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

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The GOP Stonewall Brigade

Republicans in the Senate blocked debate yet again on the anti-escalation resolution. Last time there were 2 Republican defectors. This time it went up to 7. Next time there will be more, especially after they hear from their constituents at home during recess this week. John McCain didn't show up, incidentally. He had other priorities, like telling people to stop having sex before marriage. He's the very epitome of courage, he is.

The Republicans own this war now, as much as George Bush does. Not one Democrat in the Senate voted against debate, and only 2 Dems in the House voted for the escalation. That's 2 out of 280.

This "surge" is doomed, by the way, just like the other four surges of similar size have been. Iraqis aren't even stepping up with their full complement of troops in Baghdad, and it's clearly forced the US to request more troops of their own. We're playing Whack-A-Mole in Baghdad anyway, and the militias and insurgents who are laying low there will only rise elsewhere. Meanwhile we're flushing money down the toilet, tens of billions of which can literally not be accounted for. It may be inconvenient to say that we're "wasting" lives and treasure, but it's the truth.

Put together another vote next week, Sen. Reid. And keep doing it again and again until we stop this insane war. Republicans seal their fate with each obstructionist vote.

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Your Liberal Media

There were 3 stories on the House debate in the LA Times today, two SPECIFICALLY about the debate itself (here and here) and what various Congressmen said. Don Young's bogus Abraham Lincoln pro-hanging quote didn't rate a mention.

Yet Amanda Marcotte said mean angry things on the Internets and that gets splashed across the front page.

The other Times article even had this passage.

During the House debate, 392 of the chamber's 434 current members spoke. Many of the lawmakers sprinkled their speeches with quotations from President Lincoln, Napoleon and other historic figures.

...without saying that the Lincoln quote was bogus and the utterer of that quote called for the hanging of 246 members of Congress.

Pathetic. I'll be sending a letter.

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The Wit And Wisdom

As the campaign for 2008 kicks into high gear almost two years before the election, I want to offer some examples of why. The truth is that this nation can't have the current Presidency end fast enough, so we aren't any longer graced with statements like this:

George W. Bush, answering a question from ABC's Martha Raddatz about whether there's a civil war in Iraq: "It's hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you a firsthand assessment. I haven't been there. You have. I haven't."

So the President, who actually has been to Iraq as recently as last June, and who never tires of telling his critics that he receives more intelligence about what's going on in Iraq than they do, decides to sidestep the question by claiming that the nice curtains in his house prevent him from understanding the ramifications of his own foreign policy. This from someone who is careful not to portray himself as out of touch with reality, basically admitting that he's out of touch with reality.

But then this statement blew me away, not so much for the statement itself but the rationale underpinning it:

During an interview conducted at the White House Library, Bush opined that it was "good not to have a vice president running for president." One reason cited by Bush for his relief was that he didn't have to deal with a candidate who might want to "distance himself" from presidential decisions on issues such as the war in Iraq [...]

"From my perspective, it is good not to have a vice president running for president," Bush continued. "Can you imagine somebody -- a vice president out there running and all of a sudden saying, 'Well, I wouldn't have done it exactly that way' or 'When things got difficult like they are in Iraq, I told the president that he should have done it this way.'"

For King George, it's good not to have a Vice President who would deviate in the slightest from his Dear Leader. That would hurt the morale of... the troops. Or embolden the enemy. Or something. Because the last thing we ever need in the United States is debate and discussion.

I don't think we've ever had a President as profoundly anti-American as this. Not anti-American in the sense of burning effigies, but in the sense of being completely antithetical to American ideals and values and principles. He has no idea what it means to be an American, and indeed no interest in it.



Friday, February 16, 2007

Republicans Driving Blissfully Into Oblivion

Kevin Drum wonders about something:

Earlier this week Wayne Gilchrist (R-Md) predicted that 30 to 60 Republicans would vote for the nonbinding House resolution opposing the surge. The final vote was held today and the resolution passed 246-182. Only 17 Republicans voted in favor.

So what happened? Is Gilchrist just a lousy vote counter? Did a bunch of Republicans chicken out? Did the GOP leadership apply some unusually effective arm twisting?

Actually I'm not wondering about this at all. Of course they chickened out. They're tied to George Bush and he's a magic anchor headed straight for the earth's mantle.

They have idiots like Frank Gaffney on their side who'll call for their hanging if they vote the way in which their constituents want them. Gaffney would accuse these Republicans of treason as easily as he accuses Glenn Greenwald of it in the above-linked interview (it's a beaut, go listen). The nuts in the insaneosphere all signed a pledge that they wouldn't give one dime to any candidate who didn't further their mission of perpetual war, and threatened to cut off the Republican campaign committees in the House and Senate if they helped any of those treasonous members.

This mindset didn't come out of the ether. It's an internalized neocon concept that the Republicans have swallowed, whether in government or out, and they can't very well turn away now. Their crazy base is completely in thrall to empire and in fear of the other, and the representative apples don't fall far from the tree. Even in the world's most deliberative body, Sen. Reid is acknowledging that his copycat measure has no chance getting the few votes it needs from Republicans to get to the floor. But he's doing the absolute right thing by bringing it up for vote:

Of course, Dem leaders may be calculating that there's an upside in losing tomorrow -- because it gives them more ammo to paint Republicans as too fearful to debate escalation in the Senate.

As one source close to Reid puts it, "After these guys cast the vote, they're gonna have to go back to their home states and justify their votes. It's a politically perilous place for them to be. They're saying the Senate shouldn't even have this debate. I think that's an untenable position."

The fact is that the Republicans are trapped. After years of hyping up an existential threat, after lying the country into Iraq and now trying to do the same with Iran, they simply can't reverse course. So with every vote they throw their big arms in a bear hug around a historically unpopular President, and in so doing destroy the Republican brand for decades:

According to the latest Gallup survey, Republican self-identification has declined nationally and in almost every American state. Why? The short answer is that President Bush's war of choice in Iraq has destroyed the partisan brand Republicans spent the past four decades building.

That brand was based upon four pillars: that Republicans are more trustworthy on defense and military issues; that they know when and where markets can replace or improve government; that they are more competent administrators of those functions government can't privatize; and, finally, that their public philosophy is imbued with moral authority. The war demolished all four claims.

Schaller's article is great on the specifics. Clearly Iraq has proven the Republicans to be insane on foreign policy, dead-set to privatize everything for the gain of a few greedy oligarchs, incompetent at every level of governance, and immoral beyond compare. When you finally pin down one of these extremists on these issues, they reveal themselves to know that they've lost the country:

On several occasions, he lost control of himself, even using profanities. Aside from the entertainment value that provides, it illustrates an important point. Gaffney is a professional right-wing extremist. He has been in the Reagan administration, on every television and radio show for years, and is very well-funded by numerous neoconservative funding sources. The fact that he became so shrill and defensive and even frightened reveals that neocons know that America is turning against them and beginning to realize the destruction they have wrought and the culpability they possess for what they have done to our country.

That is why they are so eager to equate criticism of them with treason and to stifle debate. They have not only lost the debate over Iraq and general Middle East militarism, but their continuous extremism and deceit is being exposed, and they fear being held accountable. It is only natural that they want to render criticism of their war and their conduct impermissible.

The elected leaders of the GOP either: 1) are either stupid enough (or scared enough) to agree that endless militarism and privatization and the crushing of dissent is an effective way to run a nation, or 2) know that nobody agrees with this, but can't shake the monster of a base they've created which demands that they remain avowedly with them. Therefore, they will remain attached at the hip to a hated President and a failed ideology for the near future. They have absolutely no choice.

Vote your conscience in the 2008 primary, cats and kitties, vote your conscience. Because the Republican brand is crashing on the rocks.

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Killer Crossover

Tim Hardaway made some jackass comments about gay people on a radio show (namely "I hate gay people. Let it be known, I don't like gay people."), and David Stern responded by booting him out of any All-Star Game festivities.

Setting up the Ridiculous Apology of the Year (h/t jB):

“Yes, I regret it. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said I hate gay people or anything like that,” the former NBA star told a Miami television station. “That was my mistake.

I'm sorry I said it. Out loud. Not sorry for what I said, just sorry I let you in on it. Otherwise I'd be partying in Vegas this weekend. Please accept my apology!

