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

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Where Are You Headed To Watch The FISA Ball Drop?

Via Greenwald, the wingnut welfare operation known as the Heritage Foundation put up a FISA Countdown clock to mark the sunset of the extension to the Protect America Act.

Why are they broadcasting this to our enemies? Do they hate freedom so much that they are letting Osama know when he can start going into AOL chat rooms with impunity?

The truth about this is somewhat, er, less dramatic.

Many intelligence scholars and analysts outside the government say that today's expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders.

With the Protect America Act expiring this weekend, domestic wiretapping rules will revert to the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires the government to obtain a warrant from a special court to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance in the United States.

The original FISA law, these experts say, provides the necessary tools for the intelligence community to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists.

Why do I quote articles that hate America? And from that noted America-hating organization, the Washington Times, no less?

Meanwhile, if you want to know why this fight is taking place, simply direct your eyes to this article which shows how the FBI mistakenly picked up all the email messages from an entire computer network, including hundreds or even thousands from innocent Americans. After this was caught, the records from those emails that weren't supposed to be captured were all destroyed. It's a technique called minimization.

The President wanted minimization procedures taken out of this FISA bill.

Just a reminder. This isn't about terrorism, or defending the country, this is about a group in the White House that wants near-dictatorial powers for themselves. And they want to humiliate their opponents as they get them. It's all about creating a culture of fear to push a radical far-right agenda.

Labels: , , , , ,


Give That Man A Muzzle

Has anybody spoken more gibberish during a Presidential campaign in just a week than Mark Penn? Days after the "Barack Obama hasn't won any significant states" nonsense, he rolls out this gem:

"Winning Democratic primaries is not a qualification or a sign of who can win the general election. If it were, every nominee would win because every nominee wins Democratic primaries.”

Why didn't we think of that before? This primary business is so outdated. Sometimes the winner of the primaries doesn't win the election! There has to be a better way. Hmm... we could just leave it up to whoever Mark Penn decides should be the nominee? Run that one by him, I think he'll get on board.

Between that stuff and the new Clinton message (and all messaging goes through Mark Penn) that Obama can't be a substantive guy because his speeches are too good, it's been a hell of a week for easily mocked quotes.

(by the way, if you want to look at beyond speeches, and at the two candidates' actual records, Hilzoy did the legwork.)

Labels: , , , ,


Let Us Rob You Or We'll Suicide Bomb The Place

It's really stunning that we still have this symbiotic relationship with Saudi Arabia, home of 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11, and they still harbor all kinds of terrorists and actually use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE*.

He was accused in yesterday's high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family.

Prince Bandar, incidentally, is known familiarly as "Bandar Bush" and is an unofficial member of that family, so maybe it's not so stunning.

So the President can claim to be acting on behalf of the families of the victims of the London train bombing, yet his good friend and pseudo-relative Bandar Bush is actually terrorizing Britain by threatening more attacks.

I knew that Saudi Arabia had us over a barrel, literally, when it came to oil, but apparently that's also true with regard to terrorism. Makes you wonder that if we actually try to get off the carbon-based economy, what they would do to ensure that doesn't happen.

* I've written about this Bandar/BAE thing previously, it's really one of the more devious "Syriana" type things that's been going on the past several years.

Labels: , , , , ,


The Great Rationalizer

This BBC interview with George W. Bush is truly amazing. He should put it on display at his future Presidential library (where it can stand in for all the missing books). The logical contortions that this guy has to make just to go on living are truly remarkable. It's like watching a yoga master twist himself into a knot. Here's Bushie on Darfur:

Frei: You were very tough in your speech about Darfur. And, yet again, you called what's happening there genocide?

Mr Bush: Yeah.

Frei: Is enough being done by your administration to stop that?

Mr Bush: I think we are. Yeah. You know, I had to make a seminal decision. And that is whether or not I would commit US troops into Darfur. And I was pretty well backed off of it by - you know, a lot of folks - here in America that care deeply about the issue. And so, once you make that decision, then you have to rely upon an international organisation like the United Nations to provide the oomph - necessary manpower...

Frei: Yesterday, Steven Spielberg - the Hollywood director - pulled out of the Beijing Olympics over Darfur. He said the Chinese aren't doing enough to stop the killing in Darfur. Do you applaud his move?

Mr Bush: That's up to him. I'm going to the Olympics. I view the Olympics as a sporting event. On the other hand, I have a little different platform than Steven Spielberg so, I get to talk to President Hu Jintao. And I do remind him that he can do more to relieve the suffering in Darfur. There's a lot of issues that I suspect people are gonna, you know, opine, about during the Olympics. I mean, you got the Dali Lama crowd. You've got global warming folks. You've got, you know, Darfur and... I am not gonna you know, go and use the Olympics as an opportunity to express my opinions to the Chinese people in a public way 'cause I do it all the time with the president. I mean. So, people are gonna be able to choose - pick and choose how they view the Olympics.

On sleeping well:

Frei: I mention the genocide thing also because your predecessor, President Clinton, says that the one thing - one of the key things that keeps him up at night is that he didn't do enough over at Rwanda to stop the killing there. Is it possible that Darfur might become your Rwanda?

Mr Bush: I don't think so. I certainly hope not. I mean, Rwanda was, you know, I think 900,000 people in a very quick period of time of just wholesale slaughter. And I, you know, I appreciate President Clinton's compassion and concern. And, you know, I'm comfortable with making' a decision that I think is the best decision. And comfortable with the notion that once that decision is made we're keeping the world's focus as best as we can on that amongst other issues.

On Iraq:

Frei: But, do you regret, rather, I should say that you didn't listen to your - some of your commanders earlier, to send more troops to Iraq to achieve the kind of results that we're seeing now?

Mr Bush: You know, my commanders didn't tell me that early. My commanders said, "We got the right level of troops."

On torture:

Frei: But, given Guantanamo Bay, given also Abu Ghraib, given renditions, does this not send the wrong signal to the world?

Mr Bush: It should send a signal that America is going to respect law. But, it's gonna take actions necessary to protect ourselves and find information that may protect others. Unless, of course, people say, "Well, there's no threat. They're just making up the threat. These people aren't problematic." But, I don't see how you can say that in Great Britain after people came and, you know, blew up bombs in subways. I suspect the families of those victims are - understand the nature of killers. And, so, what people gotta understand is that we'll make decisions based upon law. We're a nation of law [...]

Frei: Can you honestly say, Mr President, that today America still occupies the moral high ground?

Mr Bush: Absolutely - absolutely. We believe in human rights and human dignity. We believe in the human condition. We believe in freedom. And we're willing to take the lead.

I mean, those are some world-class justifications there. Olympic level, actually. There oughta be an event.

UPDATE: Here's another rationalization - good news, we haven't waterboarded in the fashion of the Spanish during the Inquisition or the Japanese in World War II, but only in the fashion of the Khmer Rouge or the French in Algeria! I feel so much better about my country!

Labels: , , , , , ,


McCain Campaign Finance Facade Starting To Break

The John McCain attacks against Barack Obama's perceived hedge on taking public money in the general election spawned some editorials this morning, but this has the potential of rebounding back on McCain in a big way.

It turns out that, not only did McCain accept public money for the primary and then wiggle out of it after he had a shot to be the nominee, he took a loan before pledging to receive those public funds, essentially committing himself to that public system.

John McCain's cash-strapped campaign borrowed $1 million from a Bethesda bank two weeks before the New Hampshire primary by pledging to enter the public financing system if his bid for the presidency faltered, newly disclosed records show.

McCain had already taken a $3 million bank loan in November to keep his campaign afloat, and he sought from the same bank $1 million more shortly before this month's Super Tuesday contests, this time pledging incoming but unprocessed contributions as collateral. He never used the funds of the most recent loan, because his win in the South Carolina primary helped him raise enough money to compete in Florida, his campaign aides said last night.

The loans, revealed yesterday in documents a McCain attorney filed with the Federal Election Commission, offer fresh details about how the Republican senator from Arizona scrambled to secure money as his shoestring campaign navigated a rapid-fire succession of primary contests.

The unorthodox lending terms also raised fresh questions from McCain's critics about his ability to repeatedly draw money from the Maryland-based Fidelity & Trust Bank. Campaign finance lawyers speculated whether McCain may have inadvertently committed himself to entering the public financing system for the remainder of the primary season by holding out the prospect of taking public matching funds in exchange for the $1 million loan in December.

