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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Making the simple complicated

Politicians seem to have a knack for taking something truly simple and making it truly complicated. Atrios makes the point today on the health insurance issue:

There seems to be tremendous focus on how precisely individuals and businesses would interact with some grand health care plan, of how exactly to get them to sign up. To me that part's rather easy. Send everyone a membership card in the mail! All done.

Even recognizing the political realities of the situation, it seems that the way to sign everyone up is to... sign everyone up. Instead of having "mandates" requiring that people sign up to some plan, just sign them up. Instead of mandating that they pay their premiums every month, just pay for it out of general tax revenues (adding a new payroll tax or raising top marginal rates or whatever to do so).

Even if insurance companies are in still in the mix I see no reason for people to have to proactively sign up for some plan they may or may not be able to afford.

Not only is this an obvious idea, but it's already being implemented. That's exactly the way Medicare works. I turned 65 a few months ago, and a few months before that I received my standard, traditional Medicare card in the mail. No applying, no calling the Social Security offices, no hassle at all. It enrolled me automatically in traditional Medicare. If I want some other Medicare option, I have to do something, but, if I don't, I don't have to do anything. And, automatically, $90 or so disappears from my Social Security check each month.

So why try to re-invent the wheel with squares?

Broder, Klein et al on bipartisanship uber alles!

Here’s an excellent anonymous comment to Joe Klein on his Time blog. The obsession with bipartisanship among the Washington insiders has reached such a level of absurdity that it’s basically down to the final line of defense: “I’m David Broder [or Klein, or Ignatius, etc.] and you’re not.”

Here's the thing about "civility", Mr. Klein. Real-world civility is a two-way proposition. Mr. Broder, and you, feel free to slam and insult those of us on the center left who call for better journalism and who point out your egregious misrepresentations of reality; you question our motives, our intelligence, and our patriotism. You routinely dismiss our every point and argument with a smug wave of the hand and a label of "partisan!" (sniff.) That isn't civil. I'd like to see you, at least once, demonstrate that you have considered someone else's point a valid one. You don't have to agree, just concede it is valid. You have never done that, even when presented with irrefutable data.

As long as you and Mr. Broder continue to wave your arrogant dismissals while failing to own up to your own misrepresentations and mistakes, I think we will continue to point out the folly of your positions.
You are not asking for civility, you are demanding that we "know our place." It isn't going to happen, and it shouldn't.

Pretending to do something

This story needs a translation:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush unveiled a long-term strategy on climate change on Thursday, with plans to gather the countries that emit the most greenhouse gases and set a global emissions goal.

... The U.S. strategy calls for consensus on long-term goals for reducing the greenhouse gases that spur global warming, but not before the end of 2008, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.


Everyone should agree with us ["consensus"] that they should do nothing, and, if they don't agree with us, everyone should do nothing because there is no "consensus".

Just today, we get news the NASA's director doesn't think we should do anything:

NASA administrator Michael Griffin is drawing the ire of his agency's preeminent climate scientists after apparently downplaying the need to combat global warming.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Please let me investigate myself. I'll be very thorough. Really, truly.

It appears the Justice Department is expanding its probe into the Attorney firings into the more general question of politicized hiring/firing practices. Josh Marshall seems enthused by this, but I sit here wondering if this isn't setting things up for a white wash. After all, how many times have you seen people indict themselves?

Picking nits

Sometimes, the press really bugs me - even the underground press. Here's a story toted highly in Raw Story's headlines:

Some attorneys looking at the ethical issues raised by the firing of 8 US Attorneys think a case could be made that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be disbarred, according to a report in today's New York Observer.

"It depends crucially on what the facts are...Given the most unfavorable interpretation, there’s clearly a case for disbarment," David Luban, a law professor at the Georgetown University told the paper's Anna Schneider-Mayerson.

Well yeah, duh. Actually, there's a pretty good case that Gonzales should be in jail for multiple felonies. I may be wrong, but I think that automatically qualifies him for disbarrment.

And, would someone please, please, please tell me why the NY Times can't use the word "torture" instead of "enhanced interrogation techniques" or "harsh interrogation techniques?"

Why did Fitzgerald stop where he did?

Kevin Drum discusses the Plame matter – specifically, the fact that it is beyond good faith dispute now that Valerie Plame held “covert” status. Drum speculates that the reason Patrick Fitzgerald never brought charges against Libby, Dick Cheney or Karl Rove for the act of publicly disclosing her confidential status as a CIA agent (as opposed to the prosecution of Libby for lying in the investigation) was a problem in Fitzgerald’s mind with establishing the element of “scienter” usually required for prosecuting someone for a crime. That’s basically the element of knowledge that an act is criminal or wrong. But concepts like scienter usually embrace reckless behavior – complete disregard for whether or not an act is dangerous or may cause harm or not, or may violate a law -- as well as deliberate, intentional wrongdoing.

Presumably, none of them actually knew for a fact that Plame had covert status. I suppose that’s the defense. But knowing she worked for the CIA, and considering the solemn promises they had all made to maintain confidentiality of legitimately confidential information, (1) they certainly knew for a fact that some CIA agents have covert status, (2) they knew that unauthorized disclosure that someone under cover is a CIA agent could have serious and deadly consequences, and (3) they at minimum knew for a fact that they did not know she did not have covert status. Weren’t they under an affirmative duty to find out, and isn’t a violation of that duty a criminal act?

Keep in mind, this was not something blurted out in the heat of an angry moment, but a deliberate, planned disclosure by officials close to and with responsibilities in the national security apparatus. This deliberate disclosure was to key members of the press for the purpose of having the information made public. Ask yourself, too, whether you – imagine yourself as a lowly Federal employee in a Democratic administration who happened to know that Plame was a covert CIA agent -- would have been prosecuted if you had done the same thing. And that your defense was that you did not know for a fact that she was covert. Duhhh!

Sorry, Fitzgerald may be a big hero to some for at least nailing Libby for the perjury and exposing the unscrupulous nature of this Administration, but I have to question why the charges were limited to that offense and to him. If “covert” is a slam dunk, which it sounds like, and “scienter” is a slam dunk, too, at least on a recklessness standard, then what’s really behind not filing criminal charges against those evil-doers? Maybe there’s case law that tightens the recklessness standard, but all I recall hearing was that there were very few if any cases to establish a set of stare decisis interpretations in this area of law. I think of so-called prosecutorial discretion as refusing to file cases where the prosecutor recognizes a greater injustice or danger that would result from a conviction for a technical offense than from just leaving it alone: a balance of harms test. That principle seems hard to apply to these people and this offense.

Modern palentology

From today's news:

PETERSBURG, Ky. - A museum that tells the Bible's version of Earth's history — that the planet was created in a single week just a few thousand years ago — attracted thousands to its opening as protesters rallied outside.

Noooo. That is NOT the Bible's version of Earth's history. It's the idiots' interpretation of the Bible's version of Earth's history.

The Bush legacy

Sooooo, as I read the NY Times discussion of yesterday's Supreme Court decision by Judge Alito, it seems that you forfeit your right to ever bring a sex discrimination suit against your employer if you failed to file a complaint within 180 days of the first occasion of such discrimination against you. Now, given the way sex discrimination works, that first occasion was probably the day you were hired. So, if you have been employed for more than 180 days, you no longer have any rights to sue your employer for sex (or probably age and race) discrimination. All your employer has to do is prove he discriminated against you way back there on the day you were hired, and he's off the hook.

And, how old is Alito? How many years does he have in front of him to screw this country?

The evil this president has done will not only last, but get worse, for years to come.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

104 acres!

This is depressing (the embassy being built in the Emerald City that’s as big as Vatican City). Over 100 acres for an embassy: that’s almost a half-mile by a half-mile on each side of a square. For an embassy. Creating “facts-on-the-ground” that will make it impossible to re-create a sane foreign policy. Impossible to convince Iraqis, the rest of the Middle East or any other country in the world that our intentions are honorable.

