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

Saturday, March 08, 2008

IL-14: Foster's!

It's Australian for "the Republicans are in deep shit," mate!

U.S. House - District 14 - Special General

Illinois - 564 of 568 Precincts Reporting - 99%

Name Party Votes Vote %
Foster, Bill Dem 50,947 52%
Oberweis, Jim GOP 46,125 48%

Put it this way: if I told you in the middle of 2006 that Democrats would control Tom DeLay AND Dennis Hastert's seats in Congress, would you believe me?

Now, Foster needs to be watched. He ran on ending the war in Iraq and stopping retroactive immunity for the telecoms. He needs to be held to those campaign promises. But clearly, this is a big victory for a new Democratic coalition that can win in formerly red districts and red states, that can capitalize on this uniquely horrible President and the trashed Republican brand. The NRCC spent a MILLION dollars, one out of every three dollars they have, to save this seat, and they came up short. Foster's win is a road map for how to win in these districts; run strong against the war and George Bush's lawbreaking, and offer a real contrast.

This is also a big victory for Barack Obama, who cut an ad that ran all week to help Foster. John McCain came in here to help Jim Oberweis and it didn't matter. Obama's reputation as a map changer is very enhanced by this. In a way it's bigger than his win in Wyoming today.

There are now DOZENS more seats in play than anybody thinks. This is going to throw the NRCC into total disarray. Tom Cole, their chairman, might have to resign. Money may dry up even more. This is awesome.

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I Heart Björk

She makes a full-throated call for Tibetan independence. In China.

i have been asked by many for a statement after dedicating my song "declare independence" to both kosovo and tibet ( amongst others ) on different occasions.

i would like to put importance on that i am not a politician, i am first and last a musician and as such i feel my duty to try to express the whole range of human emotions. the urge for declaring independence is just one of them but an important one that we all feel at some times in our lives. this song was written more with the personal in mind but the fact that it has translated to its broadest meaning, the struggle of a suppressed nation, gives me much pleasure .
i would like to wish all individuals and nations good luck in their battle for independence.

justice !

warmth , björk.

Shouting for independence in the middle of Shanghai. Wow, that's gleefully subversive.

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Viva W, Torture Si!

The Editors have King George W. dead to rights:

With WPE’s veto of a bill banning waterboarding, we now have a list of nine laws that our President thinks are so wrong-headed that he can’t simply ignore them like he usually does with laws he doesn’t like. The offending legislative initiatives, in order:

1. Funding for potentially life-saving research using stem cells.
2. Benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet, that we might someday leave that country.
3. Again, funding for potentially life-saving research.
4. Health insurance for children.
5. Water resources act: the one veto which it can be plausibly argued had something to do with fiscal discipline.
6. A bill that would ban the use of thimerosal, which crazy people think has something to do with autism. Sure, okay, whatever.
7. Again, health insurance for children.
8. A defense authorization bill pocket-vetoed at the last minute for somewhat puzzling reasons (Jack Daniels)
9. A ban on (some kinds of) torture

So to recap: health insurance for children: very bad. Potential cures for crippling disease: very bad. Spending on infrastructure: occasionally bad, but way to close the barn door after burning the building down. Mercury in vaccines: not a problem (which, to give him credit, is probably true). Torture: absolutely vital. Jack Daniels: awesome.

Of all of those, asserting the unilateral right to torture other human beings is perhaps the lowest, although denying kids health care and life-saving research are pretty far up there, too. It's like the Kentucky Derby of the most morally offensive act!

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McCain/Clinton '08

It's ridiculous for Hillary Clinton to continue to praise John McCain and the lifetime of experience he'll being to the White House, reinforcing that only Republicans can steer the national security ship, and I have no problem denouncing and rejecting that right-wing frame. It's an argument she'll lose in November, and then we'll be playing on Republican turf, trying to not talk about the war and emphasize kitchen-table issues, which has sunk us in numerous elections. Also, when the Republicans get through with articles like this, we'll be in big, big trouble.

In Clinton's case, she may well have exercised influence on foreign policy that is hard to document because she had a unique opportunity to offer private counsel to her husband, President Bill Clinton.

But while Hillary Clinton represented the U.S. on the world stage at important moments while she was first lady, there is scant evidence that she played a pivotal role in major foreign policy decisions or in managing global crises.

Pressed in a CNN interview this week for specific examples of foreign policy experience that has prepared her for an international crisis, Clinton claimed that she "helped to bring peace" to Northern Ireland and negotiated with Macedonia to open up its border to refugees from Kosovo. She also cited "standing up" to the Chinese government on women's rights and a one-day visit she made to Bosnia following the Dayton peace accords.

Earlier in the campaign, she and her husband claimed that she had advocated on behalf of a U.S. military intervention in Rwanda to stop the genocide there.

'Ancillary' to process

But her involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process was primarily to encourage activism among women's groups there, a contribution that the lead U.S. negotiator described as "helpful" but that an Irish historian who has written extensively about the conflict dismissed as "ancillary" to the peace process.

The Macedonian government opened its border to refugees the day before Clinton arrived to meet with government leaders. And her mission to Bosnia was a one-day visit in which she was accompanied by performers Sheryl Crow and Sinbad, as well as her daughter, Chelsea, according to the commanding general who hosted her.

Whatever her private conversations with the president may have been, key foreign policy officials say that a U.S. military intervention in Rwanda was never considered in the Clinton administration's policy deliberations. Despite lengthy memoirs by both Clintons and former Secretary of State and UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, any advice she gave on Rwanda had not been mentioned until her presidential campaign.

"In my review of the records, I didn't find anything to suggest that military intervention was put on the table in NSC [National Security Council] deliberations," said Gail Smith, a Clinton NSC official who did a review for the White House of the administration's handling of the Rwandan genocide. Smith is an Obama supporter.

As would ANYONE be who reviewed the Clinton Administration's Rwanda policy. They did NOTHING to help the Rwandan people. Nearly a million died while they dithered over whether or not to call it genocide in an infamous Dee Dee Meyers press conference. Bill Clinton has since apologized for his inaction but not in any meaningful way. If this were a hard-nosed campaign, the response to the 3AM ad would be a room full of Tutsi skulls. That was how that crisis was handled in 1994, and it was the ultimate "red phone" moment. Hillary can either associate herself with that horrific and stomach-turning policy to justify her national security credentials, or she can come clean with the fact that she was a first lady doing first lady things abroad. She did not win the peace in Northern Ireland. That's nutty.

And all of this would come out in a general election. She needs to stop this foolishness that there's a magic national security threshold that you have to cross to be President. If that were true practically everyone who has been President would be disqualified. In addition to her.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

More News On California Delegate Counts

The best thing in the world about CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen is that the best way to reach her is through her Facebook page. So she got back to me pretty quickly when I asked about this delegate situation. I was wrong about a couple things. The vote has not been certified, although I was led to believe that the counting had to stop within 30 days of the voting, which would have been March 4. In fact, that may be true; but the county registrars have a few days left to report their results. Also, it's up to the state Democratic Party to award the delegates, but that's based on the certified vote count in the respective districts. The upshot is that the counties have to report by March 11, and Secretary of State Bowen will certify the vote by March 15. Then the CDP will award delegates based on that.

None of this should obscure the fact that, based on the current numbers, the vote count is 203-167. And the zombie lie that it's different has spread to the pages of the Washington Post:

To be sure, Team Obama's small-state strategy may have been the candidate's only option against a far-better-known opponent, and it has worked. In the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests that Obama's campaign staff had hoped to merely survive, Obama and Clinton just about broke even. He won more delegates in Kansas and Idaho than she won in New Jersey. Her big win in California -- with its net gain of 41 delegates -- was negated by his wins in Georgia and Nebraska.

Except the net gain is currently 36 delegates, but what the hell do I know, I'm not some big-city editor.

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The Accidental 50-State Strategy

I've seen nothing intelligent about the potential outcome of tomorrow's Wyoming Democratic caucuses, but this is a really cool story about Wyoming's Democrats, and why this extended primary that will touch perhaps every state in the Union is a good thing for the party.

