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

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Giuliani Makes The Mistake Of Being Technically Right

I cannot explain this Giuliani exchange other than he's been paid a bribe to throw the 2008 race.

GLENN: [I]sn't illegal immigration a crime in and of itself?


GLENN: Aren't you saying --

GIULIANI: Glenn --

GLENN: You're protecting criminals by saying that being treated as a criminal is unfair.

GIULIANI: Glenn, it's not a crime. I know that's very hard for people to understand, but it's not a federal crime.

GLENN: It's a misdemeanor but if you've been nailed, it is a crime. If you've been nailed, ship back and come back, it is a crime.

GIULIANI: Glenn, being an illegal immigrant, the 400,000 were not prosecuted for crimes by the federal government, nor could they be.... In fact, when you throw an immigrant out of the country, it's not a criminal proceeding. It's a civil proceeding.

GLENN: Should it be?

GIULIANI: Should it be? No, it shouldn’t be because the government wouldn’t be able to prosecute it. We couldn’t prosecute 12 million people. We have only 2 million people in jail right now for all the crimes that are committed in the country, 2.5 million. If you were to make it a crime, you would have to take the resources of the criminal justice system and increase it by about 6. In other words, you’d have to take all the 800,000 police, and who knows how many police we would have to have.

That is 100% correct, technically speaking. We have an Administration and a GOP majority that cut the COPS program, the manpower simply doesn't exist to prosecute 12 million immigrants.

But the problem is that his actual views on the subject of immigration, only hinted at here, are wildly out of step with the Republican base. He did create something of a "sanctuary city" in New York, and he did work the court system pretty heavily to make sure it stayed that way. Not to mention the fact that the statement "it's not a crime" is so easily taken out of context that his opponents will have a field day with it.

The early reaction on the right is not good. This is one of those statements that will linger. The immigration issue mortally wounded McCain and there's no reason to believe it won't hurt Giuliani severely either. With a Republican Party increasingly marginalizing themselves with regard to people of color, it's clear that there are some lines in the sand being drawn by the base, and that real estate on the other side is getting smaller and smaller.

Labels: , , , ,


YouTube Ad Roundup

(Just to clarify; BNF did not do the Schwarzenegger clip, it was a group of CA bloggers. And I think the idea is to depress fundraising for signature gathering by suggesting that the measure has no hope of winning. Arnold's already trashed the idea but is hiding behind saying "I haven't read it." I think it's also as much about lowing ARNOLD'S favorables by highlighting this weasel technique. Given all that, I think your analysis still stands. -dday)

I've had my doubts about some of the efficacy of the citizen viral video campaigns. The Brave New Films YouTube ad asking Schwarzenegger to weigh in on the Republican electoral vote grabbing initiative is a case in point.

First, the ad:

Having a Simpsons clip to illustrate your point is a polemicist's dream. But the music (which sounds familiar from other Greenwald productions) is odd and poorly looped over the material.

But more importantly, the concept itself is of questionable value. First, the ad focuses on the fact that Schwarzenegger hasn't yet commented upon Republican efforts to reconfigure California's electoral college allotment system. Schwarzenegger is stalling for time, saying he can't comment because he hasn't read the initiative. The ad shows an insert with a picture of file boxes containing copies of the bill sent by individual Californians asking Schwarzenegger to read the initiative, and collected by the Courage Campaign.

First: this is not a bill Schwarzenegger will have to sign into law or veto. This is an initiative for Californians to vote for or against.

Which introduces the question: who cares what Schwarzenegger thinks?

Clearly it would help foes of the initiative for a (supposedly) moderate Republican to say bad things about it. Those who hope to defeat this effort to redraw the entire country's electoral college map and hand the 2008 Presidential campaign to the Republican candidate should seize any tools to hand.

But is this a good one? Is Schwarzenegger (a) a uniquely important lever in the debate, who is (b) likely to say something useful to the cause? I'd say the answers are probably: (a) Yes; (b) No.

But even if it is worth the effort to try to extract a comment from Schwarzenegger in the hopes he'll say something that will help paint this initiative as too viciously partisan for Schwarzenegger to endorse, is this the right means to that end?

If your goal was to stage a media event highlighting the fact that Schwarzenegger was slow in reading a bill, why deliver boxes filled with thousands of copies of the same bill? Wouldn't it be better to rent a billboard with the text of the bill (prohibitively expensive) or make a giant banner with the text of the ad and hang it near the capitol?

Now for some praise.

Brave New Films's The Real Rudy project has produced the best citizen advocacy ad to date.

This latest in a series is a master class on how it's done:

Note first the quiet, unobtrusive music opening onto the now-iconic images of Rudy, covered in soot, walking through the streets of New York City after the collapse of the World Trade Center.

And then the various talking heads take us into the entire reason Rudy was left to stride the streets of New York in the first place that fateful day: he had located the command center in WTC 7. He was on the streets with his aides because his choice to site the command center - destroyed in the attacks - left him with no office.

The hits keep coming: how many lives could have been saved had firemen and police officers had effective communication from a central clearinghouse. How many advisers Rudy overruled in siting the center within walking distance of City Hall.

Such images of soot-covered Rudy should become as toxic to the campaign as the air at Ground Zero turned out to be.

This video goes a long way toward its goal - which is to undermine a candidate's best iconographic material such that he hesitates to use it.


Labels: , , , ,


Smell the Aqua Velva

This week, Rachel Maddow takes a humorous look at the, er, sex appeal of Freddie Thompson.

I've long been a fan of Maddow's good-natured jabs at the fatuous and occasionally feature her Campaign Asylum clips.

One day while glancing over my blog, my mom noticed her name in the tag list. As it turns out, my mom taught Rachel Maddow in high school (AP History or American Studies - I'm not sure which).

My mom would like you to know that Maddow was alway very smart and articulate; such talents were particularly on display during her valedictorian speech at graduation.

And also that Rachel's mother is very nice.

Labels: ,


Biggest Increase In Student Aid Since The GI Bill

Time to give the Democrats credit where credit is due.

WASHINGTON - Congress approved a $20.2 billion boost in financial aid for college students yesterday, a package that backers said would be the single largest increase in federal tuition funding since World War II.

The bill, which President Bush is expected to sign, raises the maximum Pell grant for low-income students from $4,050 to $5,400, and temporarily slashes interest rates on student loans by half.

It also establishes debt-forgiveness programs for graduates who enter certain poorly paid fields such as law enforcement, firefighting, and teaching. According to the Department of Education, the average student now graduates with $19,000 in debt.

The new aid would be funded by a massive cut in subsidies to the scandal-plagued private student loan industry. Lenders said the cutbacks would cause some banks to stop offering student loans.

The president had threatened to veto an earlier version, but the White House indicated Thursday that Bush would sign the legislation.

This is fantastic news. The student loan industry has been gouging kids for decades and forcing them to live the beginning of their professional lives in debt. It discouraged innovation and entrepreneurship among young people. I'm especially pleased to see debt forgiveness for those who enter public service-sector jobs like police, firefighting and teaching. And to get the President to agree to sign it is quite a coup.

This Congress has endured a lot of headache from all sides, a lot of it deserved, but this is a step forward. In fact, it was one of their core priorities in the "6 for '06" election-year agenda. Now education reform moves to the reauthoriztion of No Child Left Behind, where George Miller has some ideas.

The leading House Democrat on education issues proposed revisions yesterday to the No Child Left Behind law that would ease the penalties for public schools that barely miss academic testing targets but tighten another rule that has helped the District and Virginia.

U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and a leading sponsor of the law in 2001, called his proposal a work in progress. He and three other committee members were floating the ideas as they move toward introducing a bill likely to contain major changes to the controversial law. Miller has said he wants to move a bill through the House of Representatives next month.

The proposal would allow states to use more than annual tests in reading and math to rate schools; give credit to states for students who are projected to reach proficiency within three years; and require states to test certain students with limited English skills in their native language. For some schools that fall only slightly short of academic targets, the proposal would also lift requirements to provide after-school tutoring and let students transfer to better schools.

