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

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Phony Law Enforcement Badges

Considering the criminal enterprise being run out of the White House these days, maybe the Mitt Romney campaign is just undergoing some heavy preparation:

In an apparent violation of the law, a controverisal aide to ex-Gov. Mitt Romney created phony law enforcement badges that he and other staffers used on the campaign trail to strong-arm reporters, avoid paying tolls and trick security guards into giving them immediate access to campaign venues, sources told the Herald.

The bogus badges were part of the bizarre security tactics allegedly employed by Jay Garrity, the director of operations for Romney who is under investigation for impersonating a law enforcement officer in two states. Garrity is on a leave of absence from the campaign while the probe is ongoing.

A campaign source said Garrity directed underlings on Romney’s presidential staff to use the badges at events nationwide to create an image of security and to ensure that the governor’s events went smoothly.

So Team Romney has deployed its own police staff to enforce the law as they saw fit, literally making up the rules as they went along.

And that's different how?

I think Romney's going to be their guy. Just look, he's got the "rally the base through fear" part down:

Nice spellin' on moma. Unless Chelsea Clinton bought the Museum of Modern Art.

Labels: , ,



That Denny Hastert is possibly about to resign is pretty much expected; a Speaker of the House suddenly pushed to the back bench is a shock to the system that quickly leads to the backbencher seeking to find another line of work.

But I didn't expect Senator Diaper to lose the Republican Party so quickly. Isn't EVERYONE in that party a hypocrite? Why does this one rankle everyone so much? I mean, he lost Hannity? HANNITY? That's like God losing Pat Robertson.

Of course, Vitter is up for a criminal violation, but again, this isn't unique to the GOP. I guess I have major scandal fatigue.

UPDATE: John Kerry didn't botch this joke...

"There once was a man named Vitter/Who vowed that he wasn't a quitter," Kerry began. "But with stories of women/And all of his sinnin'/He knows his career's in the — oh, never mind."

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Endorsements

Chris Bowers has a really good post that has made me think. Not many of the important bloggers have bothered to endorse a candidate in 2008, and their activism has been mostly about pushing back against stupid media narratives (Edwards got a haircut! Obama hearts genocide! Hillary has boobs!) as well as charting the foibles of the Republican candidates. But as far as taking one candidate and supporting them, it's been absent. I'm not sure if it's for the reasons that Bowers describes (friends in the campaigns, not wanting to piss people off), though he's more inside of it than I am, so it's certainly possible. But I think Mke Lux' comment is instructive:

But I really do believe that the most important one is the rising strength of the progressive movement. Even though there is no clear movement candidate, the fact that every one of the candidates have been steadily migrating our way on a range of issues is the best testament to the difference between now and this time, 2003, and it's the reason there is no clear choice.

I also wanted to comment on Chris' thought about being "insidery". I think the short head bloggers clearly are more insidery than they are, and there are some obvious downsides and dangers to that. But I think there are good things about that, too, and not just that it's a reflection of the movement's strength. The way movements actually make change is that some folks in them keep banging away on the outside, but some folks go inside and create change from within by getting a seat at the tables where elected officials and party power brokers make decisions.

Dean was a radical departure from the rest of a cautious, establishment field in 2004. Now most of the candidates are staking out increasingly progressive positions and following the progressive leader:

John Edwards may be stuck in third place in the polls and fund raising in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But the populist seems to be playing an outsized role in driving the terms of the party's debate -- generally to the left -- on everything from Iraq to health care [...]

It is the essence of Mr. Edwards's strategy for winning the nomination: to come from the left, and win over the party activists who tend to dominate the early primaries and caucuses [...]

Mr. Edwards seems to feel freer to address issues that might alienate the party and business establishment. Just as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean pushed the Democrats toward more staunch opposition of the Iraq war four years ago, Mr. Edwards seems to be having a big impact on forcing the pack to follow his agenda.

This is why my only campaign donation has been to Edwards, but is doesn't disqualify the others who are coming later to the party. Indeed, Barack Obama's views on poverty are very worthy of being added to the debate, and the same with Hillary's thoughts on cost control in health care, and Richardson's ideas on no residual forces in Iraq, and Dodd's carbon tax, and many of Kucinich's ideas, etc. So there is a far different tenor to this race than in 2004, which is why it's hard to compare apples and oranges.

I don't think blogger endorsements would move any votes, and they would launch a thousand flame wars in comments. So what's the point in a race where there are so many candidates advocating progressive viewpoints?

Labels: , , ,


Friday, July 20, 2007

Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this, considering how widespread attacks have been in Pakistan recently, but still, the idea that Al Qaeda has entrenched themselves THROUGHOUT the country and not just in the tribal areas is pretty scary.

WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda has strongholds throughout Pakistan, not just in the areas bordering Afghanistan that were emphasized in a terrorism assessment this week, according to U.S. intelligence officials and counter-terrorism experts who say Osama bin Laden's network is more deeply entrenched than described.

The National Intelligence Estimate on the Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland, which reflects the consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, described Al Qaeda as having "regenerated key elements" and freely operating from bases in northwestern Pakistan. But several officials and outside experts interviewed since the document's release this week say the situation is more problematic.

These analysts said the Bush administration was blaming Al Qaeda's resurgence too narrowly on an agreement that the Pakistani government struck in September with militant tribal leaders in the country's northwest territories.

In recent years, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials who focus on South Asia say they have watched with growing concern as Al Qaeda has moved men, money and recruiting and training operations into Pakistani cities such as Quetta and Karachi as well as less populated areas.

Well, when you have a government that makes peace deals with the likes of the Taliban, it's not surprising that such fundamentalism can spread. And bin Laden's groups have smartly championed the cause of Kashmir, which is sure to gain popular support in Pakistan, which has fought with India for that land for decades. And this is really not a new problem:

The signs of Al Qaeda's spread across Pakistan have been apparent for years. The 15 so-called muscle hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks trained at an Al Qaeda hide-out in the southern port city of Karachi, according to the 9/11 Commission report.

Husain Haqqani, a former advisor to several Pakistani prime ministers, said that before the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda had hide-outs and logistical bases throughout Pakistan from where it moved foreign fighters into and out of Afghanistan.

"Once their headquarters in Afghanistan was shattered, they turned to making their logistical bases in Pakistan into operational bases," said Haqqani, director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University and author of "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military."

Spencer Ackerman has more at TPM Muckraker. I really don't know what to do about any of this, it seems like we missed our moment to eradicate Al Qaeda in this region, and now we must sharpen our homeland security defenses as well as simultaneously support Musharraf and warn him to get tough with the militants in his midst. It's quite a tall order, made taller by an incompetent Administration that neglected this trouble spot for years.

UPDATE: Musharraf just lost a fight with a popular Supreme Court judge who he dismissed. The judge has now been reinstated by that same Supreme Court (they get to rule on their colleague?), which can now issue rulings on whether Musharraf will be able to hold the Presidency and the Army chief of staff position at the same time. Pro-democracy forces are looking to capitalize on this, but do they have popular support?

Labels: , , ,


That's My Bush

From TPM:

In the course of his comments, the President also criticized the Democrats for having a debate on Iraq while at the same time saying, "Our nation deserves a serious debate about Iraq."

I don't know about you, but that clears things up for me.

Following in his gibberish-y footsteps: Rudy Giuliani.

"Neither one of these two wars -- the one in Afghanstan/Pakistan or the one in Iraq -- was nearly at the level of the planning we had done for the two wars we would have to fight at once," he said. "We should have organized ourselves so that we could accomplish in Iraq what we had to accomplish without taking anything away from accomplishing in Afghanistan and Pakistan what we had to accomplish." [...]

"This cannot be like a horror movie. You know, in the horror movie you kill the monster, and the hand re-emerges. And if you're not looking, the hand grows back and then the monster's there again. That cannot be allowed to happen."

I submit to you that the next President should have to pass a high school public speaking and debate class. It doesn't even have to be a magnet school. Just an average one.

UPDATE: If any beat reporters covering the campaign wanted to sit in on the class, excellent. Or maybe journalism classes at a middle-of-the-road state school. Then maybe we wouldn't get hard-hitting articles like breaking - Hillary Clinton has breasts!!!1!!

