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

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Please Pick Droopy Dog

This would be perfect in a lot of ways. Once Lieberman accepted the Vice-Presidential nomination of the opposing party, it'd be next to impossible for the Senate Democratic leadership to cover for him any further ("He's only against us on the war!"). After we pound McCain and Lieberman into the turf, we can expel him from the caucus and move on with things. Our pickups in the Senate, which will be at least 5 and perhaps as much as 10, should be enough to compensate. Obviously a filibuster-proof majority would be nice, but ditching Lieberman would be a lot nicer.

I love this logic, too:

“[McCain] loves Lieberman. And he is on the [short-]list because Lieberman has never embarrassed anyone, never misspoken. The first rule is, don’t take someone who costs you votes,” said one McCain adviser.

Yes, he's never misspoken. All those times associating Iran and Al Qaeda must of come out of someone else's mouth. Or telling rape victims that it's a short ride to another hospital if pharmacists don't want to prescribe the morning after pill. Or "nobody wants to end the war more than I do." Please.

Labels: , , ,


The United States of Puritania

It is hard-wired into the American DNA to look pruriently into other people's sex lives, to gossip and titillate ourselves, to become the world's Gladys Kravitz whenever anyone in a position of power shows a human failing. We have a deep problem with sex in America to an extent that is not replicated worldwide. When an adulterous affair or a dark secret sexual past comes to light we obsess over it. We come descended from a people who thought Eve's original sin extended to all women, and religious doctrine collectively weighed the nation down with near-constant guilt.

This residual Puritanical bent characterizes the reaction to John Edwards' revelation yesterday. It's the reason that no amount of violence in a contemporary film can garner the same rating as a film with any amount of full frontal nudity. We are really dysfunctional when it comes to sex and more so when it comes to judging other people's families. Elizabeth Edwards' statement yesterday shouldn't even have been necessary.

We also are hung up on the idea that a politician's personal life must be a reflection of how he or she would govern. And that's just not the case. Aside from moralistic hypocrisy based on, for example, voting against gay rights while being gay yourself, there's simply no reason to bring these personal peccadillos into the public square. If fidelity was a harbinger of Presidential success, George W. Bush and Richard Nixon would be triumphs while FDR would be a failure.

But more to the point, it's the priority orders we conjure up based on this Puritanical past that become truly maddening. The post I was going to write about this has already been ably penned by clammyc, so I'll just reprint a bit of it and urge you to head over there.

But moving past the issue of sex, which is really only important to people who have so little in their own lives to be proud of that they have to obsess and point fingers at others to feel better about themselves, there are so many other reasons to be absolutely frustrated with the hypocritical moralists and smarmy narcissists that are once again rearing their ugly heads. Over the past week, we found out that the White House not only passed off forged documents to sell the Iraq invasion, but they forged their own documents to sell the Iraq invasion, and there is not a peep about it?

We found out that the US attorney scandal is now focusing on the White House inner circle, yet there is a collective yawn. The much ballyhooed military tribunal of Hamdan resulted in a 5 month sentence even after a kangaroo court trial - basically a repudiation of the entire administration view on military tribunals.

We just passed 500 military deaths in Afghanistan, and the Iraqi Congress adjourned without meeting one benchmark that was supposed to be the main result of the so-called "surge", yet all we hear is the foregone conclusion that the surge worked.

Torture is still on the table. One Attorney General approved of torture memos, while also being part of voter suppression lawsuits while the latest Attorney General approves of waterboarding as long as it isn’t being done to him, and also is a chief obstructor of justice when it comes to the Executive Branch. Iraqi prisoners are being put in small wooden boxes, which of course is most certainly not torture.

Spying on Americans has been given the thumbs up by Congress, criminal defiance of subpoenas by Rove, Miers, Bolton are being allowed to set a dangerous precedent, there is more saber rattling about attacking Iran - with similar lies being trotted out by this administration, and the current republican nominee.

I would add this remarkable story, which received almost no coverage on the blogosphere and in broadcast media after being stuffed into the middle of the Washington Post yesterday:

At least 17 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay were subjected to a program that moved them repeatedly from cell to cell to cause sleep deprivation and disorientation as punishment and to soften detainees for subsequent interrogation, according to U.S. military documents.

Defense Department investigations of abuse had previously revealed that the program was used in a limited manner and only on high-value detainees, but the documents indicate that the program was far more widespread and that the technique was still used months after it was banned at the facility in March 2004. Detainees were moved dozens of times in just days and sometimes more than a hundred times over a two-week period.

So the techniques were banned by the Defense Department, banned by international convention and federal statute, and yet were still used and authorized, and if you go back you'll see that authorization coming from the highest levels. This rates barely a whisper.

It is of no consequence to those guardians of the discourse to spend weeks discussing the literal hijacking of our government (for which they receive a handsome sum, indirectly) but we, as the descendants of the Puritans, must go hog wild at the mention of an affair. I think John Edwards is a total idiot for thinking he could keep this secret during a high-stakes Presidential campaign, and for risking the loss of the White House by running, knowing the political environment in the US and our Puritanical lizard brains.

I know these appeals to reason, to assess the gravity of competing situations, often fall short. It's hard to compete with human nature, particularly American human nature. I wish we were in a country where we could accurately determine what shocks the conscience, at a human level, free from ideology or politics. That is unlikely. But I'm still going to let that determine what I prioritize to the best of my ability.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


House Judiciary Warns DoJ on Perata Leaks

I've been mulling this around in my head for a few days. Three powerful members of the House Judiciary committee have have sent a letter to the Justice Department calling for an investigation into leaks surrounding the inquiry into State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

No article since November 2004 has explicitly said that any information came from a federal government source. But in a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey obtained by The Times on Monday, U.S. Reps. John Conyers Jr., Linda Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren wrote, "We are disturbed and concerned that news story after news story . . . has cited federal law enforcement sources as the basis of information."

The only article specifically mentioned in the July 31 letter was a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article cited "sources familiar with the probe," a broad term that could encompass federal agents, defense attorneys and people who have been questioned [...]

On Friday, the day after the congressional letter was sent, a Wall Street Journal article said the investigation into Perata "gained momentum over the past year." The article's details were attributed to anonymous people "close to the defense," who said Perata's longtime political consultant, Sandi Polka, was granted immunity to compel her to answer questions.

(Here's that SF Chron article mentioned in the letter.)

The Perata investigation certainly has dragged on for years, leading to him needing more and more funds to raise in his defense. In particular, the dumping of $250,000 from the California Democratic Party into his legal defense fund raised a lot of eyebrows around these parts. After the initial explanation of "We're the CDP and we can do what we want," a secondary explanation was that the investigation had been politicized and that this was part of the DoJ's efforts to prosecute and delegitimize Democrats. A couple weeks later, out comes this letter, signed by two members of the California delegation. But it's Conyers' participation that makes me believe that this is a real concern. I trust Conyers enough to think that he wouldn't simply badger the DoJ to help out a political problem in California.

Of course, let's look at what the letter is actually alleging. It's not suggesting that the investigation itself is unnecessarily political, but that someone inside the investigation is using the media to disparage Perata. That may well be true, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the whole investigation is a farce.

Let's now look at what this does NOT suggest:

• It in no way excuses the CDP for paying off Perata with $250,000 in the middle of an election year, whether that money was simply laundered through them and earmarked for Perata or not. Based on this SacBee report, it appears Perata is perfectly capable of raising money for himself:

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata has solicited at least $200,000 this year from political interest groups for a nonprofit foundation that promotes and rallies support for one of his bills.

The arrangement, apparently legal, allows the Senate leader to solicit unlimited funds for his own political agenda without having to detail how the money is spent.

"He may have found a loophole in the Political Reform Act that needs to be closed," said attorney Bob Stern, a co-author of the state's Political Reform Act who now runs the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.

Which leads me to point 2:

• There is no way that Perata should still be Senate President Pro Tem at this point. While he has done a good job of hammering Republicans for their intransigence on the budget, this image hit, as well as the constant distraction of having to find new ways to raise money for his legal bills, are not what we need at this sensitive time, ESPECIALLY when Darrell Steinberg is waiting in the wings and perfectly capable of performing the same duties without the black cloud of indictment hanging over the head of the Democratic leadership. They haven't even taken a caucus vote on this yet, to my knowledge - it's currently scheduled for August 21, but during these budget negotiations that's doubtful to come off.