But this time, Democrats here say, it feels different. In contrast to all the dismally attended, demoralized Democratic presidential caucuses of past years, the outnumbered Democrats of Wyoming might actually have something to roar about.

Some Democrats here say they have never seen a political mood swing so overwhelming or so fast — from the status quo of irrelevance to full kiss-kiss campaign embrace, in nothing flat.

“I have never had a period of compressed political intensity like these last 48 hours,” Kathleen M. Karpan, a longtime Democratic activist and former Wyoming secretary of state, said Thursday. Ms. Karpan, who supports Mrs. Clinton, of New York, took a week off from her law practice to help with last minute details before Saturday.

Around the state, caucus locations are being moved from living rooms to meeting halls. Here in Laramie County, the most populous, Democrats reserved the Cheyenne Civic Center, which will seat up to 1,500 people for an event that in the past has drawn maybe 250.

“People are excited that it would actually matter,” said Margaret Whited, the party chairwoman in Park County in the state’s northwest corner. Ms. Whited said all the energy and attention swirling around the caucuses could help in the fight against her biggest enemy: apathy among Democrats who think their voices do not count.

This is particularly true considering that Gary Trauner almost won the at-large Congressional seat here in 2006, and is running again in an open seat in 2008. Suddenly thousands of Democrats who've never been to a party meeting, who've never volunteered or phone banked or stuffed envelopes, are getting a taste of that aspect of civic participation.

I'm sure it was not Howard Dean's goal to have a primary season drag on until June. But in a perverse way, it's an extension of his 50-state strategy. I've now been completely turned around on this and think it will pay plenty of dividends in November, especially downticket, barring some kind of disaster in Denver. But as long as the conclusion is amicable, and I think it still can be, we're going to be in good shape in this general election and for years to come. And the biggest proof of that is right here.

More people say they are Democrats than said so before voting started in this year's presidential contests while the number of Republicans has remained flat, a survey showed Thursday.

The Associated Press-Ipsos poll had additional bad news for the GOP: The number of independents and moderates satisfied with President Bush and the country's direction has dipped to record or near-record lows.

John McCain, who has wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, appeals to many independents. But the high levels of unhappiness among centrist voters, who can tip national campaigns, will present him with a challenge for the November election...

Just 22 percent in the AP-Ipsos poll said the country is moving in the right direction, about even with the 21 percent record low last June. Only 11 percent of independents and 23 percent of moderates said things were going well — the lowest ever in the poll for independents, and near bottom for moderates.

Thirty percent overall said they approve of the job Bush is doing, tying his worst showing last month.

When you have excitement and activism and weeks upon weeks of commercials and rallies and speeches promoting progressive principles and values, there's an impact. Even in Wyoming. Republicans now trail Democrats on practically every major issue, including immigration, taxes, reforming government, foreign policy, and morality. We have some rough waters to negotiate as the Clinton-Obama battle hits a fever pitch. But if they are traversed, this could be a really fun election year.

(As for a prediction, there are only 59,000 or so registered Democrats in the state, so this will be a small set of caucuses - if 30,000 come out that would be amazing. If you look at the other states in the region you'd have to say Obama is favored. There is a history of electing women in Wyoming, however, so you never know.)

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Senator Hothead McSame: Out of the Fire, Into The Brimstone

John W. McCain crept ever so slowly away from the loving embrace of Rapturist nutcase John Hagee today.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Friday repudiated any views of a prominent televangelist who endorsed him last month "if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics."

McCain has come under fire since televangelist John Hagee endorsed him on Feb. 27, but until Friday his response had been tepid. The Arizona senator merely said he doesn't agree with everyone who endorses him. He said Friday he had been hearing from Catholics who find Hagee's comments offensive.

Hagee, leader of a San Antonio megachurch, has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore" and called it a "false cult system" and "the apostate church" — "apostate" means someone who has forsaken his religion.

On Friday, McCain took a stronger stance on Hagee's views in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We've had a dignified campaign, and I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics," McCain said [...]

He was responding to one critic in particular, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, who raised the issue in a Thursday conference call with reporters.

"She made the attack. I am responding by saying that I am against discrimination and anti-Semitism, anti-Catholic, anything racial, and I have proved that on the campaign trail," McCain said.

Pelosi did close the circle on this. Without her making it an issue, McCain had no reason to distance himself. But this is just the beginning.

First of all, the idea that anti-Catholicism is the only spot on Hagee's record is just nuts. He believes that Jews are responsible for persecution and the Holocaust for turning away from God on MOUNT SINAI. Wow, way to hold a grudge, O Lord. This, of course, wasn't enough for Abe Foxman to actually condemn Hagee, but mainstream Jewish groups have, and Hagee has pissed off multiple religious and ethnic groups in his day, so this isn't going away.

Furthermore, on the same day that McCain moves away from Hagee, he heads right into the belly of the beast.

Sen. John McCain, in his post-victory debut before the conservative movement's top donors and leaders, will address the Council for National Policy's annual winter meeting here today.

His remarks at the event, which has always been closed to the public and will have only a partial accommodation of the press this year for the first time, could turn out to be his make-or-break pitch for support from some of the right's most influential critics of his past positions and policies.

"This is the most distinguished collection of conservative leaders and donors, and he was anxious to appear as part of his ongoing effort to consolidate support for his candidacy within the conservative movement," said Charlie Black, Mr. McCain's campaign adviser.

Maybe Black was doing lobbying work on the Straight Talk Express instead of brushing up on the Council for National Policy. Here's a primer:

CNP was conceived in 1981 by at least five fathers, including the Rev. Tim LaHaye, an evangelical preacher who was then the head of the Moral Majority. (LaHaye is the co-author of the popular Left Behind series that predicts and subsequently depicts the Apocalypse). Nelson Baker Hunt, billionaire son of billionaire oilman H.L. Hunt (connected to both the John Birch Society and to Ronald Reagan's political network), businessman and one-time murder suspect T. Cullen Davis, and wealthy John Bircher William Cies provided the seed money.

Top Republicans were quickly recruited to fill in the gaps; hard-right thinkers met up with sympathetic politicians. And suddenly, the right had a counterpart to liberal policy groups. Christian activist Paul Weyrich took responsibility for bringing together the best minds of conservatism, and his imprint on the group's mission is unmistakable: It provided a forum for religiously engaged conservative Christians to influence the geography of American political power.

The Executive Director of the CNP is Kerry band-aid guru Morton Blackwell, and here are some others:

Some well-known figures affiliated with the CNP include Rev. Jerry Falwell, anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and the Rev. Pat Robertson. But its the lesser-known CNP mainstays that are more indicative of the organization's politics. They include:

Richard Shoff, a former Ku Klux Klan leader in Indiana.
John McGoff, an ardent supporter of the former apartheid South African regime.
R.J. Rushdoony, the theological leader of America's "Christian Reconstruction" movement, which advocates that Christian fundamentalists take "dominion" over America by abolishing democracy and instituting Old Testament Law. Rushdoony's Reconstructionalists believe that "homosexuals . . . adulterers , blasphemers, astrologers and others will be executed," along with disobedient children.
Reed Larson, head of anti-union National Right to Work Committee.
Don Wildmon, TV censorship activist and accused anti-Semite.
Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub and other principals from the Iran-Contra Scandal.

And McCain thinks that distancing himself from Hagee and going over to THESE GUYS is going to fly?

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a lot more. CNP is basically where the furthest of far-right agenda, the "let them eat cake" anti-government crowd and the Christian Dominionist crowd, meet to network and strategize. George W. Bush met with them in 1999 and reportedly promised to appoint only anti-abortion judges to the courts. What has McSame promised?

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FISA Developments

Glenn Greenwald sez that the Dems are about to cave on FISA. TPM Muckraker has more and the details are quite different from what Greenwald reported.

