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

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Liveblog on California Governor Debate

(I posted this over at Governor Phil and thought I'd add it here too. Overall, I thought Phil did really well, though I'm not entirely sure if anyone saw it)

What the hell is up with this opening? Helloo, public access!

First question to Schwarzenegger. On taxation. Arnold does the obligatory thank-yous, pimps the three-year anniversary of his election. Immediately mentions "I'm an immigrant, I'm an immigrant!" Touting his accomplishments. "We've turned the state around" thanks to Democrats and Republicans working together (for two months during the legislative sessions). Now blaming Gray Davis for the world's problems. Somehow the audio guy can't figure out how to keep the volume level. Now campaigning for Prop. 1A-1E.

Angelides rebuttal. The obligatory thank-yous. "I'm an immigrant! I'm an immigrant!" OK, the son of immigrants. Phil is talking about the California where he grew up, and the promise of the middle class. "If we invested in everyone's future, we'd all be better." Now on the attack. Tax breaks for the rich and giveaways to special interests. This is a modification of Phil's core themes in the campaign.

Phil: "I will submit a balanced budget... so we quit loading debt on our kids." Giving his middle-class tax cut plan.

The moderator has pretty much completely lost control.

Schwarzenegger using the "Gray Davis raised tuition and fees too" defense. Now claiming he lowered tuitions this year. Will need to fact check on that. Telling a story of "Where were you" when Davis rose fees. Actually it was an effective narrative.

Angelides: I decided to run for governor when you started making cuts in education. This is a pretty good rebuttal.

? to Angelides: What's the biggest problem facing the state? Phil - Biggest problem is middle class families struggling. "Economy is getting better" for HMOs and pharmaceuticals. Phil wants to relieve the burden on the middle class, tax break on those under $100,000. Arnold is on the side of special interests.

Schwarzenegger: Goes back to the car tax (which Gov. Wilson instituted, not Gray Davis, by the way... here's Arnold's running mate's statement about it). "You have been for every single tax increase since you've been in office." Tractor tax mentioned.

Angelides rebuttal: I'm not going to let you repeat those "weapons of mass deception" about my tax plan. You sound like Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, and George Bush. Quotes LA Times Skelton article. This is a fairly strong response.

Arnold: "I see the joy in your eyes when you talk about taxes. You love taxes." A laugh line, but dishonest. "Look out there and say 'I love increasing your taxes.'"

? for Arnold: what to do in the event of an economic slowdown. He avoids the question from the first sentence. Talks about his prior achievements. Increased revenues by $20 billion.

Angelides: The question was "how are you going to balance the budget." We face a $5 billion budget deficit. Arnold hasn't balanced budgets for 3 years. Mentions the "no plan to end the deficit" line. Angelides aligns himself with Clinton and aligns Arnold with Bush. Close corporate tax loopholes, make government more efficient, restoring top tax rates to Reagan/Wilson era.

This moderator is a crank.

? to Angelides: Name a mistake you regretted (loaded question): "I regret that I was unsuccessful in stopping the massive borrowing... $26 billion in debts." Decent ju-jitsu. Giving a fiscally responsible line.

same ? to Arnold: "I made several mistakes." This is the bite-your-lip Clinton moment. The mea culpa for the Special Election. "I went too fast." You know, really his answer is not that they were awful ideas, but that he went too fast. What makes anyone think he won't do that again?

Angelides POUNCES on that. That's a real good answer. "Who can you trust." "He still says privatizing pensions and cutting funds for education are good ideas."

Arnold defends his education record with numbers... but he's on the defensive. Good job by Angelides there, not letting the "I went too fast" part go by.

More on the flip...

? to Angelides on immigration. Mentions the Minutemen praise flap. His plan: have the feds live up to their responsibilities in border protection and funding incarceration and defense. Then, bring the workforce out of the shadows.

Arnold: "I'm an immigrant!" He's giving his personal story, nothing on the specific policy yet. There we go... Overhaul and reform of immigration policies. Somehow gets a 9-11 terrorism message in. "People want to blow us up!"

? to Arnold on transportation. Starts talking about alternative fuel and the "hydrogen highway." I wonder if Phil will get into Arnold's ties to Big Oil.

Angelides: we have to become less dependent on oil... and there, Phil does mention Arnold's ties to Big Oil. Phil focuses on clean fuels and investing in them. Then, smart growth. Jobs near housing, transit neighborhoods.

? about the high-speed train from Sacramento to LA in 2:35. Arnold: "Legislators did an extraordinary job this year" to put out the infrastructure bonds. Borrow and spend, borrow and spend. This state hasn't kept up to date with infrastructure.

Angelides: "Who can you trust" to make investment in transportation. He borrowed from the transportation budget. "I'm an advocate of high-speed rail." We should build that public foundation. Phil sponsored the legislation on high-speed rail.

Arnold: the legislature didn't go with your bullet train.

? to Angelides on homeland security and disaster preparedness. Are we ready? Angelides: I'm concerned, we haven't done what we need to. Mentions Bush and Iraq. A recent state auditor's report said the Gov. hasn't spent federal homeland security funds. He'd fight to redirect Washington's efforts in homeland security funding. Now mentioning first responder support (and alluding to the governor's attacks on them). Gets clapping on that.

Arnold: "I feel like I'm having dinner with Uncle Teddy." Phil: "Thank you, he's a great man!" Kind of a non-answer after his pre-scripted laugh line.

? to Schwarzenegger: on development and levee protection. This is a big issue, our levees are in bad shape. Touting the infrastructure bonds on the levees. $500 million in immediate funds, $4 billion on the ballot. The building of levees only cost 10% of what you'd spend to clean up after a disaster.

Angelides: The fact is that "you haven't moved as you should have" to protect people. Arnold fired every member of the reclamation board who didn't want development in flood-endangered areas. Special interest contributions from industries...

? for Angelides on character and integrity. "I was raised with very strong values." Proud of his record. "I do what I say and I say what I do" (that's a George Bush line!). Now mentioning the need to never forget the middle class.

Schwarzenegger on character and integrity: "I'm an immigrant! I'm an immigrant!" Talks about giving something back to the community. Work with the Special Olympics. President's Council on Physical Fitness. Somehow he didn't mention this:

? for Schwarzenegger on education. We should fund education fully (ha!), increase univ. system and vo-tech education. Important to stress accountability and performance.

Angelides, same question: Critical issue. We're not going to make it if we're 43rd in education spending, 45th in HS kids going to college. Reduce dropout rates, expand charter schools (!). More kids to college, lower tuition and fees, increase financial aid, recruit new teachers and counselors.

This moderator guy is such a crank. Now questions to each other.

Arnold to Phil: what is the funniest moment during your campaign? (what an unserious person). "Every day is just a hoot." Phil talks about traveling with his daughters on the campaign trail.

This is a question that a front-runner asks.

Phil to Arnold: "You made a lot of promises... you tried to privatize pensions and take away benefits from widows and orphans of policemen... explain why you did that?" Answer: I have the highest respect for law enforcement, my dad was a police officer. I didn't try to take anything away, and I never will. "You can stop that hype right there."

? for Schwarzenegger: global leadership. What a contentless question. Arnold talks like a cheerleader about our economic promise and global economic ties.

Angelides: put the government back on the side of hard-working people. Support the middle class, education. We're going to win by educating our children. Investing in research and bioscience, microloans to small businesses.

Arnold: During the most incredible decline in our economy, you were part of it. Funny exchange on Bush, and on campaigning in Ohio. Phil getting in a couple digs on Arnold's Hummers. It took 52 minutes to get lively.

? on what you're most proud of. Angelides: built a business, met a payroll, created jobs... Laguna West community. As Treasurer protected pension funds and created small business loan program.

Arnold: being able to come to America was the secret of his success. Meeting Maria, talking about Sargent Shriver and giving back to the community.

That's the wrap-up. Basically, I don't think anything will come out of this debate, except possibly the exchange where Phil highlighted Arnold saying "I went too fast" about the Special Election, saying he still stood behind the horrible ideas that voters rejected. Arnold didn't make any big mistakes other than that one, and Phil's going to have to seize on it. We'll see if it can stick, the problem might be that it looks like you're fighting the last war.


Chinks in the Armor

I think Sen. John Warner screwed up the united front the Republican Party needed on Iraq going into the election. In addition, he handed Jim Webb a major rhetorical victory in his own state as he tries to upend Sen. Macaca. Of course, he's giving it a couple months for a turnaround, because 3 1/2 years of proof is not quite enough.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday offered a stark assessment of the situation in Iraq after a trip there this week, saying that parts of the country have taken "steps backwards" and that the United States is at risk of losing the campaign to control an increasingly violent Baghdad [...]

