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

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reid Gets It

The Senate Minority Leader intuitively understands that Democrats need to stand for something. Here's what he emailed me yesterday:

The media likes to repeat the Republican talking point that Democrats have no agenda--you and I know that is simply not true. Across the country Democrats are participating in dozens of events and with one voice saying it's time to reform: together, America can do better.

In Washington, DC, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled a new piece of legislation to eliminate tax giveaways for energy companies. Frank Lautenberg spoke in New Jersey about how America can do better than a Medicare prescription drug bill that confuses and shortchanges seniors by providing giveaways to drug companies.

In Wisconsin, Herb Kohl addressed the need for America to do better than an economy that kicks families out of the middle class and how we can help everyone achieve the American dream. While in New York, John Kerry discussed a plan to do a better job protecting Americans from terrorist attack. Patty Murray held four events across Washington State focusing on issues ranging from affordable housing to full funding of veterans' programs. And Chuck Schumer and Robert Byrd both addressed energy independence with members of their local communities.

Today Barbara Mikulski, Paul Sarbanes and I held a town hall meeting in Baltimore with nursing students to highlight the Democratic Party's commitment to reform. While we are working to increase opportunities for higher education, Congressional Republicans are slashing financial aid and curbing opportunities for students to get ahead. Christopher Reed, Patrice Pantin, and Julie Story, students at the John Hopkins School of Nursing, told us about their own struggles to get the training they need.

Each of these events focuses on an important part of the Democratic agenda that will guide us towards taking back both the Senate and House in 2006. We can have a government with open, honest elected officials--it's a matter of priorities. Democrats believe the government works for people, that issues such as student loans, high energy prices, safety and security, should be our top priority not handouts for the well connected.

Thank you,

Harry Reid

He knows you must counter something with something, and he's highlighting those areas. With Reid's leadership, we will have a Democratic Contract with America that is concrete. My fear is that where it will not be concrete is on Iraq, still the top issue. But we need to use our megaphone to highlight these instances of the Democrats pushing an agenda.

The "together, we can do better" slogan is not one that appeals to me (how about "will," not "can," huh?), but I do like setting some core principles in stone and showing a direct and forceful agenda. Whether the media is so addled by the competing narrative that "Democrats have no ideas" (which Republicans will certainly continue to play up) remains to be seen. Reid and company need to make it so the press can't ignore the facts.



Fucking unbelievable post here by Glen Greenwald showing how very similar government statements regarding Vietnam were to statements today about Iraq. I mean almost verbatim. We're always "a few months away from victory," we'll always "never surrender," the enemy is always "growing weaker and more desperate by the day." It's absolutely stunning.

I wasn't alive for Vietnam, but I've learned enough about it (particularly from a fantastic Vietnam War history class in college) to recognize these similarities. I guess I didn't realize how completely similar they were. In many respects, these are the fictions society must forever tell themselves in order to allow wars and mass casualties to happen. We need to believe that we're winning and that the end is in sight and that any day now we'll be able to throw the ticker tape and make out with USO girls in the middle of Times Square. Chris Hedges' amazing book,"War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," should be required reading, and deals with this very subject.

That doesn't allow us to assess the truth of whether or not victory indeed is around the corner, in Vietnam or in Iraq. But it's important for everyone to know that governments simply guzzle out the bullshit about it, out of necessity. We're forced to draw our own objective conclusions, because the conclusions of the government are simply not valid.


Culture of Corruption taking root

This Ipsos poll has a lot of lessons for Democrats should they want to regain Congress in 2006. There's good news and bad news.

First, it appears that the months of drilling the "culture of corruption" line in speeches has paid off.