An horrendous legacy from Bush, Cheney and the neo-conservatives.

Another heads-I-win, tails-you lose moment (and “you” is “we”)

Is there something wrong with this picture? So the Iraqi government is supposed to meet milestones that will make it possible for the U.S. to leave. You know, standing down when they stand up. But if they don’t meet the milestones, we’ll leave. If the threat of leaving is supposed to mean anything, aren’t we promising to stay if they meet the milestones? For how long?

Poof! The Times makes an inconvenient poll of Iraqis disappear

The New York Times reporter Michael Gordon types up an he-said-she-said report (courtesy of The Left Coaster) that is the virtual equivalent of an Administration press release: quoting primarily military big-shots and Iraqis who are part of the U.S.-created government to report that the U.S. occupation should continue indefinitely to prevent a bloodbath. “Indefinitely,” as in when Iraqi security forces are ready to take over.

When have we heard that before? It was almost two years ago now that George Bush issued his strategy statement, “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” He claimed that 160,000 Iraqis were trained and equipped. We were supposedly making great progress then. Notice how we never see reports of how many Iraqis are trained and equipped anymore. How many Iraqis have “stood up”? We have supposedly been training Iraqis to perform security functions for over four years now. You would think there would be enough by now.

The article cites an ABC poll of Iraqis suggesting that a majority want us to “stay-the-course.” But whatever happened to the Program on International Attitudes poll PIPA) that was reported back in September showing gigantic majorities of both Sunnis and Shias wanting us to get out within one year? Most startling is that substantial majorities said they believe the violence level would actually decrease if we were not there complicating the picture. Even the majority of Kurds, the most friendly to our presence as protecting their operational independence, said they wanted a timetable of no more than two years, with a plurality saying immediately or within one year. That survey, if valid, puts the lie to the entire premise of Mr. Gordon’s report and the President’s policy. It seems blatantly irresponsible to just pretend that inconvenient survey does not exist.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Enemy of the State

Who else?

"Bush created a terrorist training ground in Iraq" by Joe Sudbay in AmercBlog; quoting a NYT article today, he writes
Bush's war in Iraq has become the terror training and recruiting ground he's always claiming he's going to prevent. Terrorists trained in Iraq are now starting to take their fight to other parts of the world based on a report in Monday's NY Times. This happened on Bush's watch in Bush's war.

Bad enough that Occupant, The White House has been the terrorists' best recruiter. Now, this Memorial Day, we realize that his Iraq has become both the terrorists' basic training camp and their military proving ground, and that in effect our forces have served as training dummies for when they, um, "follow us home". As the article describes it:
Iraq [has] become a laboratory for urban guerrilla tactics. “There are some operational parallels between the urban terrorist activity in Iraq and the urban environments in Europe and the United States,” Mr. Pluchinsky [a former senior intelligence analyst at the State Department] wrote. “More relevant terrorist skills are transferable from Iraq to Europe than from Afghanistan to Europe.”

Great work. What a great way to "insure domestic Tranquility, [and] provide for the common defence." And that doesn't even get to:
  • establish[ing] Justice [hah!] . . . ,
  • promot[ing] the general Welfare, and
  • secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Just so we are all clear on why The Regime is as much an enemy to this nation as anybody abroad.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How will Democrats respond now?

It seems McCain, Giuliani and Romney have charged Clinton and Obama with being “anti-troops” because they voted against a blank check in Iraq for Bush.

So which is a better response?

(1) Say nothing, don’t “dignify it with a response” – you know, the way the Democrats were so successful in 2004 with the Swiftboat accusations.
(2) Say, “Unh, unh, no we aren’t! That’s not fair. Republicans are really mean to say stuff like that.” That’s the pervasive Democratic methodology ever since at least 9-11.
(3) Say something like, “Sorry, but John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are fast making themselves into lying slimeballs. They will stoop to any cheap accusation now, even when they absolutely know it’s false. A smart strategic move is not surrender. The only surrendering is what McCain, Giuliani and Romney have done to their Maximum Leader. They know perfectly well the foreign policy disaster that Bush and Cheney have personally created with their incompetence, and yet they are still too chicken to stand up to them.”

Friday, May 25, 2007


You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much the past couple of days. Here's the explanation. We've been having the (exterior of the) house painted -- totally sanded down to the bare wood and completely re-done. The layers of sawdust accumulated on everything. The painters finally finished up day before yesterday. We have ten house guests descending upon us tonight for the Memorial Day weekend and the week that follows, so we had to completely scrub down the house, wash every bed linen and blanket, re-plant the garden (which was trodden by the painters), mow the lawn, etc., etc. in two days to get the house ready for company. We're just about finished, but it's been a close one.

So that explains why I've been AWOL. With guests coming, blogging will probably be light for the next few days as well.

Evil personified

Steve Clemons tells us that Cheney is trying an end run around Condi Rice to force Bush to go to war, instead of negotiate, with Iran:

This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.

Usually, I don't like black-white, good-evil observations. The world is too nuanced with shades of grey to go that root most of the time, but I have to say there is something truly diabolical about Cheney -- something deep seated and really, really evil. And, you can see it in the attached photo. The man just seeths with hatred for almost everyone and everything.

Building the case on Iraq

Looking to the next showdown, Democrats need to be working hard on the American people to convince more and more of them not just that we are losing it, or that a lot of soldiers are dying, or that it’s getting worse, but that the Bush-Cheney policy is fundamentally wrong and not in the best interests of the country. Here’s one 5-minute speech -- with a few rhetorical nuggets highlighted.

IRAQ IS IN A CIVIL WAR, AND WE NEED TO ADJUST OUR STRATEGY TO THAT REALITY. That is the essential fact Americans must understand. George Bush and Dick Cheney did not anticipate this civil war, because they did not know what they were doing when they started this war.

So what do we do with this mess now that doesn't just mean allowing Bush and Cheney to dump the problem in the lap of the next President? It’s simply a lie to say we are fighting “al Qaeda” there, when virtually all the people attacking us are Sunni or Shia Iraqis who think they are fighting our occupation of their land. It’s a lie to say this war has anything whatsoever to do with the “war on terror.” It never did because Saddam hated al Qaeda and bin Laden, and so do the Sunni tribal leaders in the center and West, the Shias in the South, and most of the Kurds in the North. It doesn’t help in the war on terror now, either, because all Bush’s Iraq Adventure is doing is making opposition to the United States grow throughout the Middle East and radicalizing it even further.

Republicans defending their absurd Iraq policy are good at the middle school taunts game, equating an intelligent strategic move with “surrender.” THERE IS NO “SURRENDER” HERE BECAUSE BUSH AND CHENEY CANNOT EVEN DESCRIBE WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO WIN, or when that might happen. Tony Blair was asked that the other day what “victory” means, and he could not answer it – but only made the absurd statement that even if he could not say what winning is, it would bad to lose – at whatever it is we are supposed to win, and he'll have to get back to us on that. And 600 or 700 American soldiers are dying or wounded every month for that? THE ONLY “SURRENDER” HERE IS REPUBLICANS WHO REALLY KNOW HOW MUCH DAMAGE THIS WAR IS DOING TO THE COUNTRY. THEY ARE AFRAID NOT TO GIVE REFLEXIVE SUPPORT TO GEORGE BUSH AND DICK CHENEY. But they need to explain how sticking them in a shooting gallery “supporting the troops.”