Actually that one's better than this other apology, where he tries to blame his homophobia on George Bush:

"There are more important things to worry about than my comments. We should be more concerned about President (George) Bush and all the people dying in Iraq."

Classic "look over here!" strategy. He tried to find the one guy in America with lower approval ratings than his.

By the way, nobody should worry about my sincere belief in the swift beheading of all Cambodians, because global warming is real.

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Bump In The Road

Whoops. Arnold won't support the term limits measure unless redistricting is also on the initiative menu for Feb. 2008. And Perata doesn't want to mess with the Congressional districts. So either it's all going down in flames or we'll have an old-fashioned partisan Governor v. Legislature war.

Would I HAVE to pick sides?

...adding, Arnold is being perfectly consistent here. He always said term limits would be the carrot to get redistricting done. For my part, I don't think anyone understands the degree to which Californians (actually all Americans) gerrymander THEMSELVES. Regional redistricting has been going on at the individual level for a while now. Exactly how are you going to make a balanced district, say, in Santa Monica? You'd have to reverse-gerrymander to get it.

The only way that districts change is demographically, as more and more people from the coastal cities move to the inland areas, for example. That's what we saw in CA-11; the partisan number there lowered enough to make McNerney viable. And if Democrats would stop worrying about how hard it would be to run a race in a red area and just spend the money to do it, they could win anywhere. Case in point: Charlie Brown in CA-04, who was let down by the California Democratic Party (and Art Torres just admitted it:)

Despite the strong Republican composition of the district and Brown's failure to oust Doolittle amid a wave election, the Democrats smell blood. California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said Brown might have won last year's race if the party had given him more help and said Democrats don't want to make that mistake again.

"I was out on the campaign trail with him and his wife, and he really resonates with that district," Torres said. "Did we do enough? Probably not; we should have done more."

All talk. Let's see some action, Chairman.

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Why Do The American People Hate America?

54% is not a thundering mandate, but for a Fox News poll with an equal amount of Democrats and Republicans, to have 54% endorse the concept of de-funding the Iraq war is pretty significant. Maybe they understand that this war is severely limiting our ability to provide for the common defense, by eroding the capability of the Armed Forces.

Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said yesterday that the increase of 17,500 Army combat troops in Iraq represents only the "tip of the iceberg" and will potentially require thousands of additional support troops and trainers, as well as equipment -- further eroding the Army's readiness to respond to other world contingencies.

"We are having to go to some extraordinary measures to ensure we can respond," he said, but he added that even then he could not guarantee the combat units would receive all the translators, civil affairs soldiers and other support troops they request. "We are continuing today to get requests for forces that continue to stress us."

Schoomaker, in one of his last congressional testimonies as Army chief, also made it clear that he had raised concerns in advance about President Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq because it would further deplete Army units at home.

"We laid out . . . exactly what the risks are in terms of other contingencies . . . to include my concerns about the lack of adequate dwell time," he said, referring to the fact that active-duty soldiers now spend only about a year at home between 12-month war zone rotations.

This is exactly why Jack Murtha wants to limit the amount of troops that go into battle untrained, unequipped, and unexpecting to be stuck there as their tours of duty get constantly extended. Iraq may be important but nobody can say it's worth destroying our readiness and capability to respond to other threats. The US military generally is very good at their job but they are not made up of supermen who can be adapt to any situation, be peacemakers, warriors, engineers, policemen, and ambassadors of goodwill. They're mainly 19- and 20-year-old boys and girls who don't deserve to be put in an undefined mission without proper body armor and without an enemy to target. They aren't trained for this. They can't solve every problem America has. And they aren't worth sacrificing.

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Fabian Nunez Should Be Primaried

Let me first say that I am generally a supporter of relaxing restrictive term limits, in the larger context of reforming elections generally so that the people get to decide when their legislator's time is up. But take a look at the condescension dripping from this statement from the Assembly Speaker:

Riding high from a session last year that many praised as the Legislature's most productive in years, and without an obvious landing pad when he is termed out next year, Nuñez has increasingly said in recent months that he thinks that voters will be open to adjusting term limits.

"You can't do the job effectively if you can't be there for a reasonable amount of time, to have a real grasp on the issues," he told a group of newspaper publishers last month. " … It takes a couple of years to develop the level of expertise and know-how to negotiate a balanced budget."

To me, that reads as "I own this seat, and I deserve to be here as long as I possibly can."

There are these things called primary elections, and the people (in a perfect world, anyway) are supposed to judge the qualifications of each candidate and make their own choice. You can run on experience, but you're not entitled to your position because of it. And you certainly should not be able to change the rules mid-stream and subvert the prior will of the voters in a power grab to keep the Speaker's gavel:

The proposed initiative would extend the terms of sitting lawmakers by allowing them to remain in place until they have served 12 years in their current house. Some could end up serving as many as 20 years in the Legislature before having to leave.

People already termed out of the Assembly or Senate could not run for those houses again. Former lawmakers' years of service would count toward the 12-year cap if they returned to the Capitol.

How clever. So those who used to be in government and see this as an opportunity to return get the door slammed in their face, but Nuñez gets to extend himself for six more years. It's like a sentencing law that only applies to people who have already committed the crime instead of those who are in the process of committing it.

We all know that this was the real reason for the move of the Presidential primary to February. Nuñez wants to run again in 2008, so he crafted a law that will enable him to do so. He also has over $7 million in the bank for any possible campaigns, $4 million of it from AT&T laundered through the California Democratic Party for services rendered.

At least Don Perata, who also stands to gain from the change in the law (although according to Frank Russo he may have to get the law rewritten to benefit), is a little more discreet about it, and he says the right things:

After he learned of the proposed initiative Thursday from Nuñez, Perata issued a statement that any modification should be tied to a discussion of how to make government more open and accountable.

"It's not just about how long we serve," Perata said, "but how well we serve."

But Nuñez is so lustful of power that he doesn't mind the appearance of impropriety. If he is serious about relaxing term limits in the pursuit of more enlightened public officials, he would sign a pledge vowing not to run again and benefit from the law he is shepherding. Nunez could run for state Senate and serve 8 years if he wanted to stay in public office. He could bring his experience in Sacramento to bear in the other chamber. But he's just got to have that gavel in his hand. It's the only way to enrich his campaign coffers, I guess.

If he refuses to sign such a pledge, and insists on using the state initiative process as a personal power grab, then someone in the 46th Assembly District ought to challenge him for that seat. And there would be exactly two issues in that campaign: this initiative, and the $4 million handoff from AT&T. And while Nuñez has a nice record in other areas and a great deal of powerful friends and influence in his district, I suspect those two issues would be very persuasive.

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The Race to 60

TPM Election Central is doing a Senate whip count to see how many Republicans will break ranks and vote to move forward on Harry Reid's anti-escalation resolution which has the exact same language as the one the House will vote on later today.

So far he's got four Republicans voting with the majority: Snowe, Collins, Smith and Warner. Norm Coleman voted with the Democrats the last time around, so you have to expect him to do the same. So that's five.

Reid will probably need 11 GOP Senators to get this done, unless Joe Lieberman returns to his senses or Tim Johnson comes forward in a wheelchair to cast the deciding vote (I think I just want that to happen because that's how it would go in the movie). As a profile in courage, John McCain will skip the vote to go out campaigning. Any Democrat who does the same will lose a lot of respect.

Adding another piece of piping to the kitchen sink strategy, Joe Biden wants to de-authorize the IWR:

The best next step is to revisit the authorization Congress granted the President in 2002 to use force in Iraq. That's exactly what I'm doing.

We gave the President that power to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein.

The WMD were not there. Saddam Hussein is no longer there. The 2002 authorization is no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq.

I am working on legislation to repeal that authorization and replace it with a much narrower mission statement for our troops in Iraq.

Congress should make clear what the mission of our troops is: to responsibly draw down, while continuing to combat terrorists, train Iraqis and respond to emergencies. We should make equally clear what their mission is not: to stay in Iraq indefinitely and get mired in a savage civil war.

Coupled with the Biden-Gelb plan, I believe this is the most effective way to start bringing our troops home without leaving a mess behind.

