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

Saturday, September 01, 2007

CA-41: Lewis, DoJ Drain The Money Swamp

Bruin Kid lets us know that Jerry Lewis will be seeking re-election next year. He's obviously pretty confident that his legal troubles and investigations into his corrupt earmarking will amount to nothing. I'm thinking this is why:

In Los Angeles, a federal criminal investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis, a California Republican, stalled for nearly six months due to a lack of funds, according to former prosecutors. The lead prosecutor on the inquiry and other lawyers departed the office, and vacancies couldn't be filled. George Cardona, the interim U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, declined to comment on specific cases but confirmed that lack of funds and unfilled vacancies caused delays in some investigations [...]

People with knowledge of the case said that by the time the investigation stalled in December 2006, it had branched out into other areas, including Mr. Lewis's June 2003 role in passing legislation that helped giant hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management. People associated with Cerberus around the same time gave at least $140,000 to a political action committee controlled by Mr. Lewis. Cerberus officials didn't respond to phone calls or emailed questions concerning the Lewis inquiry [...]

After the lead prosecutor in the Lewis case quit, others assigned to the case took time getting up to speed. Brian Hershman, a former deputy chief of the Los Angeles office's public corruption section, declined to comment on specific cases, but confirms that his group's work overall was derailed by the departure of experienced prosecutors. Like several others, he says he left for more money to support his family.

Replacements "are mostly rookies," he says. "It will be some time before they'll be able to restore the section to what it was before."

With additional funds recently made available by Congress, the Los Angeles office has filled 12 of 57 lawyer vacancies and is expecting an additional 12 lawyers to start soon. To jump-start the Lewis investigation, Mr. Cardona, the interim U.S. attorney, in June called on a veteran prosecutor, Michael Emmick, to revive and supervise the investigation, people with knowledge of the investigation say.

Day late and a dollar short on that one, I'd gather. This is approaching criminal conduct by the Justice Department. At a time when the investigation was expanding, Debra Wong Yang (the US Attorney for the region) suddenly jumped ship for the law firm representing Lewis. You can bet they never lacked funds; Yang received nearly $1.5 million. The law firm, Gibson Dunn, took the top assistant off the case as well. So the LA office was thrown into disarray precisely when the investigation was heating up, and the money for the office dried up at the same time. Pathetic. With or without Alberto Gonzales, we still have a DoJ protecting its own and politicized beyond control. And this is the time when Democratic leaders are seeking to call off the dogs in the US Attorney case?

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Today's New York Times offers a taste of Robert Draper's forthcoming authorized biography of Bush.

I'll give a quick rundown of the quotes (many months old, but which the Times agreed to embargo until their appearance would help publicize the book's release):

  • What does Bush plan to do after January 2009? “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” [Bush is currently worth $21 million.] Run something called a Freedom Institute. And goof around: “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.” I can envision that too. In fact, he's probably doing that right this minute.
  • What's the purpose of the troop escalation? If you squint, you can see the word 'forever': “To get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence,” and, he said later, “stay longer.” Now that's interesting. In the president's view, the purpose of military action is in providing justification for yet more military action. An endless loop of circular rationales. A Moebius strip.
  • What is Bush on guard about in himself? “Self-pity is the worst thing that can happen to a presidency,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Draper, by way of saying he sought to avoid it. “This is a job where you can have a lot of self-pity.” I love the author's inclusion of that explanatory note between quotes.
  • Does Bush have a shoulder to cry on? “Of course I do, I’ve got God’s shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot.” In what Mr. Draper interpreted as a reference to war casualties, Mr. Bush added, “I’ll bet I’ve shed more tears than you can count as president.” Bush's suck-on-this! braggadocio extends even to his assertion that he's a bigger cryer. Quien es mas macho!

The article does present a grim but fascinating picture of what it took Mr. Draper to obtain access to Bush:

Aides said Mr. Bush agreed to speak so freely with Mr. Draper only after years of lobbying, in which Mr. Draper said he finally convinced Mr. Bush and his aides that he was writing about him as “a consequential president” for history, not for the latest news cycle. And aides said they saw the book as the first effort to write about Mr. Bush in the context of nearly his entire presidency.

The lobbying culminated at a meeting at the White House last August in which Mr. Bush grilled Mr. Draper on why he should cooperate with him of all the authors likely to come knocking. Mr. Draper replied that his book could provide “the raw material” for others after him, a point Mr. Bush apparently came to embrace.

I can't imagine the degree of self-abasement required to secure this president's participation in Bush's 24/7 hagiography enterprise.

What is the title of the book, you ask?

Dead Certain.

Insert your own joke here.



Forbidden Planet

While I do love the moniker Badly Programmed Robot for Mitt Romney, it is rather cumbersome.

I think there's a better version.

Perhaps Mitt Robby the Robot?

Quiet please. I am analyzing.



Quick Hits

Just a few short bits to catch up on this scorcher of a day:

  • Bush met Friday with military leaders, who pressed urgent concerns about strains on the military due to long deployments in Iraq. Nut graf: "Indications are that Bush intends to stick with his current approach, at least into 2008, despite persistent pressure from the Democrat-led Congress - including some prominent Republicans - to find a new course."
  • Mitt Romney (thinks he) is More Important Than You Are: Romney's rather pliable view of law enforcement is in the news again. Romney received a police escort between campaign stops in South Carolina - complete with flashing lights and traveling 10 to 15 mph over the posted limit - by Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth, who also happens to be a Romney supporter. Choice Booth quote: "We wanted to make sure he stays safe and gets to where he's going," Booth told The Associated Press.
  • Fred Thompson will make an appearance at this Wednesday's Republican debate in New Hampshire. After the New Hampshire Union Leader warned that if he didn't show up, people might conclude he wasn't prepared, Thompson - wait a minute. He won't be onstage at the debate. He just bought time for an ad that will run immediately pre-debate. Hmm. Is it really the best strategy to remind people that you're not there?
  • Apparently Rudy! cannot be prevented from attending the 9/11 commemoration - but some hope he's not permitted to speak. Spokesman Tony Carbonetti reponds: "If you know Rudy Giuliani, he'd be down there paying his respects whether he was invited or not," Carbonetti said in a statement. "To say he's politicizing it -- he never would do anything like that." Of course not.
  • Taking a cue from television networks' annual upfronts, David Petraeus has booked Radio City Music Hall to unveil his report about the troop 'Surge.' No word yet on Jay Leno's availability as master of ceremonies.

Okay, I made up that last one.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

American Taliban

A state senator in Montana lets his slip show, along with the slip of his party:

As a Republican state senator in Montana and as a human being, I am offended by Senator Craig's existence. Why oh why are most of the perverts that get caught Republicans? Are there more of them or are they just stupid? The thought of a US Senator chasing love in all the wrong places makes me think longingly of the Ayotollahs in Iran. They would just kill the turkey.

Those happy days where men are murdered for their sexual orientation. Ah, those halcyon days...

Just looking at the left-right chart, it is clear that the conservatives are moving to the same kind of authoritarianism that we have in fundamentalist theocracies around the world. Far from being libertarian, they want to be in everyone's bedroom, legislating morality and physically harming those who aren't as morally pure as they are. This is the real face of the Republican Party in the 21st century. And if the GOP wants to survive, they need to purge their party of this strain of fundamentalism and theocratic impulses, or they will never be anything but a minority party as the long arm of history bends toward justice and liberalism. I thank this state senator for peeling back the curtain.