How serious a problem is political corruption in the United States today? Would you say

Very serious -- 51
Somewhat serious -- 37
Not too serious -- 8
Not at all serious -- 3
Not sure -- 1

Total Serious -- 88
Total Not Serious -- 11

88% think it's a serious problem. That's along the lines of a third-world country, and really points to the alienation Americans feel with the modern political process. This can be a blessing for Democrats, since Republicans are in control of the government and will feel the majority of the sting from this; however, this also plays into the core GOP "we need less government because government is corrupt" line. I've posited in the past that the GOP has no problem being corrupt themselves, since it plays into their own narrative, and in the meantime they can steal whatever they can get.

This next question is the bad news:

In general, which elected officials would you say are more ETHICAL?

Democrats -- 36
Republicans -- 33
Both equally -- 10
Neither is ethical -- 15
Not sure -- 6

This obviously shows that the Republican "everybody does it" tactic is working to an extent. These numbers are not that out of whack from the typical partisan numbers in the country (in fact, they tip towards the Democrats more), so this is obviously a party line divide. I think the "everybody does it" maneuver is demonstrably ridiculous, but among true believers and Fox News Republicans it does appear to be taking hold.

It is important to note that this question obviously refers to incumbents: when asked who is more ethical, the answer has to be based on people already in government. And Republicans simply have more incumbents up for re-election. There are scores of Democrats running for Congress in the next cycle who are coming from outside government (including at least 7 Iraq War veterans); in those races, the "reform the corruption" meme is going to be much stronger.

I think these numbers are fairly encouraging, but they show that the Democrats have a lot of work to do to explain to the American people not only the instances of GOP corruption, but the whys (and there are plenty of whys, keeping the status quo in terms of corporate welfare and big business/government kickbacks being the main one). In addition, getting behind concrete proposals to clean up corruption in Washington will be paramount (like Sen. Feingold's lobbying reform bill). And being honest about instances of corruption in the Democratic party, like the William Jefferson case in Louisiana, would go a long way as well. That would in effect defuse the "everybody does it" talking point, as it will say "Yeah, and when WE do it, we act swiftly and ethically; you try to sweep it under the rug."

It's important to get this messaging down now as we head into the next election cycle.


Through the Looking Glass on Torture

Today's New York Times explains that yet another piece of prewar intelligence on Iraq was bogus:

The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.

At Kos, Armando, writing about the story, had this to add: "It is mindboggling that, knowing this, the Bush Administration has fought tooth and nail against banning torture by the United States."

I'd say that's the exact reason they have fought against banning torture. They WANTED to extract false confessions. We know that the White House knew there was no Iraq-al Qaeda link within days, DAYS, of September 11. They start to capture some bad guys in Afghanistan, but they want their Iraq war. They start using interrogation techniques that were SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to extract false confessions.

Read this for details. An excerpt:

Fearful of future terrorist attacks and frustrated by the slow progress of intelligence-gathering from prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Pentagon officials turned to the closest thing on their organizational charts to a school for torture. That was a classified program at Fort Bragg, N.C., known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.

The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE's teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods.

SERE methods are classified, but the program's principles are known. It sought to recreate the brutal conditions American prisoners of war experienced in Korea and Vietnam, where Communist interrogators forced false confessions from some detainees, and broke the spirits of many more, through Pavlovian and other conditioning. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, painful body positions and punitive control over life's most intimate functions produced overwhelming stress in these prisoners. Stress led in turn to despair, uncontrollable anxiety and a collapse of self-esteem. Sometimes hallucinations and delusions ensued. Prisoners who had been through this treatment became pliable and craved companionship, easing the way for captors to obtain the "confessions" they sought.

