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

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The End of The Conservative Majority

One thing that you have to keep in mind about this conservative crackup over immigration is that it was inevitable. There's always been a racist, nativist element to America, and it usually expands in times where economics are tough for the middle and lower classes. As Bush Administration policies increased income inequality, the troops had to be riled up with the spectre of the scary brown man taking you job away (in truth, if you look at the actual figures, undocumented immigrants contribute just as much, if not more, to the economy than they take out). And since the Republican Party primarily gets its message out these days by demonizing the other, it was obvious that all the ugliness associated with white supremacism would be made manifest in this "secure the borders" critique, and that the dirty brown people would be blamed far more than the businesspeople who hired them cheaply.

There's simply no way to square that with an effort to win Latino votes. When even your most "moderate" standard-bearer is telling bilinguals to "turn off the Spanish TV set" (did anyone tell Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side to speak English or die? Didn't they become the future entrepreneurs of America?), you have a major problem with Hispanic voters. And those chickens are coming home to roost.

As a Cuban who fled Fidel Castro's communist rule for a new life in the U.S., Julio Izquierdo would seem a natural Republican voter — a sure bet to adopt the same political lineage that has long guided most of his countrymen who resettled in South Florida.

But moments after taking his oath this week to become a U.S. citizen and registering to vote, the grocery store employee said he felt no such allegiances.

"I don't know whether Bush is a Democrat or a Republican, but whatever he is, I'm voting the other way," Izquierdo, 20, said Thursday as he waited for a taxi after a mass naturalization ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Izquierdo said he did not like President Bush's handling of the Iraq war and was miffed at politicians, most of them Republican, who seem to dislike immigrants.

That sentiment, expressed by several of the 6,000 new citizens who took their oaths Thursday in group ceremonies that take place regularly in immigrant-heavy cities nationwide, underscored the troubled environment facing the GOP in the buildup to next year's presidential election.

Surveys show that among Latino voters — a bloc Bush had hoped to woo into the Republican camp — negative views about the party are growing amid a bitter debate over immigration policy.

The fastest-growing demographic in America is the Hispanic population. One party is telling them that they want to bring their bretheren out of the shadows and make sure they're not exploited by big business. The other wants to round them up and send them home whether they're Americans or not. There's no middle ground there. And if Hispanic voters start to vote like black voters, that's the end of the Republican Party as anything but a regional Southern phenomenon. End of story.

We saw a hint of this in Texas in late 2006, when Ciro Rodriguez won an improbable House pick-up in a border district. And there's every indication that this move of Hispanics to the Democratic Party is continuing.

Republican opposition to liberalized immigration reform has put at risk the loyalty of a key constituency - evangelical Protestant Hispanics. The loss of this Hispanic support endangers the GOP’s ability to win presidential elections.

In the view of Republican strategists, it is crucial for the party’s candidates to win a substantial share of the Hispanic vote to remain competitive in the Southwest mountain states - Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico - and, looking farther ahead, in Florida and Texas.

Key leaders in the rapidly growing Latino evangelical community who had provided strong support to President Bush in 2004 are deeply angered by the opposition among Republicans to immigration legislation now stalled in the Senate.

“The Republican Party does not have a clue just how the perception of them among Hispanics has completely deteriorated in the last few years,” said Marcos Witt, Senior Pastor of the Hispanic congregation at Lakewood Church in Houston and a three-time Latin Grammy winner for his Christian recordings.

Some Republicans, like Karl Rove and RNC Chair Mel Martinez, understand this. But they've created a monster of a base that has zero tolerance for anyone that looks different, and I don't see how that gets reconciled in the near future. This immigration bill has been revived, and while Harry Reid made a great POLITICAL move by tying its comeback to the President, further sharpening the difference with his base, out in the country, in the Hispanic community, the fault lines are pretty clear. And it's not just among Hispanic immigrants. Take a look at this video from the folks at Dreams Across America, who are riding the rails to Washington to advocate for immigration reform.

This was a legal immigrant family, who played by the rules and got in line and came to America and started a business, and still the wife and son were deported. There is a strain of the Republican anti-immigrant crowd that will simply not be happy with anyone not born in this country who looks like them staying here. And given that we're a nation of immigrants, that is a political death knell.

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CA-37: Two-Day-Late Debateblogging

I hope you guys appreciate me, because I managed to get through the entire 90-minute debate for the June 26 primary in the 37th Congressional District to replace the late Juanita Millender-McDonald held on Thursday night. 11 Democrats were on stage, and because they were all given 2 minute opening statements, the debate really didn't cover much ground. But actually, the fact that the moderator was a clueless local news anchor from LA's ABC7 who had virtually no connection to the district was a good thing, as the persistent issues of race played out in the media in the campaign were fairly nonexistent in the debate.

Let's take a look at each candidate's opening statement:

Ed Wilson: former mayor of Signal Hill, a small city in the district. He immediately went after the whole ethnicity issue, saying "this is not a black seat or a white seat or a Hispanic seat, it's your seat."

Peter Matthews: He's the PDA-endorsed candidate who has run for office many times, including challenging Millender-McDonald in a primary in 2006 (and getting 10,000 votes). Matthews is running on the progressive issues on getting us out of Iraq, closing the inequality divide, providing single-payer universal health care, and restoring tax fairness.

Jenny Oropeza: The state Senator was strong on the war, saying "we need to get out of Iraq now." She talked about the environment, health care, revising NCLB, and needing to "turn around trade agreements" that sacrifice American job (that was cheering). She closed with "You know my record," playing off her experience serving the area.

Laura Richardson: Assemblywoman Richardson is also running on her record. She kind of messed up her move from talking about Iraq to domestic issues, saying "I want to talk about the war in America" and then claiming that Al Qaeda is running rampant (I think she meant in Waziristan, not Long Beach). Didn't seem like much of a public speaker.

Valerie McDonald: The late Congresswoman's daughter talked about her ties to the area, the need to keep families together in the black community, and the importance of education.

Bill Grisolia: He's a longtime employee of Long Beach Memorial Health Center, so universal health care was one of his themes. But he was at his most powerful discussing the war in Iraq, and his desire to cut funding except to bring our troops home. He also tried to blunt the experience argument by saying "What have the electeds done for you?"

Mr. Evans: I forget his first name and it doesn't matter. He's a far-right immigrant-hating loon who somehow was let into the Democratic primary. He proudly namechecked Lou Dobbs in the first sentence of his statement and called himself a closed-borders candidate. There is a sense in the black community that immigrants are in competition with them for low-paying jobs, but this was the most extreme out-and-out black bigot I've seen.

Alicia Ford: Spent her entire statement talking about something she did a decade ago that ABC7 didn't cover, which made her bad. Also actually said "In Compton, they are without... a lot of things." Stirring.

Lee Davis: Her whole statement decried the front-runner assumptions of the media, and said that "if the top three had any self-respect they'd leave this stage right now" to allow for equal access, and then actually WAITED for them to leave the stage. They, er, didn't.

George Parmer: a truck driver from Long Beach, the first to actually call for impeachment and call out the Democratic leadership for their sell-out on capitulation in Iraq.

Jeffrey Price: Talked mainly about lobbying and ethics reform.

Albert Robles: a write-in candidate in a 17-candidate field. Best of luck to you. I mean, if you can't get the papers in on time...

The first question was on Iraq, and pretty much the entire field is committed to getting out now, so on that big issue, there's not a lot of daylight and everyone is on the right side. Peter Matthews went so far as to suggest that there ought to be impeachment investigations into lying us into war, and announced his support for HR 333, the impeachment of Dick Cheney. The moderator actually did the "raise your hands" thing on the impeachment question, and I think 8 or 9 candidates raised their hands, including Jenny Oropeza (it was a wide shot on a postage stamp video window, so I could be wrong). Mr. Evans, of course, kept calling the President the "commander-in-chief" and yelled at everybody for undermining him in a time of war. I think there's a place for him in the Connecticut for Lieberman Party.

On Iran, Jenny Oropeza has sadly bought into the bullshit rhetoric that they are a threat to our national security and that all options have to be on the table regarding their nuclear program. She also said that she thinks diplomacy has failed because this President is incapable of it. Only Alicia Ford understood that Iran is not an imminent threat, but then she went on about how China is a threat to this country and how in Compton they don't have "things."

