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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

No Newt For You

The dream is over.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will not run for president in 2008 after determining he could not legally explore a bid and remain as head of his tax-exempt political organization, a spokesman said Saturday.

“Newt is not running,” spokesman Rick Tyler said. “It is legally impermissible for him to continue on as chairman of American Solutions (for Winning the Future) and to explore a campaign for president.”

Gingrich decided “to continue on raising the challenges America faces and finding solutions to those challenges” as the group’s chairman, Tyler said, “rather than pursuing the presidency.”

Can American Solutions be that lucrative a gig that it's not worth giving up for a run to be leader of the free world, or did the initial foray into talking to donors reveal nothing but "Ah, no thanks"? Sadly, we'll never know.

Well, on the bright side for those Republicans looking for a saviour, I hear Ted Nugent is available.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

CA House Races Roundup - September 2007

OK, I'm getting this in just under the wire. Time for the House roundup for September. There are a little over 13 months until Election Day, and with the end of the 3rd quarter on Sunday (donate), this election is really not that far away. In fact, CQ Politics has put out their initial assessment of the House landscape. It's favorable for Democrats, but predictably, there are only two California seats on that radar: CA-04 and CA-11. But there have been a lot of developments in the other races throughout the state as well.

I'm going to rank them in order of most possible pickup, including their number from the last roundup. I'm also, as usual, including the "Boxer number." Basically, seeing how Boxer fared in her 2004 re-election against Bill Jones in a particular district is a decent indicator of how partisan it is. If I put "57," that means Boxer received 57% of the vote. Anything over 50, obviously, is good.

First, let's look at the one threatened seat currently held by a Democrat.

1) CA-11 (McNerney). CQ Politics has the seat "Leans Democratic," and only two Democratic seats are less safe (Tim Mahoney in FL-16 and Nancy Boyda in KS-02). Dean Andal has the funds to make a challenge here, and he's become a born-again environmentalist, which is curious considering his prior anti-environmental history. But McNerney has done himself no favors. His bungled rhetoric during the Iraq debate in August was met with outcry, and this week's vote to condemn, an organization that gave him over $50,000 in 2006, didn't exactly enthuse activists either. He tried to respond by blasting Rush Limbaugh's comments and asking that he be taken off the air; I'm not sure how that jibes with the First Amendment. McNerney will clearly have a lot of DCCC incumbency protection, but this is obviously a race that won't be easy, and McNerney is making it difficult for activists to continue to support him.

Now, to the top 10 challengers.

1) CA-04 (Doolittle). Last month: 1. Boxer number: 40. This is one of six Republican-held seats listed in CQ's ratings as "No Clear Favorite," and one of only two where the incumbent is running for re-election (the other is Robin Hayes against netroots hero Larry Kissell in NC-08). Charlie Brown, who has a great interview in CQ this week, actually announced his campaign just a few weeks ago as part of a barnstorming tour. As for John Doolittle, his legal woes continue. Eleven years' worth of documents have been subpoenaed by the Justice Department, as part of the Abramoff case. Doolittle is refusing to comply with the subpoena, setting up what could be a Constitutional showdown. Meanwhile, he has at least three high-profile primary challengers, and a lot of pressure within the district to resign. The more candidates in the primary actually helps Doolittle, as it spreads out the vote. If it's a two-person primary, he could easily lose. And Brown would be in excellent position to beat Doolittle if there's a rematch.

2) CA-26 (Dreier). Last month: 2. Boxer number: 48. Russ Warner, last seen at the Calitics Q3 event, has been busily raising money for the end of the quarter. I'm told that the numbers will be better than Q2. Warner has also gone on the offensive against David Dreier's shameful voting record, being one of the first Congressional challengers to use the SCHIP vote as a campaign issue. That's going to be a big vote to highlight next year. Meanwhile Dreier nearly caused an international incident in Colombia by sitting on a lectern, continued to whine about supposedly shoody treatment on the House Rules Committee (yeah, that never happened under Republicans), and had some shady connections with those who were trying to steal the Presidential election with the Dirty Tricks Initiative in California.

Of course, there's a primary, but Hoyt Hilsman's campaign website hasn't been updated since July. Russ Warner is running a professional campaign, and a good one thus far.

3) CA-50 (Bilbray). Last month: 4. Boxer number: 48. Nick Leibham, who has two nice-looking dogs, is about to get the endorsement of Francine Busby for the Democratic primary, according to our man in San Diego.

The field has been slowly clearing for a while now, with Michael Wray opting against a run and John Lee Evans running for School Board. Steve Schechter has also filed FEC paperwork to run in the district, but this endorsement would line up the one major recognizable Democratic face in the district behind Leibham. Putting to rest any remaining speculation that she might run again, much of the drama is likely over in the primary, leaving now more than a year of Bilbray-hunting.

Avoiding a primary would obviously be a plus for Leibham. Meanwhile, Bilbray is being his usual brown-hating self, calling on the feds to pay local governments for the services spent on "illegal immigrants." This is immigrant bashing at its worst, but while it offends the conscience of the sane, his base is energized by these theatrics. Leibham will have to do a better job of finding new voters than Busby did to have a shot at this district.

4) CA-24 (Gallegly). Last month: 3. Boxer number: 47. I'm still keeping this race fairly high, maybe higher than it should be, because of the possibility of retirement. We've seen the mass exodus of Republicans from the House, as the prospects for them regaining those plum committee chairmanships grow dim. Gallegly says he's running, but he resigned last year before un-resigning, so he's not that credible a source. So far, the only challenger in this district is Mary Pallant, who officially declared her candidacy this week. Pallant is a fellow AD delegate of mine, and a very progressive Democrat.

In announcing her intent to run, Pallant emphasized her stance as a “progressive Democrat,” and invoked Roosevelt in her campaign theme, a Newer and Fairer Deal for the 21st Century. Her platform is described as ending the occupation of Iraq, she said, as well as implementing a universal single-payer healthcare system, seeking energy independence while enforcing environmental protections and pursuing economic strength and security through economic self-sufficiency.

Other candidates seem to be waiting this one out until they see if Gallegly actually runs. Jill Martinez, the candidate in 2006, is rumored to be running again, but hasn't declared officially. Brett Wagner kind of says he's running, but his website hasn't been updated since February. Education activist Chip Fraser may run; he once walked from Ventura to the state Capitol to promote education reform. The district is smaller than that!

5) CA-42 (Miller). Last month: 5. Boxer number: 41. Ron Shepston and his team have been spending September making appearances and raising money. He did both in a Blue America chat on Firedoglake. Blue America support has in the past been crucial to Congressional success around the country. Meanwhile, Gary Miller has been voting for endless war in Iraq and against children's health care and S-CHIP. That puts him in line with every other California Republican, but Miller is also incredibly corrupt. Although, he claims that he is not under FBI scrutiny, which is an inspiring political message.

Miller agreed to an on-the-record, unrecorded interview with The Hill days before the August recess, in which he rejected the
notion that the FBI is investigating him.

On Jan. 31, 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that Dick Singer, a spokesman for the city of Monrovia, Calif., said federal agents had interviewed city officials about a $10 million land deal in which Miller did not pay capital gains taxes.
Miller says no taxes were owed because he was forced to sell the land under threat of eminent domain.

Miller also pointed out that a “federal agent” could be any federal entity, such as the IRS. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the IRS had questions after the liberal-leaning group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint to the federal agency against him in August 2006.

“I’m sure the IRS wanted to see the information. A federal agent could be anyone — anyone flashing a badge,” Miller said.

Though there's not much new to report, these ethics concerns aren't likely to go away, and a good candidate could capitalize on them, a la Charlie Brown with John Doolittle.

6) CA-44 (Calvert). Last month: 7. Boxer number: 45. The Inland Empire was one of the areas where they were out gathering signatures for the Dirty Tricks initiative, before it cratered, and Ken Calvert was quoted in the article:

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, also favors the system, saying it could help improve the state's dismal voter-turnout rates. He said presidential candidates from both parties, who have written off California as a lock for the Democrats, would have to campaign in Inland Southern California and across the state.