UPDATE: Well, the American Taliban has succeeded in pushing WideStance Craig out of their party. Not to defend Craig, whose inability to understand the law disqualifies him to be a lawmaker IMO. But clearly there is a major, major problem in the Republican Party with their demand for absolute fealty with a fundamentalist agenda.

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VA-SEN: Warner Announces His Retirement

As has long been rumored, John Warner (R-VA) will step down from the Senate in January 2009.

Among those jockeying for position: on the Democratic side, the popular former Governor and erstwhile Presidential candidate Mark Warner. The Republican field, on the other hand, is in a bit of disarray. Election Central has the skinny.

And stay tuned for a possible announcement from Larry Craig that he'll resign his Senate post.

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O'Hanlon Strikes Again

Somebody pass Glenn Greenwald the smelling salts.

Michael O'Hanlon appeared today on CNN to discuss the pre-emptively leaked GAO report. You'll recall this report was hustled center stage in order to broadcast its findings before the Bush Administration and Pentagon could get their grubby little fingers on them and deftly spatula the turd into a miniature Statue of Liberty.

But such a pessimistic view simply cannot be right, per O'Hanlon. He would know - after 7 1/2 days of Petraeus's personal guided tour of the Green Zone, military-approved data and hand-picked "interviews". After all, he spent as much as 4 hours in some of the cities he described.

O'Hanlon worries that the Government Accountability Office is pushing iffy data upon a gullible public, and tsk-tsks thus:

Gen. Petraeus just gave an interview, I think yesterday, to an Australian paper, in which he said that there could be a 75 percent reduction in sectarian killing since the winter time. Now let’s allow for the possibility that Petraeus’ data isn’t quite right.

Let’s allow for the possibility that in other parts of Iraq, things could be a little worse perhaps. Still, a 75 percent reduction is very striking. GAO by contrast is apparently saying, “no documented change whatsoever in the secuity environment.”

I just don’t understand how that could be their conclusion. And I will look forward to their report. I hope it’s a flaw in the draft that will be improved in the final result.

Not to worry, Mr. O'Hanlon. The Pentagon's right on that. Next time we hear of the report, it will be standing before cameras, holding up a copy of today's newspaper, and assuring us it's being treated well.

Here is O'Hanlon, gamely pretending his very tiny fig leaf protects his dignity in an interview with Glenn Greenwald:

GG: The first line of your Op-Ed said:"viewed from Iraq where we just spent the last eight days interviewing American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel..."

How did you arrange the meetings with the Iraqi military and civilian personnel?

MO: Well, a number of those -- and most of those were arranged by the U.S. military. So I'll be transparent about that as well. These were to some extent contacts of Ken and Tony, but that was a lesser number of people. The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed.


MO: If the suggestion is that in a 1,400 word Op-Ed, we ought to have mentioned that, I can understand that criticism, and if we should have included that, I apologize for not having done so. But I want to stress that the focus here was on the perspective of the U.S. military, and I did a lot of probing of what I was told, and remain confident in the conclusions that we reached about the military successes which we highlighted. But if you're suggesting that some of our impressions might have been shaped by the military's selection of Iraqis, and that we might have disclosed that, that is, I think, fair enough.

Atrios didn't have to sift through too many candidates for today's Wanker of the Day.

For more of this gruesome performance, you can see the video at Think Progress.

UPDATE: The State Department agrees with the essentials of GAO's findings.

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Snow's Greatest Hits

Responding to the announcement of Snowjob's departure, Salon's Tim Grieve takes us on a stroll down memory lane. Herewith, a sample of Snow's bons mots:

June 15, 2006: Asked if the White House has any comment on the 2,500th U.S. fatality in Iraq, Snow says: "It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something."

Sept. 9, 2006: Six days after the president says, "We will stay the course" in Iraq, Snow says, "The idea that somehow we're staying the course is just wrong. It is absolutely wrong."

Feb. 15, 2007: Snow on what went wrong in prewar planning for Iraq: "I'm not sure anything went wrong."

March 1, 2007: Snow responds to reports that two U.S. combat brigades will "surge" into Iraq without undergoing the usual counterinsurgency training in California's Mojave Desert first: "Well, but they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq."

March 19, 2007: Snow tells reporters that the Democrats' plan for Iraq represents a "recipe for defeat." When CNN's Ed Henry asks Snow to describe the White House's "recipe for success," Snow asks Henry what his "recipe for success is." When Henry says that winning the war in Iraq isn't exactly in his job description, Snow tells him to "Zip it."

June 14, 2007: Asked if any member of the Bush family is serving in the war on terrorism, Snow responds: "Yes, the president. The president is in the war every day." Reporter: "On the front lines, wherever?" Snow: "The president."

Someday, when Iraq is a really distant memory, this will all be funny.

Unless we're in a war with Iran then.

Or Syria.


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Snowed Out

Tony Snow made it official, he'll be stepping down in two weeks. I can't believe that the traditional media is going with this story that it's for financial reasons. The guy made millions for a decade on Fox News, and as a former White House press secretary he can ride the wingnut welfare train for tens of thousands of dollars per speaking appearance.

No, the real reason is clearly the grind of the job for someone undergoing chemotherapy. He didn't look that well today, and I don't understand why that's hard to say. He's battling cancer and he needs to pay attention to that. No need for a cover story.

I wish him well in his battle against the disease. It's fitting that this week saw the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Cancer Forum. Tony Snow could do something very positive by coming forward and giving more attention to something that affects practically every American, either personally or through a friend or family member.

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SCHIP: Health, Shmealth

A brief Cook's Tour of Bush and the Children's Health Insurance Program, the federal program that provides health insurance for lower-income children:

That was Bush in 2004 - during an election year.

Now, it's a different story.

In July, Bush announced he would veto any effort to expand CHIP - not because it doesn't work, but because it works too well:
President Bush yesterday rejected entreaties by his Republican allies that he compromise with Democrats on legislation to renew a popular program that provides health coverage to poor children, saying that expanding the program would enlarge the role of the federal government at the expense of private insurance.

The president said he objects on philosophical grounds to a bipartisan Senate proposal to boost the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years. Bush has proposed $5 billion in increased funding and has threatened to veto the Senate compromise and a more costly expansion being contemplated in the House.

"I support the initial intent of the program," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post after a factory tour and a discussion on health care with small-business owners in Landover. "My concern is that when you expand eligibility . . . you're really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government."

Ah yes: our president wishes to ratchet up Americans' suffering on philosophical grounds. Who's looking out for those poor beleaguered HMOs? Bush, that's who! Someday we'll see the wisdom of this and thank him for it.

After Bush's statement, outrage from predictable corners. For one, Bob Herbert, who quotes New Jersey Governor John Corzine and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in a righteous froth over Bush's interference in their efforts to govern. The federal government seeks to impose a cap on what states set as an income ceiling for those eligible.

“The reality,” said Governor Spitzer, “is that there is an enormous proportion of American society above the poverty level but in the lower middle class that simply can’t afford health coverage.”

Wherever there are large numbers of families without coverage, you will find children who are suffering needlessly and, in extreme cases, dying. They don’t get the preventive care or the attention to chronic illness that they should.

“That has not only an immediate effect on their development,” said Mr. Spitzer, “but a long-term cost to society that is incalculable.”

Now Spitzer plans to sue the federal government to reverse its attempts at preventing New York from setting its own income ceiling.

All well and good - particularly fighting the Bush Administration on such a wildly unpopular, autocratic rule. But I stopped at this section at the bottom of the press release and sighed:
With the expansion, virtually all children in New York State would have access to affordable health insurance through a combination of Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and private commercial insurance. The initiative is a key piece of the Governor’s health reform agenda and is the first step in the Governor’s “Partnership for Coverage” initiative to expand access to health insurance for all New Yorkers through an incremental, building block approach.