Echoing the sentiments of several leading Democrats on his committee, Warner said he believes the United States may have to reevaluate its approach in Iraq if the situation does not improve dramatically over the next several months.

"I assure you, in two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it's a responsibility of our government internally to determine: Is there a change of course that we should take?" Warner said. "And I wouldn't take off the table any option at this time."

But even a hedge like "we'll give it two or three months," which we've all heard umpteen times over the last several years, was not enough to jitter the White House. Because, with the news so bad, with reports of 4,000 Iraqi policemen dying the last two years, with a Kurdish member of Parliament kidnapped and killed, with more details reports of murder and madness in an increasingly chaotic country, any wavering from that party line of "stay the course" is bound to fray some nerves.

The LA Times put on its front page an incredible story today, a chronicle of the various different conflicts happening simultaneously in Iraq, with US troops doing nothing but being caught in the crossfire.

This is far too complex a situation for even the most experienced and strategic of military machines, let alone a bungling group of neocons that think they can overrun a country and set it up with a government within a few weeks.

You can talk until you're blue in the face about what so-and-so knew about which page and on and on, but the midterms will be won and lost on the issue of Iraq. And there is no value in letting the group that unnecessarily got us into this mess to be the ones who try to get us out of it. I think Warner just got off the script a bit. There's no doubt that Iraq is a failed state and that staying there isn't helping. I'd suggest that even most officials in the White House know that. But they don't want that to get out before November because the idea is to keep that united front, not to admit weakness, and to make ludicrous claims like "the terrorists in Iraq will follow us to your bedroom." But they don't have to admit defeat. Most people already know what the score is.


Foley Noises

(bonus points to whoever gets the reference)

Well, it looks like Denny Hastert has dug in and the House GOP is going along for the ride, although they did tell him to shut up about the paranoic rantings that George Soros or aliens or something was responsible for this. The current GOoPer strategy is haphazard; some are out there making wild charges of Democratic collusion just hoping to muddy the waters, some are off the reservation entirely and are calling for Hastert to step down, others are all over the map. I heard Pat Buchanan yesterday try to shift the focus to Nancy Pelosi marching in gay pride parades. But none of that really matters, as opposed to where the American people are on the matter. And most of them feel Denny needs to go.

Based on what you know right now, do you think Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert should remain in his position as Speaker of the House? Do you think he should resign as Speaker of the House but remain a member of Congress? Or do you think he should completely resign from Congress?

27% Remain Speaker
20% Resign Leadership
43% Resign From Congress
10% Not Sure

Awful numbers, especially when you consider that he's too stubborn to leave the stage. This is already starting to affect major races, like NRCC chair Tom Reynolds, who's now polling behind in his New York seat; like Heather Wilson, who previously sat on the Page Board while the teens were being warned about Foley's behavior (and she was already in a dogfight in NM-01), like FL-16, of course, where Foley's name remains on the ballot. Even in races that shouldn't have a thing to do with it, the climate for Republicans will heighten scandals like this:

Republican State Rep. Eugene McGill urged a judge in 2003 to show leniency for a friend who sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl and was later labeled a violent predator by the court.

The six-term Montgomery County incumbent defended a letter he wrote on behalf of Sheldon Granor - a man he called a "pillar of the community" - who developed a relationship with the teen over the Internet.

"I don't condone what people do," McGill said in an interview last week. "I write letters on the behalf of people I have personal knowledge of. I have done it before. I will do it again."

The victim, now 22, said she was offended by McGill's action and believed it suggested he had sought to protect a pedophile over his victim.

"I'm outraged, floored, livid," she said in an interview yesterday arranged at The Inquirer's request by the case's prosecutor. The Inquirer's policy is not to publish names of sexual assault victims without their consent.

Obviously Matt Drudge and Glenn Reynolds and Charles Johnson don't work for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Did I mention that Mark Foley's house in DC was two blocks away from the page's dormitory? When the confirmation of actual sexual contact comes out, watch this thing blow up like a balloon.

Republicans are now seen by a great majority of the country as bumbling and ridiculous. It's all unraveling right before our eyes. This is why nobody wants to give them money ($23,000 in a month on the Web??). This is why their core base of evangelical support might not man the phones and help get out the vote. This is why Cliff Schecter can make mincemeat out of their pack of talking heads simply by telling it like it is. This is why debate watchers outright laugh at them when they try their usual lies and spinmeistering:

This is why, with 32 days until the election, the guy that oughta know understands what can really happen this November:

After looking at the news for the past 10 days or so, I have to wonder how Democrats can possibly fail in their efforts to take both the House and the Senate.

The national atmospherics don’t merely favor Democrats; they set the stage for a blowout of cosmic proportions next month.

No, that’s not a prediction, since Republicans still have a month to “localize” enough races to hold onto one or both chambers of Congress. But you don’t have to be Teddy White or V.O. Key to know that the GOP is now flirting with disaster.

32 days is a LONG time, plenty of time to turn it around. But there's blood in the water. Complacency in the face of what happened in 2002 and 2004 would be ridiculous, however. If anything it's time to get even MORE involved in the very real chance of taking a step toward back the country.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday News Dump of the Week

Welcome back to the news cycle, Jack Abramoff scandal!

A key aide to presidential political strategist Karl Rove resigned Friday in the wake of congressional report that listed hundreds of contacts between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House.

Susan Ralston, special assistant to President Bush, submitted a resignation letter to him less than five weeks before the midterm elections [...]

Critics have pointed to Ralston as evidence that Rove — and thus Bush — are possibly closer to Abramoff than the White House has acknowledged. Ralston was Abramoff's administrative assistant at his lobbying firm and, after Bush took office, assumed the same post with Rove.

These were about the easiest dots to connect in the history of dot-connecting. Ralston was Abramoff's personal secretary; then she was Rove's. In fact, Abramoff recommended her to Rove. She was lobbied dozens of times by Abramoff's firm while working in the White House, according to the most recent House Governmental Reform Committee report.

The hilarious part of this story are the two quotes by White House lackey Dana Perino. I'll translate:

"She did not want to be a distraction to the White House at such an important time and so we have accepted her resignation," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

"She was going to bring us all down, so we showed her the door."

"We support her decision and consider the matter closed."

"Can you all shut up about this stuff now?"


"Our Talented Professionals" at Guantanamo

You have a pre-Spanish Inquisition mindset. Anyway, this is legal now, right?

Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.

The two-page statement was sent Wednesday to the Inspector General at the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer.

The lawyer sent the statement on behalf of a paralegal who said men she met on Sept. 23 at a bar on the base identified themselves to her as guards. The woman, whose name was blacked out, said she spent about an hour talking with them. No one was in uniform, she said.

A 19-year-old sailor referred to only as Bo "told the other guards and me about him beating different detainees being held in the prison," the statement said.

"One such story Bo told involved him taking a detainee by the head and hitting the detainee's head into the cell door. Bo said that his actions were known by others," but that he was never punished, the statement said. The paralegal was identified in the affidavit as a sergeant working on an unidentified Guantanamo-related case.

Remember, asswipes like Duncan Hunter want you to think the detainees at Gitmo are treated like kings because they get really nice meals! (Yeah, fed intravenously through a tube against their will)

Other guards "also told their own stories of abuse towards the detainees" that included hitting them, denying them water and "removing privileges for no reason."

"About 5 others in the group admitted hitting detainees" and that included "punching in the face," the affidavit said.

"From the whole conversation, I understood that striking detainees was a common practice," the sergeant wrote. "Everyone in the group laughed at the others stories of beating detainees."

Look, these guards have it tough, they're just blowing off steam.

The next 20 years are going to bring a steady diet of abuses and murders and cover-ups of the Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib era. Now I know what someone who lived in the era of My Lai feels like.

I'd like you all, for this weekend's homework, to take a look at this story about torture and fascism at Orcinus. Here's an excerpt:

It's not that torture is unique to fascism. It has, after all, been around since the Dark Ages, and remained alive as a component of theocratic and feudal states for centuries. Certainly it has always been a commonplace feature of communist regimes as well, with the Soviets and Chinese providing abundant examples. What can be said generally is that torture is a feature of totalitarianism, regardless of its content.

But it occupies a unique position in the fascist ideological hierarchy, which is, after all, not so much a cohesive ideology but a multifaceted pathology. What makes fascism so potent on a personal level is its psychosexual component, expressed mostly as a desire to purge "unhealthy" elements through eliminationist violence, including the control of the body of the Other, and the ability to inflict purgative pain and suffering on that body. (For more on this, see Klaus Theweleit's study of this aspect of fascism, Male Fantasies, especially Vol. II.)

