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

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday Night YouTube

I'm headed out for the evening, so continuing our nightly YouTube series, this Mike Gravel spot makes me incredibly happy.

The best part is that it's the first in a series.

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A More Selective Human

There seems to be a certain parallel between Mike Huckabee's desire to quarantine AIDS patients in 1992, and his desire to quarantine immigrants today.

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee proposes to stop illegal immigration with a Mexico border fence, more border patrol agents and forcing illegal immigrants to go home before they can return.

His new immigration plan does not address education, health care or other services provided to illegal immigrants that strain communities in early-voting Iowa and other places where people are angry about the issue.

The proposal includes giving undocumented workers 120 days to leave the country or risk deportation. I'm pretty sure they could be deported NOW if you so chose. The point is that his plan is a call to round up millions of people working in the US economy. Just like he planned to round up all AIDS patients because they were part of a gay plague. There's really little difference here, and though as governor he rhetorically treated immigrants as human beings, in this context the plan makes a lot of sense. He apparently took the plan from an anti-immigration activist's article in the National Review. This follows him picking up the Fair Tax proposal after reading the book.

"I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn't believe anything."

-David St. Hubbins

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The 18-Minute Torture Gap: Dems Complicit?

As more information spills out about the CIA's destruction of torture tapes sometime in 2005, it is becoming clear that many people, in Congress, in the executive branch, and in the Justice Department had knowledge of the tapes, and urged the Agency not to destroy them, advice they never took.

White House and Justice Department officials, along with senior members of Congress, advised the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 against a plan to destroy hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda, government officials said Friday.

The chief of the agency’s clandestine service nevertheless ordered their destruction in November 2005, taking the step without notifying even the C.I.A.’s own top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, who was angry at the decision, the officials said [...]

Top C.I.A. officials had decided in 2003 to preserve the tapes in response to warnings from White House lawyers and lawmakers that destroying the tapes would be unwise, in part because it could carry legal risks, the government officials said.

But the government officials said that Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief of the agency’s clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations, had reversed that decision in November 2005, at a time when Congress and the courts were inquiring deeply into the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program. Mr. Rodriguez could not be reached Friday for comment.

As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in 2003, Porter J. Goss, then a Republican congressman from Florida, was among Congressional leaders who warned the C.I.A. against destroying the tapes, the former intelligence officials said. Mr. Goss became C.I.A. director in 2004 and was serving in the post when the tapes were destroyed, but was not informed in advance about Mr. Rodriguez’s decision, the former officials said.

Who the hell is running the CIA when physical evidence can be destroyed without the Director's knowledge?

But this not only is a dark stain on the CIA, and the Administration for authorizing the techniques that are now being covered up. It is a stain on those Democrats who were informed about the existence of these tapes and said nothing in public, meekly sending letters asking for their preservation. This is a persistent pattern among squishes like Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman.

Jay Rockefeller is constantly learning of legally dubious (at best) CIA intelligence activities, and then saying nothing about them publicly until they are leaked to the press, at which point he expresses outrage and incredulity -- but reveals nothing. Really, isn't it about time the Democrats select an effective Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one who will treat this scandal with the seriousness it deserves, and who will shed much-needed light on the CIA program of torture, cruel treatment and obstruction of evidence? ...

Jane Harman also knew of the intention to destroy the tapes, and she at least "urged" the CIA in writing not to do it. (Where were her colleagues?) But when she found out the CIA had destroyed the tapes, where was Harman's press conference? Where were the congressional hearings?

Rockefeller, indeed, is trying to change his story and claim that he didn't know about the tapes until a couple days ago. Of course, Intelligence Committee members are in a tough spot, forbidden from revealing state secrets while charged with official oversight. However, they are not powerless:

There are countless mechanisms available to a U.S. Senator or Representative to do something about illegal behavior they discover. Anyone -- not just someone in such a position -- has mechanisms available to them under whistleblower laws to intiate proceedings to investigate illegal government conduct. Why couldn't they have done that?

They could have also communicated much more aggressively within the government that unless the illegal behavior stopped, they would invoke those mechanisms. Why couldn't they have done that?

They could also commence closed door investigations to exert oversight over these illegal intelligence activities. The whole point of the SECRET SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEES is to enable Congress to exercise oversight even over the most secretive governmental conduct, precisely in order to prevent illegal behavior of this sort.

After the fact, Democrats are calling for an inquiry into the tapes' destruction. But they should have been adjudicating this all year long, on a bipartisan basis, inside the government, to provide a check on this potential obstruction of justice. That they didn't reflects the fact that they are disinterested in rocking the boat and doing their jobs.

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No Blood For Oil

I think I've figured out why the saber-rattling on Iran has continued apace, despite the NIE: they dropped the dollar.

Iran, the second-biggest producer of crude oil in the Middle East, has "completely halted'' all oil transactions in dollars, the state-run ISNA news agency said, citing Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari.

Nozari said the U.S. currency was no longer reliable as the dollar continues to depreciate. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has set up a team to study pricing oil in another currency, the INSA cited Nozari as saying. The measure is designed to prevent further losses in revenue to oil exporters, ISNA reported.

The war machine often mobilizes to defend our economic interests.

UPDATE: A very troubling consequence of the Bush years is how it has crumbled America's faith in their government. To wit:

Just 18% of American voters believe that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 66% disagree and say Iran has not stopped its nuclear weapons program. Twenty-one percent (21%) of men believe Iran has stopped the weapons development along with 16% of women.

The survey was conducted following release of a government report saying that Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003.

The Administration politicized the intel on Iraq, and when it was revealed to be bogus, blamed the intelligence agencies. The learned behavior of the public is to question intelligence. That now works to the warhawks' advantage.

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Studios Sabotage Talks With WGA

You figured that when the AMPTP hired Democratic turncoats Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani, they were signaling a long and drawn-out strike. Sure enough, the studios walked out of negotiations after delivering an ultimatum to the writers and dropping a press release filled with lies.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers today at 2:35 PM put a so-called revised proposal, including a list of demands, on the bargaining table to flesh out its New Economic Partnership for the Writers Guild Of America.

I'm told even agent Bryan Lourd, considered an objective source, considered that the AMPTP proposal bettered the studios' and networks' terms on the table for New Media. It included a new and improved, albeit slightly, streaming deal for theatricals.

But the AMPTP issued demands that the writers take Reality TV and animation jurisdiction off the table as well as remove the no-strike clause in their contract. (The latter means that, if the writers settle with the AMPTP, then they must cross picket lines if the Screen Actors Guild goes on strike.) [...]

At 6:05 PM, Counter knocked on the hotel room door trying to find out some indication from Dave Young what the WGA was going to do, especially on the reality/animation jurisdiction and no-strike issues. Counter brought Bryan Lourd along "as a witness," I'm told. "David Young answered and was visibly angry."

Insiders say that Bryan Lourd counseled the WGA negotiators that "this was their maximum moment of leverage" and urged them to try to "trust" the AMPTP. But they told Lourd they couldn't at this point. "It was an ultimatum. They said unless we take everything off the table except streaming and ESTs that they're not going to negotiate anymore and basically they're leaving until we'll remove all those other things," a WGA board member explained. "We're not accepting an ultimatum. We're here to bargain and to talk."

Counter then said to Young, "In that case, we are leaving. When you send us a letter confirming you will take all these items off the table, we will reschedule negotiations with you.” The WGA hotel room door slammed shut [...]

What's amazing about all of the above is that the AMPTP followed almost to the letter a script which they themselves conceived and wrote earlier in the week. I had reported Thursday night that the reps for the studios and networks planned to break off today's talks. This morning, the WGA issued a sternly worded statement calling out at the AMPTP for the plan to stop the negotiation just as it was getting go. Indeed, just as I had predicted, the AMPTP had a news release at the ready tonight announcing why it was leaving the talks. So did IATSE local boss Tom Short, indicating he was working in concert with the AMPTP tonight to blame the WGA.

One thing for sure: no one can have any doubt this time around who walked out on these negotiations and who stayed in. Not even professional spin doctors can change that.

I have to say I have a lot more respect for the WGA right now. They truly worked to further my interests and grow their union by increasing jurisdiction. If they don't, we'll be right back here in three years, with the studios putting more and more non-union product on the air, and I think everyone recognizes that. In addition, the AMPTP hasn't budged off their stingy deal on Internet streaming, nor to they feel any constraint to do so. They mean to break the union, and they've brought in a pair of union-busters to do so.

