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

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cocktober Surprise

That's about the most politically incorrect thing I've ever read (on And it certainly belies the seriousness of this Rep. Mark Foley escapade, which at its heart is a story of sexual dysfunction and an undoubtedly very damaged little boy.

But this is a meteorite into the GOP election strategy, and it raises a very salient issue. This do-nothing Congress couldn't be bothered to investigate whether or not one of their members was sexually harrassing a 16 year-old page, though they had knowledge of the incident for at least eleven months. The initial story was that Rodney Alexander, the Republican for whom the boy in question was working, notified "House leadership" about the series of perverse emails. Then an AP story had Alexander change his story, saying he informed Tom Reynolds, chair of the re-election committee for Republicans in the House. In that same story, it is revealed that the incident went before the House Page Board - a bipartisan committee that includes official clerks of the House. The Republican head of that board, after denying interview requests, finally talked and tried to play the whole thing off by claiming that Foley lied to him and that he did what he could. He did inform Speaker Hastert's office of the interview; he DID NOT inform the Democrat on the Board.

Then, in the Washington Post piece on the subject, John Boehner threw the Speaker under the bus.

The resignation rocked the Capitol, and especially Foley's GOP colleagues, as lawmakers were rushing to adjourn for at least six weeks. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of some "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and that Hastert assured him "we're taking care of it."

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged e-mails between Foley and the boy.

It's clear to me that there was some sort of knowledge that Foley was in trouble, and yet absolutely nothing was done about it. They couldn't be bothered. The Do-Nothing Congress won't even do anything about pedophiles in their midst. Their job is completely besides the point. It's the getting the power, not doing anything with it.

Laura Rozen got an email from a supporter that put the whole day in proper perspective (including a couple things I didn't even notice:

When historians look back on the 2006 midterms and the Democratic sweep of both the House and Senate, they will look back on Friday, September 29th as the day that sealed the GOP's fate:

-- The Mark Foley resignation is huge. It turns a safe GOP seat into a seat that is now a likely Democratic pickup, and will demand at a minimum party resources that Ken Mehlman would have wanted to deploy elsewhere. You take the Foley seat and add it to the Delay, Ney, and Kolbe seats, those are four seats where GOP incompetence and scandal has converted from sure GOP seats to likely Dem pickups (the Kolbe seat is where Jim Kolbe is retiring and a KKK symphathizer is the GOP nominee).

More importantly, as unfair as it is, this scandal will resonate along the lines of the House banking scandal and free ice deliveries that doomed the Dems in 1994. The party of family values had a Member in its leadership who was inveighing against Internet porn at day, but using it to communicate with minors at night. This is bad, bad, bad for the GOP image;

-- The Woodward book will suck up all the oxygen on TV and talk radio for the next week; a whole week of "free media" for the Dem argument that the Bushies have irrevocably screwed up Iraq; any GOP focus on terrorism next week will be lost;

-- Finally, rumors tonight (reported on NBC News) of a possible military coup in Baghdad, prompting the sudden imposition of a citywide curfew.

I was retaining skepticism on Dem prospects until today. But this is it -- the GOP is in for a shellacking on November 7th.

Personally, I think overturning 800 year-old laws and giving the President the ability to indefinitely detain anybody should be on that list as well, but we've become so debased that doesn't rate as a negative anymore.

But clearly, this was NOT on the dance card for the Republicans. They were just about to ramp up the campaign Wurlitzer and bring it on home. Now they'll spend three days, maybe three weeks, denying and clarifying what they knew and when they knew it. I can't believe the incompetence of a leadership that lets a ticking time bomb like this stay in their bedroom.

Kinda blows that whole "Karl Rove is an evil genius" thing out of the water, don't it?



The guy who resigned today from Congress for apparently soliciting underage sex from minors was the chairman of the House caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.

Why does it always seem to turn out this way?

Oh yeah, and he voted to impeach Bill Clinton. And had this to say at the time:

"It's vile," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. "It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

I agree, he should donate the $3 million dollars he had stashed for his campaign to anti-child abuse programs. And anyone that tried to take that money instead should be questioned.

The upisdownism makes me mental.

UPDATE: The House leadership apparently knew about Foley's proclivities, to the extent that the Page program on Capitol Hill was WARNED about him. And they were alerted by the page he contacted 11 months ago.

Sickening. It's the Catholic Church all over again. Maybe they'll move Foley to a district where they can hide him.



You know, I had bookmarked this story yesterday when it just seemed "creepy" instead of "criminal," but I did not expect this:

WASHINGTON - Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page.

"I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent," he said in a statement issued by his office.

The two-sentence statement did not refer to the e-mails and gave no reason for Foley's decision to abruptly abandon a flourishing career in Congress.

Foley, 52, had been a shoo-in for a new term until the e-mail correspondence surfaced in recent days.

His resignation comes less than six weeks before the elections. It was not clear how Republicans would fill his spot on the November ballot.

He was writing some creepy emails to a page (the page was SIXTEEN), but obviously there was more coming down the pike. Other stories have suggested that there are emails out there that are sexually explicit.

MyDD has been trying to see what this means for the Congressional seat. Apparently Foley's name would still be on the ballot, and I don't know how someone with possible child molestation charges coming could win a race. And write-ins are tricky.

Tim Mahoney has a bit of money in his coffers too. You know, the Democrats only need 15 seats. FL-16 now looks like a lock (though I'm sure Jeb! will try something to get Foley off the ballot). TX-22, where DeLay's on the ballot, looks like a lock.

This made it that much harder for the GOP to keep the House.

UPDATE: Not to be that crass and political, because this guy sounds like a sex offender and if it turns out to be true then he needs to go to jail. But this really puts the Republicans off their game at a time where they were just ramping up the fall campaign. The cable nets, lovers of sensationalism that they are, will go all-Foley for a few days. This is really bad news for Republicans.



Maybe Dahlia Lithwick is right and the images of torture have lost their power to shock. What was a scandal at Abu Ghraib was essentially authorized yesterday.

But we don't know what a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions will be, as determined by the President. We don't know what's specifically OK or not OK in that law; indeed it'll be on a case-by-case basis. So it could very well be that we authorized this yesterday.

(as a note of levity, that's the only way you'll get me to watch any of Jakob the Liar)

The United States of America decided this was OK yesterday:

Desensitized yet?


CA-GOV: Drilling Down Into The Polls

Most political reporters look at raw poll numbers, maybe at the favorable-unfavorable number, and draw their own conclusions. Some actually go into the data and look for areas of strength or weakness, and how that may intersect with trends as the campaign goes forward. I think this is more important, because it puts you on the path of where the race might be in 6 weeks rather than where it is right now.

Robert Salladay does this kind of analysis for the latest Field Poll, the typically accurate survey that shows a 10-point edge for Gov. Schwarzenegger.

•One negative shift in voter perceptions of the Governor that has occurred over the past two years is that more voters now believe that when making decisions on important policy matters Schwarzenegger is more likely to do what is politically popular (48%) than what he believes is right (41%). This contrasts with the views that voters held in 2004 when, by a 61% to 28% margin, voters felt Schwarzenegger made such decisions more on what he believed than what was politically expedient.

•Another area where voters are now more critical of the Governor relates to his 2003 recall election campaign promise to reduce the power of special interests in Sacramento. The current survey finds that a majority (51%) of voters thinks Schwarzenegger has done little or nothing to reduce the influence of special interests, while 41% feel he has done a great deal or some in this regard. Two years ago fewer voters (41%) felt the Governor had done little or nothing in reducing the power of special interests.

These are major campaign themes for Angelides, and it shows that, despite all the talk of how he's failing to generate enthusiasm, his attacks have the ability to shape the debate. These ideas that Arnold "shifts with the political winds," and consistently stands with special interests over the people, are reinforced by most of the IE commercials and messaging. This suggests that these weak areas could have greater impact in the weeks to come.

