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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Good Timing

Somebody knows how to pull off a news dump.

(CNN) — Barack Obama resigned Saturday from his Chicago church — where controversial sermons by his former pastor and other ministers had created repeated political headaches for the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination — his campaign confirmed.

The resignation comes days after the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a visiting Catholic priest, mocked Obama's Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, for crying in New Hampshire during the runup to the primary there.

I hope this starts to spell the demise of this messy marriage between religion and politics. So far we've had four pastors and one church renounced and rejected between the top two candidates. Maybe the rhetorical flourish of religion doesn't match with politics, and maybe we should keep rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and maybe the "your pastor is more radical than my pastor" stuff is extremely unhelpful and irrelevant at a time of soaring commodity prices, health care costs, multiple wars of occupation and a planet in peril. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea for Democrats to ape Republicans by wearing their religion on their sleeve. Maybe it's time to keep the two separate. Can we?

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America's Sad Sack

Lanny Davis, who continues to claim that he's not a part of the Clinton campaign but just an interested citizen and supporter, lost his shit on the DNC member who made the presentation on behalf of seating delegates in Florida, which you'd think Davis would like, but apparently he didn't propose that Clinton get 5,000 delegates and a pony so it wasn't good enough for ol' Lanny:

A brief but spittle-filled shouting match broke out in the halls of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee hearing on Saturday between a committee member and a surrogate for Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Lanny Davis, the colorful, committed, and sometimes unrestrained Clinton supporter deliberately interrupted a small gathering of press who had come to hear Jon Ausman, a DNC member, explain the basis of his proposed Florida delegation compromise.

"I'll tell you what," Davis chimed in, "the Clinton campaign's position has been misrepresented by this wonderful love-fest, and the lady who testified for us was saying that the Obama campaign and your proposal is not generous. But it is in fact unfair. If you want to hear, now that the love-fest is over, why don't you come over and hear the counterpoint to this completely disingenuous argument." [...]

Ausman: [My proposal] is very generous, because Obama was initially fighting for a situation where Clinton would net 6 delegates, now it's 19.

Davis: Don't say you're being generous.

Ausman: I can say we're being generous.

Davis: But you're allowed to and I'm allowed to disagree...

Ausman: But I'm the one who's on the petition...

Reporter: Ok ok, why don't we --

Ausman: Are you a representative of Clinton?

Davis: No, I'm actually just a person...

Ausman: Are you a designated representative of Clinton?

Davis: I am not a designated representative.

Ausman: Then why don't we have a designated representative speak for Clinton and you be silent?

He also heckled a press conference of Florida leaders who were stressing unity and seeking to come to agreement and put this entire mess behind them.

As Jane Hamsher notes, this is the guy who claimed that bloggers were the uncouth shrieking harpies back in 2006:

Lanny, Lanny. Please. To quote -- well, you -- can't we all just get along?

"My brief and unhappy experience with the hate and vitriol of bloggers on the liberal side of the aisle comes from the last several months I spent campaigning for a longtime friend, Joe Lieberman.

This kind of scary hatred, my dad used to tell me, comes only from the right wing--in his day from people such as the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, with his tirades against "communists and their fellow travelers." The word "McCarthyism" became a red flag for liberals, signifying the far right's fascistic tactics of labeling anyone a "communist" or "socialist" who favored an active federal government to help the middle class and the poor, and to level the playing field."

Anger just isn't the way, Lanny. Politics is a gentleman's game, part of the fine tradition of Cicero and the great orators. We lower ourselves and our American ideals when we lose our temper and engage in this kind of coarse, angry, spittle-flecked vitriol.

I don't expect the type of Clinton supporters who rallied outside the Marriott and feted the guy who claims he had gay sex with Obama and passes out fliers reading "Obama's DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS: Murder, Drugs, Gay Sex" to agree with me, but it is an unadulterated joy of this primary to see someone like Lanny Davis so thoroughly discredited that he'll never get another job in a Democratic Administration ever again. Unfortunately, and this is something to think about in the future, he may still get on television as a "Democratic strategist," and will undermine a President Obama at any opportunity. Because it's personal to him. What a role model. No, actually, what a sad shell of a man.

UPDATE: This is over, Clinton netted 24 delegates on the day and we finally have "the math", with MI and FL being seated fully with 1/2 votes (which is what the Republicans did as punishment for states moving up). Harold Ickes apparently also lost his shit, cursing on live television and claiming that Clinton reserves her right to take this to the credentials committee, which basically means that she's keeping the option wide open of taking this to Denver. The only way that doesn't happen is if superdelegates don't overwhelmingly go to Obama's side in the next week. And even then, this move my Clinton and Ickes signals to their supporters that today's decision is, in their eyes, illegitimate.


UPDATE II: The General takes us down memory lane on Lanny Davis:

UPDATE III: Daily Kos has done me the good favor of interpreting the math. Based on the compromises reached today, Barack Obama is at 2,053 delegates with 2,117 required for nomination. So he's 64 delegates away, and still up by plenty. (I think they should have seated Michigan as 1/2 votes at 73-55, he'd get nominated anyway and there was no reason to chip 4 delegates away, but Michigan's leaders essentially hijacked the process and the whole thing was flawed anyway, so what are ya gonna do?). Given that Obama is probably going to win 40-45 delegates in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, this means that another 20 superdelegates or so and it's all over.

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The Blogger Candidate

Barack Obama has pretty much shunned the blogs and his campaign has been perhaps the worst in terms of netroots outreach. But the SENSIBILITY of his campaign is similar to that of a blogger, the way in which he weaves new information into his overall narrative. In this latest dust-up with John McCain over whether forces in Iraq have returned to "pre-surge levels," Obama has forcefully used the episode to illustrate the general unease we have felt over the last eight years, that the leaders in Washington aren't acquainted with the facts on the ground and make untrue statements to bolster their political goals:

"But that’s not what John McCain’s been talking about the last few days. He’s been proposing a joint trip to Iraq that’s nothing more than a political stunt. He’s even been using it to raise a few dollars for his campaign. But it seems like Sen. McCain’s a lot more interested in my travel plans than the facts, because yesterday – in his continued effort to put the best light on a failed policy – he stood up in Wisconsin and said, 'We have drawn down to pre-surge levels' in Iraq."

"That’s not true, and anyone running for commander-in-chief should know better. As the saying goes, you’re entitled to your own view, but not your own facts. We’ve got around 150,000 troops in Iraq -- 20,000 more than we had before the surge. We have plans to get down to around 140,000 later this summer -- that’s still more troops than we had in Iraq before the surge. And today, Sen. McCain refused to correct his mistake. Just like George Bush, when he was presented with the truth, he just dug in and refused to admit his mistake. His campaign said it amounts to 'nitpicking.'"

"Well, I don’t think tens of thousands of American troops amounts to nitpicking. Tell that to the young men and women who are serving bravely and brilliantly under our flag. Tell that to the families who have seen their loved ones fight tour after tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged."

"It’s time for a debate that’s based on the truth, and I can’t think of anything more important than how many Americans are in harm’s way. It’s time for a debate that’s based on how we’re going to end this war -- not a debate that’s based on raising a few dollars for John McCain’s campaign."

"The American people have had enough spin. Just this week, we were reminded by President Bush’s own former spokesman of how it was deception -- not straight talk -- that misled the American people into war. It’s time to cut through the tough talk so that we can be straight with the American people about a war that’s cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars without making us safer. It’s time to end the political game-playing so that we can finally end this war. That’s what I’ll do in this campaign. And that’s what I’ll do when I’m President of the United States."

He's calling in the misstatement about troop numbers, the McClellan book, the stupid "he hasn't been to Iraq in a couple years" line and the email with Petraeus' picture on it to make a narrative about McCain as unwilling to admit wrong and unable to tell the truth. And he went further today.

We all misspeak sometimes. I've done it myself. So on such a basic, factual error, you'd think that Senator McCain would just admit that he made a mistake and move on. But he couldn't do that. Instead, he dug in. And the disturbing thing is that we've seen this movie before -- a leader who pursues the wrong course, who is unwilling to change course, who ignores the evidence. Now, just like George Bush, John McCain refused to admit that he made a mistake. And that's exactly the kind of leadership that we've had through more than five years of fighting a war that should've never been authorized, and should've never been waged.