"They'd have to be here, and that would create excitement," he said. "People would think their vote matters."

We'll see if Bill Hedrick can make any hay out of that next November. In addition to Calvert's dismal voting record and serious corruption issues. Calvert was one of 5 US Congressmen on a junket to the CNMI where rumors of sex tourism abound (Dana Rohrabacher and John Doolittle were on this trip as well).

7) CA-52 (open seat) Last month: 10. Boxer number: 44. There are new candidates on the Democratic side in this San Diego-area race. Former Special Forces regular JIm Hester and ex-Navy SEAL Mike Lumpkin are running. Lumpkin seems to be keeping a busy schedule and generating a little press, both offline and in the blogosphere; Markos wrote enthusiastically about him. I still think it's going to be hard to beat the son of Duncan Hunter, and hard to criticize him while he's serving in Afghanistan or possibly Iraq.

8) CA-41 (Lewis). Last month: 6. Boxer number: 43. Jerry Lewis has announced that he's running for re-election again, so that puts the retirement rumors to rest. In addition, he's managed to get the Justice Department drain the money swamp committed to investigating him:

The veteran prosecutor who'd been heading up the Lewis case has been forced into retirement, The Los Angeles Daily Journal reported yesterday (not available online). It knocks the investigation, already stalled, further off course.

Because of civil-service rules, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. attorney's office who just recently took over the probe of Rep. Jerry Lewis must exit the office for good by the end of September, marking the third significant departure from the office's corruption unit since Lewis first came under suspicion last year.

Michael Emmick, who first joined Los Angeles's U.S. attorney's office in 1982, has been serving under one-year appointments since 2004, after he triggered a contractual clause that will allow him to collect retirement benefits immediately upon leaving the office.

It's highly unlikely that the Lewis investigation is going anywhere. Furthermore, since Lewis will run again, it's likely that Tim Prince, the likely challenger, won't. Worse, Louie Contreras, the candidate in 2006 who didn't campaign at all past the primary, and may have been hand-picked by Lewis himself as a sock-puppet challenger, appears to be running again.

9) CA-03 (Lungren). Last month: unranked. Boxer number: 42. In my preference to highlight races where there's actually an announced candidate, I'm highlighting this one. Dan Lungren is fairly entrenched as an incumbent, but 2006 challenger Bill Durston is running again. Who knows? Maybe the Charlie Brown magic will wear off on Durston and propel him to make a race out of it in this Republican district. Here's his website.

10) CA-45 (Bono). Last month: 8. Boxer number: 49. I'm breaking my "no candidate" rule because I want to see this potentially competitive district be challenged, and I do believe someone will eventually step up. But more important than that, I wanted to mention that someone in Congress is named Miss Mary Mack. Notably, Bono was the only California Republican to vote for SCHIP, which suggests that she knows she has to moderate her views in the district.

Special mention: Because it ought to be mentioned that Dana Rohrabacher thinks the premier of China wants to poison the President. This guy is in Congress, by the way.

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Ritual Rending Of Garments

I wish the Congress would stop being offended by words and start being offended by actions, like the egregious actions taken to sell and perpetuate a catastrophic war. I understand what Trapper John is saying here, but really, they call it free speech because it's free:

But from my perspective, the point of this resolution isn't to receive a majority vote, or even really to condemn Limbaugh. After all, a great number of us in the Democratic Party don't believe that the United States Congress should be in the business of "condemning" the speech of American citizens. As I see it, the point of this exercise is: 1) to highlight the hypocrisy of those Republicans who would vote to condemn the speech of MoveOn, but not that of America's Favorite Chickenhawk -- even as he smeared rank-and-file service members -- and 2) to make sure that those Democrats who saw fit to publicly condemn their ally on the floor of Congress are willing to do the same to a man who despises them and the Democratic Party.

All well and good. I believe in highlighting the hypocrisy and making that point. But doing so through yet another resolution of condemnation is not only a time-waster, it betrays (there's that word again the values of America.

This brings me to the flap over's recent ad about "General Betray Us." The ad suggested that General Petraeus was "cooking the books for the White House" by presenting to the American public and to the Congress a misleading picture of the situation in Iraq. There is absolutely no question but that this statement was fully protected by the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court has often and clearly explained, the First Amendment embodies "a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials." The ad is well within the bounds of this fundamental constitutional protection and well within the long tradition in this nation of challenging our public officials -- military as well as civilian [...]

Just as it is not the business of Columbia University to declare some views "right" and other views "wrong," it is not the business of the United States Senate to enact resolutions condemning the constitutionally protected expression of private citizens. To be sure, many of us sometimes find the constitutionally protected expression of others offensive. Some of us may despise speech that espouses racial inferiority; some of us may find odious speech calling abortion murder; some of us may dislike the views of presidential candidates on the issue of gay marriage; and some of us may be offended by claims that torture is sometimes moral. In this nation, we are all free as individuals to "condemn" the views with which we disagree, and individual senators, acting in their individual capacities, are similarly free to declare their distaste for certain expression.

But it is not a legitimate role for the Senate of the United States to pass formal resolutions condemning the expression of constitutionally protected views. Do the supporters of this resolution honestly believe that it would be appropriate for the Senate officially to condemn those who question the integrity of Vice President Cheney, or the wisdom of Justice Scalia, or the candor of President Bush? Do they honestly believe that it would be appropriate for the Senate officially to condemn those who support campaign finance reform or greater gun regulation or an invasion of Iran?

Such expression, like's attack on General Petraeus, is not only protected by the First Amendment, but is essential to the functioning of a self-governing society. For the very same reasons that Columbia University should not declare particular ideas, perspectives, or positions "out of bounds," so too, the United States Senate should foster "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open" public debate and not attempt to intimidate citizens by irresponsible public declarations of official condemnation. Such a tactic smacks of the excesses of the McCarthy Era.

Absolutely, and McCarthyism is McCarthyism no matter who's holding the gavel.

UPDATE: It should be noted that Mark Udall is introducing this resolution. He's also running for Senate next year in Colorado and could use rank-and-file support. You see where I'm going with this.

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Murky In Burma

There's a lot of surmising going on about Burma, and with communication down it's hard to knw what the truth actually is. This blogger claims that there's been a coup attempt and an Army mutiny, paving the way for dissident Aung San Suu Kyi to take over as the new leader. Considering how revered Buddhist monks are in the country, and that the junta leaders demanded that the Army attack religious leaders overnight, it makes sense that there would be defections. But we just don't know.

Meanwhile Gordon Brown says what we're all fearing.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he believes the loss of life in Burma has been "far greater" than that reported by the authorities.

He was speaking after holding talks by phone with US President George W Bush and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Burmese officials said nine people were killed on Thursday as troops fired tear gas and bullets to disperse crowds of anti-government protesters in Rangoon.

Most internet links have been severed and mobile phone networks disrupted.

''I want to condemn absolutely the appalling level of violence against the people of Burma.

"I am afraid that we believe the loss of life in Burma is far greater than is being reported so far," Mr Brown said.

He said he hoped the combined international pressure from the US, China, the EU and UN would "begin to make the regime see this cannot continue".

From the wayback machine, we find out who was one of Burma's best customers: Fourthbranch.

For example, Halliburton is one of the few US companies that still (as of 2001 - ed.) does business with the thuggish, totalitarian rulers of Burma. Not only did Burma's thugs overthrow democracy there, but they maintain their power through human rights violations so severe that they give brutality a bad name.

Corporations like Halliburton have long done business deals with these thugs, providing the foreign capital for them to buy the weapons they need to keep repressing Burma's people. But in the 1990s, the repression got so repulsive that dozens of corporations pulled out. Not Halliburton, though.