In addition, Miller proposed strengthening a rule that requires test scores to be reported separately for groups of students identified by ethnicity, race, family income and other factors. Currently, Maryland reports separate scores for groups in a given school if there are at least five students in the demographic category. D.C. schools report scores from all groups with at least 40 students in a given school, and Virginia sets the threshold at 50 students.

Hopefully, we can work hard to establish some sensible solutions to a flawed education bill. This is a good day for the future of our country.

Labels: , , ,


Mitt Robby the Robot

Courtesy of Veracifier, TPM has a handy highlight reel of last week's Fox-sponsored Republican primary in New Hampshire.

Included are the greatest hits of the night: opening jokes about a certain Gucci-shod no-show; McCain vs. Romney on Iraq; Giuliani yammering on about New York City; Paul vs. Huckabee on Iraq.

In particular, I would like to draw your attention to a live question filmed off-site and beamed into the debate. Here a man asks Romney a question about Iraq, but then offers a comment to Romney. His question begins at the 8:02 minute marker on the video. Romney's answer begins at about 8:45.

My interest is in the second part of the voter's question: his comment. Note first the context: this man whose son is currently fighting in Iraq wants Romney to know that his words upset him, his wife, and lots of other people. This question would be tricky enough coming from anyone - Romney's comment was, after all, insupportable. But it's even trickier coming from a father whose son risks life and limb every day, while Romney's sons risk only the health effects of eating too many Cool Ranch Doritos.

This particular type of exchange is probably the most important type of question a candidate has to manage.

When someone asks about policy, the question can be roughly stated as: Why should I support you?

But when a voter comments about a candidate's statement that caused him to take umbrage, the question is, Why shouldn't I think you're an asshole?

You can either try to reach someone where he lives to try to talk him out of leaving a bad impression (requiring, at minimum, acknowledging that you understand how this person feels). Or, you can just compound the voter's perception that you're a jerk.

Look carefully at Romney's reaction, helpfully shown here in split-screen alongside the questioner. During the man's policy question, Romney's expression barely changes. Fine; no problems here. Then, as the man heads into his gently emphatic, impassioned comment - accompanied by a rising crescendo of cheers in the audience - Romney begins to smile. One side of his mouth tugs upward, giving him an expression of sardonic forbearance. It is a smirk.

The cheers grow louder and Romney shifts his stance and his mouth twitches as he rearranges his smile. This smile grows through the man's comment and cheers from the audience. Now the space is clear for Romney's response to the questioner. His face executes a series of tiny movements - head nodding in a quick dip and up again; mouth forming words to speak and then re-forming - that telegraph sarcasm. It's as though Romney is winking to the audience while going through the motions of giving his answer.

And Romney's actual answer? He begins with, "Well, there is no comparison," followed by some boiler-plate about our brave young and men in the military. (We know there's no comparison. Romney is the one in need of this lesson - since he's the one who said it in the first place.)

In one exchange, Romney displays all the qualities that make him such a bad candidate:

1) arrogance - he can't even bother to hide his smirk even when his face is in the shot the entire duration of the question;
2) tone-deafness - in missing how egregiously bad his first comment was, then compounding it in his opportunity to fix this error;
3) illogic - in missing the entire point of the question;
4) narcissism: Romney reacts to the cheers of the audience as if he thinks the crowd is on his side rather than that of the off-site voter;
5) lack of empathy: Romney doesn't listen carefully enough to absorb the details (the man and his wife being upset; his son fighting in Iraq; his friends and neighbors, for whom he speaks). Such represent a golden opportunity to incorporate details into his answer in order to demonstrate that he sees this questioner as a man, a neighbor, a fellow American who is a person of significance in his own life and to those who love him.

Romney demonstrates none of the minimum requirements for earning the support and trust of his audience. Indeed, in this one exchange, we see a man consumed by his own arrogance and unable to see the little people whose votes he waits impatiently to buy.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


A Complete Failure Of Leadership

The State Assembly rejected the only sensible reform that would do anything to deal with the root causes of a prison crisis that has been built by 30 years of progressively draconian sentencing laws. SB110 (Romero) would have created an independent sentencing commission with the ability to rewrite sentencing laws outside of a political culture obsessed with "tough on crime" poses. Everybody with even a modicum of understanding of the prison crisis knows that the overcrowding (at a time when crime is down) is a direct result of mandatory minimums and three strikes and the multitudes of nonviolent offenders serving long sentences in our jails, some as a result of the War on (some kinds of) Drugs.

Now, there is a bill, AB160 by Sally Lieber, voted out of the Assembly earlier this year, that is similar to the bill Sen. Romero authored. But, there are some substantive differences, otherwise how do you understand these quotes:

Romero likened the defeat of her bill to the Legislature's throwing up its hands and telling federal judges to take control of the troubled prison system.

Don Specter, an attorney with the inmate advocate group Prison Law Office, said the vote "certainly emphasizes the one-dimensional approach California has to crime, which is to build more prisons."

You can read the Romero bill and the Lieber bill, still pending in the State Senate (It passed the appropriate committee by a 9-7 vote). The Lieber bill can't touch sentences established through the initiative process (so this is probably about saving three strikes from scrutiny). The Romero bill would have made recommendations to amend those types of sentences. Overall the Romero bill is more comprehensive. This could be some kind of petty jealousy between the chambers.

Hopefully the Senate shows some leadership and passes the Lieber bill, which would at least move things in the right direction. Until then, I'm going to list those Democrats who would rather hang on to their little fiefdoms of "tough on crime" sentencing than enact the only proper reform to deal with a crisis that now will almost certainly be handled by the courts.

Voting No:

Arambula, AD-31 (Fresno)
Fuentes, AD-39 (Sylmar) (WHAT???)
Galgiani, AD-17 (Tracy)
Lieu, AD-53 (Torrance)
Nava, AD-35 (Santa Barbara)
Parra, AD-30 (Hanford)
Salas, AD-79 (Chula Vista)
Torrico, AD-20 (Fremont)

Absent, Abstaining, or Not Voting (occasionally a craven tactic often so they can say that they didn't vote against it):

Charles Calderon, AD-58 (Whittier)
De Leon, AD-45 (Los Angeles)
Karnette, AD-54 (Long Beach)
Levine, AD-40 (Van Nuys) (Maybe he was absent, but EXCUSE ME????)
Wolk, AD-8 (Davis)

These legislators need to answer to their constituents and explain why they want to keep an unsustainable and broken prison system alive. Furthermore, the leadership needs to explain why they failed to whip the proper number of votes to get this reform passed.

Labels: , , ,


Friday, September 07, 2007

Busily Transcribing The Words Of A Madman

So, yes, there's a new video by Osama bin Laden, or at least some dude with a fake beard ("I'm the new Dread Pirate Roberts"). And the right is going to town analyzing the words and phrases, trying to divine his meaning. Apparently he rambles about Democratic paralysis on Iraq, global warming, subprime mortgages, Noam Chomsky, and low taxes in Islam. Apparently he has an RSS reader and he's getting a lot of news.

On this I'm completely in agreement with Steve Benen.

I suspect the video will have some political reverberations, and maybe I’ll regret writing this, but I have a radical idea: let’s ignore the bastard.

If activists want to exploit bin Laden’s tedious nonsense, there are plenty of ways to do so. For those of us on the left, one could say, “bin Laden’s criticism of congressional Democrats sounds just like Republicans’! The GOP and OBL are reading from the same talking points!”

For those on the right, one could do the opposite: “bin Laden blasted the neocons, just like liberals do! The left and OBL are reading from the same talking points! And he says the terrorists are monitoring our media! So when Dems criticize Bush, it emboldens the enemy!”

Can we just skip it? Osama bin Laden is a madman. His perspective is one of insanity. The bastard’s analysis of American politics is a) meaningless; and b) meant to sow division. Might we be better off not trying to make use of the rambling tirade of a monster who killed 3,000 Americans?

I’m just putting that out there.