One day we'll look back on this "incremental, building block approach" and wonder just how we allowed ourselves to be snookered into such a nonsensical arrangement.

Never have so many paid so few so much for so little.

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The AP reports that the Pentagon is blue-penciling the GAO findings.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said that after reviewing a draft of the Government Accountability Office report _ which has not yet been made public _ policy officials "made some factual corrections" and "offered some suggestions on a few of the actual grades" assigned by the GAO.

The Associated Press has learned that the GAO report will conclude that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks set to judge the Iraqi government's performance in the political and security arenas haven't been met.

What a surprise.

And what a strange, through-the-looking-glass world we've been press-ganged into courtesy of these Bushian yahoos: does anyone have any doubt that Bushco will present anything but the rosiest of scenarios?

There was a bit of drama surrounding the Iraq Study Group. But then Bush unceremoniously crumpled it up and threw it over his shoulder. Shouldn't the very notion of suspense have died that day? Is there a person anywhere over the age of five that believes there is even the minutest question about what Petraeus will say when Dick Cheney tugs at the strings attached to his wooden jaw?

So why are we all playing along with this ridiculous charade of waiting as though any minute now Santa Claus will descend from the chimney? There's a lot of industrious pre-debunking - a fine endeavor for the GAO. But for the rest of us plebes, a fusillade of ridicule was and is required.

Anyway. What's even funnier is the Bush Administration's whining that the standards imposed by the Democratic Congress - that metrics be employed! reports made! - make it all just too damn hard.
"A bar was set so high, that it was almost not to be able to be met," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

It's hard work!

In another dispatch from Planet Reality, the Boston Globe reports that all this "Surge" business will necessarily be short-lived anyway:
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon cannot sustain its current force levels in Iraq beyond next summer, effectively giving the Bush administration and the Iraqi government until the middle of 2008 to capitalize on recent security improvements before the US military must draw down its forces, according to US military officials and foreign policy analysts.

When the 15-month combat tours end for the nearly 30,000 additional US troops President Bush sent to Iraq earlier this year to secure the country, the Army will be unable to replace them without damaging morale or troop readiness, senior Army officials say. Those forces will complete their tours during the spring and summer of 2008, according to Army deployment schedules.

All well and good. I won't hold my breath for BushCo to agree to limit their plans to what is possible. Parameters are for suckers!

After all, this Administration took this country to war:
  • without the extra two hundred thousand troops we needed, and
  • without enough body armor and vehicles, and
  • without securing legitimate buy-in by Americans, and
  • without a plan for post-invasion Iraq, and
  • without maintaining maintaining enlistment standards, and
  • without honoring agreements with soldiers that their time of service might ever come to an end.

And all this because to attend to all of the above (save the lack of Phase IV planning) would mean we couldn't go to war with Iraq.

Can't begin a war because we aren't prepared? Too bad - do it anyway. I'm sure everything will work out just fine.

So while I'd love to believe that breaking our military is high on the list of concerns for Bush and Cheney, reality says otherwise.

However, I do apprecaite this:
Army Secretary Peter Geren, the service's top official, recently said he sees "no possibility" of extending the duty tours of US troops beyond 15 months.

Nice to see brass going on the record with a little pushback.

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Fred Fever

Ladies and Gentlemen: the rhetorical stylings of Fred Dalton Thompson.

I believe Frederick of Hollywood is saying something about the climate crisis in this WSJ quote:
“Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. … NASA says the Martian South Pole’s ‘ice cap’ has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto. This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, nonsignatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their airconditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.”

Cheeky monkey! I'm not sure I follow. But I do look forward to more insouciant quips.

BTW, you know those faux pen-and-ink "drawings" the Wall Street Journal uses instead of photographs?

Here's what they use as Thompson's portrait:

Fred Thompson as 'The Mummy'

If I were his campaign manager, I'd be calling Paul Gigot yesterday.

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Hard Call

John McCain grants an interview to The New Yorker's Ben McGrath, and the results are exceeding strange.

They meet in the Park Avenue office the publisher of his recent book Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them. (Hmm. Hard Call. Shouldn't it be Tough Calls? Not only is that the more common phrase, but McCain's version suggests rough trade rather than, say, Gertrude Ederle's decision to swim the English Channel.)

McCain muses about how he'd rule on some of today's harder calls: obvious contemporary issue came to mind. “Is Iraq a hard call?” he said. “I think it’s not that hard, because I have had no doubt. It hasn’t been a struggle within me.”

He identified Pervez Musharraf (“My distinct impression of him is he’s basically a humble, modest man who lives a fairly Spartan life”) and Nicolas Sarkozy (whose name he pronounced “Secorsi”) as leaders who could, in time, merit inclusion in a sequel. President Bush’s commuting of Scooter Libby’s sentence, he said, amounted to dodging a tough decision: “I’m very reluctant to second-guess, but I have to say I would have pardoned him or not pardoned him.” Bud Selig’s treatment of Barry Bonds was much the same. “I would have done one of two things: not go or stand up and applaud,” he said. McCain is still an either /or kind of guy.

What? Seriously, what is McCain saying here? He's no lily-livered waffler: he'd definitely do A! Or maybe B! But he draws the line right there, decisive deciderer that he is. (Unlike weaselly Bush, who chiseled out some b.s. third option.)

Good to know where he stands.

: Man do we not need another Pollyanna judge of character. Musharraf - who gained power via military coup - is a "humble, modest man"?

What does that remind me of?

... when U.S. President George W. Bush first met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sovenia, it seemed he'd found a kindred spirit when it came to democratic values.

"I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country," Bush declared after their 2001 visit.

Criminy. Good thing McCain will get nowhere near the presidency.



Gypsy Rose Thompson

Fred Thompson announces his intention to announce:
Dear Friends,

On September 6, 2007, Fred Thompson will be announcing his intention to run for President of the United States with a webcast available to millions at The launch of the video will be followed by a five-day campaign tour through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. On the evening of the 6th, there will also be a National House Party, during which there will be a conference call with Fred.


By announcing via webcast, Fred is able to take his consistently mainstream conservative message directly to the voters, who are already responding to that message with a strong upwelling of grassroots support. The webcast and the following campaign tour will play to Fred’s strengths, a consistent record of conservatism, his ability to clearly spread his message, and his ability to work with and connect with Americans from all walks of life. Be apart of this historic occasion by signing up to host or attend a house party today.


Bill Lacy
Manager, Friends of Fred Thompson, Inc.

Yes: be apart. (Can't resist the snark.)

I see Thompson is taking Newt's advice to announce via webcast. Although I fear his strategy, such as it may be, is overly reliant on magical ponies appearing to alter the space-time continuum, making possible for Thompson to simultaneously campaign in four states at the same time.

A bit too little, too late. Not only because Thompson simply doesn't have enough time to set up a ground operation in the states he selects to compete in. (I don't think his golf cart goes that fast.) And not only because his staff resembles a game of musical chairs.

Why too late, then? Some Republicans are starting to get the idea that this not-ready-for-primetime candidate is playing hide the salami.

From today's New Hampshire Union Leader editorial:
FRED THOMPSON has flirted from afar with Republican voters for long enough. It's time for him to accept a date. And there is no better first date than the New Hampshire Republican Party's presidential debate on Sept. 5.