We don't need more leaders who can't admit they've made a mistake, even when it's about something as fundamental as how many young Americans are serving in harm's way.

He's making the pieces fit and having them fit into the overall storyline. That's the mark of a good blogger. Hopefully he'll pick up this other angle, which has been well-framed by Sam Stein at HuffPo.

Up until traveling there one month ago, the Arizona Republican had made just one public tour of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina touched down in August 2005, according to the Washington Post's travel records.

When the hurricane first struck, he was celebrating his birthday with President Bush in Arizona. In the days that followed, he urged Congress to make sacrifices to help the recovery effort. But he also expressed concern about going overboard and burdening "future generations of Americans" with "the highest deficit, probably, in the history of this country."

McCain's first post-hurricane visit to the region was in March 2006. His trip, according to those in attendance, was a full-day affair touring all aspects of the storm's destruction. It came, it should be noted, after pining by local officials for more federal attention including, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu insisting that any politician serious about a presidential run would have to, at the very least, get a first hand account of the hurricane's destruction.

In the year that followed McCain did not return to New Orleans. He did, as noted by a Mother Jones feature on the topic, vote against establishing a congressional commission to examine the federal, state, and local responses to Katrina. Later, he voted against allowing up to 52 weeks of unemployment benefits to people affected by the hurricane. In July 2007, he ventured back to the Gulf Coast, but, while he held an open news conference, the purpose of the trip was officially a private fundraiser.

You put that into soundbite form and I can easily see that in an Obama speech.

It goes without saying that I like the way his campaign is unfolding.

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Laying Of Landmines

We've been talking quite a bit about how Bush-Cheney will leave little landmines inside the government, codifying their vision of radical executive power, a hollowed-out set of regulatory agencies and a civil service dedicated to a deeply conservative vision. In a fantastic new article, the very first by the best hire the New York Times has made in the past decade, Charlie Savage (on this one he was aided by Robert Pear), we get another example of this in the area of regulatory rules changes.

The Bush administration has told federal agencies that they have until June 1 to propose any new regulations, a move intended to avoid the rush of rules issued by previous administrations on their way out the door.

The White House has also declared that it will generally not allow agencies to issue any final regulations after Nov. 1, nearly three months before President Bush relinquishes power.

Sounds harmless, right? Why would this provoke any outcry?

While the White House called the deadlines “simply good government,” some legal specialists said the policy would ensure that rules the administration wanted to be part of Mr. Bush’s legacy would be less subject to being overturned by his successor. Moreover, they said, the deadlines could allow the administration to avoid thorny proposals that are likely to come up in the next few months, including environmental and safety rules that have been in the regulatory pipeline for years.

So there are two rationales at work here. The deadline of tomorrow would make it virtually impossible to impose rules changes that have been sorely needed for years and on which the Administration have been dragging their feet. Some examples include the Labor Department updating construction safeguards and standards that industry and labor have already agreed to. They may have prevented crane accidents like the one we saw in New York City yesterday. Another example is a needed Department of Agriculture rule to put more stringent requirements on genetically modified crops.

The flip side to this is that getting rules changes completed outside the 60-day window for regulations to take effect after issuance will stop the future President's ability to postpone or revise them. And since official secrecy is a hallmark of the Administration, even finding out what these rules changes are will be a tortuous process for a new chief executive.

And what are some of those rules?

Rick Melberth, the director of regulatory policy for OMB Watch, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, predicted that the administration, in keeping with its longstanding skepticism about regulation, would make it a priority to complete rules that relax regulations on industrial pollution and other burdens on business.

Mr. Melberth also predicted that the administration would be willing to invoke the exception for “extraordinary circumstances” to allow rules that give businesses more flexibility than Mr. Bush’s successor might, especially if the next president is a Democrat.

“They get to define emergency,” Mr. Melberth said.

“On other things, they could do ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything on this’ ” because of the deadline, he added.

This is about the White House implementing and locking in their agenda to the bitter end, along the same principles of deregulation and laissez-faire capitalism that has put the entire economy in turmoil and put lives at risk from enivronmental decay and overall health and safety. The only figure outside the Administration quoted in the article praising the plan is a vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce. Just so you know where this is headed.

There's nothing all that insidious about this - the President can make rules changes whenever he wants. But the modus operandi for the final months of the Administration is clear: preserve as much of their agenda as possible, codify it, make sure the successor can't change it, and make sure there are enough malefactors installed throughout the government so that a Democratic President can be endlessly undermined. That and covering their own asses through things like immunity legislation in FISA is really all they're concerned about.

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The California Report

Here are a few tidbits on this GOTV weekend!

• Obviously everyone is going to be working hard for their causes and candidates, so it may be a little quiet around here. I'll be out walking all day tomorrow. Oh, and don't vote for the racist guy, Bill Johnson, as a Judge of the Superior Court (Office number 125) in LA County.

• Yesterday was the deadline for bills to get passed out of their chamber of origin, and the Assembly passed major subprime mortgage legislation, without help from Republicans (6 of them abstained despite being seated right in the chamber). This bill has some good homeowner assistance elements that will allow people to restructure their financing before foreclosure. A mortgage bill has also passed the State Senate, so some form of legislation will hopefully get to the governor post haste.

• One of the biggest problems with the housing crisis is that, as home sale prices lower, homeowners are reassessing their value and getting their property tax lowered, decreasing state revenue yet more.

• Sticking in the shiv before riding off into the sunset, Fabian Nuñez writes a puzzling op-ed in the Sacramento Bee approving of the Governor's horrible idea to borrow against future lottery revenue. Considering that the only sustainable solution to the permanent crisis mode that we have in our budget is to reorganize the tax structure instead of constantly borrowing, I have no idea why any Democrat would veer so far off message and undermine the new Speaker's ability to move forward. What's more, lotteries are regressive taxes on the poor.

• One spot where there will be a lot of action on Tuesday is in Ventura County, where Democrats now outnumber Republicans and which could have contested elections in the Assembly, Senate and US Congress. However, the LA Times shows its political acumen by writing:

One of the more closely watched contests on Tuesday will be the Democratic primary in the 24th Congressional District. Insurance agent Mary Pallant of Oak Park; Marta Jorgensen, a Solvang educator; and Oxnard businesswoman Jill Martinez are running.

Marta Jorgensen quit the race over a month ago and endorsed Martinez. Way to go, LAT.

• Excellent news out of Los Angeles: there's been a $1 million dollar settlement with Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center for their dumping homeless patients on Skid Row. They will also be monitored by a US Attorney for five years. This unethical practice has reached a reasonable conclusion. Hollywood Presbyterian deserved punishment.

• Trying to get rid of marijuana grow houses in Arcata is like trying to get rid of the Pacific Ocean on the California coast.


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The Scottie Show

Well, I never thought that the name "Scott McCllelan" would return to the lips of every American, particularly because he was a lying hack as a Press Secretary who decided to release a book which, as Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel note, isn't news. But as I've also said, what's news is the defensive posture taken by the Administration and the news media about their conduct in the run-up to war, as Landay and Strobel have also noted.

Bush loyalists have responded in three ways:

1) Scott, how could you? This conveniently ignores the issue of what Bush did or didn't know and do about intelligence on Iraq, converting the story line into that of wounded leader and treasonous former aide. (That canard was the sole focus of a CBS news radio report Wednesday night).

2) Invading Iraq was the right thing to do. Okay. When do Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, et al *not* say that? Dog bites man.

3) It was an intelligence failure. The CIA gave us bad dope on WMD and, well, they're the experts. More on this in a second.

The news media have been, if anything, even more craven than the administration has been in defending its failure to investigate Bush's case for war in Iraq before the war.

Here's ABC News' Charles Gibson: "I think the questions were asked. It was just a drumbeat of support from the administration. It is not our job to debate them. It is our job to ask the questions.” And “I’m not sure we would have asked anything differently."