I don't see how you can look at it any other way. Chris Wallace scored points on the right in the Republican debate by asking Ron Paul if he was "taking marching orders from Al Qaeda." And then every conservative blogger watches the bin Laden tape and makes pronouncements on what it all means, ACTUALLY taking marching orders from Al Qaeda. To quote Josh Marshall:

I don't gainsay the danger or destructive power of the man. I still remember Rick Hertzberg's quote just after 9/11 that the attacks were as brilliant as they were evil. (This is from memory: so I may have the precise words wrong. But he well captured the way in which the horror and evil of the attacks were matched by their diabolical ingeniusness.) But as an articulator of a vision, an expounder of "Islamofascism," or whatever the new trademarked word is now, he's about as coherent and comprehensible as a 9th tier blogger or one of those whacks sitting on a stoop in Union Square talking about fascism and Texas oil barons before they get overcome by the shakes or decide to start collecting more aluminum cans.

We should set our counter-terrorism strategy not based on the rantings of a lunatic, but based on a sound, comprehensive strategy to attack the problem at the root. In a laudatory speech today, one which recognizes that Al Qaeda remains as big a threat as they were before 9/11, but that they can be neutralized by a strong multilateral approach, John Edwards stepped forward and articulated a new vision for dealing with terror.

Instead of Cold War institutions designed to win traditional wars and protect traditional borders, we need new institutions designed to share intelligence, cooperate across borders, and take out small, hostile groups.

Instead of a foreign policy of convenience that readily does business with whoever is available and regularly turns a blind eye when our allies behave wrongly or fail to cooperate, we need a new foreign policy of conviction that requires cooperation in exchange for our support, whether it's arms sales, trade, or foreign aid.

Instead of an exclusively short-term focus on the enemy we know, we need a long-term strategy to win the minds of those who are not yet our enemies, by offering education, democracy, and opportunity in place of radicalism, hatred and fear.
Most of all, instead of a reckless, solo pursuit of an ideological agenda that abandons our moral authority and disregards our allies, we need to reengage with the world and reassert our moral leadership.

This is the kind of interconnected approach to fighting terror that worked in uncovering the German plot just a few days ago. An American intelligence intercept began the process to capturing the plotters (and yes, it was foreign-to-foreign communications, having nothing to do with the domestic warrantless wiretapping program, and in fact the Administration imperiled that contact by insisting on new domestic spying powers and shutting down the foreign-to-foreign intercepts for two months). Edwards goes further and proposes an entirely new organization to strengthen these ties:

As president, I will launch a comprehensive new counterterrorism policy that will be defined by two principles—strength and cooperation.

The centerpiece of this policy will be a new multilateral organization called the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO).

Every nation has an interest in shutting down terrorism. CITO will create connections between a wide range of nations on terrorism and intelligence, including countries on all continents, including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. New connections between previously separate nations will be forged, creating new possibilities.

CITO will allow members to voluntarily share financial, police, customs and immigration intelligence. Together, nations will be able to track the way terrorists travel, communicate, recruit, train, and finance their operations. And they will be able to take action, through international teams of intelligence and national security professionals who will launch targeted missions to root out and shut down terrorist cells.

Edwards also calls for nuclear nonproliferation, chemical plant protection, energy independence, lifting those regions susceptible to extremism out of poverty, restoring America's moral leadership, a "Marshall Corps" providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to the developing world, conditioning future aid to countries like Pakistan to their relinquishing of safe harbors for terrorists, and committed civic action by young people to foster a new patriotism to help raise our country's image abroad.

Now THAT'S worth listening to, not a crank in a cave.

Labels: , ,


CA-04: Run John Run!

John Doolittle is in it to win it.

Despite having multiple primary challengers, plus the recent leak of a Republican poll showing him losing to his 2006 Democratic opponent, scandal-tarred Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA) has made it clear he's not backing down from his 2008 re-election fight.

"I will not step aside," Doolittle told reporters in a conference call today. "I am running again. Period."

This is terrible news. I mean, if he runs in a Republican primary with so many other contenders, surely he can pull the 30-35% needed to win. And then he'll face our challenger Charlie Brown in a rematch of last year, when he carried a whopping 49% of the vote! I mean, how can we defeat an incumbent whose being harrassed by Bush's Justice Department and has a bunch of battle-tested staffers and aides who've stared down the glare of a federal grand jury? This is terrible!!

Please don't throw me in the briar patch...

Labels: , , , ,


The California Report

There are a bunch of things that I wanted to post about that I might as well highlight in one post, kind of like when Asia recruited members of Yes, King Crimson, and Uriah Heep to create a "supergroup":

• BeDevine notes that yet another gender-neutral marriage bill has passed the Legislature, and once again Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to veto it because "the people have already spoken on that issue."  Apparently the people don't vote for their own representatives in the state legislature.  And at what point does the statute of limitations run out on referring to a ballot measure from 2000?

• Senator Loewenthal has pulled back the container fee bill that would have charged importers a $30 fee on each cargo container to go towards fighting pollution at the ports.  This will go into negotiation and probably be passed in some form in 2008.  Hopefully it'll be a form that will still have some teeth.

• Dan Weintraub makes the fallacious argument that the United Farm Workers are somehow betraying their principles by asking for the ability to form a union after a majority of employees sign cards endorsing it.  He thinks that there's no intimidation in a secret ballot election, apparently ignoring decades of union busting, threats, and workplace closures that have arisen from attempts to unionize.

• As mentioned in the Quickies, the CA Hospital Association has agreed to a tax in themselves... sort of.  In exchange, they would receive money back to them based on how many poor people they treat.  Most hospitals would actually make money on the deal.  It's also hard to see how this would do anything to fix our state's strained emergency rooms, which presumably is where these poor people would be encouraged to go for treatment.

• Also in the Quickies is some good news on the enviroment, as new CARB chief Mary Nichols has set some pretty strong targets for emissions cuts.  They're first steps but they presage positive developments in the future.

• Finally, the Teamsters waged a successful protest at the California-Mexico border against the Bush Administration effort to allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to deliver goods anywhere in the United States.  This will not only damage our environment and public safety by opening up the roads to unsafe Mexican trucks, it undermines American job security for one of the few good union industries left to our working class.  The goal is to marginalize unionized truckers, pure and simple.  Matt Stoller thinks this could be the next "Dubai ports deal" if the word gets out about it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Petraeus: Bad At His Job

A lot of liberal bloggers are circulating this David Petraeus op-ed from late September 2004, at the height of election season, where he praises the progress of the Iraqi security forces. This is clearly the work of a partisan political official and not a neutral observer, coming in on the side of the President at his hour of need.

But it's also important to understand what Petraeus' role was back in 2004 and 2005. He was in charge of training and strengthening the Iraqi security forces. His particular focus was the Army and the police. And so I think it's very instructive to compare what he was saying about those forces three years ago and the realities of the forces from the recently released Jones Report. Because if you see that three years after the "tangible progress" Petraeus claimed to be making, the Iraqi Army is still 12 to 18 months from being able to take over security operations, and that the Iraqi police force is "dysfunctional," it would lead you to question just how capable a commander David Petraeus is in the first place.

Kevin Drum gets to the heart of this today.

He was the guy in charge of training the Iraqi army and police back in 2004-05, and this op-ed was happy talk of a spectacular order. For all intents and purposes, none of the stuff he talked about ended up happening. Three years later, the Iraqi army is still barely functional and the Iraqi police forces, by all accounts, are so thoroughly corrupt and sectarian that we'd be better off if they didn't even exist. Since Petraeus was the guy who set up their initial training, he deserves to be held to account for what happened.

Here are some of the numbers Petraeus was throwing around back in 2004:

Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism. Today approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions. Equipment is being delivered. Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being reestablished.

Here's The Jones Report, and let me highlight this bit from the executive summary.

ISF Defined. The Iraqi security forces are composed of two major components: the Iraqi military (Army, Special Forces, Navy, and Air Force), which MNF-I estimated in a June report to encompass more than 152,000 service members and which operates under the authority of the Ministry of Defense...

The Washington Post article lists the National police force at around 25,000. OK, so Petraeus claimed there were 164,000 police and soldiers back in 2004, and now, after 3 years of training and equipping and recruitment, there are only about 10,000 more? And yet throughout his op-ed, he talks about how training is moving smoothly and new forces are coming on-line virtually every day, including "5,000 police officers a month" from nine training facilities in Jordan? Good work, Dave.

Moving on. Here's Petraeus happily discussing how the Iraqi forces are "in the fight."