Fascists are particularly fond of torture because it represents such a complete expression of the fascist will to power. So when a nation adopts torture as an officially condoned policy -- as the United States has just done -- it immediately raises the specter that, indeed, it may be descending into the fascist abyss.

I'd also like you to think if you could name ONE benevolent nation that has sanctioned torture in human history. Torture is typically associated with countries like Nazi-era Germany, Pol Pot's Cambodia, apartheid-era South Africa, modern-day Iran... Torture is sanctioned by societies that believe in, or at least are unconcerned by, cruelty. How is that consistent with any American value?


Condi Being Condi

Looks like Condi messed up the big meeting about Iran (h/t First-Draft):

LONDON (AP) -- Top diplomats from six world powers agreed Friday to discuss possible U.N. sanctions against Iran and said after a meeting in London that they were were ''deeply disappointed'' by Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment [...]

The representatives from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China did not appear to have reached any clear decision on what to do next during more than two hours of talks.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived late at the meeting after her flight from Iraq was delayed by mechanical difficulties, meaning the diplomats had little time to reach a consensus. She did not appear afterward with Beckett, who reported on the outcome of the session.

The only reason Rice was late is that she tried to squeeze in that Iraq trip, where she stayed in the bubble of the Green Zone. And it's not like Baghdad's a tough airport to get out of, notwithstanding the fact that on arrival, Rice was delayed 40 minutes because the airport was under attack.

In Condi's defense, no one could have anticipated that mechanical failure. And no one could have anticipated flying planes into buildings. And no one could have anticipated the breach of the levees. And no one could have anticipated Hamas winning elections. And no one could have anticipated...

Just once, I'd like a government official who ANTICIPATES things. After all, it's a hallmark of leadership.


CA-GOV: BS Buddies

This is kind of funny. The Angelides campaign has created a new site, BS Buddies which allows you to, in Mr. Potato Head fashion, create your very own Gov. Schwarzenegger, complete with accessories, packaging, memorable quotes, et al. From the email to supporters:

Distributed by "Rove Toys,” there are three flip-flopping-fun Bush Buddy Arnolds you can make your own.

Too Cool for School Arnold - Actually raises tuition and fees!
Special Interest Arnold - Featuring money bag accessories!
Too Healthy to Care Arnold - Kicks nurses' butts!

Once you've created your own "BS Buddy," you can email it to friends. And after you do that, it takes you right to a contribution page where you can support Phil's candidacy.

Now this is the kind of outside-the-box activity (or inside-the-box, given the Arnold packaging) I really appreciate. Most big stories and activities on the Internet are viral. This site sets up a fun way to pass along real information (the boxes are adorned with things like "raised tuition and fees" and "won't support Prop. 89) virally. Everything's a crap shoot on the Internet, so there's no telling if it will take off. But it's a pretty good idea.


The First 100 Hours

"Why yes, now that you've finally asked, I actually DO have some ideas for how to move the country forward...."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is thinking 100 hours, time enough, she says, to begin to "drain the swamp" after more than a decade of Republican rule.

As in the first 100 hours the House meets after Democrats _ in her fondest wish _ win control in the Nov. 7 midterm elections and Pelosi takes the gavel as the first Madam Speaker in history.

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds - "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.

To do that, she said, Bush-era tax cuts would have to be rolled back for those above "a certain level." She mentioned annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year and higher, and said tax rates for those individuals might revert to those of the Clinton era. Details will have to be worked out, she emphasized.

"We believe in the marketplace," Pelosi said of Democrats, then drew a contrast with Republicans. "They have only rewarded wealth, not work."

The talk of "Democrats don't have ideas" and "Democrats don't have a clear vision or plan" was always nonsense, a willful blindness to reality. Democrats have been talking about these ideas for months, but ideas don't always break past the media filter, especially when they come from the opposition party.

These are important days for this country and this is an important article. This election is not just about throwing out the bums, but about returning to a vision for America where government exists to help the country move ahead instead of existing simply to maintain and coalesce power. We've had enough, but we're also ready to expand opportunity, reward work instead of wealth (I love that phrase) and make the country more stable and more secure.


I Am A Fool

For some absurd reason I actually took a Matt Drudge story at face value, arguing that, even if it were true that one page was "pranking" Mark Foley by goading him into sending racy IMs, it was not only irrelevant but it PROVED that Foley had an ongoing problem which pages knew all about. Turns out that the page's own lawyer has called the "exclusive! Developing hard!" story "a work of fiction."

Now, the lawyer for the former page in question, 21-year-old Jordan Edmund, says the Drudge Report article is false. Calling the story "a piece of fiction," Stephen Jones told the Daily Oklahoman that "there is not any aspect of this matter that is a practical joke nor should anyone treat it that way."

I haven't been to Matt Drudge's site in several years, and this latest episode reminds me why. I'll remind you that Lynne Cheney and other White House luminaries have gone on record as saying they check out Drudge all day long.

I apologize to my readers for not immediately assuming that Drudge was full of shit.


Quick Hits, I'm So Damned Tired Edition

I'm nearing the end of two weeks' worth of 16-18 hour workdays, and I'm ready to have a minor heart attack. What a perfect frame of mind in which to analyze the news!

• A friend of mine hipped me to this underreported story. Basically the Bush Administration wants to close all EPA technical research libraries, denying access to thousands of scientific studies that get used in emergency preparedness and - get ready - lawsuits. After protest, the EPA claimed that this would actually help researchers, because they promised to put all of their studies online... but then they revealed that there's no budget for digitizing the studies. It's another example of strategic budget-cutting to ensure that regulation of, in this case, polluters, is neutered.

• MN-06: The race is between Patty Wetterling, a strong child advocate, and Michelle Bachmann, a creationist whose husband "ungays" people. She also hid in the bushes to spy on people during a gay rights rally.

Again, Masturgate is going to be conveniently used as an excuse, but the fact is that the Democrats found some very strong candidates this year, while the Republicans, who believe in the brand carrying them through instead of the individual, came up with the usual collection of crazy people.

• In another case of America's ass writing checks its body can't cash, North Korea vows to test a nuclear weapon, and we .... vow to send a strongly, STRONGLY written letter! The lack of leverage on the Korean peninsula is direct fallout from our hideous global standing.

A good story from last week on microtargeting using MySpace. Republicans go on and on about their vaunted Voter Vault, but in fact you don't need any kind of large database to do micro-targeting anymore. The information is all out there and readily available.

It doesn't look to me like it's reached critical mass in time for this cycle, but both MySpace and Facebook have voter-registration tools on their sites. Not quite there but close.

• One more Foley thing: The FBI has a lot of explaining to do.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General’s (I.G.) office today to ask for an investigation into why the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has fabricated and disseminated a cover-up story as to why it never investigated the Foley emails sent to it by CREW.

CBS News has reported that according to the FBI when CREW gave the Bureau the original set of emails from Rep. Mark Foley to a former House page, they were “heavily redacted.” The FBI is also claiming that it came back to CREW and asked for more information so that it could follow up, but that CREW refused to provide anything further. Reporters from several other news organizations have repeated this allegation. The FBI is lying.

Kind of flies in the face of Hastert's "How come these liberal organizations didn't act sooner?" argument, just like the facts have flown in the face of every Republican spiin attempt so far.

• And finally, I get most of my news from newspapers and blogs, and ditched my CNN long ago. But if you made me watch nothing but Paula Zahn and Jon Stewart and asked me which one had actual substance in it, I'd probably line up favorably with this study, which lists The Daily Show as a legitimate source of news.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Masturgate Matters

So says the liberal elites over at Fox News. At least the continued presence of Jabba the Enabler matters:

House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains speaker until Election Day, according to internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, FOX News has learned.

"The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker," a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss." [...]

The GOP source told FOX News that the internal data had not been widely shared among Republican leaders, but as awareness of it spreads calculations about Hastert's tenure may change. The source described the pollster who did the survey as "authoritative," and said once the numbers are presented, it "could change the focus" on whether the speaker remains in power.

While internal GOP polls show trouble for Republicans, the newest AP/Ipsos poll also showed that half of likely voters say the Foley scandal will be "very or extremely important" when it comes time to vote on Nov. 7. By nearly a 2-1 ratio, voters say Democrats are better at combating corruption.

Meanwhile, individual representatives are cancelling their appearances with the Speaker. The leader of the Republicans in the House is being shunned. For some reason, he thinks that resigning would only hurt his party's chances in November, when the opposite is the case. In truth it's probably because he just wants to stay in power, and he's "fixing the facts around the policy," something Republicans are pretty good at doing.