Re-deploying our troops in the region from the middle of a civil war they cannot possibly “win” does not mean we do not need to continue maintaining a strong presence in the Middle East. We need to for several reasons – to be ready and able to go after the real terrorists wherever they are. We need to be able to go on the offensive again. BY SUCKING UP HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS IN RESOURCES AND HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF OUR SOLDIERS, AND ALIENATING SO MUCH OF THE WORLD, GEORGE BUSH’S IRAQ ADVENTURE HAS PUT US ON THE DEFENSIVE. Yes, we need to be ready to help Middle Eastern countries protect oil production critical to a world economy that feeds billions of people; we need to support an ally in the region that has been under constant threat for 60 years, even as we resume real efforts to bring genuine peace for that country and its neighbors. Our strong presence in the region will tend to discourage the most violent solutions to grievances. BUT WE MUST FINALLY RECOGNIZE THAT FORCING OUR FORM OF DEMOCRACY BY THE BARREL OF A GUN DOES NOT AND NEVER WILL WORK. THIS IS THE ESSENTIAL FAILURE OF THE BUSH-CHENEY FOREIGN POLICY. But with a foreign policy controlled by brains instead of the need for Republicans to prove how tough they are, we will welcome and be supportive of peaceful efforts to bring wider use of democratic forms of government to the region.

As much as we hear how it will all descend into chaos when we leave, THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF IRAQIS WANT US TO LEAVE. THERE IS CHAOS NOW, AND THE IRAQI PEOPLE BELIEVE OUR OCCUPATION MAKES IT WORSE. Most actually believe the violence will go down when for all their differences Iraqis can finally fend for themselves. So if we are supposed to be protecting Iraqis from each other, WHY ARE WE NOT DOING WHAT THE IRAQI PEOPLE WANT? GOOD QUESTION. We barely know their language, much less their history and culture. MAYBE IRAQIS KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THEIR OWN COUNTRY THAT WE DON’T.

George Bush’s so-called “surge” is what they call putting lipstick on a pig. It's just "stay the course" with more people getting killed. It’s time for the grown-ups to take charge for a real change of course.

Good news: Democrats generally like their candidates, Republicans don’t

According to a CBS/New York Times poll conducted over the past week, by 63% of Democrats are satisfied with their Presidential candidates as a whole, while only 38% of Republicans are satisfied with McCain, Giuliani, Romney et al. I hope that's good news. Certainly some Republicans don’t think the candidates are reliably right-wing enough. But perhaps moderate, decent Republicans – you know, avoid foreign entanglements, balance the budget, limited government -- are showing their disgust for the candidates in the recent South Carolina debate. That's where they competed to raucous cheers of the most committed Republicans on who could be the most warlike, the most pro-torture, the most in favor of a kangaroo-court system of justice, and of domestic electronic spying without concern for the U.S. Constitution.

Glenn Greenwald reminds us of a near-endorsement of genocide that neo-conservative Republican guru John Podhoretz registered last year. By phrasing it as a hypothetical question, Podhoretz is saved in the nick of time from an accusation that can stick, but he nonetheless is justifiably damned by presenting the question as one that reasonably can be answered in the affirmative.

What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?

We should have killed all Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35! Cold-blooded murder of several million people, ho hum. This is what the Grand Old Party has come to. It has become an uncivilized, barbarian political party that is deliberately trying to destroy the Constitution of the United States of America and the rule of law. What the American press has become is one that makes no comment when an important Republican writer suggests that genocide would fine and dandy if Americans do it. Ho hum.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Democrats’ powerful message to the American people: vote for us because we are nice

OK, if it’s done, it’s done. Guess we start making as much of a silk purse out of a sow’s ear as we possibly can. One thing we know about George Bush and his Republican toadies in Congress now is that they are major flip-floppers on funding the troops. They voted against it before they voted for it.

Will we even hear anything like that out of Democratic spokespeople? No. We are civil, first, last and always.

Beltway Press: the “4th Column” to the American people

Glenn Greenwald has posted a probably prescient and infuriating analysis explaining step-by-step how the so-called watershed month of September, when supporters of the Iraq War supposedly will finally have to put up or shut up, will be a total fizzle, with opponents of the war turned to ineffective jelly. The all-wise General Petraeus, the one who “wrote the book” on counter-insurgency, will come in and say “progress is being made.” Please, a show of hands: How many here think a general is going to come in and say, “We’re failing”?

Everyone with a vested interest in continuing the war, especially including the kept DC press, will chime right in. As Greenwald points out, Joe Klein of Time is already laying the groundwork from anonymous sources who say we are making progress already. Pay no attention to the spike in American military deaths to about 100 per month or more, or the fact that the last few months have been the worst since the war started. That’s just being picky. We are supposed to support the troops by not caring how many die or are wounded.

During the Spanish Civil War, a general marching four army “columns” into Madrid coined the term “5th Column” to describe friendly collaborators throughout the city. In modern usage, the perspective has reversed and it has basically come to mean “traitors,” like “Quislings” after the Norwegian collaborator with the Nazis.

It was Edmund Burke, as reported by Thomas Carlyle – lord, can Wikipedia and Google make you sound like a genius! – who supposedly dubbed the press group sitting in Parliament the “4th Estate,” in relation to the three “estates” (nobility, clergy, commoners) in the French Estates-General or “parliament.”

So doesn’t that make a large portion of the DC press corps, desperate to preserve their own credibility and stature at the expense of the country and the soldiers placed in a no-win situation, the “4th Column”?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Edwards' speech to the Council on Foreign Relations

I haven't taken any firm sides yet on who the Dems should nominate for the presidential run in '08, and I may not do so at all in this blog. Every one of the candidates would be better than any of the Republicans out there. However, the more I see of John Edwards, the more I like him. Here's his speech on foreign policy today. Here's just a small bit of it:

The president has played political brinksmanship over the war in Iraq time and time again. He refuses to acknowledge the futility of his approach, disregards the clear message sent by the American people last fall, and falsely claims that the only way for Congress to support the troops is to prolong the war. That's just not true. Congress can support the troops and end the war, which is exactly what the bill they sent the president last month would have done. When the president vetoed that bill, it was the president alone who was blocking support for the troops. Nobody else.

Any compromise that funds the war through the end of the fiscal year isn't a compromise at all, it's a capitulation. As I have said repeatedly, Congress should send the president the same bill he vetoed again and again until he realizes he has no choice but to start bringing our troops home.

We need to get out of Iraq on our own timetable, not when we are forced to do so by events. As a recent Council report put it, the U.S. "has already achieved all that it is likely to achieve in Iraq... [and] staying in Iraq can only drive up the price of these gains in blood, treasure, and strategic position."

Hiding things from Congress

Kevin Drum is an interesting source of news today. He links to a report speculating that the CIA may be producing counterfeit U.S. dollars and using them to fund secret operations overseas in order keep those operations outside the control of the American Congress. I guess it wouldn't surprise me much. This administration has never had any interest in involving Congress in anything, and even before the Bushies, the CIA has never liked much oversight, so the two are likely to work well together.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the counterfeiting is not saving the taxpayers any money, since it costs more to produce the counterfeit currency than the currency is worth.

What the cave-in shows

The Democratic cave-in on the Iraq War shows once again the extreme weakness of the Democratic message machine. Democrats in conservative or moderate districts have not been given the basis for rallying around setting deadlines for the President. The Republicans as usual have their message machine working in high gear under highly adverse circumstances.

Even Senator Feingold falls into the “framing” trap in his thoughtful “diary” entry on the Daily Kos blog. He says Democrats have “the will of the American people” behind stopping the war. The President, meanwhile, is “standing up for what’s right” – not “surrendering” – regardless of what “the polls” say, while Democrats are just following the polls as they always do. But those Democrats who are weakening on deadlines are doing just that, following their own polls, and they have not been given the rhetorical tools Democrats can all share that will break through the filters of an essentially pro-Republican national media, and attack the “surrender” meme and undermine it.

Democrats need to have both cards, what the people want and what is right for America. They need to able to play both cards, in a way that 80% of Americans agree with, in two or three words. Most Americans are beginning to realize what a horrendous foreign policy blunder this has. They are ready to tip, but they are as susceptible as middle school kids to being goaded with language that challenges their toughness – to not “surrendering” or letting “the enemy” get a chance to bray about the weak-willed Americans. The Democrats need to have at their command – across the board, nationally -- the single phrase that communicates that the Republicans are making fools of the American people and that leaving Iraq will not be weakness, but the next move to strengthen the country in the war on terror.