And the other great untold story inside the polls comes from PowerPAC and the New Democrat Network, which did a survey of 600 Spanish dominant likely voters and showed Angelides ahead 64-21, with Arnold getting lower approval ratings than George W. Bush.

Some of the key findings include:

• Among this audience, Phil Angelides is leading Schwarzenegger 64% to 21%, despite more than half of these voters having no positive or negative opinion of Angelides (54% say he is unknown to them). This strengthens a recent Field Poll finding that Angelides is also leading with all Latinos by 42%.

• Schwarzenegger is not only deeply unpopular in these communities, with 69% holding a negative view of him, but he is also seen as untrustworthy. 73% of these voters said they do not trust Schwarzenegger to represent the interests of the Latino community.

• These voters are concerned about their growing inability to afford a middle-class life in California, listing high cost of living, lack of affordable housing, and high natural gas and electricity bills among their top concerns facing the state. The national debate over immigration is also deeply important to these voters, with nearly 60% saying growing anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment in the country has affected them and their family.

• Fully 68% of these voters said the recent comments by Gov. Schwarzenegger, in which he referenced a Latina Assemblywoman as being “very hot” due to her “black blood mixed with Latino blood” were insensitive or racist, with only 26% agreeing the comments were “mostly harmless,” as was the primary reaction portrayed in the media.

Now, clearly Angelides needs to seal the deal with this constituency by making sure they understand his vision for California. But if this dissatisfaction can be moved into action, it could be a sleeping giant in this race. The move in Congress to put up a fence on the border with Mexico won't help either. Latinos are feeling a deep sense of being attacked and humiliated, and the last time that happened in California, after Prop. 187, it completely changed the electoral makeup of the state. In this poll Prop. 187 is STILL a driving factor moving people to vote for Angelides. Just yesterday 300 Latinos were arrested in downtown LA for staging civil disobedience (so civil, in fact, that the police had a list of names to arrest before the demonstration). There is a voter registration drive afoot to make sure 1 million new Latino-Americans get to the polls. All of this adds up to a growing wave that could produce the upset.

If you drill down into the polls, all of the elements are there to elect Phil Angelides. GOTV and maximizing the next six weeks are the key.


Make Them Pay

We're in Day One of the post-torture era, and I'm not really feeling good about it. Yesterday was a defining moment for the country. Some are consoling themselves with the hopes that the Supreme Court will step in and save the day. And when I say "some" I mean Republican Senators:

Even some Republicans who voted for the bill said they expected the Supreme Court to strike down the legislation because of the provision barring court detainees’ challenges, an outcome that would send the legislation right back to Congress.

“We should have done it right, because we’re going to have to do it again,” said Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, who voted to strike the provision and yet supported the bill.

What a small man, looking to someone else to clean up your own mistakes. Sen. Smith, you voted to overturn 800 years of law by eliminating habeas corpus. Never mind the fact that there's no guarantee that the Supreme Court would strike it down (Hamdan was only a 5-3 decision, Roberts recused but voted with the minority in a lower Court ruling on the same case, and John Paul Stevens is 86); never mind the fact that if detainees cannot challenge their detention, I don't know how they would bring forward a case (though Hamdan seemed to figure it out); but, as Scott Lemieux writes:

the key point here above all else is that opponents of this scandalous legislation should not use the courts as a crutch. Given the power of statist conservatives on the Supreme Court and the fact that Congress' constitutional claims are very strong, and the general tendency of courts to defer to the executive when it makes "national security" claims, it is overwhelmingly likely that if it passes the legislation will be upheld.

Congress makes the laws, they don't just punt them over to the courts. Gordon Smith ought to be ashamed of himself, and step down today to let the courts do his job for him.

The part that I can't seem to understand is how the Democrats think this legislation will be used to attack THEM, and not the other way around. While the Republicans have spent years trying to rationalize and justify torture, with few words of disapproval from the other side (remember, Abu Ghraib wasn't mentioned hardly at all in the 2004 Presidential campaign), still a majority of Americans oppose it because it represents nothing of America, plays to the worst elements of fear and revenge, and is simply cruel without being effective.

For some reason, the Democratic leadership thinks they have to play defense here:

Republicans, especially in the House, plan to use the military commission and wiretapping legislation as a one-two punch against Democrats this fall. The legislative action prompted extraordinarily blunt language from House GOP leaders, foreshadowing a major theme for the campaign. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) issued a written statement on Wednesday declaring: "Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of MORE rights for terrorists." [...]

Democratic leaders stressed that the attacks will not work. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, cited polling that he said suggested that matters such as warrantless wiretapping and military commissions are "secondary issues," lagging well behind Iraq in the public's mind. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said it is "beyond [his] ability to comprehend" how a member of Congress could be accused of supporting terrorism.

But Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a prominent Democratic polling firm, tried to raise alarms yesterday with the release of focus group findings that suggest that the attacks would work if not countered forcefully. "Attacks on Democrats for opposing any effort to stop terrorists . . . were highly effective," the pollsters' memo stated.

Secondary issue. You fool. And by the way, Sen. Reid, conprehend it, because your party is already being called the terrorists' rights party.

This violent assault on the Constitution could actually be used to our advantage, but the leadership is completely unable to figure that out. Given that, why would Republicans ever be afraid to vote for something because of the political consequences? Only we think that way.

The only good news is that the people running for Congress that we need to take back the majority don't live in Washington, DC. They're real and good Americans, and I think they understand this issue instinctively. This story about a House race in upstate New York is VERY encouraging.

John McHugh is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and he supported the original Bush Administration bill. And Bob called him on it, first detailing Bob's strong opposition to torture and then saying:

"My opponent this fall, incumbent Republican John McHugh, firmly supports the Bush Administration's right to torture. Perhaps because he never served in the military, he doesn't understand how opposing torture protects our own troops. Perhaps because he hasn't put in the work to study the issue, he doesn't know that torture doesn't work and produces unreliable information. And perhaps because he has been in Washington so long, he has lost touch with the basic morality of what it means to be an American.

I can't say why he takes the position he does. But I do know this: he is profoundly, seriously, and morally wrong."

When I read that, I suspected that would get a response, but I expected the BS "Dr. Bob Johnson wants to take away the tools blah, blah" ... but we got something else. John McHugh wanted no part of being labeled that way, and he just freaked.

"The appalling statement by Dr. Robert Johnson that I support torture and have 'lost touch with the basic morality of what it means to be an American,' is an outright lie. [...]

What Dr. Johnson asserts is from another page out of the Democrat playbook - throwing lies out there and seeing if they'll stick. I have never voted to authorize the use of torture or any enhanced interrogation techniques. [...]

I have been with our troops on the ground in every theater of conflict in which our military forces have been engaged since 1995 - from Haiti and Kosovo and Bosnia to Afghanistan and Iraq - and understand both the great dangers they face, and the sacrifices they make on behalf of all Americans."

"Been with our troops on the ground"? Please. On fact-finding trips? Is there a special category of veteran for that? But I'll let that go. For now.

What amazes me is both the incredibly angry tone of the release and the almost amazing assertion "I have never voted to authorize the use of torture or any enhanced interrogation techniques." WTF?!?!? He's running away from that as fast as he can.

But how could anyone with even a passing knowledge of what he voted for say such a thing? I was flabbergasted ... this is supposed to be the big cudgel to hammer Democrats. And he's running like a little girl. And just because Bob hammered him, rightly, on the fact that this is outside of American values.


It's up to the Fighting Dems, the challengers who had nothing to do with that mess in Washington this week, to shove this entire thing right back in their opponent's faces. I've been saying for quite a while now that we're going to take back the Congress IN SPITE OF the leadership, because we have good men and women in the districts who are going to be willing to say what needs to be said. This is SO encouraging.

Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania came out with a similar statement as well. The challengers must do what the leadership could not.


Thursday, September 28, 2006


Wow. More lopsided than I thought it would be. The power of nightmares still strikes fear in the hearts of some Democrats.

Although, only 22 voted against the resolution for force in Iraq, so I dare say this is ... progress? But that's undercut by the fact that there is literally one endangered Democratic incumbent, Robert Menendez (who voted for the bill), up for re-election. I have to agree with Glenn Greenwald here in being absolutely astounded by the Democratic strategy on this one.

It's good to see that many Senate Democrats (32 out of 44) voted against this bill, but it's too little, too late. Many of them announced only for the first time today that they are opposing the bill (though, to be fair, many Democrats attributed their opposition to the recent changes made to the bill over the last few days, ones which were made even after the oh-so-noble McCain-Graham-Warner-White House "compromise" was announced).

But it is still difficult to understand the Democrats' strategy here. They failed to try to mount a filibuster because they feared being attacked as coddlers of the terrorists. But now they voted against the bill in large numbers, thereby ensuring those exact accusations will be made anyway -- and made loudly (the White House already started today). Yet they absented themselves the whole time from the debate (until they magically appeared today), spent the last several weeks only tepidly (at most) opposing the President's position, and thus lost the opportunity to defend and advocate the position they took today in any meaningful way. As a result, the Democrats took a position today (opposition to this bill) which they have not really defended until today.

They make this same mistake over and over. Isn't this exactly what happened when they sort-of-supported-but-sort-of-opposed the Iraq war resolution in 2002 because they were afraid of being depicted as soft on terrorism, only to then be successfully depicted as soft on terrorism because they were too afraid to forcefully defend their position? It's true that fewer Democrats voted for the President's policy this time around, but it's equally true that they found their voice only on the last day of the debate -- on the day of the vote -- after disappearing for weeks while they let John McCain "debate" for them.

If the Democrats started talking about this two weeks ago, not by parroting "even McCain doesn't like it" as if his opinion is somehow better than anyone else's (and it isn't, as this final bill plainly shows), if they made the eloquent statements back then, if they agitated about the loss of habeas corpus and the ability to delineate anyone an unlawful enemy combatant and putting the power of determination of torture in the hands of one person - I feel this could have been avoided. For their hand-wringing and cowardice, I hope they feel at least a little ashamed.

I will say this. Politically this could be a HUGE victory if the Party was willing to go toe-to-toe on it. You can absolutely expect "Sen. X voted to give rights to terrorists" commercials. You can absolutely expect that the GOP is confident there won't be any "Sen. X voted to put our troops in danger" or "Sen. X believes in torturing other human beings" or "Sen. X thinks innocent people should be plucked off the street, thrown in jail indefinitely without being allowed to challenge their detention."

But there ABSOLUTELY ought to be.

Of course, the leadership wasn't willing to go toe-to-toe on the vote, I don't think they'll be up to highlighting the vote in the campaign either. Maybe I'm wrong, and certainly they talked about "the politics" of the vote a whole lot today, but I doubt I am.

And these 12 gutless Democrats have no explanation:

Tom Carper (Del.)
Tim Johnson (S.D.)
Mary Landrieu (La.)
Frank Lautenberg (N.J.)
Bob Menendez (N.J)
Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Ben Nelson (Neb.)
Pryor (Ark.)
Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.)
Ken Salazar (Co.)
Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)

In addition to the gutless Joe Lieberman (Lieberman-CT), the moral scold who considered Bill Clinton's blowjob a stain on our moral character but tying a man down to a board and simulating drowning to evoke nothing more than a yawn.

America became a little less special place today.


Unintentional Irony of the Year Award

"Asked about a U.S. intelligence report that concluded the Iraq war had spread Islamic radicalism, Rumsfeld said intelligence could be faulty and sometimes 'flat wrong.'"

Couldn't have said it better myself.


End of American Democracy Day

I've reconciled to the fact that the United States will break 800 years of precedent today by stripping habeas corpus protections, that the United States will use election-year politics to codify torture into law and give the President - one person - the ability to decide what is and is not torture, that the United States will, from now on, be allowed to indefinitely hold anyone without explaining to them the charges against them.

That's where were at today. It's nothing less than the end of American democracy as we know it. Democracy has withstood challenges before, like with the Alien and Sedition Acts, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. In all of those cases, the egregious assault on civil liberties and American values was overturned, and the nation eventually acknowledged the errors of their ways. But each time, America comes back a little less innocent, a little more stained, and a little less free. Such is our circumstance today, and living through such a stain on our history is a whole lot less fun than reading about it.

Harry Reid absolutely made a tactical mistake in giving up the filibuster on this legislation, but ultimately the fault must lie with those who crafted and executed this attack on the Constitution. This President has a lot of ammunition for historians to use in judgment, but today's legislation, which he will praise and sign in a big ceremony, will eventually be the unkindest cut. History will not look favorably on the man who stared into the eyes of a few terrorists and said, "You win, we'll change our democracy and give up our freedoms." Because terrorism beat the mighty United States today. And there's no other reason why other than cowardice.

Democrats gave some of the best speeches I've seen in a legislative debate today (well done, Sen. Obama). They were unequivocal and displayed the best of America. Unfortunately, they were tragically late to this party, and their failure to rouse public support earlier eventually doomed some of the amendments, if not the bill itself. Still, while every American stands guilty in the aftermath of this travesty, some deserve more scorn. And I will let conservative Andrew Sullivan give the postscript on where we go from here:

The only response is for the public to send a message this fall. In congressional races, your decision should always take into account the quality of the individual candidates. But this November, the stakes are higher. If this Republican party maintains control of all branches of government, the danger to individual liberty is extremely grave. Put aside all your concerns about the Democratic leadership. What matters now is that this juggernaut against individual liberty and constitutional rights be stopped. The court has failed to stop it; the legislature has failed to stop it; only the voters can stop it now. If they don't, they will at least have been warned.

We will get through this, we will continue to change America and to see that long arc of history slowly bend toward justice. But make no mistake, we are different today.


Tiptoe Through the Tulips of Iraq

You can write a little story of your own by taking the news items out today about Iraq and weaving them together. When you do so, the only analysis you can take away is that this situation is far worse than even the most pessimistic among us could ever have imagined.

You have to start by noting that the Iraqi people want us to leave:

A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.

Not only that, but the majority of Iraqis support attacks on US troops. But of course we're not going to take the hint and move along, as it's much more prudent to dissemble by explaining away facts with individual anecdotes:

The State Department, meanwhile, has conducted its own poll, something it does periodically, spokesman Sean McCormack said. The State Department poll found two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to The Washington Post. McCormack declined to discuss details of the department's poll.

"What I hear from government representatives and other anecdotal evidence that you hear from Iraqis that is collected by embassy personnel and military personnel is that Iraqis do appreciate our presence there," he said. "They do understand the reasons for it, they do understand that we don't want to or we don't intend to be there indefinitely."

So hearing two Iraqis say they appreciate the US presence trumps a scientific poll showing the majority of opinion in the whole country. This must be what George Bush once called "fuzzy math."

But of course, people like McCormack have to dissemble, because there's no way the President will ever let us leave the country, so cover must be given.

President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, “I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.”

This must be seen as the real choice when it comes to Iraq. Either we change course, or we stay there forever. Because stubborn ol' George isn't going to leave. He isn't going to take responsibility for the failure, either. In fact, he's got the military casting about for a scapegoat, and finding one in the Iraqi government:

Senior U.S. military officials have stepped up complaints that Iraq's Shiite-led government is thwarting efforts to go after Shiite death squads blamed in the execution-style killings of Sunni Arabs in neighborhoods across this capital.

Although deadly Sunni Arab rebel attacks remain frequent in Baghdad, U.S. officials, including Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, say death squads affiliated with Shiite militias have become the main factors ratcheting up the capital's death toll from sectarian killings [...]