"This whole area is uncharted," said Lawrence H. Norton, a former general counsel of the FEC.

This is really seedy. Apparently McCain only wanted taxpayer money to bail out his campaign and pay his debts if he lost. If he won, he'd rather get his cash from corporations and lobbyists. He basically wanted us to pay for his mistakes. DHinMI explains:

Think of it like this. John McCain secured a personal loan by using his home as collateral. He requested more money be added to the loan, but the bank said it was more than he had collateral to pay back. McCain countered by telling the bank that his neighbor failed to salt his icy sidewalk, and McCain slipped on it. McCain got a doctor to say the slip-and-fall hurt McCain's back, he sued the neighbor, and he expects to win a big settlement. The bank said "sure, OK, that's what happens if you win your court case. But what if you lose?" In response McCain said "oh, I suppose I'll have to get a job," and the bank then said "OH, OK, that's good enough for us!" and authorized the loan.

If McCain used the certification for matching funds as collateral he would have definitely been locked in to the matching funds scheme, including the spending caps. What happened here is that the bank didn't require him to offer up the certificate as collateral. The bank simply accepted McCain's word that he had it and would enter the federal system if necessary, and the bank took him at his word.

John McCain: Lying To Banks, Now That's Some Straight Talk!

This makes it all the more ridiculous for the progressive blogosphere to have jumped on the Obama story from McCain's perspective, when Mr. Maverick is clearly such a rank hypocrite on this issue. In fact, it's a familiar recent pattern for McCain, whose actions haven't matched his rhetoric for a long time.

It’s not as if McCain has been caving in on anything important, like economic recovery ...

(Feb. 6: The Senate votes on a Democratic economic stimulus plan, which would give more help to the unemployed, veterans and senior citizens than the version President Bush wants. Forced to choose between Bush and the unemployed/veterans/elderly, McCain flew back to Washington and — skipped the vote.)

Or torture ...

(Feb. 13: The Senate considers a bill, vehemently opposed by the White House, which would prohibit C.I.A. interrogators from using tactics like waterboarding on detainees. McCain, whose ringing denunciation of waterboarding was the highlight of the Republican debates, votes — no. He says his own Detainee Treatment Act already bans use of physical force during interrogations. This would be the law that Bush, in one of his famous signing statements, said the president did not have to follow.) [...]

McCain’s inconsistency is actually nothing new. We saw a lot of it during the Bush tax debates. McCain opposed the tax cuts as unwise and unfair, and then opposed getting rid of them under the theory that it would be a shock to the upper-income people who benefited from them and never noticed they were scheduled to expire. McCain seems to have developed a kind of right-to-life theory of economics under which any tax cut that comes into being has to remain on the books for all eternity.

This could turn into a real fiasco for McCain, if the blogosphere, the major media and the leading candidates close the triangle on it.

Labels: , , , ,


Friday, February 15, 2008

Obama Picks Up A Delegate in CA-53

This is a quickie. I've been checking in on the final vote totals at the Secretary of State's website every day or so, and today was the first change I've noticed that actually effects delegates. In CA-53 in San Diego, additional votes have given Barack Obama a 443-vote lead in a district he trailed in. This being a 5-delegate district, he would get a 3-2 split there now if counting ended today. He's creeping up in CA-50 as well, within 556 votes.

Also, the statewide vote is down to a 9.2% spread, with Clinton at 51.9% and Obama at 42.7%. That extrapolates to the same delegate split of 71-58, for now, but it's inching closer to 70-59.

So by my numbers, Clinton leads 204-166 now. Ridiculously enough, that one delegate shift in CA-53 is equivalent to the recent calling of the entire state of New Mexico for Clinton.

This, of course, also makes Susan Davis' district no longer "significant" in the eyes of the Clinton campaign.

Labels: , , , ,


Deliver Us From O'Hanlon

Michael O'Hanlon can't be let within 100 yards of a position of power in the next Administration. I mean seriously, there should be a restraining order. Let him be the top foreign policy guy in his buddy St. Petraeus' 2012 run, but let's not believe that this guy helps Democrats in any way with his slavish repetition of right-wing talking points. The problem, of course, is that he sadly passes for a Democrat on the op-ed pages of most of the country.

That said, it may be good to have him around just for Spencer Ackerman paragraphs like this:

Michael O’Hanlon is a Brookings Institution defense expert who doesn’t actually know anything about defense. He does, however, know how to be a reliable barometer of what very-slightly-left-of-center establishment types believe should be said about defense. If anyone in the foreign-policy community respects O’Hanlon, I haven’t met him or her. I remember being at a barbecue in 2005 and remarking that O’Hanlon has never had an interesting thought in his life when an aide to John Bolton stood up, pumped the air with both fists, and bellowed, "Preach it, brother!" Well, that’s not entirely fair: everyone’s throat-clearing caveat about O’Hanlon is that he compiles the useful Brookings Iraq Index, a compendium of Iraq-relevant statistics. So as a foreign-policy mandarin, he makes a good intern.

This guy's an idiot and I'm trying to figure out how you excommunicate somebody from being the token Democrat on the talk show and lecture circuit.

Labels: , , ,


That Circular Firing Squad, Gets You Every Time

There are days when I think the blogosphere has well and truly lost its mind. Jerome Armstrong, last seen writing a book about "Crashing the Gates" about the people-powered Democratic movement to take over the party and stop the ruthless Republicans, spends today validating a Republican meme in maybe the stupidest way possible, because the candidate on the other team is being attacked insted of the candidate on his team.

The problem of Obama's public financing 'pledge'

It's gonna get worse if he lets it fester. One way or the other, he needs to make it go away as an issue on which McCain attacks his character.

Obama is already being hammered by McCain for trying to finesse on the issue:

"I made the commitment to the American people that if I were the nominee of my party, I would accept public financing," McCain said Friday in Oshkosh, Wis. "I expect Senator Obama to keep his word to the American people as well. This is all about a commitment that we made to the American people...

"I am going to keep my commitment," he said. "The American people have every reason to expect him to keep his commitment."

This isn't the type of issue that the public gives one hoot about; but the media love this sort of process story, and will continue to air it out as McCain continues to hammer Obama on financing, making it a issue of character.

Character, yes, because John McCain is such a great bastion of character. Especially on the issue of campaign finance, right Jerome? I mean, just this FRICKIN' WEEK he wiggled his way out of the campaign finance system in the primaries.

Presidential candidate John McCain said on Monday he has rejected public funding and its accompanying spending limits as he seeks to wrap up the Republican presidential nomination.

The Arizona senator asked for public funds last summer after his campaign nearly foundered, but said on Monday he does not need taxpayer money as he seeks to secure the party's nomination for the November election.

"That was my thinking, we didn't need to," McCain said after a rally in Virginia, which along with Maryland and the District of Columbia holds primary elections on Tuesday.

The decision will allow McCain to ignore the $54 million spending limit he would have had to observe had he taken public funds, allowing him to train his sights on his eventual Democratic opponent.

So, John McCain jumps through all kinds of hoops to get out of his own public financing pledge, but somehow HE'S the one with character? And it's beyond obvious that he's hitting Obama on this to distract everyone from his own flip-flop. I thought the liberal blogosphere was all about, you know, knocking down bullshit Republican memes.

Leading to this exchange:


McCain wiggled out of his own public financing pledge in the primaries. If you can't hit back with that you don't belong in politics. McCain is a craven hypocrite and you're VALIDATING him? Mentioning that he jumped through all kinds of hoops to get out of public financing AFTER HE ALREADY ACCEPTED IT would be nice.

Man, it's sad to see what's become of the liberal blogosphere.

by dday on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 08:37:01 PM EST
[ Reply to This ]

Obama's the candidate, is he hitting back?

by Jerome Armstrong on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 08:39:34 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This | ]

Look, if you want to act above it all, that's fine. I'd rather, you know, aid a Democrat in a spat with a Republican. It's a little more people-powered.

by dday on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 09:45:38 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This ]

He's not the nominee, last I checked, but I don't mind providing commentary.

by Jerome Armstrong on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 11:17:11 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This | ]

(then I provide the FDL example, and...)

McCain hit Obama on a supposition about the general to distract from his own clear flip-flop in the primary. And you fell for it.