Here's an example of some AMPTP lying:

-- They demand full control over reality television and animation. In other words, they want us to make membership in their union mandatory to work in this industry - even though thousands of people in reality and animation have already chosen not to join the WGA.

Reality workers haven't had that choice. Thousands, in fact, HAVE signed WGA cards, present company included. There have been lawsuits. There was even a strike action. Nobody's chosen not to join the WGA. They've been stymied.

Now the AMPTP and Lehane are trying a sucker punch. They are going to open negotiations with the Director's Guild, a compliant union, to try and establish a baseline for WGA negotiations. No biggie; they're allowed to deal with whoever they want. But the core issues of the writers continue. The studios want to wall off the Internet the way they practically walled off DVD sales. They want all the profits for themselves. And they want an outlet of nonunion programming as a club to beat union members.

Fine. Then pencils down.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Late Night You Tube

Barack O'Bollywood.

P.S. I have been neglecting the Democratic race, I promise to get something up over the weekend.

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Democrats Strike Deal For Bush To Serve Six More Years In Exchange For $100 In Free Capitol Hill Plumbing

Because it's the holidays, and because the Democrats don't want to be locked out of the best parties and get nasty looks and whispers that they're a bunch of Gloomy Guses, they've decided to enthusiastically fund endless war.

Congressional leaders are assembling a $500 billion package to try to resolve an impasse by providing President Bush with unfettered money for the Iraq war in exchange for new spending on popular domestic programs.

If acceptable to lawmakers and the White House, the package to be considered in the House as early as Tuesday would avert the threat of a shutdown of federal agencies and end a dispute that has lasted months and pitted Congressional Democrats against Mr. Bush and his Republican allies.

George Bush played these saps like a fox. He threatened to veto any spending bills out of hand for months. He knew that the Democrats would negotiate with themselves and never have the spine to stand up to him on Iraq, but they might want to grab some concessions out of the deal, like they did with the minimum wage in May. So instead of having that duplicate, he tied war funding to the impasse over spending bills that he created. And the Democratic dupes went right along with it.

The decision to free some money for the war without a deadline or goal for withdrawal would represent a major concession by Democrats. They had earlier said they would not send Mr. Bush any more war money this year unless he accepted a change in Iraq policy.

Under the Democratic plan described by senior aides, the Iraq money would be voted on separately, to allow lawmakers opposed to the war to add money for health care, education, home heating programs, border enforcement and other initiatives.

Let's get this straight. The Democrats aren't "adding" anything. The party in power gets to set the budget priorities. These are the ones that they voted through the respective Appropriations Committees. And in fact, the Democrats are giving concessions on THAT budget, too!

As envisioned, the package would exceed the president’s overall spending limit by $11 billion, down from the $22 billion that Democrats had initially sought. The amount could increase with emergency spending sought by the administration, as well as lawmakers.

So George Bush is essentially getting something he wanted in exchange for something he wanted. And this comes on a week when he was found to have lied to attempt to get us into the same kind of disastrous war in Iran.

This is truly unbelievable, and all the more so because they're not even getting something like SCHIP back in return. The votes have already been made on SCHIP that will help Democratic challengers. They could easily stick that in there, and ENDA, and AMT relief with offsets, and the kitchen sink. If you're going to capitulate on war funding, at least get SOMETHING in return.

Of course, I wouldn't fund it at all, but unlike Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel I want to end the war.

And this is priceless:

Democrats said they might still try to add some less stringent conditions to the war spending. And one noted that though they had been forced to relent, it would be the first time the president had not been given the full amount he sought.

If my gag headline at the top were true, this paragraph would read "One Democrat noted that, though they had been forced to relent, the President would only be getting one and a half more terms, not the two he had sought."

What these clowns fail to understand is that they don't have to be forced into anything. The public wants out of Iraq, and they're not going to BLAME the party who accomplishes it, they're going to PRAISE them. It's unconscionable to allow this failed occupation to go on, so Democratic cowards can get a reduced budget passed and George Bush won't call them names anymore. And, the real reason...

Democrats are hopeful that he would accept the developing plan. They would like to wind up the spending fight and break for the holidays, with House leaders still striving to finish their work by the end of next week.

Home! They want to go home! Do you know how many parties they're missing? Most of them haven't even bought their trees yet!

Well, congratulations, Democrats, look what you've bought:

UPDATE: The WaPo has a similar story, showing radical Republicans wanting to extract even more of a price from the spineless Dems, and Roy Blunt laying it out:

Blunt said yesterday that Democrats will give in on war funding, with or without additional money for domestic programs. "There's no reason to make a bad bargain," he said. "The president holds all the cards."

Sad but true.

UPDATE II: We're going to spend another $70 billion so we can watch insurgents ping-pong their way through the country in a game of Whack-A-Mole.

Al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents who have been crowded out of Baghdad and Iraq's western province of Anbar have moved north, the U.S. military said.

Many of the fighters have converged in and around the city of Mosul in Nineveh province, including Abu Ayyub-al Masri, the leader of al -Qaida in Iraq, a predominantly Iraqi group U.S. intelligence claims has foreign leadership, a New York Times correspondent reported Thursday.

"We have seen some migration of al-Qaida," said Col. Stephen Twitty, the U.S. commander of forces in the area, said. "What has driven that are the operations down south."

I thought AQI was defeated? General Petraeus told me so!

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They Asked For It

Mitch McConnell, Lead Obstructor for the Republicans in the Senate, caught a break this morning when his top two potential rivals for his seat next November, State Auditor Crit Luallen and Attorney General Greg Stumbo, appeared to decline to compete in the Senate race. Emboldened, apparently, by this good fortune, McConnell decided to tar every American soldier who ever served in combat by claiming that those who volunteer for the military... deserve to die? Get what's coming to them? Ought to be thankful to be sent into necessary wars with a target on their backs and no proper body armor? What the hell is the point he's trying to make here?

“Unfortunately, most of our friends on the other isle are having a hard time admitting things are getting better; some days I almost think the critics of this war don't want us to win. Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers."

Andrew Horne, a Kentucky Iraq war vet who may yet challenge McConnell for the Senate seat, responded over at VetVoice:

"I would say that Mitch McConnell owes every member of our service and the families of the fallen an apology, but no apology from him can take back the venom he has spewed at our troops, this time. For anyone to believe that casualties of war are somehow more acceptable because they were not draftees is disgusting. For the Republican leader in the United States Senate to say that is beyond repugnant."

"This is just Mitch McConnell once again demonstrating that he has no idea of - and has no interest in learning - what our troops have sacrificed. Whether it is filibustering a bill that would give proper time at home for our overextended troops, or voting against increased funds to take care of veterans who have come home, Mitch McConnell has shown nothing more than complete ignorance about our military and those who serve our nation in it."

"To my fellow service members and veterans, let me apologize on behalf of Kentucky for Senator McConnell's putrid comments. He most certainly does not represent our views, nor the high regard in which we hold you and your families."

We learned this week that military families, who've been burdened with practically the entire cost of this war, favor Democrats in large numbers. Perhaps the insensitivity of "leaders" like Mitch McConnell, who regards men and women in uniform as nothing more than meat to be ground into sausage, is the reason why.

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Questioning The Facts That Don't Fit The Dementia

The neocons call for Team B:

Senate Republicans are planning to call for a congressional commission to investigate the conclusions of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran as well as the specific intelligence that went into it, according to congressional sources.

The move is the first official challenge, but it comes amid growing backlash from conservatives and neoconservatives unhappy about the assessment that Iran halted a clandestine nuclear weapons program four years ago. It reflects how quickly the NIE has become politicized, with critics even going after the analysts who wrote it, and shows a split among Republicans.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said he plans to introduce legislation next week to establish a commission modeled on a congressionally mandated group that probed a disputed 1995 intelligence estimate on the emerging missile threat to the United States over the next 15 years.

If Democrats dare to allow this politicization of the intelligence community, I really have to throw up my hands. But I don't think they will. I must admit to being amused by this freak-out on the right, where conflicting opinions MUST be wrong and must be challenged. If the NIE says Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapons program, the NIE must be doctored. Contrary opinions don't exist.