Fairly evocative terms like “blank check”– everyone kind of knows that’s not a good idea -- and that Bush wants to “dump his mess in the lap of the next president” have gotten us this far. But we need to move the opposition from 60% to 80%. When for example has there ever, ever been a war opposed by so many prominent military leaders as a foreign policy and military disaster? Some other ideas for pushing the needle are reminding people of this unprecedented attack by military people, stressing that Bush (and Blair) cannot even define what success is, that we don’t even know who the enemy is in Iraq, that Iraqis themselves want us out of there and believe they will better be able to solve their own problems when we leave, that it’s George Bush’s fantasy that’s being lost, not a war. But we need three simple words that say this, that will overpower “Americans don’t surrender.” I don’t have the answer.

Saint Monica

Monica Goodling seems to think that even though she admittedly committed numerous crimes (basing Civil Service hiring decisions on political affiliation) it was okay because she really didn't mean to do anything criminal.

And, the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee seem to think it was just fine too. They keep praising her. Maybe they'll propose her for sainthood.

I guess no one with such a goodly name could ever do anything bad.

Over there

Another day, another nine U.S. GIs while the Democrats in Congress do nothing.

BAGHDAD - Roadside bombings and gunbattles across Iraq killed nine U.S. servicemen, and U.S. authorities were examining a body found in a river that Iraqi police believe is a U.S. soldier seized in an ambush nearly two weeks ago, officials said Wednesday.

Hedge fund management fees

Kevin Drum informs us that Hedge Fund Managers are treating their mangement fee income as "capital gains" because the fees are largely driven by capital gains. Apparently, the IRS is allowing this. What utter absurdity. These are management fees, not capital gains under any reasonable interpretation of the law, regardless of whether they are tied to performance. This is just one more instance where the Bush White House and the Thuglicans in general give away our country to the rich. Some hedge fund managers earn over $1 billion a year.

Nobody knows anything

Monica Goodling, nickle version. "I don't know anything and what I did know, I've forgotten. I'm still a little girl still growing up."

Democrats failing on all fronts

Not only have the Dems decided to give Bush everything he wants to fund the Iraq war, they've also dropped all the teeth from the bill intended to control lobbying abuses, and now, they've apparently either dropped or postponed their plan to hold a no confidence vote on Gonzales. With friends like these, you don't need enemies.

Bush's next war

ABC says that Bush has launced a covert program against Iran:

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Laughing stock

Well, they just made it worse by denying they had caved for a full day and then caving completely. All the networks are now turning the entire Democratic party into a laughing stock. What a bunch of buffoons. Getting away for Memorial Day weekend is more important to these guys than saving the lives of our troops in Iraq.

Screw them all!

Goodling refusing to produce subpoenaed docs

Monica Goodling is refusing to turn over copies of documents subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee in advance of her appearance tomorrow. I have a feeling that Congress may hold her in contempt and then Gonzales will refuse to arrest her. What happens then, I have no idea. Probably nothing.

For some reason, this Congress seems prepared to let Bush walk all over them.

Bush, the penis extender

Gary Kamiya has an article at Salon explaining why Americans really don't want Bush impeached. Nickle version: They would be impeaching themselves:

… the public's dislike of Bush has not translated into any real move to get rid of him. The impeach-Bush movement has not really taken off yet, and barring some unforeseen dramatic development, it seems unlikely that it will. Even if there were a mass popular movement to impeach Bush, it's far from clear that Congress, which alone has the power to initiate impeachment proceedings, would do anything. The Democratic congressional majority has been at best lukewarm to the idea. In any case, their constituents have not demanded it forcefully or in such numbers that politicians feel they must respond. Democrats, and for that matter Americans of all political persuasions, seem content to watch Bush slowly bleed to death.

Why? Why was Clinton, who was never as unpopular as Bush, impeached for lying about sex, while Bush faces no sanction for the far more serious offense of lying about war?

… there's a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off -- and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people. Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It's a national myth. It's John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness -- come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.

I'm afraid that's true. And, what that means is they're not going to learn anything from this and will be doomed to repeat the Bush mistake again and again. I don't quite know where this perversion of the American ideal of the rugged individualist came from, but it's turned into a weak-kneed desire by a bunch of authoritarian followers to find an authoritarian leader who can make them feel their penises are big.

Surge II

"Surge I" played so well in Peoria that Bush is bringing out "Surge II," with many of the same actors that played in "Surge I." This time, strangely enough, there's not much publicity about it. Hell, it may even be classified:

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

This "second surge" of troops in Iraq, which is being executed by extending tours for brigades already there and by deploying more units, could boost the number of combat troops to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year. When support troops are included, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 -- the most ever -- by the end of the year.

The efforts to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq are being carried out without the fanfare that accompanied President Bush's initial troop surge in January.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, the U.S. commander who led NATO troops into Bosnia in late 1995, when asked to comment on the analysis of deployment orders, said: "It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it. I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."

[H/t to Americablog]

Muslim Americans

Here's a profile of the people that Rush Limbaugh and many others want to put yellow stars on, prevent from voting, and send "home" if they look at you wrong:

The first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans finds them to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.

The Pew Research Center conducted more than 55,000 interviews to obtain a national sample of 1,050 Muslims living in the United States. Interviews were conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. The resulting study, which draws on Pew's survey research among Muslims around the world, finds that Muslim Americans are a highly diverse population, one largely composed of immigrants. Nonetheless, they are decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes. This belief is reflected in Muslim American income and education levels, which generally mirror those of the public.

Key findings include:

* Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.

* A large majority of Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off in this society. Fully 71% agree that most people who want to get ahead in the U.S. can make it if they are willing to work hard.

* The survey shows that although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society. And by nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.

* Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.

Most of these people are probably more likely to vote Republican than I am. Yet, they are the targets of hatred and contempt in many Republican circles.

Bush meltdown continues

Bush's approval in the Republican run Rasmussen poll has fallen again to another new alltime low:

After three straight days at the lowest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports, President Bush’s Job Approval ratings slipped another point to another new low on Tuesday.

Just 33% of American adults now Approve of the way that George W. Bush is performing his duties as President. Prior to this past week, the President’s ratings had never slipped below 35% and had only reached that level for a day or two at a time. Now, his Job Approval has been at the 35% level or below for six straight days.

So, explain to me why the Democrats aren't being more aggressive.

And over there, the beat goes on

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Twenty-five people were killed and 60 wounded when a car bomb tore through a busy market area in southwest Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.

The finger of blame

Firedoglake is live blogging the Habeas hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Spector's opening comments were particularly interesting. It seems he's blaming the whole thing on the Courts for upholding the law that he himself wrote.

Specter says that it is surprising that it is even necessary to change the statue in light of the Rassul case holding — which made explicit that due process and habeas were statutorily required for those held in Guantanimo. Discussing particulars of Rasul — and the Lord Mansfield precedent cited therein. Specter says that he doesn't think it needs to be restored, because it is already there. Expresses disgust at the 4th Circuit flouting the Supreme Court's precedent — talking about the internal politics of the Supreme Court as potentially playing a part in the Supremes not calling the 4th Cir. on the carpet for their flouting of its authority. Calls this an extraordinary moment in judicial procedure in this country.

I mean, I'm not going to let the Courts off the hook for this, but jeese, it's just amazing how these guys can point the finger at everyone but themselves.