It is perfectly consistent to be skeptical of the Justice Department's case against Perata and to ALSO demand that he step down from his leadership position, and to excoriate the CDP for their conduct in either shoveling Perata money or acting as a conduit for that fund transfer.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Money Bomb

Good on the group who put together Accountability NOW PAC's money bomb yesterday, which netted over $150,000 in 24 hours, which isn't bad for a non-Presidential race. This money will be used to recruit candidates to take on those members of Congress who betrayed the Constitution and passed wiretapping legislation without accountability for lawbreakers. A few more of these and they could have a nice war chest to help restore some confidence to the rule of law.

This is particularly acute on a day when the FBI admits that it obtained reporter's phone records "accidentally". Mm-hm. Governments are simply not to be trusted with spying powers, no matter who is in charge of it.

Labels: , ,


Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia

This is shaping up to be a full-blown war between Russia and Georgia for the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Russia has long maintained peacekeepers in the autonomous Republic, has given Russian passports to citizens there, and after the Kosovar independence it appeared that Russia was encouraging the splinter republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to break away from Georgia. So Georgia invaded, and Russia has responded by bombing positions inside Georgia; the city of Gori experienced many casualties. Abkhazia is also restless, with their forces moving into South Ossetia (through Russia) and launching artillery strikes in the Kodori Gorge. Jerome a Paris says there are no good guys here:

First, let's be clear: there are two reasons only we care about Georgia: the oil pipelines that go through its territory, and the opportunity it provides to run aggressive policies towards Russia.

Second, let's also be very explicit: this conflict is not unexpected: it is a direct consequence of our policies, in particular with respect to Kosovo (and to all those that will claim that "no one could have predicted" this, let me point out to this comment, or this earlier one, or this article). I would even go so far as to say that it was egged on by some in Washington: the neocons.

Third, our claims to have the moral high ground are totally ridiculous and need to be fought, hard. This is not about democracy vs dictature, brave freedom lovers vs evil oppressors, but a nasty brawl by power-hungry figures on both sides, with large slices of corruption. The fact that this is turned into a cold-war-like conflict between good and evil is a domestic political play by some in Washington to reinforce their power and push certain policies that have little to do with Russia or Georgia. That needs to be understood.

The transit oil pipeline from the Black Sea is certainly a factor here, as are the resources in the South Ossetia region. The Georgian leader Saakashvili has been a committed neocon ally, and this reminds me of a Cold War skirmish where we try to bait the Russians into a guerrilla war with an army we have equipped. American statements, with their focus on "recognizing Georgia's territorial integrity," have certainly come down on the Georgian's side, though I doubt that the US would send troops or even advisers to the region (there are a couple hundred there now preparing the Georgian military for deployment to Iraq, where they have 2,000 troops stationed; given this conflict, Georgia is planning to recall all of them).

Robert Farley has a smart take.

I am less sympathetic to the Georgian case because I think that escalating the war (and providing an excuse for Russian counter-escalation) was a damn stupid thing for Saakashvili to do, and a remarkably damn stupid thing for him to do absent an extremely compelling cause. Small, weak states living next to abrasive, unpredictable great powers need to be extremely careful about what they do; in most cases, their foreign policy should, first and foremost, be about avoiding war with the great power. This is what Saakashvili failed to do. The war didn't need to escalate; it was a Georgian decision to move from the village skirmishes that were happening on Tuesday to the siege of Tsikhinvali on Thursday.

I understand that there can be a bit of "blaming the victim" to this analysis. Russia has consistently pursued imperial aims in its Near Abroad (so does every great power, including the US) and has treated Georgia badly, with a succession of threats, boycotts, and efforts to promote the secessionist forces which are causing the trouble today. Georgia had every right to seek NATO membership in order to limit Russian efforts (although NATO had every right to turn Georgia down). Russia has been a bad actor, but it was nevertheless a terrible and unnecessary mistake to pick a fight with Russia over South Ossetia, not least because the balance of perfidy on South Ossetia is uncertain. This is why I'm unsympathetic to Saakashvili and to his claims that Georgia is fighting for freedom against tyranny. For example, I think that the Taiwanese would be considerably more justified in a declaration of independence from the PRC, but such a declaration would still be reckless, and would leave me less sympathetic to Taiwanese calls for aid.

The United States also bears some responsibility. US rhetorical and material support for Georgia may have given the Georgians unrealistic expectations about likely US behavior in a Russia-Georgia confrontation. Specifically, anything other than "we will not support you in any way or under any circumstances" might have led to the Georgians having the wrong idea.

It looks to me like like both sides of this conflict have little reason to de-escalate, for largely political reasons. Let's hope the international community can put pressure on to end this as quickly as possible.

Labels: , , ,


Friday, August 08, 2008

Case Closed... And Then Open A Little

I think the FBI's "open and shut" case on Bruce Ivins is landing with a thud. Their claims keep getting contradicted by material evidence. They said that the envelopes purchased to mail the letters could only have been bought at the post office where Ivins had a PO Box, but that turns out to be inaccurate. They said that there is evidence in the documents released about searches of Ivins' car and home, but there isn't. There's no evidence matching Ivins' handwriting to the writing on the letters. The strain of anthrax used in the killings, considered rare and only available to 10 people, turns out to be more prevalent and available in up to 15 government labs. And most damning, the government is still looking for evidence in the anthrax case.

The government is still searching for evidence that Bruce Ivins was solely responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks despite declaring the case solved.

Search warrants and other documents filed Thursday in federal court in Washington show the FBI wants to look through computers Ivins used at his local library before he killed himself last week.

Gee, I thought the case was closed.

As details continue to leak out, including an assertion that Ivins took an administrative leave for several hours on the day the letters may have been sent - a detail left completely out of the DoJ's document dump - it's no wonder that lawmakers on Capitol Hill are starting to ask questions.

Last night, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) sent a three-page letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller III, asking them to respond to 18 questions about virtually every aspect of the probe.

In the House, Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat who represents the New Jersey district where the anthrax-laced letters were mailed, says he's talking to other House members about a combined inquiry involving the judiciary, intelligence, science and technology, and government oversight committees.

That's exactly what we need. Meryl Nass has a lot more.

Labels: , , ,


Friday Random Ten

Today kind of sucks. I need music!

Corner Store - Brazilian Girls
L.A. Song - Fischerspooner
Heart Shaped Box - Nirvana
Une Annee Sans Lumiere - The Arcade Fire
Miss Being Mrs. - Loretta Lynn
Stand Together - The Beastie Boys
Megacolon - Fischerspooner
Beautiful Way - Beck
Call Me - Blondie
Walk Out - Matthew Sweet

Hasta la bye-bye!

Labels: ,


The Rot At The Heart Of The State Political System

For a variety of reasons, this is a depressing day. In California terms, it's because, for all the progress we think has been made over the last few cycles, the situation is very familiar - the big money special interests rule Sacramento, and the "lawmakers" do nothing but chase money.

Yesterday, the bill which would phase out plastic bags in California by placing a $0.25 fee for their use in shops which failed to recycle them stalled in the State Senate (must have been that Bag Tax blogad). Cost was raised as a concern - it would have cost a whopping $1.5 million dollars (on a $100 billion dollar budget) to implement!

Also yesterday, the proposal to make California the very first state in the nation with guaranteed paid sick days for every worker, a right held in most industrialized nations, failed in the Senate, also due to cost (this would have been a robust $900,000 a year to implement!). The bill was at the top of CalChamber's annual "job killer" list.

So bills that would have a major impact on health, the environment and quality of life are quietly yet consistently killed. Meanwhile, the "lawmakers" shuttle from one fundraiser to the next, sucking up to the people who really control the Capitol.

In just four days next week, at least 40 politicians and candidates are scheduled to hold fundraisers, soliciting donations over cappuccino, carnitas and cocktails, at cafes, art galleries and restaurants. Most events are within a few blocks of the Capitol and require a minimum donation of $1,000 to attend.

Lobbyists -- whose clients' interests are on the line in the Legislature -- face so many opportunities to give to legislators' campaigns that some are plotting a schedule and mapping a route.

"You run from one to the other," said Craig Brown, a lobbyist who represents several law enforcement unions.

The result of all these payments is a lobbyist class which is free to designate what bills would or would not be too "costly" to implement. They'll pay top dollar to the lawmakers to make sure they don't spend a lot of money. There's quite a disconnect there.