This is a site about electing Democrats, isn't it?

(and "he's not the nominee yet" is an amazingly silly excuse for perpetuating groundless right-wing spin.)

by dday on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 11:25:20 PM EST
[ Parent | Reply to This ]

It's all so sad. These little groups online have become so wedded to their little candidates (who all suck, by the way) that they see nothing wrong with using whatever smear or attack is out there, even one as painfully dishonest as John McCain's "I am a man of honor" shtick. The liberal 'sphere is completely fracturing over this for no good reason. These candidates don't differ markedly on policy, so it all goes to the personal. And it becomes a long line of bullshit.

So I'm being "fair and balanced," let me call out MoveOn and DFA for unnecessarily hyping the media creation of the "eeeevilll superdelegates" who will subvert the will of the people, when this will never happen in a million years. It's media hype designed to set Democrats at each other's throats. And it's working. (I'll have more on this in a later post, as I actually went ahead and talked to a superdelegate - what a novel fucking idea! - instead of imputing nefarious motives to them.) The liberal blogosphere I know would actually push back against these narratives instead of use them as a weapon.

I feel like Kindergarten Cop or something, wanting everyone around to "SHAATTTTT AHHHHHPPPP!!!!" Sometime soon, in as early as three weeks actually, one of these two is going to be the nominee, and the people with the Obama shirts are going to have to exchange them for Hillary shirts, or vice-versa. And in the real world, where people aren't viewing this like some kind of high-stakes poker game, that's not going to be a problem; both candidates are broadly popular. But in the monkey-flinging-poo fest that is the online community, I really don't see how this fracture gets repaired. And so this people-powered movement Jerome was so fond of announcing splits into a few different ones, or eight, or ten, all with their own petty jealousies and vindictiveness and anger at insults or perceived insults or the fact that their Celtics didn't beat the other guy's Lakers or whatever the fuck motivates these people.

Was it worth it, everyone? Was it worth diluting our impact as a movement to get your candidate that extra 0.00001% in the polls that they needed? Was it really worth validating right-wing smears and things Rush Limbaugh would say? Was it worth all the hysterics?

I don't know, you tell me.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Your Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ladies And Gents

I don't know how many years it's been known that the trailers that thousands of Gulf Coast residents are STILL living in are toxic. But the CDC confirmed it this week, and basically told people that have been living in them for two and a half years to "Get out before it's too late!" And, presumably, leave your lungs there or turn them in at Pep Boys.

More than two years after residents of FEMA trailers deployed along the Mississippi Gulf Coast began complaining of breathing difficulties, nosebleeds and persistent headaches, U.S. health officials announced Thursday that long-awaited government tests found potentially hazardous levels of toxic formaldehyde gas in both travel trailers and mobile homes provided by the agency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which requested the testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it would work aggressively to relocate all residents of the temporary housing as soon as possible.

Levels of formaldehyde gas in 519 trailer and mobile homes tested in Louisiana and Mississippi were — on average — about five times what people are exposed to in most modern homes, the CDC reported. In some trailers, the levels were nearly 40 times customary exposure levels, raising fears that residents could suffer respiratory problems and potentially other long-term health effects, it said.

Good, problem solved, finally! Whew, good thing that whole poisoning needy families thing is over!

So the next time temporary housing is needed for people who've lost their homes, they would be sure to test for levels of formaldehyde, right? Right!?!?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide mobile homes to victims of last week's tornadoes in Arkansas and Tennessee, despite a health warning about high formaldehyde levels in trailers used by the victims of the 2005 hurricanes.

A FEMA spokesman said the agency would begin the process to vet the mobile homes parked at the airport in Hope, Ark., before releasing them to the Arkansas and Tennessee victims of last week's storms. Spokesman James McIntyre said FEMA will have processes in place to ensure safety.

How reassuring.

Congratulations, FEMA, you've just given this country less credibility on public health than China. By the way, the Chinese factory at that link that produced the active ingredient in the drug that sickened hundreds of people... was never inspected by the FDA.

The FDA and FEMA ought to have a contest over how many people they can sicken.

Labels: , , , , ,


Sen. Boxer, Don't Reward Polluters

I have the greatest respect for Barbara Boxer and the work she's doing on the issue of global warming. However, I think it's a shortsighted approach for working to pass a bill that she thinks George Bush can sign, a climate change bill that would set up a cap and trade system and just give carbon credits away to polluting industries. There's been a simmering battle between environmental groups on this bill, and now it's exploded into the open, with the Sierra Club coming out against the bill, known as Lieberman-Warner (which should tell you something).

Fast-forward to present day: the carbon industries are lobbying to get a deal done this year that would give away carbon permits free of charge to existing polluters -- bribing the sluggish, and slowing down innovation. And politicians are telling us that while it would be better to auction these permits and make polluters pay for putting carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, creating that market unfortunately gets in the way of the politics.

We are being urged to compromise -- to put a system in place quickly, even if it is the wrong system. Given that we only have one chance to get this right before it's too late, our top priority must be to make sure that we do not settle prematurely and sign a weak bill into law in the name of doing something about global warming. With momentum for strong action and a friendlier Congress and White House building every day, it's no coincidence that some wish to settle their accounts now.

This will tie the hands of the Presidential candidates on the Democratic side, who have far better proposals for their cap and trade system, including selling the carbon credits at a 100% auction, using the funds to promote green energy and research for renewables. It's the wrong bill at the wrong time.

I know that Sen. Boxer wants to use her status as the head of the Environment Committee to push this compromise bill forward. But the political calculus next year could be excellent for a real bill with real teeth, and Boxer would be leaving that on the table. As I mentioned earlier this week, Sens. Obama and Clinton are co-sponsors of this Lieberman-Warner bill, which was initially authored by John McCain, and so this has the potential to totally take global warming as an issue off the table for the 2008 elections. As Matt Stoller writes:'s the huge number of new liberal anti-carbon energy voters out there that are going to allow the public to get a sustainable deal on climate change next Congress. There's some evidence that Obama might make global warming his highest priority, having promised to begin negotiating a new Kyoto-style treaty even before taking office.

All of this is excellent and game-changing news that we've seen happen in the last week or so. As a reminder, here's what Boxer said just two weeks ago about Friends of the Earth, which has waged a campaign called 'Fix it or Ditch it' about the massive Lieberman-Warner bill to subsidize polluting industries.

"They're sort of the defeatist group out there," she said. "They've been defeatists from day one. And it's unfortunate. They're isolated among the environmental groups."

This nasty slur, while not true at the time (Greenpeace was opposing the bill), is now silly. At least one big green group has moved in response to Wynn's loss to get a better deal, and the business right, the coal producers, the nuclear industry, and the oil guys know they will have to deal soon. The Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth have said that we must work on global warming, but that it must be done smart and sustainably.

We've been down this road before. The rising cost of gasoline and worries about peak oil led everyone to go running toward biofuels in a desire to "just do something," and now we're learning that the production of biofuels costs more energy than the savings from biofuels themselves. So now we've created this giant windfall for agribusiness, and nobody wants to reverse the ship because it'd be politically unpopular to enact what some would see as an "anti-environmental" initiative.

A "deal" on a bad cap and trade bill would have the same effect. It would lock in a giveaway to polluters on the order of trillions, and make it very difficult for the next President to do anything about it. If you care about the environment, I think you need to let Sen. Boxer know that only a real climate change bill that hits the necessary targets is sufficient. Otherwise, she has to walk away from this.

UPDATE: I should note that the CBO came out with a report showing that a carbon tax is CLEARLY the best option for reducing emissions, the easiest to implement, and arguably the most cost-effective. Unfortunately, that's a dead letter as we continue to use the subprime carbon market.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Constituent Services

The House of Representatives passed its annual resolution honoring the winner of the Super Bowl, in this case, the New York Giants. It passed 412-1. The lone vote. The representative from my home area of Bucks County, PA, Patrick Murphy.

This is exactly the kind of leadership we need. Bucks County’s U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy won’t budge on his allegiance to the Philadelphia Eagles, even when high-hogging it on Capitol Hill. Turns out Murphy was the lone dissenter in a House resolution proposed on Wednesday congratulating the New York Giants on winning this year’s Super Bowl and “completing one of the most remarkable postseason runs in professional sports history.”