The proposal, the contents of which the aide described to me, does not contain a measure granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms for their participation in the warrantless surveillance program. The aide also stressed that the bill "is in the exact same ballpark" in terms of civil liberties protections as the RESTORE Act, the bill which the House passed last year. The draft as described by the aide:

-- requires an audit by the Department of Justice's inspector general of the administration warrantless wiretapping program (not in the Senate bill)

-- has a two-year sunset, as opposed to the Senate's surveillance bill, which has a six-year sunset

-- has an "exclusivity" provision, which specifies that the President cannot circumvent the bill with claimed Constitutional powers (not in the Senate bill)

-- has guidelines to prevent the NSA from tapping foreigners' communications into the U.S. when the real intention is to target a U.S. person, which is called "reverse targeting" (not in the Senate bill)

-- requires pre-approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of the "basket warrants" (surveillance of entire terrorist groups, as opposed to just individuals) allowed by the House and Senate bills, except in emergency situations, where the government must seek approval within seven days after initiating surveillance. (also in contrast to the Senate bill)

The compromise bill does not have immunity, but there's still a possibility that they'll ping-pong the bill back and forth from the House to the Senate to get it back in. I'd have to look further, but the compromise bill does look to me to be "in the ballpark" of the RESTORE Act, which was a good bill. We're not out of the woods on this and all your reps. deserve a call. But it's not clear to me that this is a bad development... yet.

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Not Even A Thank You?

Yesterday I wrote a diary proving that the national media had their delegate counts completely wrong for weeks. I even showed my work. I sent an email to the AP referencing this and asking them to change their counts.

Well, here's where we are after Day 1. Real Clear Politics changed their count. The New York Times changed their count. CBS has not. MSNBC has not. CNN still has it at 204-161 with five delegates undecided.

To the Times and RCP: you're welcome. To the others: get with the damn program.

I have calls and emails in to the Secretary of State's office to confirm this, but I'm going by their own numbers.

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Iraq Slips Off The Table

For a few days, I've been saying that the Obama campaign needed to turn the tables on the Clinton campaign, suggesting that her rhetoric didn't match reality on issues like NAFTA and, in particular, Iraq. There was plenty of evidence that she would not pull our troops out with anything resembling speed. Well, they brought it up today, but the problem it they did so from a defensive crouch:

The skirmishing over Samantha Power continued on an Obama campaign conference call moments ago, with the action shifting over to this recent interview with Power about Obama's commitment to withdrawing from Iraq.

In that interview, Power said the following about Obama's future approach to withdrawal from Iraq: "He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator." As Ben Smith notes, she seemed to be expressing "a lack of confidence that Obama will be able to carry through" his withdrawal plan.

Asked about the comments on the call, Plouffe argued that Obama's commitment to pulling out of Iraq was "rock solid." He also pointed out that Retired General Jack Kean, who is close to Hillary, had recently characterized Hillary's approach to Iraq as follows:

"I have no doubts whatsoever that if she were president in January '09 she would not act irresponsibly and issue orders to conduct an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, regardless of the consequences, and squander the gains that have been made."

The parallel isn't perfect, but Plouffe's push-back nonetheless seems fair here -- the larger point is that both candidates, for obvious reasons, want to preserve some wiggle room for themselves on Iraq.

This effectively ends this as an issue. It's now a he said/she said, and I don't think the Obama campaign is skilled enough politically to ignore their own vulnerabilities on this issue and just press forward and say "She won't end the war and I will."

This is extremely damaging to the Obama campaign. He needed to take an issue and run with it and Iraq made the most sense. His strength is supposed to be as an antiwar candidate. Obama gave me some hope by talking about how he not only wanted to end the war, but end the mindset that got us in there. But I don't see him pushing this much further, and in fact he's getting pushed around. He's losing the bar fight primary and it doesn't give me hope that he can stand up to the Republicans.

UPDATE: Here's Obama today in Wyoming.

That's not bad. We'll see how this goes.

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IL-14: All Eyes On Illinois

Yes, Wyoming awards 12 delegates in the Democratic primary tomorrow, but the most important race is in the Chicago suburbs.

In what some analysts describe as a proxy for the November election, voters in Illinois’ 14th District head to the polls Saturday for a momentous special election to fill the vacant seat of former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who resigned last November. Democratic scientist Bill Foster and Republican dairy executive Jim Oberweis are competing [...]

Democrats see an upset victory by Foster as the ultimate repudiation of the Republican Party and of President Bush, who handily carried the 14th District in the 2004 election — by a margin of 55 percent to 44 percent for Democratic Sen. John Kerry. But Bush was more popular then than he is now, and Republicans acknowledge a competitive race between Foster, a first-time candidate, and Oberweis, who lost Republican primaries for senator in 2002 and 2004 and for governor in 2006 [...]

Republican strategists acknowledge that the race is very close and that they’re aware of the implications of a Democratic victory in the former Speaker’s district.

“We understand the symbolic importance of the race,” Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole , the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), told reporters Monday at a breakfast meeting that was organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “It will be spun out of all proportions if we were to lose it. It will be ‘my God, it’s the end of the Republican Party, the Speaker’s seat is gone.’ ”

Jim Oberweis is grabbing at straws. He put out a mailer claiming that your taxes would raise under Bill Foster that had an admission at the bottom:

The four examples are fictional, and any similarity between these characters and any real people is pure coincidence. The effects on the individual's tax bills was calculated using the tax calculator found at a link to the Heritage Foundation.

Barack Obama is imploring his supporters to volunteer and help Bill Foster get elected. Oberweis is such a tool. His going down would almost be as satisfying as turning Denny Hastert's old seat blue.

UPDATE: It's notable that one candidate is helping get Democrats elected to Congress, and the other is claiming that John McCain is more ready to be commander in chief than a fellow Democrat.

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Apply The Standard

I confess to being a little pissed off that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, someone with a fresh and engaging perspective on foreign policy, someone that Democrats should be pushing to get involved in the foreign policy arena, can have her political career put on ice for a three-second indiscretion, making a comment that approximately every staffer of a high-stakes campaign has said about their opponent at one time or another, if not worse. But that's politics, and Samantha Power didn't want to be a distraction, so she quit. I wish her well and hope she would have a very high-ranking job in a potential Obama Administration.

Well, then we have to fairly apply the standard. Calling Barack Obama Ken Starr is the equivalent of calling him a monster in Democratic circles. Howard Wolfson needs to resign.

(The point, for the dense, is that NONE of them should have to resign over something they say. Are we all three years old?)

Furthermore, Hillary Clinton should resign, as long as we're using this yardstick, for claiming that there's some imaginary threshold needed to be commander-in-chief and you can only cross it by marrying a President and sipping tea with Sinbad in Kosovo.

“I think that since we now know Sen. McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold,” the New York senator told reporters crowded into an infant’s bedroom-sized hotel conference room in Washington.

“I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy,” she said.

Calling McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee a good friend and a “distinguished man with a great history of service to our country,” Clinton said, “Both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold.”

This infuriates me on so many levels. It's an example of even-McCainism, where Democrats hide between the legs of manly John McCain and prop up his dangerous ideas on national security for no good reason. Someone who frightens military leaders and top aides with his hotheaded temper and batshit crazy ideas about constant war. Nobody who thinks this kind of stuff has crossed the threshold to be so much as a dogcatcher:

But what you may not have heard is an extended critique of the kind of Commander in Chief that Captain McCain might be. To combat what he likes to call "the transcendent challenge [of] radical Islamic extremism," McCain is drawing up plans for a new set of global institutions, from a potent covert operations unit to a "League of Democracies" that can bypass the balky United Nations, from an expanded NATO that will bump up against Russian interests in Central Asia and the Caucasus to a revived US unilateralism that will engage in "rogue state rollback" against his version of the "axis of evil." In all, it's a new apparatus designed to carry the "war on terror" deep into the twenty-first century.

"We created a number of institutions in the wake of World War II to deal with the situation," says Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top adviser on foreign policy. "And what Senator McCain wants to begin a dialogue about is, Do we need new structures and new institutions, both internally, in the US government, and externally, to recognize that the situation we face now is very, very different than the one we faced during the cold war?" Joining Scheunemann, a veteran neoconservative strategist and one of the chief architects of the Iraq War, are a panoply of like-minded neocons who've gathered to advise McCain, including Bill Kristol, James Woolsey, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Gary Schmitt and Maj. Ralph Peters. "There are some who've moved into his camp who scare me," Wilkerson says. "Scare me."