It's no wonder that "lawmakers" don't care about Arnold Schwarzenegger's vow to veto every bill until the budget is resolved. The more bills have the potential of returning, the more money flows into candidate coffers from the lobbyists who want to stop the bills. It's a vicious, disgusting cycle which restricts progressive change at virtually every level. Sure, they'll let something like SB 840 slide through because they know Governor Backstop will veto it. But anything that might actually become a law - forget it. Not unless the Big Money Boys wrinkle their noses in assent.

The big challenge for progressives and activists is to show a model that would break the cycle of lobbyist cash for access in Sacramento. The low-dollar revolution has been nonexistent here, and without it you cannot credibly campaign in the state without help from special interests. Until that time, we'll continue to see consumer-friendly bills die in committee, lobbyists writing the laws, and the rest of us scratching our heads why we can't make progress.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Drill Now! Lose Your Job!

Turns out that there's a flip side to spending weeks upon weeks demanding more largesse for the oil companies - your opponents can use the issue to tie you to Big Oil and beat you:

While you were watching that Jew-baiting House candidate go down in flames, another potentially far more significant contest played out last night: A GOP primary challenger ousted GOPer David Davis from his seat in Tennessee's first district, prevailing by less than 500 votes.

Davis' loss was a big deal, for two reasons: First, he's the first incumbent knocked off in this state since 1956. More important, he went down largely because his foe, in an unusual move for a fellow Republican, aggressively yoked him to "Big Oil."

This could have broader national significance, because it shows that championing offshore drilling, as Davis did with extreme enthusiasm, can't always be counted on as the sure winner the GOP thinks it is -- after all, he lost on the issue even among GOP primary voters.

It turns out that Davis was ON THE HOUSE FLOOR just yesterday pushing this "drill now" nonsense before losing his own primary. Hopefully he won't tell his colleagues about the double-edged sword. Down With Tyranny has more.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman looks at GOP know-nothing-ism.

And the debate on energy policy has helped me find the words for something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Republicans, once hailed as the “party of ideas,” have become the party of stupid.

Now, I don’t mean that G.O.P. politicians are, on average, any dumber than their Democratic counterparts. And I certainly don’t mean to question the often frightening smarts of Republican political operatives.

What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”

Including "yoking yourself to Big Oil might have negative political consequences."

Labels: , , , , , ,


Most of the Way There

The first 16 seconds of this Olympics ad are tremendous. They emphasize youth, the can-do spirit to get America working again, and the need to use our skills and abilities in service to a bright future. And I love that it's really talking about a green jobs program, in accessible ways. Then comes the final 14 seconds and the litany of sloganeering ("Create Five Million Jobs") that you see in every political ad.

The form can mirror the content here. An energetic, propulsive, forward-moving ad portends an energetic future. The litany at the end slows it down, makes it less melodic, and drops it into a pabulum of poll-tested slogans.

Earlier this week the ads were good for 10 seconds before the slogans and statistics. We're now up to 16. By the end of the campaign I think we'll get to 30.

Labels: , , , ,


The Saddest Part

of this story is that it offers Mickey Kaus an opportunity to gloat.

John Edwards repeatedly lied during his Presidential campaign about an extramarital affair with a novice filmmaker, the former Senator admitted to ABC News today.

In an interview for broadcast tonight on Nightline, Edwards told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff he did have an affair with 42-year old Rielle Hunter, but said that he did not love her.

Edwards also denied he was the father of Hunter's baby girl, Frances Quinn, although the one-time Democratic Presidential candidate said he has not taken a paternity test.

Edwards said he knew he was not the father based on timing of the baby's birth on February 27, 2008. He said his affair ended too soon for him to have been the father.

He was at the Beverly Hilton, as the National Enquirer suggested, too.

This has been a really bad year for the personal lives of candidates that I respected and admired. First Eliot Spitzer and now this. But I can't say that it's much of a surprise. Politicians, power, sex; it's always been part of the stew. This is true on the left and true on the right (McCain's first marriage, anyone?). The difference is that only one side consistently attempts to legislate morality.

I really feel bad for Elizabeth Edwards and the family, more than anything.

UPDATE: Reading Edwards' statement about this, the phrase "increasingly egocentric and narcissistic" jumped out at me. If you're a Presidential candidate, you run around the country in limousines and airplanes. You are greeted warmly to cheering thousands wherever you land. You give speeches and people clap and cheer. It's probably not hard to get a full head. I don't understand how someone could be so stupid but I've never been in that position. And in addition, unless you're inside a marriage you have no idea what goes on.

Labels: ,



Georgia and Russia are kicking off the Olympic Games with a shooting war over South Ossetia.

The president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, in a televised address, accused Russia of sending fighter jets to bomb Georgian towns to help the breakaway territory of South Ossetia, where a large number of Russian citizens live.

Russian officials in turn said that the Georgian military had attacked Russian peacekeepers stationed in the area. The Russian Defense Ministry announced late Friday afternoon that it was sending reinforcements to South Ossetia, a move that followed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev telling an emergency meeting of his security council that "we will not allow the deaths of our compatriots to go unpunished."

In a phone interview with McClatchy, Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili confirmed that Russian units had passed through the Roki tunnel connecting the two countries. She said she worried that war with Russia was increasingly possible.

Georgia is not a NATO member, but you can bet that under a McCain Presidency, he'd be sending forces or at list logistical personnel over to help them fight the Russians. After all, Randy Scheunemann, a top foreign policy advisor to McCain, has been a paid lobbyist for Georgia.

I know that military tensions are supposed to automatically argue for the Republican, but in this case I really think it's the opposite. In a dangerous world, we can't dedicate all this time and effort to keeping the lid on Iraq.

UPDATE: Obama's statement:

I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict. Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war. Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected. All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis.

Labels: , , , ,


Fluff v. Substance

The McCain campaign is rolling with the celebrity theme, tying the "fabulous life" of Barack Obama, who recently paid off his student loans, to the struggles of working people, who John McCain and his eight houses and $500 loafers certainly connects with.

It is good that the Obama campaign countered by simply calling the ad a lie.

"This ad is a lie, and it's part of the old, tired politics of a party in Washington that has run out of ideas and run out of steam. Even though a host of independent, nonpartisan organizations have said this attack isn't true, Senator McCain continues to lie about Senator Obama's plan to give 95% of all families a tax cut of $1,000, and not raise taxes for those making under $250,000 a single dime. The reason so many families are hurting today is because we've had eight years of failed Bush policies that Senator McCain wants to continue for another four, and that's what Barack Obama will change as President."

What I like MUCH better than that is that the Obama campaign is exploiting the new opening provided by the Wilmington/DHL deal which McCain and his lobbyist/campaign manager supported, which is resulting in thousands of job losses in the Ohio community. Obama is up with a radio ad here explaining the whole thing.

July 9, 2008: Portsmouth, Ohio. Here's what John McCain said about DHL's plans to eliminate 8,200 Ohio jobs:

"I gotta look you in the eye and give you straight talk: I don't know if I can stop it or not. Or if it will be stopped."

But there's something John McCain's not telling you: It was McCain who used his influence in the Senate to help foreign-owned DHL buy a U.S. company and gain control over the jobs that are now on the chopping block in Ohio. And that's not all: McCain's campaign manager was the top lobbyist for the DHL deal...helped push it through. His firm was paid $185,000 to lobby McCain and other Senators.

Now 8,200 Ohioans are facing layoffs, and foreign-owned DHL doesn't care.

"I gotta look you in the eye and give you straight talk..."

John McCain, same old politics, same failed policies.

That is pitch-perfect and the best ad of the cycle for the Obama campaign, hands-down. This Wilmington deal is getting national attention as well as hitting regional news in Ohio. Without Ohio, McCain pretty much can't win. This is a major opportunity and I wouldn't stop running this until November 4. Make TV ads from it as well.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


LAT: No On 8

Big news today that the LA Times has come out No on 8, which, given their reach and their tendency to be something less than liberal in worldview, is very significant.

But it was Ronald M. George, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, who cut through to the essence of the issue in the May 15 opinion he wrote: "[A]ffording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples."

In other words, the very act of denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry -- traditionally the highest legal and societal recognition of a loving commitment -- by definition relegates them and their relationships to second-class status, separate and not all that equal.

Good for the LAT ed board, especially with their framing as a civil rights issue, which it is.

We're going to win this thing.

