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

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thufferin Thuccotash

The nice folks at TPM (via Veracifier) had a good find: a 1996 video of a rather reasonable-sounding Rudy Giuliani warning we'd never be able to both end illegal immigration and remain the same country.

One question: is mentioning Rudy's lisp out of bounds?

I for one find it increasingly annoying.

Just checking.

[cross-posted at Vernon Lee]




Jonathan Singer has a post up at MyDD rightly warning Democrats not to internalize Rovian attacks, such as his recent bait dangled before Dems and the consultant and pundit classes that they're weak on national security.

A day after announcing he will leave government Aug. 31, an unrepentant Karl Rove said Tuesday that Democrats are headed toward repeating Vietnam-era mistakes that gave Republicans the upper hand on national defense for 30 years.

"The Democrats have a problem with national security," the White House senior adviser said. "Too many Democratic leaders are opposing policies that will lead to America's success in the Middle East."

Singer's warning is true enough.

I mean to take issue only with one of the examples Singer cites: the Nancy Johnson attack ad from 2006.

Before we get to the ad, here's Singer's discussion of said ad:

During one of the panels I sat on at Yearly Kos (which you can watch on C-SPAN here in full or here in a shorter version), I talked about the importance of Democrats not being forced into a cowering position over national security as a result of attacks from the right. As an example, I pointed to an ad then-Republican Congresswoman Nancy Johnson ran against her Democratic challenger, Chris Murphy, alleging that as a result of Murphy's support for the rule of law America could be put in jeopardy. The whole thing took the look of the television show 24.

I'll first note that I've read many excited recitations of how this attack just didn't work this time throughout Left Blogistan. When I finally saw the ad, I was surprised that I'd watched the same piece that had been the subject of a half-dozen commentaries with the common theme: the "vote Democratic and die" message doesn't work even when dressed up like the thriller serial 24!

I have to disagree that this ad demonstrates what Singer thinks it does.

I believe the ad tried to use the formula of an ooga booga "they'll kill us in our beds!" ad. I just don't think it worked. (Nor was it much like 24.)

Here's my quick analysis of what doesn't work here:

1) Positive/Negative: it appears the creators wished to split the time between positive and negative messages. The problem with this approach is that it's difficult to transition between the two modes effectively in a thirty-second ad without creating a discordant jumble. Thus the wished-for contrast between the candidate (Johnson) and opponent (Murphy) collapses. Had the creators used a different narrator for different parts of the ad, or used stronger visual contrast between the two figures, it may have been much more effective.

A perfect illustration of the ad's weak contrast is the fact that Johnson appears in black and white (as does Murphy). A befuddling choice. We've all seen those attack ads featuring a cartoonishly distorted opponent; while crude, such ads typically at least sell contrast between "good" and "bad" characters.

2) Storytelling: many attack ads are brief character portraits. This ad presents a narrative about a situation: the dispute over the requirement to obtain warrants to wiretap terrorists. Thus Johnson and Murphy are each characters summoned to support the larger story of this issue. Johnson does X; Murphy does Y. (Boooo!) But the fact that we have to wait until the end of the ad until we are shown the negative outcome of the issue means we are in an emotional state of Pause, waiting for a resolution. Thus we withhold full emotional involvement until we see the consequences. Then the ad ends.

3) Conversion: In effective ads, there's a conversion moment towards the end designed to create a rush of desired emotion (positive or negative). Such activation is important in an ad's effectiveness, for our brains actually create neural pathways in forming memories differently based on the emotional context in which we experience moments. (If you've ever seen the movie Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, you've seen this idea roughly translated into fictional form. Those memories that are smuggled into the brain along with great emotional content - feelings of joy, dread, shame, etc. - are more durable.)

I didn't have a visceral reaction to this bland recitation of having to get a court order (ye gods!) when the creators could easily have manufactured a moment of anxiety or anger into something shocking and intolerable. I didn't feel that punch in the gut "NO!" that you need to feel in order for this ad to work.

Perhaps I'm in the minority here in terms of my reactions. But there are actually structural reasons that moment didn't have the salience it could have: the issue of the genre of its visual and auditory imagery.

In the world of "24," you have the constant rush-rush of an urgent thriller. And this ad was not the trailer to a thriller. It had the genre elements of a drama, even a procedural. In a way, the ad was paced too slowly (for a thriller) but too quickly (for a drama that aims to ratchet up a feeling of foreboding and dread).

It's not terribly easy to do this type of ad well. (See, for example, the failed Bush attempt from 2006 - "These Are the Stakes." It seemed to use all the same working parts as effective scare-tactic ads (and even used the same title as an LBJ ad), but somehow those parts didn't transcend the whole. While the whole didn't work, we shouldn't neglect to mention its use value - in inspiring parody, such as D-day's "These Are the Stingrays.")

Ads that try but fail to scare you carry a great risk in any age. But in the Age of Terror (Scares), a candidate runs the additional risk of causing resentment, as the Nancy Johnson ad apparently did. Imagine someone holding a flashlight under his face in a dark room, telling ghost stories to scare the kids; it all evaporates when someone walks into the room and switches on the light.

Rather than proving that ads attacking Democrats as unable to protect the nation don't work, I think this ad merely proves that bad versions don't work.

Even though Karl Rove has ridden off into the sunset (where he'll retire to his coffin until later), his tactics have lost none of their salience. What worked 30 years ago still works today.

Yes, Karl Rove is trying to sucker Democrats into a head-fake. But just because Democrats shouldn't flinch in anticipation, nor should they pretend the blow will never land.

Writing for the Guardian, Michael Tomasky limns Karl Rove's anti-achievements in his two areas of accomplishment: incompetence and duplicity. In the duplicity column, Tomasky charts Rove's Mayberry Machiavellian tactics from his well-documented days as head of the College Republicans:

On the duplicity front, the evidence is voluminous. It goes back to his days in the College Republicans, when he was running for national chairman of that organisation and at the same time conducting training seminars instructing campaign workers in techniques such as rooting through opponents' trash cans. This against his fellow Republicans.

But don't take it from me. Here's Rove himself, in memos to a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Texas who preceded Bush named Bill Clements: "The whole art of war consists in a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by rapid and audacious attack." And: "Anti-White [Clements' opponent] messages are more important than positive Clements messages. Attack. Attack. Attack."

Thus the whispering campaigns that always seemed to spring up. That Ann Richards, Bush's gubernatorial opponent in Texas, was a lesbian. That John McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock. And the worst - that a Democratic state supreme court judge in Alabama who worked with troubled youths was a paedophile.

I don't believe we've seen the end of the "Democrats = weak" meme - nor do I think we ever will.

POSTSCRIPT: There is a good example of a conversion moment in Hillary Clinton's ad from last week, "Invisible," which I'll discuss in a later post.

[cross-posted at Vernon Lee]

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[cross-posted at Vernon Lee]

I just learned something new: Rudy had a drag stage name.


See this 1997 NYT Metro piece by Elizabeth Kolbert (whose skills are being put to much better use these days):

ONCE was weird enough.

But if a single transvestite appearance would have satisfied most public officials, it apparently was just the start for Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

This weekend, Mr. Giuliani took his act national, appearing as a hirsute grandmother on ''Saturday Night Live.'' In doing so he turned what had seemed last spring, when he performed in a spangled pink gown, to be an isolated, if extraordinary, act of questionable taste into what looks now like a trend.

Who dares predict where this will end? With a news conference in pumps?

"Rudia" refers to Giuliani's performance in a Victor/Victoria parody sketch with Julie Andrews:

The audience of journalists, public officials and lobbyists greeted Rudia with a huge outburst of applause and hoots of sustained laughter, but when it became clear that the Mayor was actually going to deliver a sustained performance in the outfit, members of the crowd seemed torn between being amused and being appalled.