Six battalions of the Iraqi regular army and the Iraqi Intervention Force are now conducting operations. Two of these battalions, along with the Iraqi commando battalion, the counterterrorist force, two Iraqi National Guard battalions and thousands of policemen recently contributed to successful operations in Najaf. Their readiness to enter and clear the Imam Ali shrine was undoubtedly a key factor in enabling Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to persuade members of the Mahdi militia to lay down their arms and leave the shrine.

In another highly successful operation several days ago, the Iraqi counterterrorist force conducted early-morning raids in Najaf that resulted in the capture of several senior lieutenants and 40 other members of that militia, and the seizure of enough weapons to fill nearly four 7 1/2-ton dump trucks.

Within the next 60 days, six more regular army and six additional Intervention Force battalions will become operational. Nine more regular army battalions will complete training in January, in time to help with security missions during the Iraqi elections at the end of that month.

Yet the executive summary of the Jones Report states that the security forces cannot maintain the fight at all without Americans in the lead:

The Commission finds that in general, the Iraqi Security Forces, military and police, have made uneven progress, but that there should be increasing improvement in both their readiness and their capability to provide for the internal security of Iraq. With regard to external dangers, the evidence indicates that the Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to secure Iraqi borders against conventional military threats in the near term.

While severely deficient in combat support and combat service support capabilities, the new Iraqi armed forces, especially the Army, show clear evidence of developing the baseline infrastructures that lead to the successful formation of a national defense capability. The Commission concurs with the view expressed by U.S., Coalition, and Iraqi experts that the Iraqi Army is capable of taking over an increasing amount of day-to-day combat responsibilities from Coalition forces. In any event, the ISF will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months.

In particular they need help in command and control, equipment, fire support, logistical support, intelligence, and transportation. Yet these are precisely some of the areas Petraeus was touting back in 2004. Here he is talking about equipment:

Outfitting hundreds of thousands of new Iraqi security forces is difficult and complex, and many of the units are not yet fully equipped. But equipment has begun flowing. Since July 1, for example, more than 39,000 weapons and 22 million rounds of ammunition have been delivered to Iraqi forces, in addition to 42,000 sets of body armor, 4,400 vehicles, 16,000 radios and more than 235,000 uniforms.

Yet they apparently won't be ready to go it along for another FIVE YEARS, depsite all of these tangible pieces of progress in the pipeline when Petraeus was in charge.

Here's the closing remarks of Petraeus back then, sounding much like now:

There will be more tough times, frustration and disappointment along the way. It is likely that insurgent attacks will escalate as Iraq's elections approach. Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition -- and now NATO -- support, this trend will continue. It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.

There's the General, arguing for continued commitment to the war effort and talk of momentum and progress. The results are in. David Petraeus FAILED in his singular duty to train, arm, equip, and maintain the Iraqi security forces. He was rewarded by being given the entire coalition effort to command. And now he's spinning that too, lying about the facts in an attempt to cover over the more unsightly reality.

The Iraqi Army's main problem, according to the Jones Report, is a deficiency of LEADERSHIP and DISCIPLINE, exactly what General Petraeus was charged with providing. The Ministry of Interior is "a ministry in name only," deeply sectarian and dysfunctional. Their police force is only working well in homogenous areas, and is compromised by militia and insurgent infiltration. Petraeus was in charge of that, too. The National Police have proven themselves to be operationally ineffective and unable to provide any security, and they ought to be scrapped. Yep, Petraeus' gig, too. The Border Patrol? Same thing, and I'm running out of synonyms.

The Jones Report is an indictment of the man who is leading US forces in Iraq, proof that he fits the Bush Adminstration mold perfectly; a political hack whose incompetence is no hindrance on his falling upward.

Labels: , , ,


Shorter Steve Jobs

Hey, sorry about that. Buy more of my crap!

I'm an Apple enthusiast, but the Cult of Jobs kind of creeps me out. And this is just insulting. $100 in store credit?

Labels: , ,


Maybe We're Already In A Recession

The OECD, a leading economic think tank, has warned about this for some time. There's a perfect storm here between subprime mortgages, the credit crunch, stock market volatility and a complete crash in the housing sector. And now it's starting to hit people where it hurts.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - Job growth came to a screeching halt in August, the Labor Department said Friday. Nonfarm payrolls contracted by 4,000 in August. This was the first decline in payrolls since August 2003. The decline was much weaker than than the 115,000 increase expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.6% in August from the previous month.

Look at the three-month trends here.

Bonddad points out that most of the losses in August were in the manufacturing sector, which translates into housing. Clearly the Fed will be cutting interest rates at their next session, but the question is will that matter?

Labels: , , , ,


There Is No Petraeus Report


A major political event unfolding Monday will be the report to President Bush by Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker.

A senior military officer said there will be no written presentation to the president on security and stability in Iraq. "There is no report. It is an assessment provided by them by testimony," the officer said.

The only hard copy will be Gen. Petraeus' opening statement to Congress, scheduled for Monday, along with any charts he will use in explaining the results of the troop surge in Baghdad over the past several months.

Because if there actually was a written, binding report, it would require evidence.

Or some truth could slip out, like saying that the political progress "has not worked out as we had hoped."

The Dems got completely and utterly played top to bottom on this one. And now they're looking to make a toothless "compromise" on withdrawal and the "leaders" running for President are silent.

Labels: , , , ,


The Deep Political Thinking Of Freddie Thompson

So yesterday, we learned that Freddie Thompson responded to questions about how his plan to fix Social Security is similar to President Bush's failed plan by saying "I don't remember the details of his plan."

Today, he responds to what tactics and techniques we should use to fight terrorism by saying "we better figure out a way."

I don't know, usually a candidate running for President actually comes up with comprehensive strategies instead of bumbling around going "Yeah, somebody should come up with somethin'."

I predict 8 staffers will be fired as a result.

Labels: , , , ,


Civil Liberties, Checks and Balances Making A Comeback

This week we have seen a couple court cases that strike back at the Bush Administration's grabbing of new and extreme executive powers for the executive branch. A federal judge demanded that the Administration provide documents to the court relating to an ACLU lawsuit against the government's warrantless spying program. The government sought to dismiss the case based on the state secrets privilege, and denied even those in the court with security clearance to see the documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

While the court is certainly sensitive to the government's need to protect classified information and its deliberative processes, essentially declaring "because we say so" is an inadequate method for invoking Exemption.

Then, a major portion of the Patriot Act was struck down.

A federal judge struck down parts of the revised USA Patriot Act on Thursday, saying investigators must have a court's approval before they can order Internet providers to turn over records without telling customers.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said the government orders must be subject to meaningful judicial review and that the recently rewritten Patriot Act "offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers."

This specifically deals with National Security Letters, which implements a gag order on those businesses summoned with one. No grand jury subpoena or judge's order was required to issue a National Security Letter, meaning the government could deploy them at will to force businesses to turn over customer records without oversight. These letters were previously shown to be misapplied by the FBI.

Even the long-ago-forgotten LEGISLATIVE branch got into the act by criticizing the new use of spy satellite technology.

Senior House Democrats called on the Bush administration yesterday to delay a planned Oct. 1 expansion of the use of powerful satellite and aircraft spy technology by local and federal law enforcement agencies, challenging the plan's legality and charging that the administration is failing to safeguard the privacy of Americans.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and two Democratic subcommittee chairmen jointly asked the Department of Homeland Security to provide the legal framework for the domestic use of classified and military spy satellites, and to allow Congress to review privacy and civil liberties protections.

"You let this thing go, it may be another blank check to the executive. It may morph into things that will terrify you if you really understand the capabilities of satellites," said Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), former ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

Next thing you know, they'll start fighting efforts to give away massive new spying powers to the President!