Lies and the lying liars

Bush administration officials seem to pride themselves in taking dishonesty to new heights of absurdity. From Newsweek, we get:

After the incident, there were recriminations over what Comey portrayed as an attempt by Bush's top lawyer and chief of staff to "take advantage" of a very ill man. Comey didn't tell the Senate panel that the bad feelings were stoked even more the next morning when White House officials explained the hospital visit by saying Gonzales and Card were unaware that Comey was acting A.G. (and therefore the only person authorized to sign off on the surveillance program), according to a former senior DOJ official who requested anonymity talking about internal matters. Top DOJ officials were furious, the source said. Just days earlier, Justice's chief spokesman had publicly said Comey would serve as "head of the Justice Department" while Ashcroft was ill. Justice officials had also faxed over a document to the White House informing officials of this. When a Gonzales aide claimed the counsel's office could find no record of it, DOJ officials dug out a receipt showing the fax had been received. "People were disgusted as much as livid," said the DOJ official. "It was just the dishonesty of it." A Gonzales aide at the time (who asked not to be ID'd talking about internal matters) said there was a "miscommunication" and "genuine confusion" over who was in charge. Democratic senators plan a no-confidence vote in Gonzales. They also want him to explain his testimony last year that "there has not been any serious disagreement" about the terrorist-surveillance program.

Carpetbagger even tells us that White House spokesman Tony Fratto refuses to confirm that a meeting between Gonzales, Card, and Ashcroft in Ashcroft's hospital room ever occurred.

I mean, these guys remind me of the time when I was about five or six. My parents were out at the time, and I decided it would be fun to try to flush an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet. Naturally, there was a minor flood. I made up some cockamamie story about robbers breaking into the house and deliberately flooding the bathroom in order to deflect blame. Of course, it didn't work.

So why is it, if my parents could figure that out, the press can't figure out that Bush is lying every time he opens his mouth?


Hilzoy blows his stack about the people promoting the voter fraud complaints in order to suppress minority voting:

There are some jobs that really make me wonder: how can the person who takes them look him- or herself in the face? Lobbying for Robert Mugabe, for instance, or being one of the scientists paid to come up with studies proving that cigarettes don't cause cancer. Spending your days trying to make voter fraud look like a serious problem* when it isn't one, by telling lies, all in order to convince people to pass restrictive voter ID laws because you think that the people who will be prevented from voting as a result are likely to favor your opposition is one of them.

What he doesn't understand about these people is that they truly believe they are saving America. They believe deep down that people who tend to be less educated and, presumably therefore less knowledgeable about current events should not be trusted with the vote because they will misuse it. That was the rationalization for literacy tests in years past, and it's still the rationalization for trying to cut these people out of the process. Of course, their real motives are far less attractive and are probably racist, but when you want to find a rationalization for doing something you know is wrong, it's easy to convince yourself you truly believe the rationalization you made up. These guys think they are as pure as their mother's milk.

Iraq, the fifty-first state

Looks like we're planning to be in Iraq forever:

The Department of Defense is studying the possibility of "maintaining a core group of forces in Iraq, possibly for decades," reports National Public Radio.

Actually, the title I've given this piece is not entirely appropriate. If Iraq became the 51st state, it's people would be American citizens, and the Bush government would never let those dark skinned, sub-humans with a foreign religion become citizens. No sir. We won't even accept a handful of refugees from the destruction we've wrought.

Democrats surrender (or not)?

So far, the Democratic leadership has not confirmed (or denied) the story I posted about yesterday on how they had caved to Bush on the war. Maybe that's good news, but I doubt it. I suspect they're afraid to let the cat out of the bag before it's a fully done deal. They'll get too much heat from folks like us.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Democrats scurry away with their tails between their legs?

I’m always defending them, but I’m reaching the breaking point, too. Not only do they surrender, but they do it and allow Bush to attack their integrity at the same time without fighting back. All right, Mr. President, you win. You’re tougher than we are. And please, pretty please, cooperate with us in our investigation of the Justice Department. One more chance, and this time we really mean it.

Fighting back does not mean telling everyone how unfair and mean the President is to attack them. Fighting back means actually hitting some blows as far beneath the belt as his are, with, at long last, no sense of decency for a President and Vice President who do not deserve it. As in, literally, telling the American people Bush and Cheney do not have a clue about what they are doing about anything, and, literally, every day they, literally, keep their personal war going so they can dump the problem in the lap of the next president – literally, by lying through their teeth about the reasons we are continuing to fight as they did about why we started – literally means another 100 American soldiers killed. Tony Blair said it: he did not know what victory is, only that he knows not achieving it will be a disaster. How about focusing on that utterly absurd statement, Democrats, and demanding that the press focus on it? If they don’t know what victory is, then, literally, why are they continuing to get our soldiers killed? The blood, literally, is on their hands.

Bush is calling the Gonzales investigation “political theater” because, literally, he does not have a clue what the rule of law is all about – or he doesn’t care, take your pick. The Justice Department has always been a place of the highest integrity. Karl Rove is, literally, deliberately trying to destroy that. He has tried to politicize the justice Department by, literally, firing U.S. Attorneys who were honest – who did not file phony cases against Democrats before the election, or who pursued Republicans who broke the law. If you don’t understand that’s not “political theater,” Mr. President, then, literally, you do not deserve to hold the office.

Can any Democrat ever be something other than a complete wimp?

Smithsonian rewrites science to please Bush


WASHINGTON: The Smithsonian Institution toned down an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic for fear of angering the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration, says a former administrator at the museum.

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year's exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans, said Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Also, officials omitted scientists' interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered "to show that global warming could go either way," Sullivan said.

"It just became tooth-pulling to get solid science out without toning it down," said Sullivan, who resigned last fall after 16 years at the museum. He said he left after higher-ups tried to reassign him.

It won't be long, and this country will be populated solely by ignorant idiots, just like the president they picked. Maybe they deserve what they got. To those wingnuts who say to me, "if you don't like it here, why don't you leave?" I reply, I'm thinking seriously about it.

Democrats surrender

Well, we knew it was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier to take. Today, the Democrats caved in to Bush:

WASHINGTON - In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday.

The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase in more than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added.

While details remain subject to change, the measure is designed to close the books by Friday on a bruising veto fight between Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the war. It would provide funds for military operations in Iraq through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Now, this is the Dems' war as well as Bush's. Just what is it they don't get about the fact that the American people are fed up with this war and want out -- now?

Not only did they drop the time lines, they didn't go for a short-term funding instead, they dropped all the extra monies for the troops. They just rolled over and died. It's disgusting.

Bush ratings in free fall

Rasmussen, the Republican polling organization which usually has Bush's approval ratings about 7 to 8 points higher than most others, now puts Bush's approval rating at it's lowest level ever for their polling -- 34%. Just seven days ago he was five points higher, at 39%:

For the third straight day, just 34% of American adults Approve of the way that George W. Bush is performing his duties as President. That’s the lowest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports (see comments on comparing Approval Ratings from different polling firms). Fifteen percent (15%) Strongly Approve.

Overall, 64% of Americans Disapprove, including 47% who Strongly Disapprove. Both those figures are the highest recorded during the Bush era.

As Atrios would say, Wheeeeeeeee!

Bush declares himself king

Bush has quietly laid out a new security directive spelling out how things will be run in case of a major national emergency (which, as it's defined in the document, could mean almost anything, including another Katrina). It appears from the directive that the President intends to become an absolute dictator (to the extent he isn't already) once he's announced that the security directive is in force. From that point on, his word is the law.

So, do you suppose that a national emergency is in the works? It may be the only way he can prevent the Dems from taking back the whole government in 2008.

Gonzales isn't going anywhere

No matter how bad things get, Gonzales isn't going anywhere. Here's Bush today:

CRAWFORD, Texas -President Bush insisted on Monday that embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales still has his support and denounced Democratic plans for a no-confidence vote as "pure political theater."

"He has done nothing wrong," Bush said in an impassioned defense of his longtime friend and adviser during a news conference at his Texas ranch.

Of course, he's done nothing wrong in Bush's eyes because he's done exactly what Bush ordered him to do. You don't really think Gonzales has any independent judgment, do you?

Bush can't let Gonzales go because then the whole fabric of lies will start to unravel, and Bush will be seen to be behind every corrupt act this government has undertaken. Many of us can already see that (in fact some of us have been able to see that from the very beginning), but the press still looks the other way and will continue to do so until the smoking gun is cocked and aimed at their heads.

The only way to get rid of Gonzo is to impeach him, and that isn't going to happen unfortunately.