When he pulled a huge cigar out of his sock, and later began dancing an intimate tango with the star of ''Victor/Victoria,'' Julie Andrews (dressed as a man), several well-known audience members could be seen with their foreheads in their hands, open-mouthed.

The wonder only increased when Roxane Barlow of the show's cast sang a gyrating hymn to the sexual attributes of several recent mayors while watching Mr. Giuliani disrobe behind a screen.

There was the slightest bit of a political subtext to it all. Just as Ms. Andrews portrays a woman pretending to be a man dressing as a woman, Mr. Giuliani remarked that he is ''a Republican pretending to be a Democrat pretending to be a Republican,'' a reference to his real-life preference for ideological wardrobe changes.

You can watch a rather grainy YouTube version here.

A still from the same show:

Sing it, sister. Work that cigar.

Wonder if we'll ever come to the end of fresh images of Giuliani prancing around in Carol Channing wigs and fishnets?

Which begs the question:

Is America ready for a Frank-N-Furter president?

Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter.

Nice gams.



Slouching Towards Announcement

First, a bit of business: Thank ye kindly, D-day, for allowing me to play a set or two on the main stage.

Frederick of Hollywood ambles and shambles his way toward Labor Day, after which he will (apparently) officially announce his bid for the Republican nomination. He seems sanguine that his late entry won't hurt him. But, ahem:

"A lot of people say it's late and all that, but I look at my history books and see where people announced in September, October, November," said the former Tennessee senator, who did not seem concerned that making his candidacy official sometime after Labor Day, as he is expected to do, might be late in the game.

Not exactly a reliable historical analysis. Name the (a) modern race that (b) featured such a crowded field and (c) occurred within a primary calendar by which a winner will almost certainly be known by the close of February 5.

No? None come to mind?

Campaigns have enough challenges setting up ground operations in the states deemed by each to be richest in opportunity. It's a massive strategic undertaking, weighing the cost vs. benefits of deploying funds and the candidate's time to New Hampshire or South Carolina or Nevada. It can seem daunting to track the vast array of ever-changing if/then scenarios fueled by regular announcements of new state primary dates, and candidates' shifting poll numbers in each state. But get past the flurry of activity and some verities remain. For example, snapping up local campaign talent can be a zero-sum game.

And time is a limited resource. (Rocket science, I know.)

And here's more evidence of Thompson's fundamental misunderstanding of how the process works:
“Here you are earlier than a normal candidacy's declared with all the means of communications we have these days – the internet to the earned media to all the cable networks — to get your message out. And still people say it’s got to be earlier instead of later.”

Fred, Fred, Fred... the reason people say you have to go earlier than September (for races in a dozen states that begin in January - possibly December) is that you have to actually spend time in each state your campaign chooses as its focus.

Let's take a gander at the primary calendar:

Jan. 14 - Iowa
Jan. 19 - Nevada
Jan. 22 - New Hampshire, Wyoming (R only)
Jan. 29 - Florida

Feb. 2 - South Carolina (R only)
Feb. 5 - Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah

By my rough count, there are 95 days between Labor Day and mid-December. Just how many days is Thompson planning to spend in each state he wants to run a real campaign in? And how many days will his competitors have collectively clocked in same? Thompson will be working against great odds in attempting to beat back the ground campaigns of his competitors, who have been tilling the soil now for months.

Earned media won't help Thompson overcome these structural disadvantages - especially not in places like New Hampshire and Iowa, where locals don't look too kindly upon those who won't deign to actually campaign for their votes the old fashioned way. And while Mitt Romney can effectively double his time investment by sending wife Ann out by herself to campaign for him, I doubt Jeri could be that sort of asset on the campaign trail.

It's hard not to conclude from the evidence of his actions that Thompson is living in a delusional, fact-free universe.

I could be wrong...
"I wasn't there when they made those rules, so I'm not abiding by them," he said.


What's so great about the reality-based community, anyway?

Postscript: when did Thompson start looking so old?

Smell the Aqua Velva? More like Old Man Smell.

[cross-posted at Vernon Lee]

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The Asylum Inmate Who Would Be President

I think it took me a double days to get a full appreciation for the abject nuttiness of Rudy Giuliani in his big article for Foreign Affairs. From the need to capitalize "Terrorist's War on Us"; to its endorsement of a neoconservative foreign policy vision that has been completely wrong for the last 50 years; to its insanity about how we "almost won" in Vietnam; to advocating for 10 new military combat brigades and massive, crushing military spending to sustain all the wars he wants to fight simultaneously; to halting any pretense of preserving civil liberties and instead spying on the whole world three times over; to the rejection of the two-state solution in Palestine which every sane human being, including the Bush Administration and the Quartet, believe is the only sustainable course for stability; to the desire to effectively eliminate the UN and turn NATO into some kind of Justice League fighting whoever we decide not to like; to the only criticisms of Bush's policies being that he was too NICE, it's simply a tour de force of the wingnut id.

I'm not sure which is worse; whether Giuliani has to pander this far to the right to win the nomination of his party, or whether he ACTUALLY believes these things. Either way, it's unbelievably dangerous. Ezra believes we should be very afraid, Matt Yglesias worries about Rudy's ultimate vision of peace through complete military domination and subjugation...

The result of this policy is going to be an endless series of wars, a bankrupt country accounting for way more than fifty percent of world defense expenditures, fewer and fewer countries willing to cooperate with us on key priorities and, perhaps worst of all, more and more nuclear proliferation as countries decide its not safe to live in a world where the Rudy-led USA is the big kid on the block.

(which may be the point, is my fear. Defense multinationals could get rich in such an environment.)

... Jim Henley, in a devastating takedown, highlights a particular paragraph and thinks that Rudy doesn't get the irony...

Aspiring dictators sometimes win elections, and elected leaders sometimes govern badly and threaten their neighbors.

...Fred Kaplan takes Craziani behind the woodshed...

Had it been written for a freshman course on international relations, it would deserve at best a C-minus (with a concerned note to come see the professor as soon as possible). That it was written by a man who wants to be president—and who recently said that he understands the terrorist threat "better than anyone else running"—is either the stuff of high satire or cause to consider moving to, or out of, the country [...]

"Constellations of satellites that can watch arms factories everywhere around the globe, day and night, above- and belowground ... must be part of America's arsenal."

Yes, and while we're at it, let's build anti-gravity machines, mind-reading robots, X-ray-vision telescopes, speed-of-light transporter-beams, time-travel kits, and intercontinental heat-seeking bullets. It's bad enough that so many foreigners believe in the omniscience of U.S. intelligence agencies; it's appalling that a presidential candidate seems to believe such sci-fi fantasies, too.

... and conservative James Joyner completely concurs with everyone.

Essentially, he wants to massively increase a defense budget that already spends more than the rest of the countries on the planet combined so as to buy more submarines and anti-missile systems to protect us against a land-based guerrilla movement. We’re then going to use that military to go in, apparently, to topple every regime we don’t like and to wipe out every instance of non-democratic badness and spend decades occupying those countries. All, of course, while winning friends and influencing people.

We’re going to have a diplomatic policy that finally lives up to the caricature of Bush policy. We’re not going to talk to anyone unless they already agree with us. Our diplomats are simply going to be propaganda instruments from now on. And our media, too! And we’ll win the hearts and minds of Muslims everywhere by allying ourselves even more closely with the Israelis while punishing the Palestinian people.

There are more reviews, all of them abominable. This is a guy so consumed with terrorists that he has them on dartboards in his campaign bus, but in a 6,000-word foreign policy manifesto he never mentions Pakistan, where the terrorists ARE. This at the time when even the Bush Administration understands that this is the Earth's most dangerous trouble spot and that they must try to manage the chaotic situation.