Or this from NBC's Brian Williams: “Sadly, we saw fellow Americans — in some cases floating past facedown (after Katrina). We knew what had just happened. We weren’t allowed that kind of proximity with the weapons inspectors [in Iraq]. I was in Kuwait for the buildup to the war, and, yes, we heard from the Pentagon, on my cell phone, the minute they heard us report something that they didn’t like. The tone of that time was quite extraordinary.” And this: "“It’s tough to go back, to put ourselves in the mind-set. It was post-9/11 America."

So the Pentagon tells the media what kind of reporting is in- and out-of-bounds?

Hogwash. Hogwash! HOGWASH.

That's a damn good blog post.

I think most notable of all the vituperative responses comes from both a Republican and a commentator, Bob Dole, who was raised from the crypt to bare his fangs at Scottie.

"There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues," Dole wrote in the personal e-mail. "No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique." [...]

Dole, the former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, also tells McClellan he is likely looking to "clean up" as "the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm."

"When the money starts rolling in you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like, 'Biting The Hand That Fed Me,'" he wrote. "Another thought is to weasel your way back into the White House if a Democrat is elected. That would provide a good set up for a second book deal in a few years."

Dole also made clear he has no plans to read the book.

"I have no intention of reading your 'exposé' because if all these awful things were happening, and perhaps some may have been, you should have spoken up publicly like a man, or quit your cushy, high profile job," he wrote. "That would have taken integrity and courage but then you would have had credibility and your complaints could have been aired objectively."

Pretty awesome that the guy who defended Nixon during Watergate is now talking about someone not having the guts to speak up about malfeasance when it occurs.

The thing is, though, that there is some actual news in the book. McClellan admits that the President authorized the leak of the NIE on Iraq in 2003, selectively, to rebut charges made by Joe Wilson in his op-ed. Marcy Wheeler explains the importance.

Now, though Scottie refers, obliquely, to "this information," he explicitly refers only to the NIE. But as I've described over and over again, it's not just the NIE Bush authorized Dick to order Libby to leak.

As a review, here's what Libby's NIE lies are all about. This is all documented in this post, and here is the court transcript in which most of this is revealed.

• Scooter Libby has instructions in his notes to leak something to Judy Miller on July 8, 2003

• When questioned about the notation, Libby claimed the instructions related to the NIE

• Libby went further to make certain claims about the NIE leak--that the leak was authorized by Dick Cheney and George Bush, that such an authorization was totally unique in his career, and that Libby was so worried about leaking the NIE to Judy that he double checked to make sure he was authorized to do so

• Libby later made claims that directly contradicted these assertions--most importantly, even though Libby claims the Judy leak was totally unique in his career, he also leaked the NIE to three other people: Bob Woodward, a journalist [David Sanger] on July 2, and the WSJ

• Also, in spite of the fact that Libby says he was really worried about getting authorization to leak the NIE to Judy, he's not really sure whether he was authorized to leak the NIE to Woodward; his concern about the leak to Judy only extended to whatever he leaked to Judy

In short, Libby is almost certainly lying about what he was authorized to leak to Judy on July 8, 2003, in a meeting where Judy Miller admits he talked about Valerie Plame, and where Libby tried to get her to falsely attribute the story.

At this point, Scottie McC is still accepting Scooter Libby's lies, though I suspect he sees the dangerous frailty of them. With Bush's clear admission to Scottie that he was in the loop, and the evidence that, subsequent to receiving an order from Cheney (authorized by Bush) to leak classified information to Judy Miller, Libby leaked Valerie Wilson's identity, the circumstantial evidence shows the President was directly involved in the deliberate outing of a CIA spy. The only question now is whether Bush realized he authorized the leak of Valerie's identity, in addition to a bunch of other classified documents.

The White House has so far not denied the allegation of a Bush-to-Libby leak of Plame's identity. And McClellan, for his part, has said he'd be happy to testify before Congress about the remarks. What you have here is the President of the United States, by commuting the sentence of Scooter Libby, indirectly pardoning himself for federal crimes. That's a big deal - and while the circus is about other parts of the book, this should be the central point.

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Wankfest '08

I'm watching live coverage of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, and having sat through a lot of these kinds of meetings in the California Democratic Party, let me say that I am pretty thrilled that I have a channel changer. There's no "fair" answer to this, as I've been saying for a while. The flaw is the entire system, and as such every wanker and partisan supporter can very easily argue the position favorable to their side and pretend they have full authority and legitimacy - which they actually do. Chuck Todd explains this in kind of a loopy way, and he uses estimates and projections which I believe is out of bounds. But if you seat Florida and Michigan fully you disenfranchise those who may have voted but didn't, and if you don't seat them you disenfranchise those who did vote. So it's not like there's a good answer here, and people are only pretending there are because they want a particular candidate to be victorious.

This is a circus, it's nuts, and it's entirely the fault of a shortsighted approach to delegate selection by the DNC which must not happen again.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

CA Prison Crisis - State Gets 30-Day Reprieve

The judges are bending over backwards to not do what they'll eventually have to do - cap the prison population because the failed leadership in Sacramento can't and won't arrive at a solution. Today they granted another 30-day extension:

Acceding to pleas for more time, three federal judges agreed to give the state an additional 30 days to reach an agreement for reducing the overcrowded prison population and avoid a trial that could lead to a mass release of inmates.

If no agreement is reached, the judges said, the trial will begin in November.

So, to recap - the state had months and months to settle with the prison advocates seeking to end overcrowding. It didn't happen, their "let's build our way out of it" approach hasn't led to the construction of one more bed, and they begged for time. The federal receiver asked for billions to make the prison health care system up to some sort of reasonable standard beyond what you'd find in a gulag, Senate Republicans killed the bond proposal and now this will either become another expenditure in the general fund or another reason for the judges to mass release. There is a way to admit nonviolent offenders into treatment programs and rehabilitation and work release but nobody wants to pay for it. And so the system is literally imploding on itself, because nobody will lift a finger to fix "ToughOnCrime" sentencing guidelines that are completely unsustainable and counter-productive.

Awesome, ain't it?

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Behold America's Worst Presidential Campaign

The incompetence continues. And this time, a little more attention is being paid.

So John McCain goes out on the stump yesterday and sayswe're back to "pre-surge" levels in Iraq. First of all, this kind of running in place is supposed to be a good thing. Second of all, it's not true.

Actually, Mr. Magoo, two-thirds of the surge troops are still in Iraq.

Let me walk you through this.
1. Pre-surge troops levels. That's 130,000 to 135,000 troops.

2. Bush sent 30,000 or so "surge" troops to Iraq.

3. That means at full surge we had 165,000 troops in Iraq.

4. We currently have 155,000 troops in Iraq.

5. That means we still currently have 20,000 more troops in Iraq than we had pre-surge, or 2/3 of the surge troops are still in Iraq.

So, it's a gaffe. Not a major one, but a gaffe nonetheless. And McCain compounds it by arguing over verb tenses, saying that he meant to say "we'll be drawing down" instead of "we've drawn down." I hope you forgive us when we say collectively as a nation that we're sensitive to lying about war.

The thing is, the campaign got mad about it, telling reporters on a conference call to stop nitpicking his verb tenses. And the candidate himself continued that alibi, which is just a dumb one. There's a definitive difference between finishing something and hoping to finish it. Events on the ground in Iraq have a way of screwing up those best-laid plans.

Jed Report has a video recounting of the whole thing.

It'd be one thing if this were an isolated incident, but this is a bad candidate and a bad campaign. They proved themselves to be off-message when they sent out an email with an unauthorized picture of David Petraeus in uniform, and McCain defied his advisers and staffers by admitting it was inappropriate to fundraise using that photo. They went back and forth with a dozen different explanations for how to handle the radical pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley, until they dumped them and faced the ire of the religious right. The lobbyist problem is unbelievably difficult for the campaign, as are advisers like Foreclosure Phil Gramm, who helped create the mortgage meltdown, and the candidate's own associations with corporate benefactors like America West Airlines.

This is why the campaign is pretty universally seen as not ready for prime time, and why the numbers you have seen McCain hold, with him never over 45% or so nationally, are bound to erode.