Transportation and port security was a major topic, with the Port of Long Beach in the district. Most candidates supported efforts to green the ports, including State Sen. Alan Loewenthal's $30 container fee for clean air proposal. Peter Matthews pressed the need for public transit to aid a cleaner environment. Valerie McDonald was good on this issue as well. George Parmer, the trucker, maintained that many truckers own their equipment and can't afford to modernize their trucks, and so some of the funds from the container fee should trickle down to them. I didn't see much difference here.

A big topic was the events at MLK/Harbor Medical Center's ER, which has been in the news lately, as a woman fell dead in the waiting room while the hospital staff did nothing. Most of the candidates believed MLK/Harbor should remain open and would support the $200 million in federal funding that goes into it annually, though Ed Wilson and Valerie McDonald stressed accountability. Laura Richardson said a platitude like "this situation must be dealt with" but didn't explain how. Peter Matthews mentioned that he organized a picket at MLK/Harbor 2 years ago and the only result was that they cut beds in half. Bill Grisolia stressed the need for cooperation in the community, perhaps nurses college training partnerships to get more staff in there. Many stressed the need for universal healthcare so that poor people aren't relying on the ER as their last resort.

On a question about Wal-Mart, Oropeza proudly claimed that she fought against a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, and now there's an Albertson's there! (Does she not read the news about the looming grocery strike and how Albertson's in particular is trying to screw their workers again?) The major candidates were in agreement on this, though only Valerie McDonald mentioned that workers ought to have the right to organize. I take it she'd support the Employee Free Choice Act.

In final thoughts, Oropeza said she wouldn't support the current immigration bill but didn't say why, George Parmer advocated a national paper ballot because "votes are being stolen," and Ed Wilson wanted to stop Congress from raiding Social Security and Medicare funds. Laura Richardson took a cheap shot when she mentioned some local shooting and claimed she was the only candidate there (what, if you run for Congress, you have to know where the shootings are?).

My impression is that the candidates, by and large, are fairly progressive, as befits the district. Oropeza and Richardson are politicians who are playing some political games. Oropeza doesn't seem all that informed on a couple crucial issues, and Richardson is clearly running a "vote for me, I'm one of you" race. I was impressed with Valerie McDonald and Bill Grisolia. Peter Matthews certainly has all of his progressive chops down, and it will be interesting to see if he can leverage the grassroots energy in Southern California from PDA and translate it into votes.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Random Ten - Better Late Than Never Edition

I was kind of on the run all day, so here's your late night music:

Destination Moon - They Might Be Giants
Readymade - Beck
Province - TV On The Radio
Pam Berry - The Shins
My Valuable Hunting Knife - Guided By Voices
Freedom - Rage Against The Machine
The Plan - Built To Spill
More Human Than Human - White Zombie (I'm gettin' my metal on tonight)
Naked Eye - Luscious Jackson
Boys Who Love Girls - The Rosebuds

That last one was fitting, because The Rosebuds have been in my head all week.

Also, Don't Stop Believin' should be the national anthem.

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Best Sign Of Progress Yet

The more mosques that are blown up, the more desperate the enemy becomes! The enemy defined as anyone that blows up mosques or commits any act of violence against anyone, be they Sunni, Shia or Kurd, Al Qaeda, foreign or home-grown. In other words, we're defending whoever DOESN'T bomb something that day.

And it's 1, 2, 3, what are we fighting 4?

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Last One Working At The Justice Department Turn Out The Lights

Sara Taylor, Harriet Miers, Kyle Sampson, Michael Battle, Monica Goodling, Paul McNulty, Tim Griffin, Bradley Schlozman, and now Mike Elston; all involved with the US Attorney Scandal, all out of work.

A senior Justice Department official who helped carry out the dismissals of federal prosecutors said Friday he is resigning.

Mike Elston, chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, is the fifth Justice official to leave after being linked to the dismissals of the prosecutors.

To refresh your memory, Mike Elston was the hatchet man of the group.

As McNulty's top aide, Elston's duties included overseeing the government's 93 U.S. attorneys nationwide. He was closely involved in the firings of seven of the eight prosecutors who were dismissed in 2006. In addition to helping plan those firings, he called several of the U.S. attorneys afterward trying to quell the growing outcry.

At least four of the prosecutors Elston contacted said they felt threatened by his calls, which they interpreted as demands to stay quiet about why they were fired. Congress is investigating the firings, which Democrats believe were politically motivated [...]

"I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general's," wrote Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Nevada.

John McKay, former top prosecutor in Seattle, said he perceived a threat from Elston during his call. And Carol Lam, who was U.S. attorney in San Diego, said that "during one phone call, Michael Elston erroneously accused me of 'leaking' my dismissal to the press, and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys."

Well, that's all wrapped up now, right? Everyone involved with the scandal has resigned! Everyone, of course, but the ones accountable.

(In other US Attorney news today, by the way, Bradley Schlozman has now been accused of replacing female minority lawyers in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department with what he called "Good Americans". He's under investigation for this by the DoJ's Inspector General.)

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Conservatives agree: no "amnesty" for Scooter Libby

WASHINGTON (Alternate Universe News) - Conservative activists and politicians fanned out across the country today amidst new developments in the Scooter Libby case, insisting that the President not give the convicted felon what amounts to "amnesty" for his crimes.

"I don't care what you call it, pardon or whatever, this is amnesty," said Duncan Hunter (R-CA), conservative candidate for President. "We cannot tell those who work hard and play by the rules that somebody who broke the laws of this country can simply 'cut the line' and be set free."

Libby, convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to FBI agents and a grand jury in the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, has become a cause celebre among "law and order" conservatives, who are demanding that he not be given special treatment.

"What do our laws mean in this country if they are not equally applied," queried Jim Gilchrest, head of the Minuteman Project, an anti-Scooter Libby group. "We have no problem with legal White House officials. It's the ones who break the law that must be stopped, and they certainly can't be given amnesty."

Conservative talk-radio hosts, bloggers, and grassroots organizations were working at a fever pitch to advocate against any amnesty for Libby. The website is collecting signatures for a petition asking the President to take a "no amnesty" pledge. A crowd rallied in Lafayette Square yesterday, shouting "No Amnesty!" while holding up pictures of the former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. One attendee said, "they should enforce the laws on the books. If you lie to a grand jury, you face the consequences. I didn't lie, why should I have to suffer with having Libby out in the country, taking a job I want to do?"

The White House has been surprised by the fierce reaction from conservatives against the proposed amnesty for Libby, and tried to spin what a Presidential pardon would actually accomplish. "Make no mistake, this would not be amnesty," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. "This would be a process whereby someone who was convicted by a jury and sentenced by a federal judge would be set free. I can't see how you call that amnesty in any legitimate way."

Even the President's staunchest allies, conservative editorial boards like the National Review and the Weekly Standard, have been unyielding in their desire not to see amnesty for Libby. In his editorial, Another "No Amnesty" Amnesty for Libby, Mark Kirkorian wrote:

There’s only one way Congress and the president can earn back the public’s trust on Scooter Libby: Enforce the law — comprehensively, confidently, unapologetically. Then, after several years have passed and enforcement mechanisms are in place and working ... Washington will have proven that, this time, it’s not lying about Scooter Libby.

Until then, no deal.

It is unclear what the President will decide to do regarding Libby, but one thing is clear; his conservative base is abandoning him because they are taking a principled stand of no amnesty for people who break the law, no matter who they are.

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Peter Pace Was Shitcanned

Proof in his first remarks since stepping down.

In his first public comments on the Bush administration's surprise decision to replace him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace disclosed that he had turned down an offer to voluntarily retire rather than be forced out.

To quit in wartime, he said, would be letting down the troops.

"One thing that was discussed was whether or not I should just voluntarily retire and take the issue off the table," Pace said, according to a transcript released Friday by his office at the Pentagon.

"I said I could not do that for one very fundamental reason," which is that no soldier or Marine in Iraq should "think — ever — that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield.

"That is unacceptable as a leadership thing, in my mind," he added.

But God forbid Harry Reid calls him incompetent.

By the way, a President has every right to replace the military leadership. But this deification of the military, to the extent that you can't dare even criticize them, leads to these kinds of hypocrisies.

We've really got twisted the whole role of the military vis-a-vis the civilian leadership in this country. We should not be waiting for the military to set international policy. Their job is to carry out a mission given to them by the government. And if they do a poor job in implementation, they ought to be criticized and let go. If they do an exemplary job but are given an impossible mission, that ought to be where the blame lies. My sense is that's what's happened in Iraq. It's going just horribly because we have no sense of mission. So General Petraeus gives happy talks and extolls the virtues of soccer fields and amusement parks, while people continue to die and violence rages ever more (and no, that's not a sign of success). But who's really to blame? And who should be tasked with finding a way forward? It seems that the more the occupation of Iraq goes badly, the more Bush finds sonebody else to blame (like a war czar, or a new General on the ground, or a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs).