There are some dull Republican candidates, there are some panderers who say only what the base wants to here, there are even some warhawks. NOBODY combines all of these qualities and complete authoritarianism in a package like Giuliani. He's certifiable.

UPDATE: Oh yeah, Rudy's got underpants problems, too.

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Site Notes

In an effort to decrease my work load, and more important, offer a fresh perspective to the site, I've decided to add a weekend contributor. Vernon Lee, who has her own site as well, will be posting on Saturdays and Sundays. I'm excited about having somebody else minding the store.

And now, I'm off. But first, here's some old school B-Rock hoops action. Obama has bad form on his jump shot, but a nice breakaway layup. And they got 6,000 out for a high school game? In Hawaii?

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The Instant Iraq Perspective

This is pernicious, but I don't think we'll ever get it to fully stop, because members of Congress and foreign policy elites are puffed-up and self-important, so they believe that anything that happens in their presence must have vital significance, oblivious to the fact that their visits are meticulously planned and don't reflect reality.

As Washington anticipates a September report assessing the troop surge, there is good reason to be skeptical of such snapshot accounts.

A dizzying number of dignitaries have passed through Baghdad for high-level briefings. The Hill newspaper reported this month that 76 U.S. senators have traveled to Iraq during the war, 38 in the past 12 months. Most never left the Green Zone or other well-protected enclaves. Few, if any, changed the views they held before arriving. […]

Those who visit Iraq undertake significant risks, which are inherent in traveling to Baghdad, no matter who’s providing their security. Policymakers should be commended for refusing to blindly trust accounts from diplomats, soldiers or journalists. But it’s worth remembering what these visits are and what they are not. Prescient insights rarely emerge from a few days in-country behind the blast walls. […]

It goes without saying that everyone can, and in this country should, have an opinion about the war, no matter how much time the person has spent in Iraq, if any. But having left a year ago, I’ve stopped pretending to those who ask that I have a keen sense of what it’s like on the ground today. Similarly, those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits.

There's a major expectations game going on right now, with the White House planning to offer extremely modest troop cuts so they could say "we're bringing the troops home," when their targets fall far short of what Democrats in Congress demand. The miltary has to get down to pre-surge numbers because they simply don't have the warm bodies. So this proposed "withdrawal' isn't anything of the sort. In that environment these dog-and-pony shows take on a lot of significance, and those that use them as the basis to sanction the continued occupation of Iraq are simply not being honest.

Gideon Rose, a major-league wanker for The Economist, wrote a steaming pile of garbage about "how the netroots are like the neocons" in decrying the foreign policy establishment and their experience. That argument would go a bit better if the foreign policy establishment didn't ENABLE the neocons by going along with every one of their crazy schemes. In fact, both the neocons and the Very Serious People who control the foreign policy discourse are likely to be flattered by these meaningless visits behind blast walls, where their assumptions can be validated in a wholly theoretical environment. And if anyone should question those assumptions, why, they're just silly people who should mind their manners.

(By the way, the Economist blog is, predictably, moderated.)

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The End Of The Mike Huckabee Campaign

You can't say nice things about the Clintons and expect to win in today's Republican Party.

There's two things about Bill Clinton I tell Republicans, it drives them nuts, but here it is.

"Number one, don't get it lost on you that a kid out of a very small, Southern rural state aspired to be President of the United States. This kid came from a dysfunctional family — alcoholic abusive father. And yet he didn't just aspire, he was elected president of the United States not once, but twice. That is an affirmation of the system. And it's a wonderful testament to give to every kid in America that no matter where you've come from, you've got an opportunity to do something extraordinary.

"The second thing, and this'll really wrangle, again, some of my Republican colleagues. Bill Clinton and Hillary went through some horrible experiences in their marriage, because of some of the reckless behavior that he has admitted he had. I'm not defending him on that — it's indefensible. But they kept their marriage together. And a lot of the Republicans who have condemned them, and who talk about their platform of family values, interestingly didn't keep their own families together."

Gee, I wonder who that last line was directed at?

Seriously, this is the end. I can see the mailer now: "Huckabee Hearts Hitlery!!1! Arkansas Love Nest With Socialist Radical Feminist!!1!" or some such tripe. Never mind that his theme of compassion and redemption is what the "Christian right" thinks they're all about. 'Course, they're not.

UPDATE: And now he's calling out Wiley S. Drake (who asked for a fatwa against two Americans United for Separation of Church and State staffers because they called him out for endorsing Huckabee on church letterhead, a violation of their tax-exempt status):

Huckabee was campaigning out of state Thursday. Alice Stewart, a campaign spokeswoman, said the campaign did not coordinate with Drake on any of the material he’s distributed regarding the Americans United complaint.

“We certainly don’t condone the evil comments he’s made,” she said.

Calling the religious right evil? Wow, he REALLY doesn't want this nomination.

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Illinois Moves Primary To Last Week

The hilarity that is our Presidential primary process continues.

According to sources inside both parties, the two state parties in Michigan have agreed to move the state's primary -- legislatively -- to Jan. 15. This is a compromise date out of respect for Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who really wanted to move the primary to Jan. 8. Others wanted the primary on Jan. 22 as a way to, essentially, play ball with the other early states. There was a nice window being created for a Jan. 22, 2008 event. But by moving to Jan. 15, this will put pressure on the other early states to either entertain a December event or lobby the two national parties to not sanction Michigan at all.

This is like the space race now. It'll never end because there's simply too much incentive for states to move up and absolutely no downside. I've read countless "what this latest move means" blog posts and it's all claptrap, because it just gets invalidated by the NEXT move.

Somebody, stop the madness. In 2012, if the national parties don't get a handle on this, the candidates should have a pact not to compete in any primary until March. Some sanity must be restored to this system.

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Perjurer General Misremembers Again

So FBI Director Robert Mueller gave up his notes about the "Enzo the Baker" meeting between Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card and a drugged-up John Ashcroft, and guess what they reveal?

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 — John Ashcroft was “barely articulate,” “feeble” and “clearly stressed” as he sat in a hospital room chair in March 2004 when top White House aides unsuccessfully tried to persuade him, as the Attorney General, to sign an extension for warrantless domestic eavesdropping on Americans, according to notes made by Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I.

Mr. Mueller’s notes of his visit to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room provide another eyewitness account of the dramatic confrontation over the secret surveillance program. They confirm an account of the encounter given by James B. Comey, the former deputy attorney general, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about it in May.

Mr. Mueller’s typed notes, which are undated, also reveal a series of meetings earlier and later that month between the F.B.I. director and other administration officials, including Mr. Comey, Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House Counsel and General Michael V. Hayden, then the director of the National Security Agency, which conducted the electronic monitoring program.

This completely contradicts Gonzales' account to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he claimed that Ashcroft was "lucid" and did "most of the talking" in the midnight meeting. This is yet another lie for Abu G, yet somehow he's still the nation's highest-ranking law enforcement official, because Democrats refuse to go to the mat to get him removed.

So what does Judiciary Committee chair Senator Leahy plan to do about it? Hold more hearings? Ooh, scary. We have a criminal as the top law enforcement officer in the land and you people do nothing about it except hold hearings and issue press releases. He has lied to you. He has even lied to you when you asked him about his previous lies. Yet you do nothing. We have a word for people like you. It's "chump." You have the power of the purse. You have the power to defund Gonzales 100% if he doesn't step down. You have the power to defund the US attorney for DC if he won't file charges. You have the power to impeach Gonzles. But instead you hold hearings. When I worked for Ted Stevens, in the minority in the early 90s, with Clinton as president, we simply moved ahead with plans to cut the budget of a senior agency official who crossed our path. It worked wonders.

Aravosis makes the salient point that voters perceive Democrats by their ACTIONS rather than what they say. If they continue to not hold the Bush Administration accountable, they will be perceived as weak. They can hold as many hearings and write as many angry letters as they want. It's about action, not talk.