With Cheney at the helm, Halliburton defied human rights advocates and the Burmese democracy movement by continuing to do business there. One of its joint-projects with the thugs was building the Yadana pipeline. To build it, farmers and others were conscripted by the dictators and forced at gunpoint to work on the pipeline. In turn, the thugs will pocket hundreds-of-millions of dollars from Halliburton and other foreign partners. Asked about this, Cheney said dismissively, "you have to operate in some very difficult places and oftentimes in countries that are governed in a manner that's not consistent with our principles here in the United States."

Not consistent NOW... but if Fourthbranch has anything to say about it...

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GOP Money Chase

As the third quarter winds down and the FEC reporting deadline looms, here's what to expect from the top candidates.

Giuliani advisers won't provide an estimate of their expected haul -- they are very good at keeping their estimates in house -- but they probably will not raise as much as they did last quarter. Through June 30, Giuliani had raised nearly $35M and had $16M left to spend, a burn rate of about 45%.

Romney has loaned himself nearly $9M, which, when subtracted from his $12M cash-on-hand, would suggest that receipts in have not kept pace with disbursements, generally, which have totaled more than $32M. Romney donors said that they had been told that Romney was prepared to spend another $5M to keep his campaign's budget intact. They give a range of $10M to $12M for individual contributions in the third quarter.

John McCain will raise between $4 and $5M; Fred Thompson will probably raise around $6M.

Quick thoughts here. One, Romney is spending untold amounts of money. He's had to, in order to raise his name ID against well-known challengers. So he has to raise lots more than every other candidate to keep financial parity. This is not happening.

Two, nobody's raising as much as last quarter, and still not nearly as much as the Democrats.

Three, McCain and particularly Thompson's numbers are pathetic. Thompson just started raising money, meaning that he just started hitting up his biggest supporters for maxed-out donations. And all he could scrounge up was a measly $6M? I suppose on a two-day-a-week work schedule, that's decent enough, but for someone who actually wants to be President...

There's a decent amount of bad news for all of these candidates here. And considering their continued disrespect of minority voters, as well as the difficulties succeeded an historically unpopular President, the pump is primed for....

A new savior!!!!

Newt Gingrich is poised to enter the presidential contest on Monday with an interesting device: A self-made draft site.

The site will ask people to pledge money for his campaign if he were to run, and will lay out his ideas for the country.

It's like the Night of 100 Stars, if by "stars" you mean "cranky Republicans seeing their grip on power slip away."

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What Do We Want? An End To The War! When Do We Want It? At Some Unfixed Time In The Future!

You've gotta be kidding me.

A small group of Republicans facing election fights next year have rallied around war legislation they think could unite the GOP: call for an end to U.S. combat in Iraq, but wait until President Bush is out of office.

The legislation was deemed essentially a nonstarter by Democrats Friday and underscored the difficulty Congress has in striking a bipartisan compromise on the war. What attracts Democrats has repelled Republicans and vice versa, making it impossible so far to find a middle ground [...]

The proposal, by Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, would require that Bush change the mission of U.S. troops from combat to primarily support roles, such as training Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. infrastructure in Iraq. His legislation would set a goal of completing such a mission transition within 15 months.

If enacted immediately, that timeline would not kick in until Bush's last couple weeks in office.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Of the sponsors, only Voinovich is not up for re-election in 2008.

Awfully convenient.

Can anyone now not say that the Republicans are primarily concerned with getting Bush off the hook and blaming the failure in Iraq on Democrats? And also, this is classic Overton Window stuff. You have the President running around giving back-channel advice to the Democratic candidates, advising them to stay in Iraq. That's completely absurd, so as a compromise, the "sensible centrist" Republicans who are concerned with keeping their jobs go "OK, we can leave after Bush is done." This completely unreasonable suggestion seems reasonable, compared to Bush (and compared to Democratic front-runners).

UPDATE: By the way, Congress passed a two-month blank check for the occupation with almost no fanfare. Only Russ Feingold dissented in the Senate. Therefore you must conclude that he's the only one in the Senate who actually wants to end the war.

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Edwards and Public Financing

Kos makes a very compelling case that John Edwards' decision to accept public financing is a dangerous one. Obviously Clinton and Obama are sucking up all the big-money cash, and with Edwards running a campaign against powerful entrenched interests like lobbyists, it makes ideological sense for him to limit spending and take the public money. But there is an element of unilateral disarmament to it. The spending limits are sharp and the loopholes you have to play to get around them are very difficult. And the biggest conundrum is that, should Edwards clear these hurdles and become the nominee, he'll have six months between the primary and the general election to wait until general election public money comes in. This is what killed John Kerry in 2004, having no money to respond to the litany of attacks like the Swift-Boaters before the convention.

Here's Markos' take:

Short term, this decision is probably necessary and good. The problem I have with this is what happens if Edwards pulls this thing off and locks this thing down on Feb. 5? [...]

What if they end up spending more to wrap up their primary than their current plan indicates. If polling suggests, pre-Feb. 5, that they can win California or Florida with a last-minute push, are they really going to say, "well, we can't spend those millions because of our long-term Summer plan!" Hell no, they'll do whatever they need to do to win, and you couldn't begrudge them that decision.

Except that we end up with a broke or seriously underfunded nominee with six months before the convention. The Edwards campaign argues that the DNC can pick up the slack. And sure, Edwards could funnel money he can't raise to the DNC to act as a proxy. But as we've seen since forever, the RNC always grossly outraises and outspends the DNC. That could change next year, of course. But again, it's a gamble.

And that's the bottom line. If all goes according to plan, then this might not be an abject disaster. But as everyone knows, no battle plans survives contact with the enemy. And I can't personally support a primary candidate that could put us in a difficult position for an entire six months leading up to the fall general election. It's just simply too dangerous.

I still believe that in a Democratic year, with the stain of Bush all over the Republican Party, you can still vote your conscience and choose the candidate that best matches your vision. But this is a calculated risk. I believe in public financing, and the progressive movement certainly wouldn't let a nominee hang out to dry, but going up against the GOP machine with just public money really is bringing a knife to a gunfight. It doesn't bode well for Edwards.

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When The Right Is Wrong... Again

So, earlier in the week, David Shuster hammered wingnut Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, by explaining to her that she has more knowledge of an ad n a newspaper than the dead soldiers in her own district. The point was that wingnuts like Blackburn were focusing on trivialities rather than the real costs of the war.

The insaneosphere repsonded by... focusing on trivialities, claiming that the soldier who Shuster said was the last one to die from Blackburn's district didn't actually live there. They mau-maued MSNBC and browbeat head of the network Dan Abrams into forcing Shuster to make an on-air apology.

Except he didn't have to. Because the guy was from Blackburn's district.

Shuster's apology [re: Marsha Blackburn] may have been premature. The tiny hamlet of Bon Aqua, Tenn., is where Bohannon lived in the months immediately prior to entering the Army. The Census Bureau places his home in Blackburn's 7th Congressional District.

He lived in Bon Aqua for "close to a year" immediately prior to entering the Army, said Tonya Taylor, 35, who permitted him to stay at her house while Bohannon was dating her daughter.

Bohannon grew up, was home-schooled and was buried in McEwan, which is clearly in the 8th Congressional District of U.S. Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn. But his last legal address was in Blackburn's district.

Silly wingnuts, wrong again. But the whole discussion of geography misses the point entirely. The point is that this war has a human face, has a specific and tragic cost, and people like Marsha Blackburn would rather talk about ads in the newspaper.

No word yet on whether Bohannon used the wrong typeface, or whether he was actually named Jamil Hussein.

UPDATE: One wonders if anyone can name the 70 dead Iraqis killed on Wednesday alone.

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Friday Random Ten - The Return

I don't have everything back on my iPod, but enough to offer another edition of the list of ten random shuffle songs that has people talking!!!

The Whores Hustle And The Hustlers Whore - PJ Harvey
Please Don't Rock Me Tonight - Fountains of Wayne
Miles Davis' Funeral - Morphine
Regulate - Warren G and Nate Dogg
Romeo - Basement Jaxx
Missing - Beck
Rock The Bells - LL Cool J
Pelé Merengue - Luscious Jackson
Friend Of Mine - Lily Allen
Buena - Morphine

I obviously got the Morphine and the old school rap back on there. Incidentally, are Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg related? They have the same last name.