First is an unnamed "new agency patterned after the...Office of Strategic Services," the rambunctious, often out-of-control World War II-era covert-ops team. "A modern day OSS could draw together specialists in unconventional warfare; covert action operators; and experts in anthropology, advertising, and other relevant disciplines," wrote McCain in Foreign Affairs. "Like the original OSS, this would be a small, nimble, can-do organization" that would "fight terrorist subversion [and] take risks." It's clear that McCain wants to set up an agency to conduct paramilitary operations, covert action and psy-ops.

Why the hell would you want to validate and legitimize that kind of dangerous nonsense? McCain's neoconservatism has been totally rejected and shown to be a farce. Praising him at the expense of a Democratic opponent who might end up being the nominee is the worst kind of stupidity. McCain has neither the ideas or the temperament to be commander-in-chief. Period.

Hillary Clinton can either resign, or stop this tactic of being continually shocked about random comments. And Obama, for his part, can stop playing the part of a wounded animal and buy in to this browbeating.

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Some State Democrats Get It - Jack O'Connell Doesn't

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi:

"Our state and its people cannot prosper in the 21st century if we force our schools to live on a fiscal starvation diet," Garamendi said Thursday at Sacramento City College.

Assemblymember Dave Jones:

However, in doing so my Republican colleagues in the State Assembly decided that while they were prepared to cut education funding and health care for the poor, they just couldn’t stomach closing the yacht tax loophole. Too painful, apparently, to the Thurston Howell IIIs of the world. So they refused to provide the 2/3 vote necessary to close the yacht tax loophole. In doing so they robbed the poor to help subsidize tax avoidance by rich yacht owners. Are those the values we want reflected in our state budget? Those aren’t my values, that’s for sure.

Jack O'Connell, who is nominally in charge of education for the state, should find something else to emphasize.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell will hold a morning news conference to urge California students not to walk out in protest of the cuts.

If we need students in the streets for the Yacht Party to get the message, so be it.

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Rewarding Good Behavior In The Congress

The House and the Senate racked up a couple victories this week. The House passed the long-awaited Wellstone Mental Health And Addiction Equity Act. This would allow for parity in how insurers cover mental health and addiction treatment as compared to physical health treatment. The bipartisan vote was 268-148. Considering that our troops can't even get mental health on the battlefield, the need for mote mental health professionals is urgent. But by ensuring that this treatment must be covered, it'll create a good incentive for industry, research and potential breakthroughs. You should be covered if your damaged organ is your brain as surely as if it's your arm. Here's CA-42 House candidate Ron Shepston on the personal side of this:

My brother has been diagnosed with a mental illness but won’t tell us what it was. Before she passed away, my mom was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic so this issue is very close to home for me. Mr. Miller’s complete disregard for the consequences of marginalizing those with mental illness in an ill-conceived pursuit of economic nirvana displays a scary callousness so characteristic of Republican members of Congress. Given all the facts Americans would make the decision that the kind of society they want to live in would be one which considered those who struggle with mental illness in while contributing to society. Republicans’ only hope is to obscure the facts.

And the Senate approved by an overwhelming margin an overhaul to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, boosting the annual budget and revamping facilities, banning lead in all children's products, and raising fines for non-compliance. You'll recall that the acting head of the CPSC asked NOT to give her more money to do her job. But the drumbeat of toxic products from overseas, particularly China, made it impossible to stand by idly. The Republicans tried to water down the bill through a series of amendments that were rejected, and they should have those votes draped around their necks in their re-election campaigns.

In addition to these passages, the House is trying to overturn the horrid EPA decision denying a waiver to California for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and three powerful chairmen in the House are calling for a halt to telecom immunity in the face of a new whistleblower revelation that communications were going directly into the NSA through a special circuit. Maybe we've turned a corner.

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Welcome To Your Recession

Far be it from me not to obsess about who called who a monster, but we're in the middle of a recession.

U.S. employers cut payrolls for a second straight month during February, slashing 63,000 jobs for the biggest monthly decline in nearly five years as the nation's labor markets weakened steadily, a government report on Friday showed.

The Labor Department said last month's cut followed an upwardly revised loss of 22,000 jobs in January rather than the 17,000 reported a month ago. It also said only 41,000 jobs were created in December, half the 82,000 originally reported.

"This confirms the fears that have been lurking in the financial markets in recent weeks. The probability of a U.S. recession is at more than 50 percent," said Richard DeKaser, chief economist for National City Corp. in Cleveland.

I'd say it's 50% more than 50%.

The Fed's reaction to this is going to be to lower interest rates again. But that's not going to make people who are out of work or seeing shrinking equity in their homes suddenly regain confidence again. The pathetic "stimulus" won't be in anyone's hands until May, and people are mostly going to use it to pay off debt, so it won't kick-start the economy. People have been bled dry by consumer spending to prop up an unsound economy.

The problem is the extreme inequality as a result of the tax system distributing wealth upwards.

The nation's top 400 taxpayers reported a total of $85.6 billion of income on their federal income-tax returns for 2005 — an average of $213.9 million apiece, according to Internal Revenue Service data obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

....The top 400 taxpayers have greatly increased their share of individuals' income since the mid-1990s. The group accounted for 1.15% of total income in 2005, up from 1.02% the prior year — and more than twice as large as its 0.49% share a decade earlier. It's the highest percentage since the early 1990s, which is as far back as the IRS data go.

Even after adjusting for inflation, the minimum amount of income required to make the top-400 list has nearly tripled since 1992.

....The average federal income-tax rate for the group was 18.23%....well below the average income-tax rate of nearly 30% back in 1995, when Bill Clinton was in the White House. By contrast, the average income-tax rate for 2005, based on all returns filed, was 12.6%.

They don't pay any taxes, and if they have corporate status, they're probably setting up tax shelters and shell companies in the Caymans to avoid Medicare and Social Security taxes. Why John Edwards' two Americas claim didn't resonate is beyond me. It's 100% true.

UPDATE: The housing market is also a complete mess and the dollar is at its lowest level ever. These Fed tricks are killing us.

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Friday Random Ten

For the third day in a row I woke up with one of those "" jingles in my head, so I need a Random Ten to wash it out like the Grand Canyon:

Everything's Ruined - Fountains of Wayne
The Train - Outkast
Never Let Me Down - Kanye West feat. Jay-Z & J.Ivy
Don't Let's Start - They Might Be Giants
I Feel It All - Feist
Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones
Catchy - Pizzicato Five
Fighting In A Shack - The Shins
Maps - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Hours (El-P Remix) - TV On The Radio

P.S. I'd also love to know all the words that Hillary Clinton's advisers have used to describe Barack Obama off the record. They're not profane or anything, so I'm sure it mostly falls along the lines of "wonderful chap." Certainly none of them shoudl resign.

Campaign staffers hate the opponent. Absolutely worthy of a two-day discussion. Ugh.

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Because We Wouldn't Want THAT Information To Get Out

There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says...

Fool me once - by publicly releasing the NIE on Iran showing they gave up their nuclear ambitions four years ago - shame on, shame on you...

Fool me twice...

A new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is scheduled to be completed this month, according to U.S. intelligence officials. But leaders of the intelligence community have not decided whether to make its key judgments public, a step that caused an uproar when key judgments in an NIE about Iran were released in November. can't get fooled again.

Intelligence officials said that the National Intelligence Board -- made up of the heads of the 16 intelligence agencies plus McConnell -- will decide whether to release the Iraq judgments once the estimate is completed. But they made clear that they lean toward a return to the traditional practice of keeping such documents secret.

In internal guidance he issued in October, McConnell said that his policy was that they "should not be declassified." One month later, however, the intelligence board decided to publicly release key judgments from an NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program, saying that it had weighed "the importance of the information to open discussions about our national security against the necessity to protect classified information."

I'm surprised they got the Iran one through. Obviously, the nature of how that blew up in the Administration's face is keeping them from ever doing something so profoundly silly again.

As for the Bushism, I think we have a new winner, and it's about Iraq so it applies:

"I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who were trying to defeat us in Iraq."

Really, just shoot me in the head.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Michael Copps - Looking Out For You

I'm glad he's taken up this cause:

Doubts about an Alabama TV station’s explanation of a blacked-out segment of “60 Minutes” have been reinforced by a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission who says it “needs to get to the bottom of this.”