One reason Masturgate matters is that Democrats can use it as a political cudgel to ward off attacks, and it's devastatingly effective:

Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) seized on the cybersex scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) Wednesday to deflect a question about an NRSC ad which asks: "What kind of man parties with Playboy Playmates in lingerie then films a commercial in a church pew?"

"I'm not going to take a lecture on morality from a party that took hush money from a child predator," said Ford Wednesday in Memphis, TN after speaking to the downtown Kiwanis Club.

Ouch. Even if Hastert did resign, that would leave a mark. Democrats are frankly making hay of this the way Republicans would, and this time the dash of demagoguery is at least put toward a sincere outrage at a leadership that hid away a child predator.

On the WingNet, GOP defenders are trying to comfort themselves with Matt Drudge's Exclusive! Developing! that one set of IM messages was the result of an online prank by the pages gone awry. It's entirely possible that is true. But the fact that the page knew to do so is evidence, to me, that this goes back a number of years and was common knowledge among him and his colleagues. Would you just take a flyer and guess that a Congressman had a fetishistic involvement with young boys and that you could goad him into cybersex? Apparently the warnings on Foley were being distributed to pages as far back as 1995. His former chief of staff admitted he went to Hastert and senior leadership 3 years ago. This allegation does nothing but cement the fact that Foley had a problem for a long time, and it was studiously ignored by those in a position to fix it.

This line of attack by the Drudge crowd just encourages the drip, drip, drip of further allegations and makes the whole thing worse. For example:

Three more former congressional pages have come forward to reveal what they call "sexual approaches" over the Internet from former Congressman Mark Foley.

The pages served in the classes of 1998, 2000 and 2002. They independently approached ABC News after the Foley resignation through the Brian Ross & the Investigative Team's tip line on None wanted their names used because of the sensitive nature of the communications.

"I was seventeen years old and just returned to [my home state] when Foley began to e-mail me, asking if I had ever seen my page roommates naked and how big their penises were," said the page in the 2002 class.

The former page also said Foley told him that if he happened to be in Washington, D.C., he could stay at Foley's home if he "would engage in oral sex" with Foley. [...]

All three pages described similar instant message and e-mail patterns, with remarkably similar escalations of provocative questions.

"He didn't want to talk about politics," the page said. "He wanted to talk about sex or my penis," the page said.

In a way, the so-called "prank" corroborates the other tales. This was systematic and well-known among those being preyed upon; it was clearly known by House leadership. And Americans get this.


The Slide To Unitary Rule

At stake in this election is the viability of the Congress itself. The President and his cadre in the White House have the goal of literally changing the shape of democracy as it is practiced in this country, by centralizing power in a unitary executive who simply does not need to follow the dictates of the legislative branch or the judiciary, and can pursue his or her agenda unilaterally, without interference or oversight. This is where we find ourselves today, and even when Congress or the court system acts as something other than a rubber stamp, the Administration simply decides to break the rules and suffer no consequences.

A helpful Court of Appeals has put a stay on suspending the warrantless domestic spying program which Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled unconstitutional (they did not "temporarily OK domestic spying," as the AP headline blares). This is well within the rights of the 6th Circuit Court, to reserve judgment until they hear an appeal and keep things as they are. Except the President has been found to have violated federal statute, and he's simply forfeited his right to get the benefit of the doubt after willfully breaking the law in this way. All the more telling is how the Justice Department's motion to stay the program reflected the same bully tactics they use in the political arena:

The Justice Department had urged the appeals court to allow it to keep the program in place while it argues its appeal, claiming that the nation faced "potential irreparable harm." The appeal is likely to take months.

"The country will be more vulnerable to a terrorist attack," the government motion said.

The hell the country will. You can go get a warrant like every other law enforcement organization. The FISA court almost never disallows one. This incoherent response basically reads like "people will die if you tell us to follow the law."

Even more disconcerting is the continued subversion of settled law through the use of signing statements. The latest came just yesterday, attached to the Homeland Security bill which would overhaul agencies like FEMA.

President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department's reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency's 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch."

How many stories in the last 6 years have started with the line "President Bush says he has the power..." You'd think he was He-Man.

So basically, the President wants to be able to change reports about his performance given by nonpartisan, outside agents. He wants to INVADE THE PRIVACY OF THE PRIVACY OFFICER.

But there's more:

Bush, for example, said he'd disregard a requirement that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years experience and "demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security."

His rationale was that it "rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

Exactly! How is he going to find people who worked as head of Arabian Horse Associations under stringent "qualification" rules like that?

We have a President that doesn't want to be held accountable by the rules that the Congress is duty-bound to make. If they pass a law he doesn't like, he'll use a signing statement. If they don't want to send a bully as ambassador to the UN, he'll make a recess appointment, not once but apparently twice. Bolton wouldn't even get paid if he's installed without the consent of Congress a second time, so they have a scheme to demote him to a lesser post, and then never replace him as Ambassador, making him the "acting" Ambassador. They change the laws, and when they can't change them they break the laws.

The Congressional Research Service just released a devastating report that lays out the White House strategy to basically change the very structure of the government, to remove any checks on their power and to rule essentially by fiat.

In a 27-page report written for lawmakers, the research service said the Bush administration is using signing statements as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional.

The "broad and persistent nature of the claims of executive authority forwarded by President Bush appear designed to inure Congress, as well as others, to the belief that the president in fact possesses expansive and exclusive powers upon which the other branches may not intrude," the report said.

It's the "Big Lie" theory of politics: if you say something long enough and insistently enough, people will start to believe that it's true. It has worked during the elections, so they're trying it out with the Representatives of those elections.

This is the dark vision of government this President wants.

Under most interpretations of the Constitution, the report said, some of the legal assertions in Bush's signing statements are dubious. For example, it said, the administration has suggested repeatedly that the president has exclusive authority over foreign affairs and has an absolute right to withhold information from Congress. Such assertions are "generally unsupported by established legal principles," the report said.

Despite such criticism, the administration has continued to issue signing statements for new laws. Last week, for example, Bush signed the 2007 military budget bill, but then issued a statement challenging 16 of its provisions.
The bill bars the Pentagon from using any intelligence that was collected illegally, including information about Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable government surveillance.

In Bush's signing statement, he suggested that he alone could decide whether the Pentagon could use such information. His signing statement instructed the military to view the law in light of "the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch."

Bush also challenged three sections that require the Pentagon to notify Congress before diverting funds to new purposes, including top-secret activities or programs. Congress had already decided against funding. Bush said he was not bound to obey such statutes if he decided, as commander in chief, that withholding such information from Congress was necessary to protect security secrets.

So that's what's at stake in this election. If you believe in checks and balances, if you believe in the system of government that has served this nation for 230 years, you need to vote out the willing enablers to this extreme and horrifying vision of unitary executive - dictatorial, in essence - power, and put in ordinary Americans who will challenge this attempt to trash the Constitution and recast it in some other twisted image.


CA-GOV: The Media

I could be wrong, but based on my RSS reader, the last story published by the LA Times on the governor's race, not an announcement of a poll but a story, was September 28. That's 8 days ago.

If you're running for chief executive of what amounts to a nation-state with a population of 39 million, and the only newspaper for the largest city in that nation hasn't run an article about that race for chief executive in an entire week, with a month of the election, would you say that there's a problem there?

I know the LA Times fancies itself as a national paper, but this borders on unconscionable. The real question is, given that the only debate is scheduled for two days from now, will they bother to send someone to cover it?


What About The Schools?

One thing we've been hearing for three or so years in Iraq is that the media is ignoring the good news, like all those schools we've rebuilt and repainted. You don't hear that critique much anymore, now that the country is enmeshed in violence. And here's a report about Iraqi schools that shows that, shockingly, paint does not fix all problems:

Iraq's school and university system is in danger of collapse in large areas of the country as pupils and teachers take flight in the face of threats of violence.

Professors and parents have told the Guardian they no longer feel safe to attend their educational institutions. In some schools and colleges, up to half the staff have fled abroad, resigned or applied to go on prolonged vacation, and class sizes have also dropped by up to half in the areas that are the worst affected.

Professionals in higher education, particularly those teaching the sciences and in health, have been targeted for assassination. Universities from Basra in the south to Kirkuk and Mosul in the north have been infiltrated by militia organisations, while the same militias from Islamic organisations regularly intimidate female students at the school and university gates for failing to wear the hijab.

Women teachers have been ordered by their ministry to adopt Islamic codes of clothing and behaviour.