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The Headline Says It All

Bush seeks new image on global warming

Bush doesn't want to actually do anything about global warming, he just wants to make it seem like he's doing something. The purpose of the two-day "summit" is to "come together to set a goal" for reducing greenhouse gag emissions, but of course there's no talk about nay mechanisms for reduction. Because it's all about individual choice for various nations to figure out. Apparently, international treaties are voluntary now.

Meanwhile, other world leaders are pleading for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases, and suggesting that Bush's summit was designed to take attention away from the work being done at the United Nations.

Using unusually blunt language, several high-ranking ministers from abroad, as well as American lawmakers, said the Bush administration's resistance to a national, economy-wide carbon cap is jeopardizing the world's ability to address climate change. Administration officials said they hope the talks Thursday and Friday will help the major carbon-emitting nations set a goal for cutting greenhouse gases by the end of 2008, but several foreign climate negotiators said that approach will not avert catastrophic climate change.

Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard, a self-described "Danish conservative," said she and other European leaders "are getting a bit impatient, not on our own behalf but on behalf of the planet."

"We need the support of the U.S.," she said at a Capitol Hill briefing with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and other U.S. and European officials. "China, India and the other industrializing countries, they will not do anything unless the U.S. is moving."

Bush's tactic is to delay action. And the world can't wait that long.

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Ho-Hum, Another "Fred Thompson Can't Remember Shit" Post

This has now become a full-fledged meme. Thompson, at home in Tennessee after a grueling handful of days campaigning, was asked about the death penalty in the state. You know the rest...

Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson said Thursday he was unaware that a federal judge had ruled last week that lethal injection procedures in his home state were unconstitutional.

Thompson also told reporters that he was unaware the U.S. Supreme Court this week had agreed to consider a Kentucky case about whether lethal injection violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Thompson's support for the death penalty was a major part of his campaign platform when he first ran for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee in 1994. Asked for his response to the recent Tennessee and Kentucky cases, Thompson responded, "I hadn't heard that. I didn't know."

The article goes on to say, in the understatement of the year, that it's "not the first time" Freddie has been caught off-guard by new information. Damn freedom-hating information!

This campaign is the train wreck that other train wrecks slow down to take a look at.

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Burma and the Internet

How cool is it that the Secretary of State of California invited me to a worldwide protest about a country halfway around the world, and she did it on Facebook?



It's also telling that one of the first things the ruling junta did to combat the protestors was cut Internet access. In years past invading armies would bomb the radio tower.

Security forces clamped down on protests in Myanmar's two biggest cities Friday, firing warning shots and using baton charges in the third day of a crackdown that has left at least 13 people dead.

The military regime also appeared to have cut the main Internet link to block images and reports of the violence from the isolated nation, which have galvanised world opinion against the ruling generals.

About 10,000 people surged onto the streets of the main city of Yangon, playing a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as they repeatedly confronted police and soldiers before scattering and regrouping once more.

They are brave as hell. I'm wearing my red, are you?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Power Of Activism

The LA Times is reporting on its website that the dirty tricks campaign is dead in the water:

Plagued by a lack of money, supporters of a statewide initiative drive to change the way California's 55 electoral votes are apportioned, first revealed here by Top of the Ticket in July, are pulling the plug on that effort.

In an exclusive report to appear on this website late tonight and in Friday's print editions, The Times' Dan Morain reports that the proposal to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of signatures must be gathered by the end of November to get the measure on the June 2008 ballot.

That's actually not quite true, the signatures have until February, I believe, so there's plenty of time for them to restart this. But the money coming in to fund this thing was extremely dirty, and once it was exposed maybe they said "to hell with this pipe dream."

If this holds, it's important to note that we did this. The Democratic Party, a big-money independent campaign, and the 'roots all worked toward the same goal on this one, for once. This got about 200x the attention that any initiative I've ever seen pre-ballot. The governor was repeatedly put on the spot. The media was alerted over and over. The netroots rose up to fight this from day one and a lot of very talented people put in a lot of early effort. I think that the backers recognized that this fastball wasn't going to slip by the outside corner.

Making noise early WORKS. This doesn't mean it wasn't a big deal to begin with - it was. But they understood that they were about to arouse a sleeping giant, and energize California Democrats like never before. Hopefully, we can STILL do that, dirty trick or no dirty trick.

UPDATE: The full story is now up. Here. Hiltachk and spokesman Kevin Eckery apparently didn't like the undisclosed nature of contributions.

The campaign received only one sizable donation -- $175,000. That is less than one-tenth of the $2 million typically needed to gather sufficient signatures to qualify a measure for the California ballot.

The donation arrived on Sept. 11, one day after Missouri attorney Charles A. Hurth III created a company called TIA Take Initiative America that served as the vehicle for the donation. But the individual donors to the organization were not known.

Hiltachk said he had demanded that "Take Initiative America fully disclose the source of its funds," and said he was assured it would make such a disclosure soon.

"Nonetheless," Hiltachk said, "I am deeply troubled by their failure to disclose prior to my demand and by their failure to disclose to me or to our committee that Take Initiative America had been formed just one day prior to making the contribution. . . .

"I am not willing to proceed under such circumstances," Hiltachk said. "Therefore, I am resigning my role in this campaign."

Eckery added: "There's no reason to be cute on campaign contributions. We had nothing to hide, and the public has every right to know."

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Freed: The Jena Six

Mychal Bell is out on bail, the way most juveniles accused of aggravated second-degree battery would be, I gather. And he won't be tried as an adult, either. I do wonder if he will be tried as a black devil, however.

GIBSON: So, this is -- what they're worried about is a mirage of 1950s-style American segregation, racism from the South. They wanna fight the white devil. I -- you know, there's no -- you can't go fight the black devil. Black devils stalking their streets every night gunning down their own people -- can't go fight that. That would be snitchin'.

Apparently, racism is over. Hm. Tell that to the white supremacists converging on Jena right now.

First came the word that a neo-Nazi Web site was under investigation by the FBI for purportedly publishing the home addresses of the six young black men involved in the case.

Now there's this report from Abbey Brown at the Clarion-Ledger about how they're exploiting the whites involved with the case too:

The beating victim in the “Jena Six” case has given an interview to a group that has been labeled as white supremacist, but his parents now say they feel duped.

Richard Barrett, who described himself to a reporter as “pro-majority,” said he spent Wednesday evening with Justin Barker and his family. Barrett said his goal was to publicize Barker’s side of the story.

Barker, who is white, was beaten last December at Jena High School, allegedly by six black teens. The charges filed in the case, including attempted murder and conspiracy, drew international attention and sparked a protest Thursday in Louisiana by tens of thousands of people from across the country who said the six teens were being persecuted because of their race.

“People need to realize what is going on, speak up and speak their mind,” Barker told Barrett, editor of a publication called Nationalist.

“I’ve got to work every day,” Barker said, “while the attackers sit there on a couch, or sit on some bench with sleeping-pants on. Something needs to be done.

Yeah, it's over all right...

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Phony Soldier

Rush doesn't consider anyone who disagrees with him a real person, that's been obvious for a while. But I guess the fact that this comes so SOON after the whole MoveOn/BetrayUs thing strikes me as odd. You'd think that whole deification of the military thing would kick in and prevent him from smearing men and women in uniform so soon.

LIMBAUGH: What's in it for the United States to pull out? They can't -- I don't think they have an answer for that other than, "Well, we just gotta bring the troops home."

CALLER 2: Yeah, and, you know what --

LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.

CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq. They joined --

CALLER 2: A lot of them -- the new kids, yeah.

LIMBAUGH: Well, you know where you're going these days, the last four years, if you signed up. The odds are you're going there or Afghanistan or somewhere.

CALLER 2: Exactly, sir.