Murphy wouldn’t sign it. Not a chance. The scrappy congressman, who was a former 700-level security worker, told the Bucks County Courier Times: “I couldn’t, in good conscience, vote for the New York Giants. The only thing worse would have been a resolution honoring the Dallas Cowboys.”

I told this to my Eagle fan dad and he said, "He has my vote for life." There's a draft Murphy for President movement on one of the Eagle blogs.

Murphy is officially unbeatable now, as ridiculous as that sounds.

Labels: , ,


Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

So Joe Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel are headed to Pakistan to observe Monday's elections. Surely the dictator who suspended the Constitution long enough to throw out the entire judiciary will now ensure that the polls are free of fraud and vote tampering. After all, THREE US Senators are going to monitor a country of 164 million!

The first thing that Biden and Kerry and Hagel might want to do is schedule a meeting with Human Rights Watch:

A prominent U.S.-based human rights group Friday released what it said was a recording of Pakistan's attorney general acknowledging that next week's national elections would be "massively" rigged.

Human Rights Watch said a journalist made the recording during a telephone interview with Attorney General Malik Qayyum when Qayyum took a second call without disconnecting the first, allowing his end of the second conversation to be overheard and recorded.

In the recording, Qayyum, Pakistan's top legal officer, can be heard advising the caller to accept a ticket he is being offered by an unidentified political party for a seat, Human Rights Watch said.

"They will massively rig to get their own people to win," Qayyum said, according to a transcript released by Human Rights Watch. "If you get a ticket from these guys, take it."

I mean, it is physical evidence, and all. And certainly there's motive; the opposition party has vowed to impeach Musharraf if they get into power. Do you really think a dictator would let that happen?

Another thing the Senators should do is schedule their outbound flight now. Because it might be tough to get out of Dodge after the election:

Awan's comments came a day after Musharraf warned his opponents not to immediately claim fraud and stage demonstrations after the vote.

Another opposition party, headed by ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, rejected Musharraf's warning, saying it would stage nationwide protests if it believes the election was manipulated.

"We know Musharraf wants to rig the elections," said Sadiq ul-Farooq, a senior member of Sharif's party. "If he did it, we will force him to quit through street protests."

Monday should be fun. If your idea of fun is millions pouring onto the streets in riots and martial law and an unstable nation with a significant Islamist population and nuclear weapons.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Pro-Yacht-Tax-Evasion Republicans Fighting Hard For Their Welfare Money

Apparently the Republicans in the California legislature are balking at fixing a loophole that allows yacht owners to evade taxes on their purchase. Yachts. I mean it's perfect. This is what we face in California, the Republican Party is just the wingnuttiest of the wingnutty. They demand welfare checks for rich people. I mean that's what it is.

This is why getting a 2/3 requirement is so crucial. We need to end this nonsense so a small and insane minority can hijack the entire state.

Seriously, it'd be $50,000 well-spent by the Speaker to run a couple radio ads in Sacramento to highlight Republicans who voted to allow rich people to save money on their yachts. If he asked me, I'D chip in to hear see that. Hell, I'd work pro bono on it if they wanted to turn them in to TV ads. And I have a voice for radio (and a face, too).

I'm about working with the legislative leadership in Sacramento to make Republicans pay for this. There isn't a "pro-yacht-loophole" faction out there that would mollify this. Every Republican in the state would take heat from their constituents over this.

It's time to start thinking strategically. And since the party largely votes as a block, it's time to start holding every single Republican accountable for the actions of their majority.

Labels: , , , ,


Friday Random Ten

I have to commend Apple for their new additions to the iPod Touch, although I fail to understand why I had to pay $20 more bucks for them. The email feature is really great - smooth and easy to use. I can load up my emails on my Wi-Fi at home, and then periodically check them when I'm out. Seeing that I get a metric ton of emails, this is pretty crucial.

I also enjoy getting the weather.

You Were Right - Badly Drawn Boy
The Middle - Great Northern
Imagine This - Mediacracy (nice that I found this song, it takes Bush speeches and cuts them up to have him sing the words to John Lennon's Imagine)
We're Going To Be Friends - The White Stripes
Thank You, Lord, For Sending Me The F Train - Mike Doughty
If You Want Me - Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglova
Alright - Guided By Voices
I Am The Resurrection - The Stone Roses
Celebration - Kanye West
Lightness - Death Cab For Cutie


Labels: , ,


If A President Stamps His Feet In The Rose Garden, And Nobody Is There To Hear It...

It's funny that the President responds to nobody listening to his temper tantrum by... throwing another temper tantrum.

The American citizens must understand -- clearly understand that there still is a threat on the homeland, there's still an enemy which would like to do us harm, and that we've got to give our professionals the tools they need to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so that we can stop it....

People say, oh, it doesn't matter if this law hasn't been renewed -- it does matter. It matters for a variety of reasons. It matters because the intelligence officials won't have tools necessary to get as much information as we possibly can to protect you. And it matters because these telephone companies that work collaboratively with us to protect the American people are afraid they're going to get sued.

And the American people have got to understand these lawsuits make it harder for us to convince people to help protect you. And so by blocking this good piece of legislation, our professionals tell me that they don't have all the tools they need to do their job.

This would probably work better if it wasn't the President saying it and, I don't know, someone that the public even remotely trusts. And no, faceless Bush crony Mike McConnell doesn't qualify, especially when he admits that protecting the American public is not his job, protecting corporations is.

The Protect America Act, passed by Congress last August, temporarily closed the gaps in our intelligence collection, but there was a glaring omission: liability protection for those private-sector firms that helped defend the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks. This month, I testified before Congress, along with the other senior leaders of the intelligence community, on the continuing threats to the United States from terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets. We stated that long-term legislation that modernized FISA and provided retroactive liability protection was vital to our operations. The director of the FBI told the Senate that "in protecting the homeland it's absolutely essential" to have the support of private parties.

Some have claimed that expiration of the Protect America Act would not significantly affect our operations. Such claims are not supported by the facts. We are already losing capability due to the failure to address liability protection.

He really puts it up front, doesn't he? The only "gap" in intelligence gathering is making sure nobody gets sued for doing it because it's against the law. They honestly can't come up with a reason why going to a court to get a warrant, even AFTER the surveillance, is such a burden, so they misrepresent the facts. And that's because it's not their major interest. Their interest is getting the phone companies off the hook.

A good summary of the pathetic lying and fearmongering from the right-wing is here, but it's important to understand that for the Bush Administration this is all about the phone companies, and nothing else. Because, a court case with the phone companies involved would reveal the depths of the lawbreaking undertaken by the Administration itself. This is about self-preservation.

And so we come to the Democrats, who simply put this fearmongering aside yesterday and chose to ignore it. And this has left the White House flabbergasted. They literally don't know what to do about it.

The episode was a rare uprising by Democrats against the White House on a terrorism issue, and it inspired caterwauling on both sides about the dire ramifications of the standoff.

Several Democrats said yesterday that many in their party wish to take a more measured approach to terrorism issues, and they refused to be stampeded by Bush. "We have seen what happens when the president uses fearmongering to stampede Congress into making bad decisions," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "That's why we went to war in Iraq."

White House officials and their allies were angry that the Democrats did not "blink," as one outside adviser said. The decision to defy the White House came in the form of a weeklong adjournment of the House yesterday afternoon.

They really only have one card to play, and when it doesn't work, there's nowhere else to go in the deck.

Now, in a just world that would be that. The Democrats simply wouldn't ever take this bill up again, would let FISA remain the law of the land, and would move on to other things and chuckle when Bush throws a temper tantrum every other day. But this is of course the Democrats we're talking about here. So the next sentence in the article I cited is:

Pelosi said she instructed committee chairmen to begin talks with their Democratic counterparts in the Senate, who this week supported the administration's position on the surveillance bill, suggesting that a compromise might be possible in the coming weeks.

There's no compromise necessary. FISA works fine, you can add a patch to foreign-to-foreign calls that go through an American switcher, and move on.

So I'm skeptical this will hold. Still, the Democrats have to be enjoying how they stood up to the President and nothing happened. They didn't spontaneously combust, the world didn't come to an end, and Republicans didn't turn into giants. Glenn Greenwald captures my thoughts pretty well.