However, the 8,000 U.S. troops sent to Baghdad in recent weeks to restore order have been largely prevented from confronting those militias, many of which have ties to Iraqi government officials.

The statements by ranking U.S. authorities complaining about the situation highlight rising American dissatisfaction with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and an increasing willingness to exert pressure on the fledging Iraqi government.

The U.S. forces would like to stage heightened military operations in Baghdad neighborhoods such as Sadr City, a stronghold for anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr's Al Mahdi militia.

So the official line is now that the violence is all Maliki's fault because he's too timid (or too compromised by his support for Shiism) to go after Al-Sadr and the militia and death squads that he controls. Only Sadr is losing control of those death squads:

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday [...] Mr. Sadr has taken a more active role in the government, as many as a third of his militiamen have grown frustrated with the constraints of compromise and have broken off, often selling their services to the highest bidders, said the official, who spoke to reporters in Baghdad on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak publicly on intelligence issues.

“When Sadr says you can’t do this, for whatever political reason, that’s when they start to go rogue,” the official said. “Frankly, at that point, they start to become very open to alternative sources of sponsorship.” The official said that opened the door to control by Iran [...]

Six major leaders here no longer answer to Mr. Sadr’s organization, according to the intelligence official. Most describe themselves as Mahdi Army members, the official said, and even get money from Mr. Sadr’s organization, but “are effectively beyond his control.” Some of those who moved away from Mr. Sadr saw him as too accommodating to the United States.

So the Shiite gangs are even beyond the control of the biggest Shiite radical in the country. And how are they going about their business? Like so:

Iraq's two most deadly Shiite Muslim militias have killed thousands of Sunni Arabs since February, with the more experienced Badr Brigade often working in tandem with Al Mahdi army, collecting intelligence on targets and forming hit lists that Al Mahdi militia members carry out, a senior U.S. military official said Wednesday.

In some cases, death squads have been accompanied by a "clerical figure to basically run" an Islamic court to provide "the blessing for the conduct of the execution," the official said [...]

The hallmarks of the Shiite death squads have been mass killings in which the victims are found with their "hands bound, shot in the back or head," and their bodies showing signs of torture, the U.S. official said.

Mosques and safehouses in Sadr City, a huge poor Shiite neighborhood that is the Al Mahdi stronghold in Baghdad, have been the base for many death squad operations, the official said.

The official also said that Iraq's Interior Ministry, known to be heavily infiltrated by both Shiite militias, was complicit in many of the killings.

Militia members have used Iraqi security forces' uniforms and vehicles during assassinations and checkpoint sweeps.

"Those would get up to 60 individuals detained in a sweep," the official said. "OK, and again, often they would release those who were Shiite. We'd see that over the course of, say, that afternoon. And then there'd be individuals ransomed, and then there would perhaps be a mass killing in Sadr City and burial."

This is pretty grim stuff, particularly when you add in what the Sunni insurgents are doing, countering by engaging in the new technique of booby-trapping the cars of freed kidnap victims and setting them off at specifc points, turning them into unwitting suicide bombers. Maybe all of this chaos is why Saudi Arabia is going Minutemen and building a fence along their border with Iraq:

Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with plans to build a fence to block terrorists from crossing its 560-mile border with Iraq — another sign of growing alarm that Sunni-Shiite strife could spill over and drag Iraq's neighbors into its civil conflict.

The barrier, which hasn't been started, is part of a $12 billion package of measures including electronic sensors, security bases and physical barriers to protect the oil-rich kingdom from external threats, said Nawaf Obaid, head of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, an independent research institute that advises the Saudi government.

What's implicit here is that the Saudis have no faith in the US military to keep them safe from the chaos in Iraq, which is broadening throughout the region. Maybe that's because the most radical in Iraq are pushing to make prewar WMD claims a self-fulfilling prophecy, only the race for WMD only started AFTER the invasion ended:

In a new audio message Thursday, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq called for explosives experts and nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war against the West. "We are in dire need of you," said the man, who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri — the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

"The field of jihad (holy war) can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases (in Iraq) are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them."

I'm sure the Bush Administration will try to use this message to buttress their claims that the world is dangerous and Democrats don't understand the nature of the threat and we need to remove all civil liberties and detain anyone who disagrees with that. But really, this little trip through the stories on Iraq shows that, as a cause of this catastrophic war which has done untold damage in lives, treasure, and moral standing, the only characterization that fits the situation is one where shit is falling from the sky.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."


About That Awakening

A few weeks ago, President Bush said he noticed a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion among the public in the US, with religious fervor becoming more widespread. A report from the President's own church suggests that there is indeed an awakening going on: people are waking up to the idea that Iraq is a disaster and that George Bush has not led.

United Methodist Church leaders helped launch a week of protest and civil disobedience against the war in Iraq by signing a declaration of peace in the capital, urging President Bush to pull US troops out of the country.

The Declaration of Peace, signed on 21 September 2006, is described as a call for nonviolent action to end the war in Iraq. The Washington DC event was one of 350 staged nationwide to promote the peace initiative.

More than 500 groups, almost half of them faith organizations, are involved in the declaration of peace effort, which recently retired Bishop Susan Morrison said includes "acts of moral witness to seek a new course for our country."

By signing the peace document in front of the White House, the United Methodists and other protesters also hope to influence congressional races in November 2006 by forcing candidates to outline where they stand on the war.
Speakers at the Washington DC rally accusing the President of lying about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and launching what they called an illegal offensive.

"Our demand as a movement is to end the war now," said Bishop Morrison. The declaration calls the situation in Iraq "an endless fire consuming lives, resources and the fragile possibilities of peace."

This church, to which Bush is a member in good standing, isn't buying the buillshit anymore, isn't taking the fearmongering lying down.

But the White House asserts that Iraq would collapse if US troops leave prematurely, potentially leading to a full-blown civil war.

United Methodist leaders argue that the long insurgency in Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands Americans and Iraqis, is proof that U.S. involvement is misguided.

"Iraq is in a civil war right now because we're there," Winkler said.

Morrison agreed. "We just exacerbate what's going on." She disputed critics who claim that war protesters undermine US troops and sap their morale.

"We care deeply about the troops," she said. "We're proud of their commitment. We want them safe. We want them home."

People are waking up. All over the country. It's crucial that the wake-up call is delivered on November 7.


This Is A Great Speech


Go read it.

UPDATE: Leahy gives a great soundbite to go along with that great speech of his from yesterday:

"In my own caucus, people say, 'We can't oppose this, look what happened to Max Cleland.'" (A Vietnam veteran confined to a wheelchair because of war wounds, Cleland, a Georgia senator, was defeated by GOP attacks ads in 2002 because he had supported a Democratic filibuster delaying the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security). Leahy recounted that his weak-kneed Democratic colleagues also argue, "'We have to go along with it because we'll never be able to explain it back home.'" That prompted the Vermont senator to add, "Maybe one way to explain it is to say, 'I stood up for you and your rights.'"

Leahy, Feingold, Levin, Dodd and Kerry, actually, have been the lions on this one. I'm with mcjoan: they ought to filibuster. Whether it works or not. The rights of all Americans are at stake here. Yes, all Americans. Because once you suspend the writ of habeas corpus, once you centralize the ability to name enemy combatants in the hands of one branch of government, once you claim the right to indefinitely detain and hide and torture and remove all accountability for any violations to international law, then we're ALL at risk.


CA-GOV: David Broder, In A Vain Search For A Clue

Taking the long view from 3,000 miles away, David Broder decides that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a defiant independent:

Instead of the partisan assault on public employee unions and Democratic legislators (a.k.a. "girlie men") that marked his rhetoric in 2005, Schwarzenegger has negotiated agreements this year on a minimum-wage increase, higher school spending, curbing air pollution and a mega-bond sale designed to meet overdue highway, flood-control and school-construction needs.