For once, the inherent scattershot nature of the Democrats, with each member freelancing on their own, is an asset. The Administration position is under siege from all sides. And they're cracking under the pressure, with Tony Snow saying things like "I'm not sure anything went wrong" in Iraq after a pre-war slide showed that the military expected under 5,000 troops in country by now.

This is getting interesting.

UPDATE: House resolution passes 246-182 with 7 not voting. 17 Republicans crossed the line to vote for it (I knew it wouldn't be 60 for the authoritarian party. They're content to follow their President into a ditch). 2 Democrats voted against it, Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

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The Protective Non-Defense

I gave my impressions of the Scooter Libby trial yesterday, where I reached the conclusion that that Libby's shockingly brief defense comes out of some wingnut mythology that you show confidence at all times. It's as if they're trying to intimidate or bamboozle the jury by showing that they don't even have to mount a defense against such self-evidently ridiculous charges or something.

I asked emptywheel, pretty much America's greatest Plame expert, about this, and here's her reply:

Wingnut overconfidence (2+ / 0-)

Perhaps that, or the realization that the Hannah ploy backfired, so there weren't more people they could call without risk of magnifying the risk.

I didn't address this yesterday. John Hannah is an official with the Office of the Vice President who the Libby defense team used to get out their claim that Scooter Libby was so very busy during this time in 2003 that he couldn't possibly have remembered what he told everyone about Valerie Plame. But prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald crossed up Hannah in a major way.

What we did get was Cheney proxy John Hannah, who spent the morning telling us what a Very Important Man Scooter Libby is, and how very busy he was fighting Al Quaeda single handedly the week of July 8 and how he had a charming habit of forgetting things that Hannah would tell him. In the courtroom Scooter smiled affably at this good-natured portrait of his memory-challenged self.

On cross examination, Fitzgerald then inquired of Hannah if part of Libby's job was to push back if the integrity of the OVP was attacked, and Hannah said yes. Fitz then wanted to know if, during that very critical week, Hannah wanted to go out for coffee with Scooter for a couple of hours and shoot the breeze would Scooter even have time to say yes? Hannah started to squirm, knowing that this is exactly what happened between Judy Miller and Scooter at the St. Regis. So a very uncomfortable Hannah replied, well, if it were really important, he's sure Scooter would do it. Fitzgerald then wants to know if it's fair to conclude that if Scooter DID agree to go, it would be over something that was very important to him.

It was a Perry Mason moment.

If Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney had to walk onto that witness stand with this information already out, it could have been a bloodbath. Fitzgerald basically got Hannah to admit how important the Libby-Miller meeting was. And even Libby's defense team is having to admit that he leaked classified information.

Lawrence O'Donnell thinks Libby's guilty as sin:

The multi-million dollar defense, which provided no defense at all, did not call Libby to the witness stand for one very simple reason: Libby is very very guilty. Publicly, defense lawyers cling to the text book theory that the defendant has no burden of proof and that no negative inference should ever be taken when a defendant doesn't defend himself on the witness stand. Practically, every defense lawyer knows that the jury desperately wants to hear from the defendant and that the only reason not to put him on the stand is that he is soooo guilty that every answer he gives after his name will eradicate any shred of reasonable doubt. Think about it. Your whole life is at stake in the outcome of a criminal trial. You're innocent. And you don't testify in your own defense? Around the courthouse when defense lawyers are chatting about their cases, the only question they ask each other is can you put your guy on the stand? Those conversations always assume the defendant is guilty. The question is just about the degree of difficulty in presenting a defense.

Libby's defense gave up before the opening statements in the trial. They always knew Libby was too guilty to put on the witness stand. And they were never going to call the Vice President. Telling the judge that they were going to call Libby and Cheney was just a mirage they were trying to create to misdirect Patrick Fitzgerald's focus. I'd be shocked if Fitzgerald was fooled for even a second.

O'Donnell thinks the whole defense is a set-up for a campaign to get him pardoned. Possibly. He's certainly holding things back for the inevitable appeal, hoping to run out the clock until December 2008 when a pardon would have no political ramifications.

For those interested, please also read Murray Waas' column, which explains the reason we're having this trial in the first place, because the executive branch was pissed off about an earlier leak by Republican Senator Richard Shelby, which they wanted to investigate with outside counsel, and when the CIA leak came up they were forced into showing equaniminty. Which is kind of hilarious.

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The Answer Is Ignorant

Yesterday I wondered if Don Young was either stupid or ignorant when he read a quote on the House floor attributed to Abraham Lincoln that was completely fabricated. I have my answer.

This morning, Young’s spokeswoman Meredith Kenny told ThinkProgress repeatedly that Young does not plan to take any action to correct the record or clarify his House statement.

Kenny said that Young had learned of the quote from Tuesday’s Washington Times op-ed by Frank Gaffney, and noted that the Times has not yet issued a correction or retraction. Kenny said she “couldn’t confirm or deny” that Young would correct his statement even if the Times published a correction.

Kenny added that Young didn’t literally mean that those supporting the Iraq resolution should be “hanged,” merely that they should not be “undermining the morale of our military.”

Ignorant, and worse yet, willfully ignorant, knowing full well that the quote is fake but choosing not to fix it until the source where he read it does the same.

The postscript, where Young benevolently suggests that he isn't actually calling for the hanging of 250 US Congressmen, is charming. Nice to know that my represenative in Congress will be allowed to live for one more day as long as he watches his step.

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Half-Half Black

The Editors at The Poor Man deliver a national monologue on race. Not to be missed.

It is ridiculous, a bunch of white people sitting around wondering whether or not a black man is black enough.

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Prosecutor Purge Update

It's pretty clear that this gambit to fire US Attorneys who weren't sufficiently loyal to the President and the Republic Party is falling apart. First, the most egregious replacement, a former oppo research specialist and aide to Karl Rove who was installed as US Attorney in Arkansas, gave up the post rather than face a confirmation fight in the Senate. Actually he said he would stay on until a replacement is confirmed. Under current law, the White House never has to pick a replacement; that's the whole point. Under a little-seen provision of the Patriot Act, the Justice Department could install interim US Attorneys without having to go through the Senate.

The upshot of this purge is that the law will change.

Congressional Democrats and some Republicans are trying to change part of the USA Patriot Act that allows the Bush administration to fire and replace federal prosecutors indefinitely without Senate confirmation.

Freshly briefed by the Justice Department on the forced resignations of some of the seven U.S. attorneys since the act took effect, Senate Democrats planned to bring a bill to the floor Thursday that would impose a 120-day deadline on the amount of time a replacement could serve without Senate confirmation.

Of course, Sen. Reid tried to schedule a vote on this yesterday, but Sen. Jon Kyl blocked it on constitutional grounds. See, if the executive branch names no replacement within 120 days, under the new bill a federal judge would step in. Kyl claimed that raises separation of powers issues. Sen. Patrick Leahy had a good response to this:

I have heard not a word from the apologists who seek to use the Constitution as a shield for these activities about what the Constitution says. The Constitution provides congressional power to direct the appointment power. In Article II, the part of the Constitution that this Administration reads as if it says that all power resides with the President, the President’s appointment power is limited by the power of Congress. Indeed, between its provisions calling for appointments with the advice and consent of the Senate and for the President’s limited power to make recess appointments, the Constitution provides: “But the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the Heads of Departments.” Thus, the Constitution contemplates exactly what our statutes and practices have always provided. Congress is well within its authority when it vests in the courts a share of the appointment power for those who appear before them.

Funny how the separation of powers only comes up in the context of protecting executive authority, isn't it?

Carol Lam, who indicted Brent Wilkes and Dusty Foggo this week, has apparently moved on to work for Qualcomm, though some Democratic lawmakers would like her to prosecute the case as outside counsel. Regardless of that, Kyl and the other Bush apologists aren't going to be able to hold back this tide for long. The great prosecutor purge of 2007 will end, and another Administration power grab will be overturned. The problem is that they just don't quit.

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Friday Random Ten

Fill your soul with muuu-sic...

Midnight In A Perfect World - DJ Shadow
No Surprises - Radiohead
I Like You - Morrissey
The Tiger - DJ Shadow
Broken Levee Blues - DJ Shadow (it's on shuffle, I swear!)
Jesus Was A Dreidel Spinner - Jill Sobule
Emergency Exit - Beck
Namaste - The Beastie Boys
Got A Faceful - Robert Pollard
This Is Love - PJ Harvey

Bonus Track: Allen Ginsburg - Fantastic Plastic Machine

Hey, if we all get together and sign a petition, can we block the Milli Vanilli movie from geting made?