On one level, it's difficult to maintain any sustained optimism about the House's defiance yesterday. They were acting far more out of resentment over the procedural treatment to which they were subjected by the White House and, more so, the Senate -- having a bill dropped in their lap again just a couple of days before a deadline and told that they had to pass it, as is, and immediately -- than out of any principled objection to warrantless eavesdropping or telecom amnesty.

And it's painfully easy to envision more than enough "Blue Dogs" eventually joining their GOP colleagues to pass the Senate bill, thus handing the White House yet another complete victory, even if it comes a little later than it was demanded. In light of the endless series of events over the last twelve months, the hope that some sort of actual conviction will cause this obstructionism to be permanent is far too naive for any rational person to entertain seriously.

Still, basic human nature -- if nothing else -- dictates that having finally liberated themselves, however fleetingly, from the truly moronic rule of the Ted "Osama-is-Celebrating" Poes of the world, and having seen that -- as McJoan put it -- "the Democrats stood up to Bush, and the world didn't end," Democrats will crave more of the sweet taste of dignity and autonomy [...]

When Democrats actually engage the debate and make their case unapologetically and with some passion, as they remarkably did yesterday, then journalists can and -- at least to some extent -- will convey the message. It's when they run away and hide and act defensively that their message does not get across. One can only hope, even while harboring substantial doubt, that having a taste of this success will drive them to crave more. Our country really can't afford to be bullied any longer by Ted Poe's fantasy jihadi parties and George W. Bush's "you're-all-going-to-die-unless- I-get-everything-I-want" threats.

Contrary to the belief of David Broder and his friends that more meek agreement with the President's demands -- i.e, "bipartisanship" -- is needed, what any healthy democracy desperately requires is precisely this type of adversarial dynamic. The Leader needs to be "defied" and "challenged" and his demands -- especially those for greater unchecked power -- need to be refused if we are to maintain basic "checks and balances" and some form of an accountable government. This is exactly what we have been so destructively lacking.

It remains to be seen if the Dems will truly get the message.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


All My Candidates Are In Texas

Three polls out from Texas today with wildly different results, which is right in line with the wide variance in polling this year. Rasmussen has Clinton up by 19 and ARG has Obama up by 6. ARG has been terrible this election cycle.

The one that interests me, however, is this one commissioned by the Texas Credit Union League. It has Clinton up 49-41, which sounds about right (maybe a little low), but it reiterates that Obama has some natural, built-in advantages with the delegate count:

Even though Clinton leads by 8 points in polling statewide, based upon the following sub-samples, Obama would still come out with a delegate lead.

And that's just among delegates allocated by the primary, not our additional caucus process which Obama has proven deft at winning delegates through.

I'm not kidding, follow me below...

"Clinton also enjoys majority support in the South (57%) and Western (61%) regions of the state, and edges ahead in the Eastern part of the state 46% to 40%. Obama is beating Clinton 53% to 32% in the Central region and leads 49% to 44% in the Houston area. The Dallas Fort-Worth region is tied within margin of error (Clinton 42%, Obama 41%)."

Which means that Clinton actually needs something like a blowout to get the delegate split she needs in Texas. All of which is to say that Mark Penn is an idiot when he claims that "Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania ... have 492 delegates - 64 percent of the remaining delegates Hillary Clinton needs to win the nomination," because she's not going to win those states by a 100-0 count.

In a somewhat related note, Markos agrees with me that the whole superdelegate thing is way overblown. The nominee is going to win this on the ground and at the polls, and either of them can right now. I also agree with this:

What's most interesting to me about this whole affair, however, is that the Clintonistas would even suggest the use of super delegates to subvert the will of the Democratic Party electorate. It betrays a lack of confidence in their candidate's electoral viability, even with a calendar that will become far more favorable to her in March, while seemingly confirming every right-wing charge that the Clintons place winning above all else, including principle.

That they would even suggest a tactic that would sunder the Democratic Party, kicking off a vicious and destructive civil war, tells me that like Bill in the 90s, when our majorities in Congress and all around the country were decimated and the party's base left to wither and die, Hillary will put her own interests above those of their party. And to me, there's no greater sin in Democratic politics than that.

So the Clinton campaign has graduated from saying that certain states don't matter, to saying certain voters don't matter, to now saying that the Democratic Party electorate doesn't matter.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Head of the Connecticut For Waterboarding Party

Really, there's no other phrase but evil fuck that can describe Joe Lieberman now. Please leave the Democratic caucus.

Yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “reluctantly acknowledged” that he doesn’t believe waterboarding is torture. According to the Connecticut Post, Lieberman downplayed the severity of the waterboarding because it doesn’t inflict permanent physical damage:

In the worst case scenario — when there is an imminent threat of a nuclear attack on American soil — Lieberman said that the president should be able to certify the use of waterboarding on a detainee suspected of knowing vital details of the plot.

“You want to be able to use emergency tech to try to get the information out of that person,” Lieberman said. […]

“It is not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological,” Lieberman said.

What a sad man. This is something that the amoral Bush Administration doesn't even allow anymore. That's because it's a criminal act in violation of international law. In Bush's case, he just wants to be able to travel abroad without being under indictment.

Quite the company Joe Lieberman has found himself in: Antonin Scalia and Dick Cheney.


Labels: , ,


Lending the Lenders

Shifting from the California budget to the national budget, the President, when he's not whining about giving telecom companies amnesty for lawbreaking, is whining to Congress about fixing the economic mess he's created.

President Bush, acknowledging that the country is suffering through a period of economic uncertainty, called on Congress Monday to do more to help people and businesses hurt by the housing slump and credit crunch.

In a brief introduction to his annual economic report, Bush said the $168 billion economic rescue package passed by Congress last week will keep “our economy growing and our people working.”

Bush urged lawmakers to pass additional legislation that would revamp mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and modernize the Depression-era Federal Housing Administration, which insures mortgages for low- and middle-income borrowers. The president also said Congress should approve legislation allowing state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help squeezed homeowners refinance their mortgages.

What's not said, in public, is what Bush actually wants - more help for corporations that made their own beds and now want all of us to lie in it. Here's how this is going to work out. The banking industry is writing down tens of billions of dollars because of their own greed and predatory practices, and they want a bailout. It doesn't get simpler than that.

The banking industry ... is urgently shopping proposals to Congress and the Bush administration that could shift some of the risk for troubled loans to the federal government.

One proposal, advanced by officials at Credit Suisse Group, would expand the scope of loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The proposal would let the FHA guarantee mortgage refinancings by some delinquent borrowers.

The risk: If delinquent borrowers default on their refinanced loans, the federal government would have to absorb the loss.

This is about rich investors avoiding responsibility. As Bush has said often, he has no problem with rich people avoiding taxes, and will not use his power as, you know, the guy in charge of the IRS, to close any loopholes or demand that everyone helps fund the federal government fairly. And this is the same thing. The lenders foul up by plundering homeowners and jacking up their rates, they sell the mortgage-backed securities to investors who don't understand the risk, and when the system can no longer sustain itself they want John Q. Public to pay for it?

This is what some of those same lenders are doing in their spare time.

One recent morning, dozens of elderly and disabled people, some propped on walkers and canes, gathered at Small Loans Inc. Many had borrowed money from Small Loans and turned over their Social Security benefits to pay back the high-interest lender. Now they were waiting for their "allowance" -- their monthly check, minus Small Loans' cut.

The crowd represents the newest twist for a fast-growing industry -- lenders that make high-interest loans, often called "payday" loans, that are secured by upcoming paychecks. Such lenders are increasingly targeting recipients of Social Security and other government benefits, including disability and veteran's benefits. "These people always get paid, rain or shine," says William Harrod, a former manager of payday loan stores in suburban Virginia and Washington, D.C. Government beneficiaries "will always have money, every 30 days."

The law bars the government from sending a recipient's benefits directly to lenders. But many of these lenders are forging relationships with banks and arranging for prospective borrowers to have their benefits checks deposited directly into bank accounts. The banks immediately transfer government funds to the lenders. The lender then subtracts debt repayments, plus fees and interest, before giving the recipients a dime.

As a result, these lenders, which pitch loans with effective annual interest as high as 400% or more, can gain almost total control over Social Security recipients' finances.

These are the noble citizens we're all supposed to bail out - those who prey on the elderly and the weak. And by the way, if we bail them out, they'll keep doing this.

UPDATE: Here's another fun way the government is helping out the banks:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has sponsored an unusual [not for long!] provision at the urging of the nation’s banks granting them immunity against an active patent lawsuit, potentially saving them billions of dollars.