Let's cut the crap. Military leaders are not above reproach, but they also shouldn't carry the whole load in a time of war. The buck ought to stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A fish rots from the head down.

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Pass The Employee Free Choice Act

It's hard out here for a union. For the last 50 years, legislation has chipped away at the ability for unions to survive. Just yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a classic union-busting tactic, allowing states to pass laws that "force public sector labor unions to get consent from workers before using their fees for political activities." This is a mirror image of the pernicious Prop. 75, which was defeated in California in 2005. Why nobody has passed a law forcing corporations to get consent from shareholders before using their money for politics is beyond me. I'm sure the union busters behind this legislation would suddenly have a respect for the free speech of corporations that they don't have for unions.

The point is that the unions are in trouble. And a vibrant middle class in this country is permanently associated with a vibrant labor movement. The Senate is taking up the Employee Free Choice Act shortly. The bill has already passed the House by wide margins. It is desperately needed.

I've often described in this space how current labor laws make it extremely difficult for America's workers to form unions without harassment and intimidation from their employers. Many employers want it both ways—workers who produce a lot but who are not paid enough for what they do. The union difference makes a big difference: When comparing wages alone, union workers on average make 30 percent more—that's a median weekly wage of $833 for a union worker compared with $642 for a full-time nonunion worker in 2006. (The full picture of the union difference is here.)

Improving the wages and working conditions of workers—and in the process, salvaging our shrinking middle class—is a big reason why we in the union movement have fought for the Employee Free Choice Act. The act would give workers more options in forming unions and level the playing field that's now tilted largely toward the boss.

Some 60 million workers say they would join a union if they could—but our labor laws, dating back to the 1930s, are skewed in favor of corporate giants who spend big bucks to harass and intimidate workers. And it works—after all, how many people want to lose their jobs? (Although it’s illegal to fire workers for forming unions, management does it anyway, counting on the fact that it often takes years for a worker’s appeal to wind its way through the regional and national labor boards and even the courts.)

If the majority of workers at a company want to form a union, they ought to be allowed to do so. Period. Call your Senators and ask them to support the middle class in this country by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.

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Aguirre, The Wrath Of God

These are the craziest political ads I've ever seen. I think I'm on the Gravel train now just because of my penchant for German art films.

I really don't know what to say. These make the "moment of Zen" look like 10 minutes of MTV.

I think we've finally found a political campaign that speaks to disaffected film-school dropouts everywhere. David Lynch at his weirdest was never this profoundly odd.

Just that Gravel would allow this to be his campaign message is absurdly brilliant. He has to be President so he can shoot a sequel to Empire in the White House.

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Joe Lieberman Actually Said This

"If (Bill) Kristol says what I'm doing is right, it must be right."

Ho. Lee. Crap.

I don't think there's enough space on this blog to itemize all of the things about which Bill Kristol has been wrong. Let me pluck one at random.

"I think there's been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America, that, you know, somehow the Shia can't get along with the Sunni, or the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq has always been very secular."

"Always" in this context must be taken to mean "while Saddam Hussein was killing Shiites and Kurds and forcing their leaders into exile, from the outsider's view it seemed that way."

That's almost a disqualifying statement from the Senate, suitable for expulsion. The only people who listent to Bill Kristol anymore are Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney. I think even Bush looked at Kristol's advice and thought, "Well that's just stupid."

UPDATE: Lieberman spread the usual bullshit in the WSJ today, saying in the same editorial that the Sunnis are turning against Al Qaeda in Al Anbar, but if we leave Iraq, Al Qaeda will take over. If Al Qaeda can't even persuade fellow Iraqi Sunnis in the West to join them, how do you think they'll fare with enemy Shiites throughout the country? What a tool.

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Under The Wire

What's even weirder about the George Cardona appointment to the US Attorney office in Los Angeles is that the President went ahead and signed the bill that would have blocked such an appointment:

On June 14, 2007, the President signed into law:

S. 214, the “Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007.”

Why was it so important to get Cardona in before mandating Senate confirmation? What do we know about this guy?

We know that he was a lecturer at UCLA Law School. He was an Assistant US Attorney under Bush I and Clinton from 1991-1998. What you can find about him online is kind of thin.

I suspect this was more about keeping OUT the independent Thomas O'Brien, who was an imminent choice, than keeping in Cardona, who's probably a loyal Republican but nothing along the lines of a Schlozman or a Hans von Spakovsky.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Enough With the Nation-Building!

The final fruits of our democracy project in the Middle East were plucked from the vine this week, when Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Palestinian government amidst a full-scale civil war in Gaza, where Hamas has the upper hand. Hundreds have died and more violence is to come:

Fearful that Hamas' momentum could spread to the West Bank, Fatah went on the offensive there, rounding up three dozen Hamas fighters. Angry militants threw office furniture out a third-story window of the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah, then set fire to the office of three Hamas lawmakers. A Hamas activist was shot and killed in Nablus, the first person to be killed in the West Bank after days of violence in Gaza; the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent Fatah offshoot, claimed responsibility.

In Gaza, it was a day of major victories for Hamas and its backers in Iran and Syria — and of devastating setbacks for the Western-backed Fatah. In one particularly humiliating scene, masked Hamas fighters marched agents of the once-feared Preventive Security Service out of their headquarters, arms raised in the air, stripped to the waist and ducking at the sound of a gunshot.

"The era of justice and Islamic rule has arrived," Hamas spokesman Islam Shahawan said.

Gee, it was such a good idea to give the group that says "the era of justice and Islamic rule has arrived" a stirring electoral victory last year, wasn't it? (h/t Garance Franke-Ruta)

Five years ago this month, President Bush stood in the Rose Garden and laid out a vision for the Middle East that included Israel and a state called Palestine living together in peace. "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror," the president declared.

The takeover this week of the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group dedicated to the elimination of Israel demonstrates how much that vision has failed to materialize, in part because of actions taken by the administration. The United States championed Israel's departure from the Gaza Strip as a first step toward peace and then pressed both Israelis and Palestinians to schedule legislative elections, which Hamas unexpectedly won. Now Hamas is the unchallenged power in Gaza [...]

"The less we try to intervene and shape Palestinian politics, the better off we will be," said Robert Malley, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the International Crisis Group. "Almost every decision the United States has made to interfere with Palestinian politics has boomeranged."

Elections aren't democracy, and elections without understanding and preparing for the eventual consequences are downright stupid. Hamas grew powerful electorally and they translated it into a military victory over Fatah. This was pretty well known at the time, but we chose to ignore it. And then, we intervened on behalf of Fatah when it was clear they didn't have the support of the people in Gaza. We tried to starve the Palestinian people after the Hamas victory, and we tried to arm Fatah so they could gain through force what they could not gain at the ballot box. And it bounced right back on us in the fastest example of blowback you've ever seen.

We seem to not be able to leave well enough alone in the Middle East, despite our reverse-Midas touch where everything we encounter turns to shit. We don't seem to understand this central truth about the region:

"The people who are moderate are not effective," said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "And the people who are effective are not moderate."

You wonder where we can go from here, but this Administration is so catastrophically bad when it comes to foreign policy you'd rather they sat in the corner without talking for the next 19 months. But if there is a way forward, it probably lies in a three-state solution at this point, with a Gaza-Hamastan, Fatah/Palestine and Israel. That's untenable, but so is the current situation. This meddling in the internal Palestinian affairs has made the Jewish state far less safe than it was even at the time of Arafat. Any hope that the new generation of Arab and Israeli leaders could work out their differences is gone. Now we're faced with a series of very unattractive policy options. Sound a lot like Iraq to you?

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Just One More Unaccountable Appointment Before I Go

The one, and perhaps only, hard piece of accountability that has come out of the widening US Attorney scandal is that the Congress passed legislation striking out the provision in the PATRIOT Act that allowed the Justice Department to appoint replacement federal prosecutors without seeking Senate confirmation. The new law passed in both Houses with expansive, veto-proof majorities (94-2 in the Senate, 306-114 in the House). Any veto would be overridden, so the President has no choice but to sign the bill.