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

What's Criminal Is What Isn't Illegal

Kudos to Jane Hamsher and the crew at Firedoglake for their above the fold front-page story in the New York Times. They've been the go-to source on the Scooter Libby trial, bar none.

I only wish they got a better event to cover. After a thrilling first week which was full of surprises and revelations, the trial went like a flash. The prosecution presented a very systematic case, wherein Patrick Fitzgerald showed how a host of contacts discussed Valerie Plame with Libby well before he said he first heard about her from NBC's Tim Russert. Then he played Libby's testimony from the Grand Jury trial, which not only showed that Libby adamantly denied knowing Plame's identity until the Russert conversation, but showed that Libby and his boss, Vice President Cheney, planned to leak classified information to counter Joe Wilson's criticism of the case for war.

Why isn't that a crime? Politically motivated leaks of intelligence to prove your own points and discredit others? Seeking out opponents and using information to destroy them, without giving anyone a chance to see the full picture?

But of course, that wasn't the only instance where what ought to be a crime was not seen so under the law. Fitzgerald's final witness was Tim Russert, who rebutted Libby's testimony that the two discussed Valerie Plame. But the crime here was that Scooter Libby, the chief of staff to the Vice President, called Russert to complain about Chris Matthews and Hardball, and Russert took the call without using the opportunity to question Libby, AND assumed the entire call was off the record:

If you're a journalist, and a very senior White House official calls you up on the phone, what do you do? Do you try to get the official to address issues of urgent concern so that you can then relate that information to the public?

Not if you're NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert.

When then-vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby called Russert on July 10, 2003, to complain that his name was being unfairly bandied about by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Russert apparently asked him nothing.

And get this: According to Russert's testimony yesterday at Libby's trial, when any senior government official calls him, they are presumptively off the record.

That's not reporting, that's enabling.

That's how you treat your friends when you're having an innocent chat, not the people you're supposed to be holding accountable.

In fact, journalism comes out looking pretty bad in this whole trial. Clearly the White House knew how to use press sources to, as Atrios put it, "launder information" to give it a once-removed patina, so that it appeared more credible than if it was merely coming out of the mouth of the press secretary. And after the media knew they were burned by the OVP and the White House, used to sell a war and punish an enemy, after it was completely clear to all of them that they were nothing more than pawns on a chessboard, all they wanted to do was make it go away.

So as the facts of the White House cover-up now tumble out into open court, it's important to remember that if it hadn't been for Fitzgerald's work, there's little doubt the Plame story would have simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to.

In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse. Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case.

And that's why the Plame investigation then, and the Libby perjury trial now, so perfectly capture what went wrong with the timorous press corps during the Bush years as it routinely walked away from its responsibility of holding people in power accountable and ferreting out the facts.

Fitzgerald's challenge in this trial is having these knaves and losers as his key witnesses in the perjury trial. They aren't all that much more credible than Scooter Libby himself in the grand scheme of things. Of course, reporters were the defense's key witnesses as well, and on Monday they rapid-fire suggested that other Administration officials were leaking Plame's name, not Libby. One of these was former press secretary Ari Fleischer, who leaked to WaPo journalist Walter Pincus. This added to the intrigue, as it contradicted some of Fleischer's testimony for the prosecution, and suggested that he was only a witness to hold up his end of a bargain of immunity.

How the fact that Scooter Libby didn't tell everybody he knew about Plame exonerates him from lying is curious to me. But everyone comes off looking so bad in this thing that maybe Libby looks good by comparison. That appears to be the strategy:

Fitzgerald is wary of a defense "jury nullification" argument. He thinks the defense wants to argue that since Libby wasn't the leaker, and the real leakers, including Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and Ari Fleischer aren't being prosecuted, it would be unjust to convict Libby. But that's not what the defense is arguing. Everybody, including the jurors, knows that Libby isn't charged with being the leaker, only with being a liar [...]

The jury has been told over and over again that Valerie Plame Wilson's actual status with the CIA is neither relevant nor an issue in the case. They also know Libby didn't leak Plame Wilson's employment status, whatever it was, to Robert Novak. They are going to be consumed with the issue of whether Libby intentionally lied.

At any rate, the defense felt like they didn't need to do much else to impugn the prosecution's case, so they abruptly changed course, deciding that Dick Cheney and Libby wouldn't testify and closing their case. In so doing, they raised the ire of the judge, mainly because the prospect of Libby's testimony led him to hold information from the jury.

The trial fell well short of the Watergate and Iran-Contra trials that riveted the nation's attention. Defense attorneys decided not to call the two biggest witnesses they had dangled in pretrial proceedings: Libby and his former boss Cheney.

In 14 days of testimony, the trial never filled an overflow courtroom, with a video hookup, to handle the crowds expected — particularly for the cross-examination of Libby and Cheney.

Nevertheless, testimony showed that Cheney was intimately involved on a daily basis in July 2003 in rebutting Wilson's allegations that President Bush had lied about intelligence to push the nation into war with Iraq [...]

But the defense had to settle for a pale shadow of what it had planned to show: how preoccupied Libby was with topics he considered more serious. In anticipation of his testimony, the judge had ruled that he could introduce sanitized descriptions of the many topics in his daily CIA briefing and a statement that he was "very concerned" about some of the topics.

When Libby decided not to testify, Walton reversed course on Wednesday and barred almost all the classified evidence.

"My absolute understanding was that Mr. Libby was going to testify," Walton said. "My ruling was based on the fact that he was going to testify."

Pretty slick tactic, but I don't think you want to piss off the judge in this way headed into the jury instructions. Some have speculated that Libby and Cheney were never going to testify. They didn't want to get tripped up on cross-examination, period and open themselves up to more perjury charges.

Part of me thinks that Libby and his team believes that whole wingnut ideology of never showing weakness, so they're deliberately providing a bare-bones defense to "prove" how weak the prosecution's case is. Or something. But once again, what should be the crime here? Libby's whole case is that he has a faulty memory. Yet his boss was clearly so intimately involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame, how could he possibly have forgotten something that was such an extreme focus? And how can it be OK that the Vice President of the United States, someone who thinks his office exists in a special fourth branch where he doesn't have to comply with any executive OR legislative requests, can operate in a legal and ethical vaccuum?

Let's start with something that, if not quite a proven fact, is a clear inference from the trial so far: Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald suspects that Vice President Dick Cheney told Libby to leak Valerie Plame Wilson's employment at the CIA to reporters during a flight aboard Air Force Two on July 12, 2003. In a post on Friday at Firedoglake, I excerpted a searing line of questioning from Libby's second grand jury appearance (in March 2004) in which Fitzgerald stacked up one reason after another why Cheney might have made such a recommendation, faced with an unexpected and unceasing media firestorm over the false intelligence behind the Iraq war [...]

In case you've forgotten, here's the issue again: Besides Libby's chats with Matt Cooper and Judy Miller, what other leaks of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity occurred on July 12 — the one to Walter Pincus, and what else? Did the Vice President of the United States authorize these leaks, and what evidence does special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald have to this effect?

Ladies and gentlemen, start your journalistic engines… and now, go!

I'm an amateur Plameologist who's only on page 16 of Anatomy of Deceit (h/t Vernonlee for letting me borrow it). But it seems to me that the real criminal acts being revealed in this trial are either unethical but legal, or incredibly illegal but not being discussed. And the implications are great for the future. While journalists may be more careful about how their conversations with official sources are being used, the Office of the Vice President and its current resident may endlessly evade any kind of oversight. Dick Cheney has created a shadow Presidency where he is completely above the law and can direct all the powers of the government at his command. How the Congress and the judiciary handle this - now and for the next Vice President - will really determine what kind of government we have going forward. For that reason alone, this trial has been of incalculable value, whether the jury renders a verdict of guilty or not (if I had to make a bet I'd say they will convict).

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What a Blistering Critique

Oh boy, have they got Al Franken on the run now. I mean, this Senate candidacy might be over before it's even begun.

See, the Republican Party of Minnesota has put out a blistering document (h/t Wonkette) that compiles "The Facts About Al Franken."