The Democratic candidates and a pro-labor agenda

Here is a seven-point agenda for labor proposed by a Seattle labor attorney.

1. Enact the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The EFCA would enshrine the principle of majority signup instead of allowing employers to force an election where threats can be more successful, and increase penalties for firing pro-union employees.
2. Enact the Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Trade Workers (RESPECT) Act. This law would reverse some particularly egregious recent decisions by the NLRB on who are unprotected “supervisors” unprotected by labor laws.
3. Equalize union access to unorganized workers at the workplace during organizing campaigns. According to a recent study, 91 percent of employers force employees to attend anti-union meetings one-on-one with supervisors. Unions, on the other hand, have no access to unorganized workers.
4. Insist on labor standards in future trade agreements, and work to modify or alleviate the impact of existing agreements. Fixing the existing trade agreements and making sure that any new ones are both worker and environment-friendly, has to be on any labor agenda for 2008.
5. Extend collective bargaining rights to supervisors. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, as far back as 2002, there were more than 8.6 million private-sector "first-line" supervisors, not much different from "leads" or "foremen," all of whom are currently denied the right to engage in collective bargaining.
6. Repeal section 14(b), the so-called "Right-to-Work" provision of the NLRA. Under the original terms of the NLRA, unions were permitted to require all represented employees to pay their "fair share" of the cost of that representation. This was changed in 1947, over President Truman's veto, and 22 states have since become “Right-to-Work” states by declaring such contracts unlawful. This has been a major impediment to unionization in those states.
7. Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act's ban on "secondary boycotts." A secondary boycott is an attempt by a union to convince others to stop doing business with a particular firm doing business with the employer – e.g., the California farmworkers who are not covered by the NLRA asking consumers to boycott grocery chains who are customers of the workers’ employers.

Democratic candidates basking in their newfound ability to coax big money out of not only online hoi polloi but also corporate-affiliated donors will be presented with a challenge by some of these points. Arguably, they should throw caution to the winds, endorse all of these provisions flat-out, and jeopardize the big-donor money. That would certainly gratify the Democratic base, and I would not be surprised if Edwards does this. Kos and other progressive bloggers would argue, not implausibly, that the strength of the commitment to a set of progressive values actually will appeal to many fence-sitting voters who have been turned off by the apparent weakness shown by split-the-difference "triangulation."

I suspect, however, that the front-runners, Clinton and Obama, will believe it necessary in the real world scenarios to walk a little more carefully here. How can they do it – i.e., have their cake and eat most of it, too? First, all at the philosophical level, Democrats need to stress the progressives' bible – that growing inequality is a troublesome development that not only threatens the health of our society generally, but is also a terrible drag on the long-term strength of our economy. Strengthening the ability of workers to fend for themselves by reducing union-busting (and maintaining a fair minimum wage) is important for American business, too, even if the short-sighted ones sometimes focus on the short-term benefit of keeping wages low.

As to putting flesh into this position, the EFCA is a no-brainer by now, an expected position of all Democrats that has handily passed the House. Clinton and Obama have unequivocally supported it ( I think Clinton has sponsored it.) This should not lose big-time donations from those potential wealthy cross-overs disillusioned by the disarray of the right-wing-dominated Republican Party.

As to next four points, moderate-leaning Democrats can support these while maintaining a business-friendly posture by carving out a stance of reversing the damage done by the George Bush administration, essentially taking us back to the status quo when the country was thriving.

The final two, eliminating the “right-to-work” provision and prohibition of secondary boycotts from the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, would be fundamental changes in the labor laws that have to be looked at as part of the wish list. Eliminating the so-called “right-to-work” provision would have a prayer with a period of Democrats successfully in power and a sustained PR campaign – emphasizing how unfair it is for workers to “free-ride” on the benefits obtained by a union voted in by the majority, and that its purpose really has nothing to do with protecting the First Amendment rights of dissident workers – these are taken care of by the worker’s right to speak and vote against representation, plus the right not to pay for political activity by the union – but is nothing more than a union-busting provision when coupled with the inherent advantages a company has in subtly coercing employees to stay non-union. Still, 22 states have wedded themselves to “right-to-work” laws, and it would take sustained effort to weaken the hold they have in those states.

Changing the law on secondary boycotts – what could readily be described by opponents as coercion of a particular contract settlement by the union putting pressure on other companies that are customers of the employer -- would be more problematical, and maybe less necessary with the shift in power relationships that the first six would cause.

Given the practical difficulties these last two provisions would face, I would expect the front-running candidates to be more circumspect about them: essentially saying, they would not be high on their initial priority list (with the message for the big-time donors that we need to be careful about tilting the balance of power too far), but that they would encourage active study of them for the future.


The level of incompetence of our government is truly astonishing:

The US Army tried to kill or capture Muqtada al-Sadr, the widely revered Shia cleric, after luring him to peace negotiations at a house in the holy city of Najaf, which it then attacked, according to a senior Iraqi government official.

The revelation of this extraordinary plot, which would probably have provoked an uprising by outraged Shia if it had succeeded, has left a legacy of bitter distrust in the mind of Mr Sadr for which the US and its allies in Iraq may still be paying. "I believe that particular incident made Muqtada lose any confidence or trust in the [US-led] coalition and made him really wild," the Iraqi National Security Adviser Dr Mowaffaq Rubai'e told The Independent in an interview. It is not known who gave the orders for the attempt on Mr Sadr but it is one of a series of ill-considered and politically explosive US actions in Iraq since the invasion. In January this year a US helicopter assault team tried to kidnap two senior Iranian security officials on an official visit to the Iraqi President. Earlier examples of highly provocative actions carried out by the US with little thought for the consequences include the dissolution of the Iraqi army and the Baath party.

The attempted assassination or abduction took place two-and-a-half years ago in August 2004 when Mr Sadr and his Mehdi Army militiamen were besieged by US Marines in Najaf, south of Baghdad.

This was a bad idea to begin with, but they not only had a bad idea, they couldn't even implement it when they tried. It's just mind boggling.

Civil Unions not working perfectly in NJ

At Blue Jersey, we learn that New Jersey's civil unions law isn't working as well as hoped:

... the failure rate of New Jersey's civil unions law is not diminishing even as the state becomes more familiar with the law. Ninety days after the law took effect, Garden State Equality has received its 102nd complaint of a civil union not being recognized by an employer or insurer in New Jersey.

With the state about to release the figures for civil unions performed in New Jersey over the past 90 days, the 102 complaints will continue the law's shocking 10 percent rate of failure. After two months, 575 couples had gotten civil unioned in New Jersey and Garden State Equality had received 54 complaints.

Apparently, employers are refusing to recognize the unions when it comes to spousal health insurance and similar benefits for married couples.

Vote suppression

McClatchy Newspapers focuses on another Bushie who's been trying to systematically use the DOJ to screw the Democrats:

WASHINGTON - During four years as a Justice Department civil rights lawyer, Hans von Spakovsky went so far in a crusade against voter fraud as to warn of its dangers under a pseudonym in a law journal article.

Writing as "Publius," von Spakovsky contended that every voter should be required to produce a photo-identification card and that there was "no evidence" that such restrictions burden minority voters disproportionately.

Now, amid a scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, Congress is beginning to examine allegations that von Spakovsky was a key player in a Republican campaign to hang onto power in Washington by suppressing the votes of minority voters.

"Mr. von Spakovsky was central to the administration's pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote," charged Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him.

He and other former career department lawyers say that von Spakovsky steered the agency toward voting rights policies not seen before, pushing to curb minor instances of election fraud by imposing sweeping restrictions that would make it harder, not easier, for Democratic-leaning poor and minority voters to cast ballots.

In interviews, current and former federal officials and civil rights leaders told McClatchy Newspapers that von Spakovsky:

-Sped approval of tougher voter ID laws in Georgia and Arizona in 2005, joining decisions to override career lawyers who believed that Georgia's law would restrict voting by poor blacks and who felt that more analysis was needed on the Arizona law's impact on Native Americans and Latinos.