UPDATE II: And what kind of cream rinse a politician uses.

Labels: , , ,


Friday Random Ten

A little late, as I had to visit the doctor in the interim. But let 'em roll:

The Perfect Crime #2 - The Decemberists
Somewhere Only We Know - Keane
Women's Prison - Loretta Lynn
Dare - Gorillaz
Miles Davis' Funeral - Morphine
Mind Reader - Sebadoh
Name Of The Game - The Crystal Method
1972 - Josh Rouse
Chick Habit - April March
Fitter Happier - Radiohead

That April March song is from Quentin Tarantino's addition to the "Grindhouse" double-feature that came out earlier this year, and that song is really good, I recommend tracking it down (Hype Machine, baby!). Also, Josh Rouse is the best singer-songwriter that should be famous, but isn't.

Bonus Track: Shake It Up - The Cars

Labels: ,


CA-42: The Lay Of The Land

It's great that the netroots candidacy of Ron Shepston for Congress is getting so much attention. His race against the unfathomably corrupt Gary Miller represents a progressive hope and a decided alternative, and people are so excited that, at press time, he's raised over $5,300 dollars through ActBlue in just a couple days.

Superlative. Outstanding. Fantastic.

Now let's really look at what he's getting into. The campaign has asked me to contribute a guest column to the rollout providing the lay of the land. We'll start with the bad news and move slowly into the good.

Previous diaries in the CA-42 campaign rollout series:
7/15: thereisnospoon's CA-42: A Kossack is running for Congress
7/16: atdnext's CA-42: The Case Against Dirty Gary Miller
7/17: Major Danby's CA-42: I'm managing a netroots U.S. House campaign
7/18: CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream's CA-42: Hi, I'm Ron Shepston and I'm running for Congress
7/19: hekebolos's CA-42: A Netroots campaign-- politics the way it should be.

Here is a map of the 42nd District of California:

As you can see, it covers three counties, starting in San Bernardino County at Chino, moving into LA County with Whittier and Diamond Bar, and then Orange County with Brea and La Habra, snaking all the way down to grab Mission Viejo in the southern portion of the county. Seems like a strange shape, doesn't it? It should. California's districts were gerrymandered to the extreme for incumbent protection after the 2000 Census. Democrats and Republicans made the deal to lock in a set number of seats. Between the 2000 Election and the 2002 Election, Miller gained 8 points from his challenger because the district was made more Republican.

Now, it doesn't always work: Richard Pombo was forced out of office by Jerry McNerney last year. But he is literally the ONLY incumbent to be deposed since this Congressional map was put into place. More on McNerney later.

So this is a very Republican seat. George W. Bush beat Kerry 62%-38% in 2004, and Gore by 58%-38% in 2000 (when it was more Democratic). The district has a Cook Partisan Voting Index score of R +10 (meaning the district votes 10 points more Republican that the nation at large). Only a few California districts are higher. It'd be great to have a metric of Gary Miller's most recent election, but in 2006 he was one of only 10 Republicans to run unopposed. So we have to go back to 2004 and 2002 to look at results in this newly configured district. They ain't pretty.

United States House election, 2004: California District 42
Republican Gary Miller 167,632 68.2
Democratic Lewis Myers 78,393 31.8

United States House election, 2002: California District 42
Republican Gary Miller 95,737 67.6 +8.6
Democratic Richard Waldron 41,306 29.2 -8.2

So since this district has had its current configuration, Gary Miller's opponent has never received more than 31.8% of the vote. We'll call that Ron's baseline of support, since I'm not sure Lewis Myers or Richard Waldron offered up anything but token opposition. The question is where to get the other 19%.

Let's look at the demographics of the district (linked from Gary Miller's House website! Thanks Gary! You can return to your regularly scheduled ripping off of America now!).

About 57.5% of the district is in Orange County, including the largest population center, Mission Viejo (no wonder they snuck it into the district). The registration edge here is 55-27 Republican, and no area has a Democratic advantage (La Habra is the closest, at 45-37, which stands to reason because it's close to the LA County part of the district). The area of the OC in the district is 20% Latino and about 11% Asian.

LA County needs to be Shepston Country. The registration edge here is lower (43R, 36D), and Rowland Heights is actually plurality-Democratic. Of course, it's only 21% of the district. It's heavily Asian (40%) and Latino (23%). I don't know if sprawl goes out this far and if these are Los Angeles bedroom communities for those priced out of the more expensive areas, but it's certainly possible.

Finally, San Bernardino County is the final 21.5% of the district, and it's also closer (45R, 38D). In Chino there's a 42%-41% advantage for Democratic registration. The Latino population is strong out here; 37%.

The final numbers for the district are about 50% registration total, with a 21-point registration advantage for Republicans (51R, 30D). The district is very diverse, 44% nonwhite (23.8% Latino, 17.5% Asian, 3.4% African-American).

So the key would appear to be to raise registration rates in Democratic areas, bring in big numbers in LA and San Bernardino County, and make sure the Latino vote turns out. A tall order. And did I mention that Gary Miller has $800,000 Cash on Hand after raising $137,000 in the most recent quarter?

But there's more of the story to be told, points that argue in Shepston's favor, and in favor of a strong challenge in a district some would call unwinnable.

CORRUPTION: This was considered the number one issue according to exit polls in 2006. Miller hasn't been tested on this, since the revelations about his dirty dealings didn't come out until the 2006 election, when he was unopposed. And if anything, they've grown worse since then. So there is a case to be made that voters will reject someone who appears to be doing the business of profit-taking instead of legislating.

IRAQ: Gary Miller has voted in lockstep with the President on an issue that has scant support in the country, even in a district as red as this. I assume that the netroots team running this race will not run away from the issue of Iraq as many consultants have the knee-jerk reaction to do.

THE ALBATROSS: Ron Brownstein makes the case:

Unpopular departing presidents, though, have consistently undercut their party in the next election. Democrats lost the White House in 1952 and 1968 after Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson saw their approval ratings plummet below 50%. Likewise, in the era before polling, the opposition party won the White House when deeply embattled presidents left office after the elections of 1920 (Woodrow Wilson), 1896 (Grover Cleveland), 1860 (James Buchanan) and 1852 (Millard Fillmore). The White House also changed partisan control when weakened presidents stepped down in 1844 and 1884. Only in 1856 and 1876 did this pattern bend, when the parties of troubled presidents Franklin Pierce and Ulysses S. Grant held the White House upon their departure [...]

It's true that Republicans in 2008 should perform slightly better among voters who disapprove of the president than George H.W. Bush and Gore did, because their nominee, unlike those men, won't be the retiring president's vice president. But another pattern underscores how hard the challenge will remain: On average, 80% of voters who disapproved of a president's performance have voted against his party's candidates even in House races since 1986, according to the respected University of Michigan post-election polls. When a president takes on water, in other words, everyone in his party flounders.

This tracks with the idea that "there is no safe district" in the post-Bush era, and that any partisan numbers over the past several years are somewhat irrelevant to the landscape today.

DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS: Getting the Latino vote out in a year where the Republicans have done absolutely everything to present themselves as the biggest brown-haters on the block is crucial. You don't have to have that long a memory to remember the anti-immigrant Prop. 187 fights out here in California, which set back Republicans to this day. So making sure there's a high turnout among the substantial Latino base would seem to me to be a key. And I would gather than even more are in the district now, being priced out of LA County.