UPDATE: The new site for the marriage equality folks fighting this initiative is

Labels: , , , ,


D-Trip, Schumer Play Hardball

The DCCC is pretty agressively hitting back on House Republicans' "Drill Only" pose, in particular using the fact that John Boehner was out golfing while his colleagues were whipping it up playing model Congress on the House floor.

The Washington Post reported this morning that Minority Leader John Boehner has spent the first week of the congressional recess doing a series of golf outings while a small band of House Republicans remain in Washington to call for "drill only" legislation that does nothing to bring immediate relief to Americans paying high gas prices.

Big Oil tax breaks and subsidies supported by Republicans ... $14 Billion
Political contributions made to Republicans by Big Oil this cycle ... $13.5 Million
Profit earned by the top five Big Oil Companies last quarter ... $44 Billion
Cost of John Boehner's green fees while a small band of House Republicans' express faux outrage about gas prices * ... $240
The Grand Oil Party's hypocrisy about the cost of gas ... Priceless

("Drill only" is a great way to flip the frame. That's what it should always be called.)

They're apparently headed out to Capitol Hill today in golfing outfits (also known as "Republican casual").

Another guy hitting back hard in unexpected ways is Chuck Schumer.

"I thought the Britney Spears commercial was powerful," Schumer said, referring to McCain's television ad casting Obama as a vapid "celebrity."

"They're trying to say, 'He's not one of us,'" Schumer said.

"I would answer back hard. What do you mean he's not one of us? It's John McCain who wears $500 shoes, has six houses and comes from one of the richest families in his state," Schumer said. "It's Barack Obama who climbed up the hard way, and that's why he wants middle-class tax cuts and better schools for our kids."

Makes me feel relieved about the D-Trip and the D-Stick, not necessarily about the Obama campaign that Schumer has to go over their heads to contrast with them in public. Of course, the campaign committees are attack dog organizations, sort of different from a Presidential candidate campaign. This comes down to why it was so stupid to drain the swamp of 527s and control message solely from the top. Obama would have benefited greatly from some attack dog ads right about now.

Labels: , , , , ,


Programming Note

I'm going to be on Bill Scher's Liberal Oasis radio show tomorrow. It airs at 10 AM ET on WHMP in Western MA, and will be podcast at We're going to be talking about John McCain's travails this week, which have provided no end of amusement. He's backtracking on a couple major stories so you know he senses trouble. He's returned $50,000 in contributions from the shady bundler Harry Sargeant, and he's called for an investigation into DHL's plans to eliminate 8,300 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio (after aiding the merger that led to the proposed job cuts).

My hope is that the Obama campaign doesn't care about these backtracks, particularly on Wilmington. It's very clear that Republican crony capitalism threatens American jobs, and that McCain's campaign manager got rich off empowering multinational corporations to leave American workers in the cold. That's still operative no matter what investigation is now demanded.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

The US military lost its 500th soldier in Afghanistan in July, nearly seven years after the initial invasion. The increasing deadliness of the war has finally moved it somewhat into the national consciousness, as Taliban remnants combined with tribal villagers have reformed to offer strong resistance to the Afghan government and coalition troops. Increasing use of roadside bombs and suicide attacks presage a new reality, with insurgents resisting a foreign occupation rather than extremists seeking to overturn the government.

The question is, where do we go from here. Bob Gates wants to throw $20 billion in aid at the problem, mostly to transform the Afghan military. Both Sen. Obama and, more recently, Sen. McCain have asked for additional US brigades to be deployed to the region, which smacks of posturing. Of course, it's very possible that Obama honestly believes that Afghanistan is the right war and Al Qaeda must be denied safe haven to project attacks at Americans and the West. Of course, the question is how to best achieve that objective.

Over the past few weeks, as progressives have driven a conversation on this policy, there have been some very good studies written about what to do over there. Two of the best are Rory Stewart's piece in TIME...

So what exactly should we do about Afghanistan now? First, the West should not increase troop numbers. In time, NATO allies, such as Germany and Holland, will probably want to draw down their numbers, and they should be allowed to do so. We face pressing challenges elsewhere. If we are worried about terrorism, Pakistan is more important than Afghanistan; if we are worried about regional stability, then Egypt, Iran or even Lebanon is more important; if we are worried about poverty, Africa is more important. A troop increase is likely to inflame Afghan nationalism because Afghans are more anti-foreign than we acknowledge and the support for our presence in the insurgency areas is declining. The Taliban, which was a largely discredited and backward movement, gains support by portraying itself as fighting for Islam and Afghanistan against a foreign military occupation.

Nor should we increase our involvement in government and the economy. The more responsibility we take in Afghanistan, the more we undermine the credibility and responsibility of the Afghan government and encourage it to act irresponsibly. Our claims that Afghanistan is the "front line in the war on terror" and that "failure is not an option" have convinced the Afghan government that we need it more than it needs us. The worse things become, the more assistance it seems to receive. This is not an incentive to reform. Increasing our commitment to Afghanistan gives us no leverage over the government.

Afghans increasingly blame us for the problems in the country: the evening news is dominated by stories of wasted development aid. The government claims that in 2007, $1.3 billion out of $3.5 billion of aid was spent on international consultants, some of whom received more than $1,000 a day and whose policy papers are often ignored by Afghan civil servants and are invisible to the population. Our lack of success despite our wealth and technology convinces ordinary Afghans to believe in conspiracy theories. Well-educated people have told me that the West is secretly backing the Taliban and that the U.S.'s main objective was to steal Afghanistan's emeralds, antiquities and uranium — and that we knew where Osama bin Laden was but had decided not to catch him.

A smarter strategy would focus on two elements: more effective aid and a more limited military objective. We should target development assistance in provinces where we have a track record of success. Our investment goes further in stable and welcoming places like Hazarajat than it can in hostile, insurgency-dominated areas like Kandahar and Helmand, where we have to spend millions on security and the locals do not contribute to the project and will not sustain it after our departure. We should focus on meeting the Afghan government's request for more investment in agricultural irrigation, energy and roads. And we should increase our support to the most effective departments, such as education, health and rural development; they are good for the reputation of the Afghan state and the West. Creating more educated, healthier women and men and better transport, communications and electrical infrastructure may be only part of the story, but they are essential for Afghanistan's economic future.

... and Vikram Singh in World Politics Review:

Afghanistan is in trouble but far from lost. Less than one-third of the country is really unstable and only about 10 percent of Afghan districts are under significant Taliban sway. But a surge of all types of effort -- military and civilian -- is needed to turn the tide. The mini-surge of 3,000 marines into the south and east of the country will soon draw to close after some success clearing insurgents, but the U.S. and its allies have little ability to hold and build those areas without capable Afghan security forces and Afghan and international civilians.

U.S. forces should only surge into Afghanistan with a workable and comprehensive strategy and the right civilian counterparts. The renewal of interest in Afghanistan and Pakistan offers a real opportunity. The presidential candidates -- or indeed President Bush in his remaining months -- should craft a strategy that ensures money and personnel for a civilian and military surge tailored to Afghanistan.

These two writers have little in common ideologically but they understand that a straight military solution is completely misguided. I think Stewart makes a lot more sense, having spent time in the country and having internalized its dynamics.

Of course, no discussion of Afghanistan can be divorced from Pakistan, where insurgents live and train and receive support from even the country's intelligence services. Robert Kaplan's piece in The Atlantic framed Pakistan's interest in Afghanistan in the proper context of a larger struggle with India. This also argues against additional troops, as the politics are far more substantial that two brigades can counteract. The new secular government has paid lip service to rooting Taliban sympathizers out of the ISI and against to prevent safe havens for insurgents along the border, but that is unlikely, to be honest.

The Bush administration and its allies are pressing Pakistan to end its support for Afghan insurgents linked to al Qaida, but Pakistani generals are unlikely to be swayed because they increasingly see their interests diverging from those of the United States, U.S. and foreign experts said [...]

"The fact that we're reduced to trying to send messages to the Pakistanis by putting stories in (newspapers) tells you we don't have any good options," said a former senior intelligence official knowledgeable about South Asia. "It also suggests that the high-level, face-to-face contacts haven't worked so far. The trouble is, these kinds of public threats are likely to backfire."

For one thing, the Taliban and other groups allied with al Qaida could respond to any Pakistani crackdown by stepping up attacks inside Pakistan, which is battling Islamic extremist violence, U.S. officials and experts said.