Fall campaigns for President require massive organizations. What's more, McCain is likely to face the biggest, baddest team on the block. Barack Obama has been running the equivalent of a national campaign for almost six months now. He spends more than twice as much every 30 days as McCain has been able to raise in the same period. Obama has a campaign staff that numbers about 700 and already blankets most of the swing states. His organization ticks like a clock, has had an unwavering message and has kept a firmly fixed inner circle.

McCain, meanwhile, is still formulating his general-election pitch and struggling to build his core team. He is also trying, for the second time in as many years, to create a campaign that can win on a big scale. His previous attempt to run as the institutional candidate, with a projected nine-figure budget, failed spectacularly last July and nearly forced him out of the G.O.P. race. Though his campaign is leaner than his rival's, McCain says he is happy with the progress. "I am pleased with the way the campaign is going," he said just before Memorial Day weekend in an airplane hangar in California's Central Valley. "I think we are going pretty well." But even as he spoke, problems were sprouting all around him.

The guy cannot handle a big campaign organization. Why do we think his management style would be suitable for the whole United States?

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New CA Registration Numbers Released

The Secretary of State has come out with her revised registration numbers, broken down by county, Congressional district, Senate district and Assembly district. I'm sure our resident numerologists will break down the numbers more closely, but here are some quick thoughts:

• There are 16,123,787 registered voters in the state, about 70% of those eligible. Democrats have a 1.8 million-vote advantage, and by percentages that translates into 43.75%-32.53%, with 19.4% decline to state. Those are significant increases in Democrats and more significant losses in Republicans from 2004.

• The room to run for Democrats is in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. They have among the lowest registration rates in the state (only Tulare and Yuba counties have lower percentages than Riverside), and they are among the fastest-growing populations. We're actually within 5,000 votes of having a plurality of Democrats in San Bernardino County.

• CA-03 is now less than 4% difference between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have a mere 15,000-vote lead. This is a huge opportunity. Republicans still hold an 8,000-vote advantage in CA-11, but that's dropping. We're within 19,000 votes in CA-45 and with a big voter registration drive I think that's reachable.

• SD-12 is Democratic by a 47%-35% count, and SD-15 is Democratic by a 40.5%-36% number. SD-19, the district Hannah-Beth Jackson is trying to flip, is within 10,000 votes.

• AD-80 looks to be in real good shape (46.5%-35.6%), though the participation there could be better. AD-78 is a 10-point advantage for Democrats, and AD-15 is now plurality Democratic by 3,000 votes. AD-10 is within less than 5,000 votes.

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Obama's First 100 Days

As Digby mentioned, Barack Obama at a fundraiser said that a priority of his first 100 days would be to scrutinize all executive orderspassed by George Bush and overturn those which he and his advisors deem unconstitutional. This is crucially important - as The Poor Man notes, the Cheney Administration has set little traps and landmines inside the government to ensure that radical executive power survives, and an Obama Administration, in order to be successful, will need to at least partially root out the garbage and the rot that will crop up to undermine his Presidency.

But Obama had another answer to the question of how he would fill out his first 100 days. He said that he'd get his health care plan moving. "We need a March or April to get going before the political season sets in."

That's particularly astute, as Ezra Klein notes. One problem with the Clinton health care debacle was that it took so long to get around to it, while the Administration had their honeymoon period tied up with NAFTA and gays in the military. Obama appears to recognize the need to act quickly on the potential mandate for change in the biggest domestic policy challenge facing the country.

For those of us into the politics of this issue, that timetable is big news. Doing health care quickly is crucial. You can't lose your momentum. You can't get bogged down in the endless unknown events and unexpected crises of a presidency. You need a strategy and you need momentum and in order to preserve those things, you need to move [...]

That time spent dithering was time that enemies of the plan spent organizing. The rest, as they say, is history. Last night, Obama said he's uninterested in repeating it.

I know that a lot of people have concerns about Obama's plan, and I share them to an extent. But acting quickly and getting a plan through that goes a good bit of the way toward reform is far better than waiting around and ending up attaining nothing. Like Obama, I believe that if we were starting from scratch, single payer would absolutely be the way to go, and any reform movement ought to see whatever is passed as part of a gradual shift to that goal, mindful of the fact that dislocating a major industry of 3 million people and their jobs is not something that can be done with a snap of the fingers without a major shock to the economic system. And I think that Obama is willing to let the process play out and have the lawmakers who will craft the bill get the leeway they need to improve upon his program within the broad goals that he's set out - lower costs, mandating all children with coverage, and an affordable option for everyone without pre-existing conditions.

The entire country wants this, make no mistake. A recent survey in Nebraska - Nebraska - showed that 94% favor affordable, quality coverage for all and 75% would agree with mandating coverage, because they've experienced the current system and they really don't like it:

Other findings published in “Nebraskans on Health Care Issues”:

* 31 percent of the people surveyed said they had postponed or skipped medical services in the past year to save money.

* 31 percent said they had problems paying for medical services in the past year, including 26 percent of insured Nebraskans.

* 18 percent spent at least $5,000 on health care last year.

Among the state’s more than 200,000 uninsured people:

* 76 percent had trouble paying for a medical service last year.

* 66 percent postponed or skipped care to save money.

* 40 percent were denied health care coverage.

There is a real desire to reform the health care system, which I believe can be translated into a bottom-up movement that any member of Congress who wants to keep his job will have to listen to. This is a hopeful time but it's going to take a lot of hard work, not to mention that little election in November. And if Obama does get in, he'd better hope he has his evangelist Teddy Kennedy in the well of the Senate helping him close the deal.

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CA-04: Serving The Veteran Community

If you have a moment, do go to Calitics and read this diary by Charlie Brown's online campaign director.

You want them to hear the desperate cries of the Iraq Veteran who contacts the campaign to say he is contemplating suicide. Or the e-mail from the married father of two who already tried. You want them to meet the Gold Star mother who calls for gas money, so she can afford to take one of the guys from her son's unit to the VA for rehab. Or the Vietnam Vet who has weeks to live because of Agent Orange exposure, and has had his VA benefits denied for years. And the list goes on, and on and on...

Every day, these are just some of the people who are reaching out-from across the country---to the Charlie Brown for Congress Campaign.

They're not calling to volunteer, contribute, schedule a meeting or inquire about a policy position. They aren't even calling to express their support or opposition to Charlie's candidacy.

They called to ask for help.

It begs the question, why would anyone call a Congressional Challenger who has never held public office before for help? [...]

Charlie's making history not by virtue of who he is (though one could argue that a Congressman who is a career military officer, husband of a veteran, and father to a son who has done 4 rotations in Iraq is far from typical these days), but what he is doing to address one of the many OLD problems on which politicians have over promised and under delivered for years-the plight of America's war veterans.

I came back to fight for Charlie because I knew that this campaign took a different approach to solving problems---leadership by example. With Charlie's "Promises Kept Veteran's Charity Challenge," we're seeing community based organizations that fill in the gaps for veterans get the support they so badly need. The 5% of campaign contributions that Charlie is giving these groups helps to keep the lights on at shelters, supply those places with blankets and food and office supplies, and help pay for qualified counselors to do outreach on the streets.

This is an issue that's starting to reach critical mass, and Charlie Brown is at the forefront of it. Between recent reports about record numbers of veteran suicides and foreclosures in military towns tripling the average rate, the care and treatment of our veterans is an absolute disgrace. And it has fallen to leaders like Brown, BEFORE reaching Congress, to show the compassion and wisdom to get those who serve this country what they need.

I can't have more pride in how he's running this campaign. Particularly compared to the two Republicans who are engaging in a slap fight and spending $4 million dollars in a game of character assassination. Who's the real leader here?

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Friday Random Ten

Let me preface this with a story. I started a new gig this week, and the facility has mandatory valet parking. OK, but the parking lot is about the size of a small kitchen, so there seems to be no need to valet whatsoever. I get that they have a lot of maneuvering of cars throughout the day, but the initial parking job could easily be done by the driver, and then the keys handed off afterward. What's more, as I leave every day, I CAN'T take the car out myself - it has to be "delivered" to me, often at a range of about five feet.