STOPPING THE GRAVY TRAIN: Gary Miller has been using his money gained in fundraising from his rich buddies to reward Republicans in close races:

Miller's expenditures are listed at OpenSecrets, and you can see that he spent his money (in 2006) enriching the coffers of Republican candidates in close races all over the country. He didn't need the ill-begotten money for himself, so he gave it to his most endangered colleagues. A list:

Anne Northrup $1,000
Barbara Cubin $1,000
Deborah Pryce $1,000
Dave Reichert $1,000
Geoff Davis $1,000
JD Hayworth $1,000
Jim Gerlach $1,000
Keith Butler (MI Senate challenger) $1,000
Joe Knollenberg $2,000
Mary Bono $1,000
Mike Fitzpatrick $1,000
Mike Sodrel $1,000
Rob Simmons $1,000
Thelma Drake $1,000

That's 14 candidates to the tune of $15,000. A lot of those Republicans lost, but the recipient of the biggest expenditure from Miller's campaign was the NRCC, the committee dedicated to re-electing Congressional Republicans, which sent mailers and put up attack ads and made robocalls all over the country. They benefited from $112,000 from one Gary Miller. All of the sleazy developer money he's received over the years helped re-elect some of the worst Congressmen in the country by the skin of their teeth. That's $112,000 we wouldn't be likely to see in the NRCC's coffers if Miller were actually challenged and forced to run a campaign.

It's not like Miller is going to run out of money any time soon; he's rich beyond reason and can self-fund. But he wouldn't be as likely to fund others if challenged.

In conclusion, there are many signs out there that Ron Shepston does have the opportunity to be competitive and offer the voters in the 42nd a real alternative. The best comparisons we can use for California are the aforementioned Jerry McNerney in CA-11, and Charlie Brown in CA-04. Both went up against corrupt politicians in red areas. Both excited grassroots and netroots activists to donate to and work on the campaigns. Both engaged in bottom-up campaigning, with the big dollar money not coming in until later. And despite the warped political landscape and the partisan gerrymander, McNerney is a Congressman and Charlie Brown is about to join him. If he's diligent and bold and unyielding, Ron Shepston can do the same thing.

Labels: , , , ,


Veto Proof Majorities

Because of an intransigent President who doesn't think Congress even counts, the only numbers that matter are 290 and 67. Those are the 2/3 majorities you need to override a Presidential veto and pass any legislation.

Well, yesterday the Senate passed their education bill, which would roll back federal subsidies to student loan corporations and plow that money into expanding Pell grants. It passed 78-18. After a conference with the House to reconcile the bills, I expect it will pass with similar numbers.

Also, the Senate Finance Committee voted to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The vote was 17-4. That'll move to the full Senate, and I expect similar numbers there.

On these core domestic issues, the veto threat is empty.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Frederick of Hollywood's Speed Bump

There are now billing records confirming that Fred Thompson did abortion rights lobbying back in the 1980s. This comes after he repeatedly denied the story. It's of course not the act of flip-flopping itself here, but the fact that he denied it so vociferously KNOWING that there were surely billing records and documentation, that calls into question this guy's judgment under pressure. It's Bush-league in all senses of the term.

The National Review appears to be off the reservation:

But the picture is cloudier than it should be, because Thompson has been less than forthcoming about the evolution of his views. In April, he said that he was baffled that anyone would have thought he had been pro-choice. But debate clips, questionnaires, and constituent letters from the mid-1990s all establish that he was indeed pro-choice. And even his recent statements do not settle whether he shares the view of President Bush that abortion should be illegal with exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life [...]

Millions of Americans have changed their minds about abortion over the same years in which Thompson appears to have changed his. He should not hesitate to represent these voters.

Yet hesitate he does, because he knows that lying is the path to the nomination.

The words Not Read For and Prime Time come to mind...

Labels: , , ,


Budget Baseball

This appears to be, on balance, a pretty bad budget deal in California, and Calitics is following it closely. They actually snuck a "supply-side economics" curve ball past the Democratic legislature? Wow.

Speak Out California has set up an action alert on this demanding that there be no budget giveaways. Stop by and sign your name.

UPDATE: This goes national. And yes, cutting a billion dollars in public transit, while not quite as much as Schwarzenegger advocated, is asinine, and cuts directly against the whole "Green Governor" and "Green California Legislature" ideas. There's nothing greener than mass transit.

UPDATE II: Go go Don Perata:

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata is blasting as dead on arrival a last-minute deal that helped win Assembly passage of a $103 billion state spending plan in the wee hours of Friday morning.

"It's an irresponsible action to take in the dark of night, without any debate or discussion," Perata said of the Assembly compromise.

Perata's vow to reporters, which came about noon Friday after he had huddled with his caucus for an hour, raised new doubts about ending the Legislature's lengthy budget impasse.

I do find it hard to argue against tax breaks to stop runaway film production, being in the industry and seeing the impact. We've been consistently losing jobs for years and years because every other state in the union is giving MASSIVE tax breaks out; this is how New Mexico has come to be known as "Tamalewood". My specific part of the industry, post-production, is somewhat more safe. But these are really good jobs, and what they actually do is take people away from families to do these shoots (if local crews aren't hired) and put a lot of stress and pressure on people to maintain work/family balance.

Maybe it's not structured perfectly, but this is a major issue and TV/film production is one of the last "manufacturing" industries left in the state. Especially when you consider that the state added a measly 400 jobs in June.

Labels: , ,


"Let Them Win"

Isn't that what Lindsay Graham was going on about in suggesting that the military rank and file unequivocally supports this war? Well, I would think that the diversity of opinions in the military mirrors the diversity in the country. They're just doing a job, after all. And just like 70% of the country wants us out of Iraq, 70% of all donations from members of the military to Presidential candidates are going to antiwar candidates, with Ron Paul well out in front.

The military isn't a monolith. The only overwhelming opinion we see there is similar to what we see in the country: it's not working in Iraq, get us out.

Labels: , , ,


Welcome Clownhall Readers!

And thanks for putting me in such good company with Steve Benen and Matthew Yglesias and Big Tent Democrat and John Cole and Glenn Greenwald!

It is, of course, deeply shocking to me that the author of "Painting the Map Red" and "If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat" can't understand that a deliberate US military strategy of outreach to ideologues such as himself saps confidence that they will administer reports with independent assessments.

Oh wait, no it doesn't.

UPDATE: Another example of the politicization of the Pentagon. Kind of sickening if you think about it.

Labels: , ,


King George

The Bush Admnistration looked into it, and they can't seem to find any limits to their own power.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

We are talking about the Bush White House obstructing an investigation by ordering the US Attorney for DC not to file charges in a contempt of Congress case. This will probably be kicked upstairs to the courts. But think about the case that the President is making here. He's saying that the mere assertion of executive privilege is enough to nullify the Congress' Constitutional role. They're saying that Congress has no power to pursue "force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges" in this case, while simultaneously forcing the US Attorney to NOT pursue those charges.

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."

The other option for the Congress is inherent contempt, which they should do with all deliberate speed. This is what John Conyers wrote to White House Counsel Fred Fielding just yesterday:

This letter is to formally notify you that I must insist on compliance with the subpoena, and that Mr. Bolten's failure to promptly mitigate his noncompliance could result in contempt proceedings, including, but not limited to proceedings under 2 U.S.C §§ 192, 194 or under the inherent contempt authority of the House of Representatives. In light of Chairwoman Sanchez's ruling, we strongly urge immediate production of the responsive documents pursuant to the subpoena. Please let me know in writing by 10 a.m. on Monday July 23, 2007. whether Mr. Bolten will comply. If I do not hear from you in the affirmative by then, the Committee will have no choice but to consider appropriate recourse.

Inherent contempt is a rarely-used tactic where the Congress can direct the Sergeant-at-arms to arrest someone for failure to comply. The House merely must apply a majority vote for this to commence. I don't see that they have a choice. Harriet Miers is flat-out not complying with a subpoena and thumbing her nose at Congress. What else can you do?

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Cue The Fred Sanford-Style Heart Attack

I'm just so shocked that the Bush Administration and military officials would try to change the target date for assessing the situation in Iraq! It's a "surge" to my aortic valve! I'm coming to ya, Elizabeth!

The Bush administration and U.S. military officials predicted Thursday that a key September report would show progress in Iraq, but that it would be November before they could judge the success of the troop buildup.

The comments — coming a day after congressional Democrats failed to force a change in the U.S. war strategy — were a new indication that the White House planned to seek still more time for its troop "surge" to stabilize the situation in Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of day-to-day operations in Iraq, said via teleconference from Baghdad that the military would produce the report on time as required by Congress. But, he said, September would be too early to determine whether security improvements would last and whether the buildup had worked.