If you control thought, you control the country. Insurgencies throughout history know this. The fact that the militias are entering the schools and forcing Islamic codes of dress and behavior on the students should be extremely troubling to everyone. In such an environment, the school system becomes no different than the madrassahs which preach hatred for the West throughout the Islamic world. All of this making Iraq FAR MORE DANGEROUS that it ever could have been under Saddam.

"The militias from all sides are in the universities. Classes are not happening because of the chaos, and colleagues are fleeing if they can," said Professor Saad Jawad, a lecturer in political science at Baghdad University.

"The situation is becoming completely unbearable. I decided to stay where many other professors have left. But I think it will reach the point where I will have to decide.

"A large number have simply left the country, while others have applied to go on prolonged sick leave. We are using MA and PhD students to fill in the gaps."

The flight of the educated classes in Iraq is also troubling, as a society depopulated of its intellectual talent will have little chance of mounting the rhetorical support necessary to battle the demagoguery of fundamentalists and those who foment sectarian violence. What you have here is a powderkeg. And this is happening not just in one area, but all over the country.

If you have a society where the kids cannot go to school out of fear of kidnapping, what you have is a failed state. Iraq is pretty much in an impossible spot. And the White House, and especially the rubber stamp Congress that supported them, cannot be trusted to make the impossible possible. We need new leadership.


Hastert to Go on the Offense; Well, He Is Offensive

CNN's Dana Bash reports:

Now just to give you a little context here, what the speaker’s office is trying to do today in the wake of all of these new questions about what his office knew and when they knew it is to try to be more aggressive and to try to go more on the offense. We understand that there was actually a meeting here on Capitol Hill just a short while ago with Republican press secretaries where the Speaker’s staff told the Republican press secretaries that they’re going to try very hard to change the mood, change the atmosphere, go on the offense. And that, we understand, will include at least the speaker making it clear he does take full responsibility for this. We don’t believe — we don’t believe that he is going to announce, though, that he’s going to step down or in the near future.

Democrats like me are thrilled at this news. A combative House leadership with no facts on their side, tacitly defending their conduct of letting a known sexual predator roam the halls of Congress, especially when there is the almost certain possibility of more revelations forthcoming, just extends the debate. Morally and ethically, I think Hastert has to go. Politically, if he stays it's pretty clearly good news for Democrats.

This is backed up by both local polling, which in the race most keenly affected by the scandal (after Foley's old seat), Democrat Jack Davis is leading NRCC chair Tom Reynolds, who apparently first heard about Foley's predilections; and by national polling, which shows that half of likely voters find this scandal to be important. I do want to say that the national polling there appears to be contradicted a little by a forthcoming Pew poll which indicates that this will not trouble so-called "values voters" at the polls. However, half of likely voters could credibly not include any "values voters," so maybe it's not contradictory.

To the extent that this is connected to a greater narrative of inattention to basic needs on Capitol Hill, party over security, pathetic one-party rule, and the culture of corruption and the aggrandizement of raw power, this is a horrendous thing for Republicans to contend with. Patty Wetterling's ad does this pretty well.

I will update as I get more information about the press conference. Looks like we might do a "Mystery Democratic Theater" on it tonight as well.

UPDATE: I would call this Billmon piece important. Apparently Denny's only concerns are political, again. He'd only resign if it would help the GOP. But he has the mistaken impression that it wouldn't.


Thou Shalt Not Dare Criticize The Dear Leader

Here's a story that I've seen almost nowhere, and that really should get wider attention.

A Denver-area man filed a lawsuit today against a member of the Secret Service for causing him to be arrested after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek this summer and criticized him for his policies concerning Iraq.

Attorney David Lane said that on June 16, Steve Howards was walking his 7-year-old son to a piano practice, when he saw Cheney surrounded by a group of people in an outdoor mall area, shaking hands and posing for pictures with several people.

According to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Denver, Howards and his son walked to about two-to-three feet from where Cheney was standing, and said to the vice president, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," or words to that effect, then walked on.

Ten minutes later, according to Howards' lawsuit, he and his son were walking back through the same area, when they were approached by Secret Service agent Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr., who asked Howards if he had "assaulted" the vice president. Howards denied doing so, but was nonetheless placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County Jail.

Are we criminalizing speech now? A private citizen says 8 words to the vice president and can be arrested for ASSAULTING him?

This finally hit The New York Times yesterday, so maybe it's seeping into the mainstream after primarily being a local story in Colorado. I think it's noteworthy for people to understand the executive branch's vision of "freedom" as it relates to dissent.


24 Commas Dead In Iraq

While the President cals the violence in Iraq "just a comma", 24 American families just received the worst call a parent can get:

Thirteen U.S. soldiers have been killed in Baghdad since Monday, the American military reported, registering the highest three-day death toll for U.S. forces in the capital since the start of the war.

The latest losses -- four soldiers who were killed at 9 a.m. Wednesday by small-arms fire -- are part of a recent spike in violent attacks against U.S. forces that have claimed the lives of at least 24 soldiers and Marines in Iraq since Saturday, the military said.

Our troops are getting chewed up in the meat griner that is Baghdad, where it's gotten so bad that an entire police brigade had to be removed because they were working with Shiite death squads. Indeed, only 24 dead Iraqis would usher in a new era of peace in Baghdad; at least 60 died yesterday alone. But 24 dead American soldiers is absolutely tragic.

The thing is, the President had to have known that, when he sent additional troops right into Baghdad where the violence is at its peak, that he was putting American lives at major risk. That he would pick the same time to dismiss the entire conflict as "just a comma," right when casualty counts would certainly go up, displays a callousness that is almost unimaginable. This cloistered President who's never had a moment's suffering sends American boys and girls to their death while claiming their work is merely a prelude to the glory of the coming of the Great Iraqi Awakening. What a sick man.

Colin Powell, who ought to be hiding out somewhere in a bunker in Kansas out of shame for his role in initiating this mess, nevertheless says what everyone but the commander-in-chief seems to know:

“Only the Iraqi people can resolve this,” Powell said.

U.S. troops have to stay in Iraq for “some time,” he said. “But there is a limit to the patience of the American people.”

…In Iraq, “staying the course isn’t good enough because a course has to have an end,” Powell said.

But the comma gets longer and more tragic for Americans and Iraqis, a comma that has so far lasted 3 1/2 years, cost nearly half a trillion dollars, killed or wounded up to 100,000 human beings, and shows no sign of moving into the next dependent clause.

It's time for new leadership.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Worst October Surprise EVER

So, Republicans are trying desperately to fight fire with fire by finding some sort of equivalent, no matter how shaky, to the Mark Foley scandal, only on the left.

This one, linked to by the Grand Poobah himself, Instapundit, takes the cake.

Democrat congressional candidate Mike Arcuri, while serving as district attorney of Oneida County, N.Y., has billed taxpayers for several questionable expenses, including a call to a phone-sex hotline, according to records obtained by [...]

A close examination of those expense reports reveals that Arcuri billed taxpayers in 2004 for a call to a phone-sex number. (Audio is available here. Some may be offended by its contents.) The phone number appears on Arcuri’s hotel bill. He was attending the New York State District Attorneys Association conference in New York City at the time.

Sounds juicy! A Democrat calling phone sex lines! And then charging the taxpayers for it to boot! This is going to blow the whole Foleygate thing out of the water! The Republicans will rise ag... hm? What's this now?

(This afternoon, after this story was posted, I was informed that the number in question, 800-457-8462, was accidentally dialed instead of 518-457-8462. The latter number is for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.)

So the big "gotcha" moment, the big Democratic sex scandal of the 2006 election, concerns a WRONG NUMBER. The lurid "audio" that they link to is of the greeting to the phone sex line which Arcuri ACCIDENTALLY CALLED IN THE MIDST OF DOING HIS JOB.

Watch Robert B. Bluey (no shit, his name is Bluey) try to salvage this one by spin-spinning away:

(However, this new information raises questions about why Arcuri dialed his calling card, 800-255-2255, just one minute after hanging up on the phone sex hotline, as his hotel bill indicates. The campaign has still not returned my calls seeking an explanation.)

He dialed his calling card AFTER! That calling card call could have been to ANYONE! Arcuri DEMANDS an explanation about why he would use his calling card after dialing a wrong number!

As October Surprises go, this one ranks just below the Great Pumpkin not showing up at Linus' favorite pumpkin patch again. Amazingly enough, Human Events did not have the shame to simply take down the story once its most explosive element was revealed to be a wrong number. But then, what Republicans have the capability for shame?

There also is some ugliness regarding the Wingnutosphere's reaction to the Foley case, according to David Neiwert, with various bloggers revealing the names of the kids involved (which would be in violation of the law if there were an indictment at this point):

In their desperation push back on the Predatorgate Scandal, conservatives are now even publishing the identities of some of the pages involved; the ever-execrable Drudge Report and Little Green Footballs have been leading the charge, but of course there has been a whole phalanx of little pilers-on.