If Thompson waits until after the debate to make his announcement, it will appear to some as if he timed the announcement just to avoid the New Hampshire debate. That would give his foes the chance to say he is either not serious about running for the nomination or is too unprepared to be considered a credible candidate.

Bad news when people think you're playing hide the salami because perhaps... there is no salami.

This endless tease has worked out pretty well so far, one must admit. But once Fred's officially accountable as a candidate, he'll have a higher standard to live up to. And greater visibility.

According to the latest ARG poll of likely Republican voters, Thompson's doing pretty well for a candidate who isn't really a candidate:

Republicans IA NH SC

Brownback - 1% 2%
Giuliani 17% 23% 26%
Gingrich 7% 4% 6%
Huckabee 14% 9% 9%
Hunter 1% - -
McCain 5% 12% 12%
Paul 1% 3% 2%
Romney 27% 27% 9%
Tancredo - - 1%
F Thompson 13% 8% 21%
Undecided 15% 13% 12%

Wonder if those are the highest those numbers will be for a while.

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Just a few thoughts as we head into the final stretch of Larry Craig Week.

Despite the me-too (and, in the case of Badly Programmed Robot, sort of sickening) pile-on of Republican condemnation, Larry Craig has dug in his heels and appears loath to go gently into that good night.

This effort will have legal ramifications, of course: today's LA Times has a story today highlighting Craig's potential legal jeopardy for trying to reverse a guilty plea.

Under what circumstances may defendants who plead guilty ask that the court reconsider a plea? It's likely a judge will agree in cases of "manifest unjustice" - such as a defendant who pleads guilty when under the influence or otherwise not of sound judgment; under duress or coercion; or who doesn't understand English.

But despite such strictures, the LAT article argues, judges can often be quite flexible in agreeing to considering voiding such pleas:
"If I was the judge, I would be more than happy to allow him to come back and explain himself," said Eric Newmark, a Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer who practices in the Hennepin County District Court where Craig was convicted. "It is a pretty serious thing to go into court, swear to tell the truth, say what you did, and then [later] tell the media that you didn't do it."

Yes, please do return to the courthouse so that we might have a friendly chat. No, really: we're all ears. And when we can't stand another moment of listening to your feeble tales, we'll throw the book at you.
The downside of doing that would be the reinstatement of a more serious charge against him that was dropped as part of the plea agreement. And that charge -- invasion of privacy linked to his allegedly peeking through a bathroom stall door -- is punishable by up to a year in jail. He would also run the risk of a trial where more embarrassing facts could come out, lawyers said.

I'd say that's a downside.

The cringe-inducing audio recording of Craig's interrogation should give his lawyers pause. All this closet drama! Craig's tone is whingeing and pleading one moment, prissily self-righteous the next. So sad to see a grown man who acts like a slave.
"A lot of these men . . . are horribly embarrassed," [Minnesota law professor Steven M.] Simon said. "That explains the dynamics of him not going to a lawyer."

This isn't all internalized self-loathing, of course. It's projected outward as well:
* Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006)
* Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2002)
* Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000)
* Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
* Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996)

Craig has a 0% rating in HRC’s 2006 Congressional Scorecard.

And Garance Franke-Ruta has an excellent reminder of the context in which such business occurs (h/t LGM):
But, again, I can find nothing in Minnesota state law that makes asking someone to hook up with you a crime, rather than a civil tort (as in sexual harassment law) regardless of the circumstances.

Why, then, do police continue to act as though it is? Because of the long and only-recently ended practice of firm legal discrimination against gay people. Until 2001, consensual sodomy was a crime in Minnesota, meaning that it was only six years ago that gay people in that state stopped being treated by the letter of the law as, quite literally, outlaws and criminals.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, the state Sen. Larry Craig has represented in Congress since 1981, consensual sodomy was a felony punishable as a “crime against nature” by five years to life in prison until 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that a similar statute in Texas was unconstitutional, thus striking down the state’s law. From 1996 until then, the state sex offender registry was written so as to add those convincted of even consensual sodomy to the sex offender rolls for life.

As D-day points out, those who have suffered through the last two years in New Orleans simply live in another country.

And in a (hopefully not too inapt) parallel, those who are gay suffer a raft of indignities and legal jeopardy simply unknown to those who are not. Instituted, in small part, by the Larry Craigs of the world. For, in small part, the Larry Craigs of the world.



Thursday, August 30, 2007

CA-04: Doolittle Gets Jilted By His Prom Date

Babaloo noted on Calitics that Assemblyman Ted Gaines has put together an exploratory committee to run in the June Congressional primary against John Doolittle. Gaines becomes the third Republican to announce for the primary, joining talk-radio host Eric Egland and Auburn City councilman Mike Holmes. This is great news for Charlie Brown; even if anti-Doolittle sentiment among Republicans is 70%, in a four-person race the anti-Doolittle vote will be fractured enough that the incumbent would be likely to prevail. And Doolittle would be clobbered in a rematch with Charlie, IMO.

But for Doolittle, this one's gotta hurt. After all, it wasn't so long ago that he and Gaines attended the Enchantment-Under-The-Sea dance, swooning to "Always & Forever" and "Endless Love" until the sun came up the next morning. Here's a pic:

Ain't they the cutest? And now, blind ambition has ripped them asunder. It's sad, really.

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Report: Term Limits Initiative Fails To Gather Enough Signatures, Will Miss February Ballot

The Flash Report had a Drudge-like breaking news item up last night that the term limits initiative scheduled for the February ballot was going to miss the number of required signatures needed to qualify. We've been calling around, and apparently this is pretty accurate. It's totally unconfirmed, and the Secretary of State can go to a hand count to see if they reached the requisite number. But right now, it's not looking good; a LOT of the signatures have been invalidated.

I'm honestly astonished. I thought you could accidentally gather enough signatures to get something on the ballot in California. I'm not sure where the ball was dropped here.

They can try again to make this term limits shift for the June ballot. But if they can't qualify for February, many current incumbents whose length of service would stretch due to the provisions of the initiative would end up termed out. This includes Speaker Nuñez and President Pro Tem Perata. I'd like to get a full list of the implications of this, but that won't happen right now. (ortcutt?)

This will make it easier for challengers to decide to run, so we'll see the June primary process take shape quickly if this works out this way. Quite a turn of events.

(The other question is, what happens to all the money horded for this initiative? I know a certain dirty trick that needs fighting...)

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WideStance Pretty Much Done

Jon Ensign's call for Larry Craig's resignation is most important, because he's the head of the NRSC, the campaign committee for Republicans. He's essentially signaling that Craig will get no support in 2008. That's pretty much a death knell.

Light posting the rest of the week, as I'm off to beautiful Palm Desert for a few days. Should be 118 in the shade. Yay!

Vernon Lee will be holding down the fort.

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BREAKING: David Ignatius Is A Fool!

David Ignatius laments the fact that Iyad Allawi didn't get illegal support from the CIA that would have rigged the 2005 Iraqi Parliamentary election in his favor. Seriously. Also lost in this is the fact that Allawi's secular list has absolutely no base of support outside of so-called "centrist" political pundits in Washington. More here.

That Ignatius feels it makes sense to keep writing about this without any mention of the big lobbying campaign under way on Allawi's behalf at the moment is pretty stunning. Of course, when Nouri al-Maliki first came to power, Ignatius hailed this as brilliant progress. That's because Ignatius seemed, during Zalmay Khalilzad's time in Baghdad, to just write whichever columns Khalilzad wanted. During an earlier period, when Robert Blackwill was running the Iraq desk at the NSC, what we mostly heard from Ignatius was about the transcendent genius of Robert Blackwill.