In an appearance before the National Press Club today, Michael Copps confirmed that he had urged Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the F.C.C., to investigate a question raised by the extraordinary timing of the malfunction at the station: It began just as a highly anticipated report about a major political scandal in the state was to begin, and ended in time for the program’s next segment.

Remembering a 1955 case of a Mississippi TV station that blocked a network news program about desegregation and spuriously claimed that cable trouble was to blame, Mr. Copps said, “The F.C.C. now needs to find out if something analogous is going on here,” according to Reuters.

John Kerry has been working on this as well. Apparently the FCC is investigating, as well they should. Equipment fails all the time - especially in little local stations like this - but the timing is extremely suspicious.

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Hey, Catch Up, National Media

Being that I kind of don't pay attention to the national media's delegate counts, I hadn't realized that they were all getting California so very, very wrong, and in fact are about 800,000 votes off from the official tally. Apparently many news organizations predict that Clinton will reap 207 delegates from California, and Obama 163. MSNBC has this. Real Clear Politics has this. CBS has this. The New York Times has this. CNN has it as 204-161 with 5 to be decided. They're all simply wrong, and I know math is hard and everything, but get out your calculators, people.

Here's an example at MSNBC's site. They list 2,144,251 votes for Clinton and 1,746,013 for Obama, which was right... about two weeks ago. The actual official returns, readily available at the Secretary of State's website, are 2,553,784 for Clinton and 2,126,600 for Obama. That's really, really off. The final percentage is 8.7% and MSNBC lists it as 10%. And that translates to a 70-59 split in delegates statewide. They're probably getting that wrong, too, not recognizing that there are two kinds of statewide delegates which are calculated separately. When you add in the district-level delegate allocation (and I could list them all, but trust me on this), you get 203-167. It takes about 10 minutes to come up with this and it's completely irresponsible for the national media to have this wrong for over two weeks, and to relentlessly show a graphic of delegate counts with bad, outdated information. In fact, it calls into question ALL of their other counts.

MSNBC, The New York Times, CBS, CNN and RCP need to get this right, today. They're screwing up and hurting America (again). What a bunch of incompetents.

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Hey Kids, Let's Put On A Caucus

It looks increasingly that Michigan will be re-voting in a caucus process.

A member of the DNC's Rules And Bylaws Committee--the committee that stripped Florida and Michigan of its delegates for moving their primaries before February 5th--told me that Michigan plans to get out of its uncounted delegate problem by announcing a new caucus in the next few days.

"They want to play. They know how to do caucuses," the DNC source said. "That was their plan all along, before they got cute with the primary."

This is a good thing. Dean made this happen, by the way, by basically saying "either a new vote or nothing," which makes it pretty hard for Clinton to object. Sure, this is a caucus, but may be a CINO (caucus in name only). There are a lot of meanings of the word "caucus." In Maine it includes absentee balloting, for example. "Caucus" essentially means that the party pays for it instead of the state, and in cash-strapped Michigan that's the only way it's going to happen.

I want an organizing opportunity for Democrats in Michigan. I think it'll be crucial as we head into the fall.

As for Florida, it's a different situation. Both candidates were on the ballot, 1.7 million came out to vote, everything was basically equal, the Republicans drove the process of moving up the election, and they're not going to pay the $25 million to hold a new one (sure, Clinton and Obama can hold a bake sale to raise the money, but who's going to run the election?). Marc Schmitt has a very interesting idea.

Here's the answer, and it's a little off the wall: He should offer a major concession. Agree to seat the Florida delegates from the January primary, along with a do-over caucus in Michigan. Don't concede the full legitimacy of the Florida primary, but just acknowledge that all the candidates were on the ballot and the expense and political cost of a do-over is too high. Seating the Florida delegation would be conditional on a do-over caucus in Michigan.

That immediately concedes to Clinton a gain of somewhere between 29 and 40 delegates. (She won 113 delegates in the disputed primary, Obama 71, and Edwards 13.) So instead of being 154 delegates in the hole, she would be behind by 112-125, and after Mississippi and Wyoming, it's likely to be more.

It's hard to see the logic by which Clinton could turn that offer down. There's clearly a marked difference in legitimacy between a Soviet-style primary with only one candidate on the ballot (Michigan) and one in which the candidates simply agreed not to campaign and name-recognition prevailed. And conceding a primary in a large state that Clinton won 50-33 seems -- is -- quite magnanimous. How would Clinton insist on a do-over in both states, or in seating Michigan as well?

But it's also devastating to Clinton: It denies her the opportunity and momentum of a second victory in Florida and the claim that she won both big swing states legitimately, one of them twice. It forces her to defend a caucus (which she never wins, even if it's more like a primary) in a state that's probably a little closer to Wisconsin in temperament than it is to Ohio, as well as more heavily African-American.

Most of all, it makes the math finite. It's the equivalent of saying, "We'll spot you 40 delegates -- now quit spinning and do the math." The math then is not impossible, but it would still require huge wins in Pennsylvania, Oregon, and in that Michigan caucus. Her biggest advantage right now is the ambiguity that allows her to spin all sorts of unlikely scenarios as "paths to the nomination."

That'd be a hell of a ballsy move by Obama. But we need some legitimacy in this process. Letting every state have a say, literally every one, except one of the biggest is untenable. This is an excellent compromise idea. It tightens up the math without favoring one candidate over the other, actually. Obama gets benefits and still has the chance for a knockout blow in PA or MI, while Clinton gets a 40-delegate boost and gives her a real opportunity to catch up in her own right.

Stay tuned...

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McCain Acknowledges Danger Of Bush Endorsement

I found this to be extremely interesting. Mort Kondracke seems to me to be someone who would be privy to the inside information in the McCain camp.

I know, as a matter of fact, that they’re talking in the McCain camp about ways to separate themselves in some way from Bush, and they haven’t figured out how to do it–some issue that he can be distinctive from Bush about.

Clearly it’s not going to be the war. It’s not going to be tax cuts. It has got to be something reasonably major so that the Democrats can’t say this is just the third term.

This is why the McSame ads and label is so very important. His campaign undoubtedly has some polling that shows how vulnerable he is, and indeed how vulnerable any Republican is, to this critique. Indeed, he doesn't even need polling. He can look at the 2006 election.

The reason he's so vulnerable is because it's so very, very true. McCain being a maverick notwithstanding, the policies line up almost perfectly, we all know it, and I suspect that he knows it.

But of course, McCain's in a double-bind. The moment he departs from Bush on any signature issue is the moment that the conservative ideologues who are suspicious of his motives get confirmation that he will indeed stab them in the back to get votes. Exactly where is he going to take a U-Turn? He's boxed in on all of these signature issues and would face a major backlash:

TORTURE: Despite McCain’s reputation as an opponent of torture, he has consistently supported legislative language that protects the Bush administration’s prerogatives to use it. Most recently, McCain voted against a ban on waterboarding and urged President Bush to veto the bill.

SURVEILLANCE: Echoing Bush in his CPAC speech this year, McCain called it “shameful and dangerous” for Democrats to oppose a surveillance bill that contains retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. He then voted “to terminate lawsuits against” those companies.

IMMIGRATION: In 2005, McCain told the New Yorker that “the President and I share exactly the same views on the issue.”

SOCIAL SECURITY: In 2005, McCain was “a big booster” of Bush’s Social Security privatization plan and last week he told the Wall Street Journal that as president he wants to reform Social Security through private savings accounts “along the lines that President Bush proposed.”

HEALTH CARE: After examining his health care plan, the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn recently concluded that McCain will act “like George W. Bush” as he supports policy ideas that “President Bush has embraced.”

Republicans created this monster, saddled themselves with a host of issues that are unpalatable to independents and the general public, and boxed in their candidates 'til the end of time. This is why McCain's down on the electoral map despite this so-called "bruising" primary, because ultimately he's a faceless Republican. And that means George Bush.