The truth is that the nation's intelligence professionals understand that Iran retains key capabilities to restart a nuclear program, and may do so. But the NIE reflects an assessment of the facts as they are, not as neocon warmongers wish them to be.

What's breathtaking is how the Administration is truly acting as if nothing happened. They're still moving forward on a missile defense program that is now simply ludicrous, as nobody has the capability to launch missiles that the program would purport to shoot down (even though it can't). They're still seeking support for sanctions against the Islamic Republic, and they're actually receiving that support.

"Iran continues to represent a threat," Mrs (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel said during a joint news conference with Mr Sarkozy in Paris.

She did not specifically express support for a new UN sanctions resolution against Iran, which the US is calling for.

"We and our partners would like to continue with the UN process," Mrs Merkel said.

"I think we and our partners need to continue to seek dialogue with Iran," she said.

Mr (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy said he agreed with his German counterpart that Iran still posed a danger, and that he supported the push for more sanctions.

"Notwithstanding the latest elements, everyone is fully conscious of the fact that there is a will of the Iranian leaders to obtain nuclear weapons.

"What made Iran move up to now, it was sanctions and firmness," he said.

Look, the neocons have been wrong about every foreign policy challenge of the last 50 years. They make things up whenever the facts don't fit their politics. The great danger is that the people in power act based on those self-created facts. Frankly, let's see some hearings on the Iran NIE. I'd love to know why the report was delayed for about a year. I'd love to know why the President first said that he was informed about changes in the intelligence on Iran in August, but he wasn't told what the changes were. I'd love to know if this speculation is true.

There are, oversimplifying, two threads going around, one that the 'Iran doesn't have an active program' preliminary finding was circulating in the Administration in late '06 (Hersh, etc), and the other that Bush was told about the upcoming finding in August by McConnell, after which he changed his characterization so as not to be so obviously lying about the nature of the threat (all the while still intentionally leaving a grossly misleading impression).

The two threads can be reconciled. The basis for the findings had, indeed, been circulating beginning in late 2006, and ever since. One has to assume that Cheney and his forces marshaled full fire on those findings, and successfully suppressed them, preventing their release. That effort, however, eventually failed, probably due to intelligence and Pentagon unwillingness to take the fall for another war.

What happened in early August was not that Bush learned of the findings, but that McConnell informed him that the NIE containing the findings would be released. Those on the side of releasing them (which had to have included Gates) simply won the battle, and either faced down Cheney, threatened to resign if they lost or utilized whatever other strategy required. It was not the discovery of the underlying truth of the findings that caused the change in rhetoric (becoming more vague on Iran's nuclear status, but more bellicose on Iran generally). It was the realization that the NIE would become public.

Bang that gavel. Thanks, Sen. Ensign.

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He Does Less Before 9AM Than Most People Do All Day

Unca Freddie Thompson's schedule, less than 30 days before the Iowa caucuses, submitted without comment:

This morning, according to the e-mailed schedule from Thompson's press office, Fred would begin his campaign day bright and early at 8:15 a.m. EST with a telephone interview with Andy Peterson on WMT in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He'd follow that 25 minutes later with an interview on AM Tampa Bay on WFLA and then at 10:40 he'd be interviewed on WHO in Des Moines.

By 11 a.m., he would be done with that.

And that's it for the campaign day.

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Write The Studios

I've just added an advertisement on the side column. Firedoglake, whose new redesign is excellent, has set up a call to action where you can email the studios who put together your favorite shows and ask them to negotiate in good faith with the writers and give them the proper share of the profits which they deserve.

Here's a copy of the letter:

I cannot tell you how many hours of pleasure the creators and writers of this show have brought into our lives. It is for that reason that I write to ask you to treat those writers fairly.

The writers are asking for a fair share of internet and new media revenues--revenues you yourselves trumpet loudly. Robert Iger talks about "a billion five in digital." Sumner Redstone says, "Viacom will double its revenues this year from digital." Rupert Murdoch says the digital era holds "golden opportunities." Disney's annual report says, "The popularity of the player adds to the Company's considerable success in monetizing its biggest hits." Les Moonves says that when five million people watch CSI on the internet, "We will get paid for it regardless... We're going to get paid no matter where you get it from." (He projected a two billion dollar profit from that show alone.) Yet the Alliance of Television and Motion Picture Producers (AMPTP), negotiating for your company, says that the internet and new media markets are still too iffy, too conjectural to give writers a fair piece of. Worse, it claims the right to stream entire movies and whole television episodes, with advertising, for "promotional" purposes, without compensating the writers for this re-use. These positions do not make common sense. (When studios and networks doesn't get paid, it's called "piracy." When the studios and networks don't pay writers, it's called "promotion.")

Please tell the AMPTP to negotiate fairly so that the television season--and my favorite show--can resume. I love watching it, but I love the idea of treating its creators and writers fairly even more.

The studios' recent hiring of Chris Lehane shows that they're looking for a protracted fight. This could be over tomorrow if the studios would simply operate in good faith and reserve a small sliver of their astronomical profits for the talented men and women who actually create the programming. And that goes for any piece of programming with a script - which includes animation, reality, nonfiction, anything.

You can write the studios here.

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Arnold Trying To Cover Up His Complicity In The Prison Crisis

This could get very interesting. The federal judge charged with ruling on the California prison crisis is asking for internal documents that may prove that Governor Schwarzenegger's administration knew about inmate overcrowding and that their suggested remedies would not possibly work.

On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Moulds gave the plaintiffs' lawyers the go-ahead to start digging. Following an hourlong hearing in Sacramento, Moulds denied the state's claims that the documents represented privileged information, and he gave the administration until noon today to turn them over to the plaintiffs.

"We think there are documents in there that they really don't want to give us and that will really be at the heart of the case," said Lori Rifkin, the San Francisco lawyer who successfully argued for the document release. "We think the documents will show that the overcrowding crisis is something the state can't handle."

Schwarzenegger spokesman Bill Maile said after Moulds' decision that the administration would appeal the decision to the three-judge court that was empaneled last summer to consider whether to cap the state's prison population. Such an order could result in early releases for tens of thousands of prisoners.

Wow. This could be an absolute bombshell. So far the three-judge panel impaneled to examine the prison crisis has been willing to approve plaintiff requests. We all know that it's impossible to build out of this crisis. Mental health and drug treatment programs as well as sentencing reform, addressing the root causes of the problem, are the only way. Now we could find out that the Governor believed the same thing. It's almost a referendum on the prison crisis itself.

(Not to mention the glee of seeing Schwarzenegger try to claim executive privilege.)

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Peggy Noonan Admits Republican Voters Are Idiots

My friends, we are witnessing, in slow motion, the crackup of the fragile Republican coalition. And it's delightful to watch.

The two main groups in conflict are the economic royalists, the conservatives motivated by greed and keeping their dominance over the poor, and the theocrats, motivated by making state-sponsored religion the law of the land, removing gays from the country and banning abortion. There's always been an uneasy truce between these two camps, but the 2008 election is putting them in conflict. And the best example of this is Peggy Noonan's column in today's Wall Street Journal.

Noonan's subject was Mitt Romney's highly offensive speech on (how there's not enough) faith in America. It was very clear that, far from being a speech about the separation of church and state, it was about how you better have a church, so long as Mitt Romney wants to be the state. Today the Romney campaign refused to acknowledge whether or not atheists have a place in America. And Peggy Noonan speculates why Romney, who represents more of the economic royalist wing, felt the need to insult people who don't share this feeling of faith. By the way, Noonan liked the speech because she essentially likes Romney, but she lets her slip show at the end:

There was one significant mistake in the speech. I do not know why Romney did not include nonbelievers in his moving portrait of the great American family. We were founded by believing Christians, but soon enough Jeremiah Johnson, and the old proud agnostic mountain men, and the village atheist, and the Brahmin doubter, were there, and they too are part of us, part of this wonderful thing we have. Why did Mr. Romney not do the obvious thing and include them? My guess: It would have been reported, and some idiots would have seen it and been offended that this Romney character likes to laud atheists. And he would have lost the idiot vote.

My feeling is we've bowed too far to the idiots. This is true in politics, journalism, and just about everything else. (emphasis mine)

La Noonan couldn't have made it more clear than that; theocrats and so-called "values voters" are idiots, whose intolerance doesn't fit with the model of America. Of course, if any Democrat said this, there would be pure outrage. But that Noonan said it reflects the strain between the theocons and the econocons.