-Tried to influence the federal Election Assistance Commission's research into the dimensions of voter fraud nationally and the impact of restrictive voter ID laws - research that could undermine a vote-suppression agenda.

-Allegedly engineered the ouster of the commission's chairman, Paul DiGregorio, whom von Spakovsky considered insufficiently partisan.

Von Spakovsky, who declined to comment on these allegations, is among more than a dozen present and former Justice Department officials drawing congressional scrutiny over the administration's alleged use of the nation's chief law enforcement agency for partisan purposes.

Congressional committees investigating the firing last year of nine U.S. attorneys are looking into allegations that prosecutors nationwide were urged to pursue voter fraud to build a basis for tougher ID laws.

Von Spakovsky, who had been a longtime voting rights activist and elections official in Georgia before serving at Justice, accepted a presidential recess appointment to a Republican slot on the Federal Election Commission in December 2005. He is scheduled to appear at a June 13 confirmation hearing before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hillary not Wobbly enough?

This article about Hillary Clinton in The Nation, cited and praised by two other well-known progressive bloggers, is a perfect example of when progressives become sophomoric and undermine Democratic candidates – the ones who, if nominated, are more likely to pursue an agenda that, while not to the writers’ complete satisfaction, will be light-years better for the American people than the Republican version.

They basically seem to think that in order to be progressive, you have to be an enemy to all corporations, and anybody associated with big corporations. Well, it ain’t 1955 anymore. Union members are 10% of the population, not 35%. The overwhelming majority of people now work for companies unrepresented by a union and maintain complex love-hate feelings about those companies and their managements. They expect candidates to be able to grasp the same subtleties and shades of gray.

The whole point of what the Clintons are advocating as “New Democrats” is precisely the notion that being pro-business and pro-worker or pro-union are not mutually exclusive. Hillary’s voting pattern is strongly liberal on the economy in most cases – consistently 95%-100% favorable as tallied by the Americans for Democratic Action. For example, she is a sponsor of the most important pro-union legislation today, the Employee Free Choice, which would help eliminate some of the worst of the union-busting behavior of companies like WalMart (even though as First lady of Arkansas she was on the board of WalMart).

Like their anti-union antitheses, the short-sighted progressives like these see labor relations as a zero-sum game: with necrophiliac overtones of Marxist class struggle, as a fight strictly over how much of the pie you get, and the winner gets more and the loser gets less. But is it such a stark choice? The New Democrat version that at least considers itself pro-labor would say it’s not a zero sum game, but that what’s good for labor is good for the corporation (making the pie bigger, with both coming out ahead, via better productivity and higher demand), and ultimately good for America.

One thing we do know is that virtually all Americans have roundly rejected the class-struggle model of American society. They may or may not be right to do so, but the overwhelming majority consider themselves to be middle class, and virtually the entire population, including the unionized worker, aspires to be middle class. That means, for purposes of obtaining votes, the candidate’s populism -- still a good bet for Democrats if done right -- needs to be subtle and shrewd. The New Democrats’ vision of a win-win proposition from good labor relations may be a pipedream – I don’t think it is entirely, as the better income-distribution numbers during Democratic administrations demonstrate –- but in any case it’s what voters want to hear.

All this is not to say a progressive can’t have and act on a preference for a more sharply drawn pro-union candidate at the primary level. But once we get to the general election, assuming you can’t have a candidate who was a firebrand labor organizer for his or her entire life – and a son or daughter of a labor organizer and, for super-duper picket line cred, grandson or granddaughter of the founder of the Pennsylvania Molly Maguires -- which would you rather have, someone from the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart who supports every effort to prevent unionization of the company (because it’s a zero-sum game in which the company loses) and would vote for anti-union members of the National Labor Relations Board, or someone who was once a member of that board, can operate in the corporate world, considers herself pro-business, but also votes a mostly pro-union slate and is supported by the major national labor organizations?

Talk about the perfect being the enemy of the good! There is a time to grow up.

And, oh, yes, since there are hints of "pox-on-all-your-houses" responses in these posts: Anyone trying to convince me that Gore would not have won in 2000 if Nader had stayed out of the race – especially if the Green Party had endorsed Gore, as it should have in the tradition of the old New York Liberal and Conservative parties trying to go with a relatively sympathetic candidate with a chance – has a long way to go. These things matter.

Is Obama actually the most qualified on foreign policy?

Excerpts from a speech on foreign policy Obama gave to the Chicago Council of Global Affairs a few weeks ago. Good stuff in my book, both in substance and as politics. Optimistic, energetic, no hair-shirt stuff. Let's everyone off the hook for being duped by Bush and Cheney, but the vision for where we go from here is pretty dead-on. I think the ending is powerful: inspiring while providing that personal touch that (1) that we can all relate to, and (2) reminds us that his life story provides unique qualifications for the world to listen. I like Hillary and Edwards, too, but Obama may indeed for that reason be the most qualified to take us where they and most of us will agree we have to go.

There is no doubt that the mistakes of the past six years have made our current task more difficult. World opinion has turned against us. And after all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs. . . . This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.

This will require a new spirit – not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. . . . [U]ntil we change our approach in Iraq, it will be increasingly difficult to refocus our efforts on the challenges in the wider region . . . . Burdened by Iraq, our lackluster diplomatic efforts leave a huge void. Our interests are best served when people and governments from Jerusalem and Amman to Damascus and Tehran understand that America will stand with our friends, work hard to build a peaceful Middle East, and refuse to cede the future of the region to those who seek perpetual conflict and instability. . . .

In the wake of the Second World War, it was America that largely built a system of international institutions that carried us through the Cold War. Leaders like Harry Truman and George Marshall knew that instead of constraining our power, these institutions magnified it. . . . Today it’s become fashionable to disparage the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations. In fact, reform of these bodies is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face. Such real reform will not come, however, by dismissing the value of these institutions, or by bullying other countries to ratify changes we have drafted in isolation. Real reform will come because we convince others that they too have a stake in change – that such reforms will make their world, and not just ours, more secure. . . .

These are the ways we will answer the challenge that arrived on our shores that September morning more than five years ago. A 21st century military to stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar. Global efforts to keep the world’s deadliest weapons out of the world’s most dangerous hands. Stronger alliances to share information, pool resources, and break up terrorist networks that operate in more than eighty countries. And a stronger push to defeat the terrorists’ message of hate with an agenda for hope around the world. It’s time we had a President who can do this again – who can speak directly to the world, and send a message to all those men and women beyond our shores who long for lives of dignity and security that says “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

It’s time, as well, for a President who can build a consensus at home for this ambitious but necessary course. For in the end, no foreign policy can succeed unless the American people understand it and feel a stake in its success. . . . We cannot negotiate trade agreements to help spur development in poor countries so long as we provide no meaningful help to working Americans burdened by the dislocations of a global economy. We cannot expect Americans to support placing our men and women in harm’s way if we cannot prove that we will use force wisely and judiciously.

But if the next President can restore the American people’s trust – if they know that he or she is acting with their best interests at heart, with prudence and wisdom and some measure of humility – then I believe the American people will be ready to see America lead again. They will be ready to show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with. That we are not a country which preaches compassion and justice to others while we allow bodies to float down the streets of a major American city. . . .

America is the country that helped liberate a continent from the march of a madman. We are the country that told the brave people of a divided city that we were Berliners too. We sent generations of young people to serve as ambassadors for peace in countries all over the world. And we’re the country that rushed aid throughout Asia for the victims of a devastating tsunami.

Now it’s our moment to lead – our generation’s time to tell another great American story. So someday we can tell our children that this was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East. That this was the time when we confronted climate change and secured the weapons that could destroy the human race. This was the time when we brought opportunity to those forgotten corners of the world. And this was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity, and liberty, and hope on our doorstep.