So Arnold capitulates to a Democratic legislature, signs Democratic bills and calls for Democratic approaches to government. This makes him an "indepdendent."

Susie Madrak says it best:

Shorter David Broder: Arnold re-invented himself to save his political ass. Now that’s the kind of independence I like to see!

The bottom line is that only a Democrat can get elected in California. The electorate is now being made aware that there's only one in this race.


Bye Bye Rule of Law

Well, I was going to say that I was encouraged by the fact that George Bush deigned to visit the Capitol this morning, suggesting to me that the legislation might be in trouble and that the Specter Amendment affirming habeas corpus protections might pass.

But it just failed 48-51. Every Democrat voted for it but Nelson of Nebraska. Chafee, Gordon Smith, John Sununu and Specter broke Republican ranks. But it failed.

So we continue rushing off a cliff and legalizing secret, indefinite and torture-filled detentions.

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

A smart political party would hold this against those that codified it into law. This could easily, EASILY backfire. We'll see if anyone has the stones to do it.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall sensibly notes that the Warner-McCain-Graham "men of principle" triumvirate just voted to deny habeas corpus protections. They are mavericks, all right. Proudly showing their streak of indepdendence from the Constitution.


Something to Chew On

Do you remember those times when a politician would be so far ahead of his opponent, somebody would say something like "so-and-so would have to disembowel a goat on live television to lose this race"?

The biggest story in the George Allen-Jim Webb Senate race in Virginia right now is whether or not Allen shoved a deer's head in a black family's mailbox.

Reality... outpacing satire since 1832...


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Quick Hits

When a news story falls through the cracks, I catch it and write 50-75 snarky words about it, for a segment I like to call Quick Hits.

• I seem to remember some report about how Bush was doing a U-turn and becoming "the environmental President." I guess the first step in that evolution is blocking a report that links the increased frequency and strength of hurricanes to global warming. Baby steps, baby steps.

• I agree with John Zogby that the environment would be a powerful issue in the election. Al Gore put it on everyone's minds, and the public is overwhelmingly convinced there's a problem, and the current leaders in Washington aren't doing a damn thing about it. After all, who are you going to believe on global warming, Gore or James Inhofe, the craziest person in the Senate?

• Continuing the "fuck up colossally, win a medal" approach to the war in Iraq, the Lincoln Group, who planted propaganda in Iraqi newspapers, just won a federal contract to - get this - do PR work for the military. Your tax dollars at work.

• NH-02: Charlie Bass, in a tough race in New Hampshire against Paul Hodes, claims in an ad that his opponent "wants to pull out" of Iraq and "send troops into Kurdistan."

Um, Kurdistan is in Iraq.

This guy's a CONGRESSMAN. I never new just how stupid our political leaders were before the Internets. You know, the series of tubes.

• Here's the deal on gas prices: they are NEVER the election issue everyone thinks they will be in the summer. The gas companies intentionally raise prices in the summer (because they believe more people are on the road and on driving vacations then) and dip them in the fall. Every year. Plus the party in power DOES have the means to control prices a bit. Ask Bill Clinton in 2000. So candidates should never run ads about gas prices because they'll always come back to haunt them.

I believe the Ph.D. in economics on this one, but even a two year-old could figure it out:

If the Dow reaches a new record that'll mean it'll reach the level it reached in... early 2000, before Bush's tax cuts. And, of course, there's been inflation since then, so...

According to ABC, the US Army has only two or three combat brigades that aren't committed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, if anything happens requiring troops, we have about 7-10,000 left to spare.

Feel safer?

• Speaking of other threats, umm... wasn't it three months ago that Kim Jong Il tested long-range ballistic missiles, one which failed, but may have been capable of reaching US protectorates like Guam?

How's THAT whole thing going?

• Brad Friedman got a lot of heat generated in Washington with his call for emergency paper ballot legislation. Both Houses of Congress have introduced a resolution, and I got information via email from Sen. Boxer on it this morning. Boxer, Dodd, Feingold and Kerry are now aboard, with Rush Holt on the House side. Those are some big hitters, and I hope they push it through. We need voter integrity in this country. E-machines can be hacked in minutes, and the POTENTIAL for that is the problem whether you believe it has been done or not.

• And finally, in a most amusing tale of washed-up and disgraced New York politicos, Jeannie Pirro (running for Attorney General in the state, which is hilarious when you hear what's next) asked her friend Bernie Kerik to bug her family boat so she could find out if her husband was cheating on her. Kerik, of course, was booted from being the nominee for head of DHS in late 2004 for his "nanny problem" which also included mob money and corruption and USING A CITY-OWNED PROPERTY FOR AN AFFAIR. So Jeannie must have figured "If anyone knows how to nail an adulterer, it's Bernie Kerik!"

This story is delicious.


Holding The Line

Well, the House just sanctioned torture by statute. It's a little unbelievable to me, but how can you be surprised these days?

The vote on the Democratic side was around 80% against. Most of them were on the right side of this, and if they were an unafraid opposition party they'd be running ads against Republicans about it. In fact some challengers to incumbents in tight races might do just that.

Chris Bowers wrote a great post today, seconded throughout the blogosphere, about how by and large the Democrats have been on the right side on most of the country's pressing issues to progressives.

Many progressives habitually argue that the Democratic Party is complicit with a wide range of right-wing legislation, even though the majority--usually the vast majority--of the Democratic Party was opposed to, worked against, and voted against that legislation. Here are some examples from the 109th Senate:

•By a vote of 25-18, Democrats in the Senate opposed the Bankruptcy bill. By a vote of 31-13, they favored a filibuster of the bill.
•By a vote of 37-7, Democrats in the Senate opposed CAFTA.
•By a vote of 42-1, Democrats opposed re-authorizaiton of the Patriot Act in its 2001 form.
•By a vote of 41-3, Democrats voted against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Democrats voted 25-18 in favor of filibustering Alito.
•Democrats voted 26-18 against restricting class action lawsuits.
•Democrats voted 40-4 in favor of a timetable for Iraq withdrawal.
•All but two Senate Democrats opposed privatizing Social Security.
•Democrats voted 24-20 against the energy bill conference report. They also voted 41-3 against drilling in the Arctic Refuge.
•In the Senate, Democrats also defeated the Bolton nomination, the repeal of the estate tax, and right-wing immigration legislation. They also passed stem cell research legislation.

I am not sure if there has been a single issue in the Senate over the past four years where the majority of Senate Democrats were did not side with the progressive position and opposed the Republican majority. Would it have been better if all Senate Democrats had stood united on all of these issues and stopped any one them from passing? Obviously, but to characterize an entire party because of the actions taken by a minority in that party is simply unfair. In fact, it is not only unfair, it is blatant stereotyping, lazy thinking, and flat un-progressive to label an entire group because of actions taken by a minority of members in the group.

That's very true, and I think a lot of progressives get hyper about this because of the learned helplessness that arises from being in the minority for the better part of six years. The House is a majoritarian institution made more majoritarian by the Republicans who shut the door on Democrats at every possible turn. The Senate is a little better, and Harry Reid has generally whipped those not named Joe Lieberman into shape.

This will be a long effort and nothing is a dealbreaker. I wish the Democrats would fight tooth and nail against this un-American assault on the Constitution (they'd probably still lose, if you look at the numbers). But they're getting a lot of this right, and I recognize there's so much work to be done before we get all the way there. So I'll continue to work for a Democratic majority because I feel that they by and large represent my ideals and values and the way I think is best to move the country forward.


CA-GOV: Pics from Yesterday's Women's Conference Protest

I've seen this called a "small event" by the press. Doesn't look that small to me. Go get 'em CNA!

The latest Field Poll still has Arnold at 44. That's before the ABC got its ads up and its people out on the street.

