow job" on me."

It took Allen a couple weeks, but he managed to come up with the dumbest excuse in the history of mankind.

State Rep. Bob Allen told police he was just playing along when a undercover officer suggested in a public restroom that the legislator give him oral sex and $20 because he was intimidated, according to a taped statement and other documents released Thursday.

..."This was a pretty stocky black guy, and there was nothing but other black guys around in the park," Allen, who is white, told police in a taped statement after his arrest. Allen said he feared he "was about to be a statistic" and would have said anything just to get away. Allen, who couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, has repeatedly declared his innocence, his intention to fight the charges and his desire to stay in office.

OK, pop quiz time. You're the kind of person who thinks every African-American is about to steal your wallet, and you encounter a "stocky black guy" in a bathroom one day. Do you:

A) walk out of the bathroom calmly but insistently
B) pretend you have a gun and shout "You'll never take me alive!"
C) talk about how much you love hip-hop in order to get on his good side
D) WALK INTO THE BATHROOM STALL with the black guy and offer to give him 20 bucks and a hummer

Now, if your goal is to leave the bathroom unharmed, and you're afraid of scary stocky black men, I think "D" would be fourth on the list of four. But of course, I'm not Bob Allen.

This is essentially the Homer Simpson defense; making a bad situation worse.

Insurance Man: And this "Moe's" - is this some sort of business?
Homer's Brain: Don't say you were at a bar, don't say you were at a bar... But what else is open at midnight?
Homer: It's a pornography store. I was buying pornography.

Incidentally, McCain probably has the least criminal staff out of all of the top tier. Why, none of his advisers have been indicted for selling coke, or impersonated a police officer, or was a Watergate-era spy.

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