We can also see this in the attacks on Mike Huckabee that we've seen this week. They were incredibly coordinated and transparent. All of a sudden, every traditional media outlet ran with the Wayne Dumond story. When's the last time you saw any giant news story triggered by something in the Huffington Post? It doesn't happen. This was clearly opposition research run amok, as suddenly the royalist wing saw Huckabee, a charismatic theocon, as a threat. We're now seeing the Club for Growth drop ads in Iowa and South Carolina. These ads pretty much are the manifestation of this breakdown in the Republican coalition.

We've heard talk about a third-party candidate from the theocon wing entering the race if Rudy Giuliani or someone insufficient to their beliefs were named the nominee. We're seeing how the other side of this battle fights back; through insults and negative ads. Economic royalists think they own the GOP. They aren't taking kindly to the theocon wing thinking they deserve anything more than lip service.

This is going to be a full-fledged crack-up, and it's about time. It's great news as we move forward toward a more progressive nation.

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Bad Days In The Congress

I thought that the very progressive energy bill's defeat in the Senate was actually a positive thing until I saw the roll call. To break the Republican filibuster, we need 60 votes. We got 53, with five not voting. I assumed that the Presidentials were all out on the road, with 4 Democratic votes out there. But actually, 5 Republicans didn't vote for this, preferring to opt out of a tough vote and shield themselves from criticism.

There were 5 Republicans that voted with the majority of Democrats on this bill (Smith, Snowe, Collins, Coleman, Thune), along with Joe Lieberman. This suggests that we have a decent shot at getting a less progressive energy bill passed if certain provisions are stripped out of it. Grist suggests what will go.

Republican leaders in the Senate now hope to strip out two key provisions of the bill: a Renewable Portfolio Standard mandating that utilities produce 15 percent of their energy from renewables by 2020, and a provision that would cut tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies. President Bush wants those components out of the bill too, and has said he would veto the bill if they're not removed. If the Senate does change the bill, it will need to return to the House for another vote, where advocates for clean energy won't be happy with a watered-down version.

That's depressing, but the fuel economy standards would be a step forward, and hopefully they can at least salvage the renewable energy standard, which would be a major job creator, and would make America a leader in renewable energy.

Unfortunately, this is about the best thing that the Congress has managed the last couple days. Senate leaders nixed the hate crimes bill because it included gay and transgender Americans. The House passed - by a vote of 409 to 2 - a bill that would fine anyone with an open WiFi connection up to $300,000 if illegal images are accessed through their service. And the Senate, in one of the most irresponsible votes I've ever seen, voted to repeal the AMT without using Paygo rules, essentially removing $50 billion in revenue without replacing it, pushing even more of a burden on to the next generation.

It's pretty depressing when the BEST thing the Congress has done lately is lose a filibuster fight by only 7 votes.

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Soon We're Going To Learn Rudy Gave Judi NYPD Security In The Womb

Looks like Rudy has some more explaining to do.

Judith Nathan got taxpayer-funded chauffeur services from the NYPD earlier than previously disclosed - even before her affair with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani was revealed, witnesses and sources tell the Daily News.

"It went on for months before the affair was public," said Lee Degenstein, 52, a retired Smith Barney vice president who formerly lived at 200 E. 94th St., Nathan's old building.

"It was going on longer than anybody thought," added Degenstein, who, along with others in the neighborhood, said they often saw Nathan hopping into unmarked NYPD cars in early 2000, before the affair was revealed that May.

When pressed by The News Thursday, aides to the Republican presidential hopeful conceded that Nathan got police protection "sporadically" before December 2000 - the previously acknowledged beginning of her taxpayer-funded detail.

The reason the Giuliani camp has given that Judi was under security detail was because of unspecified threats in 2000. The story includes allegations that she was getting escorted as early as 1999.

After a week in which Giuliani's shady business dealings were on the front page - including his lobbying for Ethiopian dissidents considered a threat to antiterrorism efforts, and having close ties to a businessman named in the criminal indictment of Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona. There was enough heat this week that Giuliani stepped down from his investment firm rather than disclose his role or the firm's clients. But know "Sex on the City" is rearing its ugly head again, and apparently going back years longer than what was first disclosed.

This is not the best prelude to a visit to Meet The Press.

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All Coming To A Head

The revelation that the CIA destroyed tapes of interrogations has sparked howls of outrage on Capitol Hill, from both Democrats and Republicans. But there's been a corollary, too. This case lays bare the pitfalls of the unitary executive theory, to break the law with impunity. In a stellar speech, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse revealed some secret legal opinions made by the Office of Legal Counsel, which he declassified, to make extremely clear the Constitutional crisis we face with this Presidency.

1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II.

3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.

That this is all coming out now in time for the FISA debate in the Senate is a positive development. Far from a display of candor, this White House, under cover of secrecy, has been operating like a banana republic. They rewrite their own laws, they force subordinates to follow their dictates, and they ignore differing opinions, even when they have the force of law. Now a more confrontational print media is catching up to their lies, and they're getting caught.

There's more about Whitehouse's speech at Emptywheel's new digs here.

But here's the other key point (and one of the reasons I like the way Whitehouse works). He specifically asked Michael Mukasey about EOs before Mukasey was approved.

2. Do you believe that the President may act contrary to a valid executive order? In the event he does, need he amend the executive order or provide any notice that he is acting contrary to the executive order?

ANSWER: Executive orders reflect the directives of the President. Should an executive order apply to the President and he determines that the order should be modified, the appropriate course would be for him to issue a new order or to amend the prior order.

So Mukasey, unaware that Bush had set aside all common sense, gave the common sense, legally sound answer. "Of course the President can't violate his own EOs! He would need to change them first!"

And now the AG is on record as thinking this whole state of affairs stinks.

The lawlessness of the Bush Administration was well-known before. Now it's out in the open. Lying into war, destroying evidence of torture, believing that the President has the ability to act as a King; this is how we've lived for the past seven years.

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Friday Random Ten

OK, walking out of my car, I dropped my iPod touch on the ground and cracked the glass. I'm still in shock. But it does still work, and it gives it that weathered look. I'm so indie! And I was able to get these ten songs out:

Masterplan - My Morning Jacket
Let Down - Radiohead
Down On The Street - Rage Against The Machine
Walk On The Wild Side (remix) - Lou Reed (I don't know who made this remix, it includes new lyrics and a reference to Iraq so it's recent)
Pimple Zoo - Guided By Voices
Low Expectations - Edwyn Collins
Making Plans For Nigel - Nouvelle Vague
Addiction - Kanye West
Sting Me - The Black Crowes
Fanatic Heart - Black 47

Bonus Track:

Slow Hands - Interpol

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CA-04: Tom Hudson In Our Corner

Thank the Lord for small favors. Tom Hudson, the head of the Placer County Republican Party, is squarely on the side of John Doolittle in his re-election fight. With any luck, Doolittle will perform to form in this supposed Republican poll Hudson is waving around.

The poll shows that John Doolittle will easily defeat any and all primary opponents. The vicious attacks and false allegations against him have failed and he has a lock on the Republican nomination. The Associate Press leaked this information in its article, but did not give any specific details. Here are the facts: Doolittle not only wins the Republican primary election, but he would completely destroy anyone who foolishly ran against him. He would defeat Eric Egland by nearly 50 points and Ted Gaines by 30 points. Not one of the candidates who have been mentioned as possibly challenging Doolittle would even come close to being able to defeat him in the Republican primary next June.

I will move to Placer County and register Republican to proudly cast my vote for John Doolittle. He's not only the best opportunity for a Charlie Brown victory and a flipped seat in November, but it would be poetic justice for Brown to vanquish Doolittle. Not only that, but Hudson admits that Doolittle is behind Brown in a general election match-up. We knew that; a Republican poll released a few months ago showed Charlie up by 20 points.

Thank you, Tom Hudson. Don't cut Doolittle loose!

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Admit the Progress!

Again, I post these just to remind people that security in a war zone is transitory; only political settlements will bring stability.

A female suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed 15 people in a town northeast of Baghdad on Friday, Iraqi police said.

Another 24 people were also wounded in the blast in the town of Muqdadiya, 55 miles northeast of Baghdad, in volatile Diyala province.