Adopted with little fanfare [I’ll bet!] , the amendment would prevent a small Texas company called DataTreasury from collecting damages from banks for infringing on its patented method for digitally scanning, sending and archiving checks. The patents were upheld last summer by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after they were challenged.

Welcome to the United States of Corporate America.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Budget Cuts To Pass Today

This morning, in a matter of minutes, the State Senate and State Assembly will ratify the emergency cuts which will "ensure the state will have enough cash to get through the fiscal year."

While the cuts are not nearly as severe as what was requested by the Governor, and of course this only impacts the current fiscal year and not the projected $14.5 billion dollar deficit, it offers something of a template, one would assume, for how the future budget problems will be approached. There's a very good summary of what will be affected by the California Budget Project here (PDF). Some of it is creative accounting, a small sliver of it closes tax loopholes like Dick Ackerman's yacht loophole (and even Republicans voted for that), but a good deal of it will manifest themselves in a reduction of needed services. I guess the best you can say is "it could have been worse," and at least one tiny loophole (worth about $5 million this year and $21 million in 2008-09) was closed.

I think I'm being a little charitable.

Frank Russo, as usual, has more.

Republicans acknowledged in today’s hearings that these were painful cuts being made. Both Republicans and Democrats spoke with passion about many of these cuts—sometimes expressing hopes that when next year budget is adopted that some of the cuts can be reversed. The need for speed was acknowledged by all, as California is in danger of running out of funds to pay ongoing expenses.

It was a "back-against-the-wall" solution, and it shows. We now have several months until the deadline for the next budget. That needs to be addressed in a manner where cuts-only solutions are not forced by circumstance.

Labels: , , , ,


Plot From An 80s Film

In a world, where a runaway satellite is hurtling toward Earth, one man has one shot at history. Trapped between deceit and desire, can he realize his dream, or spawn a nightmare?

The military will try to shoot down a crippled spy satellite in the next two weeks, senior officials said Thursday. The officials laid out a high-tech plan to intercept the satellite over the Pacific just before it tumbles uncontrollably to Earth carrying toxic fuel.

He's been preparing all his life for one moment... or has the moment been preparing for him? And what does that exactly mean?

The three-ship convoy assigned to the new task will stalk the satellite’s orbital path across the northern Pacific, tracking the satellite as it circles the globe 16 times a day. The sensors and weapons in the operation, modified from antiaircraft defenses for use as a shield against incoming missiles and installed on Navy cruisers, have been used just in carefully controlled tests.

This time, the target is not an incoming warhead or a dummy test target, but a doomed experimental satellite the size of a school bus and weighing 5,000 pounds. It died shortly after being launched in December 2006 and contains a half-ton of hydrazine, a fuel that officials said could burn the lungs and even be deadly in extended doses.

Will they reach their goal... of previewing a ballistic missile system that's never worked in any meaningful test in the hopes that Congress can continue to put billions and billions of dollars into a needless boondoggle?

The effort will be a real-world test of the nation’s antiballistic missile systems and its antisatellite abilities, even though the Pentagon said it was not using the effort to test its most exotic weapons or send a message to any adversaries [...]

In many ways, the task resembles shooting down an intercontinental nuclear missile, although this target is larger, its path is better known and, if a first shot misses, it will continue to circle the Earth for long enough to allow a second or even a third try.

And can they save the planet... from exposing spy secrets to other countries...

President Bush ordered the action to prevent any possible contamination from the hazardous rocket fuel on board, and not out of any concern that parts of the spacecraft might survive and reveal its secrets, the officials said.

Suddenly, this isn't sounding like such a noble, heroic effort...

But dammit, it's important!

“This is all about trying to reduce the danger to human beings,” said James F. Jeffrey, deputy national security adviser.

This summer, or actually in two weeks but it sounds more dramatic if you say "This summer," strap yourself in for a non-stop thrill ride that will blow you out of the back wall of the theater... or at least, if you suspend your disbelief, will make you forget that missile defense is both useless and unnecessarily provoking Russia into a resumption of the Cold War...

Satellite. A shot into the Heavens is all that can save us from hell.

Rated R.

by dday

In a world, where a runaway satellite is hurtling toward Earth, one man has one shot at history. Trapped between deceit and desire, can he realize his dream, or spawn a nightmare?

The military will try to shoot down a crippled spy satellite in the next two weeks, senior officials said Thursday. The officials laid out a high-tech plan to intercept the satellite over the Pacific just before it tumbles uncontrollably to Earth carrying toxic fuel.

He's been preparing all his life for one moment... or has the moment been preparing for him? And what does that exactly mean?

The three-ship convoy assigned to the new task will stalk the satellite’s orbital path across the northern Pacific, tracking the satellite as it circles the globe 16 times a day. The sensors and weapons in the operation, modified from antiaircraft defenses for use as a shield against incoming missiles and installed on Navy cruisers, have been used just in carefully controlled tests.

This time, the target is not an incoming warhead or a dummy test target, but a doomed experimental satellite the size of a school bus and weighing 5,000 pounds. It died shortly after being launched in December 2006 and contains a half-ton of hydrazine, a fuel that officials said could burn the lungs and even be deadly in extended doses.

Will they reach their goal... of previewing a ballistic missile system that's never worked in any meaningful test in the hopes that Congress can continue to put billions and billions of dollars into a needless boondoggle?

The effort will be a real-world test of the nation’s antiballistic missile systems and its antisatellite abilities, even though the Pentagon said it was not using the effort to test its most exotic weapons or send a message to any adversaries [...]

In many ways, the task resembles shooting down an intercontinental nuclear missile, although this target is larger, its path is better known and, if a first shot misses, it will continue to circle the Earth for long enough to allow a second or even a third try.

And can they save the planet... from exposing spy secrets to other countries...

President Bush ordered the action to prevent any possible contamination from the hazardous rocket fuel on board, and not out of any concern that parts of the spacecraft might survive and reveal its secrets, the officials said.

Suddenly, this isn't sounding like such a noble, heroic effort...

But dammit, it's important!

“This is all about trying to reduce the danger to human beings,” said James F. Jeffrey, deputy national security adviser.

This summer, or actually in two weeks but it sounds more dramatic if you say "This summer," strap yourself in for a non-stop thrill ride that will blow you out of the back wall of the theater... or at least, if you suspend your disbelief, will make you forget that missile defense is both useless and unnecessarily provoking Russia into a resumption of the Cold War...

Satellite. A shot into the Heavens is all that can save us from hell.

Rated R.

UPDATE: Ok, this might be turning into a romantic comedy with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson:

The Pentagon says it has to shoot down a malfunctioning spy satellite because of the threat of a toxic gas cloud. Space security experts are calling the rationale "comedic gold." [...]

Even if the hydrazine were released, he noted, the effects would likely be mild -- akin to chlorine gas poisoning, which can cause burning in the lungs, and elsewhere. The area affected would be "roughly the size of two football fields [where you might] incur something that would make you go to the doctor."

This... summer?

Labels: , , , , ,


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Your Candidate Sucks.

Really? Did Hillary Clinton actually try to attack Barack Obama for cozying up to the nuclear industry in the Exelon case, when her chief strategist Mark Penn just took $230,000 from said company? Did that actually happen?

And is the Obama campaign, as well as supporters like MoveOn, really talking about the need for superdelegates to respect the "will of the people" when clearly they're talking about respecting the will of getting Obama into office?

And are both sides giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to these same superdelegates, and somehow do people find it exceptional that politicians help other politicians with campaign cash?

(By the way, most superdelegates win state-based DNC races and don't get a smidge, even a little bit, of campaign cash. They're party activists who represent state-based activists, and they're the ones who elected Howard Dean to the chairmanship against the will of the establishment. Anyone who thinks superdelegates are going to in any way decide the nominee at the convention is out of their fucking mind. There is no way they will rip four years' worth of party building asunder and actively participate in their own destruction. The winner of this nomination will be the winner of the votes in the primaries, period. Anything else is idle speculation, and the media gooses it to actively set the Party against itself. Thanks a lot for buying into it, online community!)

My initial decision to back John Edwards (and to an extent, Chris Dodd) looks better with each passing day. They're flawed, though, too. EVERYONE in politics is flawed. The only candidate that's going to fit your perfect model is, well, you. Otherwise, you're going to have to settle for an imperfect human being. And if you don't like it, do something about it. The man in the arena and all that.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier."