And they want tips.

Welcome to Hollywood.

Late - Kanye West
Get On The Good Foot - James Brown
I Wanna Holler (But The Town's Too Small) - The Detroit Cobras
Leave The Biker - Fountains of Wayne
Novacane - Beck
That's Amore - Dean Martin
Lilac Wine (The Album Leaf Remix) - Nina Simone
Do Your Thing - Basement Jaxx
Playhouses - TV On The Radio
Hey Mama - Kanye West

Good mix, enjoy it!

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It Beats Ray Jay And Kim Cardashian

I know that there's a lot of concern on the fundie right about a possible Charlie Crist Vice Presidency, not because he's a popular governor or he's young or he gives John McCain a leg up in the swing state of Florida. But could it be that McCain supporters in the conservative establishment as trying to quell these rumors by floating a make-out tape with Crist and some woman? (h/t HuffPo)

How interested is Florida Governor Charlie Crist in being John McCain's VP runningmate? So much so that veteran GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone -- who coordinated a few dirty stunts in support of Crist during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign -- is quietly peddling a so-called "Charlie Crist sex tape." That's what Stone called it during a telephone conversation. And no, it is not a tape of Crist having sex with a guy. In fact, it isn't even X-rated. The video was seemingly staged to kill the rumors that Crist is gay. Stone claims the tape -- which he discussed recently with Politics1, but didn't show to us ("I'm saving it for the national shows") -- "shows Charlie fooling around in a hotel elevator with his girlfriend ... They're making out." Adds Stone: "It was captured on a security camera in the elevator" last month. And Stone just conveniently happens to have a copy of the hotel's elevator surveillance tape, just when Crist's name is in play for the VP spot. Hmm. As for Crist's purported girlfriend -- presuming it is the same one he took as his date to the White House Correspondents Dinner in DC a few weeks ago -- she's still married (and not to Crist). Disclaimer: Always be skeptical of anything from Stone.

How would cheating publicly with a married woman - and before marriage, no less - shore up Crist's standing with the religious right? It doesn't make a bit of sense.

But Roger Stone is an odd bird. The New Yorker did a profile recently. He's still the high priest of ratfucking in Republican politics. Still trying to figure out his angle on this one, however.

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Maybe He Needs To Go Back To Iraq

I guess the right thinks this "Obama's afraid to visit Iraq, nanny nanny poo poo" taunt is a political winner for them. It certainly fits in with their strategy to paint the Illinois senator as un-American and weak. Of course, the exact phrases that John McCain is using in making the taunt match the words from Vets for Freedom, a 527 group which is off limits to any McCain supporters, but OK for the Presidential candidate as far as coordinating messages, I guess. McCain is also using unauthorized images of American military personnel in pushing this message along.

“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways,” wrote the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking officer. “It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.” [...]

Three days [after Mullen’s advice was published], Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, sent a fundraising solicitation using an image of him and Gen. David Petraeus.

“Something is wrong with your judgment when you want to sit down unconditionally with Raul Castro and Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but you don’t take the opportunity to sit down with General Petraeus and learn about the situation in Iraq firsthand,” the letter reads. “My friends, this is not the ‘change’ we need in our next president.”

I believe this comes very close to McCain breaking the law.

But let's break down his substantive "point," if we can dig it out. He's saying that you cannot show proper judgment about Iraq unless you physically set foot in the country. But, as Michael Ware notes, McCain has been in Iraq multiple times, and yet has screwed up assessments of the situation on the ground over and over again, most recently... yesterday:

All week we've been hearing about all those trips McCain has made to Iraq. We know about some of them. Like the one where he claimed he could stroll safely through a Baghdad. Or the one recently where he didn't know the difference between Sunnis and Shi'as.

Just yesterday, McCain was talking about how "quiet" Mosul is. But, Nico Pitney compared McCain's words to what was actually happening yesterday in Mosul:

"Moreover, McCain's claim that Mosul is "quiet" was disproved earlier today in grim fashion. Three suicide bombings -- two in Mosul and another in a surrounding town -- left 30 Iraqis dead and more than two dozen injured, according to press reports."

And the reason for that is that there's no such thing as a legitimate "fact-finding mission" in Iraq. The trips are highly sanitized dog-and-pony shows which make it nearly impossible to get a real picture of things. So on every level, McCain "killer attack" is more like a lead balloon.

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Friedman Day

Suck. On. This.

Deep thoughts from a man who thinks that murdering innocent civilians randomly around the Arab world - because we can - is a sound foreign policy.

And as much as this is a moral catastrophe, it's also factually incorrect. Our going over and shooting Muslims didn't stop terrorism - it inflamed it. What would have stopped terrorism was bringing the actual terrorists who caused 9/11 to justice and setting the conditions for terrorism to eat itself - improving lives in impoverished areas, allowing public opinion of those who kill innocents to falter. The world was behind us after being hit with a terrorist attack until we started acting, in their eyes, like terrorists.

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FISA Update

I'm starting to get worried with what I'm hearing about a FISA "compromise." Republicans in Congress have been supposedly shifting on the rules governing surveillance, and are claiming that this is their final offer. Steny Hoyer and Jello Jay Rockefeller have been working on this bill with Kit Bond, and it doesn't look good. Here's Ryan Singel's report.

As for amnesty, here's a compare and contrast between bill (.pdf) the Senate passed in February and Bond's compromise.

S. 2248: In any case brought against a telecom for allegedly helping the government spy on Americans, the Attorney General could then write a secret letter to the judge in the case. The letter can certify that the company didn't participate or that the companies had gotten a piece of paper from the government at some point, saying that the President thought the program was legal. The letter does not even have to say that the telecom's participation was legal, simply that the government's end was. The judge would be obligated to throw out the case, unless he found an "abuse of discretion" on behalf of the Attorney General.

Bond compromise: Under this proposal, the Attorney General's letter goes to the secret spying court, rather than to a normal federal judge. A FISC judge would actually be able see whatever requests or orders were given to the telecoms, and parties in the case could actually file briefs. The judge would then decide on a "preponderance of the evidence" whether the telecom secretly spied on Americans as part of a program authorized by president and that they got a letter at some point from the government.

In other words, the outcome in the compromise is as foregone as the original amnesty provision. Both essentially work like directives to the court to throw out lawsuits brought by Americans who allege massive violation of federal privacy laws.

This is pretty close to the Feinstein "compromise" on FISA from earlier this year. It allows a secret court to make the determination on allowing lawsuits to go forward - of course, it's a secret court, and the point of the lawsuits is not necessarily to bankrupt telecoms but to discover the extent of the spying on Americans by the White House, which this would short-circuit. In addition, it sets up FISA as the exclusive means for telecom surveillance, which is fine, but that's already the law, and the Bush Administration thinks they have the power to invalidate exclusivity by executive order and secert law, anyway.

There is no constituency for this bill other than the telecom industry, which has spent millions in lobbying fees already this year. There's supposedly a deadline in August after which some wiretaps set right now would have to be stopped, which could be fixed very easily with a patch covering international communications that go through a domestic switcher. There is absolutely no reason to give in on this. John McCain is flopping like a fish on this one because he doesn't even know what the independents want out of this - the truth is they want NOTHING and they care about their civil liberties. The right has already put up the TV ads and called Democratic members of Congress soft on terrorism and it DIDN'T WORK. Somehow the Dems are acting like it did. Of course, this is because they feel just as culpable for spying on Americans and want to eliminate any possibility of the extent of the spying getting out. So we're fighting against two parties on this one.

But fight we must. The ACLU has a petition calling on people to reject the Bond compromise. Progressive organizations like Blue Majority are running our own ads aimed at wayward Dems like the awful Chris Carney, taking them to task for supporting warrantless eavesdropping. They Work For Us is running radio ads in Bush Dog districts as well. Somehow these conservative Dems think they own the caucus but that's just because they aren't being scrutinized for their actions, which are substantially similar to the actions of the Bush Administration which the country has rejected.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Support the Troops

I finally got around to seeing The Ground Truth last night, part of my mini-Iraq documentary film festival I've put together on Netflix (become my movie friend!). Because much of the film is devoted to how these soldiers tried to put their lives together once they returned home, through bouts of depression and PTSD, through divorce and anger and arrests for disorderly conduct, it was fitting that this study was released today.

Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007 at the highest rate on record, and the toll is climbing ever higher this year as long war deployments stretch on. At least 115 soldiers killed themselves last year, up from 102 the previous year, the Army said Thursday [...]

"We see a lot of things that are going on in the war which do contribute — mainly the longtime and multiple deployments away from home, exposure to really terrifying and horrifying things, the easy availability of loaded weapons and a force that's very, very busy right now," said Col. Elspeth Ritchie psychiatric consultant to the Army surgeon general.

"And so all of those together we think are part of what may contribute, especially if somebody's having difficulties already," she told a Pentagon news conference.

The tricks that the military uses to get out of treating these soldiers are recounted in The Ground Truth. They'd offer treatment but only if you stayed on the base away from your family after returning home from a year in Iraq. They'd ask you if you had PTSD, and if you said no, you'd end your rotation, but if you said yes, you'd stay in Iraq. These were the allegations, and considering that the VA Secretary related PTSD to football injuries the other day, and that VA officials were pressuring their colleagues not to diagnose the disorder to save money on veterans health care, I believe every word of it.

I guess that veterans aren't treated particularly well after any war; go all the way back to the Bonus Marchers if you don't think so. They're broken down in basic training, taught to be dehumanized and desensitized to killing, used on the battlefield and then expected to be stowed away like any other munition. But they're people, changed by war, and without some care and treatment those without the strongest constitutions find it hard to adapt. This is a residual cost of war and these suicides should be treated as casualties. Furthermore, any future war should include this blight as a part of the calculus for making the decision.

And if anyone starts to make the argument that these men and women would have committed suicide anyway, as some make to the soldiers in the film, they can kiss my ass.

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Freedom - And Proselytizing - On The March

This is simply unbelievable. And pointless - nothing good can come of it, only rage from the local population. This isn't Papua New Guinea we're walking into, it's a country with an ancient religious culture that isn't going to be swayed by a bunch of missionaries.

Fallujah, the scene of a bloody U.S. offensive against Sunni insurgents in 2004, has calmed and grown less hostile to American troops since residents turned against al Qaida in Iraq, which had tried to force its brand of Islamist extremism on the population.

Now residents of the city are abuzz that some Americans whom they consider occupiers are also acting as Christian missionaries. Residents said some Marines at the western entrance to their city have been passing out the coins for two days in what they call a "humiliating" attempt to convert them to Christianity.

In the markets, people crowded around men with the coins, passing them to each other and asking in surprise, "Have you seen this?"

The head of the Sunni endowment in Fallujah, the organization that oversees Sunni places of worship and other religious establishments, demanded that the Marines stop.

"We say to the occupiers to stop this," said Sheikh Mohammed Amin Abdel Hadi. "This can cause strife between the Iraqis and especially between Muslim and Christians . ... Please stop these things and leave our homes because we are Muslims and we live in our homes in peace with other religions."

Eventually, we're going to be kicked out of Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr is already demanding a referendum on future joint operations between the Americans and the Iraqi government, and the signs are that Sistani agrees with him. And the reason we're going to be kicked out is that you cannot run a counterinsurgency campaign and an occupation at the same time. The occupation is fueling the insurgency and at the very least fueling resentment toward the occupiers. And incidents like this, inevitable when you have 140,000 troops performing the counterinsurgency and the occupation simultaneously, trying to be nice and forceful at the same time, and thrust into a situation where they are not equipped, only increase the anger.

There's almost no question in my mind that Sadr will be the Supreme Jurisprudent of Iraq in five years. A bold prediction, but I'm sticking to it.

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Bold, Principled Leadership

Ask John McCain the one issue where he would separate himself from the President and he almost always answers "climate change." Rhetorically speaking, he has staked out a position that global warming is real and man-made and America must lead to come up with a solution. Only when faced with the opportunity to kick off that process, he's taking a pass on the vote:

Despite stressing the issue on the stump, McCain says he won’t be in the Senate to vote on a landmark bill imposing mandatory greenhouse gases limits.

“I have not been there for a number of votes. The same thing happened in the campaign of 2000. The people of Arizona understand I’m running for president.”

Now, Halperin is wrong. The Lieberman-Warner bill is not a landmark, in that it gives away carbon credits to polluters. The far better bill in the Congress is Ed Markey's Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, which sets up a 100% cap and trade auction and invest that revenue into clean energy sources, setting a target for an 85% reduction in emissions by 2050. That's a legitimate approach to the problem.

But consider McCain, wanting desperately to be seen as mavericky maverick, yet too constrained by the needs of his base to ever step out of line. His reason for skipping the vote is that the bill doesn't reward the nuclear power industry enough, which is right in line with Bush Republicans nationwide. In fact, as Bill Scher demonstrates, McCain has a completely incoherent environmental policy, highlighted by this complaint that there aren't enough subsidies for the nuclear industry when he claims to oppose all subsidies.

Maybe one of his 2,876 lobbyists working on the campaign has a particular interest in getting the nuclear industry their welfare bucks. Whatever the reason, taking a walk on the vote is certainly the boldest leadership I've ever seen.

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Sometimes I Don't Get These People

Harry Reid just sent out an email to his list calling out Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) for supporting the nuclear depository at Yucca Mountain. It's a fundraising email for Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Senator who is being challenged in a primary by Andrews (and hardly; Lautenberg is whipping him handily so far).

It's the type of news you need to spit out fast, so I won't sugarcoat it - United States Representative Robert Andrews has knowingly voted to store the most toxic substance known to man - nuclear waste - near American citizens, while at the same time vying to represent those citizens in our government.

How? By running for Senate and trying to oust my friend, esteemed colleague, and champion of progressive values, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey [...]

It's hard to believe that a representative of the American people, Rep. Andrews, actually voted to store nuclear waste in a highly earthquake-prone area above a large source of water, only 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. But don't take my word for it, take his:

"I joined with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to approve President Bush's decision to store the country's nuclear waste beneath Yucca Mountain ... 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas."

And to top off his record of shame, Rep. Andrews was also one of the earliest and staunchest supporters of President Bush's plan to go to war in Iraq.

All of this is true. Lautenberg is indeed a very good Senator, and Andrews is a snake. But you know, considering this challenge is a fringe possibility at best, I can't get enthused that Harry Reid is wasting his time on it, when John McCain was an even earlier and stauncher supporter of the war in Iraq, and just today he signaled his support for Yucca Mountain.

RENO, Nev. – Calling it “a little straight talk,” Sen. John McCain told Nevada backers at a town hall meeting Wednesday he still supports the construction of a nuclear waste repository north of Las Vegas as long as it meets all the regulatory requirements.

But the Republican presidential hopeful from Arizona also said he wants to address nuclear waste by reprocessing spent fuel and trying to find a place for an international repository, which he said the day before may make it unnecessary to build the Yucca Mountain facility.

“I support Yucca Mountain once it goes through all the processes it needs to go through,” McCain said Wednesday. “But I also support reprocessing. A little straight talk, we have to do both." [...]

McCain, a longtime backer of the waste dump most Nevadans oppose, responded to a question at the town hall meeting about Yucca Mountain by saying he's not the kind of politician who tells voters only what they want to hear. He said he earlier told the people of Iowa he doesn't support ethanol subsidies and he still doesn't.

“I go to places and tell people what they don't want to hear,” he said.

Like "I don't care if you die from nuclear radioactivity."

I'm not convinced Yucca Mountain is all that big an issue in Nevada. McCain's going to play an identity-based game rather than an issue-based one, anyway, and if you see Mitt Romney on the ticket it's to win this state. But it's certainly a bigger issue in Nevada than in New Jersey, and it's certainly more newsworthy to Harry Reid's email list that McCain supports Yucca Mountain than some Democratic primary opponent who's not going to win.

Is he interested in winning the Presidency or helping out his buddies?