I think so many of us have wondered "Why in the hell are we torturing people" in a war supposedly structured to win hearts and minds. Well, since the torture tactics were designed to obtain false confessions, we have to conclude that the reason is to get the evidence they wouldn't otherwise have. Libi gives up an Iraq-al Qaeda link that the White House KNOWS is false; then they use it as evidence. They want to gather the information they already have in their fantasy vision of the world to justify future attacks and future wars. It's really brutally simple.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Russ Speaks

Told you that the whole "deal reached on Patriot Act" was premature. Sen. Feingold is hinting that he'll lead a filibuster. And here's a joint statement released by him and some Republican senators (it doesn't say who, but I'm assuming Larry Craig of Idaho is in there, he's been a big partner on this):

“We are gravely disappointed that the conference committee made so few changes to the Patriot Act reauthorization package that was circulated before the Thanksgiving recess. As we said then, we cannot support a conference report that does not contain modest but critical improvements, similar to those in the Senate-passed bill, to the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act. We indicated before Thanksgiving that we would oppose a conference report like the one filed in the House today, and we believe many of our colleagues will join us.

Back in July, we supported a bipartisan compromise reauthorization bill that passed the Senate by unanimous consent. While that bill did not contain everything we would have wanted, it took important steps to protect the freedoms of innocent Americans. By insisting that modest protections for civil liberties be excluded from the conference report, the conferees bear responsibility for any possibility that some provisions of the Patriot Act could expire this year.

The sunsets this year provide our best opportunity to make the meaningful changes to the Patriot Act that the American public has demanded. We believe that this conference report will not be able to get through the Senate, while the Senate bill would easily pass the House if its leadership would bring it to a vote. We call on our House colleagues to reject this conference report, and to take up and pass the Senate compromise bill. We still can — and must — make sure that our laws give law enforcement agents the tools they need while providing safeguards to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

But you know, a deal has been reached, so move on, look away, nothing to see here.


Alito's America

I got a nicely-timed email today from someone at Campus Progress who appreciated an earlier post of mine on Samuel Alito, and asked me to take a look at Alito's America, an impressive-looking site that presages what would happen if the Supreme Court included ScAlito on the bench.

Now, I have no idea if she read my post at all, but this was certainly a good tactic to drive me over to their site. It does give a good impression of what this hardcore conservative would do to chip away at long-established, basic rights of citizens in this country. A series of "future headlines" show what could happen in the areas of the environment, privacy, guns, workplace safety, and choice. They didn't mention that in Alito's America, it's cool to shoot an unarmed thief in the back of the head who runs away after a $10 burglary. But what's there is pretty devastating.

There's also a wealth of documentary information about ScAlito, a call to action (petition, online resources), a video which I assume they want to air as an ad, and a list of campus events about the cause. It's nicely put together, and the splogging (spam-blogging of like-minded constituents) worked, at least in this case. Sites and information gathering like this have put the Alito confirmation in some doubt. Of course, conservatives swear that he deserves an up-or-down vote because his name isn't Harriet Miers. But the filibuster looms large as a possibility, and with every revelation about this guy, it gets more and more worrisome to think about life in Alito's America.


We are a young democracy, after all

The old pros from the constitutional monarchy side of things have weighed in on the torture issue:

Evidence that may have been obtained by torture cannot be used against terror suspects in British courts, the House of Lords ruled today.

A panel of seven Law Lords voted unanimously to allow an appeal by eight detainees who are being held without charge on suspicion of being involved in terrorism, against a controversial Court of Appeal judgment passed in August 2004.

The appeal court voted last year that if evidence was obtained under torture by agents of another country with no involvement by the UK, it was usable and there was no obligation by the government to inquire about its origins.

But today's ruling means such evidence is inadmissible under British law. It also means the home secretary, Charles Clarke, must re-examine all cases where evidence from abroad has been obtained by torture.

See, that's how the big boys do it. They don't go and look for loopholes in international torture conventions, they don't write memos picking nits about "as long as we don't intentionally cause bodily harm," they don't consider accepted international law "quaint," they just make a ruling. If you got evidence with torture, you can't use it. Period.