I think it's an uphill battle. But it ain't over.


NIE Follies

The White House is not being served by their selective release of the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate on global terror which suggests that Iraq is a "cause celebre" for the jihadist movement. You don't want headlines like White House Refuses to Release Whole NIE. It shows that the media understands the time-honored practice of selective declassification that this Administration has performed over and over again.

Press secretary Tony Snow said releasing the full report, portions of which President Bush declassified on Tuesday, would jeopardize the lives of agents who gathered the information.

It would also risk the nation's ability to work with foreign governments and to keep secret its U.S. intelligence-gathering methods, Snow said, and "compromise the independence of people doing intelligence analysis."

"If they think their work is constantly going to be released to the public they are going to pull their punches," Snow said.

This is why both ranking members, Republican and Democratic, of the Senate Intelligence Committee called for the full release. They clearly both want CIA agents to die.

Meanwhile, about that second NIE on Iraq that Jane Harman called for release yesterday: ain't gonna happen until after the election, and Harman is hopping mad about it. Interestingly, this NIE exists because Democratic lawmakers forced a report to be collected (behind-the-scenes fighting back). But Fran Townsend is claiming the scheduled release date is January 2007, and that has nothing to do with the election (oh, sure). Harman wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte:

I received your letter of September 26, in which you confirmed that the National Intelligence Council (NIC) is writing a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. Though you promised that the NIE would be completed "in a timely manner," senior White House officials have indicated publicly that the report may not be completed until January 2007.

This timetable is unacceptable. Sectarian violence, which has reached record levels and continues to grow, is putting our troops - not to mention millions of Iraqis - at grave risk. Furthermore, the proven ineffectiveness of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, an absence of effective infrastructure reconstruction, and political crises that threaten the fragile new polity have made it clear that we need a new strategy in Iraq.

NIEs have been produced in as little as several weeks, as in the case of the 2002 report on Iraqi WMD. While I understand the desire to be thorough, events in Iraq make it urgent that the Intelligence Community produce this NIE immediately. If your intention is to delay this report until after the November elections, I do not think that is appropriate given that U.S. troops are at risk at this moment.

U.S. policymakers need the Intelligence Community's insights to determine how to defend our troops and our interests in Iraq. I urge you to expedite completion of the NIE and to release it in both classified and publicly releasable unclassified forms.

I don't expect to see that second NIE before November 7, but I'm glad Harman is making a stink about it.

Finally, many have noticed this little phrase stuck into the back end of the key judgments released by the President yesterday:

Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint.

For some reason, there's no mention of rightist groups who might adopt terrorist methods. I guess rightist groups have never, I don't know, blown up a federal building or anything like that.

Obviously there's a little more at work here with regard to the parallels this government sees between terrorists and those who disagree with its policies. It's right there in the report. Digby is, as usual, definitive on this point:

I think the bottom line is that most people don't give a damn about a bunch of swarthy foreigners. They think the people in Guantanamo are animals and even if they aren't exactly guilty of the things the US says they are guilty of, they are guilty of not being American. I don't think they lose much sleep over it and they don't see it as applying to them. But they are wrong. In light of the possibilities outlined above for using this legislation to "disappear" anyone from terrorists to leftists to those who are deemed to be anti-American, this may be a day to remember the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Amen, brother.


Making America More Like Iran

The Democrats are actually doing America proud with their words in the torture debates happening concurrently in the House and Senate. Matt Stoller seems to think that we can still stop this horrendous bill. And we should all call the offices of our representatives in Washington.

I hope that when you do, you bring their attention to this story from today's Washington Post. This is the America George Bush and Dick Cheney are seeking. Simply put, they want it to look like Iran.

Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, a former Iranian lawmaker who has been jailed without charges in Tehran for more than 100 days, was briefly released from detention last Thursday to attend a memorial service, where he shouted out allegations of torture and other harsh treatment, according to his lawyers and other witnesses quoted by a human rights organization.

"For the past 20 days, prison officials have chained my hands and feet. I am being tortured," Khoini loudly announced to bystanders at the memorial service for Khoini's father, according to several people at the event who relayed the incident to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Khoini has been held without charges in an Iranian prison for 100 days. AMERICA COULD DO THAT if this bill passes.

Khoini is a victim of torture enacted by the Iranian government attempts to interrogate him. AMERICA COULD DO THAT if this bill passes.

"I am held in solitary confinement and interrogated four times a day," Khoini reportedly shouted. "They wake me up in the middle of the night to interrogate me. They are trying to turn me to a mental patient." Referring to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he added, "They are forcing me to denounce my beliefs, to repent for my activities, and to ask forgiveness from Khamenei."

Khoini is subjected to sleep deprivation, shackling, and harsh interrogation methods. AMERICA COULD DO THAT if this bill passes.

Khoini, the son of a cleric and a member of Iran's reformist bloc, had long challenged Iran's judiciary and intelligence services for human rights abuses during his tenure as a legislator from 2000 to 2004. He made frequent visits to prisons and publicly searched for secret detention centers in his efforts to expose what he called inhumane practices. He was disqualified by conservative clerics from seeking reelection.

He was arrested at a rally June 12 and has been held at Tehran's Evin prison with no access to lawyers, according to Human Rights Watch officials and attorneys working for his release.

Khoini is being held because of his beliefs and his hostility to the Iranian government. AMERICA COULD DO THAT if this bill passes.

Khoini is being denied access to a lawyer and given no opportunity to challenge his release. AMERICA COULD DO THAT if this bill passes.

One of Khoini's lawyers, Mohammad Sharif, told the Reuters news agency in Tehran that "Khoini's wife had noticed signs of physical impact, especially on his head."

Khoini has been beaten while being detained. AMERICA COULD DO THAT if this bill passes.

Human Rights Watch called on Khamenei to order the immediate and unconditional release of Khoini. "Iran's leaders have held Mousavi Khoini for more than 100 days without charge," according to Joe Stork, the group's deputy Middle East director. "Iran has a notorious record when it comes to getting political prisoners to 'repent' under torture," he added.

Since July 30, two prisoners incarcerated for what the Iranian government considers subversive political beliefs have died under suspicious conditions in Iranian jails, according to Human Rights Watch.

Khoini is under serious threat of death at the hands of his captors, and neither he nor his relatives would have any legal recourse to charge the Iranian government with a crime or violation of international law. AMERICA COULD DO THAT if this bill passes.

It's entirely too simple. DO YOU WANT TO BE LIKE IRAN, OR DO YOU WANT TO BE LIKE AMERICA. Your representatives need to be asked this question.


Devil As Metaphor Update

On Sunday I took note of the hypocrisy surrounding the dual invocations of the devil in political speeches, one by Hugo Chavez about Bush, which was "despicable," and one by Jerry Falwell about Hillary Clinton, which was "just a joke." Amazingly, the GOP is rolling with this one, even Falwell's new best friend St. McCain.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator McCain, the UN General Assembly met this week and there were some fairly tough things issued from the–from the podium up there. What’s your overall reaction? How about this guy Chavez from Venezuela?

Sen. McCAIN: Despic–despicable. In his case, he aspires to be this generation’s Castro. I think the people of Venezuela ought to look at the standard of living in Cuba before they would embrace such a thing. We were just talking off camera, Senor Wences, I guess it was, the sock puppet. Look, it’s despicable and the United Nations should not be used as that kind of forum [...]

Mr. HARRIS: Chavez called Bush Satan. And there’s Jerry Falwell in the news just today, said Hillary Clinton will do as much as Satan to energize the conservative base. You were just down there at his university. What did you make of Falwell’s comment?

Sen. McCAIN: I think he was joking. I’m–from what I was told, he was laughing. And for the record, even though Mrs. Clinton and I may have some disagreements, I don’t think she’s Lucifer.