It's all part of a "blame the victims" routine (currently favored by Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage), as if that might actually convince anyone beyond the Kool-Aid addicts who lap up their every syllable. Problem is, this kind of behavior actually just further exposes their morality for the fetid cloaca it is [...]

If I recall correctly, "red-blooded American men" were often described as comprising lynch mobs during their heyday. You've got to wonder if we're creating a whole new generation of them.

The Internet certainly does create a mob mentality on both sides. But there's no excuse for outing the name of a young person who did not ask for anyone to harrass them and hit on them. And by the way, it looks increasingly like the initial source to the news media of the Foley emails was not a Democratic operative, or even Mike Rogers of BlogActive, but a longtime Republican congressional staffer. So take it out on him, not the kids.


Joe Lieberman Needs To Be Defeated

The man who went to the well of the Senate and fretted about the moral standing of the country in 1998 now thinks calls for Dennis Hastert to resign are too partisan. This comes on the same day that Congressional staffers allege that Hastert knew about Mark Foley's predatory tendencies for at least two years.

Ned Lamont is 100% right.

“Joe Lieberman just can’t bring himself to hold anyone in Washington accountable, even when the safety of our children is at stake. If Dennis Hastert knew that Mark Foley was harassing minors and didn’t do anything about it, he should resign immediately. Anyone who disagrees is morally tone deaf. The fact that Joe Lieberman says calling for Hastert’s resignation is too “partisan” demonstrates that he’s been in Washington so long that he can’t recognize the difference between what’s right and what’s partisan.

We expect Senator Lieberman to stand by President Bush on the war and other failed policies, but until now we didn’t expect him to protect a public leader who put the safety of our children at risk. Connecticut deserves better than someone who puts a twisted definition of “bipartisanship” ahead of what’s right for this country. It’s time for a change.”

Bam. Damn right.

Between this and Lieberman intimating that he'll caucus with Republicans if he doesn't keep his seniority, essentially holding the Democratic leadership for ransom, it's beyond imperative that he is defeated. The speculation that he'll bolt is out there and growing, and despite his pledges to the contrary, I could totally see him swayed if it means control of the chamber flips back to the Republicans as a result. Republicans are bankrolling his campaign. They're his most loyal supporters in polls. They're running his ground operations. The guy doesn't respect the decades-old primary process and has contempt for Democratic voters.

Ned Lamont should continue to hit hard over Moral Joe's moral equivocating. Connecticut voters ought to understand that their senator uses "values" as a political prop. He has none.

Not to mention his support for a failed war, selling out to corporate interests, wanting to intervene in the Schiavo case, etc., etc.


Quick Hits, 2006 Election Edition

Here's a roundup of some interesting (to me) campaign stories:

• The Foley Effect is most deeply felt in PA-10, a red district where the Democrat, Naval Reserve Officer Chris Carney, is already leading the incumbent, accused mistress-strangler (not making that up) Don Sherwood. It appears Sherwood is so jittery about the whole "moral values" collapse that he felt he had to publicly acknowledge his extra-marital affair in a campaign ad. I personally don't think it matters that Sherwood had an affair, though assault and battery is probably not a value you'd want in your Representative. And Chris Carney is a solid candidate with a great bio and good ideas.

• The happiest Republican in the post-Foley universe has to be George Allen, whose campaign just got the national spotlight off their back after continuing allegations had dogged him. Interestingly, and like Sherwood, Allen also gave a version of the Checkers speech the other day, buying airtime on every major network in Virginia for a two-minute speech acknowledging mistakes and seeking to move forward. I watched it, and though his wife is more robotic than Laura Bush I imagine it was pretty effective in a "raising the level of debate" kind of way. Jim Webb is going to need to use the decent sums of money he's raising., which I watched religiously in 2004, is back. They predict a 50-50 Senate right now, and a 217-217 tie in the House. That's got to be some sort of record, but I think the momentum has shifted more than they'd like to admit.

Good article from Congressional
Quarterly on the state of the CA-11 race between Richard Pombo and Jerry McNerney. The NRCC has ALREADY spent a half a million dollars on this supposedly "safe" race. They're quaking in their boots.


CA-GOV: It's All Politics

Via Calitics, seems like the Governor pulled the old bait-and-switch, telling Democratic leaders that he would appear at nonpartisan events to push the bond issues, and then announcing it through his re-election campaign.

What's sadder is that Nunez and Perata would have thought these events could ever be nonpartisan to begin with. We're dealing with a governor whose every move is political. From his tilting to the center, then right, then left; to digging up a San Jose street at taxpayer expense so he could fill it up again for a photo-op; to using taxpayer money through the state Homeland Security department to spy on liberal groups; to flip-flopping on practically every campaign promise he's ever made, the Governor doesn't know how to govern so much as a knows how to STAGE.

I'd like a governor who displays concern for actual Californians instead of concern for the best angle for the TV crews and how to make himself look moderate.


Pack Your Bags

Dennis Hastert. And the rest of the GOP House leadership, while you're at it.

Top of right now: "Kirk Fordham, a former aide to ex-Rep. Mark Foley, said he alerted the office of the Republican leader of the House of Representatives two years ago about worrisome conduct by Foley with teenage pages, AP reports."

Link to the AP story

A senior congressional aide said Wednesday that he alerted House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in 2004 about worrisome conduct by former Rep. Mark Foley with teenage pages - the earliest known alert to the GOP leadership.

Kirk Fordham told The Associated Press that when he was told about Foley's inappropriate behavior toward pages, he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene."

The conversations took place long before the e-mail scandal broke, Fordham said, and at least a year earlier than members of the House GOP leadership have acknowledged.

Guess Mr. Fordham did not want to go gently into that good night. He's taking the whole leadership down with him.


School Shootings

If you watch cable news regularly, you know there's been a rash of school shootings recently. There's also been a rash of soldiers dying in Iraq recently, but if you watch cable news you wouldn't know that.

All deaths are tragic, and these are particularly troubling to me. My mother teaches elementary school, and her principal just announced that she would be equipping all teachers with walkie-talkies in case of emergency. This is not standard in the school budget, but comes out of that principal's discretionary fund.

That safety for teachers and students is not part of the normal budgeting process should alarm people. And so should the fact that over the last 6 years, in a post-Columbine world, the Bush Administration has consistently reduced funding for school violence-prevention programs. This is just bad budget priority, and while I don't consider school shootings to be epidemic, it would not take that much money to secure classrooms nationwide. But God forbid we take one dime away from missile defense or the failed war in Iraq or the $20 million dollar victory party.

Domestic spending on earmarks and boondoggles for the districts of troubled incumbents, and in corporate giveaways to pharmaceutical and energy companies, has ballooned dramatically, while domestic spending where it's needed and where it can be effective is eliminated. I'm willing to have a real discussion on how best to manage our government spending when the insanity of the federal budget is stopped. We have lost control of this government with respect to how it lards money on its pals and corporate contributors rather than where the needs are most dire. It should shock everyone. The Democrats actually have a plan to incorporate "pay-as-you-go" controls to budget spending, to refocus our investment where it's needed most crucially, and to take back the government from these insidious lobbyists. I don't think they go far enough, and should they take power I'll be extremely critical of any effort to dole out cash in the same way. But fiscal conservatives have a far better chance throwing in their lot with the Party that's only half in the tank to Big Business rather than fully so.


Just go to YouTube

And put in Cliff Schecter. You'll be glad you did.

Democratic pundits are starting to understand, about 10 years after the fact, the rules of the talking head game. Unfortunately, you have to be loud, you have to interrupt, and you have to say the most outrageous things you can think of. If you can back them up it's a plus (and actually, Schecter can).

I would hate to be a pundit on these shows. It's soul-crushing.

But you aren't likely to change that system anytime soon. So you might as well kick some ass within it.


Foley Follies

Kirk Fordham becomes the latest to fall in the Mark Foley scandal. Fordham is Tom Reynolds' (head of the NRCC) chief of staff, a former aide to Foley and the guy who tried to bribe ABC into holding back the most explicit IMs in exchange for an exclusive interview with the disgraced Congressman. That's kind of a crime, no?

Also, Brian Ross puts to rest the "I question the timing" arguments from the most rabid GOP defenders.

[ABC correspondent Brian] Ross dismissed suggestions by some Republicans that the news was disseminated as part of a smear campaign against Mr. Foley.

“I hate to give up sources, but to the extent that I know the political parties of any of the people who helped us, it would be the same party,” Mr. Ross said, referring to Republicans.