Today Blackwill is one of Allawi's lobbyists.

It's amazing, the level to which our elite pundits are bought and sold.

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Watch Your Back Around Mitt

There's obviously a lot to talk about in the aftermath of "WideStance" Sen. Larry Craig's indiscretions, and certainly the Republican Party is throwing him overboard as fast as they can (probably because they know Idaho's governor is a Republican and they can keep the seat if Craig is dumped). But it's a bit shocking how quickly and mechanically Mitt Romney knifed the guy who was his former Senate co-liaison (no double entendre intended). We know that his campaign tried to scrub any mention of Craig within hours of the initial revelation. And we know that Romney was the first Republican candidate to trash Craig publicly. Add all of this up and it's an unsavory picture, as John Dickerson notes for Slate.

After hearing about Larry Craig's arrest, Mitt Romney ran from his former Idaho campaign chairman as if he'd been in the next stall. "Once again, we've found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence," the former Massachusetts governor told Larry Kudlow on Tuesday. "He's no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine." When asked similar questions after the news broke, most of Craig's Senate colleagues demurred, saying they wanted to see all the facts before commenting. They might have been acting out of loyalty or might have wanted to avoid the topic of bathroom sex altogether. But Romney showed no such reticence, linking Craig—who denies he did anything improper—to Bill Clinton and Mark Foley, and the larger culture of corruption in Washington [...]

Candidates treat endorsers-gone-bad the way Soviet leaders handled purged rivals: erase them from photos and never speak of them again. John McCain did this when the Florida co-chairman of his campaign was also arrested for soliciting sex in a bathroom (if Democrats do this, too, they're better at hiding it). So did Rudy Giuliani when his South Carolina chairman was indicted for selling coke. Romney's spokesman said they yanked the video because they didn't want Craig's troubles to become a "distraction." But when Romney later sermonized against Craig to make a sweeping judgment about Washington, he was hardly avoiding the subject.

Dickerson links this to a similar incident in 1964, when an aide to LBJ was arrested on a "morals charge" in a bathroom, and Barry Goldwater insisted that they not use the information. Not that the GOP has been the part of Goldwater for a long time, but the speed with which Romney dropped Craig like a rock shows you how much they've changed. Hemmed in by an over-moralizing base, these candidates must simply be ruthless. Whether or not they figure out that their associates are hypocrites BEFOREHAND is apparently immaterial.

We've spent nearly two terms watching a President who values loyalty above almost everything else. Obviously Mitt Romney doesn't share that trait. Of course we knew that; he's not even particularly loyal to his own beliefs.

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Lots In The Air On CA Health Care

Seems like a great deal of things are happening on the health care front, but I don't think any of them point to significant reform in this legislative session. In fact, people are trying to scramble for alternatives.

Dan Weintraub has a feature on Fabian Nuñez' attempts to get through to the Governor that the other side of the aisle is simply not interested in compromise. As Julia noted the other day, Nuñez will put the Governor's plan up for a vote tomorrow, and nobody will vote for it.

The speaker says he intends to package the governor's plan as legislation and present it to the Assembly, where it will surely die. In fact, Núñez said, his own vote for the bill, which he will cast as a "courtesy," will likely be the only support the governor's plan receives.

"I'm going to take him from the stratosphere, and I am going to ground him," Núñez told me in an interview in his Capitol office. "He needs a little grounding. Nobody likes his plan."

I don't know how the Governor is going to respond to this, but clearly observers aren't thinking it will end in sweetness and light. They're making other plans.

State Sen. Darrell Steinberg is floating a plan to cover all children as a fallback reform should nothing else materialize.

"We ought to achieve comprehensive health care reform, but our first priority must be children," Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Wednesday at a Capitol news conference to tout children's health care.

Steinberg's Senate Bill 32 and a companion bill, Assembly Bill 1 by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, would expand the children's Healthy Families Program by increasing the household income limit from $51,625 for a family of four, or 250 percent of the federal poverty level, to $61,950, or 300 percent.

But there's currently no funding in the legislation, which would require the state to spend $225 million more annually to cover the estimated 800,000 children without insurance in California.

Any legislation would have to be approved before the Legislature adjourns Sept. 14, unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger calls a special session.

"If our bills become the vehicle (for health care changes), they will be amended to include a funding source to either fund the full amount or at least a significant start for year one," Steinberg said.

Obviously, there's no chance of this happening without S-CHIP expansion, which the Governor is trying to get the President to authorize. Children's healthcare is cheap and saves the state money in the long run, along with being simply the right thing to do. But it's a small step, not the big change that Californians want. The Governor is opposed to a piecemeal approach, for the record, but could he really veto children's health care?

To that end, a couple unlikely partners are looking to the ballot box for an eventual answer.

In 2004, the California Restaurant Association led the successful effort to repeal SB 2, which would have required employers to provide health insurance to their employees. On the other side of that multimillion-dollar battle was the California Medical Association and organized labor.

Labor and the CMA are both heavily engaged in the ongoing Capitol negotiations, while business groups have rejected both the Democrats' and the governor's proposal as untenable. But the restaurants' proposal may serve as a starting point for negotiations for a possible November 2008 ballot initiative, just in case a deal cannot be hammered out this year.

"We are not ready to give up on current legislative proposals, but are interested in hearing what CRA has to say," said CMA's top lobbyist, Dustin Corcoran. "As a longtime proponent of universal health care, CMA welcomes any serious effort to reform health care and looks forward to further discussions."

But Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association, said his members are "moving forward as if the Legislature has already concluded its business." Condie said, "It appears the Legislature is incapable of producing needed reform, so we decided to look to the initiative process."

I don't know whether this is serious or just an attempt to put pressure on the Legislature to get something done. The CRA is floating an 1% increase in the sales tax to cover the cost of health care, that's really all the details that have come out.

This might be just chaos before everything actually fits into place and a deal is brokered. I'm not seeing that, however.

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New Product

Here's your daily dose of armageddon. Barnett Rubin is a pretty credible source, and he pieces together a few threads along with his own dire warning and sums up that we're about to declare war on yet another country. He looks at the similarities between the war-fever days of 2002 and now. Then, a September 11 speech made the case for war. This year, a September 11 report will almost certainly blame Iran for Iraq's troubles, at least in part. Then, a late-August speech by Dick Cheney raised the spectre of nuclear weapons. This year, a late-August speech by George Bush raised the spectre of nuclear holocaust, only from Iran. Then there's this, which may make you puke, so get the barf bags ready.

But this apparently is just test marketing, like Cheney's 2002 speech. After all "from a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Today I received a message from a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient. According to this report, as in 2002, the rollout will start after Labor Day, with a big kickoff on September 11. My friend had spoken to someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions. He summarized what he was told this way:

They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."

Hey, when's September 11, again? Oh yeah, the week after Labor Day.

Another piece of this is the fact that Bob Gates knew nothing about the extra $50 billion dollars being requested for Iraq. You would think the Secretary of Defense would have some input into the money needed for war. Maybe that money isn't needed for Iraq; maybe it's earmarked for Iran.

I don't think there's anything more dangerous going on right now than this. The Democrats have been completely inattentive to the prospect of attacking Iran, and yet Fourthbranch and his minions have plowed ahead with their plans. I hope somebody in Washington is paying attention to this.

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Way To Alienate The Fastest-Growing Demographic In America

Continuing their brilliant "I hate brown people" pitch to America, the Right's Field has forced the cancellation of a Spanish-language debate:

Due to lack of interest, cable television station Univisión has canceled its September 16 Republican debate in Spanish, the Miami Herald reports. Only Sen. John McCain agreed to participate in the event at the University of Miami.