The "debate" over torture has to be one of the darker moments in recent American history. I mean the fact that there is a debate at all. That there are people in this country so quick to defend their party, or so bloodthirsty and paranoiac that they think kicking the shit out of suspects is a path to victory and glory (or even just a way to let off some steam), really throws me for a loop. I've gone on at length about how torturing others debases ourselves. It also retrieves unreliable testimony (what WOULDN'T you say to get someone to stop beating you?) and puts our soldiers at greater risk in the event that they're captured. But there is no greater evidence of the wrong-headedness of this policy than this week's trip to Europe by Condoleezza Rice. At a time where we desperately need additional NATO troops in Afghanistan, US-European consensus on Iran's nuclear program and a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, all they're talking about is secret prisons and torture. It forces Condi to trot out there every single day and go on and on at length about technicalities of how we detain and what is cruel treatment and what is degrading treatment and so on. Meanwhile nothing gets done. An entire European visit has been wasted on reassurances, which may be broken again if there are any new revelations. The world literally can't move forward until they understand whether or not the US is true to its ideals. It hurts us practically as much as anything else.


Steve Young Post-Mortem

Two days ago Steve Young lost the race for a Congressional seat in California's very Republican 48th District. Young and anti-immigrant candidate Jim Gilchrist both outpolled the winner, John Campbell, on election day; Campbell's entire margin of victory came from absentee ballots. And Young beat Gilchrist, 28% to 25%, despite every major article being about Gilchrist, with Young reduced to just a footnote.

So there are no moral victories. But making a GOP candidate spend money in such a solid GOP district is a tangible victory, and the fact that he only polled 44% a good portent of things to come. I imagine all three of these guys will be back on the ballot next year, so stay tuned.


Progress in Iraq

Juan Cole is spot-on with this:

President Bush in his speech on Thursday maintained that it was a good thing that about half of Ninevah province voted in the referendum on the new constitution. The Washington Post points out that Ninevah voted overwhelming against the constitution, and came within an hair's breadth of helping defeat it altogether. This was a good thing? WaPo also points out that Bush instanced security progress in Najaf and Mosul as good news. But this is perverse. There was not much a security problem in Najaf until, in early April 2004, the US military suddently declared that it wanted to "kill or capture" Shiite religious nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr. The latter launched an uprising in the course of which the Mahdi Army took over Najaf. Bush provoked that. As for Mosul, it was quiet under Gen. Petraeus, unti Bush launched the Fallujah campaign of November, 2004, at which time security in Mosul collapsed. The local population was furious about the attack on Sunni Arabs. Mosul is still not back to being fairly safe.

When we cause a city to fall into chaos, and then they pull themselves out of it, we didn't help bring progress to that city. 'Kay? Meanwhile, even heavily fortified Baghdad appears to be increasingly insecure in recent days, owing to the upcoming elections, but also a sad reminder that progress in Iraq is slow, tenuous, and forever on the verge of collapse, particularly in the absence of any semblance of leadership or strategy.


Bringing the Horror

O'Reilly's out of his effing tree.

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that.

And literally ten seconds later...

There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together.

Peace and love. And the bringing of horror.

Merry Jesusmas!


It's Not One Party Government

I like how news reports can announce that a deal has been reached on the Patriot Act when the ranking Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee "has not yet decided" whether or not to support the agreement. With losses on tax policy, Social Security, ANWR drilling, cuts to health programs, and more Republican-led initiatives failing in the Congress in the past several months alone, can't we agree that if the GOP reaches a "deal" on something, it might not actually get through?

I would've waited until Russ Feingold, who's led the fight against the more unseemly aspect of this law, the only man who voted against this law, I'd have waited for him to speak before we live with this "compromise." As I understand it, the compromise sunsets the roving wiretap and library record provisions after 4 years. Personally I'd like to see them excised.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A date which will live in infamy

I don't know if anyone else caught this, but right at the beginning of the President's speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (in which he offered nothing new, tried to take credit for the armed Badr Brigade militia patrolling Najaf, and didn't allow questions despite long-standing CFR tradition), he slipped up trying to give today's date, December 7th, and said "September." He went back and corrected the mistake.