And it's not pretty.

Apparently, unbeknownst to millions of Minnesotans, Franken says "mean" and "partisan" and "divisive" statements for no other reason than to get "laughs".

What kind of sick man would do such a thing?

Franken Jokes About Executing Karl Rove & Scooter Libby. “The President’s father...has said
that outing a CIA agent is treason....What it looks like is going to happen is that [Lewis] Libby and Karl
Rove are going to be executed....I don’t know how I feel about it because I’m basically against the
death penalty, but they are going to be executed.” (CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” October 21, 2005)

That's outrageous! Taking a quote from the President's father, using the fact that treason is a capital crime and fashioning a quip at the expense of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby? How could he call for such an execution? How could he joke about something so serious? What, does he think he's some kind of comedian that appears on talk shows for no other reason but to entertain people? The hell?

But it gets worse.

Franken Hates Rush Limbaugh. Q: “Do you really hate Limbaugh or is he just an easy target?” A: “Both.” (Jennifer Senior, “Al Franken, Democrats' Favorite Comic Is Politically Incorrect,” The Hill, August 25, 1996)

He hates Rush Limbaugh! That's going to destroy him in the Democratic primary! I'll bet he'd put out a book attacking poor Rush, who has no way to defend himself, no megaphone for his point of view!

And then there's more.

Franken Claims “Midwest Values”; Franken PAC Funded By Super Rich Hollywood Liberal
Elites. “The list of contributors to comedian Al Franken's political action committee reads like a
celebrity who's who: singer Barbra Streisand, writer-director Nora Ephron, actor-writer Larry David and
actor Jimmy Smits. … His leadership PAC, Midwest Values PAC, raised $500,000, according to a Research Briefing review of campaign finance reports. … Among the contributors to the PAC were actor Larry Hagman,
directors Christopher Guest and Barry Levinson, and writers Harold Ramis and Aaron Sorkin. ‘Curb
Your Enthusiasm’ star Larry David said he couldn't refuse Franken.” (Frederic J. Frommer, “Al Franken Getting
Celebrity Support,” The Associated Press, July 28, 2006)

You see? Al Franken is the darling of Hollywood elites and liberals! The way they take to him, you'd almost think he's WORKED in Hollywood! (By the way, Norm Coleman would never do such a thing like take money from people he's worked with, like his fellow lawyers... I mean, $470,000 is a piddling sum.)

But that's not all. Apparently Franken likes to use "hyperbole" and "irony" other big-city talk.

Franken Compared Clinton’s Impeachment Trial To Holocaust. “Moments before they delivered
the opening arguments in President Clinton's impeachment trial, the 13 House managers gathered
around a conference table in a meeting room deep inside the cavernous Capitol…. On many days,
there was a sprinkling of empty seats inside the Senate's visitor's gallery, where spectators included
the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and comedian Al Franken. ‘If you can get humor out of the Holocaust, I
guess you can get it here,’ Franken said.” (Paul Schwartzman, “The Trial That Wasn’t,” Daily News, February 14, 1999)

Franken Ridiculed Plight Of Afghan Women. “The event, co-hosted at the W New York Hotel by
Glamour magazine and the Feminist Majority Foundation, attracted such A-list women as Meryl
Streep, Laura Dern, Melissa Etheridge, Marlo Thomas, Glamour editor in chief Bonnie Fuller and Al
Franken, who bombed at the podium, especially with such jokes as, ‘Why don't we focus on what
Afghan women can do? They can cook, bear children and pray. As I recall, that was fine for our
grandmothers.’” (Mitchell Fink With Lauren Rubin, “Liza Wants To Be A Hit, Just Not A Huge One,” New York Daily News, October 20, 1999)

He compared Clinton to the Holocaust! OK, well, he said the word Holocaust. But still! Godwin's Law, Godwin's Law! And he tells jokes that the New York Daily News decided were bad (maybe because they didn't understand them, like the Minnesota GOP -ed.)

Did I mention that Franken is an angry, vile, ANGRY, angry man?


Franken Called President George H.W. Bush A “Dink.” “And when the networks projected George Bush as the 41st president, comedian Al Franken took to the stage to cheer up the crowd. The Dukakis campaign has asked me to tell you that the views I express here tonight are not the views of the Dukakis campaign, but my own,’ deadpanned the "Saturday Night Live" entertainer-writer. ‘Now that I've got that settled, let me ask you ... " Long pause for effect. ‘ISN'T GEORGE BUSH A DINK?’” (Lois Romano, “Finally! The Fat Lady Sings; In Boston, The Dank Specter Of Defeat,” The Washington Post, November 9, 1988)

I'm pretty confident that the voters of Minnesota will agree that calling somebody a dink 20 years ago pretty much disqualifies you for elected office in perpetuity.

But all of this is fluff. Let me get to the most damaging allegations. First, there are these damning, insensitive remarks made to the future of America, our college students:

Franken Writes Of Delivering Condescending Commencement Address To Technical College

Graduates Are “The Nation’s Future Air Conditioner Repairmen.” “When I was first
asked to speak at Hartford State Technical College, I jumped at the opportunity. Because,
you see, I thought I had been asked to speak at Harvard, which would have been quite an
honor. But instead I am here with you, the nation’s future air conditioner repairmen.” (Al Franken,
Oh, The Things I Know! Plume, p. 6-7, 2002)

Graduates Are “Already Dead” Because They Will “Live Useless Lives.” “Goethe once
said, ‘A useless life is an early death.’ In Goethe’s terms, most of you are already dead.
Because most of you will live useless lives. You will, you will, and you will.” (Al Franken, Oh, The
Things I Know! Plume, p. 6-7, 2002)

Speech Will “Probably Be Way Over” Graduates’ Heads. “But back to Goethe, and please
remember that I prepared this speech for Harvard students, so it will probably be way over
your heads.” (Al Franken, Oh, The Things I Know! Plume, p. 6-7, 2002)

He called college graduates useless and stupid! All right, sure, he pretended to do that, because it was a fictional passage in his book written in a condescending persona, but STILL. How dare he insult imaginary students with fake invective like that!

But hold on to your hats, kids. Because this is the line that will lose Franken the election, for sure. No doubt about it.

Franken Plan To Reduce Debt: Blast The Elderly In Rockets Over Snake River And Put It On
Pay-Per-View. “Every Sunday, we put an elderly (or terminally ill-person) in a rocket, fire it over the
Snake River, and put it on pay-per-view. The revenues go straight into reducing the debt.” (Al Franken,
Rush Limbaugh Is A Big, Fat Idiot, Island Books, p. 139, 1996)

What senior in their right mind would vote for someone who wants to blast them in a rocket for fundraising purposes? Do YOU want to see Grandma or Grandpa soaring through the stratosphere, live on pay-per-view, just so future generations can have their debt burden lowered? And for those of you who think this is another one of Franken's "jokes," it was part of his serious policy paper "Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot," which I believe he produced for the Brookings Institution. Absolutely everything in that tome is to be taken at face value, particularly the "fat" and "idiot" parts.

This is devastating. If I were Franken, I would not only abandon the campaign, but leave the country. I mean, what if the Minnesota GOP finds out he was already President and he did a terrible job?

Good work while it lasted, Franken, but your past has clearly caught up with you.

(interesting that this comes out in the same week that Fox News tries to put out a comedy show for conservatives. Both serve to prove that they are incapable of getting a joke.)

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Stupid or Ignorant?

This is a question I often have about Republicans. Ignorant I can deal with, ignorant is treatable through knowledge. Stupid, I got nothing.

A case in point: just now on the House floor, Don Young used the same bogus Lincoln quote that was thoroughly debunked on the Internet after showing up on the front page of the Washington Times. Lincoln never called for the hanging of Congressmen, and even the author who attributed the quote to him has admitted that.

And yet, Young still used the quote.

Does he KNOW that it's completely fabricated, but it sounds good in the mouth of someone of Lincoln's stature, or did he see it on the front page of the Moonie Times and assume it was true and never bother to check any further? Which is it? Like I said, I think ignorance is the better option.