This is coming to a head with the John Hagee situation. While the media has been reluctant to really nail McSame for his hypocrisy over supporting an anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic end-timer (possibly because they consider all evangelicals to be crazy and not understanding the crucial distinctions with Hagee), today Nancy Pelosi weighed in. She's the highest-ranking Catholic in the US government, and she represents the potential to close "Daou's triangle" and really make this a signature issue that the media couldn't ignore any longer.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most prominent Catholic serving in the U.S. government, called on Sen. John McCain to reject the endorsement of Texas televangelist John Hagee, who has labeled the Catholic church "the great whore," a "false cult system," and linked it to Hitler's Nazi movement.

"That behavior is outside the circle of civilized debate in our democracy," Pelosi said during a Thursday conference call. "I certainly think John McCain should reject his endorsement and I'm sure it won't be long before he does."

McCain has come under heavy fire from Catholic groups across the political spectrum for appearing with Hagee last week and declaring he was "proud" of the endorsement. Subsequently, McCain told reporters that Hagee's backing "does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes," but added, "I am very proud of the Pastor John Hagee's spiritual leadership to thousands of people."

This will KILL McCain among Catholics if he doesn't disassociate himself with Hagee, and that's key to several important states in the Rust Belt. But if he rejects Hagee's support, he angers many evangelicals in a symbolic way, as well as conservative activists who want to keep the three-legged stool somehow upright.

McCain absolutely knows he's in trouble and he doesn't see a way out. And there are also the lobbying scandals and his illegal exit from the campaign finance system.


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Conflicting Statements On FISA

There's considerable evidence that House and Senate negotiators are deadlocked on whether to give Bush everything he wants, including immunity for his lawbreaking, on FISA.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Wednesday the House will not take up an electronic surveillance measure this week, further delaying any decisions on the controversial measure.

Hoyer said in his weekly press conference that he hoped to wrap up work on an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; “towards the end of this week or the beginning of next week.”

However, the majority leader acknowledged that there were “still disagreements” within the Democratic caucus over the issue of granting immunity to telecom companies who aided the government in the wiretapping program [...]

Although Democratic leaders insist they are working feverishly to iron out their differences, one House member—speaking on the condition of anonymity—suggested it could be a long time, if ever, before the bill was brought for a vote.

“A lot of people think the politics of doing nothing on this issue are very good for both sides of the political spectrum,” they said.

Behind the scenes, it appears that there are internal differences between Democrats over the immunity issue. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed to exclusivity as the real issue.

In a conference call with bloggers today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made it clear that her highest priority for a surveillance bill was that it contain a so-called "exclusivity" provision -- a measure that would explicitly state that the bill would be the "exclusive means" by which the government would conduct surveillance, or in other words, the president does not have the power to ignore the law if he/she so pleases.

"Exclusivity is the issue," she said.

Of course, the original FISA bill had "exclusivity" in it. Bush broke the law. Making FISA the exclusive means for intelligence gathering and surveillance is nice, but it just says you can't break the law. Amnesty says that breaking the law doesn't matter.

I think what's causing this new-found concern against amnesty within the Democratic caucus are the stories about major privacy violations as a result of national security letters, which allowed the FBI to illegally obtain personal information of Americans, and this new question about emails, which puts the fight over FISA into an entirely new context:

The fight in Congress and the big push for expanded wiretapping powers has nothing to do with intercepting foreign-to-foreign phone calls inside the United States without a court order. In fact, it turns out that the nation's secret wiretapping court is fine with that.

That extraordinary admission came from Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth Wainstein at a breakfast on Monday, according to the Washington Post.

"At the breakfast yesterday, Wainstein highlighted a different problem with the current FISA law than other administration officials have emphasized. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, for example, has repeatedly said FISA should be changed so no warrant is needed to tap a communication that took place entirely outside the United States but happened to pass through the United States.

But in response to a question at the meeting by David Kris, a former federal prosecutor and a FISA expert, Wainstein said FISA's current strictures did not cover strictly foreign wire and radio communications, even if acquired in the United States. The real concern, he said, is primarily e-mail, because "essentially you don't know where the recipient is going to be" and so you would not know in advance whether the communication is entirely outside the United States."

That would make sense since email doesn't go directly to a device in most cases, it goes to a server that holds the email until the recipient(s) come to pick up the email -- which could be and often is from different parts of the world -- think of any business traveler.

DNI Michael McConnell, the serial exaggerator who claims to be a non-political straight shooter, himself kept saying the NSA lost 70 percent of its capabilities after the ruling.

If that's the case, that means that 70 percent of what the NSA does is collect emails inside United States telecom infrastructure and service providers.

Really? If that's what tens of billions of dollars are going to the NSA for annually, we don't need to give them more power to read emails, we need to get them to learn to do real intelligence collection.

I think that Democrats took a look at the loss of privacy on all these other fronts and decided that they want to actually know the breadth of it with regard to telecom surveillance. You cannot give cover to the executive to gather intelligence at his discretion without oversight or judicial review and expect there to be no abuses. This is all devastating evidence in favor of stopping any talk of immunity. DFA is fighting very hard against those who would give the President and his corporate buddies full carte blanche to break the law. We need to fight for justice on this one. No amnesty.

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More on Bush's Iraq Treaty

Some have questioned whether or not the locking in of a status of forces agreement (SOFA) would create a situation that would make it difficult for a future President to halt military activities in Iraq. I just got off a conference call with legal scholars Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway, and Rep. Barbara Lee, who has introduced a nonbinding resolution expressing the sense of the Congress that the Administration must go to them to get authorization for a bilateral treaty of this type. The issue is that the UN mandate for American troops in Iraq expires at the end of this year, and without anything to supplant it, US troops would be operating in the country illegally, in violation of international law. The two ways to remedy this are to extend the mandate (which will be the subject of an upcoming House bill from the leadership) for a short period of time until the next President sets the policy, or to create this bilateral status of forces agreement, which is binding on the US government. In addition to the standard SOFA arrangements - protection for military personnel, postal and banking services, criminal exemption for military members - this agreement as it is being negotiated by the Bush Administration would include, in a completely unprecedented fashion:

1) an "authority to fight" giving US troops the legal authority to operate inside Iraq beyond the UN mandate;


2) legal immunity for private military contractors like Blackwater who are operating in accordance with the US government.

One can easily see why this is problematic. The precedent would be that the President can dictate the terms of military involvement unilaterally and without the expressed consent of the Congress. The authority to fight is completely beyond what has ever been in a SOFA before, and could be used as a precedent for all sorts of additional military actions (for example, would the authority to fight include Iranian troops across the border accused of "meddling"?). So for that reason alone we should never allow this for one second. Even regular strategic framework arrangements like we saw in Japan or Germany received Congressional approval first. These go further and the Administration claims no need to involve Congress.

As far as tying the hands of the next President, there are legal considerations and political considerations. It is a fact that this agreement would If a Democrat wins and seeks a new course in Iraq, he or she would be obliged to break an international commitment, which they can do but not without some difficulty. Dana Perino today pushed back against this idea that this would commit the next President to staying in Iraq, but note the spin:

"It's important to note what this agreement will not do. It will not tie the hands of the next President. It will not say how many troops should be there. It will not establish permanent bases. What it does is it provides for a secure environment for our troops to work, in a legal framework," she said [...]

Perino sharply criticized Bush's Democratic critics -- some of whom have raised the alarm over the agreement, saying it would commit his successors to an open-ended commitment to a vastly unpopular war.

"The Iraqis want it. Iraq's Arab neighbors want it. It appears that the only ones who are agitated about it, and in fact demagoging about it, are a subset of Democrats," she said. "I don't that their concern is merited."

This obviously plays into the Dolschstosslegende. Now you have this setup where only these rogue America-hating Democrats want to take Iraqi's freedom away. Let's get real. Bush is unilaterally making this deal with Maliki, who was installed by the Americans and in no way speaks for the Iraqi people. Having to break an international commitment to move forward on leaving Iraq will renew calls of stabbing the country - and the Iraqis - in the back.

So on several fronts, we don't want the President to have the power to negotiate the terms of permanent military deployments all over the world, especially in Iraq, where this occupation remains a disaster. This is absolutely an effort to, in the words of Prof. Ackerman, to "commit the next Administration as explicitly as possible to the policies of this Administration."

Iraq Insider has more.