That guy just loves saying September 11th. He'll say Pearl Harbor Day is September 11th now.

The infamy of this day concerns the fact that we're still in this war, and we're about to dump another $100 billion into it:

MURTHA: Twenty years it’s going to take to settle this thing. The American people is not going to put up with it; can’t afford it. We have spent $277 billion. That’s what’s been appropriated for this operation. We have $50 billion sitting on the table right now in our supplemental, or bridge fund we call it, in the Appropriations Committee. They’re going to ask for another $100 billion next year.

QUESTION: Can we come back to the $100 billion? You said that you expect the military to ask for $100 billion. Where are you getting that figure?

MURTHA: Where I get all my figures: the military.

Now, Gov. Dean has apparently gotten a lot of flack for saying we're not winning in Iraq. Of course, Chuck Hagel said the same thing six months ago. But if the choice is to believe that everything's hunky-dory in Iraq or to believe my eyes and ears, I'm going to go with the primary senses. And my primary senses tell me that another $100 billion, putting the financial cost of this war in three years where Vietnam was in 8, is absolutely staggering. Especially given the meager gains we are told to count as progress over these many months.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Political Capital Bank Must Be Empty

Meet the incredible shrinking President:

President Bush is likely to postpone an all-out push to overhaul the tax code until 2007, administration officials said Monday, in another sign that the president's ambitious economic agenda for his second term has become bogged down.

Mr. Bush has already effectively given up hope for pushing through a sweeping overhaul of Social Security, which he identified as the first of his two major domestic goals as soon as he was re-elected last year. Tax overhaul was the second big goal, and Mr. Bush had laid out a broad but vague vision to make the income tax simpler, fairer and more conducive to economic growth.

On Monday, administration officials said that Mr. Bush remained committed to overhauling the tax code. But they asserted that they had "no timetable" for specific recommendations. And some officials acknowledged that such an effort next year would require scores of grueling battles at a time when all members of the House and many senators would be running for re-election.

Remember this is at a time when Republicans control both houses of Congress. And they still can't get their agenda going. Being a total incompetent will do that to you.

Of course, Bush isn't forgetting the impoverished rich:

Administration officials said Mr. Bush is focusing right now on the struggle to get Congress to extend his tax cuts from 2001 and 2003. Rather than making the tax cuts permanent, Mr. Bush's primary goal, House Republicans hope to pass a simple two-year extension of his tax cut on stock dividends; the Senate just passed a bill with no extension. Earlier this fall, Senate Republicans indefinitely postponed a separate effort to repeal permanently the tax on inherited property.

Quite a domestic agenda you've got there, Mr. President. Let me get my magnifying glass out and take a look at it again.


Get Me To Connecticut

Looks like Mr. Irrelevant Joe Lieberman might have a challenger next year:

Former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. on Monday criticized Senator Joseph I. Lieberman's continued support of the war in Iraq and said that if no candidate challenged the senator on the issue in the 2006 election, he would consider running.

"When you've become the president's best friend on the war in Iraq, you should not be in office, especially if you're in the opposing party," Mr. Weicker, 74, said in a phone interview from his home in Essex, Conn. "I'm going to do everything I can to see that Joe Lieberman does not get a free pass."

He said that Mr. Lieberman, a Democrat, currently had no challengers, either from within his party or from Republicans, in his campaign for a fourth term. Mr. Weicker said he believed that no Republican would challenge Mr. Lieberman on the war.

"If he's out there scot-free and nobody will do it, I'd have to give serious thought to doing it myself, and I don't want to do it," added Mr. Weicker, an independent, who said he had been opposed to the war from the beginning.

Weicker was a Republican senator when Lieberman beat him in 1988, thanks to some help from (of all people) William F. Buckley. Weicker left the GOP and became a one-term governor of Connecticut as an independent. Change has happened so fast in the ideological hardening of the GOP that Weicker would almost certainly caucus with Democrats.