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Quick Hits

Another "clear out the stories I never got around to snarking about" moment:

• No snark here, this is dangerous and one of those unintended consequences. By playing to the hardcore "git the brown people" racist base, the Republican Party has actually strengthened the hand of white supremacist groups, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I know that makes for one heck of a governing coalition, but it debases our country that we create an environment where hate groups can thrive. Thanks to the GOP, for making pulling Elie Weisel from an elevator and other examples of hatred a more common occurrence.

• First Al Gore and Richard Branson offer $25 million dollars to any scientist or engineer who can figure out how to remove massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere; then today Gore announced a series of concerts called "Live Earth" set for 7-7-07 to raise awareness of the climate change issue. Great idea, but for the fact that most of the acts are completely boring (I've heard good things about Fall Out Boy, the exception proving the rule). But if you can get the John Mayer-loving middle of the road public to sign on to defeat global warming, you've done something.

Universal WiFi coming to LA? When are we just going to make this standard already? I'd say it'll be about 15 years until WiFi is as ubiqituous as an electrical socket. But it could take 2 with the proper political will.

• On the other side of progress, the Kansas School Board finally got rid of anti-evolution science standards for their public schools. This shows that anyone can evolve, even the Kansas School Board.

• Your tax dollars at work: The FBI just flat-out loses 3-4 laptops a month. Three or four sandwiches I could handle; three or four LAPTOPS? The most shocking part of the article is when the inspector general acknowledged that the problem is getting BETTER. So we were at 6-8 laptops a month before, then.

• We must pass comprehensive immigration reform to save Karl Rove's son from havibng "to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas" the way the filthy Mexicans do. Mind you, Rove is spouting the COMPASSIONATE conservative position on immigration, comparatively.

• Speaking of political offspring, Lil' Scalia got a DUI yesterday, while three of her children were in the car. Gotta love those pious, law and order Republicans.

• Virgil Goode is not letting down the anti Islamomunistofascism brigade (h/t Jesus' General) with his speech opposing the anti-escalation House resolution today. He claimed that if we leave Iraq, in the future our money will be stamped with "In Muhammad We Trust." As if it isn't already... wait, you guys don't have the "Batshit Insane Phrases Money-Stamper" from Ronco?

• Huckleberry Lindsay Graham gets caught blaming Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski for Abu Ghraib while Janis was in the room.

“Sen. Graham…I consider you as cowardly as Rumsfeld, as Sanchez, and Miller and all of them,” said Karpinski, who has long claimed to be a scapegoat for superiors including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller.

Graham replied that those higher-ups deserved a share of the blame, but “this was going on unchecked for weeks and months, and Rumsfeld was in Washington and you were on the ground, so I stand by my statement.” Noting that Karpinski happens to reside in South Carolina, he acknowledged, “I’ve probably lost your vote.”

Karpinski herself has more at HuffPo. What a coward Graham is.

• Pat Robertson will emerge from his lair and kill you. Dead.

A plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Pat Robertson says the televangelist threatened his life and that of his family at a legal proceeding Wednesday in the Norfolk federal courthouse.

The accuser, Phillip Busch, is suing Robertson for misappropriation of his image in the promotion of Robertson's protein diet shake.

According to a complaint Busch filed with the Norfolk police, Robertson entered a room in the courthouse Wednesday afternoon to be questioned for a deposition - an out-of-court form of testimony - and told Busch: "I am going to kill you and your family."

Don't mess with Pat Robertson's diet shake. Because Robertson is strong. And when he clamps down with his hands, you will not be able to get away.




What's good for the House is good for the Senate:

Senate Democratic leaders abruptly switched course in the Iraq war debate today, shelving a complicated non-binding resolution that has run into procedural hurdles, in favor of a House version that simply states Congress's objections to President Bush's troop escalation plan.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this afternoon announced that the Senate would take a rare Saturday vote on whether to consider the House resolution, which is expected to pass that chamber Friday, with some Republican support [...]

"We are determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve," Reid said.

In particular, Democrats are calling the bluff of a group of Republican senators who oppose the escalation, but who joined with their GOP leadership to block the earlier Democratic-led resolution from coming to a vote, in an effort to force Democrats to allow a pro-administration measure to be offered.

Kitchen sink strategy, baby. The Republicans that blocked debate in the Senate the first time, then wrote a whiny letter claiming they wanted debate, have nowhere to run to now. And if this clears the first legislative hurdle (the motion to debate), Reid's going to CANCEL a weeklong recess to give full debate and finish the vote.

Meanwhile, Jack Murtha has another spigot of the kitchen sink ready to launch.

Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself.

The legislative strategy will be supplemented by a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign designed to pressure vulnerable GOP incumbents into breaking with President Bush and forcing the administration to admit that the war is politically unsustainable [...]

Murtha, the powerful chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, will seek to attach a provision to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. It would restrict the deployment of troops to Iraq unless they meet certain levels adequate manpower, equipment and training to succeed in combat. That's a standard Murtha believes few of the units Bush intends to use for the surge would be able to meet.

In addition, Murtha, acting with the backing of the House Democratic leadership, will seek to limit the time and number of deployments by soldiers, Marines and National Guard units to Iraq, making it tougher for Pentagon officials to find the troops to replace units that are scheduled to rotate out of the country. Additional funding restrictions are also being considered by Murtha, such as prohibiting the creation of U.S. military bases inside Iraq, dismantling the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and closing the American detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"There's a D-Day coming in here, and it's going to start with the supplemental and finish with the '08 [defense] budget," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who chairs the Air and Land Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

(thanks for the shout-out, Rep. Abercrombie.)

So on the one side you've got resolutions where every member of Congress has to take a stand on the escalation. Then Rep. Murtha craftily uses the defense budget to make sure only fully trained and equipped troops are sent out into the field (which means none of them will be going) and that this forced indentured servitude of multiple deployments stopped. Then you have street actions and public pressure and veterans speaking out (including getting tossed out of Idaho Sen. Craig's office) and Presidential candidates forced to clarify their war position or risk being swept off the stage. All these things are happening and it's very fluid.

It's crucial because this war has ceased to be the main focus in the Administration's mind, and is now just the bridge to the next war:

So the administration has always had it in for the Iranian regime. Now, let’s do an O. J. Simpson: if you were determined to start a war with Iran, how would you do it?

First, you’d set up a special intelligence unit to cook up rationales for war. A good model would be the Pentagon’s now-infamous Office of Special Plans, led by Abram Shulsky, that helped sell the Iraq war with false claims about links to Al Qaeda....

Next, you’d go for a repeat of the highly successful strategy by which scare stories about the Iraqi threat were disseminated to the public.

This time, however, the assertions wouldn’t be about W.M.D.; they’d be that Iranian actions are endangering U.S. forces in Iraq. Why? Because there’s no way Congress will approve another war resolution. But if you can claim that Iran is doing evil in Iraq, you can assert that you don’t need authorization to attack — that Congress has already empowered the administration to do whatever is necessary to stabilize Iraq. And by the time the lawyers are finished arguing — well, the war would be in full swing.

That's why we need as many votes as possible, and as much pressure as possible, and as much budgetary riders as possible. This war will only stop, and by association the next war will never start, without everyone contributing to the effort.

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Clash of the Titans

Mr. Schwarzenegger, meet Shiela Kuehl. She'll be eating your lunch today.

A state Senate panel is expected today to begin the first formal scrutiny of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's sweeping proposal for overhauling health care in California.

Wielding the gavel at the Health Committee hearing will be a member of the Legislature who believes many of the governor's ideas won't work.

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl isn't rushing to judgment. For the past four years, the Santa Monica Democrat has studied health care while pushing California to abolish private insurance and replace it with universal coverage administered by the state. Schwarzenegger last year vetoed Senate Bill 840, Kuehl's bill establishing such a single-payer system.

Schwarzenegger criticized Kuehl's solution as "government-run health care." Now, it's Kuehl's turn to examine the Republican governor's plan, a very different approach that would actually increase the number of insurance customers by the millions.

"My role on these proposals is to to say, 'These are the facts,' " Kuehl said Wednesday. "So far, I think the emperor has some clothes, but not a full wardrobe."