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IL-14: More Than A Tossup

Stu Rothenberg finally catches up and notices that Bill Foster is very well-positioned to smoke perennial candidate Jim Oberweis in IL-14 this weekend and pick up a seat for the Democrats in the House. This comes on the heels of a public poll showing Foster up by 7 points.

This seat would really break the backs of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has enough problems:

According to The New York Times this morning, it all began to unravel when Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), a CPA, asked to meet with the audit firm that was supposedly checking the NRCC's books, an idea that apparently no one had had for several years. Christopher Ward, then the NRCC's treasurer, finally relented, but then chickened out 30 minutes before and fessed up that there actually hadn't been any audits.

It was ultimately discovered that Ward had been faking the audits since 2003. The Politico, which laid out this general outline of events early last month, reported that Ward had forged everything, including the letterhead. So when it came time to actually talk to the people who'd supposedly written those fake reports, it all unraveled.

The FBI is currently investigating, and it's not clear yet why Ward was so keen to hide the real numbers. But as the Times reports this morning, the signs are not good. NRCC internal audits since Ward's discovery show that "hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing and presumed stolen." And it gets worse: there are apparently indications that "the financial irregularities might extend beyond the national committee to the campaign funds of individual Republican lawmakers who also worked with Mr. Ward, a longtime party operative."

We're going to take this seat, and the NRCC is going to be so tied up with legal issues that they'll be rendered virtually powerless in the fall. If you can help Bill Foster in any way please do so. His website is here.

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World Report

Because, you know, why not:

• For those who thought that Turkey's military pullout from northern Iraq would be the end of that potentially chaotic front in the war, they've started bombing again, and I'm sure they won't hesitate to go right back into Kurdistan again if they see fit. In the same article comes news that the US has released two Shiite officials accused of killing and kidnapping Sunnis. This was the legal case that fell apart last week. Sunni groups are up in arms. We're still on very shaky ground over there.

• It's funny that the Pentagon keeps talking about China's military buildup as if it portends some horrible consequence for the world, when in actuality their military budget is a mere fraction of the US military budget. This of course raises the double standard where we only use our military for good but everyone else uses the military for EEE-VILLLL.

• While nobody's paying much attention, it turns out that Pakistan's opposition parties have been unable thus far to get together on a unity government. Meanwhile attacks by Islamists continue, and Musharraf is emboldened by stepping into the power vacuum. And of course, our backing of Musharraf is adding to the chaos.

• We really could see Zimbabweans finally turning against Mugabe at long last. That's really one of the most horrifying situations in the whole world. If the ZANU-PF party finally rebelled it would be good for the world.

• Finally, this is one of the strangest stories I've ever read.

The generals, to put it mildly, can't take a joke.

But the Moustache Brothers make their living mocking fools, including those who wear military uniforms. So they have drawn a battle line in this country's long struggle for democracy with a small stage that cuts across their cramped living room, site of the three-man comedy troupe's nightly performance.

The military regime silenced street protests last fall by arresting and, in some cases, shooting peaceful demonstrators. That has left dissidents such as comedians Lu Zaw, Lu Maw and the lead satirist of the family, Par Par Lay, to tend the embers of opposition by poking fun at the regime.

In the past, the junta that rules Myanmar -- also known as Burma -- has tried to shut them up too, hoping to intimidate them with prison terms, hard labor and torture. But the comedians are exploiting a loophole in a ban on their act by staying on the attack at home, in English, with biting humor that ridicules the junta as a bunch of bumbling thugs, thieves and spies.

Never underestimate the power of the court jester to cause radical change. The despot is always cut down to size when mocked. It's not for nothing that most military dictatorships tighten the communications apparatus first.

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McSame, More

More humor from Brave New Films.

The independent groups are coming out of the woodwork to counter media spin and define McCain early. And there are a few media outlets following suit. It's not going to get too much attention, but this Salon article by Mark Benjamin is probably the most important of the entire year. It turns out that McSame frightens military leaders.

In interviews with Salon this week, several experienced military officers said McCain draws mixed reviews among military leaders, and they expressed serious doubts about whether McCain has the right temperament to be the next president and commander in chief. Some expressed more confidence in Obama, citing his temperament as an asset.

It is not difficult in Washington to find high-level military officials who have had close encounters with John McCain's temper, and who find it worrisome. Politicians sometimes scream for effect, but the concern is that McCain has, at times, come across as out of control. It is difficult to find current or former officers willing to describe those encounters in detail on the record. That's because, by and large, those officers admire McCain. But that doesn't mean they want his finger on the proverbial button, and they are supporting Clinton or Obama instead.

"I like McCain. I respect McCain. But I am a little worried by his knee-jerk response factor," said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004 and is now campaigning for Clinton. "I think it is a little scary. I think this guy's first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse."

"I studied leadership for a long time during 32 years in the military," said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, a one-time Republican who is supporting Obama. "It is all about character. Who can motivate willing followers? Who has the vision? Who can inspire people?" Gration asked. "I have tremendous respect for John McCain, but I would not follow him."

"One of the things the senior military would like to see when they go visit the president is a kind of consistency, a kind of reliability," explained retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Republican, former chief of staff of the Air Force and former fighter pilot who flew 285 combat missions. McPeak said his perception is that Obama is "not that up when he is up and not that down when he is down. He is kind of a steady Eddie. This is a very important feature," McPeak said. On the other hand, he said, "McCain has got a reputation for being a little volatile." McPeak is campaigning for Obama.

It's an open question whether or not Democrats will be tough enough to push this forward in the way it ought to be. Think Goldwater. The bottom line is that military leaders are worried about the prospect of a McCain Presidency. That means we should all be worried.

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L'Etat, C'est Moi

Another day, another novel legal imterpretation to evade Congression input:

The Bush administration yesterday advanced a new argument for why it does not require congressional approval to strike a long-term security agreement with Iraq, stating that Congress had already endorsed such an initiative through its 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

The 2002 measure, along with the congressional resolution passed one week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States," permits indefinite combat operations in Iraq, according to a statement by the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs.

Of course an authorization to use force against Saddam Hussein still applies! Haven't you ever seen Dawn of the Dead?

They're really grasping at any straw they can, and considering that Congress has failed to hold them accountable for this whatsoever, they'll probably get away with it. And by the way, this is not just about Iraq; this is about making sure that any other potential war doesn't need Congressional oversight or authorization, either. If they need an October surprise to win the election, they don't want to have to mess with any pesky "laws" in order to make it happen. So the precedent of using the 2002 AUMF is also about a pretext to use the September 20, 2001 AUMF for Afghanistan to strike any "terrorist" anywhere in the world. And we know who comes up with the definition of a terrorist.

(Of course, it's also a problem to allow a status of forces agreement to pass without Congressional authorization, as it makes it very difficult for the next President to unentangle an Iraq commitment.)

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OK, I'm going to lead by example today, so this is the last post about the Democratic primary for the day. But I think that Howard Dean got this right, because everyone knows the implications. The Credentials Committee will be almost certainly staffed by Obama supporters, and they'll never allow the Michigan and Florida delegations to be seated as is. So he's really saying "re-vote or don't come crying to me." This is hardball with a softball face.

Instead, he put the state parties on notice: either they can wait and allow the credentials committee to decide whether to seat their delegates, or submit to a re-vote sanctioned under DNC rules. "We look forward to receiving their proposals should they decide to submit new delegate selection plans and will review those plans at that time," he said in the statement.

"Everyone seems to be asking what the DNC will do," a Democrat close to Dean said. "But the question is: what will the state parties do."

Taegan Goddard says that Dean is not being a party boss with this maneuver; but actually, he is, and in the best way possible. He's telling Michigan and Florida that they got into this mess and they'll have to get out of it. He's respecting the rules of the party and the will of the voters.

As for the money, I think if there was a targeted effort to raise money for new primaries, Obama and Clinton donors would make it happen in a matter of days.

I sympathize a little with Florida, since a Republican legislature and a Republican governor rammed their early primary legislation home. But the Democrats were pretty much on board with it, too, so I don't sympathize too much. There's plenty of time between now and June if they're serious about having their delegations count. So get to it!