The idea that there's still a "volatile province" must come as news to those who only consume Republican spin, and think that Iraq has nothing but tennis and masquerade balls by now.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Late Night You Tube

Foot tapping is the new "airplane food" joke.

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Destruction Terror And Mayhem

I love a news story that allows me to use an LL Cool J lyric. But this is very serious stuff.

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about its secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terrorism suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. The tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that video showing harsh interrogation methods could expose agency officials to legal risks, several officials said.

In a statement to employees on Thursday, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, said that the decision to destroy the tapes was made “within the C.I.A.” and that they were destroyed to protect the safety of undercover officers and because they no longer had intelligence value.

The destruction of the tapes raises questions about whether agency officials withheld information from Congress, the courts and the Sept. 11 commission about aspects of the program.

Ya think?

It's interesting to note when this is coming up. A Senate committee has passed legislation that would limit CIA interrogators to all techniques not approved in the Army Field Manual. This would ban several of the procedures that would presumably have been on those tapes. Of course, they're ALREADY illegal, banned by international law, the Geneva Conventions, and a host of federal statutes. The tapes are essentially evidence of a crime, and worse, evidence of the results of the Cheney Administration's extreme theories of executive power. We are seeing these theories being heavily scrutinized in national and international courts. In London and American prosecutor stated that the US has the right to kidnap British citizens on foreign soil, and not just terror suspects but those accused of garden variety crimes. In the Supreme Court this week arguments were heard on behalf of dozens of detainees at Guantanamo, who have still not been given the right to habeas corpus and the ability to challenge their detentions in court. Here's the story of one of those unfortunate detainees, destined to a life in prison until the German chancellor stepped in.

Just months after U.S. Army troops whisked a German man from Pakistan to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002, his American captors concluded that he was not a terrorist.

"USA considers Murat Kurnaz's innocence to be proven," a German intelligence officer wrote that year in a memo to his colleagues. "He is to be released in approximately six to eight weeks."

But the 19-year-old student was not freed. Instead, over the next four years, two U.S. military tribunals that were responsible for determining whether Guantanamo Bay detainees were enemy fighters declared him a dangerous al-Qaeda ally who should remain in prison.

The disparity between the tribunal's judgments and the intelligence community's consensus view that Kurnaz is innocent is detailed in newly released military and court documents that track his fate. His attorneys, who sued the Pentagon to gain access to the documents, say that they reflect policies that result in mistreatment of the hundreds of foreigners who have been locked up for years at the controversial prison.

These are all part of the same dysfunction. Kangaroo courts. Extraordinary rendition. Detention without charges. Torture. Indefinite imprisonment. And now, as these practices become gradually discredited, the evidence is buried. And we don't even know who authorized it. From the NY Times report:

Two former intelligence officials said that Porter J. Goss, the director of the agency at the time, was not told that the tapes would be destroyed and was angered to learn that they had been.

Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Goss declined to comment on the matter.

In his statement, General Hayden said leaders of Congressional oversight committees had been fully briefed about the existence of the tapes and told in advance of the decision to destroy them. But the two top members of the House Intelligence Committee in 2005 said Thursday that they had not been notified in advance of the decision to destroy the tapes.

You can try to blot out the evidence, but blotting out the stain on the American character will be impossible. Of everything we've lost over the past seven years, this is by far the worst.

There ought to be jail cells ready and waiting for every one of these guys on January 20, 2009.

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Schilling for McCain In New Hampshire

Certainly no campaign is immune to the celebrity factor, but at least John McCain, unlike Mike Huckabee, went out and found one relevant to this millennium to work the crowd out in New Hampshire.

So as McCain sees glimmers of hope for a resurgence in New Hampshire, there are few better symbols of inspiration for him to call on than Curt Schilling, a key member of the Boston Red Sox's unprecedented 2004 comeback from a 3-0 hole against the New York Yankees.

Schilling, who knows McCain from his days playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, joined him at a prep school here last night to praise the Republican senator before a packed auditorium. Endorsements carry only so much weight in politics, and ones by sports figures probably even less than others, but the Red Sox brand is not a bad one for a New Hampshire candidate to be associated with these days, and at the very least, Schilling's presence probably drew an extra hundred or two residents to see McCain -- most of them even over voting age.

Of course, McCain is about to reach his own personal 86-year drought without reaching the White House, so having a Red Sox pitcher join him on that quest seems apt.

This was my favorite comment on Schilling's blog post endorsing McCain.

Why does everybody kiss up to this guy as far as his political intelligence goes? All he knows how to do is throw a baseball. He isn’t always good at that.

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Liberal Media

The wide range of opinion on today's Washington Post editorial page:

John Bolton, Michael Gerson, Robert Novak, George Will.

Thanks for playing, Fred Hiatt.

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Critical Mass On Bush's Demonstrable Lies

The acknowledgment that Mr. Bush was indeed briefed that Iran's nuclear program may have been suspended back in August, yet he continued the saber-rattling for months thereafter, is starting to provoke a blistering reaction in the media. And today we've learned that Fourthbranch had the intel for two weeks and, if you believe the White House, didn't mention it to his boss:

In the end, American intelligence officials rejected that theory, though they were challenged to defend that conclusion in a meeting two weeks ago in the White House situation room, in which the notes and deliberations were described to the most senior members of President Bush’s national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

“It was a pretty vivid exchange,” said one participant in the conversation.

And I still think the press should be asking: if Dick had seen--and twisted the arms of--this intelligence two weeks ago, then why didn't he even tell Bush about it? Or did he?

Actually, surprisingly, they are asking that today. And they're wondering about the timeline, essentially what did the President know and when did he know it. In a seminal piece, Dan Froomkin details how you can pinpoint when Bush was told to change his rhetoric subtly enough to react to the new information.

But a close examination of his word choice over the past year suggests that he learned something around August that got him to stop making claims that were apparently no longer supported by American intelligence.

Instead of directly condemning Iranian leaders for pursuing nuclear weapons, he started more vaguely accusing them of seeking the knowledge necessary to make such a weapon.

Even as he did that, however, he and the vice president accelerated their rhetorical efforts to persuade the public that the nuclear threat posed by Iran was grave and urgent. Bush went so far in late August and October as to warn of the potential for a nuclear holocaust.

Indeed, a careful parsing of Bush's words indicates that, while not saying anything that could later prove to be demonstrably false, Bush left his listeners with what he likely knew was a fundamentally false impression. And he did so in the pursuit of a more muscular and possibly even military approach to a Middle Eastern country.

It's an oddly familiar pattern of deception.

You can dive into the piece for the details.

The White House is really in a bind now. Without the lesson of Iraq, and the hyping of intelligence, the cherry-picking of data, the entire m.o. laid out to the world, perhaps the nation's radar wouldn't be at attention. But nobody believes this President anymore. Nobody gives him the benefit of the doubt. And that's simply because he doesn't deserve it. He and his minions clearly knew about additional information on Iran's nuclear program at a time when they were amping up the rhetoric in order to put the country on a path to yet another war. It's a familiar and dastardly script.

P.S. See Keith Olbermann's special comment, it breaks this all down with laser-like perceptiveness.

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Like A Lead Balloon

How'd y'all like that Mitt Romney speech.

I continue to be amazed by the stupidity of our media. Romney said for days that this wouldn't be a speech about Mormonism, that it would be about "faith in America," and would basically inform the evangelicals that he wouldn't take their Bibles away while still allowing them to expand their religious intolerance in the public square. And yet, after the speech, everyone is dumbfounded that he didn't mention Mormonism. Huh?

The speech had the phrase "freedom requires religion" in it. Yet people are still comparing it to JFK's "no religious test for public office/separation of church and state" bill. Yet the key question is this:

The question now is, has the media invested so much in insisting that this was indeed what the speech was going to be about that they won't be able to admit he ducked the issue entirely? Or is it just easier to say he did what he set out to do, because that story is already written?

And let's be clear that the result of the media spin may have a direct impact on who becomes the Republican nominee.

UPDATE: It looks like the media spin is favorable. They're predictably ignoring the most offensive parts:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

In other words, there's a separation between church and state - but you'd better have a church, as long as I'm the state!