I mean, we still don't even know how many US Attorneys were targeted for dismissal. How can the Justice Department still be funded without knowing that answer? The same for the Vice President's office, which to the credit of Democrats they did try to defund once before:

Thanks to superfluous information provided by Robert Mueller, we now have a good indication of who was behind the initiation and execution of the NSA-driven Warrantless Wiretapping Program:

The Grand Wizard of Darkness: Dick Cheney [...]

It is clear from the Mueller notes that the final word on the Warrantless Surveillance Program and the Hospital Visit was Vice President Cheney's. The Buck Stopped There.

This is gathered through the record logs of the various meetings between Mueller and Administration officials, including the Vice President. Go read, drational makes a compelling case.

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Mine Tragedies Persist

This news about a mine collapse on top of a mine collapse, killing three more workers in Utah, is really horrible. The mine company owner, a caricature of an old-time robber baron, has been doing everything he can to evade responsibility for the disaster, which has now been compounded. Arianna writes:

Murray's role in all this is much darker than that of the compassionate boss given to delivering script-ready lines like, "Conditions are the most difficult I have seen in my 50 years of mining" and "There are many reasons to have hope still" (as he has been quoted saying in two other Times stories).

He is a politically-connected Big Energy player whose company, Murray Energy Corp., has 19 mines in five states, which have incurred millions of dollars in fines for safety violations over the last 18 months.

Probably won't see that in the TV movie.

Murray has also continued to insist that the mine collapse was the result of an earthquake -- a claim disputed by seismologists.

Yet he's become a carnival barker throughout this whole thing, giving continuous press conferences where he cheerleads and pontificates. He's liable and has been for some time, and so is the mine safety system in this country that is horrendous. The guy the Bush Administration picked to oversee the Utah disaster is has a Murray-like record as a mine owner. We have foxes guarding the hen house. It's criminal.

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Bringing The Heat

Good for the ACLU for showing some principles. They ran an ad criticizing Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in their own home papers for caving on the FISA bill.

When Democratic Leaders Allow the Bush Administration to Eavesdrop on Americans, It's BAAAAAAAAAD.

When Americans elected a new Congress last year, we expected the leadership to stand up to George Bush, to fight to restore the civil liberties we had lost in the previous six years. Instead, this summer, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi caved to yet another Bush assault on our freedoms.

They've enabled a revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveilliance Act (FISA) that unbelievably gives new powers to Attorney General Gonzales, new powers to eavesdrop on American citizens without any meaningful court or Congressional oversight.

We don't need sheep protecting the Bill of Rights.

We need lions.

Reid and Pelosi need to understand that we cannot be content to be in the majority if we're not going to do anything with it but acquiesce to right-wing power grabs.

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There's a war on, troops are dying every day, and W.'s reading fashion articles about himself and complaining to the author?

Harper received a phone call that morning from White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino, who, Harper told friends, said the president read the article and was unhappy about the way he was portrayed.

Will you all stay online with me while I take the cyanide pill? I don't want to die alone.

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CA House Races Roundup - August 2007

We have 15 months to go before Election Day, and it's time for another roundup of Congressional races. I am going to continue to focus on the top 10 challenges to Republican incumbents. There is certainly a concern in CA-11 with the Jerry McNerney/Dean Andal race, particularly after McNerney's "I'm a moderate" comment seemed to depress supporters. On the bright side, he did vote against the ridiculous FISA bill. And as we go into September, I would hope he would continue his efforts to end the occupation of Iraq. I will certainly cover the McNerney race in future roundups.

But for now, let's take a look at the top 10 challenges. I'm going to rank them in order of most possible pickup, including their number from the last roundup. I'm also adding the "Boxer number." Basically, seeing how Boxer fared in her 2004 re-election against Bill Jones in a particular district is a decent indicator of how partisan it is. If I put "57," that means Boxer received 57% of the vote. Anything over 50, obviously, is good.

1) CA-04 (Doolittle). Last month: 1. Boxer number: 40. Charlie Brown got some amazing news this week. Mike Holmes, an Auburn city councilman and a Republican, announced he was running in the primary to unseat ethically challenged Rep. John Doolittle. Holmes ran a primary race last year and got around 30% of the vote. This gives Doolittle two challengers next June (Eric Egland has already announced), which is a lot better for Doolittle than one challenger to which anti-Doolittle forces can focus their energies. This makes it more likely that a wounded Doolittle will survive the primaries (if he's not indicted by then) and face Brown, who's flush with cash and unopposed in his primary. Brown also made a great impression at the Yearly Kos Convention, so there will be plenty of online support for him.

2) CA-26 (Dreier). Last month: 2. Boxer number: 48. Another candidate who made a big impression at Yearly Kos was Russ Warner. At the California caucus he gave a version of this speech:

Warner's fundraising stats were already impressive for the district, and now we're starting to see some grassroots support. If he can tap into what Hilda Solis has been doing online (Solis has endorsed him), there could be a groundswell. Meanwhile, Dreier is whining that local Democrats blocked funding for expanding the Gold Line light-rail service to "focus on projects in their districts rather than regional priorities." Right, because the Gold Line doesn't mainly go through Pasadena, in Adam Schiff's district. Dreier is such a tool.

3) CA-24 (Gallegly). Last month: 3. Boxer number: 47. The August recess is retirement season for GOP Congresscritters. We've already seen three of them go this week alone. So naturally thoughts turn to who's next, and Gallegly, who tried to get out in 2006, is a prime candidate. There certainly must be some talk about it in the district: he's got four declared candidates already: Jill Martinez, Brett Wagner, James "Chip" Fraser, and Mary Pallant.

4) CA-50 (Bilbray). Last month: 4. Boxer number: 48. Michael Wray has dropped out of the primary in CA-50, leaving John Lee Evans and Nick Leibham to contest for the right to battle Brian Bilbray next November. The best way to attack Bilbray, who doesn't get off that illegal immigration message for a second, is to highlight his pro-Bush, anti-progress voting record, including denying health care to 6 million American children with his vote against SCHIP last month. Leibham apparently raised $89,000 last quarter, and Bilbray has a paltry $213,000 CoH, which is interesting.

5) CA-42 (Miller). Last month: 7. Boxer number: 41. The big news here is that we have a candidate, and it's blogger Ron Shepston. You've undoubtedly read a little about him on Calitics. LA City Beat has a nice article about Ron and the netroots movement behind him in this race. It's not going to be easy. But Ron has raised about $7,200 on ActBlue alone, and his offline fundraising is progressing. And Miller is still taking heat from the DCCC, who sent out a notice to reporters attacking his vote against SCHIP.

6) CA-41 (Lewis). Last month: 5. Boxer number: 43. Like with Gallegly, we're waiting to see if the rumors about Lewis' impending retirement are true. We do know that Lewis has continued to bring home the bacon (a little questionable earmarking isn't going to stop him) to his district, and then there's this:

A lobby firm connected to a federal investigation has seen business boom this year for its clients, many of whose projects are in a powerful House appropriator’s district.

The House Appropriations Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), has sponsored or co-sponsored $55 million worth of earmarks in this year’s defense spending bill — close to half of the funds won by the California Republican in the legislation — for clients represented by one firm.

A former appropriations aide to Lewis, Letitia White, and former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-Calif.), who is friendly with Lewis, work at the company, Innovative Federal Strategies (IFS).

Tim Prince is all but in this race. I met him a few weeks back and he seems like a nice guy.

7) CA-44 (Calvert). Last month: 6. Boxer number: 45. Last month's ruling that a city government agency illegally sold Ken Calvert a bunch of land hasn't gotten a ton of traction yet. He has been targeted by MoveOn in a Riverside-area protest where protestors presented him with a report on how much money district taxpayers have spent on the war in Iraq. Calvert is dug in on Iraq, which is of course going to be a major issue in 2008. Bill Hedrick will be Calvert's opponent, and, um, check out the blog!