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Actual Best Headline From March 4

Vermont towns vote to arrest Bush and Cheney

The only problem I have with it is the clause "vote to."

Voters in two Vermont towns on Tuesday approved a measure that would instruct police to arrest President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for "crimes against our Constitution," local media reported.

The nonbinding, symbolic measure, passed in Brattleboro and Marlboro in a state known for taking liberal positions on national issues, instructs town police to "extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them."

I would actually like to see this in a bunch of towns. The post-Presidency and Vice-Presidency should be characterized by Bush and Cheney having to go underground to avoid prosecution. If the Congress refuses to allow for any measure of accountability the localities ought to in their stead. Large swaths of the country should be made off-limits to them. Fourthbranch'll love it, but Bush's ego would tear at him. He thinks he's a swell guy loved by everyone.

I can't WAIT for him to go out and raise cash for McCain. The protests should be immense.

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Democrats In Disarray

Now that the press beat up on Barack Obama for a few days it's Hillary Clinton's turn. The WaPo runs an inside baseball piece about internal hatred among her staff, which is not really germane for A1, but certainly germane to push the narrative that this extended race is dooming the Democrats.

For the bruised and bitter staff around Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tuesday's death-defying victories in the Democratic presidential primaries in Ohio and Texas proved sweet indeed. They savored their wins yesterday, plotted their next steps and indulged in a moment of optimism. "She won't be stopped," one aide crowed.

And then Clinton's advisers turned to their other goal: denying Mark Penn credit.

With a flurry of phone calls and e-mail messages that began before polls closed, campaign officials made clear to friends, colleagues and reporters that they did not view the wins as validation for the candidate's chief strategist. "A lot of people would still like to see him go," a senior adviser said.

The depth of hostility toward Penn even in a time of triumph illustrates the combustible environment within the Clinton campaign, an operation where internal strife and warring camps have undercut a candidate once seemingly destined for the Democratic nomination. Clinton now faces the challenge of exploiting this moment of opportunity while at the same time deciding whether the squabbling at her Arlington headquarters has become a distraction that requires her intervention.

I dislike Mark Penn as much as the next Clinton staffer, and certainly she has not had the campaign people she deserves in this race, but why does this matter to anyone but the most hardcore junkie?

The media has also unilaterally decided for us that negative ads won the race (I think it had something to do with it, but so did demographics and the fact that Obama's voter contact and organizing strategy diminishes somewhat in very large states), and that the problem was that Obama didn't "fight back" even though he put out a competing "3 AM, you should be afraid for a different reason" ad within a matter of hours, and sure enough, the next day a story with the headline Lesson of Defeat: Obama Comes Out Punching can be written. So they get the knock-down drag-out fight they demand, pushing FURTHER the story that Democrats are fighting, Clinton supporters hate Obama supporters, Obama supporters hate Clinton supporters, and nobody will show up to the polls in November. Note the beginning of the NY Times story:

Senator Barack Obama woke up on Wednesday talking of his delegate lead and of taking the fight to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. But after defeats in two of the most populous states, he also sounded like a chastened candidate in search of his lost moment.

So here we have a story where Obama is winning but really losing, matched by a story where Clinton is winning but really losing. Message: Democrats are losers. The whole extended campaign is colored with this theme: it's not Democrats have two talented and resilient candidates, it's that the party is weak and about to explode. Never mind the facts.

Then there's the NAFTA/Canada boomerang, with a Canadian story suggesting that Clinton's team also gave assurances to their neighbors to the north that the strident rhetoric on the trade deal was mostly talk. Apparently phone lines from the nation's largest newspapers don't reach all the way to Ottawa, because this story which could have been cleared up in 20 minutes played out over the course of a week, damaging Obama and now potentially damaging Clinton. It's also contextless, since media types don't know a goddamn thing about trade policy and don't understand the difference between cancellation and renegotiation. If they did, they'd have understood that both candidates' position on trade was actually logically consistent with what they told Canadian officials and WOULD HAVE NEVER REPORTED THE STORY.

Expect bullshit like this for the next seven weeks. And read critically.

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There's A Lesson in Here

It was pretty clear to me that there was something wrong with this NAFTA/Canada story. Clinton was clearly using new rhetoric in Ohio too, and the differences between them, if there were any, was that Obama was at least more committed to adding environmental and labor standards in trade deals than Clinton ever was, considering her husband and the DLC establishment to which she still has ties pushed NAFTA through the Congress in the first place. But this story, which started as an Obama staffer reaching out to the Canadian government to reassure them, was actually the other way around, with Canadian officials approaching a random Obama economic advisor for clarification, the advisor (Austan Goolsbee) affirming that Obama wanted to renegotiate but not end the pact, and the conservative Canadian government, through Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, leaking it in the most sensational way possible. The embassy has now actively apologized for misrepresenting the story, and now we have The Globe and Mail in Toronto reporting that Hillary's people did pretty much the same doublespeak as well:

A candid comment to journalists from CTV News by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most senior political staffer during the hurly-burly of a budget lock-up provided the initial spark in what the American media are now calling NAFTAgate.

Mr. Harper announced Wednesday that he has asked an internal security team to begin finding the source of a document leak that he characterized as being "blatantly unfair" to Senator Barack Obama [...]

The former university professor found himself in a room with CTV employees where he was quickly surrounded by a gaggle of reporters while other journalists were within earshot of other colleagues.

At the end of an extended conversation, Mr. Brodie was asked about remarks aimed by the Democratic candidates at Ohio's anti-NAFTA voters that carried serious economic implications for Canada.

Since 75 per cent of Canadian exports go to the U.S., Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton's musings about reopening the North American free-trade pact had caused some concern.

Mr. Brodie downplayed those concerns.

"Quite a few people heard it," said one source in the room.

"He said someone from (Hillary) Clinton's campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. . . That someone called us and told us not to worry."

Government officials did not deny the conversation took place.

They said that Mr. Brodie sought to allay concerns about the impact of Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton's assertion that they would re-negotiate NAFTA if elected. But they did say that Mr. Brodie had no recollection of discussing any specific candidate — either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Obama.

This of course doesn't matter now. The controversy did its job, from Harper's perspective; it extended the race and helped his buddy McCain. Obama's team can try to resurrect this controversy, but it's their fault for not nipping the story in the bud in the first place. And the media really doesn't know a goddamn thing about trade policy and how it affects working people anyway, so this becomes a he said-she said instead of a legitimate conversation about the need to implement standards that protect workers around the world from rapacious corporate interests.

The lesson is that candidates have to be forceful from the very beginning of this kind of controversy, foreign countries should not be meddling in other countries' elections, and the media should shut their mouths instead of fanning flames.

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Rush & Bill

I agree that something needs to be done about Florida and Michigan, but the buried lede in this post is that Bill Clinton appeared on the Rush Limbaugh show? I don't care if it was a substitute host, I see no reason whatsoever why a Democrat should ever validate that program. That's 1,000 times worse than going on Fox News. Weird that this hasn't gotten much play in the "Clinton is the SUXXXOR" depths of the liberal blogosphere. If anything says "will do or say anything to win," it's going on the show of the guy who has used every attack machine piece of swill against you for the last 15 years.

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The Flip Side Of Tom McKeyes' Carpetbagging

It's interesting, to say the least, that on the same day Tom McClintock packed up the station wagon and left Ventura County, we also find out that Democrats have taken the registration advantage in that same county.

In the parlance of 21st century politics, Ventura County has turned blue.

As of Monday, registered Democrats became the majority voting group in the county, surpassing Republican registration for the first time since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

The latest numbers: 150,066 Democrats and 149,627 Republicans.

"Everybody's on cloud nine," said Laura Winchester of Thousand Oaks, vice chairwoman of the county Democratic Central Committee. "From the standpoint of momentum, this is a huge blow to Republicans."

I know a lot of these Ventura County Democratic activists, and they worked their asses off to reach this point. Ventura is the beginning of a wide-ranging red-to-blue program to recapture more than the coastal and urban regions of the state. McClintock left Ventura County because he was termed out. But he didn't exactly have a safe haven anymore in Thousand Oaks, either.

This bodes very well for SD-19 and Hannah-Beth Jackson. Now if we had a solid candidate in CA-24...

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