For the record, Falwell himself refuses to apologize for the comment, again falling in behind the canard that he was speaking "tongue in cheek." Seems to me that when Larry Flynt wrote something tongue in cheek about Falwell in the pages of Hustler Magazine, Falwell sued him, on the basis of "emotional distress."

It's amazing how that works, doing unto others as you would not have them do unto you.


Greetings From National Shame Week

We are rushing forward with a debate this week over military commissions and acceptable methods of torture that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. We've faced all sorts of threats as a nation in the past, armies who have burned our Capitol to the ground, internal civil wars that killed millions, a Nazi menace that exterminated 6 million people. Somehow this one particular threat, which we are blithely allowing to gain strength through our war in Iraq, demands that we do what we never considered in the previous 230 years: torture detainees, lock them up in secret detention centers hidden to the world, deny them the writ of habeas corpus or the ability to challenge their crimes, and basically sanction a police state wherein we debase ourselves and neglect our moral fiber.

For some unbelievable reason, the Democrats appear to be going along with this, or at least making precious little effort to slow it down, despite the mission creep that appears to be occurring to make this legislation more and more odious.

Democrats, while being careful to say that they had made no decision to block the detainee bill, expressed rising concerns about changes to the proposal that they said went beyond what Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, had described Monday as merely “technical changes.”

The changes had been made over the weekend, as negotiators from the House and White House adjusted a compromise that had been reached between the White House and Senate Republicans on Thursday.

In one change, the original language said that a suspect had the right to “examine and respond to” all evidence used against him. Mr. Graham and his colleagues in resisting the White House, Senators John W. Warner of Virginia and John McCain of Arizona, had insisted that the provision was necessary to prevent so-called secret trials. The bill submitted late Monday dropped the word “examine” and left only “respond to,” reviving complaints about secret trials, this time from Democrats.

In another, the original compromise said that evidence seized “outside the United States” could be admitted in court even if it had been obtained without a search warrant, a provision Republicans and Democrats agreed was necessary to deal with the unusual circumstances of seizing evidence on the battlefield.

The bill introduced Monday dropped the words “outside the United States,” which Democrats said meant that prosecutors could ignore American legal standards on search warrants within the country. The bill also broadened the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant, from anyone “engaged in hostilities against the United States” to include anyone who “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.”

“These are significant changes, not technical changes,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, where the original bill backed by Senators Warner, McCain and Graham was approved. “It’s hard to know how to vote on a bill that’s this much in motion.”

I don't think it's that hard to know. Torture is WRONG. It's UN-AMERICAN. It also doesn't provide good intelligence, but that's besides the point. In addition this bill denies habeas corpus, and I think America needs a refresher course as to what that means, so devalued is our civic education these days.

The writ of Habeas Corpus was the cornerstone of our Republic; it was what separated us from the totalitarian countries, the dictatorships...our enemies. Habeas Corpus literally means "they have the body." The writ allows an individual in custody to file a petition asserting that his custody violates the law. After the petition is filed the Court is supposed to order that the prisoner be brought to Court so it can be determined whether or not the individual is imprisoned lawfully.

The jailer must then say why the prisoner is being held. The right to file a petition for a writ of Habeas Corpus has long been celebrated as the most efficient safeguard of the liberty of the individual. Habeas Corpus prevented the "King" from simply "disappearing" subjects into secret dungeons. It is mentioned in the Magna Carta of 1215 and was available in America from the time the first settlers came to its shores. It was one of a handful of rights included in the 1787 Constitution and was immediately enacted into statute by the First Congress in 1789. Our Supreme Court in Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), held that the Guantánamo detainees could pursue the habeas actions to compel our government to justify their detentions.

This bill would overturn 800 years of world history in denying that writ. Lost in this debate is the fact that many of the people detained at Guantanamo and elsewhere are INNOCENT. The US government offered king's ransoms to Pakistanis for bringing in anyone they deemed a suspect. Paks seeking cash were turning in their friends, their dinner guests, literally anybody. And as the Times article said and this one in the Washington Post makes even more clear, anyone "who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" would be denied this opportunity to defend themselves. Does that mean anyone who disagrees with the government? Anyone involved in actions against it? What does hostilities mean? How broadly may that be cast?

Well, Marty Lederman says very broadly:

Thus, if a person purposefully and materially supports hostilities, he will be an unlawful combatant, even if he never engages in any hostilities himself. [NOTE: At least one of the Administration's supporters believes that the mere filing of a habeas petition is a form of "aggression against the United States." Presumably that is not the intent of the drafters, or else all those attorneys now representing military detainees would become "unlawful enemy combatants"!]

The second subsection is, perhaps, even more alarming: It appears to suggest that even if a detainee has not engaged in hostilities or supported hostilities, he will be deemed an unlawful combatant if the Department of Defense has said so! Note that this definition is not limited to aliens abroad. It applies to persons in the United States, and to citizens and aliens alike [...]

It is worth noting one thing about the breadth of the habeas-stripping provision, both in the new draft and in last week's version, that has thus far received inadequate attention in the public debate. That provision would eliminate the right to petition for habeas for all alleged alien enemy combatants, whether or not the detainee has been determined to be an "unlawful" combatant -- indeed, even if the detainee is deemed a lawful combatant (e.g., a POW) -- and no matter where they are detained, including in the United States.

In a separate post at Balkinization, Jack Balkin calls the Democrats "moral cowards" and "spineless". There are a few Democrats that seem to get this, including Patrick Leahy and Louise Slaughter, who made an eloquent speech today:

We are at a crossroads today, and I fear that we will not by judged kindly by future Americans for what my Republican friends want us to do today.

This bill sends a clear message to both our friends and our enemies about what kind of people we are.

It shows them whether or not we are really willing to practice what we preach about freedom, democracy, and human dignity.

It is moments like this one when we reveal our true colors, and our real values.

Sadly, M. Speaker, those watching today will conclude that when the going gets tough, America's leaders are willing abandon our values...

...abandon them in favor of thuggish tactics they hope might make them safer for a little while.

But it's true, the majority of the Democrats, the ones that could stop this bill in its tracks, are remaining embarrassingly silent or feigning ignorance ("I haven't read the bill.") We have people on our side of the aisle like Senator Obama, who likes to excoriate other Democrats for lacking public expression of their faith and who claim their faith drives their actions. I don't know how you could be a Christian and vote to give the President dictatorial powers to detain, hide, and abuse prisoners. It's antithetical to Christian values. It's antithetical to anyone with a moral code.

We're spending a couple of weeks hastily drafting legislation, timed around an election, that will have profound effects for the rest of our lives. The most centrist editorial board in the country understands that is rushed and in severe error.

As we have said before, there is no need for Congress to act immediately. No terrorist suspects are being held in the CIA detention "program" that President Bush has so vigorously defended. Justice for the al-Qaeda suspects he has delivered to Guantanamo has already been delayed for years by the administration's actions and can wait a few more months. What's important is that any legal system approved by Congress pass the tests set by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) months ago: that the United States can be proud of it, that the world will see it as fair and humane, and that the Supreme Court can uphold it [...]

White House pressure may have persuaded many in Congress that the easiest course is to quickly approve the detention bill in its present form and leave town. If so, their actions almost surely will come back to haunt them. Until this country adopts a legal system for the war on terrorism that meets Mr. Warner's standard, the war itself will be unwinnable.

Not only unwinnable, but unconscionable. These Democrats need to find their conscience and vote with it.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fact Checkers

Ladies and gentlemen, your media.

The caption reads: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice challenged former President Clinton..."

The Secretary of State looks like she could maybe play cornerback...

(h/t AmericaBlog)


You Tube O' The Day

The Poor Man seems to think that He-Man was the worst cartoon of all time (I seem to remember watching it religiously).

Wrong. The Mr. T cartoon... SO MUCH worse.