Jon Soltz of VoteVets has a righteous post. And Jerry McNerney really has his back up (this is from an email):

Where does Rush Limbaugh get the moral standing to pass judgment on our heroes who wore this nation's uniform and returned to exercise their First Amendment rights? Even for Rush, that's too far!

Will you join me in calling the following radio stations to demand they take Rush's show off the air?

KWSX in Stockton - (209) 551-1280
KSFO in San Francisco - (415) 954-7449
KFBK in Sacramento - (916) 929-5325

Hey, he's consistent, right? He voted to condemn the MoveOn ad.

I don't want Rush's show off the air. I think free speech means accepting the speech you don't like. And this idea that anyone who's ever served in the military is immune from the slightest criticism kind of makes me squirm. None of this is to defend Rush, who obviously thinks that anyone who doesn't serve the country in EXACTLY the way he sees fit is simply not genuine, and worthy of derision. There's a difference between MoveOn's substantive, fact-based argument, and Limbaugh's hatred of anyone who doesn't think like him. But you don't ban it, and you don't ignore it. You HIGHLIGHT it. And you make sure everyone knows about the vast emptiness within his soul.

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The Grass Is Always Greenspan

The bottom is starting to drop out of the housing market.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sales of new single-family U.S. homes fell 8.3 percent in August to a 795,000 annual sales pace, its slowest rate in over seven years, while the inventory of homes dropped, a Commerce Department report showed on Thursday.

Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting August sales to fall to an annual rate of 830,000 from July's previously reported rate of 870,000, which was revised to 867,000. The August sales pace was the slowest since a 793,000 rate in June 2000.

Some analysts blamed new, tough mortgage standards for part of the sales decline.

"A lot of people who were close to making deals or actually in contract to buy found it more difficult to get financing," said Michael Bizenov, president of Sterling National Mortgage, Sterling Bancorp in New York.

Meanwhile, the supply of unsold homes is at an 18-year high. All of which is happening while Alan Greenspan is hawking books and sipping cocktails.

Alan Greenspan says there's nothing he could have done about the housing bubble. Monetary levers are too crude to do any good, and the least worst option is to let the bubble collapse on its own and then pick up the pieces afterward.

Maybe so. But that still doesn't explain why Greenspan cheered on the bubble back in 2004.

Greenspan, of course, not only loved the housing bubble, but loved the Bush tax cuts before deciding that they weren't working for the larger economy. Apparently Greenspan the author isn't acquainted with Greenspan the Republican hack.

By contrast, Naomi Klein's new book is really interesting:

Meanwhile, the book that should be in the spotlight is The Shock Doctrine.

It's a brilliant dissection of what Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism," an economic philosophy born half a century ago at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman. It holds that the best time to institute radical free-market policies is in the aftermath of a massive social crisis, such as a terrorist attack, a war, or a natural disaster like Katrina.

Klein shows how the crony capitalists running the Bush administration saw post-invasion Iraq as the perfect proving ground for all their pet free-market policies. The fantasy was that a privitazied and corporatized Iraq would become a free-market utopia that would spread the gospel of the market throughout the Middle East. Democracy would reign, and Halliburton and Bechtel would stand supreme.

After the tsunami in Southeast Asia, there was a land grab. After Katrina in New Orleans, developers tried to eliminate prevailing wage. The plan is seeing disaster as opportunity. And Klein hammered Greenspan on Democracy Now about all of this, including his curious line that we had to get Saddam out because he could have held up the world's oil supply.

Are you aware that, according to the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, it is illegal for one country to invade another over its natural resources?


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The S-CHIP Pressure

The President did sign a sweeping new education bill today which cuts student loan rates in half and forgives debt for those who go into vital occupations like teaching or law enforcement. But the intransigence on S-CHIP is starting to make some noise. It's really an indefensible position.

The tragedy in Washington's escalating confrontation on children's healthcare is that the legislation Congress is on track to approve this week with substantial bipartisan support advances precisely the goal President Bush claims as his priority.

Bush says he wants the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a state-federal partnership up for renewal this year, to more narrowly target the poorest children. He's threatened to veto the bill Congress is completing because he charges it directs too much aid toward middle-income families and would prompt too many of them to drop private insurance and enroll in SCHIP.

But even conservative Senate Republicans such as Utah's Orrin Hatch and Iowa's Charles Grassley have complained that Bush's concerns are, to put it politely, overstated. The best studies of the legislation show that it predominantly focuses its benefits on struggling working families and targets uninsured kids more efficiently than the alternative Bush has touted.

If Bush vetoes the children's health bill, and Congress can't override him, more mandatory cost-sharing for middle-class families might help meet his concerns. The real question is whether Bush wants an agreement or a fight that paints congressional Democrats as big spenders. Until recently, his administration hadn't worried much about expanding eligibility: Since 2006, it has allowed three states (and the District of Columbia) to extend SCHIP to families earning up to $61,000. Bush's sudden alarm about including those families suggests less a change in policy priorities than a shift in political strategy.

The concerns about middle-class kids moving on to government-run health care are wildly overblown. The compromises have already been made to ensure the program is targeted. This is about denying Democrats a victory, which in this case is also denying American kids health care.

This is the same guy who never met a Republican spending bill he couldn’t sign. Not one. $300 million bridge to nowhere? Pass the pork. Half-trillion dollars on the road to quagmire in Iraq? Bring it on. But a few billion a year for health care for millions of kids? Forget it. Not this President. Not the “compassionate conservative.”

This time the President’s “coalition of the willing” is even more puny: a handful of right-wing ideologues who put half-baked economic theories above the all-too-real health problems of poor children and the bipartisan advice of, well, just about everyone else. Families support it. Doctors support it. Hospitals support it. Many Republican governors support it. Hell, even insurance companies like this bill! [...]

For Republicans, this S-CHIP bill is the worst threat of all: a bipartisan bill to expand a government program that actually works, and a chance for this Democratic Congress to deliver. That’s like kryptonite to Republicans, who honestly seem to think that America’s gain would be a Republican loss if it’s passed by a Democratic Congress.

The Senate passed cloture with 69 votes, more than enough to overcome a veto. We're 24 votes on the House side away from making this a reality. And I think the House leadership understands the importance of this enough to keep pressing until they get those votes.

UPDATE: Check out this ad against Mitch McConnell about S-CHIP.

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Obama (McCain) For President!

John McCain is so confident that his name recognition will move voters that he uses Barack Obama's name to drive traffic to his website:

It's not just Barack Obama who believes in the power of Barack Obama. John McCain believes in it too.

The McCain campaign has at least two different advertisements with Google AdWords that use Obama's name to direct users to McCain's Web site.

AdWords are text-based ads that appear on a viewer's screen next to the list of Google search results. Advertisers bid on search terms using an automated process based on what users are searching for at that moment; placement of the ads is determined by who won the bid and the relevance of the ad. Advertisers pay per ad clicked.

Both of McCain's AdWords have the headline, "Obama for President?" followed by a pitch for McCain. Under the heading, one ad asks, "Why Not Learn More About John McCain for President" with a link to the candidate's Web site. The second ad reads, "Lean More About John McCain's Journey on the 08 Campaign Trail" and also includes a link to McCain's home page.

Searching for the term "Obama for president" brought up both McCain ads, which appeared in the top five search results on the first page.

Now that's the mark of a campaign which really believes in their candidate, ay?Read more »

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The Power Of Many

Verizon made a little test of how life would be without net neutrality, and they were smacked down immediately.

Saying it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” text messages, Verizon Wireless last week rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program.

But the company reversed course this morning, saying it had made a mistake.

“The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident,” Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

“It was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy,” Mr. Nelson said. “That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children.”

Make no mistake; Verizon really wanted to do this. But the outcry was widespread and genuine. And more than controlling content, Verizon wants to have a viable business.

I'm more confident than ever that net neutrality, whether codified into law or not, will be the guiding principle of telecommunications in the 21st century. The public won't stand for anything else. The only possible pitfall is if they aren't mobilized to action. So we must continue fighting to Save The Internet.