Kuehl is a single-payer evangelist, but important to the debate. She's critiqued the governor's plan (which still doesn't have a legislative sponsor, since there isn't a single Republican that wants anything to do with it) for its individual mandate without cost controls. An individual mandate is important to make sure risk is pooled; if only the sick have health insurance while the healthy can opt out, the price will skyrocket. Indeed, even a single-payer system has an individual mandate; it's just paid for out of taxes instead of fees. But without any sense of basic coverage or what the baseline cost will be or a proper way to subsidize those individuals who can't afford coverage, the individual mandate simply won't work. I agree with Dan Weintraub that individual mandate combined with community rating, guaranteed issue and public/private competition (a state-run "Medicare for All" option for basic coverage) will eventually get you to single-payer by default. But that's not what the governor's plan does.

The most interesting part of the article to me was this:

Kuehl will reintroduce Senate Bill 840, which will be part of the debate this spring. So will health care overhaul bills written by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata of Oakland and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez of Los Angeles, both Democrats. Senate Republicans are also pushing a smaller plan that would rely largely on shifting tax dollars around to cover more people.

Though their bills more closely mirror the governor's approach of covering more people within the current insurer-based system, both Núñez and Perata have also signed on as co-authors of Kuehl's bill. Perata is "encouraging all proposals to be a part of the discussion," explained his spokeswoman, Alicia Trost.

This is the best news I've heard in this debate so far. That Perata and Nuñez are empowering Kuehl means to me that they understand her value in the debate to swing the issue in a more progressive direction. And Kuehl will not give up.

No matter what happens this year to reshape the insurance system, Kuehl says, a single-payer system could still be enacted eventually.

A single-payer system, she said, "is the appropriate end point of health insurance reform in California. But I don't want to force people who are currently in the system who are suffering or lacking in insurance to wait until we have the perfect solution. So we will continue to work out single payer to prepare for the day when we have the right governor or the right initiative atmosphere."

This hearing happened this morning, I'll post some information as soon as it comes in.

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The Worst Part Is How Believable She Is

Condi Rice gets caught in a lie:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice misled the U.S. Congress when she said last week that she had not seen a 2003 Iranian proposal for talks with the United States, a former senior government official said on Wednesday.

Flynt Leverett, who worked on the National Security Council when it was headed by Rice, likened the proposal to the 1972 U.S. opening to China. He said he was confident it was seen by Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell but "the administration rejected the overture."

Speaking at a conference on Capitol Hill, Leverett said "this was a serious proposal, a serious effort" by Iran to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement.

"The Bush administration up to and including Secretary Rice is misleading Congress and the American public about the Iran proposal," he said.

Testifying before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Rice told lawmakers who asked about Leverett's previous public comments and writings on the Iranian proposal: "I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about."

She faulted him for not telling her, "We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it."

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack said: "What she said is she has no recollection of having seen it. She has said that repeatedly." he said the accusation that she had misled Congress was "just absolutely 100 percent false."

What's sad about this is that I'm willing to give Condi the benefit of the doubt because I feel she's so clueless, that as National Security Advisor she wouldn't know about a major global diplomacy initiative to remove a national security threat. She is so awful at her job that I can only EXPECT ignorance.

Of course she didn't know about an Iranian deal. She was shoe shopping! Leverett didn't sit her down and say "Stop browsing Girlshop on the Internet, this is important," did he? Well then, there you go!

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Blame Game

The wheels of the Iran bamboozlement train are officially off.

After initially hyping and standing behind the blockbuster briefing in Iraq detailing how the highest levels of the Iranian government were funneling explosive material to Shiite militias, the White House not only backed off, but blamed those who handled the briefing they had hyped:

HENRY: Some new information coming from my colleague Barbara Starr at the Pentagon that General Peter Pace is expected to have a media availability later today. All eyes will be on that to see exactly how he puts this given this confusion over the last couple of days.

Other information we have gotten is that apparently this anonymous intelligence briefer went a little too far in saying that the highest levels of the Iranian government were behind this. But that begs the question why the administration has taken so long to clarify those comments, Soledad.

O’BRIEN: And that’s a big going too far. I mean, that’s a critical piece of information.

HENRY: Especially given what happened in the run-up to the Iraq war. The administration knows full well about the credibility questions. And you would think in this case they would want to make sure they have all their ducks in a row.

They thought the lesson of the Iraq war was that they could successfully fool the media and the public into thinking there was an imminent threat without any fear of consequences. Why wouldn't they do Iran in the exact same way?

But sadly, 2007 isn't 2002. And this attempt to blame the "rogue briefer" is laughable. The government approved the briefing. They quoted it all week. They used it as evidence. They even delayed the initial briefing to make sure that the intelligence was rock-solid. Now it's all the briefer's fault?

It's also amusing that the Bush Administration has no problem blaming rogue officials and claiming plausible deniability for themselves, but not for their enemies. Salon's Tim Grieve had the riposte of the day:

Wednesday, President George W. Bush: "What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did. But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?"

Maybe it's reasonable to assume that people in the highest levels of Iran's government know what members of the al-Quds unit are doing. Maybe it's not. Our view? We'll start making the leap of faith about what high-level Iranian officials must know just as soon as the White House starts accepting the same sort of arguments about itself.

How does this one sound, Mr. President? What we do know is that members of the U.S. military were responsible for acts of torture at Abu Ghraib. We know that. And we also know that the U.S. military is part of the U.S. government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of the U.S. government ordered the U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib to do what they did. But here's our point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they did it. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?

The White House has so destroyed their own credibility that I wouldn't believe a "The Sun is Hot" briefing from them.

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I Love The Smell of Rolling Tanks in The Morning

...smells like money:

When Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes heard that the United States was going to go to war with Iraq, he was ecstatic, say several former colleagues.

“He and some of his top executives were really gung-ho about the war,” said a former employee of his now-defunct firm ADCS Inc. “Brent said this would create new opportunities for the company. He was really excited about doing business in the Middle East.”

He was especially excited about the prospect of damaged tanks and aircraft and a shortage of ordnance and dead soldiers and Iraqis... 'cause you, that'd all have to be REPLACED!

Allow me to advocate for something that will never happen. All defense work should be nationalized, budgeted modestly and scrutinized year over year, and irrelevant or obselete programs should simply be dismantled. The inevitable outcome of a private defense industry is that war is advocated as a means to prop up the economy. And private contractors will use all illegal means at their disposal to get a jump on the competition. We now have war cheerleaders in the private sector, bribing public officials (as they have for decades) and ensuring that the stance of the country is belligerence. I think George W. Bush said it best yesterday is a little-remarked-upon but brutally honest portion of his press conference.

"Money trumps peace."

When the Iraq war began in 2003, Wilkes redoubled his efforts to woo politicians and officials in the Pentagon and CIA.

“He was trying to build a business in the Middle East and needed support from some politicians,” said a former employee, who asked not to be named for fear of being drawn into the court case. “It was one of the things (the top executives of ADCS) were really excited about.”

Wilkes' plan to deliver water to Iraq began in the summer of 2003, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion. At the time, CIA operatives in Iraq were relying on contractors in Kuwait and other friendly countries to supply them with bottled water, first-aid kits and other provisions.

Wilkes had little obvious experience ferrying goods overseas, especially to a war zone. But he wanted the CIA supply business to go to his holding company, Group W. He was aided by Foggo, who was then a logistics officer in Frankfurt, Germany, overseeing CIA purchases throughout Europe and the Middle East, including Iraq.

It doesn't matter if it's water or the B-2 Bomber. The point is that an economy predicated on the war machine (and take a look at some manufacturing sector numbers to see the proof of that) must have war to feed itself.

"Money trumps peace."

Incidentally, some House Democrats are working to keep Carol Lam, the prosecutor who brought about the Wilkes-Foggo indictments, and who is being forced out of her job as US Attorney by the Justice Department, on the case as an outside counsel. They sent a letter to Attorney General Gonzales today.

Carol Lam's indictments of Foggo and Wilkes underscore the importance of last week's request and the need for an explanation of why these diligent public servants were dismissed. It is vital that U.S. Attorneys be able to prosecute wrongdoing free from political pressure. We are pleased that the Department of Justice has also agreed to brief members of the House Judiciary Committee on the dismissals of Carol Lam and other U.S. Attorneys. We look forward to further details regarding the date for that briefing and your response regarding the request to appoint Carol Lam as an outside counsel to finish the Cunningham and related investigations.

This won't happen for a simple reason.