Furthermore, they said, Pakistan's nearly dysfunctional, feud-riddled civilian government has little power over the Army and the ISI. The latest evidence was a botched attempt under U.S. pressure to put the agency under the Interior Ministry before Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani's three-day visit to Washington this week.

Pakistani generals and other leaders are also infuriated by President Bush's pursuit of a strategic relationship with India, their foe in three wars, as embodied by a U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation pact that won United Nations approval Friday, the U.S. officials and experts said.

"One thing we never understood is that India has always been the major threat for Pakistan," said former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain, now the president of the Middle East Institute.

That is an almost unthinkably stupid statement, but it does seem to underline our missteps in the region.

Now, the fractious government does seem to be coming together around impeaching Pervez Musharraf, but that could only increase tensions with the military and lead to internal chaos, at which point they would be little help on the border.

Brian Katulis from CAP is really knowledgeable on this stuff, so his report on Pakistan is worth reading. The region is incredibly complex, with interlocking battles and jockeying for power that can be exploited by extremist elements. Our goal is to suck out the ability for those extremists to prosper, to the extent that we can. Bombing civilians doesn't help. Neither does antagonizing the Waziris. We need to get this right, but it's very precarious.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Thursday, August 07, 2008

CA-26: New poll shows Warner well-positioned to beat Dreier

We've been hearing rumblings about this poll for a while, but it's finally been released. In the 26th District, where Bush rubber stamp David Dreier hasn't had a legitimate opponent practically since being elected in 1980, Russ Warner is absolutely within striking difference with 88 days to the election.

The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, has all kinds of interesting information. IN the baseline poll, Dreier does not reach 50%

CA-26 (GQRR, margin of error +/- 4.9%)
Dreier 49
Warner 37

The sample size is pretty small, but Dreier not breaking 50 after being the Representative for 28 years is significant. What's more, after information about each candidate is delivered to those polled, the numbers change dramatically.

Dreier 47
Warner 44

Other significant findings:

• Independent voters in the initial poll, before bios, support Warner 49-32.

• 63 percent disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, with half of all voters (50 percent) strongly disapproving.

• Only 45 percent of voters say they approve of the job Dreier is doing as Congressman, while 33 percent disapprove.

• Nearly four out of five voters (78 percent) say the country is off on the wrong track.

• Barack Obama is in a statistical tie with John McCain in the district, 44 percent to 47 percent, and their favorables are identical (46 fav-36 unfav).

• Dreier has high negatives in the district. An equal number of those polled have a negative opinion of Dreier (32 percent) as have a positive opinion of him (32 percent).

The race is going to come down to resources. Right now, Dreier has a huge war chest, and he's undoubtedly going to use it to smear Warner and drive up his negatives. However, if Warner has enough cash to compete, things will get very interesting in the 26th.

Labels: , , ,


TN-09: Even Ford Has To Disassociate

Results from the Steve Cohen-Nikki Tinker matchup in TN-09 can be found here. The polls close pretty much right now.

Harold Ford, whose wife has maxed out to Tinker, had to acknowledge the ugliness of her campaign ads (with their anti-Semitic talk of Cohen entering "our churches") earlier today.

"Whenever race, religion or gender is invoked in a political contest, it generally means the candidate has run out of legitimate arguments for why he/she should be elected. Communities and nations are always made weaker when political figures try to divide us for political advantage. It is my strong hope that lessons will be learned."

The Memphis Commercial-Appeal has more. I'll be out, but feel free to update the race here.

UPDATE: Wow, Cohen just crushed Tinker tonight. What an embarrassment. Cohen only got 30% of the primary vote in 2006, and tonight he took 79%. Tinker's career in national politics is over. She disgraced herself and got nothing for it. And I hope EMILY's List learned their lesson.

Labels: , , , ,


Let It Not Be 1968

I think this is a residual, subconscious fear that a good number of Americans have when thinking about an Obama Presidency. It's a by-product of assassinations past as well as the fact that he's an African-American. However, I guess this guy in particular also talked about shooting Bush, so there's just a wackadoo element out there. I do think our Secret Service is actually pretty disciplined and takes these threats extremely seriously, and I'm confident they'll continue to do their job well.

Labels: , ,


"The voters have been taken hostage but we can't get a ransom note."

John Laird kicks a little Republican tail on the budget. The backstory here is that the Reeps have been demanding a vote on the Democratic proposal despite their leadership offering other options in secret. In addition, the Republicans have consistently opposed the budget without marking out what their alternative would be. Here's Laird:

“One of the great joys in serving in this body is when some of my colleagues take firm stands on both sides of an issue.

“We stood here on this floor just a couple of months ago and we wanted to take just an itty-bitty portion of windfall profits from the oil companies—where last week they reported $11 billion in profits—and use it to keep from laying off teachers. And speaker after speaker on this floor said, “Don’t waste our time with a drill. We’re against drills. Debates with foregone conclusions are of no value.” Now from the same quarter it’s “We demand a drill.”

“If I had gone 7 months into the budget process and not made a public proposal, not shared what my point of view for balancing the budget was with the people of California, I might want to change the subject as well.

“We have a situation where the voters of California have been taken hostage but we can’t get a ransom note.

“Because it’s been said on this floor today, people are having a tough time with gas prices. Well, if you are going to take their public transit away, they have to know. People have to have the courage to tell them.

“People are struggling with education. Well, if we’re going to take their retraining away at a time of economic downturn, we should tell them.

“People are having trouble making ends meet. Well, if their health care is going out the door, shouldn’t we tell them?

“Because the governor—it’s interesting people were making comments against the sale tax on the floor. Well, that is not in the conference report. That is the Governor’s proposal. And the reason the Governor has make the proposal is he originally said you can’t just do cuts. He says you have to have revenue. He had $7 billion of revenues in his proposed budget, and with $7 billion of revenue he still wanted to close 48 parks. He still wanted to cut health care by 10%. He still wanted to take the overwhelming majority [sic] from transit. He wanted to cut schools by $79 per student in California and what’s been demanded on the floor is that we have cuts that are higher than that because we won’t have revenue.

“Because if that’s the case, of course, there wouldn’t be a public budget. You have to level with the public. It’s time to have a budget in public. You can’t compromise with nothing.

“And we want to drive this down the middle. We want to get it done. We want the people to know what the issues are.”

They're complete cowards. They don't want to explain their scheme to hurt struggling and vulnerable Californians and make them suffer. So they play these games every year. The 2/3 requirement must be demolished so we have a legislature that's slightly more mature than the average elementary school playground.

Labels: , , ,


It's Not Like I Was Indicted By A Grand Jury Or Anything!

Series of Tubes Stevens is priceless.

On Saturday, Stevens visited the small town of Ketchikan, for their annual blueberry festival and gave an interesting quote to the Ketchikan Daily News (sub. req.):

"This is an indictment for failure to disclose gifts that are controversial in terms of whether they were or were not gifts. It's not bribery; it's not some corruption; it's not some extreme felony."

Yeah, here's the thing. It is a felony. I don't think that the judicial system has yet gone the way of skateboard videos and rated felonies on the "extreme" scale, so for the moment, a felony is a felony.

I'm hoping Stevens' lawyers work this statement into their opening remarks before the judge: "You honor, my client broke the law, but he didn't BADLY break the law."

When Mark Begich beats him in November, will Stevens go back to the Senate on account of it not being an "extreme" defeat?

Labels: , ,


Seven Years For This

One of the most absurd trials in American history ended today when Salim Hamdan was sentenced to 5 1/2 years for "providing material support to terrorism" in his capacity as Osama bin Laden's driver. After seven years on the so-called war on terror, we have the guy who changed the oil to show for it, and we held him so long (he got time served) that he's eligible to leave in six months (not that the US government will comply). Mind you that material support for terrorism was not considered a war crime subject to a military tribunal at the time that Hamdan was bin Laden's driver. This is an ex post facto conviction based on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. And what a commission it was. ACSBlog notes:

Salim Hamdan, who is being held at the military’s detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and served as Osama bin Laden’s driver, was convicted by a military tribunal of providing material support for terrorism and acquitted of conspiracy charges, the New York Times reported. ACSBlog published reports from the trial by observers Sahr MuhammedAlly, Aaron Zissler, and Frank Kendall, who represented the organization Human Rights First.