"In order to do a good assessment, I need at least until November," Odierno said. "If I have 45 more days of looking at those trends, I'll be able to make a bit more accurate assessment — if it's something that we think is going to continue or something that was just a blip."

Here's how this is going to work, by the way. In November they'll say "how about January," and then they'll ask to wait until the spring, and then May, and then September, and then November, and then Bush is out of office and "crew you guys, I'm goin' home."

And it wouldn't be a Bush Administration tactic if it didn't exploit the words of an unnamed soldier for political gain!

Underscoring his view that an extension of the surge is needed, Odierno described a conversation between Command Sgt. Major Neil Ciotola, his top enlisted advisor, and an unnamed Marine lance corporal in Ramadi.

"He looked at my sergeant major and asked, 'We're not going to be given enough time to finish this, are we?' " Odierno said. "I hope that that young Marine warrior is wrong."

Yes, you wouldn't want to break poor Jimmy's heart, would you? Don't you want to hit him a home run and win the big game? He has leukemia!

I like the part, also, where the US Ambassador determines that nothing that happens in Iraq is a measure of progress:

Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday not to place the most significance on the benchmarks.

"In many cases, these benchmarks do not serve as reliable measures of everything that is important," Crocker said, adding that there may be better ways to show progress on, for example, national reconciliation.

How dare you try to assess what's happening in Iraq by making... assessments!

This is all a game to these fucking people. Well, I'm with that nearly 1/3 of House Democrats: not one nickel, not one dime, not one penny, not this time. No more money for failure.

Labels: , , , ,


Thursday, July 19, 2007

End Iraq

70 House Democrats tell the President that "we will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office."

Now maybe the WINO caucus of spineless Republicans who want to talk about how bad it is in Iraq but not do anything about it can be properly shamed.

What we have done in Iraq signifies a moment of American shame that wounds the soul. It would be wrong to blame the soldiers for their conduct as much as the SITUATION INTO WHERE THEY WERE PLACED - with attacks coming so fast and furious and the enemy indecipherable.

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported--and almost always go unpunished [...]

Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims--at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect.

"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004. "You know, so what?... The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we're trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us."

He said it was only "when they get home, in dealing with veteran issues and meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then."

There is no progress in Iraq that will put even the tiniest dent in the security nightmare that has festered for over four long years. And we will be feeling the effects of this nightmare for years to come, as we slowly realize that we've eliminated all good options and are fated to the bad ones.

For the United States, the world is now, as a result of the Iraq war, a more dangerous place. At the end of 2002, what is sometimes tagged "Al Qaeda Central" in Afghanistan had been virtually destroyed, and there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2007, there is an Al Qaeda in Iraq, parts of the old Al Qaeda are creeping back into Afghanistan and there are Al Qaeda emulators spawning elsewhere, notably in Europe.

Osama bin Laden's plan was to get the U.S. to overreact and overreach itself. With the invasion of Iraq, Bush fell slap-bang into that trap. The U.S. government's own latest National Intelligence Estimate, released this week, suggests that Al Qaeda in Iraq is now among the most significant threats to the security of the American homeland.

The U.S. has probably not yet fully woken up to the appalling fact that, after a long period in which the first motto of its military was "no more Vietnams," it faces another Vietnam. There are many important differences, but the basic result is similar: The mightiest military in the world fails to achieve its strategic goals and is, in the end, politically defeated by an economically and technologically inferior adversary.

This was all completely avoidable before now, but is currently inevitable. So we owe it to the men and women fighting overseas to preserve them from dying for a mistake. Bravo to these House Democrats.

UPDATE: Watch this.

Labels: , , , ,


Doolittle's Chickens Coming Home To Roost

John Doolittle is so corrupt, people in other countries are flipping on him:

The governor of the Northern Mariana Islands said Thursday he's cooperating with the Justice Department's corruption investigation around jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which is focused in part on GOP Rep. John Doolittle of Rocklin, Calif. [...]

The Justice Department's interest in Doolittle appears to focus on payments Doolittle's wife, Julie, received from Abramoff for fundraising work unrelated to the Marianas. But Doolittle was also heavily involved in Abramoff's advocacy for the Marianas, endorsing (Benigno) Fitial for governor and pushing federal funding on his behalf.

Doolittle was lobbied on the issue by his own former legislative director, Kevin Ring, who went on to work with Abramoff and now is himself under investigation.

"Doolittle, he's also a friend," said Fitial.

Well, at least he called Doolittle a friend before knifing him. Seems like Fitial wants the CNMI to get its money back from Abramoff's lobbying shops, and if that means turning in Doolittle to do it, then that's what has to be done.

The venue for this admission is interesting.

Fitial spoke to reporters after testifying against a Senate bill that would impose U.S. immigration laws on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a chain of 14 islands just north of Guam in the Pacific. A similar bill passed the Senate in 2000 but Abramoff helped block it from advancing in the House.

The pressing need for this legislation comes directly from Abramoff's and Doolittle's help in keeping the CNMI an island of indentured servitude, where workers are routinely imprisoned at their place of employ, threatened, forced into the sex tourism industry, given abortions against their will, and more.

This bill was stopped in the House in 2000 thanks to the work of Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, and John Doolittle. That devil's bargain appears to be catching up with Doolittle now.

Dover Bitch has more on how you can help pass this bill and restore rights to those on the CNMI. In addition, you can contribute to Charlie Brown as part of Blogosphere Day and make sure John Doolittle is held fully accountable for what he has done.

Labels: , , , , ,


The Media Tips Its Own Hand About John Edwards

This revealing story by Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic flat-out tells you how the media puts its thumbs on the scale when it comes to Presidential candidates.

Why doesn't John Edwards's hair equal Mitt Romney's face paint?

The primary difference is definitional: The centerpiece of Edwards's campaign is his anti-poverty efforts; he presents himself as a dedicated messenger for the cause, and he likes expensive haircuts, bought a gimungous house, etc. etc. His credibility as a messenger comes into question when he spends money ostentatiously. (The haircut was inadvertently billed to the campaign, a spokesman later said).

There is a difference in the political reality: fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn't like John Edwards.

Fairly or unfairly, there's also a difference in narrative timing: when the first quarter ended, the press was trying to bury Edwards. It's not so much interested in burying Romney right now -- many reporters think he's the Republican frontrunner.

Let's put aside the moronic idea that you can only express sympathy for the poor if you ARE poor. It's a thuddingly simple-minded argument that is almost unworthy of debate, if it wasn't coming from the media elite.

But the press has spent three months writing "Wow, I can't believe that Edwards haircut story has legs," while continuing to write about it. This is completely reminiscent of the way the press Heathers showed open contempt for Al Gore in 2000 or Howard Dean in 2004. They don't like people who aren't part of their club, and they're quite willing to go the extra mile in assuring that they will be knocked down a peg. And alternative media is simply not large enough to offer much of a counterweight. So this usually works. Edwards is now fourth in New Hampshire and slipping nationally as well. It sounds like a conspiracy theory to suggest that the media manipulates the narrative to favor candidates they like and punish candidates they hate. But this isn't just me saying it; this is a member of the press corps telling you "a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn't like John Edwards." And he uses the caveat of "fairly or unfairly." I've got news for you, it's unfair. Wholly and completely.

The blog reactions to this are excellent. LGM:

Granting that Ambinder isn't quite endorsing it, I'm amazed that anyone can see the question of whether or not reporters should use their reporting not to inform readers but to irresponsibly indulge their petty superficial prejudices about the individual candidates as a fairly debatable proposition. This open press corps contempt for Gore defined campaign 2000, and personally I think there are a lot of dead soldiers and Iraqis who think that what a president will actually do in office is more important that his or her suits and haircuts.


Now, I am not especially surprised that the press corps doesn't like John Edwards. Many of these people probably didn't like guys like him in high school either and one thing we know about the political press corps is that they have never matured beyond the 11th grade. (See: chilean bass stupidity.) But I have to ask, once again, just who in the hell these people think they are and why they think they are allowed to pick our candidates for us based upon their own "feelings" about them? I don't recall electing them to anything. (But, hey, maybe we should just poll the kewl kidz and find out which candidate they "like, totally, like" and we can cancel the election and save a lot of time and money.)