"Money trumps peace."

UPDATE: So do hookers.

On or about August 15, 2003, at approximately 6:30 p.m., [Wilkes] provided [Cunningham] and assorted other guests with a dinner served on a private lawn outside the Hapuna Suite [approximately $6,600 per night at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel on the Island of Hawaii]; which consisted of Seafood Gyozas of Kona Lobster, shrimp, scallops, seared hawaiian snapper, "Manoa" lettuce leaves, and an open bar featuring fine wines;

On or about August 15, 2003, at approximately 11 p.m., Prostitutes "A" and "B" and their "driver" arrived at the Hapuna Suite. Persuant to [Wilkes'] instructions, an ADCS [Wilkes' company] employee escorted the prostitutes into the Suite and paid the driver $600 in cash;

On or about August 15, 2003, after approximately 15 minutes in the suite, [Wilkes] and [Cunningham] escorted Prostitutes "A" and "B" upstairs to separate rooms. At approximately midnight, Wilkes tipped Prostitute "A" $500 for the services;

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Ride The Straight Talk Express

Reading the public statements of the pander-panda John McCain is really enough to make you sick. The guy blames Gen. Casey for implementing a failed policy that he endorsed. He's blaming the military after saying for years how wrong it is to blame the military. He cites Casey's leadership as the reason that things have gotten worse in Iraq although he claimed for years that things were getting better. He says you can't support the troops unless you support the mission, and yet he claims that he hasn't supported the mission and has argued for additional troops all along (because he supports the troops). He criticizes Europe for not following through in Afghanistan after supporting the effort to essentially leave Afghanistan in 2002 when the Taliban and Al Qaeda were on the run. He's delivering the keynote speech for a creationist group called The Discovery Institute and is being shepherded around a religious broadcasters' convention by Jerry Falwell, the man he called an "agent of intolerance" not too long ago.

The man doesn't have a single principle left, nor does he have a single vision for leadership other than that he should be the leader. And Arizonans, who have seen him stray from anything resembling a core belief first-hand, are pissed off about it.

A new recall drive targets Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a top contender for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

Organizers oppose McCain's continued support of the unpopular Iraq war and consider him complicit in what they perceive as the erosion of American civil liberties associated with the war on terror.

"For the most part, he's been all right, but he's supposed to be representing Arizona, and right now he seems to be just representing himself," said William Crum, treasurer of Americans for Integrity and Justice, the Glendale-based recall committee. "He's got tunnel-vision for the presidency." [...]

The recall group faces long odds. It must collect 381,696 valid petition signatures by June 13 to force a statewide vote. That is 25 percent of all votes cast in the 2004 Senate election. Although McCain is a federal officeholder not bound by the Arizona Constitution's recall provisions, he has signed a voluntary pledge on file with the Secretary of State's Office agreeing to resign immediately if defeated in a recall election.

This isn't that likely to get very far, but it's significant to how times have changed for Mr. Straight Talk. Note that the key quote here isn't about McCain's support for an unpopular war, but that he no longer even pretends to represent his constituents. Nobody believes a word this guy is saying anymore. He'll be President only if the franchise is denied to everyone but journalists.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fake But Accurate

Those EFPs that are "unquestionably" of Iranian origin? One thing about that.

Iranian Ambassador: The evidence that has been produced, in fact fabricated, is preposterous. The dates. If you look at the evidence, the dates that are used in this mortars are written in American date format, putting month first and date second. Whereas nowhere in the world people use month first and date second. Everywhere in the world except for the U.S. And those who fabricated this evidence should listen and learn. Everybody else in the world uses date, month, year. That is the order.

CHARLIE ROSE: That says what to you?

That this evidence is fabricated, as was the evidence that was fabricated before the Iraq war in order to launch an aggression. This evidence is fabricated and it points to a very dangerous policy that is being pursued by this administration.

I'll go you one further. The letter script is Roman and not Farsi, and the date refers to the Roman calendar instead of the Farsi one.

This evidence is fake. It's clearly fake. And via Digby, the President let his Freudian slip show this morning:

Q: What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?

BUSH: Ed, we know they're there, we know they're provided by the Quds force. We know the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. I don't think we know who picked up the phone and said to the Quds force, go do this, but we know it's a vital part of the Iranian government. What matters is, is that we're responding. The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that Iranians are providing IEDs is preposterous.


I suspect that's what came up at his morning briefing and he just blurted it out because he's an idiot.

Still, it's hard for me to believe that even these people can be this inept, but it appears they can. There can be no reasonable explanation for the "bad coordination" between Baghdad on Sunday and Pace and now Bush today. And the "proof" is so suspicious that you honestly cannot take it seriously.

Hillary Clinton said the right thing today about Iran, warning the Administration that they would have to come back to Congress before attacking. But I think we have to step back a piece and put aside the notion of attack, by beginning an immediate set of hearings into whether or not this evidence has been deliberately falsified, as it now appears is likely.

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What's Happening In Baghdad

The vaunted Iraqi security plan that is taking place is not even managing to find any Iraqis:

Thousands of U.S. troops swept house-to-house through mostly Shiite areas virtually unopposed Wednesday in the opening phase of the long-awaited Baghdad security crackdown. But four U.S. soldiers were killed outside of the capital in an area not covered by the operation.

The U.S. military said 14 suspects were detained and four weapons caches discovered during the day's operation — seemingly a low tally. But U.S. officials say they are more concerned about establishing a long-term presence in the areas so that the public will gain confidence in security forces to protect them.

Outside the capital, fighting continued.

The military said four U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday in an explosion in Diyala province, among six new U.S. deaths announced by the military. U.S. officers have expressed concern that insurgents and militias are leaving Baghdad to transfer the fight to Diyala and other provinces that border the capital.

Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, warned that advance publicity on the security operation had given Shiite militias time to flee the city for bases elsewhere in the country.

"I have information that numerous of their leaders are now in Basra and other southern provinces in safe havens," he told Al-Arabiya television. "I believe that those who were behind the bloodshed and the chaos should be pursued and criminals must face justice."

I believe they call that "Whack-A-Mole," and it was inevitable regardless of a super-duper secret surge or one publicized with billboards. It's happened every time the US has tried to assert themselves in any part of the country. Even al-Sadr has gone under (though I don't believe he's in Iran, I think that's just a pretext to give another reason to attack), only to emerge again at some later date or in some other place. But this crackdown mandated by the Iraqi government, which involves "reverse ethnic cleansing," taking Iraqis out of homes where they are not authorized and extending the curfew, will be hard to sustain. It's essentially martial law:

It is impossible to know exactly how many people have been forced from their homes, but estimates by Iraqi and American officials range from tens of thousands to as high as 200,000.

Samantha Power, a public policy professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government who has written widely on genocide, described the plan as either a public relations ploy that would never be enforced, or worse, a prelude to more sectarian cleansing and catastrophe.

“To do this in the middle of a war when tempers have been inflamed and militarization is ubiquitous seems to be putting the cart before the horse,” she said. “You haven’t stopped the willingness to ethnically cleanse, but you’re imposing the moral hazard of ethnic cleansing on the cleansee? Unless you create security first, you are paving the way for a potential massacre of returnees.”

There's more here. I don't see how this is anything other than a slow-motion massacre. Mercenary contractors are involved in the operation as well, clearing out homes and essentially emptying the capital. That's one way to stop the violence there, but at what cost? These sound like roving death squads which will shoot on sight. If one of the thousands of roving child beggars are found in a house where they shouldn't be, what are the rules of engagement? Must orphans leave the city and figure out their own way to survive?

According to the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), the deteriorating economic situation in Iraq is the main reason for the increase in the number of street children since the occupation of the country began in 2003. The next major contributor is the increase in the number of widows countrywide.

"The economic situation of the Iraqis is decreasing month after month. Lots of families are using their children to get additional income, which they can get through begging. There are also families who send their children to work," Cedric Turlan, information officer for the NCCI, said.

The Bush Administration has been shamed into accepting more Iraqi refugees. But 7,000 is still a paltry sum, considering that this new crackdown will create on the order of a couple hundred thousand.

An empty shell of a capital is not a secure capital. It's just a series of bombed-out buildings. It does nothing to protect citizens in a civil war. It denies them shelter, actually.

How is this making anything safer?

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