Except he hasn't yet, and the hip-pocket veto has enabled Abu G to strike again - right in my own backyard of Los Angeles.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting Thursday morning, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales once again used an interim appointment authority at the heart of the US Attorneys controversy that Congress banned in a bill sent to the President for signature on June 4 [...]

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Senator Leahy, clarified the situation in an e-mail to RAW STORY.

"It just so happens the committee got notice yesterday, that on June 16, George Cardona's 210 days as Acting U.S. Attorney in the Central District of California will have run out and the Attorney General will appoint him as an interim U.S. Attorney at that time. (i.e. still using the end-run authority because Bush has slow-walked signing the bill)," she wrote.

The Cardona appointment is interesting, to say the least. It was reported in the LA Times just two weeks ago that a new hire for Cardona's position was imminent. The Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley called the pick, Thomas O'Brien, "the most apolitical person selected to that job in quite some time." Remember that the vacancy here was made by Debra Wong Yang's departure to Republican law firm Gibson Dunn, the same firm whose client was Rep. Jerry Lewis, who Yang was investigating at the time.

So Lewis' team had already bought out Yang (allegedly!), and now they were faced with the prospect of a hard-charging independent former DA in the role. That must not have sat well with him. So did Lewis tell the Justice Department to keep their handpicked loyalist in place until he made his way out of Congress (he's rumored to be retiring)?

Marcy Wheeler also sees another angle here.

Finally, the move is especially curious because Gerry Parsky, a bigwig Republican who heads a Commission that picks judicial appointees in CA, has been particularly cranky about being left out of the process of naming USAs. And DOJ already went around him on this position specifically.

Once Yang resigned in November to pursue private law practice, it was up to the commission to make recommendations to the White House and the Justice Department. But Sampson and Goodling tried to generate candidates of their own. Interviews were scheduled with half a dozen people, many of whom had held political appointments in the department.

Parsky did not respond to e-mailed questions about his role in the process.

After word of the interview schedule leaked, Parsky called the White House and the Justice Department to complain, according to a person familiar with the process who requested anonymity because it involves a personnel matter. Goodling was allowed to proceed with the interviews, but was told she had to tell the candidates that they would have to reapply through the commission.

Ultimately, the commission is believed to have recommended two candidates; the only one interviewed by the Justice officials in Washington was a career prosecutor who has headed the criminal division of the Los Angeles office. The White House has not said whom it will nominate for the post.

Some people close to the selection process suspect Goodling and Sampson were attempting an end-run around the commission to install a politically connected Washington insider, possibly by using a law that permitted the attorney general to appoint interim U.S. attorneys without Senate oversight.

Indeed, Parsky was on board with the Thomas O'Brien appointment, according to the recent LA Times article. Until it all fell through.

What the hell's going on here? Why is it so important to keep George Cardona in the Los Angeles USA seat, in defiance of a law passed by over 85% of Congress? Does this have to do with investigations of members of Congress like Lewis (and, potentially, Ken Calvert)? Will there be an effort to suppress the vote in the extremely ethnically diverse region, and must Cardona be the point person for that? It's very, very curious.

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CA-04, CA-44: Defenders of Wildlife Getting Involved?

You all might remember how Richard Pombo's exit from the House was given a boost by a coalition of environmentalists calling themselves the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. They created ads and mailers bashing Pombo's shoddy record of protecting our natural resources and were quite successful.

They've now turned their attentions north to CA-04 and John Doolittle. In fact, they're releasing a radio ad attacking Doolittle for his repeated denials of the existence of global warming. The ads, located at, have also been customized for other Western state global warming deniers like CA-44's Ken Calvert, Arizona's Rick Renzi, New Mexico's Steve Pearce, and Nevada's Dean Heller.

link (Doolittle mp3)

link (Calvert mp3)

The mini-sites on Doolittle and Calvert have a lot of information like their enviromental legislative scorecards, news updates, and total campaign contributions from industries like oil, automotive, and electric utilities. You can also take action by sending a constituent letter.

I love when opponents are defined early. Clearly global warming will continue to be a major issue in 2008, and the Defenders of Wildlife are placing corrupt and vulnerable members like Calvert and Doolittle squarely in the denial camp. The fact that they are jumping aboard suggests that they see real potential in both of these races.

(P.S. As the end of Q2 nears, you're going to hear me asking you to donate to Charlie Brown's campaign a lot, so why don't you just go to the Calitics ActBlue page right now and get it off your to-do list?)

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The Great Scooter Libby Freak-Out

This was hilarious by Digby, but I want to bring up another point. Wolf Blitzer just got done saying, "The pressure's on, Bush has only 6-8 weeks to pardon Libby." Or what? He'll melt? Aren't these the same people laughing that Paris Hilton should take her medicine and not get special treatment to get her out of jail? Now they think this fragile flower Scooter Libby can't spend 10 minutes in the clink and must be saved? Isn't Libby partially responsible for sending Americans into a war zone? He can't bear to don an orange jumpsuit without fainting and slipping into a dementia?

There's no pressure on the President except what's being applied by the right-wing noise machine. These Beltway insiders can't bear to see their friend in the slammer because they know they're just as culpable for the depredations of this Administration. Looking at Libby is like looking into a mirror.

UPDATE: By the way, Hardball really gave voice to the entire political spectrum on today's ruling. You had, on one side, a guy who was hired by and worked for Scooter Libby, and from the left, Pat Buchanan.

UPDATE II: I was surprised to hear David Shuster explain very logically and succinctly that Libby does have an easy way out of thae molten fire that is a minimum security prison. He can simply tell the feds what he knows about Dick Cheney's involvement, and he's likely to get leniency in exchange for that information. Everyone shrieking like a maniac that this is a travesty of justice ought to counsel their sainted Jesus that all he has to do is pass a few nuggets about the VP and he can go on the wingnut welfare lecture circuit for the rest of his life.

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Great Moments In Journalism

CNN right now is reporting on this allegation that Harry Reid called Peter Pace and David Petraeus "incompetent" in a discussion with liberal bloggers. The Politico reported it originally; CNN called it a "newspaper," when it's a website owned by a far-right Reagan-era official. The right is having a field day with the story.

Only it maybe didn't happen.

We asked Joan McCarter, who blogs at DailyKos under the name McJoan and wrote about being on the call here, if she recalled Reid calling Pace "incompetent."

"I don't remember him saying anything like that," she answered. "I can't swear he didn't say it. But I have no memory that he actually did. It's not in my notes."

Asked if Reid had disparaged Petraeus at all, McCarter said: "No. He said something about [Petraeus] coming back in September to deliver a report." But on the question of whether he'd said something disparaging, McCarter said: "Not that I recall, no."

"I don't even recall Pace's name specifically being mentioned," adds Barbara Morrill, who blogs at Kos under the name BarbinMD and says she was on the call. "If it was, he did not say that he was incompetent."

Asked if he'd criticized Petraeus, Morrill said: "Not that I recall. I checked my notes," and there was nothing like this. "He mentioned the report that Petraeus is supposed to be coming out in September. I only recall him saying something along the lines that the Bush administration had run the war poorly. Any criticisms were against the Bush administration."

Finally, here's what MyDD's Jonathan Singer, who wrote about the call here, told us: "I don't remember him calling Pace incompetent." He added that while he couldn't promise that he hadn't done it, "I just don't recall those statements."

The Politico runs an unsourced story about Reid making comments on a blogger conference call, reports that no blogger remembers or ever made in their postings on the subject, and that's... good enough for everybody! There was nobody on the call except for bloggers and staff aides, so you have to wonder where the Politico got its information. And I love how the fact that Reid "didn't deny" the charge means that he absolutely said it.

I think that the Politico is going to end up with egg on their face on this one - again.

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More Bullshit Spread on Iran

Well, here we go again. I guess the first time around, when the Bush Administration claimed that Iran was constructing EFPs for Iraq (even though most of the EFPs have come from Sunni insurgents, not the Shia with whom Iran is in close concert), fell appart upon scrutiny. So it was time to make a new claim, now that the Iranian government has been arming the Taliban. It sounded ridiculous, the two are mortal enemies; Iran even helped the US rescue downed pilots during the Afghanistan invasion in late 2001. And now the bullshit peddling has been confirmed (h/t The Left Coaster).

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Afghanistan's defense minister on Thursday dismissed claims by a top U.S. State Department official that there was "irrefutable evidence" that the Iranian government was providing arms to Taliban rebels.

"Actually, throughout, we have had good relations with Iran and we believe that the security and stability of Afghanistan are also in the interests of Iran," Abdul Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press.