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Pushing the Iraq Debate Left

I didn't see the Presidential debate last night, but apparently the residual forces issue took center stage, with Richardson and Dodd committed to ending the war by taking all troops out, and Clinton and Obama and Biden opposed. John Edwards, who was unfairly lumped in with the status quo, residual force crowd despite being fairly clear on this for some time, gave specifics:

RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, will you commit that at the end of your first term, in 2013, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq?

EDWARDS: I cannot make that commitment. But I -- well, I can tell you what i would do as president. When I'm sworn into office, come January of 2009, if there are, in fact, as General Petraeus suggests, 100,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, I will immediately draw down 40,000 to 50,000 troops; and over the course of the next several months, continue to bring our combat out of Iraq until all of our combat are, in fact, out of Iraq.

I think the problem is -- and it's what you just heard discussed -- is we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad. That embassy has to be protected. We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq. Those humanitarian workers have to be protected.

I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that, 3,500 to 5,000 troops.

Chris Bowers considers this a step forward, but it's pretty much what Edwards has been saying for quite a while now. I will say that Bowers' insistence on this issue, along with the recent Bill Richardson ad featuring bloggers, has done what it set out to do - bring the debate on residual forces out into the open. It's pushed Dodd fully into the no residual forces camp, and allowed Edwards to honestly put a number on what we will see in Iraq during his first term. Better to have this debate out in the open so the American people know what they're getting with a Democratic President. And I think this helps Edwards a lot (he apparently had a very good showing last night).

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Crisis In Burma

Soldiers are firing automatic weapons into large crowds.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official told The Associated Press that several people, including a Japanese national, were found dead following Thursday's protests.

The information was transmitted by Myanmar's Foreign Ministry to the Japanese Embassy in Yangon, the official said on condition of anonymity citing protocol.

The chaos came a day after the government launched a crackdown in Yangon that it said killed at least one man. Dissidents outside Myanmar reported receiving news of up to eight deaths Wednesday.

Some reports said the dead included Buddhist monks, who are widely revered in Myanmar, and the emergence of such martyrs could stoke public anger against the regime and escalate the violence.

This will get worse before it gets better unless China can be prodded to help end the violence. They have been reluctant to join in sanctions so far at the UN. China seems to be very invested in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. If that's the way to get to them, so be it. Otherwise, there's going to be a lot more bloodshed. I don't think the Burmese people will back down unless they are exterminated by the thousands.

UPDATE: Or, you know, perhaps not:

China has interests and involvements in Burma, but limited leverage. Burma is not some kind of client state of China. It is a xenophobic, divided, tribalized country with a nationalistic government; it bears more resemblance to one of the less coherent sub-Saharan African states than to most other East Asian countries. It’s not an easy place to influence. Through most of the 1980s there was a Burmese Communist Party, which consisted primarily of the Wa tribe plus Chinese leadership. When the Wa decided to turn anti-communist in the late 1980s and chased the Chinese leadership into China, China’s influence in the country was drastically reduced but there was little China could do without military intervention. So Beijing basically sat by passively when it happened.

I guess there's always the "growing popular protests and international enmity" route, at which point you still need China to unify the Security Council powers.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tales of the Genius Right Blogosphere

I don't spend enough time mocking the scribes on the other side of the e-aisle, mainly because Sadly No and TBogg and others have cornered that market. But this is really too previous to pass up.

Some dude named Liberty Pundit (I assume Why Do You Hate America Pundit was taken), whose entire site is a link back to himself because his code sucks, has BREAKING MUST CREDIT LIBERTY PUNDIT news!!!

Another Jayson Blair moment for the New York Times? Kinda looks like it, if you look at the article published yesterday and compare it to an article he wrote in October 2005 (reg. required).

Oh noes! Liberty Pundit is on the case of this obvious bit of self-plagiarism. Look at the evidence:

From yesterday’s op-ed:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

From the 2005 op-ed:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

That's right! Bob Herbert quoted Lee Atwater directly the SAME WAY in two different columns! He didn't even bother to change it to something Atwater didn't say! I'm expecting the resignation letter any day now.

This is a joke, right? Using direct quotes as an example of plagiarism? As far as the rest of his "evidence," it's clear that Herbert returned to the same theme and used new information to illuminate a long-standing point. That's called writing. Which is different from random linking while specks of Cheetos fly from the mouth, or as Liberty Pundit would call it, Tuesday.

UPDATE: Gavin from Sadly No offers the definitive text at Alternet on why it's important to wade through these fetid swamps of lying and misinformation on the right.

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Russ Warner on David Dreier and SCHIP

Right before heading off to our Calitics Q3 Quarterly tonight, Russ Warner sent off this press release about David Dreier's vote against children's health:

David Dreier stood with George Bush and Big Tobacco and voted against reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). As a result of this vote, hundreds of thousands of California families will likely lose health insurance for their children in the coming months.

“At a time when we are spending $450 billion on the war in Iraq, David Dreier’s unwillingness to invest in California’s kids shows how out of touch he is with the priorities and concerns of people in the 26th district,” said Russ Warner, Democratic candidate for Congress in the 26th district.

Currently 850,000 children in California receive health care coverage through the SCHIP program in California, called Healthy Families. Dreier voted along party lines against the reauthorization of the program and a proposed expansion that could have extended health care coverage to another 650,000 children in California currently without health insurance.

David Dreier said this legislation, which is supported by groups such as AARP, the American Medical Association, and Easter Seals – is an “expansion of the welfare state.”

“After 27 years in Congress, all David Dreier has to offer are outrageous comments and unwavering support for George Bush’s failed policies,” said Warner.

“The money invested in covering children’s health today will save California money tomorrow, in identifying and catching illnesses earlier and in eliminating unnecessary emergency room visits.”

“The people of the 26th district are ready for a representative who will fight for their interests – not the interests of George Bush and Big Tobacco,” continued Warner.

Me likey the rapid response. This will be a defining issue in a lot of campaigns next year.

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Don't Tell Tom Tancredo

But when you expel all the immigrants from your town, it turns out the economy suffers.

A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

Meanwhile, the town was hit with two lawsuits challenging the law. Legal bills began to pile up, straining the town’s already tight budget. Suddenly, many people — including some who originally favored the law — started having second thoughts.

So last week, the town rescinded the ordinance, joining a small but growing list of municipalities nationwide that have begun rethinking such laws as their legal and economic consequences have become clearer.

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”

I don't think they looked 10 minutes out. They listened to their basest, most nativist desires and decided to make their township hostile to furriners. But their typically 21st-century America service-based economy couldn't find the workers, and their unnecessarily cruel mindset was subject to court challenges. If we stopped to understand how to work with the system that's in place and come up with a broad-based solution, this problem couls be easily solved. But know-nothings like Tancredo would rather shriek about the cost to the economy of illegal immigration, when he has it exactly backwards.

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Army Chief of Staff urges exact same policy as the Webb amendment

The biggest story of the story IMO happened in the House Armed Services Committee. While the Senate was off passing pipe dream partition plans that nobody in Iraq actually wants, and the rest of the House was passing two more months of a blank check for Iraq, Robert Gates asked for $190 billion more in spending for Iraq and Afghanistan. But Army Chief of Staff George Casey was there as well. And his plea sounded extremely familiar.

General George W Casey told the Congressional Armed Forces Committee that it was imperative soldiers had longer breaks from battlefield duty to reduce the psychological and physical toll on manpower and family life.

Has a ring to it, doesn't it? In fact, it's fleshed out by this Washington Post story that predictably landed on page A15 today.

Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr., who is scheduled to testify today before the House Armed Services Committee, intends to move as quickly as possible to grant soldiers more relief from the war zone, having argued that the troop rotations of 15 months in combat and 12 months at home -- required by the buildup of U.S. forces in Iraq and the conflict in Afghanistan -- are "not sustainable" for the Army [...]

"The Army . . . is trying very hard to reduce the amount of time deployed versus the dwell time back in the United States, trying to get to a 12-month deployment to a 12-month dwell time back at home station," said Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, director of operational planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon briefing yesterday.