The Associated Press reported “Hamdan's attorneys said the judge allowed evidence that would not have been admitted by any civilian or military U.S. court, and that interrogations at the center of the government's case were tainted by coercive tactics, including sleep deprivation and solitary confinement.” [...]

Yesterday evening, Military Commission Judge Keith Allred acknowledged that he “may very well have instructed the [military commission jury] members erroneously,” but the prosecution and defense apparently agreed to let the original jury instructions stand, the Times reported.

More than anything, this is embarrassing. And there's a whole new generation of tortured prisoners being held to this day:

The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.

The military released three grainy black-and-white photos of what it calls the “segregation boxes” used in Iraq. They show the rudimentary structures of wood and mesh. Some of the boxes are as small as 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 feet tall, according to military officials. They did not release a picture of a box that size.

The military said the boxes are humane and are checked every 15 minutes. It said detainees, who stand in the boxes, are isolated for no more than 12 hours at a time.

Shut up, do-gooders, the boxes are checked, what more do you want?

Labels: , , , , ,


McCain's Phantom Donors

The New York Times advances the story on Harry Sargeant and his cadre of Arab-American donors. While a couple of the donors mentioned in the WaPo yesterday had actually only given to some of Sargeant's other candidates, clearly Sargeant did some work for McCain too, and all of it shady.

The Jordanian business partner of a prominent Florida businessman, who has raised more than $500,000 for Senator John McCain, appears to be at the center of a cluster of questionable donations to his presidential campaign.

Campaign finance records show Mr. McCain collected a little more than $50,000 in March from members of a single extended family, the Abdullahs, in California and several of their friends.

Amid a sea of contributions to the McCain campaign, the Abdullahs stand out. The checks come not from the usual exclusive coastal addresses, but from relatively hardscrabble inland towns like Downey and Colton. The donations are also startling because of their size: several donors initially wrote checks of $9,200, exceeding the $2,300 limit for an individual gift.

Sargeant's business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba'a, actually made the connection with the Abdullah family to donate to McCain. He's being sued by the brother-in-law of the King of Jordan about a Pentagon contract to ship fuel to the US military in Iraq. Abu Naba'a and Sargeant apparently stiffed their partner out of his share of the proceeds.

Some of the donors disparaged McCain in public statements, which doesn't really fit the profile of a maxed-out contributor:

Abdullah Makhlouf, the owner of a discount stereo store who is one of Mr. Abdullah's closest friends, and his wife contributed $9,200.

"He's like a worse copy than Bush," Mr. Makhlouf said of Mr. McCain.

When a reporter initially contacted Mr. Makhlouf, he denied giving to the McCain campaign.

After eventually admitting to the donation, Mr. Makhlouf added, "I'm still not going to vote for him."


The McCain campaign is now investigating the donations. While they're at it, they can take a look at the Hess donations as well, especially considering that members of their own staff were Hess lobbyists:

It turns out that two high-ranking McCain campaign officials, one of whom is also one of McCain's more prolific bundlers, were both were paid lobbyists for Hess for roughly three years, according to disclosure forms.

The two lobbyists are Wayne Berman, McCain's national finance co-chairman, and John Green, who's been the McCain campaign's chief Congressional liaison since March. Both men worked for a firm called Ogilvy Government Relations. The firm has been paid $800,000 by Hess from 2005 up to the present, including $720,000 during the period that both of the two lobbied for the company, the forms say.

Berman, a prolific fundraiser and bundler for McCain, appears to still be lobbying for Hess. The most recently filed form shows that he was lobbying for the company as late as mid-July. Green took a leave of absence from Ogilvy to join the campaign, but was still on the Hess account up through the first quarter of 2008, the forms show.

I'm telling you, the fact that McCain keeps pulling out this money despite the major enthusiasm gap and his trouble with fundraising just shows that there's something dirty going on here.

Labels: , , , ,


The Wilmington Factor

I guess the McCain campaign is going to visit lots of grocery stores and paint Obama as a "job-killing machine" to even out the economic gap between the two. It may just work. Since the media largely stays out of policy fights, the facts of the issue, that McCain will continue Bush's war on the middle class while Obama will have concern for working families, will be obscured, and McCain telling shoppers how to stretch their dollar could make him appear to be in touch with ordinary American's struggle.

But there is a way to combat this, with a very powerful and straight-forward narrative, a story that happens to take place in the one swing state McCain absolutely can't lose if he wants a shot at the Presidency.

At a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio last month, McCain was confronted by a woman about the closure of a DHL air park in Wilmington, Ohio, shuttering 8,600 jobs. McCain talked all sweet to the lady about job retraining and re-education, but basically said that there was nothing he could do to bring those jobs back to Wilmington.

Turns out that McCain's own campaign manager, a registered lobbyist, had a hand in that closure.

Little known to [Wilmington] citizens, McCain and his campaign manager, Rick Davis, played roles in the fate of DHL Express and its Ohio air park as far back as 2003. Back then, however, their actions that helped DHL and its German owner, Deutsche Post World Net, acquire the Wilmington operations resulted in expansion, not retraction.

In a private meeting Thursday, Wilmington residents will ask McCain for help in stopping DHL’s proposal to quit using the airport as a hub, which could cost more than 8,000 jobs. DHL says that it wants to stay in the freight business but that it can stem financial losses if it can put its packages aboard the planes of a rival - United Parcel Service - before delivering them in DHL trucks. UPS flies out of Louisville, Ky., so the proposed change would render the Wilmington airport unnecessary.

None of that was anticipated in 2003, when McCain and Davis, who was a Washington lobbyist before managing the presidential campaign, first got involved. Several Wilmington civic leaders said that what happened in 2003 created an economic gain for their community, lasting several years.

But because that gain, and now the prospective loss, came from the decisions of a foreign-owned corporation, look for some Democrats and labor to seek to tie Wilmington’s current troubles to McCain.

Essentially, Rick Davis brokered a deal to shift DHL's operational control to a foreign corporation, who eventually cut the jobs in a cost-saving maneuver. Local leaders worried in 2003 about the impact of a merger on their community, and within a few years that's exactly what happened. This has become an election-year issue in Ohio.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, urged Republican presidential candidate John McCain to press DHL and its German owner, Deutsche Post, to preserve jobs that could be lost if DHL hires United Parcel Service for its U.S. cargo airlift work.

McCain, the Arizona senator, scheduled a campaign stop in Wilmington today, Aug. 7, to meet privately with community activists trying to save at least 8,000 jobs at DHL's Wilmington air freight hub. McCain was also to visit Lima.

Sen. Obama, by the way, met with community leaders in Wilmington a month ago. If I were part of his campaign, the ads about backroom deals to eliminate American jobs and destroy small communities would already be up and running. This perfectly fits the theme of the old ways of Washington, with McCain's lobbyist-infested campaign out of touch with the consequences of the policies he pushes.

It's worth remembering that the election is not about one national campaign monitored by tracking polls, but 51 separate campaigns (the states and DC), all with their own parochial concerns. The Wilmington story will resonate throughout Ohio and probably elsewhere in the industrial Midwest. This is a pretty familiar story. Obama needs to run with it.

Labels: , , , , , ,


CA-46: LCV Endorses Debbie Cook

This is from the press release:

Los Angeles, CA—The California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) announced today their endorsement of Debbie Cook, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 46th Congressional District.

“We’re proud to support Debbie Cook because she has shown time and again her commitment to protecting our coastal resources,” said CLCV’s Southern California Director David Allgood. “Mayor Cook has a long record of achievement on environmental, public health and other issues important to the people of the 46th District.”

In 1989, rather than see her city’s parks and beaches destroyed by private development, Cook led a group that collected 18,000 signatures for a successful ballot measure to require voter approval in order to build in Huntington Beach public parks and beaches.

After attending law school, she joined the Bolsa Chica Land Trust legal team, winning a case that protects sensitive coastal habitat throughout California to this day. As Mayor of Huntington Beach, she led the fight to stop the Orange County Sanitation District from dumping partially-treated sewage into the ocean, resulting in cleaner water for our beach’s recreational users.

Cook’s opponent, longtime Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, ignores science to deny that climate change is man-made, favors drilling off the coast of California and has spoken against the landmark Clean Trucks Program at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles – which will slash toxic truck emissions by 50%, significantly reducing the port-related diesel pollution that leads to 2,400 premature deaths per year, according to the California Air Resources Board. He currently has a low 10 percent rating on the League of Conservation Voters’ congressional scorecard.