The cancellation adds to the growing distance between the Latino community and most of the Republican field, who "also ignored invitations to attend Hispanic-oriented conferences in Florida organized by the National Association of Latin Elected Officials and the National Council of La Raza."

It's OK, Florida isn't an important swing state or anything.

The GOP is being led by its nativist base right off a cliff. It is undeniable that Hispanic turnout at the polls will only continue to increase, and simply ignoring their issues because a certain strain of their supporters is consumed by hatred makes no sense. This is the kind of thing politicial parties do that ends up destroying them for a generation.

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The Truth About Iraq Slowly Seeps Out

The Washington Post has more on that leaked GAO report showing that "progress" in Iraq is a relative term.

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration [...]

The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. "While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments "would be more useful" if they backed up their judgments with more details and "provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies."

My, but this is sure different than the line the Administration and its defenders have been peddling. I wonder what they're excuse is going to be... aah, I see, they didn't know they were taking the benchmarks pass/fail.

Johndroe emphasized that "while we've all seen progress in some areas, especially on the security front, it's not surprising the GAO would make this assessment, given the difficult congressionally mandated measurement they had to follow." [...]

The May legislation imposed a stricter standard on the GAO, requiring an up-or-down judgment on whether each benchmark has been met. On that basis, the GAO draft says that three of the benchmarks have been met while 13 have not. Despite its strict mandate, the GAO draft concludes that two benchmarks -- the formation of governmental regions and the allocation and expenditure of $10 billion for reconstruction -- have been "partially met." Little of the allocated money, it says, has been spent.

In other words, what you'll hear from the spinmeisters all day is that progress is being made, but the benchmarks haven't been fully achieved yet so even if they're 90% done it doesn't matter. This, it will be argued, means that we need more time, another Friedman Unit, because we're just so very close to fulfilling the goal. That, by the way, is nonsense. Only the headline gives the number of benchmarks met; within the body of the report are all the gory details. The "all-or-nothing" defense is crap. In fact, at the time the President thought it was a grat idea. He was measurable standards for students in our nation's schools but not for Iraq. It's the soft bigotry of low expectations all over again.

Get this, the report came out today because the guy knew it would get submarined by partisans:

The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version -- as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

They've apparently already started doing that:

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said that after reviewing a draft of the Government Accountability Office report — which has not yet been made public — policy officials “made some factual corrections” and “offered some suggestions on a few of the actual grades” assigned by the GAO. … “We have provided the GAO with information which we believe will lead them to conclude that a few of the benchmark grades should be upgraded from ‘not met’ to ‘met,’” Morrell said.

Meanwhile, the commanders, the ones that President Bush always listens to, are cashing out of this nightmare.

In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won't make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month's strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations [...]

Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat.

"The professional military guys are going to the non-professional military guys and saying 'Resolve this,'" said Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "That's what it sounds like."

White said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president's decision, not what commanders agreed on.

They're probably sick and tired of being set up as the fall guys, with the President always saying that everything is their decision. They're not idiots, they can see what's coming.

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Voices Of New Orleans

Should have gotten this up yesterday, but I wanted to highlight some thoughts about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from some follks who actually live there and are seeing the reconstruction efforts every day. I'm not saying that nobody else has standing to discuss what the Bush Administration and Congress are or are not doing, but clearly it's a unique perspective.

Here's New Orleans City Councilmember Shelley Midura:

Indeed, you have allocated $116 billion for the Gulf Coast, but that number is misleading. According to the Brookings Institute's most recent Katrina Index report, at least $75 billion of it was for immediate post-storm relief. Thus only 35% of the total federal dollars allocated is for actual recovery and reconstruction. And of that recovery and reconstruction allocation, only 42% has actually been spent. In fact, while your administration touts "$116 billion" as the amount you have sent to the entire area affected by Katrina and the levee failures, the actual long term recovery dollar amount is only $14.6 billion. This amount is a mere 12% of the entire federal allocation of dollars, billions of which went to corporations such as Halliburton for immediate post-storm cleanup work, instead of to local businesses. Contrast that to the $20.9 billion on infrastructure for Iraq that the Wall Street Journal reported in May 2006 that you have spent, and it’s an astonishing 42% more than you have spent on infrastructure for the post-Katrina Gulf region. The American citizens of the Gulf region do not understand why the federal obligation to rebuilding Iraq is greater than it is for America's Gulf coast, and more specifically for New Orleans.

We have more challenges and fewer resources than we've ever had in my lifetime in the City of New Orleans. Yet, other than FEMA repair reimbursements, the only direct federal assistance this city has received from you has been two community disaster loans that you are demanding be paid back even though no other city government has had to pay back these types of loans for as long as our research can determine (at least since the 70’s). These loans are being used to balance the city budget to provide basic services to citizens who need far more than the pre-Katrina basics.

Midura also wrote a version of this at Daily Kos.

Here's noted author and scholar Douglas Brinkley:

Two full years after the hurricane, the Big Easy is barely limping along, unable to make truly meaningful reconstruction progress. The most important issues concerning the city's long-term survival are still up in the air. Why is no Herculean clean-up effort underway? Why hasn't President Bush named a high-profile czar such as Colin Powell or James Baker to oversee the ongoing disaster? Where is the U.S. government's participation in the rebuilding?

And why are volunteers practically the only ones working to reconstruct homes in communities that may never again have sewage service, garbage collection or electricity?

Eventually, the volunteers' altruism turns to bewilderment and finally to outrage. They've been hoodwinked. The stalled recovery can't be blamed on bureaucratic inertia or red tape alone. Many volunteers come to understand what I've concluded is the heartless reality: The Bush administration actually wants these neighborhoods below sea level to die on the vine [...]

Bold action has been needed for two years now, yet all that the White House has offered is an inadequate trickle of billion-dollar Band-aids and placebo directives. Too often in the United States we forget that "inaction" can be a policy initiative. Every day the White House must decide what not to do.

And here's a stunning blog post from a resident, titled "We Are Still Not OK," which contrasts her thoughts a year ago (italicized) with this year's update (plain text).

1. Most of the city is still officially uninhabitable. We and most other current New Orleanians live in what is sometimes known as The Sliver By The River, a section between the Mississippi River and St. Charles Avenue that didn't flood, as well as in the French Quarter and part of the Faubourg Marigny. In the "uninhabitable sections," there are hundreds of people living clandestinely in their homes with no lights, power, or (in many cases) drinkable water. They cannot afford generators or the gasoline it takes to run them, or if they have generators, they can only run them for part of the day. They cook on camp stoves and light their homes with candles or oil lamps at night.

Power and water have been restored to every part of the city, which is certainly not to say that every individual home has these services. There are still people living in darkened, waterless shells of homes. Since moving out of the relatively sheltered Sliver by the River and into the very different world of Central City, I've learned that there are also people living without these services (particularly water) as a matter of course, not because the services are unavailable but because the people have fallen too far behind on their bills and cannot afford the charge to have them turned back on. I've spread the word that neighborhood folks are welcome to take water from our outside tap, and often hear/see them trudging away with containers in their hands.

6. There is hardly any medical care in the city. As far as I know, only two hospitals and an emergency facility in the convention center are currently operating. Emergency room patients, even those having serious symptoms like chest pains, routinely wait eight hours or more to be seen by a doctor. We have, I believe, 600 hospital beds in a city whose population is approaching (and may have surpassed) 250,000.