This is exactly this kind of thing that makes people like me laugh when I get lectured by professional journalists about "objectivity" and "ethics." At least I put my political biases up front. These phonies hide behind a veil of journalistic conventions so they can exercise their psychologically stunted desire to stick it to the BMOC, or the dork or whoever these catty little gossips want to skewer for their own pleasure that day. Please, please, no more hand-wringing sanctimony from reporters about the undisciplined, unethical blogosphere. Their glass houses are lying in shards all around their feet.

There is a legitimate question to be asked about why John Edwards' approach to the issue of poverty isn't exciting the poor. In fact, other Presidential candidates are trying to exploit it on the basis of authenticity. Here's what I think is going on. The fact that our politics have been so cynically manipulated by a group of unelected tastemakers, I would say, offers the explanation as to why authenticity, an ephemeral and impossible-to-read emotion, is seen to matter so much. We've been told for so long that every word out of a politician's mouth is "political," that there is no such thing as conviction, that of course voters believe that candidates are "telling me what I want to hear." This can even fool some of the best among us. And who creates this impression? An unelected, unaccountable media elite, who operates from the biases of claass and privilege, who is immediately skeptical of anyone who doesn't hew to the corporate centrist Beltway line, and who will ACTIVELY SUBVERT them through their role as a filter between politicians and the people.

John Edwards announced his campaign for President in New Orleans, created a program in Eastern North Carolina to help struggling kids get through college, goes on a tour of poverty-stricken communities that no other national leaders will visit, talks about economic fairness and responsible school integration and equality of opportunity and all sorts of uniquely American ideas enshrined in our core values. This is in a time when practically nobody else appears to give a damn about growing inequality which is the greatest threat to our economic security. And the media Heathers look at this and sniff and turn up their noses because they might have to go to those depressed areas to cover him and it's all so unseemly. They stopped covering him during the 2004 Vice Presidential campaign because he spoke in too many small towns and rural areas. They don't like him and they don't want him to be President. There's no better reason to support him.

Did you know that Edwards has had 3 suspicious packages delivered to his campaign offices already this year? Of course you didn't, Edwards is mean and uncouth and nobody likes him. Did you know about his appearance in Roanoke yesterday? Why would I, it wasn't in the New York Times and anyway he paid too much for a haircut.

The media is laying down a guantlet that John Edwards is not "their" candidate. He'll come in and trash the place, and it's not his place. That's the small-mindedness of our press corps, and also it speaks to their belief in their own power, which they choose not to use to hold elected officials accountable, but to play a giant game of winners and losers based on who's most likely to sit next to them in the lunchroom. The media, the Beltway punditocracy in particular, has not learned one iota the lessons of 2000, and will continue to play this high-school crap FOREVER, until their stature dwindles to the point where it doesn't matter anymore. It would be good to let them know that you don't care for this kind of garbage, that as an American you wish to make your electoral choices on the merits and not through their filter. We've grown up since high school. The media hasn't.

UPDATE: Pardon me, but fuck the fucking media.

Elizabeth Edwards has just written in to Slate to slam the online mag's chief political reporter, John Dickerson, for insinuating that she and John Edwards are using her cancer in an ad for political gain.

She was responding to a Dickerson piece in Slate today bearing this intriguing subhed: "A new ad exploits the suffering of the Edwards family. But that's okay."

Apparently Elizabeth Edwards saying in an ad that John is a man who can "stare the worst in the face and not blink" means he's inauthentically exploiting his wife's cancer. What kind of twisted people are these? Why couldn't that be the events of 9-11, for example, which is exactly how they would attribute it to Rudy Giuliani no matter what personal tragedies have befallen him?

Check the link to see Elizabeth's repsonse. I'm beyond enraged to see good people being kneecapped for no good reason. We have to get their backs.

Labels: , , , , , ,


The Walls Are Falling Around Us

I opposed last year's infrastructure bonds in California, and I still oppose the way in which they were funded, but after yesterday's incident in Manhattan, it's clear that our infrastructure is crumbling and that 30 years of free-rider conservatism is to blame.

Wednesday, in New York, a pipe installed in 1924 finally gave way and ended up killing someone. Imagine that. They built things to last in those days, but I doubt anyone ever dreamed that they would have to last for nearly a century.

Rick Perlstein has been writing about what he calls "E. coli conservatism" for a while over at his blog the Big Con, where, among other things, he's chronicling the increasing incidence of ... sinkholes. That's right, these days it's quite common to be driving or walking along a street in Anytown USA and be suddenly sucked into the ground because of the neglected infrastructure of our towns and cities. You can read about it in local papers every day. Wednesday he wrote:

We've warned here again and again about the decrepitude of our underground infrastructure, about what happens when a nation consecrates itself to no higher domestic goal than the cutting of taxes. New York had a Republican mayor, in fact, who now spends his days boasting that he cut taxes 23 times. Cut spending, too, he's proud to say.

This is the legacy of the past 25 years of neglect. We shouldn't be relieved when we see a huge cloud of smoke and dust and find that it isn't "terrorism." It's a warning as important as a magenta terror alert or the rumblings of Michael Chertoff's gut. There is a price to pay for this free lunch the conservatives have been selling for the past 30 years and the bill is coming due.

America is in desperate need of a massive building program that it can't afford without shared sacrifice. And there's a robust minority political culture that believes everything is fine and we don't have to worry about it as long as we cut taxes. As if such an action will magically transform our infrastructure and make it all shiny and gleaming.

Conservatives would RATHER these things go to hell, so they can blame "irresponsible government" as use it as a pretext for privatization. Only they're the ones who have been irresponsible. As we know, all the privatizers do is rip off the government treasury, whether for work here or in Iraq (and thank goodness for our freshman Senators, who finally want to take a look at the out-of-control Iraq contracting). There's money for conservatives in handing out contracts to friends and allies, but no money in actually DOING THE WORK. We are on the verge of stories like yesterday's in New York all over the country, and something must be done - through the auspices of good government - to ensure public safety.

Labels: , , ,


Fortunate Sons

Max Blumenthal does it again with his video Generation Chickenhawk, visiting the bathshit crazy College Republican convention and asking them why they aren't serving in this war they so passionately and fervently support. "I'm more career oriented than actually serving," is my favorite excuse. Because we all know that going to Iraq and putting a target on your back isn't a career move, so there's no point in doing it, right?

This video also features the now-iconic statement by Tom DeLay that if it weren't for the 40 million children killed by abortion over the past 30 years, we wouldn't need illegal immigrants. Right, tell that to your corporate buds who don't want to pay a fair wage for labor, ask them if they'd willingly stop importing people with no rights and no recourse to do the jobs they don't want Americans to do.

And who's the guy who goes on about how "everybody has had an inclination toward members of the same sex?" Is he just dying to come out or what?

These are the future leaders of the Republican Party, by the way. Unbelievable.

Labels: , , , , , ,


California State Legislative Scorecards

The Capitol Weekly did their first annual legislative scorecard of members of the State Assembly and Senate. They go into detail about their methodology and recognize that devising these types of scores is more art than science. In addition the voting sample size is fairly small. But I still believe there's some value to them.

The full list (PDF) is here. Some interesting tidbits:

You can pretty obviously see that we have an ideologically rigid legislature. 8 Republican Assemblymen have a "perfect" 0 score on legislation (fully conservative), and 13 Democrats have a 100 (fully liberal). In the Senate, there are 2 Republicans with a 0 score and 5 Democrats with a score of 100.

The Republicans, however, are FAR more unified. There are no Assembly Republicans with a score above 20, and no Senate Republicans above 30. Put it this way, the 2nd-most "moderate" Republican in the legislature is right-wing loon Tom McClintock, I guess because he is occasionally libertarian.

By contrast, a handful of Democrats dip into the other side of the ocean. Here are the Democrats with scores under 50.

Cathleen Galgiani 20
Nicole Parra 20
Juan Arambula 50

Lou Correa 40
Mike Machado 45

All 3 Assembly Democrats live in the Central Valley (Galgiani's from Stockton, Parra's from Bakersfield and Arambula's from Fresno). Mike Machado is also from this area (Stockton, Tracy). Correa is the only exception to this rule.