It's not surprising that Cook would get the endorsement; what's crucial here is whether or not she becomes a cause for the environmental movement the way that Jerry McNerney became a cause in 2006. Rohrabacher's rejection of port cleanup, which just passed the California State Senate, could be a really salient issue in this district, part of which covers Long Beach and most of which is situated on the coast. Some hard-hitting ads and mailers accusing Crazy Dana of allowing kids to suffer and die from pollution seem to be in order.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Why Did This Take So Long

Today is primary day in Tennessee between progressive Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen and race-baiting anti-Semite Nikki Tinker, who is being propped up by the Harold Ford machine. EMILY's List actually raised money for this woman (who's personally PRO-LIFE) and it took until yesterday for them to recognize the sleazeball attacks she's been using the entire campaign.

UPDATE: EMILY’s List president Ellen Malcolm issued a statement Wednesday evening condemning Tinker’s most recent ad. The group, which endorses Democratic women who favor abortion rights, has been Tinker's most prominent backer.

“We were shocked to see the recent ads run by the Nikki Tinker for Congress campaign. We believe the ads are offensive and divisive,” said Malcolm. "EMILY's List does not condone or support these types of attacks.”

EMILY's List stands for "Early Money Is Like Yeast." How about "early understanding of a divisive race-baiting campaign is, like, necessary?" Who the hell is vetting these candidates at EMILY's List?

Hilariously, Tinker's campaign removed the YouTube of her scummiest ad after it generated all that negative attention. She wanted to carry out her attacks in secret.

The question is, will Harold Ford ever be questioned about these tactics from his protege?

UPDATE: Good for Obama, too:

"These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee. It's time to turn the page on a politics driven by negativity and division so that we can come together to lift up our communities and our country," said Barack Obama.

But again, it's way too late.

Labels: , , , ,


Trolling For Fun And Profit

You knew somehow it would come to this. John McCain's campaign is offering their supporters redeemable points to troll websites and write pro-McCain comments. It's the professionalization of astroturfing. Because it's a conservative effort, they give them the exact words and invite them to cut and paste them onto the sites.

Activists and political operatives have used volunteers or paid staff to seed radio call-in shows or letters-to-the-editor pages for years, typically without disclosing the caller or letter writer's connection to a candidate or cause. Like the fake grass for which the practice is named, such AstroTurf messages look as though they come from the grass roots but are ersatz.

McCain's campaign has taken the same idea and given it an Internet-era twist. It also has taken the concept one step further.

People who sign up for McCain's program receive reward points each time they place a favorable comment on one of the listed Web sites (subject to verification by McCain's webmasters). The points can be traded for prizes, such as books autographed by McCain, preferred seating at campaign events, even a ride with the candidate on his bus, known as the Straight Talk Express, according to campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.

Just because I'm hoping they have some of those spare tire gauges, let me give this a shot.

"John McCain has a comprehensive economic plan which rewards personal responsibility and entrepreneurship! Juice!"

OK, where's my prize?

This is just an evolution of the Bush Administration paying Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher to carry water for their policies. It's wingnut welfare at the micro-level. And it's kind of sad that you can't find a conservative who is legitimately excited enough about John McCain to promote him online for free. I think the accurate response to any McCain supporter at this point is "how many buttons did you just win for that comment?"

Labels: , , , ,


The Power Of Sustained Mockery

What made the Paris Hilton joke video work was that it didn't take McCain seriously. And over the last couple days, neither has Barack Obama. "I'm looking forward to this debate between John McCain and John McCain" is a pretty good line, and while I also like this hard-hitting attack:

Instead of offering a comprehensive plan that will lower gas prices, the centerpiece of his entire energy plan is more drilling. It’s a proposal that won’t yield a drop of oil for at least seven years, but it’s produced a gusher for Senator McCain. Because after he announced his drilling proposal to a room full of oil executives, the industry ponied up nearly a million dollars in contributions. That’s the kind of special interest-driven politics that’s stopped us from solving our energy crisis. And that’s why Washington is broken.

The mocking tone is what's going to cut through the clutter here. People who don't want to do the work to learn the candidates' positions are ALWAYS going to say they want to hear more substance - that happens every year. We still have a media that refuses to give a crap, so the playing field is very narrow. Mockery that circles back to the core narrative (old politics, past vs. future) is going to be more effective. I thought MoveOn's Web ad was pretty solid in its own right:, the liberal activist group that has been strangely quiet this campaign season, will release a new Internet ad tomorrow, mocking Sen. John McCain for calling for Congress to return to Washington to pass energy legislation despite the fact that he has missed a string of high-profile energy votes in the Senate while campaigning.

With Willie Nelson singing "On The Road Again," McCain shouts, "I hear Congress just went on vacation for five weeks. Tell 'em to come back and get to work." Then the add repeatedly points to an empty seat in the Senate as the vote on energy that McCain missed are flashed on the screen.

"You tell 'em, John," the ad concludes.

What sucks is that this ad isn't running nationwide, because Obama de-funded the outside groups and asked them to stand down. He won't do the hardest-hitting character attacks, so the space is very empty on that front. I think it's a mistake.

But in the absence of character broadsides, I'll take mockery that makes the same point and leavens it with humor. The left has caught up to the right on this online, but at the highest levels of the political space this is still asymmetrical. We cannot have a snark gap.

Labels: , , , , , ,


I'll Take Whatever Side Gingrich Isn't On

If I'm thinking about intentionally shutting down the US Government, the last guy whose side I want to be on is Newt frickin' Gingrich. How'd that work out the last time, buddy?

House Republicans brought Gingrich to the Capitol on Wednesday, partly to revive media coverage of their speech-making protest in the chamber, now in its fourth day.

The rest of Congress is gone for August recess, but several Republican House members have been speaking on the floor of the closed-down chamber, calling for a special session to vote on drilling and energy.

Gingrich did attract more camera crews, and he used the opportunity to point to what may be the GOP's next strategy: If Democrats refuse to hold a separate vote on oil drilling, Republicans could try to block the votes needed to keep government running past September 30. Watch Gingrich return to the Capitol »

"Are [Democrats] really prepared to close the government in order to stop drilling?" Gingrich asked. "Because I think the country will find that to be a suicidal strategy."

Right, the Democrats would be the ones closing the government. OK.

It's kind of hilarious that this is all going on while the Republican leader in the House is out golfing. Congress doesn't need a break, but that guy's face isn't going to tan itself. Also, not even the President is on board with these tools, leading them to slash and burn "Beiing George." Really amazing watching them eat themselves on this one.

The thing is that there's a trap that Democrats are moving toward setting here. The broader compromise includes eliminating tax breaks for oil giants and funneling money to renewables. There's no way that Republicans will ever accept that. And so they'll continue shrieking "Drill now!" (their drillusion) when it'll become totally clear that they simply want to enrich oil companies. The DNC is laying the groundwork for this with their ExxonMcCain site. And the track record is already there:

I actually think Pelosi should force the Republicans' hand on this. Make them vote against drilling because they can't stomach giving Big Oil a tax increase. It'll be good for Obama, good for House Democrats, and good for America.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Evidence, Remixed

So that's it then. The FBI has laid out what they've got, and they say Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer, hand down. No question about it. It was him. Definitely. Case closed. You can read the documents yourself!

Except there's the whole massive amounts of holes in the evidence thing. Other than that, rock solid.

1. Ivins had just been immunized against anthrax. He was required to have yearly immunizations, and some anthrax scientists have chosen to be vaccinated every six months for safety, since the vaccine's efficacy is weak--and Ivins had proven its weakness in several animal models. In his career he had probably received about 33 separate anthrax vaccinations.

2. Earlier, we heard the envelopes came from the specific post office he frequented. Today the affidavit states it is "reasonable to conclude" they were purchased in Maryland or Virginia.

3. Choosing a strain that would direct suspicion at Ivins. The perpetrator(s) were tremendously careful to leave no clues vis a vis the envelopes. For example, block lettering was used, which is the hardest to identify with handwriting analysis. Second, stamped envelopes were chosen to avoid using saliva. Third, there were no fingerprints on anything.

Why would the person(s) who took such care select an anthrax strain that would focus suspicion on himself? In 2001, strain analysis was possible. It had been discussed many times as a forensic tool for biowarfare, including in a paper I wrote in 1992, which Ivins had read, and in which I thanked him for his contributions.