One of these travelers was my father. I barely knew him, but when, after his death, I finally took my first trip to his tiny village in Kenya and asked my grandmother if there was anything left from him, she opened a trunk and took out a stack of letters, which she handed to me. There were more than thirty of them, all handwritten by my father, all addressed to colleges and universities across America, all filled with the hope of a young man who dreamed of more for his life. It is because someone in this country answered that prayer that I stand before you today with faith in our future, confidence in our story, and a determination to do my part in writing our country’s next great chapter. The American moment has not passed. The American moment is here. And like generations before us, we will seize that moment, and begin the world anew. Thank you.

Light blogging

I'm off to a wedding party over the weekend, so blogging from me will be light to non-existent until Sunday afternoon or, perhaps, Monday. Have a good weekend. Adios amigos.

A working hypothesis

I've been wondering about the 17 or so additional prosecutors that seem to have been on the firing list at one time or another but eventually got removed. Most of these people, like our own prosecutor here in NJ, Christie, seem to be "loyal Bushies" who have dutifully been prosecuting undeserving Democrats and ignoring deserving Thuglicans. I've developed a working hypothesis, that still requires testing. Perhaps this new list was just that, a new list, contrived recently by the White House to throw a smoke screen over the whole process. The old list clearly had people who had refused to go after bogus voter fraud (aka vote suppression) and/or who were prosecuting deserving Thuglicans. The new list is not so clear. Perhaps, this way, the White House can point to the apparently random selection of people without reference to their political activities as evidence there was no conspiracy to use the DOJ as a political arm of the RNC.

Who's next?

So, who do you think Bush will pick to replace Wolfowitz? "Heck of a job, Brownie" perhaps. Or maybe Harriet Miers. Of course, there's always the really competent Donald Rumsfeld, who is out of a job right now. If he can run the Iraq war as well as he did, why not the World Bank?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Playing the Giuliani gaffe right

The latest Rudy Giuliani story – his staff cancelling a visit to a farm because they found out the owners aren’t wealthy enough to be hit with an estate tax -- cuts different ways. Yes, it’s an embarrassment of sorts, but better yet, it demonstrates that a family has to be pretty darned wealthy to be worried about that tax.

In other words, as Ronald Reagan would have said, “There they go again, those Republicans. Rudy has a hard time finding a couple with an estate over $4 million dollars who need to worry one bit about the estate tax. And look at all the time and energy they spent looking out for wealthy people. Are you that wealthy? If not, do you think a Republican like Rudy Giuliani would get that worked up about protecting your interests?”

The Corn Ethanol boondoggle

I'm glad to see that Kevin Drum has signed on to the bash corn ethanol club:

As practically everyone except politicians pandering their way through Iowa knows, corn ethanol is a boondoggle. It doesn't do much to reduce oil use, it doesn't do much for the environment, and it doesn't do much for your food bill. All it does is make corn farmers happy.

Unfortunately, I think he's wrong. Most people don't know this, so they nod in ignorant agreement when somebody says we should have more ethanol. We need a little more publicity on this issue.

As Kevin's post points out, meeting the President's stated goal of replacing 15% of gasoline use with ethanol would require the entire U.S. corn crop be devoted to ethanol production. Not only would that take corn off the super market shelves, it would take all our meats off too, since corn is the feedstock for most of our meat production.

National Security threats

Soooo, I gather it would now threaten our national security to learn whether the President ordered Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales to Ashcroft's sick bed to force him to sign an okay on the NSA spying program. Sure...

The security it would threaten is the President's. He might look like the creep he is if this came out. But, of course, since he won't answer, the press won't hold him responsible.

Wolfie's golden parachute

Yesterday, I had a post about Wolfowitz in which my wife had asked somewhat facetiously whether he would get a huge pension and a golden parachute when he left the World Bank. The pension I don't yet know about, but the golden parachute is opening.

Under a contract he signed in June 2005 when he became World Bank president, Wolfowitz would receive a year's salary, or around $375,000, if his service were terminated by the board or if he resigned.

[H/t to Americablog]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Government in secret

We knew Rove and others had done it, but it seems the Administration has made a regular and wide-spread practice of using private e-mail accounts for official business as a way of avoiding oversight. Citizens of Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have filed a complaint about this practice at the U.S. Department of Education:

A liberal government watchdog group has accused employees in the U.S. Department of Education of illegally using private e-mail accounts to conduct official government business, eliminating the ability for independent oversight through public records access.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the department's inspector general to investigate the use of non-governmental e-mail accounts after it was denied access to e-mails it requested under the Freedom of Information Act. CREW's lawyer was told that department personnel "often use private e-mail addresses," which are not subject to public records requests, according to a press release from the group.

Some things are not what they seem - particularly in the Bush administration

Raw Story has done some interesting investigative reporting on former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Eric J. Keroack, who resigned this March after Massachusetts officials launched a formal investigation into allegations of Medicaid fraud during his tenure in private practice.

You may recall that this was the guy who the government claimed had two decades of experience as a practicing OB-GYN and his more than a decade as Medical Director of an anti-abortion group named "A Woman's Concern," which qualified him to pontificate on women's health issues and to fight most family planning programs. Well, Raw Story has found that "decades" don't seem to the same thing to Keroack and the HHS as they do to the rest of us -- a couple of years, perhaps makes a decade. And, "Medical Director" doesn't mean much either when it turns out it is a part-time, unpaid, volunteer position.

What are the other domestic spying programs?

Yesterday, James Comey testified to the extraordinary disagreement among administration officials over the NSA wiretapping program that Alberto Gonzales was deeply involved in. However, Alberto Gonzales has already testified that there was no disagreement about the NSA wiretapping program. So, there are really only two possibilities:

As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Peter Swire wrote this morning, Gonzales’s testimony raises two possibilities:

1) Comey’s objections apply to the NSA warrantless wiretapping program that Gonzales was discussing. If so, then Gonzales quite likely made serious mis-statements under oath. And Gonzales was deeply and personally involved in the meeting at Ashcroft’s hospital bed, so he won’t be able to claim “I forgot.”

2) Perhaps Comey’s objections applied to a different domestic spying program. That has a big advantage for Gonzales — he wasn’t lying under oath. But then we would have senior Justice officials confirming that other “programs” exist for domestic spying, something the Administration has never previously stated.

My bet all along is that it's the latter (not that Gonzales wouldn't be happy to perjure himself). There were several things he said in his testimony last year that seemed to suggest there were other domestic spying programs. Nobody followed up at the time, because, of course, the Thuglicans were running the whole show back then. And, of course, those other programs may well be the ones where they're listening in to calls within America, not just those between Americans and foreign parties. This administration has always had a very slippery way of using language to cordon off related problems. Consider, for example, how Gonzales slipped out of providing information on the ninth fired prosecutor by claiming that was a different firing program and, hence, not covered by the Congressional requests for information about the other eight firings.

Constitutional crisis or simply a cave-in by Congress?

It appears that the Administration has decided to ignore all subpoenas issued by Congress. Even the Judiciary Committee, which is relatively speaking more obligated than others to be responsive to Congress is stonewalling. Question: Will Congress have the guts to do anything about it? I have my doubts. So far, they just keep pushing the deadlines back.


I'm not sure what to say about the ignominious defeat of the Reid-Feingold amendment to stop the war. We knew it was going down. But, so many Democrats jumped ship that it's really worrysome. What is it that they don't get? This war is a) illegal, b) immoral, c) completely counter-productive*, and d) already lost. Why would anyone want to stay in?

* As to completely counter-productive, let me count the ways

1) Diverted our attention from the real enemy in Afghanistan, allowing bin Laden & Co. to escape.

2) Given a recruiting boost to al-Qaeda and other anti-American groups around the world

3) Depleted our armed forces of both manpower and arms to the point we would not be able to fight a real threat to our country

4) So alienated our "friends" that we no longer have friends to support us when we need them

5) Empowered Iran

6) Diverted our attention from solving the Palestinian problem, which is the breeder of much of the dissent against America in the Arab world.

I could probably go on, but you get the point.