Galgiani's election site features the line "I'll never raise your taxes." Machado endorsed Steve Filson in last year's Congressional primary against Jerry McNerney.

I'm not making value judgments, this is all just somewhat interesting stuff and I'm trying to make sense of it, particularly in the context of yesterday's discussion about the Central Valley. The spotlight is not usually shined on this area; is that how we end up with Democrats like this?

Labels: , , , , , ,


On The Legislative Front

There is more evidence that the answer to the question of "Is our Congress learning?" is yes. Frustrated by procedural obstructionism, the Democratic leadership plans to do some dirty work of their own to get important legislation passed:

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are hoping to ram through ethics legislation that has become an albatross for the new Congress. Instead of waiting for the traditional conference committee to create a compromise version of the bill, the Democrat leadership is expected to use parliamentary tactics to both block amendments and speed the bill to the Senate, where Reid is hoping that popular sentiment will sway enough lawmakers to ensure a filibuster-proof majority.

The Republicans will bitch and moan, but at some point you have to fight fire with fire, and this ethics reform has languished for too long. They've passed it through both houses of Congress and now the Republicans are BLOCKING THE CONFERENCE REPORT, so they really have left no choice.

Meanwhile, the pulled defense authorization bill has given way to an education bill, which seeks to markedly increase Pell grants and fix the ailing student loan program. The President has vowed to work with Congress on the bill (even though the first line says he'll veto it), and while we may not get the same numbers talked about here, it's possible that there will be some compromise worked out.

Meanwhile the Democrats are not backing down from the President's heartless and totally ideological resistance to re-authorizing and increasing funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). Republicans who have worked on this bill know that they will be destroyed electorally by voting against children's health, and they're signaling their opposition to the President (which for them is a win-win).

The chief Republican architects of a deal to expand a children’s health insurance program are defending the proposal against criticism by President Bush, who has threatened to “resist” it.

This week, members of the Senate Finance Committee tentatively agreed on a renewal and expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which covers about 6 million children from families that are low-income but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Bush sees the legislation as a backdoor move toward government-run health care, but committee Republicans Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Pat Roberts of Kansas said in a July 11 letter to Bush that the issue that most concerns him — the use of SCHIP to cover adults — is partly his fault. Under Bush’s watch, the department of Health and Human Services has approved 12 waivers to states allowing SCHIP coverage of adults, records show, including a waiver issued May 24 allowing Wisconsin to cover parents earning up to twice the poverty level.

There may be enough votes to override this veto, and if not, the Democrats are playing hardball:

About 3.3 million additional children would be covered under the proposal developed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), among others. It would provide the program $60 billion over five years, compared with $30 billion under Bush's proposal. And it would rely on a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, to $1 a pack, which Bush opposes.

Grassley and Hatch, in a joint statement this week, implored the president to rescind his veto threat. They warned that Democrats might seek an expansion of $50 billion or more if there is no compromise.

Damn straight. Make these Republicans vote over and over again to protect their President and deny children health insurance. I can't think of a better bill on which to take a stand.

UPDATE: Much more on the education bill here.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

It seems like every day, there's a deadly bombing in Pakistan. What's scary about today's events is that they were in opposite ends of the country and may not have been related, meaning that there's just a general unrest among a radicalized portion of the population. But certainly, this is being spearheaded from the Waziristan region.

Attacks in the North-West Frontier Province are becoming a daily occurrence, with more than 100 people killed in the past week.

The upsurge in violence began after troops stormed the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad, following a week-long stand off with Islamist militants.

The assault prompted pro-Taleban rebels along the border with Afghanistan to scrap a controversial 10-month-old peace agreement with the government.

There never should have been a cease-fire to begin with. But we're too far gone to try and reverse that tragic miscalculation. I'm not sure what the Bush Administration thinks they can do if they still abide by their divided loyalties. The Pakistanis don't want us going into that tribal area. Yet Al Qaeda is massing and growing there, and the Musharraf government looks fairly powerless to stop it. This is something we could have dealt with 6 years ago, but now we have a nominal ally harboring known terrorists.

The ABC News article makes it sound like we're going to try for a surgical strike from the air. Yeah, because those always work so well. What did Bill Maher once famously say about how "we're the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from thousands of miles away"?

We have really screwed the pooch on this one, and now we're basically spectators.

Labels: , , , ,


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Australian Hearst

So we learn that Rupert Murdoch, the soon-to-be owner of the Wall Street Journal, which he can add to the rest of his media empire, called Tony Blair 3 times in the 10 days before the start of the war in Iraq.

The telephone conversations were among six calls between the two men detailed by the cabinet office in response to a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury [...]

No details were given of what subjects Mr Blair and the News Corporation chairman discussed in the calls on March 11, 13 and 19 2003, ahead of the launch of US-led military action in Iraq on March 20.

Lord Avebury said: "Rupert Murdoch has exerted his influence behind the scenes on a range of policies on which he is known to have strong views, including the regulation of broadcasting and the Iraq war. The public can now scrutinise the timing of his contacts with the former prime minister, to see whether they can be linked to events in the outside world."

I have a feeling that I know the nature of those three conversations:

"You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."

Media concentration is so completely dangerous, and this is a textbook example of why.

Labels: , , ,


Get Off My Lawn!

Fun to see McCain turning from depression to anger.

“I’m not going to talk about my campaign anymore. I’m finished with talking about it. I’ve talked about it for two weeks. I will not discuss it or any aspect of it. Thank you.”

Hilarious. You get a sense that the next line would have been "Don't you know who I am? I am John Foster McCain!"

Citizen McCain... hmm... what a movie parody that could be...

Labels: , ,


You're Either With Us Or Against Us

Anyone who thinks General Petraeus, a.k.a. Deity Who Bestrides The Earth Like A Colossus, is going to offer an unbiased assessment of the situation in Iraq come September can end that fantasy right now:

If I were eager to maintain a semblance of military independence from the agenda of extremist, Republican partisans, I wouldn't go on the Hugh Hewitt show, would you? And yet Petraeus has done just that. I think such a decision to cater to one party's propaganda outlet renders Petraeus' military independence moot. I'll wait for the transcript. But Petraeus is either willing to be used by the Republican propaganda machine or he is part of the Republican propaganda machine. I'm beginning to suspect the latter.

I have little need to wait for a transcript. This has become a Defense Department strategy, intentionally reaching out to conservative bloggers and media types in order to get their "unfiltered message" out. They even have a name for it; the "Surrogates Option". Of course, those partisan ideologues that continue to defend the President are all too happy to scrupulously type up military propaganda. Because that's what it is.

This is nothing new in wartime, but it ought to be known that the General leading forces in Iraq is only speaking to partisan ideologues instead of any reporter that would ask a tough question. And Congress should use that as a guide when they take a look at his report in a couple months.

UPDATE: Yglesias sez the transcript is a mixed bag. But he makes the mistake of comparing it to his own experience on the show. David Petraeus didn't book himself on the Hugh Hewitt show. The Pentagon did. This is part of their propaganda operation.

Labels: , , , , ,


Population Shifts and Central Valley Politics

Let's face it. Politics in California in general are heavily tilted to the large population centers in the Bay Area and Southern California (including Orange County and down to San Diego). But to continue in this fashion would be shortsighted, because it's clear that the population patterns are moving away from two all-powerful hubs and toward a more widely spread pattern. What has been getting most of the ink from the recent study by the state Department of Finance is that the Inland Empire will soon become home to the second-largest county (Riverside) in all of California. But what has been less remarked upon is the expansion of the Central Valley:

With a new state forecast predicting that California's population growth will tilt ever more toward the Central Valley, Southern California's Inland Empire and fast-growing areas around Sacramento, experts say the state's political center of gravity may shift, too - away from the more urbanized, coastal metropolitan areas that dominate the state's political and economic life today.

The Central Valley "will clearly gain heft compared with the other metropolitan regions," said Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center and the former mayor of Modesto. "It won't be the baby cousin any more."