Though I think he's become completely incoherent on the war, and I despise his vilification of Hollywood as the root of all evil, Lieberman's actually a pretty consistent Democrat on many issues, particularly the environment. But as others have said, it's his willingness to run to Fox News and the Wall Street Journal and bash Democrats in a quixotic campaign to get "maverick" status that damages the Party. Last year, when he voted against the bankruptcy bill, but voted for cloture moments earlier (the procedural vote that was the best chance to stop the bill) and then had the nerve to praise his vote as trying to fight special interests, I said I was through with Joe Lieberman. Maybe Connecticut will approve of Lowell Weicker and dump this Vichy Democrat out of town.


Election Day

Yeah, it actually is today. In California's 48th district (the Fightin' 48th, as Stephen Colbert would say), five candidates are vying to take over Christopher Cox' vacated Congressional seat (he's now the head of the SEC). Democratic candidate Steve Young actually has a shot in this Republican stronghold (it's in the OC), thanks to a third-party challenger to the right of the GOP's John Cmapbell. The American Independent Party candidate, anti-immigrant founder of the Minutemen Jim Gilchrist, got 15% in the initial primary, and has been running a legitimate, well-funded campaign. He could grab as much as 20% of the vote, all of it from Campbell. Every LA Times story I see on this mentions Campbell and Gilchrist, but gives short shrift to Young, an excellent candidate who stands to benefit from a split in the Republican vote on the immigration issue. The Naitonal Republican Campaign Committee was so spooked that they dumped a ton of money into the race, not what they want to be spending it on (a rock-solid Republican district). It's unclear who they're using that money to even fight against, the challenge from the left or the one from the right.

It should be a very interesting evening.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Nice People

Via TPM, here's a story designed to spread some Christmas cheer (that's right, CHRISTMAS cheer, I said it O'Reilly!):

Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that would have housed new police headquarters, city officials said yesterday.

According to the officials, the head of BellSouth's Louisiana operations, Bill Oliver, angrily rescinded the offer of the building in a conversation with New Orleans homeland security director Terry Ebbert, who oversees the roughly 1,650-member police force.

City officials said BellSouth was upset about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city. Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition. Some states have laws prohibiting them.

Cities are going to win this whole free WiFi battle, I mean, politicians can win elections on the single issue of universal access for the next 100 years. And there are more businesses that are for it than the phone company, who's against it.

So stamping your little feet and taking back a donation from a shattered city in the midst of a catastrophe seems a little... shall we say excessive?

Meanwhile, we're learning that the destruction of New Orleans was a man-made disaster, a civil engineering disaster, not a natural disaster that couldn't have been avoided, but the result of major mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers:

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state's forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they "could not fathom" how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history.

"It's simply beyond me," said Billy Prochaska, a consulting engineer in the forensic group known as Team Louisiana. "This wasn't a complicated problem. This is something the corps, Eustis, and Modjeski and Masters do all the time. Yet everyone missed it -- everyone from the local offices all the way up to Washington."

This won't be reported that much. Harry Shearer is remembering who's saying it and who isn't. He's also writing about a story that pissed me off in the LA Times this weekend:

Saturday, the LAT did a long piece about the diminishing chances for a comprehensive Louisiana recovery program in Congress, premised partly on Sen. Mary Landrieu's alleged "shrillness" (would a male senator be described that way?) and partly on the state's reputation for political shenanigans. Said Idaho's Republican Senator Larry Craig:

"Louisiana and New Orleans are the most corrupt governments in our country, and they have always been," Craig told a newspaper in his home state.

"Fraud is in the culture of Iraqis. I believe that is true in Louisiana as well."

Fraud was certainly in the culture of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. I guess they hired a bunch of Louisianans to preside over it. Fuck you very much, Larry Craig.