8) CA-45 (Bono). Last month: 8. Boxer number: 49. Still no opponent named, and I'm flirting with the idea of dropping any race out of the top 10 unless there's a named candidate. This is really a missed opportunity right now.

9) CA-46 (Rohrabacher). Last month: unranked. Boxer number: 45. I'm adding nutcase Dana Rohrabacher to the list for a couple reasons. One, he has an announced opponent (Jim Brandt, who ran against him last year). Two, it gives me an opportunity to print this quote.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach/ Long Beach, was baffled when asked recently about his use of the popular online gathering site Facebook.

"Faith book?" the befuddled congressman replied.


10) CA-52 (open seat). Last month: 10. Boxer number: 44. Duncan Hunter was unable to beat people who weren't running in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa. He's gone from this seat, but his son is running and it's a safe bet that the Republicans will retain it.

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The $168,000 Poorhouse

I thought the same thing as Atrios when I heard Tony Snow's admission that he'd have to resign because he can't afford to stay as Press Secretary. It may be a government job, but doesn't the Press Secretary at the White House make a lot of money?

The answer is yes, he makes $168,000 a year, as much as any senior staffer in the executive branch.

But I think there's a teachable moment here. There's only one reason that a man making $168,000 a year would have to leave his job to look for something higher-paying; it's because he has catastrophic medical bills. If someone making that much per year can't keep up with his medical payments, especially when he has the best coverage money can buy, then we truly have a crisis in our health care system.

(adding, he probably doesn't have to pay much of anything for his medical care, being a cabinet official the government sucks up the cost, so more likely it's just one man being impossibly greedy, so let him come out and say that, and in so doing defend a government-run, government-administered health care program. See what I'm getting at here?)

UPDATE: Good question by this commenter:

I understand Tony Snow’s health is a prime consideration. But “when my money run’s out”? Is it that his health insurance benefits as an employee of the President don’t cover his pre-existing condition?

That would just be priceless...

UPDATE: I think it's legitimate to wonder if Tony Snow was denied coverage from his employer due to the risk of his recurring cancer. Now, HIPAA does provide protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.

HIPAA limits the time you can be denied coverage for a preexisting condition under your employer's health insurance plan. Under HIPAA, an employer health insurance plan can deny coverage for a preexisting condition only if the employee or dependent is diagnosed, receives care or treatment, or has care or treatment recommended in the 6 months before the enrollment date. Note: Pregnancy cannot be denied as a preexisting condition by an employer's insurer. In addition, preexisting conditions cannot be applied to newborns, adopted children under age 18 or a child under age 18 placed for adoption as long as the child become covered under the health plan within 30 days of birth, adoption or placement for adoption, and provided the child does not incur a subsequent 63-day or longer break in coverage.

The length of time coverage can be denied for a preexisting condition under HIPAA is limited to no longer than 12 months (18 months if you are a late enrollee). This time can be reduced or eliminated if you were covered by previous health insurance (which qualifies under HIPAA as creditable coverage) and if there was not a break in coverage between the plans of 63 days or more.

Snow took the job on April 26, 2006. He revealed his cancer recurrence on March 27, 2007. Press reports at the time state that he had beaten colon cancer two years prior, in February of 2005. So if he was still receiving treatment in November of 2005, he could under the law be denied coverage, depending on the enrollment date.

Now look at this quote from Dana Perino, which is a little obtuse:

Snow is ensured the best treatment, at a hospital he wished not to disclose. "Tony Snow is paid the salary that he's paid, and he has health insurance," said Dana Perino, filling in for him at the White House. "And I'm sure he's taken care of that way."

Note that she says he "has health insurance." It's a funny way of describing it, as if it were separate from the employment, no?

It would be the height of crassness for the White House's health care administrator to deny coverage to Tony Snow. But what other explanation can their be for his fear that he would "run out of money" if he continued in a $168,000 a year job?

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The Golden Parachute

The Federal Reserve swooped in and stopped the bleeding in the markets by cutting the discount rate (it probably leked out late yesterday that they would do so, which may explain the 300-point comeback at the end). But this is just keeping a fantasy propped up and bailing out the investors at the expense of homeowners and taxpayers. It also weakens the dollar.

The blame here should entirely rest on the financial markets. Lenders like Countrywide were handing out mortgages to anyone who wanted one, then selling those loans to central banks, who would bundle them into mortgage-backed securities. The more mortgages sold, the more the markets became flush. So there was no incentive to check on loan applicants' claims, and indeed nobody did so. So most stated income applicants were lying, companies sprang up that would give applicants fake pay stubs for a fake job to convince lenders that they were employed, and everybody played this look-the-other-way game, which made banks rich for a while. Now that it's crashing, the Fed will just bail out the markets. So there's STILL no incentive to be responsible.

However, this will impact the economy due to the massive increase in foreclosures. Property tax revenue will spiral downwards, draining government treasuries. Construction and home industry jobs will hemhorrage, and Countrywide, a massive company that owns 1 out of every 6 mortgages in the United States, will lose public confidence.

Anxious customers jammed the phone lines and website of Countrywide Bank and crowded its branch offices to pull out their savings because of concerns about the financial problems of the mortgage lender that owns the bank.

Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest home-loan company in the nation, sought Thursday to assure depositors and the financial industry that both it and its bank were fiscally stable. And federal regulators said they weren't alarmed by the volume of withdrawals from the bank.

The mortgage lender said it would further tighten its loan standards and make fewer large mortgages. Those moves could make it harder to get a home loan and further depress the housing market in California and other states.

The rush to withdraw money -- by depositors that included a former Los Angeles Kings star hockey player and an executive of a rival home-loan company -- came a day after fears arose that Countrywide Financial could file for bankruptcy protection because of a worsening credit crunch stemming from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

This is a problem brought on completely by near-criminal mistakes from the lending industry, but Countrywide is literally too big a company to bear the brunt of their own errors. And so banks have no reason to act with anything but greed. The problem is that the rest of us suffer

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With all due respect, it's 28 1/2 more hours than I spent there. But it doesn't exactly make someone a Ground Zero rescue worker.

Twenty-nine hours.

That's the total amount of time Rudy Giuliani actually spent at Ground Zero in three months following the attacks, according to a report in this morning's New York Times.

Conservatives immediately set to questioning the typeface in the report.

According to the head of the rescue effort, all of his men spent 400 hours or so at the site. Rudy, who claims to have spent more time than anyone at Ground Zero, is deranged.

I'm sure this revelation will get the punditocracy's tongues a-wagging about Giuliani the exaggerator, almost as much as they did at the time of the original gaffe, right?

Oh wait, that was ignored.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why We Need Net Neutrality

While I was in Chicago for Yearly Kos, Pearl Jam was playing Lollapalooza just down the street in Grant Park. Some lucky convention-goers could see and hear the concert from their hotel windows. AT&T webcast the event, and they decided to save our virgin ears from some of Eddie Vedder's political statements.

During the live Lollapalooza Webcast of a concert by the Seattle-based super-group, the telco giant muted lead singer Eddie Vedder just as he launched into a lyric against President George Bush. The lines — “George Bush, leave this world alone” and “George Bush find yourself another home” were somehow lost in the mix.

“What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it’s about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band,” Pearl Jam band members stated in a release following the incident.

AT&T claimed it was an oversight and a mistake, but now a whistleblower has come forward and claimed it was official policy to censor speech on the webcast. (h/t Open Left)

A crew member who worked on a show webcast by AT&T confirmed that there was a policy in place to remove artists' political comments from shows before they were webcast.