CREW, as Aravosis notes, gave the emails to the FBI the day they got them. So they've been in investigators' hands since at least July.

This won't stop the Limbaughs of the world from speculating, because dishonesty has never stopped them before.

And I keep forgetting to bring your attention to this smackdown by Cliff Schechter.

The defenders of Mark Foley and the GOP just look like fools at this point.


John Yoo Is A Fuckwad (Personal Opinion)

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." -- Wendell Phillips, (1811-1884), abolitionist, orator and columnist for The Liberator, in a speech before the Massachusetts Antislavery Society in 1852, according to The Dictionary of Quotations edited by Bergen Evans.

"Habeas corpus petitions cost too much." John Yoo, torture lawyer, on NPR's Morning Edition today.

This is actually the argument John Yoo gave for limiting the habeas corpus rights of detainees. There are literally hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of petitions, they'd clog up the courts, and that costs an awful lot of money. This is thought of as a serious argument by so-called "Constitutional scholars" of the Federalist Society variety.

You need to go listen to this garbage. Steve Inskeep actually does a decent job of very calmly taking the long view of what Yoo is saying. First Yoo tries to make these Combatant Status Review Tribunals sound like very civilized events, where detainees can challenge their incaraceration, but Inskeep simply points out that detainees don't get a lawyer for them, they can't see "classified" evidence leading to their detention, and in fact the transcripts we have of these tribunals show them to be nothing more than perfunctory show trials. Think Kafka.

So after that goes nowhere, Yoo actually circles around to his final argument, admitting that the process for denying habeas does virtually guarantee that innocent people will be detained indefinitely, but that war is untidy and if we had to go through the messy process of actually granting all these habeas petitions to prisoners at Guantanamo, well... it would just be too costly.

There's no perfect system. I agree, Steve, that there's always the chance that there will be people who are detained who are not enemy combatants. The same is true of our criminal justice system... that's why we have all these processes, that's why we have all these appeal levels, is to try and correct any mistakes that were made and fix errors. (processes in the criminal justice system, not the military commission system. Nice bit of attempted conflation there -ed.)

Inskeep: You said "always a chance." Isn't it a certainty, especially given that some cases have already been found to be, almost indisputably, cases of people who were innocent, being held at Guantanamo for a long time and held elsewhere?

Yoo: I would say yes, in wartime, there's always people who are going to be picked up...

Inskeep: Do you, as a lawyer, who's worked for the Bush Administration and obviously thought about these issues, think that this law does everything possible to prevent error?

Yoo: I think we could probably do a lot more, but it'd be a lot more expensive. I think what we have here is something close to the civilian sytem.

Inskeep: (shaking his head until his eyes bugged out, I'm assuming) Are you saying it would be too expensive to give habeas corpus protection to non-citizens?

Yoo: Yeah, I think that's what Congress decided when they passed this law last week (see, it's CONGRESS arguing this, not me! -ed.) is that, you could have the possibility of hundreds and hundreds of habeas corpus proceedings, and they do impose a cost. They impose a cost on our judicial system, they impose a cost on our government and our military. Think about it, you'd have to pull witnesses in from abroad. You have the cost of potentially releasing classified information. All of this process does have a cost on our system, it's not free.

Yeah, freedom isn't free, you jerk.

So the only argument that the guy who pretty much invented the idea of inherent supreme executive power enshrined in the Constitution could come up with to strip unlawful combatants of habeas corpus protections, not just non-citizens Mr. Inskeep but ANYONE so named by the Department of Defense, is that it'd be just such a burden to get a plane ticket for a witness to come over from Afghanistan, and think about the special meals requirements for that witness if they're a vegetarian, and you probably have to put them up in a hotel, and who's going to set THAT up, who could get on to get a decent rate, and... yes, it's just too much money to, you know, DO THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNMENT.

This from a lawyer for the Administration that wanted to spend $20 million on a party celebrating "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is the most dishonest, craven, contentless, most insulting argument I've heard yet for removing Magna Carta-era protections for suspects. "It's just too much money."

Is this guy still allowed to teach at colleges?


CA-04: Brown shows the Democrats how it's done

Charlie Brown is demanding that Rep. John Doolittle, who's too cowardly to even face him in a televised debate, to return a campaign donation from Mark Foley's Political Action Committee.

Now the donation is a mere $1,000. I think Abramoff would tip Doolittle that for walking him to his car. But the point is that Brown is campaigning with the aggressive, take-no-prisoners, seize-every-opportunity streak we've come to expect from Republicans. From his multitude of creative websites to his non-stop attacks on Doolittle's involvement with the CNMI, Brown is attacking hard but also putting the entire thing into an easy-to-read narrative. From his email to supporters:

"This is an absolute moral outrage," said Brown. "Any Member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, who had knowledge of Congressman Foley's illicit behavior and took no action should resign. There is no excuse for putting political considerations before protecting children," Brown said. He called for an independent, non-partisan investigation into the issue.

"This Congress is losing the moral authority to lead – every day the news is about corruption, bribery, campaign-finance scandals and cover ups," Brown continued. "This is not about left versus right, it's about right versus wrong. It's long past time for a change."

I can't help but be impressed with Brown's skills as a campaigner and a candidate. His rapid response team is ridiculously good. He's skilled at grabbing free media attention by attacking his opponent's weak points and not letting go.

There is no way Charlie Brown should have a shot in CA-04. It's redder than red. But contesting everywhere has a great benefit, by freeing up the Democrat in question to absolutely go for broke.

I don't make predictions often, but I really think that Charlie Brown will be the next Congressman from California's 4th District.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quick Hits, Nothing To Do With Mark Foley Edition

There are other things under the sun...

• Like tons of polls out there, virtually all showing good news for Democrats. All four of the top-tier races have Democrats ahead. We're ahead in Tennessee. About tied in Missouri and Virginia. Win all 7 and we're in control of the Senate with a Lieberman buffer. And Lamont's within 5-6 points there.

• By the way, Bush is polling back in the 30s as the 9/11 anniversary fades into the distance and the "Democrats want to kill you and your children in their beds" line of BS starts to tire. Does anyone really still want to be seen with him?

• Close to home, the head of the College Republicans at my old stomping grounds in Ann Arbor is caught completely making shit up, claiming that he was beaten up at a party by "homosexual rights groups" (because they're so fierce and aggro) when actually he got drunk, picked a fight with a friend, and blacked out.

•This ad rules:

I'm heartened by the outside-the-box campaign ads employed by Democrats this year. They are finally understanding that politics these days is entertainment too.

• This happened last week: Keith Olbermann received a fake anthrax letter from some crank, and the New York Post made fun of him for it. Not only is it an act of domestic terrorism (even to fake it), not only did it kill people in 2001-2002, but the New York Post ITSELF received anthrax letters back in the day. Classless. It goes without saying that the Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, right?

• I remember those Clinton depression years, don't you? Rick Santorum does.

SANTORUM: You probably remember well when Bill Clinton and the Democrats passed the largest single tax increase in our nation's history in 1993, $293 billion. That sent our nation into an economic slump.

"Economic slump" should read "largest peacetime economic expansion in American history." Must be a typo.

• Oh yeah, all that "bin Laden is dead" talk a week ago? Never mind, as Emily Litella would say.

• Here's the party of fiscal responsibility for you, shoveling pork to the most endangered districts in an attempt to bribe voters. This happens every year with every Congress, Democratic or Republican to be honest, and it's one of the things that infuriates me about the way government is run. There's not only corporate welfare but incumbent welfare, and something must be done about it. I support the Porkbusters bill for increased transparency in earmarking, although that represents only a tiny bit of the vast sums of money given away by the federal government each year. I believe in stronger, better, leaner government.

• And finally, speaking of a waste of money, there was $20 million dollars in the 2006 federal budget for "a celebration in the nation’s capital 'for commemoration of success' in Iraq and Afghanistan." 20 mil? That was going to be some HUGE Mission Accomplished banner. Oh by the way, STILL in the budget, it got rolled over into 2007. Just save time and roll it into 2036.


False Equivalence

Once and for all, I feel compelled to put a stop to this pathetic cover for a guy who's been preying on House pages for over a decade (since 1995, it now comes out).

The cover goes that "Uhh, the Democrats did it too! Gary Studds did it! (That was 25 years ago and consensual) Barney Frank ran an prostitution ring out of his house! (No he didn't) Clinton Clinton Clinton! (consensual)"

The point, even if these allegations were true, is supposed to be what? That two wrongs make a right?

Well, fine then. You want to play that way? Here are literally hundreds of Republican wrongs.