On Wednesday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in Paris that Tehran was directly supplying weapons to the Taliban. He told CNN there was "irrefutable evidence" that arms shipments were coming from Iran's government.

The State Department later appeared to step back from Burns' assertion, but stressed that the United States has proof that weapons from Iran were reaching Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

This is how it's always gone, a bold assertion followed by hedging and denials. Common sense dictates that there was no way the Iranians would undermine their own interests and try to put an enemy back in power. We know who's arming the Taliban: Pakistan. This obvious fact is rarely uttered by State Department flacks like Nick Burns or warmongers like Joe Lieberman, who's using fake stories like this to push for attacks on Tehran. Wes Clark smacked him down on this one.

On CBS's Face the Nation, Lieberman said, "If [the Iranians] don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing." [...]

Senator Lieberman's saber rattling does nothing to help dissuade Iran from aiding Shia militias in Iraq, or trying to obtain nuclear capabilities. In fact, it's highly irresponsible and counter-productive, and I urge him to stop.

This kind of rhetoric is irresponsible and only plays into the hands of President Ahmadinejad, and those who seek an excuse for military action. What we need now is full-fledged engagement with Iran. We should be striving to bridge the gulf of almost 30 years of hostility and only when all else fails should there be any consideration of other options. The Iranians are very much aware of US military capabilities. They don't need Joe Lieberman to remind them that we are the militarily dominant power in the world today.

Only someone who never wore the uniform or thought seriously about national security would make threats at this point. What our soldiers need is responsible strategy, not a further escalation of tensions in the region. Senator Lieberman must act more responsibly and tone down his threat machine.

The conventional wisdom among those predisposed to view any global situation in a military context, the so-called "liberal hawks," is that we have to "do something" about Iran. It's never suggested WHAT; you know, what facilities should we specifically target, what ground troops should we deploy, etc. This is what Ezra Klein explores in a story for The American Prospect.

The new approach is not to refight the battle over the Iraq war, but to argue that those who got it right, or who got it wrong but eventually came to the right answer, are now in danger of overlearning the lessons of the war -- and missing the danger posed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. An elegant entry into this burgeoning genre comes from Ken Baer in the latest issue of Democracy. "[A] president's past mistakes," writes Baer, "can so preoccupy political leaders that they lose sight of the dangers ahead or the principles they hold dear." In the conclusion of his piece, he warns that progressives must "not use anger at one war as an excuse to blink when confronting a future threat head on." [...]

The remarkable thing about the growing liberal hawk literature on Iran is its evasiveness -- the unwillingness to speak in concrete terms of both the threat and proposed remedies. The liberal hawks realize they were too eager in counseling war last time, and their explicit statements in support of invasion have caused them no end of trouble since. This time, they will advocate no such thing. But nor will they eschew it. They will simply criticize those who do take a position [...]

Baer's dodge is not rare. A while back, The New Republic demanded that "the West finally get ruthlessly serious about Iran." Unless "ruthlessly serious" describes some subset of containment theory that I'm unfamiliar with, this seems like mercilessly frivolous advice. But such is the sorry state of discourse on Iran: lots of hyperventilating, but relatively little in the way of actual diagnosis or prescription.

This, of course, plays into the hands of those who will articulate a strategy involving bombs and guns and indiscriminate murder against the citizens of a country that does not represent a threat. If anybody who actually stakes out a position against war with Iran is seen as irresponsible, it stands to reason that those on the opposite side are then completely responsible, despite the fact that they have no idea what they're talking about. There's a lot of deliberate lying designed to push us into yet another tragic mistake of a war. The useful idiots in places like the Brookings Institution that greased the wheels for the last mistake seem to make a fetish of "sounding tough" and disassociating themselves from the dirty fucking hippies than acting in the best foreign policy interests of the country. Here's hoping they wake up and understand that their enabling of a renegade President will be yet another disaster.

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This Constitutes Biting Rhetoric On The Right

What a cogent argument - that Harry Reid is irrelevant because of the way he looks and sounds.

Coming from the guy who looks the same as his 1988 Young Comedians Special headshot only without the rolled up Miami Vice sportjacket sleeves, and whose voice is literally the most mocked in the history of comedy, the epitome of faux-hipster "hey chi-chi" cynicism, a voice that attempts to make a big point by, you know, SOUNDING like it, without saying anything of substance at all.

Also, you've got a guy talking about the Senate Majority Leader irrelevant who just signed on to host a game show on GSN, which about four people in this country could find with a universal remote and a flashlight. Believe me, I've worked at GSN, Charles Nelson Reilly is still relevant on that channel and he died last month.

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Off To Jail, Scooter

Sorry, but actions have consequences.

A federal judge said Thursday he will not delay a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak case, a ruling that could send the former White House aide to prison within weeks.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton's decision will send Libby's attorneys rushing to an appeals court to block the sentence and could force President Bush to consider calls from Libby's supporters to pardon the former aide.

No date was set for Libby to report to prison but it's expected to be within six to eight weeks. That will be left up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which will also select a facility.

"Unless the Court of Appeals overturns my ruling, he will have to report," Walton said.

David Broder and Joe Klein just dropped their cocktail glasses.

By the way, Judge Walton is getting threats from those nice defenders of Libby's right to lie. Ah, the comity of conservatism...

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Huh What Now?

Did anyone even know that Lurita Doan was black until Congressional Republicans decided to bring it up yesterday?

On a number of occasions, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led his colleagues in accusing their Democratic counterparts of targeting Doan because she was a black woman and a Republican.

“You’re an African-American Republican so you’ve got a big bull’s eye on you,” Davis, the former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said to Administrator Doan at one stage. […]

Davis wasn’t the only Republican member in the House hearing to make such an allegation. “You’re a Republican, a minority, and a woman, a GOP contributor, and they’ve targeted you, they’re circling you to come after you,” said Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who objected to the hearing at various occasions.

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) also said, “I find that when an African-American is a Republican, somehow, she is treated differently by Congress.”

Take a look at Lurita Doan:

She's black? Really? She looks like a 1950s astronaut's wife.

This really hits the bottom of the "how low can you go" meter. Doan violates the Hatch Act by using the General Services Administration to help elect Republican candidates, and the defense is "you're picking on her because she's black." Incredible.

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Pass the Republican Memory Loss Act of 2007

People laugh, but I think we have a real epidemic here. Whether from vitamin deficiency, a chromosomal imbalance, or too much time spent arguing that the estate tax affects small farms, Republicans are losing their memories left and right, and we simlpy have to do something about it.

I propose a landmark mental health initiative, offered in the Congress, called the "Republican Memory Loss Act of 2007," which would provide $50 million dollars of federal funding into research and development for the National Institute for Health, to determine just what happens when Republicans are forced to testify before Congress or a grand jury and suddenly lose all recollection of their work.

Poor Hans von Spakovsky, for example, simply can't remember his entire tenure in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Another former Justice Department lawyer went before Congress on Wednesday with few answers for his Democratic interrogators and a spotty memory.

Hans von Spakovsky, who's seeking a full six-year term on the Federal Election Commission, deflected questions about whether he undermined voting rights laws, saying, "I was not the decision maker in the front office of the Civil Rights Division."

Time and again during his confirmation hearing, he cited either the attorney-client privilege or a cloudy memory for his purported role in restricting minorities' voting rights.

Von Spakovsky couldn't remember blocking an investigation into complaints that a Minnesota Republican official was discriminating against Native American voters before the 2004 election.

Under oath, he also said he didn't recall seeing data from the state of Georgia that would have undercut a push by senior officials within the Civil Rights Division to approve the state's tough new law requiring photo IDs of all voters. The data showed that 300,000 Georgia voters lacked driver's licenses. A federal judge later threw out the law as unconstitutional.

He just doesn't remember, guys. You wouldn't throw your dear old grandmother in jail just because she doesn't remember anything from her days as a flapper girl in the 1920s. And we shouldn't be doing the same with Republicans. They aren't cynically pretending to forget to wiggle out of their legal troubles. They have a disease.

Like poor Lurita Doan who has searched and searched her memory about a meeting with the GSA exhorting them to use the office to help Republican candidates in 2006, and could only remember that there were cookies at the meeting. Now, if she were Proust, that rememberance of madeleines would have set off a rich tapestry of rememberances of things past. But she's not, she's a Republican afflicted with this scourge of memory loss.