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I'm Not A Puppet! Oh Wait, My Strings Are Being Pulled

Arlen Specter got all bent out of shape for Harry Reid calling Republican Senators "puppets" for George Bush. Then he went out today and played the puppet role well.

A Senate Judiciary Committee vote on contempt resolutions against Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten were postponed following an objection by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Under Judiciary Committe rules, the vote will be postponed for one week [...]

Specter, who asked Leahy for a chance to revise the draft resoltions, warned that the whole matter could end in federal court, which is not something he wants to occur.

"It continues to be my hope that this matter could be resolved without litigation," Specter said, although he added that he would back Leahy's effort to enforce the committee's subpoenas.

Then Specter walked out and voted to filibuster a bill that would repeal the alternative minimum tax, which is increasingly hitting the middle class. Despite Democratic fiscal responsibility, seeking to actually offset the loss of revenue that would come from repealing the AMT, Bush puppets wouldn't stand for it.

Arlen, if you want to stop being called a puppet, prove it through your actions, don't whine about it.

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Smacking Hand Against Head

Our leader:

Harried homeowners seeking mortgage relief from a new Bush administration hotline Thursday had to contend with a bit of temporary misdirection from the president himself.

As he announced his plan to ease the mortgage crisis for consumers, President Bush accidentally gave out the wrong phone number for the new “Hope Now Hotline” set up by his administration.

Anyone who dialed 1-800-995-HOPE did not reach the mortgage hotline but instead contacted the Freedom Christian Academy — a Texas-based group that provides Christian education home schooling material.

Convenient that his mistake re-routed callers to a faith-based education company, no?

UPDATE: Hilarious:

(By the way, this "help" for mortgage borrowers is not much help at all. Anyone who's already fallen behind on their mortgages is ineligible. The fact that Bush blew the phone number is nothing if not symbolic.)

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Dirty Trick Flatlines

This thing is done.

The initiative to change how California's Electoral College votes are awarded in the race for the White House will not appear on the June statewide ballot, according to campaign officials.

In a brief statement e-mailed to reporters this afternoon, the California Counts political team said they are now shooting for the November ballot after being unable to gather enough signatures in time for this week's drop-dead June deadline.

"Due to the tight calendar we are operating under and the challenge of raising money and gathering signatures during the Holiday season," says the statement, "we understand that submitting signatures and having them counted in time to make the June ballot, is no longer a realistic goal."

It will get slaughtered if it makes the November ballot. The whole point of the Dirty Trick was to ready it for June, a low-turnout election with a lot of other Republican initiatives up for grabs. In November, there will be a Presidential race and an expected high turnout. I'd actually sign a petition to get it on the ballot in November. I'd LOVE to give a reason for progressives and Democrats to get out to the polls and energetic to beat back a Republican dirty trick. It would be a great help down-ballot, especially in those close Congressional races.

Fantastic. And you have to wonder whether a ballot measure that managed to only gather 500,000 signatures in a state of 38 million people is all that popular, anyway. The Dirty Tricksters would be better off cutting their losses and packing it in. I sincerely hope they don't.

UPDATE: Here's the full story in the Sacramento Bee.

California Counts has until Feb. 4 to submit their signatures. Gilliard's statement said his group had collected more than 500,000 signatures; political strategists believe they need about 700,000 to ensure they have enough valid ones to meet a state threshold.

"CalCounts will continue with its fundraising and signature drive because we believe Californians deserve the right to vote on this important initiative to reform the Electoral College and to make our state count again in presidential elections," Gilliard said in the statement.


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The Power of Headlines

I just heard Jack Cafferty discussing a new LA Times poll about immigration, highlighting the headline of the story, that 1 in 3 Americans would deny social services to illegal immigrants. I wonder if anyone will tell him that 33% is a pretty low number, from a political standpoint. The headline of the Times story belies the result of the poll, which is that the majority of Americans favor comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship for those working in this country already. And what Cafferty also doesn't realize is that 60% is a bigger number than 33%.

For all the demagoguery and recent panic in Democratic circles, it turns out according to a new LAT/Bloomberg poll that the basic principles of comprehensive reform are still popular: "About 60% of Democrats, Republicans and independents support 'a path to citizenship by registering, paying a fine, getting fingerprinted, and learning English, among other requirements.'" As Marc Ambinder points out this is the thing that opponents call "amnesty" so even if "amnesty" is unpopular, the thing that "amnesty" denotes is popular.

The fact that only a small fringe of Americans would deny social services to immigrants, after years of demagoguery, is remarkable. The Lou Dobbs fringe of this country is loud, but not a majority. This poll proves it. But because the headline was written in such a way to obscure this fact, lazy broadcast media figures characterized the poll in the opposite way. This is the result of a media that takes its cues so much from the first five words of a print story instead of the whole story.

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A Bold Energy Bill Passes The House

The more I read about Barbara Boxer's shepherding of a flawed global warming bill through the Environment Committee, which includes billions in payouts to pollution-producing industries like coal, the more I want to hide in a sink. But I do have to be proud of this development from the House of Representatives.

The House approved the first increase in federal automobile fuel efficiency requirements in three decades Thursday as part of an energy bill that also repeals billions of dollars in oil company tax breaks and encourages the use of renewable fuels.

The bill, passed by a vote of 235-181, faces a certain filibuster in the Senate and a veto threat from the White House.

I'd rather be on the right side of this issue and prove that, under a new President, we can stand up to special interests and take bold steps to solve lasting problems. Plus, because the Senate will likely strip elements out of the bill, it's great that the House is putting up a stake as bold as possible. It's a good negotiating position.

UPDATE: By the way, Tom Friedman is ignorant. And considering that he's a well-respected media pundit, that's redundant. Not only has the House passed a bill that would strongly move America away from foreign oil, but all of the top Presidential candidates have positions that are even stronger.

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Axis Of Emanuel

This latest "strategy" on Iraq being floated by the Emanuel-Hoyer wing of the party is absolutely flabbergasting. They're trying to take the (correct) argument that the only progress meaningful in Iraq is political progress, and then twist it into an unworkable plan to tie political progress to war funding.

Now, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) is examining a new approach, releasing war funds in small increments, with further installments tied to specific performance measures for Iraq's politicians. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) also is searching for a new approach and has been briefed on the idea of more explicitly tying funds to political progress.

The new thrust has divided Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, some of whom say they will never approve additional funding for the Iraq war without troop-withdrawal timelines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) remains skeptical, House Democratic leadership sources said, and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has vacillated between seeking compromise with Republicans and holding firmly to troop-withdrawal language.

"We've been through all that," Reid said yesterday of the new approach, suggesting the war-funding issue will wait until January. "I just think we need to figure out some way to fund a government and move on to next year."

OK, I know hacks like Emanuel rely on the ignorance of the public, but does he really expect us to be THAT ignorant?

In the spring, when the Democrats finally capitulated and provided war funding to the President, they held out the consolation that the Administration would be forced to show benchmarks of political progress in Iraq. The progress was nonexistent, and that was reflected in the benchmarks. The response to this from the Emanuel wing is, "OK, this time we're REALLY going to tie funding to political benchmarks!" And when they fail, they'll send out funding but they'll really, REALLY have to be tied to political benchmarks. As long as these guys are still buying the false argument that funding the war is the same as supporting the troops, they're NEVER going to cut off funding for any reason. And so what the benchmarks say is completely immaterial, and it's immaterial whether or not they're met.

It's important to note that this awful strategy is spearheaded by (drum roll please) Michael O'Hanlon, who has a stake in getting Democrats to admit that there's great progress in Iraq because he's implicated in the decision to go to war in the first place. Emanuel is taking Iraq policy from someone who's only goal is to vindicate himself.

How about some straight talk, to coin a phrase? The troop surge is insufficient for saving Iraq, and may be working against the best interests of the country. The relative "security" in the country obscures the fact that it's still one of the worst civilian crises in the world, still capable of horrific violence like we saw yesterday, with four bombs killing 23. In cities where the additional forces cannot be deployed, there remains desolation and rubble, as citizens of Iraq wait nervously to see how this will play out. The tactics used most to tamp down violence, like curfews and bans on driving and blast walls and air bombings, are unsustainable in the long term. So are the troop numbers. Meanwhile, the ethnic separations are as much to account for the reductions in violence as anything, resulting in horrors like the elimination of the Iraqi Christian community. This is a fragile calm that isn't even all that calm, and is very subject to change.