The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Some PR flack wrote the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" document. And he can't cover his tracks very well:

Although White House officials said many federal departments had contributed to the document, its relentless focus on the theme of victory strongly reflected a new voice in the administration: Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who joined the N.S.C. staff as a special adviser in June and has closely studied public opinion on the war.

Despite the president's oft-stated aversion to polls, Dr. Feaver was recruited after he and Duke colleagues presented the administration with an analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004. They concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believed it would ultimately succeed.

That finding, which is questioned by other political scientists, was clearly behind the victory theme in the speech and the plan, in which the word appears six times in the table of contents alone, including sections titled "Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest" and "Our Strategy for Victory is Clear."

"This is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency," said Christopher F. Gelpi, Dr. Feaver's colleague at Duke and co-author of the research on American tolerance for casualties. "The Pentagon doesn't need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion."

The role of Dr. Feaver in preparing the strategy document came to light through a quirk of technology. In a portion of the document usually hidden from public view but accessible with a few keystrokes, the plan posted on the White House Web site showed the document's originator, or "author" in the software's designation, to be "feaver-p."

Next thing, white paper documents sent out by the White House will have "This trial version of Word has expired" plastered across the page.

This reliance on a PR flack to write the military strategy for victory shows clearly who the White House is pointing its guns at: the public. This is a war on public opinion, and it has been ever since the public turned away from Iraq (with little help from any kind of organized antiwar movement or press outcry). When you have to fight a war on public opinion, I guess you have to bring out the big guns like this.


Bye Tom

You'll never be Majority Leader again:

A judge dismissed a conspiracy charge Monday against Rep. Tom DeLay but refused to throw out the far more serious allegations of money-laundering, dashing the congressman's hopes for now of reclaiming his post as House majority leader.

When he was indicted in September, DeLay was required under House rules to relinquish the leadership post he had held since 2003. While Monday's ruling was a partial victory for DeLay, he cannot reclaim his post because he remains under indictment.

The ruling means the case will move toward a trial next year, though other defense objections to the indictments remain to be heard by the judge.

DeLay's side spun this as a victory because they have to. But the fact of the matter is that this makes it impossible for the Hammer to ever get his old job back, regardless of the outcome of the trial. A new permanent Majority Leader will be elected next year, and that guy won't be likely to step aside. And of course, by next November, the possibility remains that the new Majority Leader will be Nancy Pelosi. A possibility all the more distinct given that the culture of corruption has continued to mow down Republicans one by one.

The conspiracy charge was thrown out (on a technicality, or some claim, on a shit ruling), but look at this ridiculous logic DeLay's lawyers used to try and throw out the more serious money laundering charge:

But the judge upheld charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Those charges involve an alleged attempt by DeLay to conceal the source of the campaign contributions by funneling the money through his own political action committee and then an arm of the Republican National Committee.

In trying to have those charges thrown out, the defense argued that the Texas money laundering law does not apply to funds in the form of a check, just coins or paper money. But the judge said that checks "are clearly funds and can be the subject of money laundering."

The defense attorneys also argued that the definition of money laundering in Texas involves the transfer of criminal proceeds. Because the money in this case was not illegal to begin with, they argued, money laundering never occurred.

But the judge rejected that argument.

Then DeLay's lawyers argued that there was no laundry present, so how could laundering have occurred?

Then they claimed that DeLay never had the necessary amount of quarters to operate the laundry!

Then they went back to third-grade law school and re-read their "I Wanna Be An Attorney" pop-up book.

UPDATE: Check these Gallup poll numbers out; DeLay might have trouble even getting re-elected. DeLay did make his own district less safe in the Texas redistricting scheme, doling out pieces of Republican areas to his buddies in order to get them elected. But a 37% approval rating a year out from a campaign, with a high-profile trial in between? I'm sure he'll throw lots of money at the problem, but it'll be a tough road.


The soft money, it Burns!!!