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CA-52: Like Father, Like Son

The real question here is whether these military contractors think they're contributing to the same Duncan Hunter or not.

Records show connections between companies Rep. Hunter has worked with and some individuals who are contributing to his son's campaign.

Rep. Hunter added language to the 2008 Defense Appropriations bill awarding $19 million to L-3 Communications, which has an office in San Diego, for the development and testing of a missile system, according to data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Executives from that company contributed $2,750 to Duncan D. Hunter's campaign.

Rep. Hunter also earmarked San Diego-based Trex Enterprises Corp. $1.5 million for the development of a device that will help helicopter pilots navigate with limited visibility. Campaign finance records show Trex employees, including a scientist, donated $4,800 to Duncan D. Hunter's campaign.

Lobbyists working for the companies have also supported Hunter's campaign. Patrick McSwain and Frank Collins, who were listed as principals at the lobbying firm Northpoint Strategies, collectively donated $2,500. Northpoint worked on behalf of L-3. McSwain and Collins were both former [Rep. Duke] Cunningham chiefs of staff.

You know, why wouldn't they? Hunter was a reliable champion for whatever boondoggle weapons system these contractors thought up, even planes that can't fly. There's no reason to believe that his son won't act the same way.

Calitics has endorsed Democrat Mike Lumpkin in this seat.

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The Outrage of the Century

You all know I've been a fan of Michelle Malkin for some time - and have touted her strong position in favor of immigration enforcement.

But now, I am calling on all Kossacks to boycott,, the Seattle Times where she used to work, the book "In Defense of Internment," flecks of spittle, and everything else remotely Malkin-related.

You see, she's clearly a jihadi sympathizer.

Is Malkin's blunder worth boycotting her website over? I'll be interested to hear her take. Hopefully, her choice in hate couture was borne more of ignorance than ideology. But you never know.

The only action Malkin can take to satisfy me is by yanking herself off of the site. I'm pretty sure, given the fact that her husband writes most of the blog anyway, the usual quality of the site will not suffer. But make no mistake, this is offensive. Michelle is within a couple of feet of a red-and-white checked pattern! How am I going to explain this to a child?

If she does in fact leave, it would be refreshing to see an American website show sensitivity to the concerns of those of us opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists and wearers of garments that are somewhat similar. Or having them seated on the backs of chairs. Or whatever.

Anyway, makes me angry.

(h/t Gavin)

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Turnabout, Fair Play, Etc.

It's about time somebody slammed Howard Kurtz for his multiple conflicts of interest. His interview with CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier when his wife is the publicist for her book is one thing (he disclosed this at the tail end of the glowing profile). But here's the guy who is supposed to be the nation's foremost media critic, yet he's employed by the Washington Post and CNN/Time-Warner, two of the nation's largest media companies. Not to mention that practically everything he promotes as a major media ethics story has the uncanny knack of bubbling up through some right-wing blog site. He's been a hack for some time and the Dozier interview is the least of the transgressions.

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Searching For John McCain

More people should be searching for John McCain. I haven't found John McCain yet. Have you seen John McCain?



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SD-15: Media Failure In California Hits A New High

We've been talking a lot today about the media whitewashes and their failures to properly inform the country in the run-up to war, due to corporate dictates or budget constraints or sheer laziness. That has a residual effect everywhere. The same problems we see with the media at the national level are magnified at the local level, where money is even tighter and cluelessness abounds. I had to do a double-take when I read the LA Times' paean "GOP maverick" Sen. Abel Maldonado, supposedly in the context of his re-election "campaign" for State Senate.

SANTA MARIA-- -- Sen. Abel Maldonado crouched to desk level and, with a mischievous smile, enlisted the help of sixth-grader Michelle Grahame to sweat the governor over the state's looming budget cuts.

The 12-year-old was immersed in her computer animation project, an Earth-like blue sphere hovering behind a curiously grown-up message: "Please don't cut Education."

Maldonado, on a tour of Ralph Dunlap Elementary, persuaded her to tweak it to read: "Please don't cut Education Arnold." He left with a printout he promised to deliver to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is hashing over ways to close the state's estimated $2-billion budget gap.

"We're in some challenging times, but I've made a commitment not to cut education," Maldonado, a Republican, told school officials and PTA members after the tour. "We're going to have to get creative."

It was a gentle jab at Schwarzenegger, but Maldonado has crossed the governor and his party leadership before, earning the scorn of conservatives and Republican loyalists. One party official writing on a conservative blog declared that the senator, one of the few Latino Republicans in Sacramento, "is not one of us."

Those same maverick traits, however, have intrigued party moderates who are struggling to make the GOP more appealing to the fastest-growing segments of the California electorate: Latinos and independents.

I'm flummoxed at why you would publish this glowing profile, which reads like it came right out of Maldonado's press office, without revealing some information that people might find helpful. To wit:

• There is a fleeting reference to a "write-in campaign organized by Democrats," but absolutely no mention of Dennis Morris and his quest to offer the voters in the district an actual choice to the as-of-now unopposed Senator. Mark Buchman of the SLO County Dems is quoted blaming Don Perata for the lack of an opponent to begin with, but even though Buchman is Morris' acting campaign chair, the story never allows him the opportunity to mention the write-in hopeful.

• There is NO MENTION AT ALL of the fact that Maldonado has crossfiled to run as a write-in candidate on the Democratic ballot in an effort to short-circuit that campaign organized by those scheming Democrats, no mention of the effort to run on both sides of the ballot.

• There is no mention of Maldonado's actual record on anything but the 2007 budget, like his vote against the Global Warming Solutions Act, for example.

• There is a mention of Maldonado's signing on to a plan even more far-reaching than the Governor's, to SELL the California Lottery, a shortsighted and ridiculously stupid idea that amounts to borrowing against the future yet again, but there is no independent analysis of that proposal; it's just stuck in there as the midpoint between two supposed extremes and therefore teh awesome.

This is just an abandonment of actual reporting in exchange for a gauzy personal profile. And considering there's an election coming up in less than a week, it's an abdication of responsibility.

Now, the LA Times doesn't have much of a presence in the 15th Senate District, they don't have many full-time reporters covering California politics, so they stumble into these half-hearted attempts to inform before election time, and this is what they come up with - a hagiography of a guy who's running as a Democrat and a Republican to shut down any efforts to challenge him.

This is the media we have in 2008.

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Reduced To Yelling "Faggot"

The all-important weighing in from Jeff Gannon on the McClellan book.

What I hear about the book does not sound like the Scott McClellan I knew for two years. I can say without fear of contradiction, that I knew Scott better than any other White House correspondent or Washington reporter.

Yes, you've got the implication right, there isn't any other way to parse that.

Gannon's a team player. Of course he's implying a relationship with McClellan to smear his reputation (if he was lying about sex, surely he's lying about Bush!). It's comtemptuous.

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New York Signs On To Marriage Equality

I don't know if Eliot Spitzer would have done this, but good for David Paterson:

ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada.

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”

The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.

In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as “a strong step toward marriage equality.” And people on both sides of the issue said it moved the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state.

That's about as much as a governor can do without actually legalizing gay marriage inside the state. And DOMA makes this a barrier at the federal level. But we're seeing things move very quickly among some states; in effect, they're catching up with history.

UPDATE: This is awesome:

I've been doing that joke about not reading the entirety of the Bible for years. I don't see evangelicals picketing a Bubba Gump's yelling "GOD HATES SHELLFISH! GOD HATES SHELLFISH!"

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Looks like the DNC and the Obama campaign will probably give Michigan and Florida half of the delegates and seat them at the convention. That's as fair as any compromise, I suppose, retaining the rules of the party while recognizing the votes that took place.

But it's important to note that NOTHING about the DNC's process is exactly fair, and it alternately benefits the Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign. I seem to have a cyber-stalker yelling at me about some article I wrote hitting the Clinton campaign for trying to shut down at-large caucuses at the casinos in Vegas (caucuses she WON, by the way), so I want to make this clear. The delegate process is inherently unfair and disproportional. Did you know that later states were rewarded for staying put with extra delegates? Did you know Puerto Rico offers more delegates than 15 or 20 states even though its residents can't vote in the general election? Do you understand how that benefits the Clinton campaign?