"I can definitively say that at a previous event where AT&T was covering the show, the instructions were to shut it down if there was any swearing or if anybody starts getting political. Granted, they didn't say to shut down any Anti-Bush comments or anything specific to any point of view or party, but 'getting political' was mentioned."

The head of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, is on the record saying that "We're going to control the video on our network." And that's exactly what they've done in this webcast. The implication being that, if AT&T has control of the pipeline, they're going to monitor and meddle with content. That's why we need a free and open Internet where big telecom companies like this cannot throw their weight around and fundamentally change the uniqueness of the Web.

(hopefully you'll see this message at all!)

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Breaking!!!! NASA Temperature Reading Infinitesimally Different!1!!! Must Credit D-Day!!1!!!

Wingnuts have got themselves in a good lather over a .03 degree change in the US temperature reading for 1998. Not the entire globe, but just the United States. This somehow proves that global warming isn't real. For a time there was a major wingnut attempt to look for other reasons for recent temperature increases (like sunspot activity), a tacit acknowledgement that the Earth is indeed getting hotter. Now they've swung back to denying its existence altogether, with "facts" that are the thinnest of gruel:

But how big an error was it? Well, 1998 went from being listed as 0.01 degrees warmer than 1934 to being listed as 0.02 degrees cooler. That means 1934 is back to being the "official" hottest U.S. year on record, although it's still a statistical tie. Some of the other U.S. years in this decade were also downgraded slightly. This all had virtually no bearing on the global temperature record, in which 2005 still appears to be the hottest year on record, and Al Gore's claim that nine of the ten warmest years in history have occurred since 1995 is still operative. Check out RealClimate for some graphs.

Nothing's really changed. But there are a few things to note here. One, I'm not sure what the "fraud" is. Conservatives keep claiming that (James) Hansen is being secretive about his "algorithms," although the methods for NASA's analysis are all laid out in painstaking detail here. Two, it's interesting that Hansen himself--the man who apparently needs to be "frog-marched out of his office"--doesn't seem to have ever claimed that 1998 was unequivocally the hottest U.S. year ever.

You're of course assuming that the right-wing blogosphere is interested in facts instead of just having something to whine about. This is illustrative of what Matt Yglesias has called the Hack Gap, the willingness for wingnuts to obsess over completely meaningless bits of information and to turn them into quelle scandal! while the progressive blogosphere doesn't usually get so wrapped up in such minutiae. The problem is that these kind of scandals are ready-made for the traditional media, who can just say "bloggers are on fire about X" and invite some maniac to yell about it for a while and provide instant drama without having to do a lot of work. This is why they jumped on "Macaca," because it was easy, but those of us on the left just don't sustain outrage over things that are meaningless with the same fervor (I would argue that Macaca wasn't meaningless because it spoke to a candidate's real views. Point-zero-three changes in temperature, um, are meaningless.)

The nature of two-party democracy is that elections are decided by the small minority of the public too confused or too ill-informed to realize that there are persistent, substantial differences between the two federal political parties. As a result, the issues (or, more likely, pseudo-issues) that are most important in deciding elections tend to be the issues that are least important in substantive terms.

As a writer, though, I'd rather spend my time writing about things that I think are important or at least interesting. Harping away on haircuts, Bykofsky's appalling column, the way George W. Bush lied to the American public about what kind of cheese he likes on his cheesesteak (really!), etc. doesn't seem like an appealing way to spend my time. But the fact that the right has an army of people willing to pretend that this sort of thing is the most important thing in the world is a massive, massive impediment to having sensible policies about national security, taxes, health care, global warming, etc.


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They're Dropping Like Flies

Now Borat co-star Chip Pickering is retiring from Congress. That's three Republicans in as many days.

Some political party must have gotten some bad poll numbers...

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The Horror Of Iraq

The death toll in that horrific Yazidi village bombing now approaches 500, another example of how the violence in Iraq continues almost unabated. McClatchy bravely spoke the truth the other day:

Despite U.S. claims that violence is down in the Iraqi capital, U.S. military officers are offering a bleak picture of Iraq’s future, saying they’ve yet to see any signs of reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Muslims despite the drop in violence.

Without reconciliation, the military officers say, any decline in violence will be temporary and bloodshed could return to previous levels as soon as the U.S. military cuts back its campaign against insurgent attacks [...]

And while top U.S. officials insist that 50 percent of the capital is now under effective U.S. or government control, compared with 8 percent in February, statistics indicate that the improvement in violence is at best mixed.

The bombing continues, even in Baghdad despite assurances to the contrary. Our "surging" and focus on training Iraqi forces has done nothing but teach each side how to kill one another. Despite trying to lay the blame on Al Qaeda in Iraq, and Iran (and by proxy, gin up a new war), that's misplaced. The problem is the complete inattention to a political solution, and attempts at short-term military victories which do nothing but militarize the various factions. Sometimes we've done it unintentionally by allowing US-bought guns to get into the hands of extremists, or by watching mute as Italian gunrunners supply the Interior Ministry and its militia, but really our LEGAL handouts of weapons and logistical aid achieves the same purpose.

Today in Iraq the political "leadership" tried to pull a con job by saying that a "new political alliance" had been forged between Shiites and Kurds, when it's the exact same political alliance that had already been in place, MINUS Muqtada al-Sadr's forces and the secular Allawi list.

In actuality, any hope at reconciliation has failed.

Lost in the reporting of the unbelievable horrific terrorist attack in northern Iraq is a bit of a political bombshell. Al-Arabiya is reporting that the emergency political summit of Iraq's leaders has failed to produce even nominal political reconciliation. This is a devastating outcome for the Maliki government and for those Americans who hoped to have some political progress to show in the upcoming Crocker/Petraeus report. There's no other way to spin this: this summit was billed as the last chance, and it has failed.

Iraqis don't want a political reconciliation, they don't want the kind of pro-corporate laws stealing their natural resources that the US is trying to shove down their throats, and they don't want another second of this occupation.

And what's more, neither do the American people, and they don't trust the garbage that the White House is trying to put on their plates and call a nutritious dinner:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A majority of Americans don't trust the upcoming report by the Army's top commander in Iraq on the progress of the war and even if they did, it wouldn't change their mind, according to a new poll.

Gen. David Petraeus confers with officers in Iraq in July. His progress report on the war is due next month.

President Bush frequently has asked Congress -- and the American people -- to withhold judgment on his so-called troop surge in Iraq until Gen. David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, issue their progress report in September.

But according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Thursday, 53 percent of people polled said they suspect that the military assessment of the situation will try to make it sound better than it actually is. Forty-three percent said they do trust the report.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said he doesn't think the mistrust is directed at Petreaus as much as it is what he represents.

Holland said, "I suspect most people are hearing the words 'general' and 'Iraq' and that's what they're basing their opinion on."

He added, "It does seem to indicate that anyone associated with the Bush administration may be a less than credible messenger for the message that there is progress being made in Iraq."

It's time to leave Iraq, right now. Our leaving won't cause any more chaos than what's already there; in fact, we're fueling much of the violence. A focus on peace and reconciliation over occupation is the only hope to salvage anything out of this mess that should never have been started. We need to end it. Today.

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Dems Building War Chest For Right-Wing Power Grab

Some major fudners are preparing for battle over this cockamamie electoral vote initiative being pushed by GOP lawyers:

Leading Democrats are uniting with Hollywood producer Stephen Bing and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer to oppose a California ballot proposal they fear could hand the 2008 presidential election to the Republican nominee [...]

In what is shaping up as an important subplot to the 2008 race, a political committee is being formed by Steyer that will raise money — possibly tens of millions of dollars — to defeat the GOP-backed idea.

The committee is being supported by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Democratic leaders in the Legislature.