Chairman Waxman: “At our March hearing, you repeatedly claimed you could not recall any information about the January 26, 2007 meeting or the White House political presentation, and you had absolutely no memory of asking GSA employees how they could help Republican candidates in upcoming elections. That’s what you told us. We questioned you over and over again. You remember there were cookies, you remembered you came in late, you remembered that some employees didn’t attend, but beyond that you said you had no further information. Five weeks later you testified before the Office of Special Counsel and suddenly you had a new enriched details about the meeting and your statements. According to your OSC testimony, you said you asked the White House presenter, how can GSA help its cabinet liaison understand that the opening of the San Francisco federal building would be a perfect event for President Bush to attend. Did you say that to the Office of Special Counsel?”

Doan: “Yes, I believe I did.”

Do you see how this kind of memory loss can spread? Sure, Republicans remember things at just the right time, but in the interim they swim in a sea of unconsciousness, just looking for the one trigger that can bring them back to balance. It's not a life, it's a hellscape.

Just ask the FBI.

An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.

You think they KNEW they were violating the law 1,000 times when they did it? Of course not! They were just following the dictates of their Republican executive branch masters, who don't have the brain capacity to know the law. And we simply must do something about that.

Steve Benen gives his medical diagnosis.

What is it with Republicans and their memories? Giuliani can’t remember being briefed on Bernie Kerik, Alberto Gonzales can’t remember anything, neither can Kyle Sampson, Lurita Doan doesn’t remember important meetings, and John McCain doesn’t remember his policy positions, Karl Rove doesn’t remember talking to Matt Cooper about Valerie Plame. Scooter Libby doesn’t remember how he learned about Plame’s status at the CIA. Condoleezza Rice doesn’t remember Iran reaching out for diplomatic negotiations with the U.S. in 2003.

These poor folks can’t seem to remember much, can they? Aren’t there memory tricks and/or mnemonic techniques that could give them a hand?

No Steve, it's a disease. And it requires a massive public effort to properly understand and treat it. We have done great things in the medical field over the decades. We stopped polio. We fought smallpox and malaria (not in Africa, of course, but here it's pretty much under control). We have constantly moved forward in innovative ways to halt afflictions once thought incurable. Surely we can lick this terrible scourge that affects 1 in 2 Republicans in Washington.

Lurita Doan is forgetting tenses. Forgetting tenses! She's not going to know how to use a fork by next week! We have to do something! We must pass the Republican Memory Loss Act of 2007 and ensure that the GOP has control of their mental faculties from this point forward. Otherwise, how can we trust them in any position of government?

(Run with this one, Rahm Emanuel, you're just the asshole to actually put this to a vote on the House floor)

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The Great Northern Menace

The California Republican Party, they of the anti-illegal immigration platform, have decided that some immigrants are here to do the jobs that Americans won't do - like be their deputy political director.

The California Republican Party has decided no American is qualified to take one of its most crucial positions -- state deputy political director -- and has hired a Canadian for the job through a coveted H-1B visa, a program favored by Silicon Valley tech firms that is under fire for displacing skilled American workers.

Christopher Matthews, 35, a Canadian citizen, has worked for the state GOP as a campaign consultant since 2004. But he recently was hired as full-time deputy political director, with responsibility for handling campaign operations and information technology for the country's largest state Republican Party operation, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring confirmed in a telephone interview this week.

That's not all, look at the guy who hired him:

Matthews was hired by Michael Kamburowski, an Australian citizen who was hired this year as the state GOP's chief operations officer. But neither new official has experience in managing a political campaign in the nation's most populous state -- and as foreign citizens, neither is eligible to vote.

In fairness to the state GOP, I don't think any Americans really WANT to work for them.

What's funny is that this has caused a bit of outrage on the xenophobic right.

"it's insulting but also embarrassing ... to bring people from the outside who don't know the difference between Lodi and Lancaster ... and who can't even vote," said Karen Hanretty, a political commentator and former state GOP party spokeswoman [...]

"There are talented Republicans in California, and the message that (party chair) Ron Nehring is sending is that there's no talent pool here," Hanretty said.

The state party and its 58 county operations face several challenges, Hanretty said, including "redistricting on the ballot, uncertain legislative races ahead of us ... and a number of Republican congressmen who are under federal investigation and are going to be challenged by Democrats."

"Who will help these candidates?" she asked. "A couple of foreign transplants who don't know the political landscape and don't know the history of the complicated politics in California?"

Apparently anyone from Australia or Canada isn't able to, you know, read a map. Or a book on California politics.

The crackup on the right over immigration is so gratifying, because at every turn they run into contradictions and hypocrisies like this. I half-expect to see calls to build a fence around Australia in response to this.

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First Gun Control Law In A Decade

People claim that the Democrats have given up the gun debate, but maybe they're just being smarter about it.

The House Wednesday passed what could become the first major federal gun control law in over a decade, spurred by the Virginia Tech campus killings and buttressed by National Rifle Association help.

The bill, which was passed on a voice vote, would improve state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to stop gun purchases by people, including criminals and those adjudicated as mentally ill, who are prohibited from possessing firearms.

This closes the loophole that allowed Seung-Hui Cho to buy guns in Virginia.

If you can get the NRA aboard on gun control legislation, you can strike a balance between Second Amendment rights (which I generally support) and ensuring public safety and the needs of law enforcement, without electoral consequences. The argument that "the Democrats are going to take your guns away" has little resonance when the NRA is signing on to their legislation. This is a game of inches, and so I'm happy that the Democrats appear to be playing it that way.

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Iraq? Not My Deal.

Rudy Giuliani sounds as stupid as Democratic consultants on this one. Iraq didn't appear in his "Twelve Commitments," and he was asked why.

“What I was trying to do was to look at the things, as best as you can predict it now, that are going to be there a year and a half from now,” he said. “Iraq may get better; Iraq may get worse. We may be successful in Iraq; we may not be. I don’t know the answer to that. That’s in the hands of other people. But what we do know for sure is the terrorists are going to be at war with us a year, a year and a half from now.”

What a leader.

'Course, Giuliani doesn't want to talk about the war because it's unpopular. He wants life to perpetually be like it was on 9-12, when we were spittin' mad and afraid and wanted revenge. He just doesn't want to discuss the SPECIFIC revenge we took because of its tragic consequences.

The truth is that you can judge the war on the evidence right now, and if you did you would come to the conclusion that the escalation is a failure, that there's been no drop in violence whatsoever and no movement on political reconciliation, and that the whole exercise has been a giant game of Whack-a-Mole, where the insurgents simply move to where the troops aren't congregated and continue with impunity. We have to get completely out of the country because we're doing nothing by being there. It's shameful that the leading Republican Presidential candidate would rather put his head in the sand and try to forget about it.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Bill O'Reilly managed to get a little truth out the other night, when he admitted that he could care less about dying Americans.

...the Republicans’ network has been doing its best to downplay war-related news. Looking at the first quarter of 2007, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that during the day, FNC devoted 6% of its airtime to Iraq, and 17% to the death of pseudo-celebrity Anna Nicole Smith. What’s more, FNC’s competitors devoted triple the amount of time to covering the war for their viewers.

To hear O’Reilly tell it, this is all an intentional strategy [...]

O’Reilly: Now the reason that CNN and MSNBC do so much Iraq reporting is because they want to embarrass the Bush administration. Both do. And all their reporting consists of is here’s another explosion. Bang. Here’s more people dead. Bang. […]

They’re not doing it to inform anybody about anything. The terrorists are going to set off a bomb every day because they know CNN and MSNBC are going to put it on the air. That’s a strategy for the other side. The terrorist side. So I’m taking an argument that CNN and MSNBC are actually helping the terrorists by reporting useless explosions.

Useless explosions kill people. When people die their families are impacted for the rest of their lives. All of this, apparently, is "useless" and meaningless to Billo. Of course it is. He doesn't have a kid there.

What confounds me is this abject hatred from the right for those who wear the uniform, combined with a demonization of Democrats as hating the troops. This is a mouthpiece for the right saying that troops dying in Iraq doesn't matter. In fact, he's saying that the Iraqi security situation doesn't matter, which is in fact the only reason George Bush or any of his defenders give for us still being there.

I know that the only thing the right is managing in this war is expectations. But this is offensive, to suggest that anyone reporting on the war and not allowing it to happen in a complete news blackout is giving a victory to the terrorists. It's absolutely disgusting for Bill O'Reilly to still have a job after admitting that he doesn't care if American soldiers die in a war he supported.