Officials attribute the relative calm to a huge increase in the number of Sunni Arab rebels who have turned their guns on jihadists instead of American troops; a six-month halt to military action by the militia of a top Shiite leader, Moktada al-Sadr; and the increased number of American troops on the streets here.

They stress that all of these changes can be reversed, and on relatively short notice. The Americans have already started to reduce troop levels and Mr. Sadr, who has only three months to go on his pledge, has issued increasingly bellicose pronouncements recently.

The Sunni insurgents who turned against the jihadists are now expecting to be rewarded with government jobs. Yet, so far, barely 5 percent of the 77,000 Sunni volunteers have been given jobs in the Iraqi security forces, and the bureaucratic wheels have moved excruciatingly slowly despite government pledges to bring more Sunnis in.

“We are in a holding pattern,” said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization. “The military solution has gained enough peace to last through the U.S. election, but we have a situation that is extremely fragile. None of the violent actors have either been defeated or prevailed, and the political roots of the conflict have not been addressed, much less resolved.”

Indeed, there are reports that insurgent groups may be reforming, waiting out a surge that they know will end (isn't that EXACTLY what George Bush said would happen, that if we set a timeline the insurgents would "wait us out"? If that was so, why would he authorize a surge he KNEW would have to end shortly, giving insurgents the opportunity to do just that?)

We know, then, that the security situation can only be sustained through a political solution. And on the political front, periodic Parliamentary boycotts and rampant corruption have brought efforts to a standstill, and there is no emphasis from the Administration to encourage reconciliation. There has been talk of the Iraqi government hiring civilian volunteers to police neighborhoods, but without any action to this point. Meanwhile the Turkish army has actually sent ground forces into Kurdistan over the last week, firing on rebel PKK terrorists and threatening a breakdown of stability in one of the few stable areas.

This is a chaotic environment. Yet the Emanuel wing wants to, in essence, take Iraq off the table by offering what amounts to no-strings-attached money far into the future for a continued occupation. They refuse to really tie funding to progress, and so we get these fig leaves. And the result is that the Administration doesn't take demands from the Congress seriously, and they refuse to do the hard diplomatic work of forging a political solution, which is the only hope for the holding pattern we now see not to morph into an explosion of violence. What's more, continued funding of the occupation makes the Iraqis dependent on the United States for their security, actually decreasing the hopes for political progress. What we have right now in Iraq are armed camps, many of them armed by the Americans, and the axis of Emanuel seek to arm and train them even more to eventually fight one another.

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Huckabee's Troubling Ignorance

The Wayne Dumond story has the Huckabee campaign in serious damage control mode. Still, this is a 10 year-old story that the Governor managed to overcome in Arkansas in two elections. I'm far more interested in the fallout of Huckabee's utter ignorance, not only on the Iran NIE, but on foreign policy altogether. The less-remarked-upon part of the deer in the headlights meeting with reporters was where he decides to just answer by saying something some dude on the street told him.

I don’t know where the intelligence is coming from that says they have suspended the program or how credible that is versus the view that they actually are expanding it. … And I’ve heard, the last two weeks, supposed reports that they are accelerating it and it could be having a reactor in a much shorter period of time than originally been thought.

As Juan Cole notes, this suggests that Huckabee doesn't know what a National Intelligence Estimate is. Also, he thinks the problem is Iran having a "reactor," when that would be for civilian energy purposes, which is not only fully legal under the Nonproliferation Treaty to which Iran is a signatory, but is the kind of nuclear power that is in Huckabee's own energy plan.

Sarah Posner adds:

His shoestring campaign, to my knowledge, doesn't have any foreign policy advisers, and Huckabee is more interested in reaching out to apocalyptic end-timers like Kenneth Copeland and Tim LaHaye, for whom the only sound Middle East policy is found in the Book of Revelation, or encrypted in various parts of the Old Testament, which many end-timers believe foretell Christ's birth, death, resurrection, and return.

We're coming up on eight years of someone who doesn't know a thing about foreign policy. Do we really need another four?

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Pass The Popcorn

Harry Reid:

“I am growing increasingly concerned about the White House’s inconsistent explanations of when the President was told about important new intelligence information regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. It appears the President and Vice President were briefed in August on this information, before both the President and Vice President began to ratchet up their increasingly-heated rhetoric on the threat of Iran.

“I urge the White House to fully and accurately explain what the President and Vice President knew and when they knew it, and why the Administration’s rhetoric was not adjusted when presented with new data this summer.

As I said earlier, the information that's starting to trickle out will be devastating. CNN is now reporting:

President Bush was told in August that Iran's nuclear weapons program "may be suspended," the White House said Wednesday, which seemingly contradicts the account of the meeting given by Bush Tuesday.

Adm. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told Bush the new information might cause intelligence officials to change their assessment of the Iranian program, but said analysts needed to review the new data before making a final judgment, White House press secretary Dana Perino said late Wednesday.

"Director McConnell said that the new information might cause the intelligence community to change its assessment of Iran's covert nuclear program, but the intelligence community was not prepared to draw any conclusions at that point in time, and it wouldn't be right to speculate until they had time to examine and analyze the new data," Perino said in a statement issued by the White House.

This doesn't come from a whistleblower, this is from Dana Perino's own statement.

All of the spinning by discredited figures like John Bolton (who actually argues today that the intelligence community is too focused on "the latest hot tidbit" of information - you mean like Curveball?) is a lot of noise. The truth is that Bush has been exposed as lying abut Iran just as he was lying about Iraq. His contention that the NIE proves that Iran had a nuclear program in 2003 means this:

What it really means is that faced with two neighbors in the spring of 2003 who both harbored nuclear ambitions, we invaded the country without an active WMD program while ignoring the one that did. I'm not suggesting we should have invaded Iran instead, but by the Administration's own reckoning, we should have.

It puts an exclamation point on the colossal folly of our Iraq adventure.

I didn't think we were headed for hearings on this, but now it's looking more and more that way. This was another attempt to lie us into war.

UPDATE: Haaretz is saying that the Israelis knew about the NIE for a month. It's not credible that the President didn't know about it, but a foreign entity did.

UPDATE II: Why isn't Joe Klein run out of America on a rail? He claims that the Administration has shown a tremendous bit of candor in releasing the report. Candor? They blocked it for a year and lied about when they knew about it!

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sanity Breaking Out All Over

This is encouraging:

House and Senate negotiators working on an intelligence bill have agreed to limit CIA interrogators to techniques approved by the military, which would effectively bar them from using such harsh methods as waterboarding, congressional aides said Wednesday.

Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees decided to include the ban while working out differences in their respective bills authorizing 2008 spending for intelligence programs, according to the aides, who spoke anonymously because the negotiations were private. Details of the bill are to be made public Thursday.

That will set the stage for another veto fight with President Bush, who last summer issued an executive ordered allowing the CIA to use "enhanced interrogation techniques" that go beyond what's allowed in the 2006 Army Field Manual.

Fight Bush. Make the Republicans cast a vote for torture. Expose them.

Why I say that sanity is breaking out all over is that I'm including this deal on freezing mortgage rates that actually might (gasp!) help some people.

The Bush administration has hammered out an agreement to freeze interest rates on certain subprime mortgages for five years to combat an escalating number of home foreclosures, congressional aides said Wednesday.

The aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details have not been released, said the five-year moratorium was a compromise between desires by banking regulators for a time frame of up to seven years and mortgage-industry arguments that the freeze should last only one or two years.

Another person familiar with the matter said the rate freeze would apply to borrowers with loans made from Jan. 1, 2005, through July 30 of this year with rates that are scheduled to rise between Jan. 1, 2008, and July 31, 2010.

"Fixing the reset period is an important action, and it's good that everyone now seems to be pushing in the same direction," said Michael Barr, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

It's a stopgap, but anything that allows some homeowners a little relief from predatory lending is a positive step.


A new agreement between the Pentagon and the State Department gives the military in Iraq more control over Blackwater Worldwide and other private security contractors.

The agreement was signed Wednesday at the Pentagon by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, whose department uses Blackwater to guard its diplomats. It spells out rules, standards and guidelines for the use of private security contractors.

The agreement also says contractors will be accountable for criminal acts under U.S. law. That partly clarifies what happens if a contractor breaks the law, but leaves the details to be worked out with Congress.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say we had a functioning government that responds to challenges.