More hospitals and private doctors are open for business, but the state of our medical care is still pretty dire. In a city where almost everybody is going crazy in one way or another, there's virtually no help for mental patients, who are usually either held in emergency rooms or jailed. State Attorney General Charles Foti failed in his attempted case against Memorial Medical Center doctors and other medical personnel who stayed through the storm and were accused of euthanizing elderly patients, but Foti's idiocy will probably drive medical personnel out of the city at a time when we desperately need them, and will certainly ensure that fewer will stay through the next storm.

You should read all 13 points, it shocks the conscience.

Those who have endured these two years of inaction and slow renewal are simply living in a different country than everyone else. They're surviving and improving by inches, but what they've already had to go through shouldn't happen in the richest country on the planet. If you haven't signed the petition at When The Saints, please do so.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Point Finally Made

The fact that Sen. Craig (Wide Stance - ID) wasn't really guilty of anything illegal, yet pleaded guilty anyway, is something I called a firing offense.

...if a lawmaker thought that his civil liberties were being violated and he was being unfairly targeted for arrest, he could have brought it up in court. Someone who's supposed to be writing the laws of the nation cannot credibly claim to be duped. To me it's a firing offense.

This is explained far better by CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who says that someone who admits to pleading guilty to something he didn't do just to make it go away is actually breaking the law with that action:

Toobin “…But what he did say today was, when I pleaded guilty in Minnesota, when I took an oath and swore to tell the truth to the judge when I plead guilty, I was actually committing perjury — I was lying to the judge saying that I was guilty, when in fact, I was innocent. Now, why he would do that and why he would think somehow pleading guilty would make this matter go away? Why he would think as a United States Senator, that becoming a convicted criminal would not become news, would not be relevant to the constituents who elected me or the taxpayers who pay my salary, I have no idea why he thought that. But that’s apparently what he thought.”

It's probably more relevant to the calls for his resignation that this guy committed perjury and was completely ignorant of the law in favor of saving his reputation. That's what I was getting at, but again I don't think that's why Republicans are collecting his scalp. They're making a purely political decision.

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That major reconciliation deal by Iraqi political leaders? Fraud.

At the beginning of this week, Iraqi political leaders announced in a press conference that they had reached a major deal on several of the US-recommended benchmarks for political progress in Iraq. Between the resignation of Fredo and Wide Stance Larry Craig and all the other hoopla that has occurred this week, this event got somewhat ignored. But it would have been a linchpin to the Petraeus-Crocker White House Iraq report scheduled for the middle of next month. Finally, we are starting to see real political progress, a coming together by the Shiite and Sunni and even Kurdish groups to reach solutions on such issues as de-Ba'athification and freeing some Sunni prisoners and more.

Except for one thing... it was a complete shadow play. Total bullshit.

From Baghdad, Charles Crain writes that the first sign that this was not much of a deal was that one of the participants isn't even part of the government, and has no plans to return:

But a day after signing the deal the country's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, announced that the Sunni bloc that walked out of the government August 1 still had no plans to return. "Our previous experience with the government has not been encouraging," he explained, "and we will not go back just because of promises, unless there are real and tangible reforms."

The deal was made between the figureheads at the top of the government and some of the various factions, but not others which are very significant and crucial to any parliamentary success.

And Sunday's deal was more notable for who wasn't involved than who was. The agreement didn't include representatives from the bloc loyal to Shi'ite politician and militia chieftain Moqtada al-Sadr. A senior Western diplomat earlier this month praised Maliki for distancing himself from Sadr, widely viewed as the Shi'ite leader most responsible for sectarian violence, but American officials are well aware that Sadr and his followers cannot simply be marginalized.

The Sadrists are a powerful presence in parliament and in several key government ministries. Their Mahdi Army militia has infiltrated the Iraqi Security Forces. As a practical matter, an agreement to reconcile with former Ba'athists is next to meaningless without Sadr's acquiescence. And the Sadrists weren't absent simply from Sunday's deal. At the moment they are not even part of the government; like their Sunni adversaries they are engaged in a boycott.

So this was a major deal between one piece of the Shiite block, a Sunni politician who isn't even part of the government, and none of the other major factions. As we've seen today, Sadr isn't even totally in control of his own militia, who would certainly be able to veto the move for any Ba'athists trying to reclaim their positions. The Parliament hasn't met in a month, and there's no indication they would actually pass any of these recommendations made by this "panel of leaders" which is emasculated politically. It's a fake document with no staying power.

One of the sharpest commentators on Iraq, Marc Lynch, adds:

Jalal Talabani's emergency summit (last week) produced a political coalition based upon the Maliki 4 - a sectarian four party bloc (the two Kurdish parties, SIIC and Dawa) which prefers to call itself "moderate" (it isn't) or "the majority" (it isn't). A few days ago, the Maliki 4 managed to get Tareq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Tawafuq Bloc to sign on to an agreement which promised movement on some key issues, including Sunni prisoners and an end to deBaathification.

This agreement was likely produced for the sole purpose of giving Ryan Crocker something to bring back to Congress (and is what I expected weeks ago). But it doesn't actually solve anything: Hashemi has made very clear that he has no intention of rejoining Maliki's government, the agreements exist only on paper at this point, and nothing has been done about the deeply sectarian nature of what passes for the Iraqi state.

Hashemi likely agreed to sit up on stage for this kabuki because he's just as constrained by Sunni forces who want something to show for working with Maliki. But when this fails they are just as likely to completely break with the government and no longer even make a show of anything but open warfare.

Ilan Goldenberg has more, and notes that nobody has yet seen this "grand compromise" touted by Maliki and his cadre, probably because it's totally meaningless. Plus:

Back in early July the cabinet (Or should I say half cabinet , since all of the Sunnis as well as the Sadrists were already boycotting) approved an oil law which the Kurds and Sunnis both objected to. You had two to three days of news stories about it, but it became pretty apparent very quickly that there was no chance it would actually pass parliament. Conveniently, this happened one week before the Administration was set to give its midterm July 15 report on Iraq.

Now, we have Maliki taking heat from all sides and interestingly enough we have a "major" breakthrough.

Maliki is both trying to save his own bacon from a lobbyist-administered coup, and trying to help keep the American support that he needs to survive, so he concocted this little deal, which plays right into the hands of the GOP spin machine. The dissembling is not limited to The Green Zone Fog, as described by Rep. Tauscher today. There's going to be happy talk everywhere, a surge of lies which those who want an end to the occupation of Iraq will have to bat down in our own private Whack-A-Mole. We can point to nonpartisan reports, like the GAO's which will be released next week:

Congressional auditors have determined that the Iraqi government has failed to meet the vast majority of political and military goals laid out by lawmakers to assess President Bush's Iraq war strategy, The Associated Press has learned.

The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, will report that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks to measure the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq are unfulfilled ahead of a Sept. 15 deadline for Bush to give a detailed accounting of the situation eight months after he announced the policy, according to three officials familiar with the matter.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public, also said the administration is preparing a case to play down its findings, arguing that Congress ordered the GAO to use unfair, "all or nothing'' standards when compiling the document.

There's just going to be a mass of bullshit coming in September. This so-called "political deal" is part of it. Be aware, and step lively.

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Steve Lopez Would Like To Award The Certificate of Merit

Today's column in the LA Times takes the Governor to task for his unconscionable cut of homeless services that were working and saving money, in favor of a tax loophole for Dick Ackerman's yachting pals. Lopez has spent lots of time on the streets of Skid Row, and gotten to know the homeless people that struggle to survive down there. One of them, Bill Compton, died Monday, and it's grimly ironic that this happened at the same time that the program inspired by his successful move off the streets had its funding cut.