First of all, somehow T was hooked up with a gymnastics team. I don't know if he was the coach or the creepy guy who hung around the high school. Second of all, his DOG HAD A MOHAWK. Third of all, the animation is no better than He-Man's despite the fact that it came out probably 10 years later. Fourth, absolutely nothing interesting happens in the open (literally they're all just doing gymnastics and walking around) until T and companion are bowled over in a powerboat by a large piece of lumber, throwing them into a pond with a hungry crocodile, who T promptly PICKS UP BY THE TAIL and hurls about 200 feet in the air. Other than that, no special powers. Just the ability to throw crocs.


Quick Hits, I Can't Keep Up With The News Edition

A quick sampling as I blow some time during my second job of the day (thiings are tough all over, son):

• It took all of half a day for one of Condi's biggest lies, that the Bush Administration received no comprehensive antiterror strategy from Clinton, to be totally rebutted by a document detailing, yep, a comprehensive antiterror strategy. This made NBC Nightly News tonight as well. If I were Karl Rove, I'd be calling up Roger Ailes and yelling my head off at him. Do you really think this is what they want to be talking about right before the election? The August 2001 PDB? The lack of a Principals meeting until a week before 9-11? All that?

• If you seriously want to vomit and make Edward R. Murrow cry, read Katie Couric's blog about her meeting with the aforementioned Condi. I think a junior high schooler's letter to Tiger Beat has more nuance and intelligence to it.

• One of yesterday's big stories around the blogs, courtesy of Attaturk (click to enlarge):

Newsweek, keeping America safe from bad news.

• The African Union will increase troop presence in Darfur and stay through at least the end of the year. Amazing what a little pressure from the world (and George Clooney) can do. It's time to keep the pressure on. I am glad that Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the bill authorizing divestiture in Sudan (although as the overseer of CALPERS, I would imagine Angelides had plenty to do with this). The Darfurians' lives are at stake here, and everyone can do their part.

• Senator Macaca is still stepping in it, as more folks come out and say he used racial slurs.

• The Citizens Health Care Working Group, a coalition of citizens created to brief the President on health care issues, has released a very interesting report basically confirming that the American people want a real health care system that works for everyone, including overwhelming support for a system that covers all Americans. Politicians are way behind on this issue. Particularly the President, who's offered absolutely nothing of value on health care in 6 years, while costs have gone up and the number of uninsured has exponentially increased.

This report is destined for the Oval Office wastebasket, sadly.

A good report on a meeting between Sen. Feingold and a couple bloggers on Booman Tribune. Feingold understands that the "Let's Legalize Torture" bill is an affront and pledged to do what he could to stop it or at least delay it.

• Yeah, they played football at the Superdome last night. Am I the only one weirded out by that? A site of human misery and despair is now a show palace for sports? "Let's give a rousing Superdome cheer to your New Orleans Saints!!!" "We want help, we want help..."

These antiwar protests seem to be getting more and more frequent. This one was actually inside the Hart Senate Office Building. Here's pictures from another one led by Phil Angelides in San Francisco. Dare I say, in the words of Buffalo Springfield, that "there's something happenin' here"?


And This Was The Good Stuff

Parts of the NIE on Iraq are out (AmericaBlog's link is the most reliable I've seen), and it really doesn't help the Bush Administration at all.

• Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.

• If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide [...]

• We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

Remember, this is the part Bush ALLOWED the DNI to release. This is a major blow to the whole "resurgence" of the Administration as focused on the threat of terror. It very simply concludes that their terror strategy is not working.

Ex-CIA agent Larry Johnson interprets the findings as basically in line with what the intelligence community has known for some time, based on the public record. Look at this graph:

Significant incidents and total incidents of terrorism didn't increase until after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At that point they skyrocketed. You can't read this data any other way.

Johnson continues:

Ray Close, who served as the top CIA official in Saudi Arabia, has offered the following on the importance of the current NIE:

"No reasonable person can possibly deny that our intervention in Iraq has been an enormous stimulus to terrorist activity worldwide. Efforts by John McCain and others to discount the significance of that factor by pointing out that the attacks on 9/11 occurred before our overthrow of Saddam Hussein is as trivial and irrelevant as they are disingenuous [...]

A National Intelligence Estimate is just exactly what the title says it is. An NIE isn't issued every day. It sometimes takes weeks to write and coordinate. Even the decision to prepare an NIE in the first place is a painstaking one. It is a BIG DEAL, in other words. An NIE is not a single report from a single agency, but represents the considered judgment of the entire intelligence community (16 different agencies, in theory) on a subject deemed to be of vital significance to makers of national security and foreign policy.

If key members of Congress (like Majority Leader Bill Frist, who claimed ignorance of this report), and neither the House nor the Senate intelligence committees, have seen the document since it was produced in April, then we have to ask ourselves whether the White House and Congress take any serious interest in the most important products of America's enormous (and extremely expensive) intelligence empire. Are we to conclude that the "brains" of the United States Government (presumably those who formulate and carry out national policy) are simply not interested in making use of the best information and advice available to them? That seems to confirm the growing impression that policy is influenced today more by considerations of ideology and political expediency than by painstaking and objective study of the world situation."

This is shaping up to be a terrible week for the White House, and a depressing week for the country, as we see the true consequences of our actions. Our only hope to dig ourselves out of this mess is by changing course on this failed terror strategy. There's only one party signaling they will change that course.


CA-GOV: Flashbacks

It's great that the Alliance for a Better California is stepping in with a major ad buy to add some muscle on-air to challenge Arnold's big dollars. But in my view, the ads are not what brought down Schwarzenegger in the special election last year. It was the tenacity of the various union organizations, who were at every public event, in Arnold's face at every moment, not allowing him a moment in the limelight without them right there with him. They started in January and they didn't give up. Arnold cracked under the pressure and said "the special interests don't like me because I kick their butts," picking a fight with the regular people who help Californians every day, police, firefighters, nurses, teachers. This was the key to victory last year.

So it's the return to that hounding that made me smile like it's 2005 today.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a plug Tuesday to the women in his life – his mother, his mother-in-law, his wife and chief of staff – during a women's conference that was being protested by female union members.

Although California governors typically preside over the event, Schwarzenegger made only brief remarks during a morning session – between presentations by financial adviser Suze Orman and Martha Stewart – before making his exit [...]

Meanwhile, several dozen protesters opposed to Schwarzenegger's re-election, most of whom were female union members, rallied outside the Long Beach Convention Center.

Shriver has made the conference her signature event as first lady, but it evokes bad memories for Schwarzenegger. It is the scene of his run-in two years ago with members of the California Nurses Association, when he famously remarked that he kicked the butts of special interests in Sacramento, after nurses disrupted his speech.

The unions have reprised the comment in a television commercial targeting Schwarzenegger.

This year, the governor is basking in an election-year embrace of Democrats and has tried to repair relations with the unions, including the nurses.

But the unions are using the conference to remind voters of the Schwarzenegger who last year went to war with them in a special election that jeopardized his political career.

Phil Giarrizzo, a spokesman for an alliance of unions that includes teachers, other school employees and firefighters, said Tuesday's rally is the first time the coalition has gathered to protest Schwarzenegger since last year's election. But he said it will not be the last.

“We'll be out there until Election Day,” he said. “We're intent on reactivating field operations from last year.”

Note that the protestors get billing in the lede along with governor. Nice. I would have liked to have seen them never stop those field operations, but I know how much that push cost last year. This time, it's contracted in length but should be just as tenacious. And it's this flashback that should have those who want to dump Arnold excited, not a bunch of ads.

UPDATE: This is an interesting postscript:

At a time when the governor is still deciding on bills affecting California businesses, the conference blared the sponsorship of companies that paid for it, including oil giant BP, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Yahoo! and Apple.

You mean the same people with business before the state are providing cash for an event run by the governor's wife? Stop it, you're killing me.