The proposal is a "power grab orchestrated by the Republicans," Feinstein and Boxer said in a joint statement. It's "another cynical move to keep the presidency in Republican control."

Democrats were scheduled to announce formation of the committee, Californians for Fair Election Reform, on Thursday.

This is tens of millions of dollars that ought to be going to candidates or local GOTV efforts. The Republicans have already won the battle through embarking on this stubborn and cynical kamikaze maneuver that is doomed to failure. But if they want to play this way, fine. This will certainly raise progressive turnout for the June primaries, which is something we all should be thinking about.

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The End of American Justice

The Jose Padilla trial is in deliberations right now, and attention must be paid. This man was locked up and held without charges for years, most of which with near-total sensory deprivation designed to break him down and give him no hope of survival. He was totrtured mentally and physically without benefit of counsel and without even being charged. At the moment when the Supreme Court was about to step in and rule that it is completely illegal to hold an American citizen in this fashion, the Justice Department decides to find some other charge, totally unrelated to his initial detention, and attach Padilla to it. In order for you to believe the government's case, you have to believe that he understood an invented terrorist code language.

Shorter version from Jose Padilla's lawyer: He was a student, not a terrorist. As to the mujahedeen form with Padilla's fingerprints:

The critical piece of prosecution evidence is a "mujahedeen data form" Padilla allegedly filled out in July 2000 to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. The form bears seven of his fingerprints, but Caruso said they are found only on the first page and the back of the final page — consistent with Padilla simply handling the form, rather than writing on it.

Of the 3,000 taped telephone calls, Padilla's voice was only on 7 of those introduced at trial.

As to the use of code words, Padilla didn't use any on the taped calls. The Government wants the jury to believe that when the other two defendants used words like "tourism" and "football" they meant "jihad" and that the words "eggplant" and "zucchini" were references to military weapons and supplies.

So Padilla is on trial for 1) holding a piece of paper, and 2) hearing the words "football," "eggplant," and "zucchini."

Some justice system we have in this country, eh?

Actually, the real reason Padilla is on trial is that the government can never live down what they did to him in the name of fighting terrorism. We took an American citizen and systematically denied him access to counsel, contact with anyone but interrogators, full sensory deprivation, and really mental torture so that they could "get good information" out of him, none of which has been proven to be accurate or actionable. The gloves came off in 2002 and 2003 and these guys broke every law they could think of so they could show their superiors that they were on the case. Here's Jack Balkin:

Contrary to Jack's suggestion below, then, the Administration did not try to defend Padilla's indefinite, isolated detention -- and the denial of an attorney and of any judicial oversight -- on the ground that "the President thought that Padilla was a dangerous man." If dangerousness had been the issue, the Administration could have simply kept Padilla detained in the ordinary criminal justice system, where he had been. As Jacoby explains, the reason Padilla was moved to indefinite military detention resembling (as Jack notes) classical authoritarian models, was not dangerousness, but instead the Administration's desire to break him in order to obtain possible actionable information about al Qaeda training, planning, recruitment, methods and operations.

So they put Padilla into a secret, undisclosed location and cut off his access to everything we know about American law. THe government defends indefinite detention by saying that they're just trying to protect the public. In that protection, we've completely lost everything about America they mean to defend.

UPDATE: And he's been found guilty. But what of the interrogators and the military commanders and the civilian leadership, who put him into an illegal, unjust detention system for 3 1/2 years, before even bringing this charge? When will they be found guilty?

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Through The Looking Glass

There was apparently a spirited circuit court hearing yesterday in San Francisco, with Bush Administration lawyers arguing that the President is a king and has the power literally to block your eyes from reading.

Lawyers for the Bush administration encountered a federal appeals court Wednesday that appeared deeply skeptical of a blanket claim that the government's surveillance efforts cannot be challenged in court because the litigation might reveal state secrets.

"The bottom line here is the government declares something is a state secret, that's the end of it. No cases. . . . The king can do no wrong," said Judge Harry Pregerson, one of three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who grilled administration lawyers at length over whether a pair of lawsuits against the government should go forward.

Deputy Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre was forced to mount a public argument that almost nothing about the substance of the government's conduct could be talked about in court because doing so might expose either the methods used in gathering intelligence or gaps in those methods.

"This seems to put us in the 'trust us' category," Judge M. Margaret McKeown said about the government's assertions that its surveillance activities did not violate the law. " 'We don't do it. Trust us. And don't ask us about it.' "

At one point, Garre argued that courts are not the right forum for complaints about government surveillance, and that "other avenues" are available. "What is that? Impeachment?" Pregerson shot back.

Man, I wish I was in that room.

This state secrets privilege has been completely abused by many Administrations, but particularly this one. Their entire argument seems to be "you can't allow this clear case of illegal spying to go through because then the people we illegally spied upon would know about it!"

It's just completely divorced from reality and from the American system. So of course, watch the right-wing Supreme Court sanction it. (They're getting the case no matter what the SF Appeals Court says, anyway)

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Jeff Denham: Proudly Protecting California From Himself

I wasn't able to get to a vomitorium that was open early until just now, so I'm finally able to post about this ad Jeff Denham's putting out:

He's fighting to protect teachers, you see. And kids! He's touting this amendment that would do nothing but prolong the budget battle. He's counting on the low-information voter with this one. But in the Central Valley, they're not buying it. They would rather not see child care centers and services for the poor shut down to feed one man's ego (and to stop any meaningful regulation on global warming issues, let's not forget. Here's Assemblywoman Caballero:

Senate Republicans argue that the $3.4 billion reserve in the Assembly budget is not enough. Yet Republican senators voted for last year's budget, with a reserve of $2.1 billion - 40 percent less than this year's reserve. They argue that they don't like CEQA, California's premier environmental protection law. CEQA is not a budget issue and never has been.

The Assembly did its job; we compromised and passed a budget. The hold-up is in the Senate. Only one Republican - Senator Abel Maldonado, from Santa Maria - was willing to compromise. One more vote is needed, and the remaining Republican senators are refusing to provide it, even though the governor has asked for their support and made promises to make more cuts.

It's time for all Californians to tell the 14 Senate Republicans, including our own Sen. Jeff Denham, to put personal ambition aside. Tell them we need to get Californians back to work. Tell them it is real people that are being hurt.

I think Denham's losing the plot on this one.

As a side note, a big thanks to Health Net of California, which provided an interest-free loan in a time where there's a real credit crunch to keep two rural county clinics in Tulare County open. Would that the Republicans had such compassion.

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The Day The Laughter Lived

Fox News cancelled the Half Hour News Hour after several months of noxious comedy being pumped into the atmosphere. Fox is doing its part to fight global unfunniness. Thank you, Fox.

(oddly, the show wasn't doing terrible in the ratings. I think Fox simply became embarrassed having such horrendous content on their channel, particularly when it purports to be a news network while airing a one-sided "comedy" show. The whole fair and balanced thing is very important to Fox, which is why they whined incessantly about Democrats who wouldn't appear on the network. The Half Hour News Hour was damaging an already damaged brand.)

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Fundamentalism Watch

I'm supposed to tread with the utmost sensitivity when discussing religious issues because of some distorted version of political correctness created by the religious right. Because they want to reserve the ability to cry "you religion-hater" when you simply report on what they've been doing lately. To wit:

A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

“It’s a slap in the face. It’s like, ’Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,”’ she said Friday.

And even more to the point, here's a story about a nonprofit reporting on the activities of the church, in this case illegal electioneering, and the church group calling for their deaths:

Last week, (Pastor Wiley S. of the Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park) Drake got out his church letterhead again, and announced his endorsement of Mike Huckabee for the GOP presidential nomination -- an endorsement he repeated on his radio show, just in case anyone missed it. “I announce,” wrote the pastor, “that I am going to personally endorse Mike Huckabee. I ask all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters to consider getting behind Mike and helping him all you can. First of all pray and then ask God, what should I do to put feet to my prayers [...]