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Daylight for the Progressive Movement

Good for Barack Obama for reconsidering his play to wealthy state interests in favor of the larger principle of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

With pressure mounting on Democratic presidential candidates to adopt hard-line positions on curbing global warming, Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday backtracked from his long-held support for a controversial plan to promote the use of coal as an alternative fuel to power motor vehicles.

The Illinois Democrat made his announcement with little fanfare — in a dryly worded and technical-sounding e-mail sent late in the day from his Senate office to environmental advocacy groups — and did not mention the issue during an appearance at a Brentwood gas station, described in a new Times blog, designed to shore up his green bona fides with a renewed call to nationalize California's ambitious goals for reducing carbon levels in fuel [...]

"Senator Obama supports research into all technologies to help solve our climate change and energy dependence problems, including shifting our energy use to renewable fuels and investing in technology that could make coal a clean-burning source of energy," the e-mail said. "However, unless and until this technology is perfected, Senator Obama will not support the development of any coal-to-liquid fuels unless they emit at least 20% less life-cycle carbon than conventional fuels."

Coal-to-liquid as it stands right now is a horrible idea, worse than nuclear power because it is a dangerous pollutant without improving the carbon footprint. It's good that Obama reconsidered. But it's better that the progressive movement could get out the truth on the issue and actually change the debate. That Sen. Kerry went to a state side to announce his opposition to coal-to-liquid shows exactly how powerful this progressive movement is becoming in creating conventional wisdom. The paradigm is really starting to shift, and for the first time in a while I feel that regular people are actually being listened to.

UPDATE: See also Dick Durbin's diary on the Big Orange Satan, where he actually understands the issue of funding progressive infrastructure. We have a long way to go, but I see that we're breaking through the ice somewhat.

Also, it's hilarious to see the coal industry whining like babies:

Popovich said the industry had been impressed by Obama's "willingness to take a stand that's unpopular with some of his party's constituents."

He called the senator's new statement the result of a "jihad" waged by some environmentalists against the coal industry.

"Clearly they are trying to intimidate Obama from doing something sensible," Popovich said.

Yeah, sensibly destroy the planet and make us all have to use oxygen masks to breathe.

Sorry we weren't here for a while, but the average citizen is back. And we're talking. And we're not going away. And you and your rich corporate buddies are going to have to deal with it.

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The Next Phase of Congress and the US Attorneys

TPM Muckraker says that this call for subpoenas for Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor is the beginning of a new phase in the US Attorneys scandal.

We noted the subpoenas to Karl Rove's former aide Sara Taylor and former White House counsel Harriet Miers earlier today. You can see the subpoena for Miers here.

Also among the subpoenas issued this morning were subpoenas from the House and Senate judiciary committees to the White House for "all documents in the possession, custody or control of the White House" that relate to the U.S. attorney firings [...]

The documents aren't likely to be any easier to obtain. In both of their letters to White House counsel Fred Fielding today (see below), the chairmen excoriate the White House for stonewalling their investigations for three months. Fiedling has not wavered from his initial offer of interviews with Karl Rove and other aides only in private with no oath or transcript, an offer that also included an offer to turn over external emails -- emails between White House staffers and others outside the White House.

Both chairmen remind Fielding of that earlier offer, but Fielding has said before that the White House won't turn over anything unless it is part of a package deal, which would include Congress agreeing to the closed door, no transcript interviews -- something the chairmen refuse to do.

Once again, there's tension between the instant gratification culture and the deliberative process of laying out a case slowly. CNN reported that Rove was not included in the subpoenas today because of this desire for a slow build. Since, again, you can't expect the culture to change, it's important that the Democrats lay the stonewalling and the dragging out of the investigation at the White House's feet, always saying things like "If the White House gave us everything we've asked for, this could wrap up quickly."

I think that the Democrats have built a compelling case, but haven't shown a killer instinct yet. We'll see how that transpires.

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Iraq: Oh Fuck

While it wasn't true that things were going all hunky-dory in Iraq until the bombing of the Golden Dome at the Al-Askiriya Mosque in Samarra in February 2006, certainly that accelerated the sectarian violence that was already gripping the country. Well, insurgents have hit the Shiite shrine again, this time taking down the minarets. Iraq is now under a curfew, but that hasn't stopped the retribution, as four Sunni mosques have already been attacked. And US officials are worried that the Al-Askiriya attack was an inside job:

Authorities have evidence that Wednesday's bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra was an inside job, and 15 members of the Iraqi security forces have been arrested, a U.S. military official said.

The U.S. military official, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, told CNN's Karl Penhaul that he believes members of the Iraqi security forces who were guarding the site either assisted or directly took part in helping al Qaeda insurgents place and detonate explosives at the mosque's prayer summoning towers, which are called minarets. (Watch the aftermath of the blast, which the U.S. general reportedly says is the work of al Qaeda insurgents )

"He told me there was no evidence at all that this was an attack using mortars or anything of the like and said, in his words, that this was an inside job," Penhaul, who's embedded with U.S. troops in Baquba, told CNN's "American Morning."

Expect a replay of the claims that everything was going dandy in Iraq until this setback, forcing the need for an even bigger surge to get the security situation under control. In truth, the surge has been failing since the start.

The political situation is an absolute stalemate. The Sunni speaker of the Parliament was forced to resign after one of his bodyguards beat up a rival lawmaker, and the Speaker is refusing to resign unless the Maliki government dissolves. There has been absolutely no movement on any of the "benchmarks" desired by US officials, leading the top military commander for the Middle East to demand tangible progress from Maliki (and that means "give us that oil law, really). No substantive progress is expected on the political situation this year.

Meanwhile, the civilian death toll continues at higher levels than a year ago, despite military actions by US troops, including a doubling in the number of airstrikes since 2006. We're bombing the country into the Stone Age to try and wage peace from 20,000 feet, but this is not impacting anything on the ground. Now even more Iraqi security forces are urged, and we're even arming Sunni insurgents so we can capitalize on the one bright spot, Sunnis turning on Al Qaeda in Al Anbar. So we decry Iran supplying insurgents (without evidence) while doing the EXACT SAME THING, while they continue to target and kill US troops. The insurgents are using those weapons, by the way, to bomb infrastructure and frustrate any attempts to unify the country.

The bridge bombing campaigns overlap and are escalating steadily bot within and outside Baghdad. This is the third major bombing this in les than a fortnight. The goals of these campaigns are as follows:

To isolate Baghdad.

To isolate districts of Baghdad.

To cut off the governorates one from another.

The isolation of Baghdad from the rest of the country is an important goal for those resisting the continued American attempts to subjugate Iraq. By doing so they deny political credibility to the green zone government headed by Nouri Al Maliki.

Militarily it is part of the push to isolate the American forces stationed in the capital and then pick them off at leisure.

A similar benefit to those resisting the Americans derives from the bombings within Baghdad itself.

Bridge bombings within Baghdad make it far more difficult for American and green zone government forces to establish anything other than temporary control of huge swathes of the capital, to respond to incidents, or to reinforce units under pressure or indeed in danger of annihilation when they are attacked.

We're just running in circles in Iraq. Last year, the Samarra bombing accelerated sectarian violence, leading to calls to rebuild the mosque (we didn't) and eventually, a surge. Now, there's another Samarra bombing, accelerating raging sectarian violence, and leading to, perhaps, another surge. What we need to do is come to terms with that great unmentionable word:

The endgame in Iraq is now clear, in outline if not detail, and it appears that the heavily favored United States will be upset. Once support for a war is lost, it is gone for good; there is no example of a modern democracy having changed its mind once it turned against a war. So we ought to start coming to grips with the meaning of losing in Iraq.

The consequences for the national psyche are likely to be profound, throwing American politics into a downward spiral of bitter recriminations the likes of which it has not seen in a generation. It will be a wedge that politicians will exploit for their benefit, proving yet again that politics is the eternal enemy of strategy. The Vietnam syndrome divided this country for decades; the Iraq syndrome will be no different [...]

The American people seem to understand, however — and historians will certainly agree — that the war itself was a catastrophic mistake. It was a faulty grand strategy, not poor implementation. The Bush administration was operating under an international political illusion, one that is further discredited with every car bombing of a crowded Baghdad marketplace and every Iraqi doctor who packs up his family and flees his country [...]

Hopefully at some point during the recriminations to come, the American people will seize the opportunity to ask themselves a series of fundamental questions about the role and purpose of U.S. power in the world. How much influence can the United States have in the Middle East? Is its oil worth American blood and treasure? Are we really safer now that Iraq burns? Might we not be better off just leaving the region alone?