Labels: , , , , , ,


Destroying Campaign Finance Reform In California

One thing leaped out at me when reading Frank Russo's roundup of the bills that passed through the state legislature yesterday. That is that AB1430, a plan that will completely gut local campaign-finance reform laws, passed through the State Sente after a unanimous vote in the Assembly earlier this year. All 15 Republican Senators joined 12 Democratic Senators to support the bill, giving it the bare minimum of 27 votes it needed to pass. Bill Cavala tried to mount a defense of the bill in July by saying it's an attempt to break municipal monopolies and foster competition locally. Right, because it's always the case that challengers can outraise incumbents, ay? Sadly, both state parties backed this measure because they both want to MAINTAIN their fiefdoms in their respective regions without allowing localities to manage their elections their own way. Anytime you hear a politician argue for less restrictions on campaign money, ask yourself if they're doing this to aid their opponents. The answer is usually no. From the Chronicle editorial:

Let's be clear: This bill deals with one very specific type of "communication" -- an expenditure on behalf of a candidate, in collaboration with the campaign itself. These are direct political contributions. If local governments want to limit them -- as the Legislature has done for state races -- they should have a right to do so.

Now, if the governor signs the bill, they won't. And that will probably help Democrats more than Republicans, particularly with regard to labor. Doesn't make it right, however.

Labels: , ,


International Incident Watch

In today's edition, Bush gets really mad at the South Korean President when his words aren't translated correctly.

As Bush began to wind down his stay at the Asia-Pacific summit, (South Korean President Moo-hyun) Roh challenged him to make a declaration to end the Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, so the two sides technically remain at war [...]

Bush said that during his talks with Roh, he reaffirmed the U.S. position that Washington will consider the war formally over only when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il actually dismantles his nuclear program.

Whatever Roh heard Bush say through his translator, it wasn't good enough.

"I think I did not hear President Bush mention the — a declaration to end the Korean War just now," Roh said as cameras clicked and television cameras rolled.

Bush said he thought he was being clear, but obliged Roh and restated the U.S. position.

That wasn't good enough either. "If you could be a little bit clearer in your message," Roh said.

Bush, now looking irritated, replied: "I can't make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will end — will happen when Kim verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons."

The White House immediately downplayed the testy exchange and said the meeting went smoothly.

"There was clearly something lost in translation," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a rushed e-mail to reporters.

So according to the White House, it was just a misunderstanding with the translator, but Bush flipped out because He wasn't being understood when He spoke the Word. See, anyone who doesn't hear the precise nuance of his rhetoric is just a buffoon who deserves to be yelled at. Notice the arrogance here. "How dare he doesn't understand ME! ME!!! I know my phraseology makes perfect sense in Korean!"

George Bush: proudly fighting the war on translators.

Labels: , , ,


The Anbar Miracle

I thought there were candy canes dropping from the sky in Anbar and an Indiana marketplace had sprung up in Fallouja. How could multiple US Marines die there in those circumstances?

Of course, according to General Petraeus we've been making progress there for three years. He's in a tough spot, by the way, because he has to thread the needle and say we're "kicking ass," but not so much ass that we can ever leave. Hence the "Petraeus Sees Gains As Fragile" story.

That is, he would be in a tough spot if the Democrats weren't so willing to lay down like dogs. I think what you heard from John Warner is exactly what's going to happen; we'll withdraw one brigade by Christmas, keep another 150,000 or so there indefinitely, and the moderate centrists can slap the blood off their hands and onto each others backs as they congratulate each other for doing something meaningful.

Labels: , , ,


Thursday, September 06, 2007

World Report

Because why not?

• So Bin Laden's going to preview the new Al Qaeda fall season with a taped message. Judging from the photo, he dyes his beard; is that part of the mores of the traditional Wahhabist caliphate? Aside from wetting the pants of a few insaneosphere residents, I'm pretty sure nothing he has to say makes a lick of difference. I'm sure the media will somehow turn this into a "win for the GOP," that the most wanted man in the world who killed 3,000 Americans on a Republican Administration's watch is still alive 6 years later. Just remember: EVERYTHING is good for the GOP. That's why they're doing so well these days!

• I remember hearing at some point a few months back a bit of media chatter that "Israel and Syria are going to war this summer because... just because." Didn't think much about it until this story today that Syria claims to have repelled Israeli warplanes that actually dropped munitions. Israel won't comment. Did they violate Syrian airspace to get to Syria, or to get a couple countries over to Tehran?

• Three Marine officers were censured for their failure to investigate the massacre of 24 civilians in Haditha in 2005. Their military careers are effectively over. Murder charges in this case have been dropped against two of the men mainly because of the byzantine military justice system and code of conduct IMO.

• Here's a nice story: airstrikes in Baghdad killed 14 civilians while they were sleeping. Read to me in the counterinsurgency manual where a key component is a massive bombing campaign. This is the great untold story of this escalation; we're dropping a tremendous amount of ordnance over there. You cannot win hearts and minds by substituting bombs for boots on the ground. We don't have enough troops for the mission (not that the mission is winnable), so we're trying to compensate with airstrikes. It just stirs up more anger.

• German authorities are looking for a dozen more suspects in the foiled terror plot against various facilities. Good for diligent police work. Meanwhile the US Embassy in Nigeria is under alert of attack. The world is still dangerous, made more so by our debacle in Iraq and our inattention to extremism around the world.

• Fred Hiatt is a complete idiot, trying to save his own reputation by attacking the good name of Mohammed El Baradei, who happened to be right about Iraq and is right about Iran. It's those who have been completely wrong who are trying to deflect from their own mistakes by beating the drums for yet another war.

• We all hope for some better news from Iraq, we just don't see a lot to be that pleased about. But this is encouraging, and it's typical that it had nothing to do with the Americans. Top Parliament leaders met in Finland with representatives from South Africa and Northern Ireland, to discuss the best practices for real reconciliation. It suggests that this isn't about the Iraqis "getting their act together," it's about removing the crush of the American presence so that the Iraqis can figure this out for themselves. I'm mindful that this doesn't mean the Shiites and Sunnis will immediately become best of friends; the work done in Northern Ireland took decades. But they did take the steps toward a resolution here, even if they are baby steps. Note that South Africa and Northern Ireland are not occupied nations. And maybe we don't need to return power to CIA-and-lobbyist-backed thug who will destroy democracy in order to save it.

50 killed in campaigning for Guatemala's national election, and it's not until this weekend. Political rivals are shooting each other and a lot of candidates are backed by drug lords. This is pretty normal practice in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. As long as our goal is to spread freedom and democracy, could we be bothered to give a hand here?

• Riverbend has left Baghdad. She was an honest voice among the madness, and she will be missed, but she is certainly safer in Syria.

• And finally, a sketch comedy group in Australia managed to get through two security checkpoints and pretty darn close to George W. Bush with a guy dressed up as Osama bin Laden.

The group staged a faux motorcade, pretending to be the delegation of Canada with one of the comedians dressed as bin Laden, and made it past two police checkpoints before being stopped, reported The Hill.

Cast members hired two motorcycles and three large cars on which they put Canadian flags. Police waved the motorcade through two checkpoints before pulling it over near the Intercontinental Hotel where Mr. Bush is staying.

Australia: better comedy than Yahoo Serious and Crocodile Dundee! Who knew?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The Drive For 2/3: A Movement Rises In The Desert

I'm starting a new series. We've seen with the California budget fight and the difficulties funding health care reform that the current balance of power in the Legislature just isn't cutting it. This is particularly irksome because they daylight is clearly seen at the end of the tunnel. 5 Assembly seats and just 2 Senate seats would bring 2/3 majorities in those chambers, and yet there is little or no talk within Democratic circles of explicitly going after the vulnerable seats within reach that would give us those numbers.

Well, you shouldn't wait for others tomorrow to begin what you can do today. So I'm going to be profiling districts and candidates that can get us to what should be the overriding goal of 2/3 majorities.

We begin today in California's 80th Assembly District, which largely covers the desert region around Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Indian Wells, but which encompasses Imperial County all the way down to the Mexico border. This district is currently held by Republican and hot Latina Bonnie Garcia, yet theere are a plurality of Democrats there. This is the most Democratic seat held by a term-limited Republican, though obviously that term limit can be overturned. But regardless, this seat represents an opportunity. And I met with the man who can not only deliver that seat, but who can give rise to a new movement of young people of color devoted to improving the lives of their constituents.

That man is Manuel Pérez.

I met with Manuel at a coffee shop in Indio, a working-class town surrounded by the posh hotels and golf courses of the Palm Springs area. It really is a haves versus the have-nots story, with resorts fighting with growers for water resources from the Colorado River, to name just one pressure point. When you move into Imperial County, where the population is 75% Latino and over 65% speak Spanish as their first language, that dichotomy is even more stark. In this environment, someone with ties to the land is crucial. And Pérez' history goes back generations.