The Central Valley will grow from 10 percent of the state's population in 2000, to 16 percent of all Californians by 2050. The Bay Area is projected to gain about 3.5 million new residents by 2050, but its share of California's population will drop to 17 percent, from 20 percent in 2000, an analysis of new state Department of Finance projections shows.

This is something important for political groups to internalize. The traditional structure of Democratic election efforts has been to raise turnout in LA and SF, and hope to do half-decent everywhere else, and walk away a winner. That's not going to work as we go forward. With 1 in 6 Californians living in places like Modesto and Fresno and Stockton and Bakersfield and Merced and the numerous towns throughout the San Joaquin Valley, Democrats must build and grow their presence outside of the urban metropolises, to a level where they were in the recent past before giving up practically all of that ground to the Republicans.

Here's the spread of population in 2000:

Coastal Southern California: 47%
Bay Area: 20%
Central Valley: 10%
Inland Empire: 10%
Other (High Desert, Sierras): 13%

Here's the projections for 2050:

Coastal Southern California: 39%
Bay Area: 17%
Central Valley: 16%
Inland Empire: 14% (3x the size in 50 years!)
Other (High Desert, Sierras): 14%

The "big 2" go from 67% of the population to 56%. That's significant in a statewide election. It will also likely affect reapportionment, with the Bay Area potentially losing seats in Congress or the state legislature as early as the 2010 Census.

We have to start thinking about this and planning now. What are the concerns of the Central Valley? Obviously agriculture and water concerns would weigh heavily, one would think, but the Valley is also urbanizing and developing rapidly. These aren't all cow towns anymore; there are at least 5 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. The San Joaquin Valley is also the primary oil-producing region in our state. Culturally this is likely to be a more classically Western libertarian area.

We have a 3-2 deficit among the Congressional delegation in this area. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa are Democrats, and George Radanovich, Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes are Republicans. By 2050 there could be up to 10 seats in this region. Are Cardoza and Costa helping grow the Democratic brand in the Central Valley? Are they promoting policies that can help Democrats win? This is a diverse area as well, with not just Hispanics but lots of Asian and European communities. How are they being served?

I hope people are asking these questions. The Central Valley could hold the key to continued Democratic dominance in California.

Labels: , , ,


Impending Republican Doom, Exhibit XXXVIII

I could easily be reading too much into this, but it seems to be that if an establishment Republican with the backing of the entire state GOP machinery can't win a runoff election with low turnout in a classically red area in the South, it's worth it to ask the question of whether we'll see another landslide next November.

North Georgia voters out-muscled Augustans on Tuesday, propelling Athens physician Paul Broun to an apparent shocking victory over Jim Whitehead of Evans in a congressional runoff widely billed as a geographical rivalry.

Political experts expected Whitehead to finish off his fellow Republican easily. But Whitehead's 3-1 margin in Columbia and Richmond counties wasn't enough to make up for Broun's dominance outside Whitehead's old state Senate district.

Broun won 13 of the district's 21 counties. He received almost 90 percent of the vote in Clarke County - where he worked hard to bring Democrats back to the polls in the absence of a Democrat in the race - and his home county of Oconee. He performed almost as well in other counties east and north of the Augusta area.

Broun pledged to be a bipartisan, reform congressman, in keeping with an unorthodox campaign that put together a coalition of disgruntled Republicans, Democrats and Christian conservatives. He was able to overcome a wide fundraising gap and Whitehead's support from GOP leaders.

This was kind of a funny race, you had two fairly hard-right conservatives involved. But it's clear to me that the race was between an insider and an outsider, and the outsider pulled it off despite being vastly outspent. That says to me that the Republican brand is completely trashed, far more than the experts believe. Yes, Jim Whitehead was an idiot who shot himself in the foot with a number of ill-advised comments. But it's not like most establishment Republicans are much better. And 200-some of them will be on the ballot next November. And the public doesn't seem to have much of a taste for any of them.

Labels: , ,


Atlanta Falcons Become America's Least Favorite Team

I don't know what kind of unfeeling soul you have to be to fight dogs in pits against one another like Michael Vick did, and apparently the indictment has even worse cruelties in it:

Vick and his codefendants killed no less than 8 dogs that either lost fights or failed fight tests. The method of killing ranged from electrocution, drowning, hanging to slamming a dog’s body to the ground until dead.

Unfathomable, and I say that not just as a dog owner but as a human being.

I don't think this kind of sadism is an outgrowth of football itself, but more from a position of privilege, where the perpetrator thinks he cannot be touched or held accountable. We take kids out of junior high school and pamper them, slide them easily through school, give them tens of millions of dollars, and cover up for them if anything goes wrong. It's the lack of consequences for actions that's the problem.

Thus ends my obligatory monthly sports post.

Labels: , ,


Billo's Lunacy

So, Bill O'Reilly made a fool of himself the other day, dumpster-diving for random comments and attributing the ideas of the entire progressive left to something some guy said on the Internet somewhere.

This is a common tactic, to take unmoderated comments and turn them into the "voice" of the Left. Hearing Billo describe Daily Kos as akin to the KKK and a David Duke rally is seriously nuts, and is best dismissed without comment. But Hillary Clinton did strike back, although the equivalence they strike is suspect:

"Blogs are the 21st Century version of the public square. Sen. Clinton does not agree with everything said on Daily Kos, but isolating a few comments as a way to smear a blog frequented by hundreds of thousands of people a day is wrong. Certainly you would understand this when you look at some of the extreme views guests on your show have advocated over the years. Here are just a few examples:

"You've hosted Michael Savage, who has called MLK Jr. Day a "racket" designed to steal ‘white males' birthright.’

"You've hosted David Horowitz, who has called Democrats ‘apologists for terrorists.’

"You've hosted, Ann Coulter who said of the 9/11 widows: ‘I have never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much.’

"It wouldn't be reasonable to attribute these views to you and it's not reasonable for you to attribute every comment on Daily Kos to everyone who attends the YearlyKos convention. Sen. Clinton is looking forward to attending YearlyKos."

I think it WOULD be reasonable to attribute the well-known views of someone booked to appear on the O'Reilly Factor to Bill O'Reilly himself, certainly more so than attributing random trollish comments to Markos. What would be more equivalent are the raft of hateful comments Markos himself received the night of the O'Reilly broadcast. Or Billo's own comment that he'd like to go into the blogosphere "with a hand grenade.”

But let's go a bit further, because recent events on Billo's show are instructive.

A week or so ago, Billo aired a report about pistol-packing lesbians who are terrorizing Americans all over the country and indoctrinating heterosexuals into their sexy sexy ways. The facts in the report were horribly sourced and almost entirely untrue. After it became clear that there was simply no truth whatsoever to the idea of pistol-packing lesibians, Billo gave a half-hearted half-apology on the air, claiming that there was "never any intent" to demonize gays and lesbians.

At the very least, a significant correction acknowledging every facet of the false reportage would be both broadcast and posted on the Fox News website and given prominent display. This is especially important, ethically speaking, in cases in which a minority group is exposed to demonization and ridicule as a result of the bad reportage.

Instead, what we get are scenes like this: the godlike media pundit, rather than concede that nearly every facet of a report he broadcast as credible was in fact a grotesque fantasy built out of whole cloth, conceding minor points but claiming general accuracy in spite of these "flaws." O'Reilly also claimed that Fox posted a correction on its website, but if it did so, it is difficult or impossible to locate. (I've searched the site thoroughly as well as Googled for the "correction" and have come up dry; if any readers can find it, I'd appreciate it.)

Bill succeeded in creating the mistaken impression that lesbian gangs were roaming our streets, and then when called on the shoddy reporting, kind of feinted toward an apology but didn't criticize the overall tone of the report.

This is the kind of thing that would get you laughed off the blogosphere. Billo wouldn't last two minutes. Because somebody would wonder why he was so intent on pushing this bogus story about lesbian gangs when hate crimes AGAINST gays and lesbians occur every single day in this country:

A Cypress man charged in the death of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant said Saturday that he was doing God's work when he went to a Montrose-area bar last month, hunting for a gay man to kill.