Perhaps at some point we will come to recognize that the United States can afford to be much more restrained in its foreign policy adventures. Were our founding fathers here, they would surely look on Iraq with horror and judge that the nation they created had fundamentally lost its way. If the war in Iraq leads the United States to return to its traditional, restrained grand strategy, then perhaps the whole experience will not have been in vain.

We're going to continue to stay in Iraq, of course, for a variety of strange and conflicting reasons. But the American people understand that we really should leave, because our presence is making nothing better. It's just engendering an endless stream of deja vu.

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The Next Phase of Congress and Iraq

I think there's time for the Congress to work their way back to respectability if they challenge Bush on the war, but they have to fight this one smarter than the last time.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said each of the proposals likely would receive separate floor votes during debate on the defense bill just before the Independence Day recess. Reid acknowledged the dismay among Democratic base voters after Congress acceded last month to an Iraq spending bill without binding conditions on President Bush’s war policy.

“We raised the bar too high,” Reid told reporters. “They thought we could continue to send the bill back to the president — with 49 [guaranteed] votes, we couldn’t do that.”

The first amendment, crafted chiefly by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), mandates the start of a troop withdrawal from Iraq within 120 days of passage. The second amendment, crafted chiefly by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), would set strong troop readiness standards and ensure a minimum period between Iraq deployments.

The third amendment, a hotly sought goal of Reid’s that was crafted chiefly by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), would block spending on a future military presence in Iraq after April 2008, save for troops on counter-terrorism and training missions.

Congress right now has their lowest poll ratings in a decade because the Democratic base is completely disillusioned by the capitulation on Iraq. Taking it in pieces may be a way to turn that around. Certainly, Reid is right that they raised the bar too high, although the real problem was buying the argument that they would be "cutting funding for the troops" instead of hitting back against that narrative hard. While Congress flounders, yet another report suggests that this is a progressive country, where large majorities agree with the progressive positions on health care, energy, the economy, and the role of government. So obviously there's some daylight here.

Unfortunately, our instant-grafitication culture demands quick action, not remembering that, historically, it takes forever for Congress to stop a war. If anything, the American people and the Congress are equally to blame for allowing the office of the President to grow so powerful. But it's always going to be that way, and it's asking too much of Congress to engage in a paradigm shift. So you have to work with the culture you have. If the people want instant action, give it to them. And make sure that everyone knows who's blocking that action. The end of the occupation of Iraq can only be done through a death by a thousand cuts, unfortunately. So each small victory has to be presented as a major victory, to play to the instant-gratification crowd. And don't forget this domestic agenda that the nation agrees with us on, too.

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Commitment to Paranoia

Rudy Giuliani unleashed his "12 Commitments" yesterday, and Steve Benen has has the best takedown of them. I will say that Rudy has understood the campaign tactic of speaking in short, declarative bromides that mean absolutely nothing and are designed to make people feel good. Considering we've had 6 1/2 years of this infantilizing rhetoric, we'll see if we're ready for more substance.

But if you want to play the short and declarative sentence game, here's one: Rudy has a 9/12 mentality.

Unlike its precursor, the "9/12 mentality" seems to actually describe a widespread phenomenon, of which Giuliani is certainly an exemplar. Like the archetypal trauma victim, he seems to be perpetually reliving the now-tedious epiphany that there are people out there who want to kill us, and constitutionally incapable of believing that anyone else might have managed to apprehend this fact and still disagree with him. He shows no sign of having moved beyond the blind rage we all felt in the aftermath of the attacks to the cooler analysis required to prevent the next one. (Hence his sputtering reaction to what should have been an uncontroversial suggestion: that some terrorism is fueled by perceptions of U.S. meddling abroad, and that a wise foreign policy takes that perception into account.)

Rudy Giuliani has spittle at the corners of his mouth, and is perpetually holding the machine gun while laying in bed like Tony Soprano in the second-to-last episode. He's a paranoid authoritarian that projects his own fear onto the rest of the population, assuming that their fear is just as strong that they support rage-filled and vengeful incursions into foreign lands six years after the fact, no matter what the facts suggest. Rudy Giuliani wants you angry and afraid. That's they only way he has any possibility of sounding sane. As Matt Taibbi says in his wonderful account:

Rudy Giuliani is a true American hero, and we know this because he does all the things we expect of heroes these days -- like make $16 million a year, and lobby for Hugo Chávez and Rupert Murdoch, and promote wars without ever having served in the military, and hire a lawyer to call his second wife a "stuck pig," and organize absurd, grandstanding pogroms against minor foreign artists, and generally drift through life being a shameless opportunist with an outsize ego who doesn't even bother to conceal the fact that he's had a hard-on for the presidency since he was in diapers. In the media age, we can't have a hero humble enough to actually be one; what is needed is a tireless scoundrel, a cad willing to pose all day long for photos, who'll accept $100,000 to talk about heroism for an hour, who has the balls to take a $2.7 million advance to write a book about himself called Leadership. That's Rudy Giuliani. Our hero. And a perfect choice to uphold the legacy of George W. Bush.

Yes, Rudy is smarter than Bush. But his political strength -- and he knows it -- comes from America's unrelenting passion for never bothering to take that extra step to figure shit out. If you think you know it all already, Rudy agrees with you. And if anyone tries to tell you differently, they're probably traitors, and Rudy, well, he'll keep an eye on 'em for you. Just like Bush, Rudy appeals to the couch-bound bully in all of us, and part of the allure of his campaign is the promise to put the Pentagon and the power of the White House at that bully's disposal.

This is the worst possible person to follow George W. Bush - someone more paranoid, more cruel, more narcisissitic. And he's resilient in that Republican primary no matter his social stances, because those character flaws are seen as positives to the conservative base.

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How Many Subpoenas?

OK, so now Harriet Miers and Rove aide Sara Taylor have been ordered to testify in the US Attorney scandal. Documents released last night implicated both of them, particularly in the replacement of Bud Cummins as US Attorney for Arkansas with Team Thompson member Tim Griffin.

Well, that's great. I don't think that the House or Senate Judiciary Committees have the stones to take this all the way, however. How will they enforce the subpoenas? Will they use the US Attorney for DC (that'd be the required legal recourse) to arrest Miers and Taylor? Will they sue the President to compel the documents they demand? This investigation has been dragging on precisely because the White House feels that Congress will back down when it counts. They always have. So will Pat Leahy and John Conyers go further to get what they want? Until then, these subpoenas are really a bit meaningless.

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Pay To Play Thompson

Fred Thompson went on Jay Leno last night and yukked it up, but in the papers, it's starting to trickle out that he's not a lifelong actor, but a lifelong lobbyist. Apparently, this was also a line of attack in his 1994 Senate campaign against Jim Cooper, but Thompson showed off his red pickup truck and laughed it off, and the Tennessee media enabled him. The fact that these stories are coming out (and 17 months before the fact, no less) suggest that the national media may not give the same free hand:

By all accounts, Fred D. Thompson will soon be running for president, portraying himself as a Washington outsider on the campaign trail. But over the past three years he showed up every two weeks or so at a lobbying and law firm in downtown D.C. to plot how best to persuade Congress to help a British company.

His main assignment: to use his connections to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to extract information about goings-on inside Congress and use it to benefit his multibillion-dollar client.

In exchange for this insider wisdom he was paid a cool $760,000.

The right has been extremely successful in the past couple election cycles making a mockery out of their Presidential opponent. There's a difference between being ANGRY, like the right is with Hillary, for example, and making a mockery. The left has laid the seeds for making a buffoon out of Rudy and McCain and Romney, and I think this is the makings of what to do in the event of Thompson. There's also the fact that he just bagged a Cheney:

FRED THOMPSON IS adding more big-name policy talent as his testing-the-waters committee continues to grow into a real presidential campaign. Among the new additions: Mark Esper, national security adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; Joel Shin, a top policy staffer on Bush-Cheney 2000; and Elizabeth Cheney, a former top official in the State Department's Near East and South Asia department.

"Change vs. More Of The Same" is a very inviting target in 2008. Thompson is stepping right into that trap with these hirings. By the way, team Thompson now includes Rove oppo research guy and caging expert Tim Griffin, former Nixon spy Kenneth Reitz, a tobacco industry exec from Phillip Morris, and Liz Cheney. Quite a rogue's gallery.

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