Manuel Pérez' parents were immigrants who met in the fields while chasing the crops they picked for work. His mother worked 26 years in the fields, despite raising a family. His father became a veteraño (a veteran of the migrant fields) and worked for the city of Indio on water issues. Growing up in Coachella and Calexico, Manuel worked in the fields himself over the summers when he wasn't in school. His parents understood the importance of education, teaching the values of "service and sacrifice and social justice," and pushing him to advance as far as he could go. At an early age, he saw a community of gangs and drugs where his best friend was killed in a drive-by shooting.

He became the only person in his family to go on to higher education, getting his bachelor's degree at UC-Riverside (and becoming an organizer on campus). He had the opportunity to get a master's degree in Social Policy at Harvard, and took it. Instead of leaving his community behind, he returned to it, organizing field campaigns throughout the state for candidates and issues like Schools Not Jails. This is someone who hasn't waited around for higher office to make a difference in his community; he's rolled up his sleeves and dived in. As a director for the Borego Community Health Foundation, he's created one of the first diabetes resource center in the desert region and has delivered health services to underserved regions. As a researcher for the California Institute for Rural Studies, he put together a groundbreaking study on women's reproductive health issues in Imperial County, where women have little opportunities and resources to manage their own health. With Promotores, he's part of a group of community-based leaders devoted to teaching about health issues and making sure people in the community get the facts about programs at their disposal. As a schoolteacher he started his school's first ever Chicano Studies program designed to allow students to learn history from their perspective. With the Eastern Coachella Valley Social Change Collaborative, he identified farm workers living in the area and trained them to be community leaders themselves. Believe it or not, he's only 34.

Eventually, Pérez and like-minded community leaders saw the ability to effect social change through policymaking. So they founded an affiliation called "Raises," or Roots, a group of people from the community who got their educations elsewhere and then returned to lead. They decided to work in campaigns and put up candidates. The first year, Pérez was voted onto the Coachella Valley School Board. And Eddie Garcia was elected to city council in Coachella. Then Garcia was voted mayor, and Steve Hernandez was elected to city council. It went from 1 to 2 to 3 and this year 5 members running for office and seeking social change. These are community leaders built from the bottom up, infused with the desire and obligation to give back. In Garcia's mayoral election, they signed up 15,000 new voters, and criscrossed the region 5 or 6 times, knocking on doors persistently despite being outspent by 3 to 1. Garcia took 70% of the vote, and so did Pérez.

Manuel Pérez is not only a perfect fit for this district, providing an opportunity to retake this seat and get us closer to 2/3. He represents a new generation of Hispanic-Americans who are dedicated to working for change from the bottom up. He would bring to Sacramento a unique set of skills, as someone who can build coalitions and train a group of leaders far into the future. There are primary candidates on the Democratic side for this seat who appear to be very nice. I don't think anyone combines the résumé and the hope for the future more than Manuel Pérez.

He has an ActBlue page and he is worth your support.

(I should add that if anyone knows of a great legislative candidate they'd like me to profile for the Drive for 2/3, please email me at dday-at-calitics-dot-com.)

Labels: , , , , , ,


Quietly Banging My Head Against The Laptop

The House of Representatives, having seen multiple negative assessments of the success of the escalation, polls showing support for withdrawal in the 60-70% range, etc., etc., is going to pretty much give up on any attempt to get our troops home.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) came out on Wednesday in favor of holding a vote on a bipartisan Iraqi withdrawal bill. Meanwhile, the party’s left wing renewed calls for a pullout and announced a new campaign to block funds for arming and training the Iraq Security Forces.

The bipartisan legislation, authored by Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.), would order Bush to draft plans to withdraw from Iraq but not require them to be implemented. Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) and two other Republicans have signed on as cosponsors.

“I would like to see us move forward on that,” Hoyer said. “The president ought to come up with a plan for withdrawal.”

You're the Majority Leader of the House and you don't think the Pentagon has withdrawal plans? Who cares if there's a plan when there's no need for it to be implemented? So you can feel good on the way to your cocktail parties?

Kos, a new convert to the cut the funding plan as the only way to end the war, is righteously angry:

Here's the bottom line -- the voters elected a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate in 2006 to get the f' out of Iraq. Democrats don't need to compromise with Republicans. If there's no money, there's no way to continue the war. And with Democrats in total control of the House, and with the ability to filibuster any funding bill in the Senate, our side can hole up any bill that doesn't do what WE want to do.

Republicans have to compromise with us. We have the electoral mandate, not the unpopular Republicans and certainly not Mr. 25%. And the compromise is 1) we give you the money, and 2) you give us the timetable. We can even compromise on #2, working together to figure out just how long troops ought to remain (from, say, six months to just before Bush leaves office), depending on what military leaders on the ground say would be the safest, most efficient way to get them out.

But telling Bush he doesn't have to do shit for his $200 billion other than come up with a "plan" isn't a "compromise", it's capitulation. And, by giving Republicans a free vote on a paper tiger bill, they even get to go home and campaign on their efforts to "end the war".

And our leaders aren't doing a damn thing about it. Chris Dodd is trying.

The New York Times reported earlier today that Democrats are considering whether to offer a "compromise" amendment on Iraq to the upcoming Defense Department Authorization bill.

This "compromise," the Levin-Reed amendment, would reportedly establish a non-binding "goal" -- as opposed to a firm deadline -- for withdrawing our combat troops from Iraq.

The net result would be another blank check for President Bush.

Senator Dodd said it best earlier today, "I cannot and will not support any measure that does not have a firm and enforceable deadline to complete the redeployment of combat troops from Iraq. Rather than picking up votes, by removing the deadline to get our troops out of Iraq you have lost this Democrat's vote."

This is a depressing day because the Democrats are squandering their mandate, and there is precious little leadership on this side of the aisle apart from Sen. Dodd and former Sen. Edwards. They'll scream about not having the votes when they don't need more than 40 votes in the Senate to block any funding bill. But they don't have the cajones to lead, still afraid of what the President might say about them like a bunch of 9 year-olds. Meanwhile, the President has to withdraw 30,000 troops next year and now he'll get credit for bringing our boys home when it was inevitable anyway. Meanwhile more die every month.

This puts the Presidential election in severe jeopardy. I don't get the sense that our frontrunners are ready or willing to lead. (Edwards and Dodd excepted)

Labels: , , , , ,


I'm With Freddie

So the big news really is that Freddie Thompson (yes, his legal name is Freddie) is running for President. That's big news? He's been essentially running since the spring, and only hasn't announced officially so he could keep his "Law & Order" episodes on the air and reel in those residual checks. But I guess this is a big deal. Well, OK, let's give him some scrutiny.

First of all, give it up for the NYT for actually putting this in the article, albeit in the middle:

It is perhaps no coincidence that several of Mr. Thompson’s main communications strategists also worked on Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign, similarly re-introducing an actor as a serious political contender. The talk-show setting in Los Angeles allowed Mr. Thompson to capitalize on his pop-cultural appeal as an actor and simultaneously reinforce his contention that he is a Washington outsider — although he lives in a suburb of the capital and worked extensively there as a lobbyist when not in the Senate.

However, I think it is a coincidence that Thompson's communication people are from Arnold's campaign, since they were about the only people left he hadn't fired. By the way, this is the team, Todd Harris and Karen Hanretty, that engineered the lowlight of Arnold's political career, the 2005 special election where he got spanked and almost lost his re-election as a result, before firing them and hiring Matthew Dowd and Steve Schmidt to get him back on track.

So just what is supposed to be the conservative appeal here? The idea is that he will appeal to real conservatives. Well, let's see, he's worked as an abortion rights lobbyist, he has a trophy wife who's seven years younger than his oldest kid (the age range between his kids is 46 years), his record on immigration doesn't satisfy the crazies, and he's a Hollywood actor. Is it because he talks all slow and folksy-like, is that supposed to be the appeal?

Well, so does George Bush. And he seems to have caught the Administration's I don't recall disease.