Republican County Constable Larry Dale Floyd was arrested on suspicion of soliciting sex with an 8-year old girl. Floyd has repeatedly won elections for Denton County, Texas, constable. Defense contractor, Mitchell Wade, admitted that he paid California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (republican) more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for millions more in government contracts. Legislative aide Howard L. Brooks was charged with molesting a 12-year old boy and possession of child pornography. Look! It was his own son. Republican activist and Christian Coalition leader Beverly Russell admitted to an incestuous relationship with his step daughter. Prai$e the lord! Republican activist John Butler was charged with criminal sexual assault on a teenage girl. Republican activist Lawrence E. King, Jr. organized child sex parties at the White House during the 1980s. Republican activist Mark A. Grethen convicted on six counts of sex crimes involving children. Republican activist Marty Glickman (a.k.a. "Republican Marty"), was taken into custody by Florida police on four counts of unlawful sexual activity with an underage girl and one count of delivering the drug LSD. He was obviously trying to help this woman! Republican activist Matthew Glavin, who preached family values, was caught masturbating in public and fondling an undercover park ranger Republican activist Parker J. Bena pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography on his home computer and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and fined $18,000. Republican activist Randal David Ankeney pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault on a child. Look, he didn't actually do anything. He only TRIED! You can't fault a republican for trying! Republican advertising consultant Carey Lee Cramer was charged with molesting his 9-year old step-daughter after including her in an anti-Gore television commercial. Republican anti-abortion activist Howard Scott Heldreth is a convicted child rapist in Florida. Republican anti-abortion activist John Allen Burt was charged with sexual misconduct involving a 15-year old girl. Republican anti-abortion activist Nicholas Morency pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography on his computer and offering a bounty to anybody who murders an abortion doctor. - That's the culture of life we all know and love! Republican anti-gay activist Earl "Butch" Kimmerling was sentenced to 40 years in prison for molesting an 8-year old girl after he attempted to stop a gay couple from adopting her. Liberal jury of course. Republican benefactor of conservative Christian groups, Richard A. Dasen Sr., was charged with rape for allegedly paying a 15-year old girl for sex. Dasen, 62, who is married with grown children and several grandchildren, has allegedly told police that over the past decade he paid more than $1 million to have sex with a large number of young women. Republican businessman Jon Grunseth withdrew his candidacy for Minnesota governor after allegations surfaced that he went swimming in the nude with four underage girls, including his daughter. Republican campaign consultant Tom Shortridge sentenced to 3 years probation for taking nude photographs of a 15-year old girl. I'm sure he had a good explanation. Republican campaign worker Mark Seidensticker is a convicted child molester. Republican candidate Richard Gardner admitted to molesting his two daughters. Republican City Councilman Fred C. Smeltzer, Jr. pleaded no contest to raping a 15 year-old girl and served 6-months in prison. Republican city councilman Mark Harris, who is described as a "good military man" and "church goer," was convicted of repeatedly having sex with an 11-year-old girl and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Republican Committee Chairman Jeffrey Patti was arrested for distributing a video clip of a 5-year-old girl being raped. Obviously a liberal conspiracy! Republican Committeeman John R. Curtain was charged with molesting a teenage boy and unlawful sexual contact with a minor. Republican congressman and anti-gay activist Robert Bauman was charged with having sex with a 16-year-old boy he picked up at a gay bar. Now I'm sure he can give us a good explanation for this. Republican Congressman Bob Livingston was about to vote for impeaching President Clinton for sexual improprieties until it was disclosed he was an adulterer Republican Congressman Dan Crane had sex with a female minor working as a congressional page. Republican Congressman Donald "Buz" Lukens was found guilty of having sex with a female minor and sentenced to one month in jail. Republican Congressman Edward Schrock resigned from Congress after he was caught searching for sex on a gay telephone service Republican Congressman Henry Hyde denounced President Clinton's extramarital affair, but was later found to be an adulterer himself Republican Councilman and former Marine Jack W. Gardner was convicted of molesting a 13-year old girl. No comment. Republican County Commissioner David Swartz pleaded guilty to molesting two girls under the age of 11 and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Republican County Commissioner Merrill Robert Barter pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact and assault on a teenage boy. Republican County Councilman Keola Childs pleaded guilty to molesting a male child. He pleaded guilty only to keep his family out of the liberal media's spotlight. Republican Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the rape of children in Iraqi prisons in order to humiliate their parents into providing information about the anti-American insurgency. Republican director of the "Young Republican Federation" Nicholas Elizondo molested his 6-year old daughter and was sentenced to six years in prison. Republican election board official Kevin Coan was sentenced to two years probation for soliciting sex over the internet from a 14-year old girl. Republican fundraiser Richard A. Delgaudio was found guilty of child porn charges and paying two teenage girls to pose for sexual photos. Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger allegedly had sex with a 16 year old girl when he was 28. I love this country! Republican judge Mark Pazuhanich pleaded no contest to fondling a 10-year old girl and was sentenced to 10 years probation. Of course it's no contest! How could he even get a fair fight against those activist judges! Republican Judge Ronald C. Kline was placed under house arrest for child molestation and possession of child pornography. Republican legislative aide Howard L. Brooks, an advisor to a California assemblyman, was charged with molesting a 12-year old boy and possession of child pornography. Republican legislator Edison Misla Aldarondo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping his daughter between the ages of 9 and 17. Republican legislator Peter Dibble pleaded no contest to having an inappropriate relationship with a 13-year-old girl. Republican legislator, Richard Gardner, a Nevada state representative, admitted to molesting his two daughters. Republican lobbyist Craig J. Spence organized child sex parties at the White House during the 1980s. Republican Mayor Jim West Republican voter Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City championed an anti-gay agenda, but was later found to be gay himself Republican Mayor John Gosek, 58, of 275 West 7th Street, Oswego, was arrested for the federal offense of "using a facility in inte-state commerce (a telephone) to knowingly attempt to persuade, induce, entice, and coerce an individual under the age of 18 years to engage in sexual activity for which he could be charged with criminal offenses, that is, rape in the third degree and criminal sexual act in the third degree" in violation of the New York State Penal Code. Republican Mayor Philip Giordano is serving a 37-year sentence in federal prison for sexually abusing 8- and 10-year old girl. Republican parole board officer and former Colorado state representative, Larry Jack Schwarz, was fired after child pornography was found in his possession. Republican Party Chairman Sam Walls, who is married, was urged to drop his candidacy for Congress when it was found he likes to dress up in women's clothing Republican Party leader Bobby Stumbo was arrested for having sex with a 5-year old boy. Republican Party leader Paul Ingram of Thurston County, Washington, pleaded guilty to six counts of raping his daughters and served 14 years in federal prison. Republican pastor Mike Hintz, whom George W. Bush commended during the 2004 presidential campaign, surrendered to police after admitting to sexual relations with a juvenile. Praise George! Republican politician Andrew Buhr, former committeeman for Hadley Township Missouri, was charged with two counts of first degree sodomy with a 13-year old boy. Republican politician Keith Westmoreland, a Tennessee state representative, was arrested on seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious exhibition to minors under 16 (i.e. exposing himself to children). Republican preacher Jimmy Swaggart preached fidelity, but cheated on his wife with a prostitute Republican preacher Stephen White, who demanded a return to traditional values, was sentenced to jail after offering $20 to a 14-year-old boy for permission to perform oral sex on him. Republican president of the New York City Housing Development Corp. Russell Harding pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography on his computer. Republican racist pedophile and United States Senator Strom Thurmond had sex with a 15-year old black girl which produced a child. Republican Senate candidate John Hathaway was accused of having sex with his 12-year old baby sitter and withdrew his candidacy after the allegations were reported in the media. Republican serial killer Ted Bundy was hired by the Republican Party Republican St. Louis Election Board official Kevin Coan was arrested and charged with trying to buy sex from a 14-year-old girl whom he met on the Internet. Republican strategist and Citadel Military College graduate Robin Vanderwall was convicted in Virginia on five counts of soliciting sex from boys and girls over the internet. Republican talk show host Jon Matthews of Houston was indicted for indecency with a child, including exposing his genitals to a girl under the age of 17. Republican teacher and former city councilman John Collins pleaded guilty to sexually molesting 13 and 14 year old girls. Republican zoning supervisor, Boy Scout leader and Lutheran church president Dennis L. Rader pleaded guilty to performing a sexual act on an 11-year old girl he murdered.

Now let's get back to talking about Mark Foley, not random Democrats from 20 years ago.

UPDATE: Foley plays the victim, says he was molested by clergy. I feel sorry for him but that is not the issue at hand. The issue is your actions, not your consequences. Where oh where are the "personal responsibility" Republicans when you need them?