Bill Compton's Project Return helped pave the way for AB 2034, which, until its funding was cut by Schwarzenegger last week, was keeping nearly 5,000 people off the streets of California with a smart mix of housing and all the necessary support services.

The governor's staff has argued that the program can be funded with other revenues, such as money from the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63). But state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, who introduced AB 2034 when he was in the Assembly, said the latter ploy is both illegal and a subversion of voter intent.

"I was sick to my stomach for two days," said Steinberg, who believed until last week that the governor would be on his side, particularly since the program has substantially reduced hospitalization, incarceration and criminal justice costs for its participants.

Lopez then visited the Marina del Rey yacht club and did a little reporting about what was kept in the budget at the expense of getting homeless people off the streets:

If the governor was looking for savings, he could have taken his scalpel to an estimated $45-million tax break for purchases of yachts, planes and RVs.

To find out just how the break works, I called a yacht company in Marina del Rey. A sales rep told me I would have to buy the boat outside of California, but there's a loophole available in that regard. Technically, he said, if I took ownership of the boat three miles off shore, I'd be out of the state.

In other words, if I wanted to buy a $100,000 sailboat, I would sign the contract at the shop in Marina del Rey and then navigate around the tax bite with a little vacation.

"We would effect delivery out of state, three miles out, with a hired skipper who would take you out," the salesman explained. If I then sailed down to Mexico for 90 days, I'd avoid the sales tax of $8,250.

That's roughly the cost, Van Horn told me, of keeping someone in the AB 2034 program for a year, if you count the matching Medi-Cal funds.

May Bill Compton rest in peace.

This is why Dick Ackerman - and Arnold Schwarzenegger - deserve the certificate of merit for being rich and not homeless. The creativity with which they engineered yet another tax cut for the wealthy while dismissing those who are in vital need of help must be recognized with some sort of award. There will be a special place in the afterlife for those who put this together. I won't say where.

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First In The Nation! ... Wyoming?

Wyoming Republicans just set their primary caucus for January 5, leapfrogging the entire field (well, for now, at least). The RNC has already sought to punish other states who have failed to abide by rules governing primary dates. The Wyoming Republican Party doesn't seem to be that worried about it.

"We're first in the nation," said Tom Sansonetti, the state party's 2008 county convention coordinator. "At least for the next couple, three weeks until New Hampshire and Iowa move, which I expect they will."

At this rate, the first primary will be held last week, and John Cox won, so why aren't you on the bandwagon?

I hope that the end result of this debacle of a primary process this year will result in some fundamental change for 2012. There's a massive free-rider problem here where the states have every incentive and no disincentive to move up. It's horrendous for democracy.

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Arnold Does The Right Thing On SCHIP

I've said a number of times that if the Governor was serious about health care reform, he needed to follow the lead of other Governors and demand that the President reverse his decision to both veto S-CHIP expansion and make it nearly impossible for states to help provide health care to as many children as possible by putting onerous new eligibility requirements on the states. I'm pleased to say that he has followed through on one of these goals, and today Schwarzenegger and Gov. Spitzer of New York write to the President.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing new rules that will set Medicaid and state programs back forty years. These rules, which are being promulgated without proper review, impose eligibility standards that would both deny health care to vulnerable children and pregnant women and greatly restrict the flexibility of states to reach your administration’s stated goals of efficiently providing coverage. The rules must be withdrawn [...]

California and New York cover more than 1.4 million children and pregnant women using State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds – nearly one out of every four SCHIP recipients in the country. We have a long and productive relationship with CMS in leveraging SCHIP to innovatively provide maximum benefit with minimum resources.

We agree with your push for states to be a force for change in the delivery of health care to tens of millions of our fellow Americans who remain without meaningful coverage. But as you rally governors to do more to help fix our broken health care system, your administration has repeatedly modified existing Medicaid and SCHIP rules, harming states’ capacity to help you achieve our shared objectives.

The recently proposed SCHIP rules will reverse longstanding agreements with the states and reduce the number of children who receive health care. We strongly urge you to reconsider these recent policy changes, which simply diminish state flexibility.

Caring for children really isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. The Bush Administration wants to have it both ways, shirking the responsibility for health care onto the states while making it impossible for the states to carry out such a mission. The White House has an ideological obsession with not allowing this successful program to be expanded; then people might think they can actually receive health care from a government program they pay for in taxes. The horrors! Good for the Governor on this one.

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Take A Stand Day

I wanted to mention some great events put on by MoveOn yesterday. At nearly 700 places across the country, ordinary men and women who love their country stood up and demanded that their representatives in Congress listen to their will to end the occupation of Iraq. Here's a great sample:


Aniello Alito, who has been absolutely tireless in his efforts, and he is closing now, leading the group to Mitch McConnell’s house.

Apparently, HE IS HOME!!

I’ll have more when I can.


Oh. My. God.

There was an absolute army, an seemingly endless stretch of people marching from Frazier Hall to Mitch McConnell’s home. Simply mind blowing.

Mitch had corralled about 20 bikers to stand in front of his house and intimidate us, but they pissed their pants when they saw 300 chanting, sign carrying protesters.

This was one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Just 15 yards from Mitch’s house 300 people “screaming support the troops end the war”, “Hey Mitch, come out and face the people”. I can’t really put it into words so I’ll just post all of the pictures.

These aren't people with political power, inside connections or a fleet of lobbyists. They're just people, who don't want to stand silent anymore while we sink deeper into another country's civil war. People are angry about this occupation and they're letting the architects of this failure know about it.

Real people are ready to put pressure on those who have been duped by the Dog-and-Pony shows and happy talk that the surge is working. And now they're ready to take to the airwaves.

The liberal, anti-war group will go up with an ad by the end of this week in Democratic Rep. Brian Baird’s district in Washington state, accusing him of a “flip-flop” on the Iraq war.

Baird, along with Sens. Clinton and Carl Levin, recently said the troop surge in Iraq is showing signs of progress -- at least in Al-Anbar province. Baird had voted against the Iraq military action in 2003.

“ Political Action Committee is sponsoring the ad to call attention to the congressman’s decision to go against the views of his constituents, and his previous voting record, to support President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq,” the group said in an e-mailed statement.

Next month, the President will ask for 50 billion more dollars and more American blood to sustain a failed strategy that is reaching no political solution, the only thing that can possibly change the situation in Iraq. 70 House Democrats have stated that they will not provide another dime without it being put toward the safe withdrawal of our forces. The rest of the Democrats in Congress should follow suit, as John Edwards said today. It's time for more Americans to continue this call for sanity on Iraq. We must give our troops the hero's welcome they deserve.

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The Craig Witch Hunt

I'm coming around to the notion that Larry Craig didn't really commit a crime in Minneapolis. Yet he did plead guilty, which I think is a firing offense. Now the Senate GOP is coming around to that opinion. Sadly, while their statements reflect the position that they're calling for his resignation because he plead guilty, somehow I think it has more to do with him pleading guilty to possibly being gay.

UPDATE: Let me revise and extend. The act of pleading guilty to something is not the firing offense; Paul Begala just correctly observed on CNN that Bush and Cheney have pleaded guilty to the much more serious crime of drunk driving in the past. It's about Larry Craig claiming that he did nothing wrong, and yet pleading guilty to "get it out of the way," it's that stupidity that signals the end of his career. A lawmaker should have some slight sense of the law.

UPDATE II: Colorado Confidential has more.

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