"I don't even remember the details of his plan."

-- Fred Thompson, quoted by Bloomberg, when asked how his ideas for overhauling the social security system differ from those of President Bush.

In case you were wondering, his position is not different at all on Social Security privatization, he's all for it, just like he's for private health accounts as the only reform to health care. In fact, he has drab and unimaginative conservative proposals for just about everything.

So what's the excitement all about? Is it because you've seen him at the movies? Is it because he was a "hero of Watergate," even though he was actually a mole for the Nixon White House? Is it because he's lazy, just like us? Or is it really because Freddie is a cipher, something dissastisfied Republicans can project all their hopes of a decent 2008 candidate onto? I think that's pretty much it. And like with most actors, the view through a lens from far away is a whole lot more attractive than the view up close.

UPDATE: That's gonna leave a mark:

Huckabee's criticism of Thompson got more severe from there, discussing Thompson's Washington experience. "I've never been a Washington lobbyist," said. "I've never lobbied for an abortion rights group."

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


The Real Rudy

Somebody had to make this movie (and actually, somebody did; it's called Giuliani Time), and Brave New Films has released their first installment of The Real Rudy, detailing Giuliani's record as mayor and not the hype. Combined with the International Association of Fire Fighters video "Urban Legend," the truth about Rudy is out there. For those in the reality-based community, it's not the social issues or the stance on guns that spells Giuliani's downfall: it's his judgment.

This one's about the decision to put the emergency operations center in the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center, the only area where terrorists had attacked in New York City. Due to this enormous error, emergency communications were severed and fire fighters never got the message to evacuate the soon-to-fall South Tower. It's a devastating piece.

Labels: , , , ,


It's My Prerogative

This time yesterday it looked like WideStance would not go gently into that good night, and in the morning his colleagues were not happy about being held hostage. Then the Senate Ethics Committee allowed the case against Craig to go forward, and then (this is fantasy) someone got a hold of the Senator from Idaho in a dark room and showed him some pictures from public bathrooms around the nation and...

Sen. Larry Craig has all but dropped any notion of trying to complete his term, and is focused on helping Idaho send a new senator to Washington within a few weeks, his top spokesman said Thursday.

"The most likely scenario, by far, is that by October there will be a new senator from Idaho," Craig spokesman Dan Whiting told the Associated Press.

The only circumstances in which Craig might try to complete his term, Whiting said, would require the overturning by Sept. 30 of his conviction for disorderly conduct in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport, as well as Senate GOP leaders' agreement to restore Craig's committee leaderships posts taken away this week.

Those scenarios are unlikely, Whiting said.

World's fastest trial balloon...

How many times have you seen a conviction overturned within 25 days?

Labels: , ,



Chris Bowers has done an excellent job compiling the Presidentials' plans for Iraq, most of which include residual forces of fairly large numbers. While everybody's making noise about no funding without a timeline (good for Edwards and Dodd), boldly and correctly resisting the calls of wavering Democrats who want to drop the withdrawal timeline, the actual question of what will remain AFTER the withdrawal is being elided. Bowers found what amounts to Clinton's post-withdrawal plan, from a think tank closely allied with her, which calls for 60,000 troops remaining in Iraq for three or four years, followed by a year's worth of withdrawal. And the other Democrats in the field have pretty similar plans:

The tasks that Obama lists for American troops to conduct in Iraq are virtually identical to those listed in the Clinton legislation for redeployment, the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and those proposed by the Center for a New American Security. It appears that both Clinton and Obama would keep 40,000 troops in Iraq for a while if they become President, plus between 6,000 and 20,000 advisors and an always unspecified numbers of private contractors. I actually feel very confident in these numbers at this point, given how they have repeatedly appeared in several sources.

Dodd's plan is also virtually identical to the one proposed by Obama and Clinton... Conditionally, Biden supports exactly the same plan, although he estimates 20,000 to 60,000, rather than 40,000 to 60,000... Edwards goes further than Biden, Clinton, Dodd and Obama, citing the protection of American personnel and the American embassy as the only task he would have American troops conduct in Iraq under his presidency... Of course, Bill Richardson goes even further, citing only the protection embassy green zone as a task for American troops to continue to perform in Iraq. Kucinich appears to have a similar plan.

So, here is the quick breakdown for what the Democratic candidates would have American troops do in Iraq if they become President, and how many troops it would require to perform those missions:

No residual forces outside of embassy protection: Richardson, Kucinich. This would require 5,000 to 10,000 troops, though possibly less, depending on the size of the embassy each would decide to maintain in Iraq.

Residual forces for embassy and personnel protection: Edwards. This would require between 5,000 and 10,000 troops for the embassy, and probably a similar number outside of the embassy. So, 10,000 to 20,000 seems likely.

Residual forces for counter-terrorism, Iraqi troop training, personnel protection and embassy protection: Clinton, Dodd and Obama, plus Biden conditionally. This will require roughly 40,000 troops, plus the number of advisors for the Iraqi military, plus an indeterminate amount of mercenaries private contractors. The Biden plan might require as few as 20,000, depending on the circumstances.

The part that makes you sick about all of this is how it's hidden from public view. It took Bowers a while to dig all this up. If you poll people on what they think the leading candidates would do in Iraq, they think all Democrats would do exactly the same thing: "Start withdrawing troops within the next three months, with all troops out within nine months from now." This is completely untrue in the case of Clinton and Obama, and kinda/sorta untrue in the case of Edwards, though he's closer to that goal. It's the great unmentionable of this campaign. Only Bill Richardson has tried to stake out some ground on this.

The top Democratic candidates are hiding the truth. They want to use the slogan of "end the war" to get votes, but they actually aren't all that interested in ending the war. Or rather, from their perspective, they want to end it "responsibly," which is code for prolonging it several years into the future at which point the same thing happens that would occur if we got out tomorrow.

The lack of voter education on presidential candidate plans for Iraq is both breathtaking and frightening. Unless something changes in the next few months, voters will be in for a rude awakening when they find out that virtually every candidate for President with a real chance of becoming the nominee of either major party, save possibly Edwards and definitely save Richardson, are way more hawkish on Iraq than they are believed to be. Democratic voters might be in for a particularly rude awakening in the general election, or at least some point in 2009, when they find out the candidate they nominated is actually in favor of keeping a substantial number of troops in Iraq.

If Democratic voters become aware of candidate plans for Iraq, and still end up nominating someone who favors a substantial residual force to train Iraqi security and conduct counter-terrorism, I can live with that, even if I will work against it. However, if Democrats end up nominating a candidate who supports a substantial residual forces plan while thinking that candidate will actually withdraw virtually all troops in a short period of time, then basically our party will have been hoodwinked in a manner not unlike the way the war was first sold to the American public back in 2002 and 2003. While that will be incredibly depressing and infuriating, it also won’t be that much of a huge surprise. After all, most of the Democratic foreign policy elite behind the substantial residual forces plan actually helped sell the Iraq war before it began. The obfuscation used to continue American military involvement in Iraq never ceases, and it seems the players involved never change.

This is the essential problem. The Democratic foreign policy bench is woefully thin and incredibly corrupted by warhawks who are part of the problem. I have been giving Obama a second look because of his relationship with Samantha Power, who represents fresh foreign policy thinking. But on Iraq, there's no daylight between Obama and Clinton. Only Edwards has staked out somewhat new territory here, and yet who actually knows that?

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Lies, Damn Lies, And Iraq Statistics

Never underestimate the power of one committed group deciding to lie in unison. Our current media structure can't really handle it well. Karen DeYoung makes a valiant attempt here, by calling this "drop in violence" in Iraq what it is - a lie.

Others who have looked at the full range of U.S. government statistics on violence, however, accuse the military of cherry-picking positive indicators and caution that the numbers -- most of which are classified -- are often confusing and contradictory. "Let's just say that there are several different sources within the administration on violence, and those sources do not agree," Comptroller General David Walker told Congress on Tuesday in releasing a new Government Accountability Office report on Iraq [...]

The intelligence community has its own problems with military calculations. Intelligence analysts computing aggregate levels of violence against civilians for the NIE puzzled over how the military designated attacks as combat, sectarian or criminal, according to one senior intelligence official in Washington. "If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian," the official said. "If it went through the front, it's criminal."