The problem is the system itself. The difference is that I've always argued in deference to the rules as they exist now, with an eye toward changing them immediately afterwards. That's because all Democratic campaigns signed on to the process knowing full well about the rules. So it's only their fault if they decide later that the rules are conspiring against them. Every Clinton supporter on the Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to strip Michigan and Florida of delegates. The problem I have with Clinton is that she wants to play Calvinball and change the rules in the middle of the game.

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Enthusiastic Puppets

I didn't pay a ton of attention to Scott McClellan's scathing new book because it's not like he has an image worth rehabilitating, and I figure he's already sold enough books based on the hubbub. And anyway, there isn't a lot that's new there. As the Bush Reelect eCampaign Director Mike Turk said in his Twitter feed:

Feeling for Scott McLellan. Nice getting savaged for saying what everyone knows to be true anyway.

The midlevel operatives have all come to this conclusion about Bush, just like 80% of the country. Lying us into war, running the country like it were a campaign, deception in the CIA leak case - this isn't groundbreaking stuff.

But two things about the book are revealing. Well, actually, two things about the reaction.

First is that, as I expected, conservatives are throwing the mother of all hissy fits in response to this. The wingnut blogosphere is blaming the messenger as they always do, attacking McClellan as a liberal, a liar, a charlatan trying to sell books, and claiming they never liked him anyway, a point TBogg does away with in minutes by finding the posts from the day of his departure as Press Secretary.

Power Line today:

"When Scott McClellan was the president's press secretary, I usually winced when I heard him speak. The wincing finally ended when Tony Snow replaced McClellan.

Now, with the publication of his new book, we get the chance to wince once more. It's an opportunity I intend to pass up."

You know what is coming...

Power Line then:

"Scott McClellan resigned as White House press secretary this morning. I think McClellan has done a capable job, and it's probably wishful thinking to imagine that the President would appoint someone who would take a more combative attitude toward the White House press corps. To be fair, McClellan has sometimes pushed back. But I think there is a lot of room to take a more aggressive approach."

The White House is perhaps even more spittle-flecked than the bloggers, calling McClellan "disgruntled" and even a traitor.

But I don't think this would be getting the kind of attention it has if McClellan didn't include some choice words for the media. Note to self - that's the way to get a book on the best-seller list:

If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. . . . In this case, the "liberal media" didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.

Now he's pointed the finger at the almighty PRESS. He's accused them of not living up to their responsibilities. So the press, naturally, had to push back. One way is to line up a cavalcade of Bush supporters to trash McClellan and damage his credibility. But because they're sensitive about their conduct during the war, among the most shameful in history, they had to defend themselves from these charges. It was quite remarkable:

Yesterday was actually quite an extraordinary day in our political culture because Scott McClellan's revelations forced the establishment media to defend themselves against long-standing accusations of their corruption and annexation by the government -- criticisms which, until yesterday, they literally just ignored, blacked-out, and suppressed. Bizarrely enough, it took a "tell-all" Washington book from Scott McClellan, of all people, to force these issues out into the open, and he seems -- unwittingly or otherwise -- to have opened a huge flood gate that has long been held tightly shut.

Network executives obviously know that these revelations are quite threatening to their brand. Yesterday, they wheeled out their full stable of multi-millionaire corporate stars who play the role of authoritative journalists on the TV to join with their White House allies in mocking and deriding McClellan's claims. One media star after the next -- Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer -- materialized in sync to insist that nothing could be more absurd than the suggestion that they are "deferential, complicit enablers" in government propaganda.

David Gregory was particularly amusing in defending the White House press corps, even though his own questions are in the public record, questions like "should we capture Saddam or just kill him?" The press was completely cowed by the Bush Administration, willing to reprint their propaganda and unwilling to challenge the most basic assumptions about the cause for war. This is in part because a lot of media figures are incredibly stupid and can't even judge praise from insult:

Potomac, MD: McClellan needs to get over himself. The nerve of blaming the media for their failures in the run-up to the War. Elisabeth Bumiller so eloquently explained how things work the night before the Iraq War started, 4,000 dead American soldiers ago: "it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.".

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a good point. (I'm a huge Bumiller fan).....

But the other part of this is much more insidious. There were massive amounts of corporate pressure to grease the skids for war with Iraq. Contrary opinions were not allowed on television, or if allowed were countered by multiple pro-war views. The corporate bosses wanted to capitalize on what they viewed as a patriotic fervor in the nation by hyping war. This is well-known. Phil Donahue was fired from MSNBC as a result of his antiwar stance despite being the most popular show on the network. And Ashleigh Banfield spoke out about this censorship in public shortly after the war began, and was instantly consigned to the scrap heap of history.

And everyone else knew their place. But yesterday, discussing the book, Jessica Yellin went off the reservation and told the truth about the media conduct during the war - and the corporate pressure.

Cooper: Jessica, McClellan took the press to task for upholding their reputation. He writes “the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington. The choice of whether to go to war in Iraq…the ‘liberal’ media didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.” Dan Bartlett, former Bush advisor, called the allegation “total crap.” What’s your take? Did the press corps drop the ball?

Yellin: I think the press corps dropped the ball in the beginning when the lead up to war began, uh the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the President’s high approval ratings and my own experience at the White House was that the higher the President’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives, and I was not at this network at the time, but the more pressure I had from these executives to put on positive stories about the President. I think over time….

Cooper: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the President?

Yellin: Not in that exact…they wouldn’t say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes. That was my experience.

I hold very few hopes for Yellin's future at CNN. Bravo to her for telling the truth.

I'm sure that this is a one-day story, and the press will consider the matter concluded, in their favor, and move on. But people know this in their bones. The coverage did nothing to enlighten and only to heighten the frenzy over invasion. This was William Randolph Hearst getting his Spanish-American War all over again, and these blowhards can't come to terms with it because their whole world would come crashing down. They were puppets, enthusiastic puppets for an imperialist agenda. And they have to live with that forever.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

World Report

Actually, quite a few things have been brewing on the world stage over the past couple days, and so, you know, here they are:

• I've heard this Osama bin Laden is dead canard several times, but not from a Taliban commander in Pakistan. Of course, there's not really any accountability for this, and no telling whether or not it's true.

• Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, may be bumped right out of the government after new allegations that he took over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in bribes from an American businessman over fifteen years, much of which funded his personal lifestyle. Ehud Barak and others have called upon Olmert to resign. This could completely upset any hope for peace talks and change the complexion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Major news, stay tuned.

• The Presidential candidates are saying all the right things on Darfur. One of the three isn't exactly trustworthy, but hopefully the next Presidency will reflect a change in policy.

• After an IAEA report criticizing Iranian behavior and potential concealment of their nuclear weapons program, the Iranians have threatened to limit their access even further, which was the whole point of the IAEA report. This threat came from Ali Larijani, the former top nuclear negotiator who is now the new Speaker of the Parliament, which is an odd place for a major critic of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, if you believe that he's a dictator and not merely a functionary in a government ruled by the Supreme Leader. With any luck, Bush will leave in favor of Obama in January 2009, and Ahmadinejad, who is unpopular due to economic difficulties, will be voted out the same year, and we'll have a chance for a saner policy between both nations.

• Good news in Nepal, where the monarchy has been abolished, to a massive celebration in the world's most recent secular republic. Freedom is on the march - especially if you don't intervene in sovereign countries and demand it.

• Bad news elsewhere. Somalia is as close to a state of total anarchy as there is in the world, and when you add global economic recession and a world food crisis to that mix, you could have a total collapse with mass death. There's almost no hope there.

• There's been a spasm of violence against immigrants in South Africa, leading the government to consider refugee camps for those displaced by rioting. I hope this isn't a sign that global hate is on the rise.

• Oh, and there's Iraq. The Sunni bloc has suspended talks to re-enter the government, and Muqtada al-Sadr has very cannily called for the Iraqi people to vote on any security arrangement between Iraq and the United States, burnishing his carefully cultivated image as a nationalist man of the people.

That's a lot of stuff!

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