4. Ivins was the "sole custodian" of the strain. But the strain was grown in 1997, and many people had access to it over that four year period. Having received a sample, or obtained it surreptitiously, they would be "custodians" of it too.

And most important, being at the actual scene of the crime:

13. The anthrax attacker MUST be able to be placed at the scene of the mailboxes, at the times the letters were mailed. Surely the FBI sought information on these dates and places from everyone with anthrax access in the US and probably abroad, shortly after the letter attacks. Either Ivins had an alibi or he didn't. Put up or shut up: this is the most critical evidence in this case. If Ivins cannot be placed in New Jersey on those dates, he is not the attacker, or he did not act alone.

Furthermore, there were other letters. Some contained other powders. Some were said to contain some anthrax in contemporaneous news reports. Some were warnings. These were mailed from other places, on other dates. The FBI has sat on this collateral evidence. If these envelopes, ink or block print were the same, the attacker would have to be placed at the scene when those letters were mailed. What happened to this evidence? Pony up.

You can give me all the lurid tales to paint this guy as a wacko as you want. Until you place him at the scene, without the sleight of hand of saying "the mailbox was near a storage closet that housed materials from a sorority that he was obsessed with 30 years ago," the case is noticeably weak. You can pull out all the acquaintances of Ivins (which conflict with those who actually knew him well), but all they do is prove Ivins was a creep (which is believable), not necessarily a bioterrorist.

The evidence we do have is middling.

While what I've seen of their case so far makes a pretty compelling argument that Ivins was involved in creating the anthrax, they've got nothing that explains how it walked out of Ft. Detrick, got into envelopes, and got sent to a bunch of media figures and senators. Importantly, their "motive" for the selection of Leahy and Daschle is piss poor.

And, as I've said twice already, if they take their "motive" seriously: a desire to make sure anthrax vaccines were continued, a desire to pass the PATRIOT Act, and a reason to dislike Daschle and Leahy, Scooter Libby (who also lived in an area where he could have gotten those envelopes) and Dick Cheney had much stronger motives for sending the anthrax.

But don't worry, the FBI says. We've got Ivins 200 miles away and no real motive and no real evidence tying him to the emptying the flask, but since we used some really cool science to place Ivins with the flask, that should be good enough for you.

The science is thin; the circumstantial evidence (he hated the ACLU! An NBC reporter was on his case at one point! He wrote a variation of "death to America" in an email in September 2001!) is voluminous and not particularly compelling. I'm seeing the FBI link the anthrax to a particular flask, but Ivins had no residue on him, in his car, in his house, in his lab, or really anywhere he had access to. And Greenwald makes an important point:

It is critical to keep in mind that all they released is their own claims and summary about the evidence they have. The evidence itself continues to remain concealed, in their exclusive possession, examined by nobody.

What happened today with this selective document release is akin to a criminal trial where only the Prosecutor is allowed to see the relevant evidence, only the Prosecutor is allowed to select which evidence is presented, and only the Prosecutor speaks. Such a distorted, one-sided process doesn't even happen at Guantanamo, which should, by itself, indicate how much skepticism is warranted here until the FBI makes the actual evidence available so that its claims can be subjected to critical scrutiny.

Plus, even if you agree with the FBI's conclusions, you have to consider them criminally liable for allowing Ivins to continue to work inside a government lab years after they pinpointed the flask that contained the deadly anthrax and linked it to him. That's insane.

Even the victims and their families and friends, who you would think would be most willing to have closure on this, aren't all convinced.

Dena Briscoe, president of the American Postal Workers Union local for Washington and Southern Maryland, slipped into the news conference at the Justice Department to ask when postal employees would be informed about the investigation. "There are still too many unanswered questions. I still can't say that one person did all of this," Briscoe told a reporter just before an official asked her to leave the room [...]

Leroy Richmond, 64, who nearly died after contracting anthrax at Brentwood, was asked later about the briefing. "I'm okay with it," he said, holding aloft a ream of documents. He referred questions to his attorney, Gregory Lattimer, who said the Stafford resident is still considering a lawsuit.

"A plausible case could be made in terms of Mr. Ivins's guilt, but on the other hand, a case could be made that none of this constitutes a smoking gun," Lattimer said.

This demands a full investigation and a full release of all the data that the FBI is using to convict Ivins in the media. In addition, we need to know who leaked to Brian Ross of ABC News the disclosure that the anthrax contained bentonite, linking it to Iraq. TV Newser has a long interview with Ross where he insists that his sources, all government scientists involved in the initial analysis, were not intentionally lying to him but simply mistaken. The sources themselves need to answer those questions.

Labels: , , , ,


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Schloz Meets His Maker?

It takes a lot for Bush's Justice Department to investigate one of its own. But that's exactly what's happening in Washington, as the politicization of the Civil Rights Division is coming to a head, with Bradley J. Schlozman, perhaps the worst of the worst, right at the front as the target.

In a report for the Huffington Post, Murray Waas reveals that a grand jury is issuing subpoenas for multiple Justice Department lawyers in the case.

The extraordinary step by the Justice Department of subpoenaing attorneys once from within its own ranks was taken because several of them refused to voluntarily give interviews to the Department Inspector General, which has been conducting its own probe of the politicization of the Civil Rights Division, the same sources said.

The grand jury has been investigating allegations that a former senior Bush administration appointee in the Civil Rights Division, Bradley Schlozman, gave false or misleading testimony on a variety of topics to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sources close to the investigation say that the grand jury is also more broadly examining whether Schlozman and other Department officials violated civil service laws by screening Civil Rights attorneys for political affiliation while hiring them.

As far as lying to the Senate Judiciary, that's industry standard for these Bush hacks. And we know that Monica Goodling was found by the IG to exhibit the same prejudicial hiring practices, so it would be no surprise to see Schlozman take the same role in the Civil Rights Division. There clearly was a systematic effort to weed out Democrats and liberals from the career civil service and set landmines for future Democratic Presidents inside the DoJ. And as with Goodling, I'm sure this information will be readily available to the IG.

But this part intrigues me even more:

Investigators for the Inspector General have also asked whether Schlozman, while an interim U.S. attorney in Missouri, brought certain actions and even a voting fraud indictment for political ends, according to witnesses questioned by the investigators. But it is unclear whether the grand jury is going to hear testimony on that issue as well.

This is the infamous ACORN case, where Schlozman pushed bogus voter fraud claims and brought prosecutions right before a hotly contested election in Missouri in 2006, in all probability to cast doubt on the election and reflect poorly on the Democratic candidates. Here are but a few of the charges from that election:

•Schlozman, while he was acting civil rights chief, authorized a suit accusing the state of failing to eliminate legions of ineligible people from lists of registered voters. A federal judge tossed out the suit this April 13, saying Democratic Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan couldn’t police local registration rolls and noting that the government had produced no evidence of fraud.

•The Missouri General Assembly - with the White House’s help - narrowly passed a law requiring voters to show photo identification cards, which Carnahan estimated would disenfranchise 200,000 voters. The state Supreme Court voided the law as unconstitutional before the election.

•Two weeks before the election, the St. Louis Board of Elections sent letters threatening to disqualify 5,000 newly registered minority voters if they failed to verify their identities promptly, a move - instigated by a Republican appointee - that may have violated federal law. After an outcry, the board rescinded the threat.

•Five days before the election, Schlozman, then interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, announced indictments of four voter-registration workers for a Democratic-leaning group on charges of submitting phony applications, despite a Justice Department policy discouraging such action close to an election.

•In an interview with conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt a couple of days before the election, Rove said he’d just visited Missouri and had met with Republican strategists who “are well aware of” the threat of voter fraud. He said the party had “a large number of lawyers that are standing by, trained and ready to intervene” to keep the election clean.

According to Waas, one of the lawyers subpoenaed was none other than Hans von Spakovsky, a former Commissioner on the Federal Election Commission who ought to have his own legal problems to deal with - regarding his lies to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obstructing an investigation into Republican voter suppression in Minnesota. Von Spakovsky may have aided in the effort to hire and fire Civil Rights Division attorneys based on ideological factors.

It's very important that this grand jury investigation goes forward. We all know that voter suppression and intimidation is baked into the cake of Republican electoral strategy. Those responsible for this politicization need to be prosecuted and convicted in the name of accountability, but also to discredit what is truly part of the Republican plan for electoral dominance.

Labels: , , , , ,