"I believe I'm Elijah, called by God to be a prophet," said 26-year-old Terry Mark Mangum, charged with murder June 11. " ... I believe with all my heart that I was doing the right thing."

Interviewed in the Brazoria County Jail Saturday morning, Mangum said he feels no remorse for killing 46-year-old Kenneth Cummings Jr., whom relatives described as a "loving" son who never forgot a holiday and a devoted uncle who had set up college funds for his niece and nephew. He worked at Southwest for 24 years.

Mangum, who described himself as "definitely not a homosexual," said God called on him to "carry out a code of retribution" by killing a gay man because "sexual perversion" is the "worst sin."

Mangum believed Cummings to be gay.

"I planned on sending him to hell," he said.

Cummings disappeared June 4. His charred remains were found June 16, buried on a 50-acre ranch near San Antonio owned by Mangum's 90-year-old grandfather.

It wouldn't occur to Billo to cite this report. It shocks the conscience, but it's not as sensational for his largely white, older viewers as the "lesbian gang" fantasy. But in fact, hate crimes like these are depressingly normal:

Elizabeth Edwards told a prominent gay rights group Saturday night that her husband, presidential candidate John Edwards, would help repeal more than a thousand laws that discriminate against same-sex couples [...]

Citing the story of a Sacramento man who died after witnesses said he was beaten to death by men who thought he was gay, Edwards slammed President Bush for not doing anything to help protect gays and lesbians against violence.

"This president talks a lot about good and evil and the need to seek out evil doers," she told a packed auditorium. "But he doesn't seem to recognize the evil in hate crimes. The right to live without the fear of being murdered for whom we love is not a special right."

The death of Satendar Singh, 26, galvanized Sacramento's gay community and others who saw it as an outgrowth of anti-gay rhetoric coming from local evangelical Christian Slavic churches.

According to Singh's friends, the group that attacked him earlier this month as he was leaving a picnic at Lake Natomas were speaking Russian. Singh was punched once in the face and fell backward, hitting his head. He died July 5 after four days on life support.

Edwards said Singh's story reminded her of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who died after he was beaten and tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998.

"We were in fact reminded again while we share the lingering memory of a fence post in Laramie, the sorrow of that image is now joined by a park at Lake Natoma in Sacramento," she said. "And Matthew Shepard is joined by Satendar Singh as a martyr in that fight for justice."

There are dozens where that came from, like Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena and Eddie Garzon and Gwen Araujo and so many more. 41 percent of all gays and lesbians have reported being a victim of a hate crime at some point in their lives. And Bill O'Reilly has the temerity to report on nonexistent "lesbian gangs," indirectly JUSTIFYING some hate-crime behavior, while simultaneously condeming a WEBSITE for hateful rhetoric?

There's hate speech and then there's a worldview that allows hate to flourish. I'm quite certain which is worse. If Billo would like to discuss who hates who and who said what and other minutiae, he can do whatever he wants. Even though he doesn't believe it, it's a free country. But to dare to castigate anybody for breeding an ideology of hatred after essentially calling on his viewers to fight back against gays and lesbians should be to his eternal shame. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any.

Labels: , , , , ,


"We Will Make No Distinction Between Terrorists and The Countries Who Harbor Them"

One thing is clear from reading the key judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate on global terrorism released yesterday; our current strategy of fighting the "war on terror" is a failure. Al Qaeda's strength is surging for a fundamental reason; they've been given safe harbor in the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and so all of the fuel from American intervention in Mesopotamia has been given a safe place to take root and spread.

For years, the Bush administration has lived in fear of this moment. The formal consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community is that Pakistan's federally administrated tribal areas ("FATA" is the new jargon-y acronym, natch) is al-Qaeda's new "safehaven," where the al-Qaeda Senior Leadership (similarly, AQSL) is reconstituting its "Homeland attack capability." Now comes the hard question: what to do about it? [...]

When considering a global, decentralized network (or movement, if you prefer), it's misleading to suggest that there's a single, fixed "center" that would mean the destruction of the network if defeated. But the effort to avoid affixing special significance on Pakistan arises for a simple reason: neither the administration nor its critics is prepared to invade Pakistan. Even the infiltration of special forces and intelligence assets into the area is potentially destabilizing. Bush once said before 9/11, when casting doubt on a Richard Clarke-authored plan to go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, that he didn't want to "swat at flies." In Pakistan, fly-swatting is the most anyone has proposed against a well-entrenched AQSL. Welcome back to 2001, when the most robust option against a looming al-Qaeda threat is exactly the one that remains unthinkable.

That leaves the U.S. with just one choice: backing Pervez Musharraf. Townsend attempted to shift away from the conclusion that Musharraf is the central figure in the South Asian theater of the war on terrorism, but it could hardly be otherwise. Until the U.S. is prepared to risk the destabilization of Pakistan by moving U.S. and allied troops into the FATA, there's little other option except getting Musharraf, already on shaky political ground, to clamp down on the area. This is where we are after six years, two wars, 4,000 U.S. troop deaths and around half a trillion dollars -- except with exhausted military resources and far more recruits for al-Qaeda.

It may have caused just as much of an uproar in the Muslim world in late 2001 if the United States entered the FATA and dismantled the Al Qaeda and Taliban networks. Musharraf may have been swallowed up by elements within his country, and we may be as "bogged down" in Pakistan as we are in Iraq. But it would have been the right thing to do. And it would have offered the best opportunity and the strongest argument to rid the world of fundamentalist Islam while respecting the greater majority of moderate Islam worldwide. Instead we have relied on Pakistan, which has done as little as humanly possible to prevent Al Qaeda safe harbor.

President Bush’s top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged Tuesday that the strategy for fighting Osama bin Laden’s leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan had failed, as the White House released a grim new intelligence assessment that has forced the administration to consider more aggressive measures inside Pakistan [...]

In identifying the main reasons for Al Qaeda’s resurgence, intelligence officials and White House aides pointed the finger squarely at a hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who last year brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders in an effort to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region.

“It hasn’t worked for Pakistan,” said Frances Fragos Townsend, who heads the Homeland Security Council at the White House. “It hasn’t worked for the United States.”

This would have been an excellent thing to have figured out six years ago, but now Al Qaeda is dug into the foothills, and they are quite capable of spectacular attacks throughout the nation, while Musharraf is incapable of stopping them in the tribal region. More aggressive measures are bound to be deadly and not guaranteed to work. They had a chance, way back when, before we left the area and turned our attention to Iraq. We can talk about the fiftieth iteration of top Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders being captured, but until we refocus the effort and try to come up with the least-bad option to deal with Al Qaeda where they are regrouping, nothing will improve in our failed war on terror. And certainly not if we continue to keep our troops in a civil war in Iraq, the rationale for which grows more bogus by the day:

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush has been able to deflect criticism of his counterterrorism policy by repeatedly noting the absence of any new domestic attacks and by citing the continuing threat that terrorists in Iraq pose to U.S. interests.

But this line of defense seemed to unravel a bit yesterday with the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that concludes that al-Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" by reestablishing a haven in Pakistan and reconstituting its top leadership. The report also notes that al-Qaeda has been able "to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks," by associating itself with an Iraqi subsidiary.

These disclosures triggered a new round of criticism from Democrats and others who say that the administration took its eye off the ball by invading Iraq without first destroying Osama bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan.

Bush tried to blame the whole thing on Al Qaeda in Iraq yesterday, but that argument is wearing thin. It is Al Qaeda - the original elements, reformed and ready for action in Pakistan - that seeks to sow terror among the people of the United States. And yet our government continues to ignore this reality.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


The Duke-Stir

Via Yglesias, Duke Cunningham got mad that his buddy Brent Wilkes always got the better prostitutes, and he had trouble performing, but eventually he did not have sex with the girl “because he felt guilty about his behavior."

He felt guilty about sex with the not-so-young and not-so-cute prostitute that he couldn't get it up for. The cute one would have been fine.

Do prostitutes have special Congressional rates?

Meanwhile there might be a bunch more of these coming down the pike. I'm inclined to believe that there's nobody more deviant than a family values conservative.

Labels: , , ,