As I've been saying for weeks now, the candidate itself ultimately doesn't matter as much as the progressive movement's ability to be engaged in the process. The engagement and participation on FISA has yielded better results thus far than anyone thought possible. Yes, FISA itself is a step back from the Constitutional provisions of the Fourth Amendment. But the Constitution doesn't really apply to noncitizens - that'd be the "foreign" part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And so the FISA provisions, put in place under President Carter, responsibly strike the balance between intelligence gathering and civil liberties protections. And they were utterly trashed by a rogue President and a pliant Congress, and regular people fought back, and did more to stop what is actually an establishment wave toward giving up liberties and sanctioning lawbreaking than I ever thought possible.

All of this nonsense about character flaws and which candidate has the most earmarks (right, because the defense budget isn't one giant frackin' earmark that John McCain mainlines personally to his defense buddies in Arizona) and who's playing what identity card is really exhausting. This is about policy, but when the policies are similar, it's about who is going to invite a people-powered coalition to help in the prospect of changing the country from the bottom up. The individual flawed politician who excites and inspires that coalition is kind of immaterial. And those who are so desperate to score a point or two so they can cheer and high-five to the other 100 or so online friends in their corner are engaging in behavior I rolled my eyes at in junior high school. It bears no resemblance to the real world, where these particular flawed politicians are actually broadly popular. But it sure gives the Republican oppo research shops a lot to work with. Thanks, blogosphere!

UPDATE: And thanks, campaign surrogates! Joe Wilson's recycling a smear from right-wing blogs, almost verbatim, to attack Obama. Good work!

(apologies to Thers for ripping off the title)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Hawaii Hearts Hillary?

I always thought it was kind of odd to just assume that Hawaii would caucus for Barack Obama because he grew up there. He hasn't lived there, to my knowledge, in at least 25 years, and considering how the Asian vote went so strong for Hillary in California, it seemed premature. And there's been no polling, none, in Hawaii. And I guess Chelsea just went out there for the next 3 days.

Barron Young-Smith did a little research, and it's anecdotal, but that looks to me like it'll be a very close race, even if caucus goers aren't real people as Bill Clinton says.

...almost 60% of Hawaiians are Asian Americans--as Isaac pointed out, by far the most anti-Obama demographic in the United States in the primaries thus far. And Hawaii's Democratic caucus is closed, which means an even higher Asian percentage among those eligible to vote for Hillary or Obama--not to mention that Hawaii's Democrats are notorious machine politicians, closely tied to the military and to huge unions that are officially in the tank for Clinton [...]

I asked [the author's grandfather] about the candidates. He supports Hillary because she has more experience, and explains that Obama's been doing a good job raising money in Hawaii--especially among "haoles" (pron. "howlies," a common Hawaiian pejorative for white people) who he says have been flocking to Hawaii's still-booming real-estate market (note: an unverified assertion).

Furthermore, he says, Hawaii's Democratic Party has been controlled by the Japanese since the 1960s, and influential Japanese-American Senator Daniel Inouye is making a high-profile trip from Washington, D.C to stump for Hillary. This is big news.

My follow-up call to a local expert, Ira Rohter from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, reveals that the Democratic establishment is aggressively working to inoculate the state against Obama--priming their warhorses, the two biggest government unions, for a major turnout effort and bringing professional organizers from the mainland.

During the 2004 primaries, Dennis Kucinich apparently caught them by surprise, coming in second place with the help of left-wing progressive organizers. Now warned, they've vowed to prevent a repeat performance by Obama. They're betting their manpower advantage will overcome Obama's effort to turn out young Hawaiians, who are legendarily apathetic about voting. Professor Rohter speculates that Hillary thinks she at has at least a chance to embarrass Obama by beating him in his home state. He says Obama, who is in Seattle today, may have to consider flying to Hawaii and making a dramatic appearance to galvanize support.

This isn't to say that Obama is just relying on young people. He's also trying to piggyback on the Kucinich progressives and mobilizing his former alumni network at Punahou--the elite private school he attended in his teens. In Hawaii, elite schools like Punahou and the Kamehameha schools provide instant connections to powerful families, giving their alumni an automatic leg up if they want to enter politics. And, as always, Obama's campaign has focused on community organization in a way that Hillary's doesn't even attempt to do. "They're doing all the right things," Rohter, a campaign-organization junkie, tells me.

My understanding was that Kucinich did well there because he actually bothered to campaign in the state.

Obama attended Punahou, so obviously he still has some friends in the Hawaiian establishment. But it really doesn't seem to me like a slam-dunk, and the media is kind of lazily assuming that it will be. They also are likely not to stay up late enough next Tuesday to even report this, either.

UPDATE: Not all bad for Obama, of course: a couple black lawmakers are talking about switching to him, including the legendary John Lewis, which would be huge... by the way, the Lewis switch is confirmed in the New York Times:

Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

Mr. Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview in which he said that as a superdelegate, he could not go against the wishes of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama.

There is approximately no chance of a floor fight at the convention. Someone's going to win this at the ballot box. The DNC is not going to actively participate in its own destruction.

Labels: , , , , ,


Quick Questions

How exactly does Dan Abrams, the general manager of MSNBC, get away with using the phrase "inside DC media" and keeping himself outside of it?

Also, how does he get away with running a "Beat the Press" segment where he criticizes media foolishness on every channel but the one he runs?

I'm somewhat sympathetic to his arguments on occasion, but how can the head of one of the few national cable networks in America pretend to be a figure outside the media?

...OK, so apparently (h/t bmaz), Abrams resigned from the position of general manager last October. Of course, MSNBC personalities were pushing the same sorts of narratives at that time, and you'd think Abrams, rather than criticizing the amorphous "DC media" about it, could have, I don't know, held a staff meeting.

I guess my larger point is that, when so many broadcasters who host their own shows take on that "independent, anti-establishment" persona, it kind of feels like when all those radio stations switched to "alternative music" circa 1994. Kind of destroys the definition.

Labels: , , ,


The Drive For 2/3: C'mon CDP, Come Along For The Ride

I am firmly committed to getting a 2/3 majority in both houses of the state Legislature by 2010. Fabian Nuñez believes that, in the Assembly, we can get halfway there by November.

Speaking at the Sacramento Press Club yesterday, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez said Democrats should add three seats to their 48-32 majority in the California Assembly in November's elections.

Nunez made the prediction after new figures from the Secretary of State show a surge in Democratic registrations in all but two Assembly districts, including three held by incumbent Republicans who will be forced to leave office.

They include the desert/Riverside area seat held by Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, the San Diego seat of Assemblywoman Shirley Horton, and the Contra Costa/Sacramento Delta seat held by Assemblyman Guy Houston.

These are clearly the three seats to target. AD-80 (Garcia's seat) has some excellent candidates on the Democratic side, including Greg Pettis and the Hispanic Barack Obama, Manuel Perez. We have good candidates in AD-78 (Horton's old seat) and AD-15 (Houston's) as well - as those Caliticians in those districts can attest. Plus, we not only have registration advantages, but the advantage of a game-changing Democratic nominee at the top of the ticket (whether it's Obama or Clinton) that will bring new Democratic voters to the process. These three seats are prime opportunities, and there are other Assembly opportunities like Greg Aghazarian's seat (he's also termed out), and more in the Senate (Hannah Beth Jackson's bid in SD-19, the possible Jeff Denham recall, Abel Maldonado's SD-15).

However, I want to highlight this nugget about the way Assembly and Senate elections are managed in California.

If Democrats field strong candidates for these seats, we could be looking at a pickup of 2/3+ seats.

Each of the marquee races are expected to be $1 million+ contests. The new Assembly Speaker will be responsible for raising funds and overseeing the campaigns.

I've talked about this with party leaders several times, and nobody has given me an adequate explanation about this. In a way, it's a lot like the DCCC as the House-based campaign arm for national elections. But I'm struggling to understand why the Speaker (and the President Pro Tem of the Senate) have the sole responsibility of overseeing these elections and creating advertising, GOTV, etc. It seems to me that the California Democratic Party would be able to do a much better job in these districts, with their membership already on the ground and involved, and with a larger fundraising base to conduct the operations necessary. Yet for some reason, there is this bifurcation: the CDP deals with statewide races and Congressional seats, and the Assembly and Senate leadership do the legislative races. Is this just tradition? Why can't the CDP play in whatever race they wish?