This looks to be about the most naked money-for-favors scenario in the history of the Senate:

U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., changed his stance on a 2001 bill after receiving a $5,000 donation from a lobbyist's client who opposed the legislation, records show.

The client hired Jack Abramoff as a lobbyist to defeat the kind of bill Burns voted against. Prior to receiving the payment, Burns did not oppose an identical bill that unanimously passed the Senate in 2000, Senate documents show.

Burns, who is up for re-election next year, told the Missoulian State Bureau on Friday that the campaign contribution had nothing to do with his vote, but said it happened so long ago, he couldn't remember why he opposed the 2001 measure. Burns said he may have initially not opposed the legislation's unanimous passage because it was politically more expedient not to stand in the way of a popular bill.

“Any time you put a hold on a bill, you expend political capital,” Burns said.

And why expend political capital when you can get actual working capital from lobbyists for changing your position? By the way, the bill Burns changed his vote on is completely disgusting, especially to me, given my family's history in textiles. Abramoff represented the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association, who were definitively seen to have been hiring illegal Chinese immigrants in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, paying them next to nothing, and beating them if they did anything wrong (incidentally, clothes made on these islands can use a "Made in the USA" label, which is pathetic). The Senate wanted to broaden labor and immigration controls to the islands.

The Senate passed the bill in 2000 with unanimous consent; it died in the House. The Senate proposed the same bill in 2001. Burns voted against it. One of the lobbyists for the garment manufacturers used to be on Burns' staff. Abramoff was paid about a million and a half dollars to help defeat the bill. $5,000 of it wound its way into Burns' pocket.

And Burns ASKED to get on the record about this:

On May 23, 2001, the bill again came before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for a vote. In an unusual move, Burns requested that each member's vote be recorded next to their names - a so-called “roll call” vote. Oftentimes, such votes are recorded by voice only. On a voice vote, there is no record of how each member voted and it is impossible to tell from a transcript of the meeting how an individual senator voted.

Burns' roll call request meant that his vote would be a traceable part of the public record.

This time, Burns reversed course and voted against the bill. He was one of four committee members to do so.

The vote came one month and three days after Burns received the $5,000 donation.

It was like they wanted proof of purchase.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Condi to Europe: Back the Fuck Up

Diplomacy, neocon-style:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to give allies in Europe a response next week to their pressure over Washington's treatment of terrorism suspects: back off.

For almost a month, the United States has been on the defensive, refusing to deny or confirm media reports the United States has held prisoners in secret in Eastern Europe and transported detainees incommunicado across the continent.

The European Union has demanded that Washington address the allegations to allay fears of illegal U.S. practices. The concerns are rampant in among the European public and parliaments, already critical of U.S. prisoner-abuse scandals in Iraq and Guantanamo, Cuba.

But Rice will shift to offense when she visits Europe next week, in a strategy that has emerged in recent days and been tested by her spokesman in public and in her private meetings with European visitors.

She will remind allies they themselves have been cooperating in U.S. operations and tell them to do more to win over their publics as a way to deflect criticism directed at the United States, diplomats and U.S. officials said.

"It's very clear they want European governments to stop pushing on this," said a European diplomat, who had contact with U.S. officials over the handling of the scandals. "They were stuck on the defensive for weeks, but suddenly the line has toughened up incredibly," the diplomat said.

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said Rice told him in Washington she expected allies to trust that America does not allow rights abuses -- a sign she will avoid giving Europe a detailed response on U.S. intelligence work.

This Administration expects to act as the neighborhood bully in a unipolar universe where they can do anything they want. That's literally the diplomatic message the Secretary of State is poised to deliver this week. When you have an Administration that says "we do not torture" at the same time as its Vice President lobbies for torture exemptions on Capitol Hill, and then warns Europe to "trust us" on the torture issue, I mean how can you expect us to regain our global self-image? It'll take more than soccer mom missions abroad by Karen Hughes.