UPDATE: It should be noted that the deal to freeze subprime rates should only effect about 12 precent of all borrowers in distress. That's better than 0%, but is insufficient to deal with the crisis. Atrios thinks it won't do a damn thing. I maybe jumped the gun.

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Everything You Want To Know About The Decayed CA Democratic Consultant Class

Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani just got hired by the AMPTP, the coalition of the movie studios and networks, to help their PR during the WGA strike.

Make. Me. Sick.

So we have two of the go-to consultants for the California Democratic Party - the ones doing the top-level opposition to the Dirty Tricks initiative, for example - representing management in a labor fight, and not just any management, but one which is completely dishonest, and has earned the enmity of the entire blogosphere and arguably the entire country thanks to the excellent grassroots and netroots efforts of the writers. They've responded to union demands by trying to roll back the writer's residuals. They've lied from Day One about how little money they make off of product on the Internet. And they've openly attempted union busting tactics to stop the WGA juggernaut.

This is the lot that Lehane and Fabiani (and Schwarzenegger/Bush/Cheney hack Steve Schmidt!) have thrown in with.

Well this oughta be fun. Because we're about to see a battle for hearts and minds between Democratic Party insiders and the creative talent of the writing community.

If it was a boxing match, it'd be called before the first punch is thrown.

UPDATE: The interesting thing, of course, is that this comes at a time when talks are finally getting substantive, particularly with respect to union jurisdiction over the Internet and reality TV. That's quite astonishing to me, as it appeared to be the first thing the WGA was ready to give up early in the strike. This takes the model of getting the smaller things done first, and saving the big items, like residuals for content streamed online, for later.

But bringing in the masters of disaster suggests a very long, drawn-out fight, at least over that element.

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The Latest Twist on FISA: A New "Compromise" That's Anything But

Yeah yeah, I know, Joe Klein is an idiot and a dishonest hack, and Time Magazine did its best to shield him from criticism, even rejecting numerous counterpoints from Democratic legislators who took issue with Klein's smears. This is all well-documented. Unfortunately, it's also irrelevant to the new heart of the matter on FISA. Arlen Specter is pushing a bullshit "compromise" that actually does pretty much the same thing as telecom amnesty would do.

And voila! your wishy-washy compromise (Specter's statement; the bill):

"The legislation substitutes the U.S. in place of any electronic communication service company which provided communications in connection with an intelligence activity that was authorized by the President between September 11, 2001, and January 17, 2007, and designed to detect or prevent a terrorist attack against the U.S." [...]

But here's the killer:

"nothing in the bill is designed to increase or diminish the ability of the Government to assert the States Secret privilege"

Given that much of BushCo's motivation to give the telecoms immunity relates to BushCo's own exposure for illegally wiretapping Americans, and given that the telecom lawsuits were so important because they provided an angle around State Secrets, this pretty much sinks the lawsuits anyway.

In other words, the government becomes the substitute defendant in all the telecom lawsuits, the government can still invoke state secrets, meaning the lawsuits are very likely to be squashed, and ipso facto, the telecoms get away with lawbreaking. And more important, we never learn the extent of the spying on Americans.

There's a clause in there that leaves the telecoms on the hook for any spying prior to 9/11, but for the most part, this would be the end of any opportunity to reveal the breadth and scope of the President's warrantless wiretapping program. If Bush decided it was legal, then the telecoms get away scot-free.

And this will be voted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee TOMORROW.

So, as much as I agree that Joe Klein is a dick, I wish Glenn Greenwald would step away from that for a moment and back to the destruction of the rule of law that's about to occur under all of our noses. Substitution is just a kinder and gentler word for retroactive immunity. It's the kind of "bipartisan compromise" that the Broders of the world will love, but which is actually a far-right effort to indemnify participants in the surveillance of Americans. This has broad consequences for the surveillance state and the future of civil liberties. Mr. Greenwald, your country needs you. Refocus.

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Now For A Trip Inside The Conservative Mind

Thers beat me to this one. So John Hawkins, a card-carrying member of the insaneosphere, wrote up a post called The 2nd Annual Worst Quotes From The Daily Kos. First of all, it's Daily Kos, not The Daily Kos, but that's immaterial. Here's the thrilling opening:

America's most influential blog is the Daily Kos. Democratic members of Congress post on the blog, Democratic presidential contenders cater to them, and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas is considered to be a mainstream figure amongst Democrats.

Keep all of that in mind as you read these excerpts and quotes, all of which come from the Daily Kos writers, not from commenters on the blog.

The "Daily Kos writers" as Hawkins defines them are anyone who writes a diary on the site. So, "the Daily Kos writers" are now 100,000 strong! MarKKKos must be getting a lot of that Soros money to pay all them off!!! Did I mention Hitler? Let me throw in Hitler!

What's more, Hawkins picked as the "worst post at Daily Kos" a satire written by well-known satirist A.Whitney Brown of Saturday Night Live fame.

Next up for Hawkins: "Worst literature ever: this guy wants Irishmen to eat their own children!"

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Senate Global Warming Bill Clears Panel

Good for Barbara Boxer, this was a nine-hour session, but Lieberman-Warner passed out of the Environment Commitee:

Democrats turned back repeated efforts by Republican senators to soften the economic impact of a global warming bill before advancing it out of a Senate committee on Wednesday.

It was the first bill calling for mandatory U.S. limits on so-called greenhouse gases to be taken up in Congress since global warming emerged as an environmental issue more than two decades ago. The bill was approved 11-8 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee [...]

The bill calls for the United States to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2050 from electric power plants, manufacturing and transportation.

It would create a "cap-and-trade" system whereby companies would have pollution allowances that they could sell if they went below the emission limits, or buy if they found they could not meet the requirements.

The trading is aimed at reducing the economic impact of putting limits on carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, the leading greenhouse gas.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the committee's chairwoman, called the legislation "historic."

They beat back about 150 Republican amendments to get this thing through. It's a small victory; obviously there's going to be a tremendous floor fight on this too. Not to mention the fact that the bill is a compromise measure, and some helpful amendments failed today as well.

At this point it's clearer than ever who supports the bill: Incrementalist environmental organizations on the one hand, and industries convinced that this is the friendliest bill they'll ever get on the other. Denialists may not be impacting the debate any longer, but neither, apparently, are deep greens, who today may have lost, in Bernie Sanders, the only voice in the Senate that's been speaking on their behalf.

I do want to single out the far better energy bill, which removes subsidies for oil companies, mandates a renewable energy standard for electricity, and increases fuel economy by 40%. That is a very good bill, better than the incremental approach of Lieberman-Warner. Overall, I do see the Democrats in Congress unifying on this issue and moving strongly to do something on global warming as soon as possible, not waiting for the next President. Combine that with Democrats largely ignoring Bush's petulant whining for more money for the Iraq debacle, even going on the offense over the matter, and then little gems like this:

Remember back in January when Dubya signed an executive order saying that "each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries"? The Democrats do:

"It is a single sentence, on page 147 of the annual appropriations bill funding the White House, listed under the title "Additional General Provisions.''

The 18-word clause eliminates the money to pay for political appointees in each federal agency whose jobs are to approve any new regulations. By cutting the money for the positions, Congress would effectively repeal President George W. Bush's 11-month old initiative (...)

An "omnibus'' bill represents one of Democrats' best chances to force policy changes because such measures typically run hundreds of pages, are subject to relatively little scrutiny by Congress and must be accepted or rejected by the administration in their entirety (...)

Democrats are also using a tool known as "limitation'' -- which prevents an agency from spending money on a specific activity -- to try to kill Bush's Jan. 18 executive order requiring proposed regulations to be vetted by appointees in each agency.

...Inserting the limitation in a must-pass budget bill, [Democratic Rep. Brad Miller] said, would cut off funding for Bush's order. "You can't use federal money, period,'' said Miller."

And you have to be impressed with the Democrats' willingness to challenge special interests and an intransigent President and Republican Party over the past couple weeks. We cannot and should not calcify our beliefs in the netroots and react to new information that conflicts with prevailing wisdom the way Republicans do: by denying the information exists. We should be able to adapt and understand when the Democrats engage in good behavior. On a variety of fronts, they are.

(the bad news will be the next couple posts)

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