Hmm... dwell time... one-to-one relationship of time deployed to time at home... I know I heard this somewhere, just give me a sec...

Right! So Jim Webb's amendment is the entire basis for the stated policy of the US Army, and the Chief of Staff testified in an open session that it was imperative that the Webb amendment be made permanent military policy.

Incidentally, this shows John Warner, who switched his vote on the Webb amendment because he was "told by the military" that it wasn't sustainable, to be completely full of shit.

Gen. Casey and Army Secretary Pete Geren, who is also scheduled to testify today, have spoken frequently with lawmakers in recent weeks to inform them about the strain on the Army and the need for continued funding to rebuild the main U.S. ground force after four years of warfare have depleted its manpower and equipment.

Casey and other members of the Joint Chiefs have made no secret of their concerns about the stress imposed by the troop buildup. "Now we're 15 out, 12 back. And that's not sustainable," Casey said at a forum earlier this month. "I do not want to go beyond 15 months on the ground for the soldiers, and I want to get to more than a year at home as rapidly as we can," he said. Asked whether he thought the troop increase was working, Casey, who until this spring served as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, replied: "It remains to be seen."

For some reason, the Democrats have taken no for an answer and moved on to other blank check funding and MoveOn condemnation (I'm told the Congress will shut down temporarily until MoveOn runs another ad, for fear that they'll end up with nothing to talk about). But this testimony made it very clear that the Webb amendment is the ONLY solution to an Army that is well past the breaking point.

"No one can disguise the fact that the Army's ability to project forces is nil. They are not ready for full spectrum combat and it's recognized now," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

This is not only because of manpower, but equipment. We give huge outlays to giant corporations for cost-plus, no-bid contracts, but what we haven't done is fund replacement parts and repairs for equipment that's been used non-stop for the last four-plus years, both from the military and the National Guard. The Army is actually toast, thanks to this disaster. And the ability to confront any potential crisis throughout the world doesn't exist.

Yet the Democrats have simply stopped trying to put something as sensible as readiness on the front burner, despite the ARMY BEGGING FOR IT.

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Vote Suppressor on the FEC?

I've written about Hans von Spakovsky a couple times in the past. The man has done more to suppress voting rights in this country through bogus claims of "voter fraud" than anyone in the Bush Adminstration. He's a critical part of the overall Republican project to stop minorities from voting and move toward a permanent GOP majority. And now, via a recess appointment, he sits on the FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION. Van Spakovsky engineered the Texas redistricting. He authorized Georgia's voter ID law, which is akin to a poll tax (a similar law will go before the Supreme Court soon). He... oh, let me have Dahlia Lithwick tell you.

Von Spakovsky currently sits on the FEC as a result of a recess appointment made by President Bush in January of 2006. Before that he served as counsel to the assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division at Justice. Von Spakovsky's Senate confirmation hearing last June was noteworthy for many oddities, not the least of which was a letter sent to the rules committee by six former career professionals in the voting rights section of the Justice Department; folks who had worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations for a period that spanned 36 years. The letter urged the committee to reject von Spakovsky on the grounds that while at DoJ, he was one of the architects of a transformation in the voting rights section from its "historic mission to enforce the nation's civil rights laws without regard to politics, to pursuing an agenda which placed the highest priority on the partisan political goals of the political appointees who supervised the Section." The authors named him as the "point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division's mandate to protect voting rights."

Von Spakovsky's response to these charges at his confirmation hearings? "I was not the decision maker," he claimed. "I don't remember that complaint at all,'' he demurred. "It's privileged," he insisted. That's the kind of bobbing and weaving that likely cost Alberto Gonzales his job. That the same absurd testimony from von Spakovsky might be rewarded with a professional upgrade is unfathomable.

The vote came up in the Senate Rules Committee today. Democrats hold a 10-9 edge in this committee and could have bottled up Von Spakovsky's appointment. Except...

During the Rule Committee’s executive meeting Wednesday, Feinstein originally said she wanted to vote on each nominee separately, as opposed to considering all four nominees together in one vote, as the committee has done in the past. Republicans on the panel objected, arguing that the move breaks all known committee precedent on moving FEC nominations.

"The precedent is very clear," said Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah), the ranking Republican on the panel. "Nominations to the FEC have always been reported en bloc and in pairs."

But Feinstein said committee rules governing FEC nominations allow only for passing nominations that have unanimous consent, which her objection would prevent. After about a half-hour of negotiation, Feinstein and Bennett agreed to pass all of the nominations without recommendation [...]

Bottom line: the nominations now go to the floor for a full Senate vote. Von Spakovsky has passed the first hurdle.

Now, couldn't Feinstein have forced the issue? Couldn't she have held a vote on whether or not they should consider the nominees together or separately? Sure. But the Rules committee is divided 10-9 in favor of Democrats. And guess what?

You'll never guess!

This morning's result: faced with the defection of a Democrat on the committee, later revealed to be Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) chose to agree to send all four nominees, two Democrats and two Republicans, to the floor without recommendation.

Unbelievable. I'm sure the same hand-tying will occur in the full Senate, and Von Spakovsky, a known liar and vote suppressor, will get a lifetime appointment to the FEC. Where he'll get to make rulings on things like this:

Ohio and Florida, which provided the decisive electoral votes for President Bush's two razor-thin national election triumphs, have enacted laws that election experts say will help Republicans impede Democratic-leaning minorities from voting in 2008.

Backers of the new laws say they're aimed at curbing vote fraud. But the statutes also could facilitate a controversial Republican tactic known as "vote caging,'' which the GOP attempted in Ohio and Florida in 2004 before public disclosures foiled the efforts, said Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief in the Bush administration who's now with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

Caging, used in the past to target poor minorities in heavily Democratic precincts, entails sending mass mailings to certain voters and then using the undelivered letters to compile lists of voters for eligibility challenges.

I'm sure he'll be very sensitive to possibilities for partisan meddling with the election process.

I know that when the Bush Administration throws all of these bad nominees at you at once, it's hard even to keep track. But it would just take one Senator to put a hold on this nomination for good. This really cannot stand.

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Shorter John Doolittle


The list by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington names 18 Republicans and four Democrats.

Doolittle, whose connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff are the subject on a Justice Department investigation, said the listing was an underhanded attempt to attack him from a liberal Democrat organization funded by billionaire activist George Soros.

"I just really think it's unfair and wrong for an underhanded and vile organization like CREW, who disagrees with me because I'm a conservative Republican, to attack me on that," he said. "Because of the atmosphere right now, it's a very impactful thing."

Doolittle has said he has done nothing wrong and wants the Justice Department investigation to come to a conclusion to clear his name. With a new congressional election coming in November 2008, Doolittle is already facing a Democrat challenger who ran a surprisingly strong campaign against him in 2006.

There's the obligatory Soros reference, the dismissal of any criticism as partisan, but also the admission that CREW's list, which includes 4 Democrats along with 18 Republicans, is "impactful." That's because he can't argue with any of the findings so he attacks the source.

By the way, Auburn Journal, it's a DEMOCRATIC challenger. And his name is Charlie Brown. You can donate to him through the Calitics ActBlue page and then come down to one of our Q3 Quarterly events tonight.

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The Party Of Accountability

Looks Like Larry Craig (R-WideStance) snuck a curveball by everybody.

Sen. Larry Craig won't resign from the Senate while awaiting a judge's ruling on his effort to get a guilty plea withdrawn in a restroom sex sting, a source said Wednesday.

Sen. Larry Craig is seeking to overturn his guilty plea stemming from an airport bathroom sex sting.

A judge in Minnesota heard arguments Wednesday afternoon about Craig's guilty plea in the case.

Craig had said he would resign from the Senate if he could not get the guilty plea overturned by September 30. But on Tuesday, Craig said he wouldn't resign until "legal determinations" are made.