This problem, or at least what I consider a problem, is compounded by the fact that we will have new leadership in the Assembly and Senate, leadership that may be unused to running multiple campaign operations out of their offices. I think Darrell Steinberg is a fine man (so does George Skelton) who's going to do a great job as the Senate leader, but I don't know how he's going to do facilitating Hannah Beth Jackson's race in the Thousand Oaks area. Furthermore, the new Assembly Speaker won't be picked for a month, and we have to start on these races right now. Obviously the Presidential race is going to take up all the oxygen in the fall, so ensuring that the Democratic candidates get their message out and the Republicans in these open seats are defined is crucial. And right now, for the next month, there's literally nobody to do that.

(Also, the proliferation of independent expenditure money in this state necessitates some organizational and financial help for legislative candidates that may otherwise just get swamped.)

I can hold judgment on the efficacy of this and bow to those wiser in the ways of California elections if I were given a satisfactory explanation for this structure. But nobody has done so, and I've spoken to a lot of people inside the CDP about this. I think 2008, in a favorable environment for Democrats, with no statewide races on the ballot at all, and with a badly broken Republican Party in California that is broke and rife with internal squabbling, would be an excellent time to shift this tradition, and for the CDP to exercise some muscle in these legislative districts, helping solid Democrats get elected and moving us ever closer to the desired 2/3 majority that we need to make the real changes necessary to move the state forward.

This is not an accusation, but a dialogue. I'm looking for ways for my party to be more effective.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Obama: Man Of The People

Barack Obama cleaned up with two big labor endorsements, the SEIU and the UFCW. Both are really great service employee unions who are using a new model of organizing to increase their membership. The United Food and Commercial Workers in particular are very big and powerful in Ohio. Also, Texas populist Jim Hightower endorsed Obama, and he has a pretty significant base of progressives in that state.

I would say that yesterday's speech on the economy paid off, wouldn't you?

(I love the stuff on regulating the credit card industry, by the way.)

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Is Bill Clinton Crazy?

I really don't understand this strategy by the campaign trying to win the Democratic nomination of demeaning Democrats who voted for other Democrats.

Of his wife's recent travails, [Bill Clinton] said, "the caucuses aren't good for her. They disproportionately favor upper-income voters who, who, don't really need a president but feel like they need a change."

It's as if they take personally everyone's vote against them. And do upper-income voters not have the ability to care about their country? What the hell is up with this?

Caucuses have been taking place for many decades, they are party-building events, this year with the tremendous turnout they are going to pay huge dividends in November. Everybody who went to the caucus had their information captured by the state parties, and they can use them to turn out volunteers and activists. They aren't all the "idle rich," either. Caucuses are actually a good thing, and if like Maine they all had absentee ballots attached there wouldn't be any disenfranchisement problems at all. Call for changes in the system if you wish, but please, don't denigrate Democrats who vote for Democrats. That's completely idiotic.

Labels: , , ,


FL-25: Classy Guy, That Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Today's action by the Republicans, to force a vote in the middle of the Capitol memorial service for Tom Lantos, was truly reprehensible, but not surprising. Look what radio talker Michael Savage had to say about Lantos this week:

Discussing the recent death of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), Michael Savage stated during the February 11 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, "You're not supposed to talk badly about the dead. I generally wouldn't do it. But in the case of Tom Lantos, I'll make an exception. I think he was one of the most -- he was a scoundrel. And I'll tell you why I detested Tom Lantos. The man survived the Holocaust of World War II and used it as a weapon the rest of his life."

Of all the people to detest - Tom Lantos, who did nothing but seek to protect and defend human rights his entire life. Your modern conservative movement, ladies and gentlemen.

Meanwhile, the Republican who called for the vote was Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and this could be a major part of his re-election campaign. He has a legitimate challenger - Raul Martinez, the mayor of Hialeah and part of a new generation of Cubans who aren't as knee-jerk Republican as they have been in the past. I don't know if there's any kind of Jewish population in this district, but I'm quite sure they won't like the fact that their Congressman interrupted the memorial service for the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress. Raul Martinez would do well to make this an issue.

UPDATE: Diaz-Balart gives his side of the story:

And the Florida Democratic Party is all over this:

"Everyone from the Israeli Foreign Minister to Condoleezza Rice to Bono took time out to mourn the loss of this respected Holocaust survivor and Congressman, but apparently, even a memorial service can't stop Lincoln Diaz-Balart from playing politics," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Alejandro Miyar said. "This is simply shameful."

"The disrespect that has been shown by a Republican member of Congress in calling a political procedural motion during the memorial service for the late Chairman Tom Lantos is incomprehensible," Stacey Bernards, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, told Politico. "It is unjustifiable, and Republican leaders should restrict their members from further such action."

Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, represented California's 12th District for almost 28 years. He died of esophageal cancer Monday at the age of 80.

I think this could be the final indignation that sets off the Democratic leadership, but I've been thinking that for a while now, so they could of course start cowering again as soon as tomorrow.

UPDATE II: More good stuff from Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), one of my favorite freshman lawmakers:

In November of 2006, the American people decided to give the Democrats control of the House of Representatives and the Congress. I was fortunate enough to be elected as one of the 43 new Democrats in that class. And many people said in examining that election, "Oh, we were elected because of the War in Iraq." But that's not what I heard. What I heard when I was campaigning in 2006 and I think most of my colleagues in this class would say the same thing is, we want to return to the tenets of the Constitution. We want to restore the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers prescribed. We want to make sure that this President and every President is held accountable, is not above the law.

I'm almost proud to be a Democrat today, except for the dismissal of the need to end the war and all that.

UPDATE III: Ooooh...

"Amd so Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that we put into the record at this point news, 'Phone Companies Cut FBI Wiretaps Due to Unpaid Bills.' A lot's been said about what some call 'patriotic phone companies.' Are these the same companies that cut off the FBI FISA wiretaps because the FBI hadn't paid its phone bill? This is breaking news. I ask unanimous consent that we examine this issue and that we include it in the ones in the 21-day period."

But you're forgetting about the spirit of volunteerism!

Some of this is off-topic, but it seems like a good repository for statements by Democrats with backbone. I don't know if it was Al Wynn's loss or what, but Democrats are off the mat and fighting today.

Labels: , , , , ,


Right On, Silvestre Reyes

Never thought I'd write that, but this is good:

You have also suggested that Congress must grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. As someone who has been briefed on our most sensitive intelligence programs, I can see no argument why the future security of our country depends on whether past actions of telecommunications companies are immunized.

The issue of telecom liability should be carefully considered based on a full review of the documents that your Administration withheld from Congress for eight months. However, it is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to say that we will be vulnerable unless we grant immunity for actions that happened years ago.

Congress has not been sitting on its hands. Last November, the House passed responsible legislation to authorize the NSA to conduct surveillance of foreign terrorists and to provide clarity and legal protection to our private sector partners who assist in that surveillance.

The proper course is now to conference the House bill with the Senate bill that was passed on Tuesday. There are significant differences between these two bills and a conference, in regular order, is the appropriate mechanism to resolve the differences between these two bills. I urge you, Mr. President, to put partisanship aside and allow Republicans in Congress to arrive at a compromise that will protect America and protect our Constitution.

I, for one, do not intend to back down - not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.

We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.

That is a pretty frickin' awesome letter, particularly from the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It's exactly how you stand up to a bully, by punching them in the nose. Let's hope he and the rest of the House stand behind it.

UPDATE: Ed Fallon, who is challenging Bush Dog Leonard Boswell in Iowa in a primary, says this on telecom amnesty:

I am opposed to giving immunity to the telecom companies. This is an area where Boswell has repeatedly sided with Bush and against his fellow House Democrats, as when he voted for the Protect America Act and the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act. I am critical of his record because I believe such legislation is too sweeping in granting new police powers to the government and, as a result, infringes on the civil rights and liberties of Americans.

The complexion of this just changed in a big way. Democrats like Rush Holt and Reyes have the upper hand and the Bush Dogs are being squeezed.

(I wish they'd just not compromise at all and let FISA be the lay of the land altogether instead of doing any kind of conference report.)

Labels: , , , , ,