Americans United for Separation of Church and State struck back quickly. Yesterday, they filed a formal complaint with the IRS, documenting Wiley's actions as a clear breach of tax laws that prevent churches and ministers from endorsing political candidates.

And this is where the story turns strange -- the unique kind of strange you only get to see when you've got SBC theocrats hanging on the ropes.

Wiley's retort to AU was swift, ferocious -- and bizarre. Caught dead to rights, he didn't even try to respond to particulars of AU's IRS complaint. Instead, he immediately launched into the kind of wild-eyed, paranoid magical thinking you'd expect from any embattled cult leader. Which is to say: In a press release issued yesterday, he ordered his flock to petition God, who in turn would avenge this attack by smiting AU's staff with poverty, starvation, scattered familes, and death.

No shit, the guy actually names specific staffers to target through prayer.

We're not supposed to talk about this, we're supposed to "give the church a break," when obviously I'm talking about specific situations of intolerance, bigotry and hatred that don't reflect on every religious man or woman in the country. If we are silent about these things that do matter, we allow these views to fester and grow. And then we wake up and find our military prosyletized:

Actor Stephen Baldwin, the youngest member of the famous Baldwin brothers, is no longer playing Pauly Shore's sidekick in comedy masterpieces like Biodome. He has a much more serious calling these days.

Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future [...]

"The constitution has been assaulted and brutalized," Mikey Weinstein, former Reagan Administration White House counsel, ex-Air Force judge advocate (JAG), and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told me. "Thanks to the influence of extreme Christian fundamentalism, the wall separating church and state is nothing but smoke and debris. And OSU is the IED that exploded the wall separating church and state in the Pentagon and throughout our military." Weinstein continued: "The fact that they would even consider taking their crusade to a Muslim country shows the threat to our national security and to the constitution and everyone that loves it."

Once this got out, the military blocked the mailing of the Left Behind video game. And the point is that without oversight on this perverted strain of fundamentalism, it will continue to move forward until this country stops looking like itself anymore, a country founded on the ideals of freedom of religion, which includes the freedom to worship whoever I want or not at all if I so choose.

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There Is No David Petraeus

So the White House is now acting like General Petraeus was never going to write the September report, when in fact practically every Republican Senator cautioned that we wait for "General Petraeus to deliver his report."

And the White House apparently tried to get Petraeus to give hearings to Congress in secret instead of in public session.

Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration's progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.

White House officials did not deny making the proposal in informal talks with Congress, but they said yesterday that they will not shield the commanding general in Iraq and the senior U.S. diplomat there from public congressional testimony required by the war-funding legislation President Bush signed in May. "The administration plans to follow the requirements of the legislation," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in response to questions yesterday.

What's going on here? The White House doesn't want Petraeus publicly involved with the report. Do they think he's going to give a little too mch truth? Do they not want his credibility assailed by having to peddle a political document to the Congress? Or is it simply a bit of message control?

Probably all three.

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My Election Choices

I'm taking the test. So far my results are:


There's a flaw for the informed. The site works by showing various blind quotes from the candidates and you pick what statements with which you agree. The problem is that I recognize a decent portion of the quotes. So in a way I think I'm self-selecting. But you can take the test too.



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Proudly Fighting The War On Gibson

Who says something like this?

JOHN GIBSON: The war on Gibson is real. It is pursued every day by the people who just can't abide what you hear on this radio program.

ANGRY RICH: David Brock is listening 24 hours a day.


I remember John Gibson being the blow-dryed, contentless sap on MSNBC, and then suddenly he got to Fox and decided he had to fall in line with the rest of those pathetic windbags, and he's really taken it to its parodic extreme. I thought Bill O'Reilly had reached the most extreme point, but Gibson obliterates him.

The War On Gibson?

Are there eight people in the country who know who John Gibson is?

Get over yourself.

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Senator Dodd: Cut off Chinese imports until they stop poisoning us

This is the greatest blow to the neoliberal consensus I have seen in a long time. And it's a courageous call to action from Senator Dodd.

This is an issue of safety. Parents should be confident that the toys and food that they give their children have been inspected and are safe. That's why I am calling on the President to use his authority to immediately suspend all imports of toys and food from China. It's not enough to simply talk about working for fair trade agreements. We need leadership that will act to enforce fair trade. We have the legal right and power under the WTO to keep products out of our country that threaten the health and safety of our families, and I'm going to do all I can to ensure we do so.

Only in our similarly poisoned political culture would this be seen as controversial. The Chinese have been operating for years with virtually nonexistent labor standards, allowing them to overpower our manufacturing base by producing goods at rock-bottom prices. They have not created a flat world, but one completely tilted in their favor, which uses what amounts to slaves to give us complacent Americans 99 cent packs of tube socks. Predictably, this inattention to any kind of human rights or quality control has led to poisoned food, poisoned toys, foodstuffs made out of cardboard, toothpaste with antifreeze, and probably a hundred other various depredations we just haven't heard about yet. In this situation, the only sensible thing to do is to not allow such items into American homes until we can get a handle on how wide and deep it actually goes. Senator Dodd's call is Common Sense 101.

But, as HTML Mencken notes, this will be met with howls of "protectionism!" and "you want to kill our economy!" And those howls will be coming from a particular source:

The problem here is the 21st Century version of The Jungle, with the Chinese government in the place of the meat packers, the Chinese people being the Lithuanian immigrant workers, and the American public… is still the American public, being poisoned by Corporatist pigs defended, now as then, by a complacent and complicit intellectual class (back then, stodgy laissez-faire men; and now, neoliberal economists and globalization cheerleaders) whose anger is only aroused by the muckrakers and dissenters whose position Dodd, to his immense credit, echoes [...]

While the current FDA is amazingly incompetent and corrupt even by normal Bushite standards of incompetence and corruption (which is saying a lot), even the “best” Clintonoid FDA couldn’t possibly inspect all the food imports. The problem can only be solved by insisting through trade pacts that imported food is produced according to American environmental, labor, and safety standards. They want our market, fine; they must treat their workers, the environment, and consumers by our rules (which admittedly aren’t all that great right now, either, also largely in thanks to Corporate-whorish Sensible Liberals, but better by far than China’s). However, demanding such a remedy requires moral courage, something economics textbooks don’t teach — though there is apparently an esoteric chapter in them that instructs in the fine art of dishonestly using moral language.

If you want to see trade and globalization rocket up to the top of the public consciousness, you'll join with me in broadcasting Senator Dodd's call to action far and wide. I don't think he's the most populist candidate in the Presidential race; he's not calling for the cancellation of NAFTA or the WTO, for example. But he's bringing to light a very pervasive issue in completely rational and sensible terms, namely that we shouldn't let poison into our homes. This would be a bold first step into unmaking the ridiculous economic consensus that globalization is a net positive and "wouldn't you rather have lead paint in your toys than have to pay a dollar more for them?"

Senator Dodd's going to take a lot of heat for this one, let's get his back.

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Rudy The Lion Tamer

Have people seen this? (Unfortunately, the video's in a proprietary format so i can't embed, but believe me, you'll want to go over and see it.)

It's a clip from the movie Giuliani Time, showing a 2000 "parody" video from a press roast with Rudy acting as, no joke, an AFRICAN TRIBESMAN admonishing a Bronx Zoo lion for being lazy and on welfare. When he tells the zookeeper to release the lion and "send him to a job center" and the zookeeper resists, he goes after the guy with his spear.

So, Rudy is a) comparing welfare recipients to animals, b) dressed up in blackface (or at least war paint) a la Al Jolson, and c) threatening to kill anyone who doesn't agree with him.

It's a trifecta. Wow.

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