"Depending on which numbers you pick," he said, "you get a different outcome." Analysts found "trend lines . . . going in different directions" compared with previous years, when numbers in different categories varied widely but trended in the same direction. "It began to look like spaghetti."

I think that was probably the point, no? Try to confuse the hell out of everybody with methodologies so that the authoritative military voice couldn't be questioned without some deeper scrutiny. And the public doesn't do scrutiny too well.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda in Iraq is a figment.

After a strike, the military rushes to point the finger at al-Qaeda, even when the actual evidence remains hazy and an alternative explanation—raw hatred between local Sunnis and Shiites—might fit the circumstances just as well. The press blasts such dubious conclusions back to American citizens and policy makers in Washington, and the incidents get tallied and quantified in official reports, cited by the military in briefings in Baghdad. The White House then takes the reports and crafts sound bites depicting AQI as the number one threat to peace and stability in Iraq. (In July, for instance, at Charleston Air Force Base, the president gave a speech about Iraq that mentioned al-Qaeda ninety-five times.)

By now, many in Washington have learned to discount the president's rhetorical excesses when it comes to the war. But even some of his harshest critics take at face value the estimates provided by the military about AQI's presence. Politicians of both parties point to such figures when forming their positions on the war. All of the top three Democratic presidential candidates have argued for keeping some American forces in Iraq or the region, citing among other reasons the continued threat from al-Qaeda.

But what if official military estimates about the size and impact of al-Qaeda in Iraq are simply wrong? Indeed, interviews with numerous military and intelligence analysts, both inside and outside of government, suggest that the number of strikes the group has directed represent only a fraction of what official estimates claim. Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.

Remember those few weeks this summer when absolutely everything that happened in Iraq was due to Al Qaeda? That served its purpose; to put this notion of Al Qaeda in Iraq in our collective lizard brains, making it easier for us to work with authoritarian tribal leaders who were killing Americans not so long ago, and who have shown no interest in joining with a rapidly deteriorating central government.

This is where we're actually at with regard to Iraq. More Americans are dying this year, which stands to reason since more of them are there. But the reason for their deployment was to provide security needed for a political resolution, and not only is there no real security, the Iraqi government is on the verge of collapse, according to the Congressional Research Service. We're arming both sides of an ongoing civil war, pissing everyone off by building what looks like permanent power bases where Saddam's palaces used to stand, and creating complete dependence on the US military by allowing a dysfunctional Iraqi security force (they should be disbanded, says the Jones Report) to perpetuate.

Given this reality, Congressional Democrats want to compromise and give Republicans a chance to set a toothless war policy.

Makes sense, don't it?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Don't Sleep On Ron Paul

I didn't see the Republican debate last night, but from press reports and liveblogs I got a sense of it: they all want to kill the terrists, cut taxes, and make nervous jokes about Fred Thompson to mask their fear. But there seems to be one thing that a lot of people are missing. Yes, Mike Huckabee got to defend the honor of Republicans while condemning the war, which is likely to play well, and certainly was more brave than Mitt Romney, who called the war a mess in a town hall meeting and last night declared the escalation to be "apparently working."

But Ron Paul is TAILOR MADE for a state like New Hampshire, whose motto should actually be "Get Off My Lawn" as much as "Live Free Or Die." This is why he actually got the biggest cheers of the night no matter what the newspapers reported. It's a state full of cranks and "principled tax evaders" like the couple that's been holed up in their compound for months, a couple that Paul may or may not have compared to Gandhi. It's a state that has turned sharply against the Iraq debacle, a state which has always been moderate enough on social issues to boo proposals to ban gay marriage like they did last night, and a state whose independent voters can participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary. Things like this happen in New Hampshire.

Before Paul became an antiwar hero, his support consisted largely of libertarian activists--people like Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party's 2004 presidential nominee. Badnarik refuses to get a driver's license (even though, he conceded to me, "I have my car operational") and warns against anyone who might try to force a smallpox or anthrax vaccination on him. ("You bring the syringe, I'll bring my .45, and we'll see who makes a bigger hole.") Badnarik recounts rallying support for Paul at a recent conference of the Free State Project, a group of libertarians who have relocated to New Hampshire in the hope of concentrating their power and more or less taking over the state government. "I asked how many people would drive without a license and not pay income taxes, and three-quarters raised their hands," Badnarik recalls. "I'm choking up. I've got my heart in my throat. And I said, 'We need to do something--and Ron Paul's campaign is the shining star. We need to contribute the full two thousand dollars now. Tell all your friends.'"

In the first quarter of 2007, Paul raised more money in New Hampshire than McCain or Giuliani.

So Ron Paul will have a lot of support in the first-in-the-nation primary. And when I say a lot, I mean 10%, which is stratospheric for a fringe candidate who happens to be looney tunes. And that will completely change the complexion of that race. I don't think it'll die when he doesn't register in Iowa, either, because he'll have the money to compete in the Live Free or Die state. I don't know who will suffer from Paul's stand in New Hampshire, but it's an element of the Republican race that shouldn't be denied.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Here Are Some Good Ads

This should whet everyone's appetite for the campaign ad wars to come. First from the DCCC, mocking the "moral high ground" that Republicans find themselves on these days:

Next, from Public Campaign Action Fund, recounting a sordid story where Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rewarded a former staffer-turned-lobbyist who raised $120,000 for his campaign, by providing his firm with an $8.3 million dollar contract to provide iPods for Afghani tribesmen. That was not devised in a Hollywood writer's room.

Progressive organizations big and small are hitting McConnell, and I think the suits in Washington see it as payback for Republicans going after then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle. His re-elect numbers have been dropping, and there's an opponent who's won a statewide race, Attorney General Greg Stumbo. This should be a fun one next year.

Labels: , , ,


China Comes To The Global Warming Table

There's a shadow play that's happening Down Under, as the APEC summit struggles for a consensus on climate change. See, the US won't sign anything unless all emitters are included, and China wants to have it both ways, as a developing nation and a world power, and Indonesia doesn't want to do anything because they're holding the follow-up summit to the Kyoto Treaty in their country next year. There are a lot of competing interests all interested in dodging the issue and blaming somebody else.

President George W. Bush raised climate change with Hu during a bilateral in Sydney and said he would support a strong climate statement by the 21 leaders and urged Hu to do the same.

"They concluded the importance of addressing this pressing problem cooperatively and responsibly ... and in a manner that did not stall or stunt economic growth," said Dan Price, Bush's deputy national security adviser for international economic development.

Bush indicated the U.S. would support a "strong leaders' declaration on climate change" and encouraged the Chinese leader to do likewise, as well as consider eliminating tariffs on environmental and clean energy technologies, said Price.

In a rare news conference after meeting Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Hu said he preferred the U.N. framework for handling climate change proposals.

"We very much hope that this Sydney Declaration will give full expression to the position that the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change would remain the main channel for international efforts to tackle climate change," Hu said.

The declaration should also reflect U.N. principles of "common but differentiated responsibilities" towards lowering harmful greenhouse gas emissions, he added.

Malaysia Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz said APEC should not be dealing with emission targets at all. "It should be the U.N. and the appropriate forums," she told Malaysian journalists.

Meanwhile, the GAO is angered by this go-slow approach because it's the exact opposite of what's needed.

The federal government needs to do a better job addressing how climate change is transforming the hundreds of millions of acres under its watch, according to a Government Accountability Office report to be released today.

Looking at agencies ranging from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, GAO officials gathered reports of dramatic changes across the nearly 30 percent of U.S. land that lies under federal control. Since 1850, the glaciers in Glacier National Park have declined from 150 to 26; climate-triggered coral bleaching in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is eroding the area's tourist appeal.

For the most part, the men and women overseeing these 600 million acres of land and 150,000 square miles of protected waters have little direction on how to respond to these shifts, according to the report. It states that these managers "have limited guidance about whether or how to address climate change and therefore, are uncertain about what action, if any, they should take. . . . Without such guidance, their ability to address climate change and effectively manage resources is constrained."

We can't take care of our own national monuments and we dare try to tell the world how to handle it. Whatever happened to setting an example by deed?

Labels: , , , , ,