For a Republican Party desperately seeking to evade responsibility for everything, from Iraq to corruption, this is par for the course. But you'd think this would be a nationwide outrage. The guy announced very specific groundrules for resignation, and now he's trying to pretend that he didn't and hope that everyone forgot about it. This is one man's ego against the whole country, mirroring the Republican Party's ego, also at odds with the country.

(Incidentally, I have consistently said that Craig did nothing illegal in that bathroom stall. But lying to a judge by pleading guilty because you wanted to keep your name out of the papers is actually the illegal act here, and Craig wants to remove responsibility for such poor judgment. There are no do-overs in the law, especially for a lawmaker.)

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Congress To Be Closed Until MoveOn Produces More Ads

Otherwise they'd have nothing to do. The House voted to condemn an ad in a newspaper overwhelmingly today. Markos lists those Democrats in the House and the Senate who have our backs in the progressive movement. It's a short list. One of them, who's not on there because he's not yet elected, is Al Franken.

On Tuesday, Sen. Norm Coleman took out an ad in this paper criticizing me for criticizing a Senate resolution that criticized for taking out an ad in the New York Times criticizing Gen. David Petraeus.

It is, of course, ridiculous that the United States Senate spent a day debating and voting on a resolution condemning an advertisement while our troops remained in Iraq, fighting a war with no end. And it's doubly ridiculous that Coleman, of all people, is still playing politics with this issue.

After all, he voted last week against a resolution that condemned personal attacks on anyone who had served our nation honorably. That would include Democrats like Max Cleland, John Kerry and John Murtha -- proud American veterans who were the targets of political attacks not just on their character, but on their patriotism. In 2004, when Murtha (a Silver Star winner) called for better armor for our troops, Coleman himself accused him of "emboldening the enemy" and "undermining the morale of our troops."

And as his reelection campaign gets underway, it's worth noting that Coleman has hired the same media consultant who ran ads in Georgia that juxtaposed pictures of Cleland, who lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam, with Osama bin Laden.

I guess now it's my turn to be attacked. I've been to Iraq four times to visit our troops; I know the incredible sacrifice our men and women in uniform make every day in service to our nation. But Norm Coleman is who he is -- so he's accusing me of "undermining our troops."

Frankly, I'm used to this kind of smear -- it's what happens when you speak truth to power in George W. Bush's America. But I think Minnesotans have had enough of this kind of political gamesmanship. As I go around the state, I don't hear a whole lot about ads in the New York Times. What I do hear is that Minnesotans want this war to end, and that if this president won't end it, they want the Senate to force him to end it.

In addition, everyone's worried that Congress will retroactively immunize telecom companies from prosecution in releasing their data to the NSA for warrantless spying. We know that this is a priority of the telecom industry, which is why they're sending an army of lobbyists to Washington to argue for immunity, including some top Clinton-era officials like Jamie Gorelick. Michael McConnell of the NSA has been lying to Congress repeatedly to get expanded powers for the executive branch and immunity for the telecoms, and yet useful idiots like Dianne Feinstein sing his praises and agree with his basic premises. Matt Stoller reports that the markup on a new FISA bill has been delayed due to public outcry, but Democrats haven't exactly inspired confidence on this front lately.

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What Digby Said

(Bob) Herbert reminds us about the Southern Strategy -- and famed GOP strategist Lee Atwater's candid admission: “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger. By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

But what is unusual this time out is that the Republicans are getting more overt rather than less for the first time in 40 years. In recent campaigns the Southern Strategy had developed into a sophisticated code, even more obscure than Atwater's examples, where they would support "Southern heritage" symbols like the confederate flag and run on "law and order" but at the same time make a great show of "outreach" and inclusion to the public at large. This has been the pattern for some years now, perfected by the current president in his "compassionate conservative" campaign in 2000. But as Rick Perlstein points out here, they aren't even doing that anymore.

It actually isn't surprising. If you listen to right-wing talk radio these days you will hear more outright racist rhetoric than I can remember in the last 25 years. The Internet is even worse. Blacks, "illegal aliens," Muslims -- all day long you hear an endless litany of complaints about these illegitimate people who are allegedly trying to ruin the American way of life through whining and scheming, stealing jobs and trying to kill us all in our beds. The other day, even General John Abizaid's statement that the world could live with a nuclear Iran was greeted on rightwing forums with a spew of insults about his "Arab" ancestry.

The racist beast is clamoring to be set free.

That is the through-line connecting the immigration fight, Bill O'Reilly's surprise that black people eat like human beings, Jena, Ahmadinejad's visit and the imperial project in the Middle East. One party is less likely to cloak their racism anymore.

Say, you can MEET Digby tonight, and help us raise money for the Calitics ActBlue list, head down to our end of Q3 blograiser tonight in Santa Monica, in association with Drinking Liberally.

Featuring also Ron Shepston and Russ Warner, two great antiwar congressional candidates, LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, members of Iraq Veterans for Progress, and more.

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A Vote For War

To be fair, two of the more offending paragraphs were removed entirely, the ones calling for the use of "all instruments" of American power to "combat" Iran, but the Senate just essentially voted for war with Iran, unquestionably stating that Iranian arms are killing American troops (not a definitive in any respect) and declaring that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a terrorist organization. This will be an easy way to back-door an attack on Iran as part of the overall "war on terror" under the 2001 AUMF. The vote was 76-22, with Obama and McCain missing it. Hillary Clinton voted FOR it; Biden and Dodd voted against.

The full marked-up amendment is here. This lays the foundation for an attack on Iran, and keeping in the part about making the Revolutionary Guard a terror organization is abominable.

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Demonizing the Court Jester

This constant Hitlerization of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad aside is borne out of a need for enemies to have a face. The mullahs who actually control Iran do so behind a wall of secrecy, and Ahmadinejad is their clownish front man, the equivalent of a shiny object designed to distract people. So aside from the free speech concerns, the focus on him missing the point entirely. Kudos to The New York Times for picking up on this.

Since his inauguration two years ago, Mr. Ahmadinejad has grabbed headlines around the world, and in Iran, for outrageous statements that often have no more likelihood of being put into practice than his plan for women to attend soccer games. He has generated controversy in New York in recent days by asking to visit ground zero — a request that was denied — and his scheduled appearance at Columbia University has drawn protests.

But it is because of his provocative remarks, like denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, that the United States and Europe have never known quite how to handle him. In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts.

Political analysts here say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system.

Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up.

“The United States pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad,” said an Iranian political scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “He is not that consequential.”

He serves a purpose for both the neocons and the mullahs. Actually, the same purpose; as a stand-in to mask reality. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is failing at home but is propped up by those who want to attack Iran. They need him as much as he needs them.

And I should reiterate Rick Perlstein's excellent essay, looking at the differences between Nikita Khruschev's visit in 1959 and Ahmadinejad's this week, and pronouncing us a nation of bed-wetters.

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That Was Quick

The first strike of GM in 37 years is over in two days.

Details of the proposed contract were sketchy, but GM and the UAW confirmed that it would create a trust fund financed by GM and run by the union that would administer healthcare benefits for retired GM workers.

GM's primary goal in the talks was to erase a $25-an-hour disparity in labor costs between the Detroit automakers and Japanese companies such as Toyota Motor Corp., which have non-union workers at U.S. plants.

GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler have a combined $90.5 billion in unfunded retiree healthcare obligations on their books. GM reportedly will be able to shift about $36 billion of its $50 billion in retiree healthcare obligations into the trust fund.

The proposed contract also creates a two-tier wage scale, which would establish a lower pay scale for new workers hired into non-manufacturing jobs, such as janitorial and landscaping positions.

In return, the UAW won concessions on job security, a key bargaining point that was largely responsible for prompting the union to abruptly call a strike Monday.

Doesn't sound all that great to me, but the gun was pointed squarely at the UAW's head. "Accept this or we'll move all of our plants" seemed to be the choice. However, moving all of that healthcare legacy costs into the union trust fund may increase portability, if some partnerships with other unions can be made. That's something to look at for the future.

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